About last night ….

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Are your Montreal Canadiens all the way back after their late-season near-death experience?

Too early to tell, but we should have the answer by about 10 o’clock Wednesday night.

The team is in Carolina for its final back-to-back game of this long season.

And this one is a doozy, because the Hurricanes refuse to die.

Their shootout win over Washington last night means beating the Canadiens would draw Carolina closer to a playoff spot – and prevent the Canadiens from virtually sewing up a postseason berth.

So we’ll have to wait … and please, don’t let the mystery last until that April 9 dance at the ACC.

No one’s nerves could take it.

Fortunately, there were signs at the Bell Centre that the ship is beginning to right itself.

Scott Gomez played an outstanding game, and his line was bolstered by the addition of Mathieu Darche.

Tomas Plekanec looked fast and determined, rather than a step slow and tentative, which he had been since returning from injury.

Andrei Kostitsyn was a beast, with six hits – albeit with some shaky defensive play.

The defence still has issues. Hal Gill, Paul Mara, Brent Sopel and, to a lesser extent, Goal-of-the-Year scorer Roman Hamrlik are  slow, and making a clean, crisp first pass is a challenge for them.

Atlanta repeatedly made cross-ice dump-ins to the right side of the Canadiens’ D – a curious strategy because it put the puck on the sticks of the two most mobile Dmen, P.K. Subban and James Wisniewski. P.K.’s ability to move the puck efficiently or skate it out are proven commodities, but I was particularly impressed by the Wiz’s grace under fire: smart plays and many excellent first passes.

It helped that the system was in gear last night. Forwards were coming back deep to help, and zone clearances were more efficient than what we’d seen during the slump.

You’d still like to see more offence. The Canadiens scored twice in 11 seconds and AK46 bagged an empty-netter. In between, there was too much perimeter play, too many blown opportunities.

The power play took another 0-for. The PP has not scored in its last 14 chances.

Know who scored the last man-advantage goal?

P.K. Subban, the second goal of his Minnesota hat trick. Since that night, P.K. has seen minimal power-play duty, and I can’t understand it.

With the Tomas Plekanec point experiment consigned to history, the first-wave point pairing against Atlanta was Wiz and Hamrlik, each of whom logged almost six minutes on the PP. Subban and Paul Mara, the second-wave pairing, had 1:53.

I know it’s desirable to have a LH/RH combination at the point. And Jacques Martin may draw comfort from having Hamrlik’s experience out there.

There’s also the possibility the coach likes Subban rested so he can go with his top pairing, P.K. and Hal Gill, coming out of the PP, when you often see a pushback shift from the team that was penalized.

But isn’t there something to be said for going with your best? Wiz has the shot, P.K. has the creativity we used to see from Andrei Markov on the PP.

Put them together, Jacques, and ride them for as long as they can be used during man advantages.

That’s it for my coaching tips.

Contrary to what Georges Laraque has been saying – who in their right mind listens to that phony? – Martin knows what he’s doing and, on the evidence of last night’s must-win play, has the confidence of a united room.

Oh, and he also has a pretty good goaltender.

Carey Price was brilliant again last night: 27 stops, and many were tough – notably stops on Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Boulton and Blake Wheeler when the game was still scoreless.

Had Carolina lost last night, we might be seeing Alex Auld against the Hurricanes. That didn’t happen, so Price will be back for his 67th start of the season.

Can ward, the guy at the other end of the ice, will be making his 68th start.

Should be a good one.

•  •  •

One of Scott Gomez’s assets in the room is his good relationship with the Canadiens’ younger players.

They usually listen to his wise counsel, but Gomez joked last night about at least once instance of incredulity:

“Davey (Desharnais) can’t believe I once scored 333 goals.”

•  •  •

The Canadiens took their 14th Too Many Men minor last night.

At least they lead the league in something.

But for the first time since Minnesota, the Canadiens took fewer minors than their opponents.

•  •  •

Guest Comment from Hard Habits:

The Habs can thank Carey Price for making those big saves early and throughout the game that kept the Habs in it.

2 goals in 11 seconds and an empty netter isn’t a scoring explosion unless your name is Count Systemula. But that’s all that was needed in view of Price’s brilliance.

Guess who lead the forwards in ice time?

S. Gomez 18:17
M. Cammalleri 19:27
T. Plekanec 19:44
B. Gionta 21:03

That’s exactly the kind of numbers that got the Habs to the ECF’s in the play-offs last season. Looks like Martin is going to live or die by the sword-stem.

Albert Einstein said Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So am I to assume that JM is a Genius of Einsteinian proportions because he is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results?

Taking a closer look at Pouliot, who has all the tools but lacks all the confidence, and a training regime, had the least amount of ice time (8:14) of the forwards but was an awesome 0-0-0 +/-0 for another inconsequential evening, but hey, he didn’t take any stupid penalties.

Gomez in his defence, which is painful to do, played a good game until he started chirping away again but in the final analysis it’s better that other teams focus their frustrations on him rather than any of the Habs’ young stars like PK, Eller and Price. One good thing is late in the game with 3 minutes left to play in the offensive zone when the Gomez line was battling for the puck and Atlanta started to slowly get repossession of it, even though Gomez eventually coughed it up, at least he didn’t take one of Saku Koivu’s patented late game offensive zone hooking calls.

J. Wisniewski 24:24 and R. Hamrlik 23:33 had the most ice time for D men as the new top pairing and were both +1. Mara 16:10 who had the least amount of ice time amongst defense men, believe it or not was a +2.

What does this say? Typical JM hockey. The system. We hate it when it loses and we begrudgingly accept it when it wins. Please. Everybody raise your hands who says they love it. I thought so. The rest of you are in denial.

56 Comments

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  2. Bouleau noir says:

    ” I know it’s desirable to have a LH/RH combination at the point ” says Boone digging for a rational that could explained the innexplicable choice of Martin about using Hamrlik over Subban as the PP first wave point partner to The WIZ.

    Desirable ? how can losing the ” one timer ” option from your open point Dman be a desirable option ? Dmen cannot execute one timers when playing the LH/RH combination…. you see when Marcov was collecting pucks along the left wall feedings partners to his rights we had ” one timers ” a plenty from left handed Souray/ Streit/ Schneider as it should when operating an LH/LH combination…. something which is lost when you have LH Hammer feeding passes to RH WIZ from the letf wall.

    1) One timers are impossible when we use the LH/RH configuration with Hammer playing the left wall.
    2) When Hammer is used on the right side of WIZ we move from an LH/RH to an RH/LH configuration and one timers them become possible albeit not ideal.
    3) Ideal combinations to get the most effective ” one timers ” are best obtained from matched pairs, either an LH/LH como or the RH/RH combo that we have here when Subban is being paired with The WIZ.

    Power plays are opportunities to get goals and not using Subban on the first wave is depriving us from our most creative player on one hand and is also depriving us from and the ideal D pair needed to generate quality one timer shots at will……. I JUST DONT GET IT !

  3. WindsorHab-10 says:

    Gomez having a great game as posted above is fine, dandy and way overdue. I for one am not impressed until he brings the same effort each & every game. He owes it to this team.

  4. WindsorHab-10 says:

    For P.K.Subban not to be the go to guy & the anchor of our pp is absolutely ridiculous.

    • avatar_58 says:

      I would give Martin a pass if the PP was working without him, but it isn’t. Why does he continue to put Hamrlik on the point? It’s not working. Wiz-Subban, Hamr/Sopel/Mara on the 2nd pairing.

      They swarm Wiz now, they know he’s the shooter. Hamrlik just wrists it in and misses the net

  5. HardHabits says:

    Haha. Nobody can thumb down that post now!!!! Just kidding. :)

    Obviously, and if not the case to everybody then IMHO, the games against Boston had an effect on the player’s psyche. IMO they came undone. Who wouldn’t? It’s true and everybody knows it, that the Habs are not the biggest and baddest team in the league. Other teams get away with near-murder out there. Fans are upset and I would surmise that the players are not altogether happy about it either.

    Add to that the recent games where teams like Buffalo and Washington were able to beat the Habs at their own game combined with a scoreless drought and you have the makings for a complete mental break-down.

    This is where having a veteran coach and these so-called veteran players with rings on their fingers comes in handy. Within that experience lies the capacity to regroup and rally around each other.

    After having come undone they just needed to gel again. ;-)

    • I think the good old fashioned beat down at practice Sunday certainly helped. The guys did nothing fancy at all yesterday and won the game easily. OK so it was against Atlanta and not one of the top tier teams, but simple, hard working hockey plays will get the job done against anyone. Even against the elite of the NHL.

  6. notbigbird says:

    Quiet there this morning. A lot of people must be grumpy because the boys won.

    • smiler2729 says:

      I tried replying and commenting but alas, nothing. Glitches.

      *Perfectly content as a HABS I/O member for 3 years 16 weeks… now forced here, grrrrrrr.

    • Habs_are_here says:

      “but I was particularly impressed by the Wiz’s grace under fire: smart plays and many excellent first passes.”

      ARE YOU NUTS BOONE!? I don’t usually disagree with you but I believe you’re way off here, particularly for his 1st period play.

      Luckily ending at a +1, Wiz could have easily been in the minus column. Midway through the 1st, before we scored, Wizniewski had a couple of awful passes that led to turnovers in our own zone. Fortunately, Price was there to save his bacon.

      I wasn’t watching him as closely in the latter periods, but considering the situation we were in by the time the puck dropped, I’d say the Wiz had a poor start.

  7. Timo says:

    Forgive me if I am refusing to join the festivities just yet. They
    won against Atlanta – big whoop! This team has struggled with consistency all year. Let’s see if they have the same jump tonight. Even last night, after scoring 2 quick ones, they took the foot off the pedal. If it weren’t Atlanta but another slightly better team we’d be looking at another L. But what do I know… the parade back on so i am just going to hope that this is a reversal of that lethargic period these professional athletes subjected us to in the past couple of weeks.

  8. Habitoban says:

    I remain a Benny booster, but I am getting discouraged. I thought Benny and his line had a pretty good preiod and a half and Benny even got a rare positive notice from Boone. But after White’s Too Many Men on the Ice penaltyhis ice time seemed to dry up. Too bad. The team sure had a lot of jump when we were rolling 4 lines. I know that penalties messed up the line combinations but I still don’t know why Benny sits as much as he does. Dumb penalties? No dumber than Pleks, Gomez, Subban or Eller. Falling… well he does lead the team in that category but that is hardly a reason to have someone sit. We all agree that Benny could use more confidence. Not sure how sitting a player helps in that department. Yet another mystery of the System.

  9. habitual says:

    I agree the D looked slow, allowing Atlanta to forecheck effectively. But does anyone else think Pleks looked fast? In scanning back the last two periods I can’t recall one good, sustained offensive shift, by any line.

    I have to think that Cammie, Gio and Pleks are nursing injuries.

  10. maiolola@comcast.net says:

    Price needs rest. Starting him against Carolina is a big mistake. Auld can handle it.

    L Train

    • FormalWare says:

      Ha! Looks like even ‘Canes fan are aware of HI/O. Comcastic!


      Habs: Possessors of the league’s best PK–now, and for the foreseeable future

  11. RetroMikey says:

    I’ll trade big skilled players like Getzlaf, Ryan, and Perry to Montreal, for and ship to the Ducks our small but skilled players in Gionta, Plekanec , Cammallerri and throw in Gomez come playoff time.
    That would be sweeeet! We could win the Cup with these big players.
    Keep dreaming Mikey, keep dreaming.
    Anyways nice to get the W, but not impressed at all where the team is headed.

    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

    • smiler2729 says:

      You’re never impressed with anything, dude.

      And WHAT THE HELL does your signature mean anyway???

      *Perfectly content as a HABS I/O member for 3 years 16 weeks… now forced here, grrrrrrr.

  12. Habitoban says:

    I remain a Benny booster, but I am getting discouraged. I thought Benny and his line had a very strong first period and into the second and Benny even got a rare positive notice from Boone. Then there was White’s Too Many Men penalty and that line kinda disappeared. Too bad, We sure had lots of jump rolling 4 lines. I know that there were penalties that messed up the line combinations, but I still don’t get why Benny sits as much as he does. Dumb penalties? No dumber than some of the doozies from Gomez, Pleks, Subban and Eller. Falling down? OK more frequent than most, but that’s hardly a reason to sit a player. Everyone agree that Benny needs more confidence. Not sure how sitting helps that part of his game. One of the many mysteries, to me at least, of Habs coaching.

  13. RGM says:

    Test.

    Carey Price is All Hart! http://on.fb.me/CP31Hart
    Go Habs Go!

  14. tbovs says:

    They scored more goals than the other team…thats all that counts. Price was a good steadying influence and in no small part made the difference in last nights game with his early saves. Gomez played his best game in awhile and seemed dangerous which he hasn’t done in a long time. You could almost sense that he was just looking for the perfect pass to set up a big chance and he was working very hard.

    Boone is right when he says that we will see if the slump is over tonight but even if we don’t win … as long as we look dangerous and have some good scoring chanches we should be fine. But it was a perfect formulae last night and everyone was on board with a simple effective hockey game and score dirty early to get it going.

    How bout Desharnais and Captain midget with the set play last night late in the third that had Gionta flying down the wing (if he was faster he would have scored). Good to see the chemistry there and that Desharnais has played himself into such a great role on this team. He is top 3 passer on this team and has great energy although he does get pushed around but makes up with the fact he doesn’t give up at all.

    Does anyone else hate the white stick of Wiz….looks sooooo wrong. Almost looks like someone went crazy with whiteout.

    But a good summary of last night is JM did a great job of getting the simple game plan back to the forfront and the boys bought in and executed it to a “T”. They had a great performance in the net (should have been a shutout and could have cost price the vezina with Thomas getting his ninth last night), plus the guys who need to be good were.

    BUT you can see what needs to be done in the summer though. Gomez has to go…I don’t care what we get back … he has to go and we need to get bigger upfront where we can play a hybrid style of our game with speed and cycling instead of speed and hoping we score off the rush…the teams like Philly and Boston who nullify our speed with good forchecking are always goingto be hard to play against and if we can get bigger upfront with good team speed …. I think that is what this team needs for than anything. That and get Knuckles Nilan back…he is frikin nuts and at mid 50′s I bet he has one good shift a night in em…put the fear of crazy man in the other team…I just can’t stand his accent…from Bastan….drives me nuts…almost as much as michiganders accents….like nails on a chalkboard for me. Great people …. bad noise !!

  15. avatar_58 says:

    If the Leafs won every game is it possible it could come down to the final game VS the habs? It would be so perfect to see them lose on that final day and miss the playoffs.

  16. careyprice31 says:

    hi guys

    armand

  17. careyprice31 says:

    whats up we got the win last night

    armand

  18. JF says:

    I only saw the game on Canadiens Express, but I liked most of what I saw. After the first couple of minutes, that is. If Price had not made a huge save on Dustin Byfuglien when most of our guys were on one side of the ice and Cammalleri had his back to the play, we would have given up a third consecutive early goal and the game could have been very different. The team would probably have wilted, and that long-awaited drought-breaking goal just might not have come.

    Once we settled in, we moved the puck well and attacked with more determination than we’ve seen lately. That first goal, an ugly one resulting from confusion in the crease and a goal-mouth scramble, is the kind the Habs don’t score enough of and a clear pointer to what they need to do to win. Go to the net, crowd the crease, use their bodies. Perimeter hockey with pretty shots from a distance will get us nowhere.

    It was clear the team were still nervous about the scoring drought. Lots of missed chances and whiffed shots. We’ll need to bury more of those.

    Perhaps Scott Gomez should have periodic chats with Bob Gainey. He certainly elevated his game last night, and I have serious hope we’ll see more of that level of play in the playoffs. He and Andrei Kostitsyn were our best forwards, although Mathieu Darche also had a solid game.

    How can four officials not see a play involving the puck-carrier? What were they watching? It robbed Price of his shutout, which would have tied him for the lead. Pathetic.

  19. JF says:

    I only saw the game on Canadiens Express, but I liked most of what I saw. After the first couple of minutes, that is. If Price had not made a huge save on Dustin Byfuglien when most of our guys were on one side of the ice and Cammalleri had his back to the play, we would have given up a third consecutive early goal, and the game would have been very different. The team would probably have wilted, and that long-awaited drought-breaking goal just might not have come.

    Once we settled in, we moved the puck well and attacked the Thrashers’ net with much more determination than we’ve seen lately. The first goal – an ugly one, resulting from confusion in the crease and a goal-mouth scramble – was the kind the Habs don’t score enough of and a clear pointer to what they need to do to win. Go to the net, crowd the crease, use their bodies. Perimeter hockey, with pretty shots from a distance, will get us nowhere.

    It was clear the guys were still nervous about the scoring drought. Lots of missed chances and whiffed shots. They’ll have to bury more of those.

    Perhaps Scott Gomez needs periodic chats with Bob Gainey. He certainly elevated his game last night, and I have serious hope we’ll see the same level of play in the playoffs. He and Andrei Kostitsyn were our best forwards last night, although Mathieu Darche also played a solid game.

    I liked Wisniewski’s game and think Gauthier should find a way to re-sign him. Puck-moving defensemen with a good point shot are not that easy to find.

  20. SLYDER says:

    “Hey Washington, does defense win championships?”

    Washington: “I dont know!!!! We havent won any championships! In fact, Montreal beat us out of the playoffs last year when we were favoured!”

  21. JohnBellyful says:

    E G D P M F B O

    “Eff. See. Oh. Bee. En. EE. Eight. Ex”

    “No need to worry, Mr. McCreary, your eyes are as good as ever. Next.”

  22. RGM says:

    Looking at our remaining schedule, we have the opportunity to really break some hearts down the stretch while we solidify our own position. We can drive a dagger into Carolina tonight, if the Leafs are still kicking on the final day of the season we can put the final nail in their coffins, and Chicago has by no means assured themselves of a post-season berth either.

    Just win baby!

    Carey Price is All Hart! http://on.fb.me/CP31Hart
    Go Habs Go!

  23. Shiloh says:

    A win tonight would put us in the catbird seat, and it would also charge up Loaf Nation – so much so that they might beat Boston. It’s going to be an interesting week and a half.

  24. RGM says:

    Do the Habs 89 points this year mean that we never again have to listen to the “88 points” mantra from noted geniuses and Gainey/Gauthier-bashers?

    Carey Price is All Hart! http://on.fb.me/CP31Hart
    Go Habs Go!

  25. CanadienBoy says:

    Sure Martin can coach but can he win the cup ,he had a pretty good team in Ottawa but could not get past the more physical leafs ,i say history will repeat it self

    • Hobie Hansen says:

      MArtin had shakey goaltending in Ottawa, in Montreal does not!
      It’s like saying Brian Kilrea is a bad coach because he never coached in the NHL.

    • smiler2729 says:

      Anything can happen…

      I remember Jacques Demers being known as too much of a player’s coach in Detroit and as soon as they let him go, he wins a Stanley Cup in his first year in Montreal, albeit basically with Pat Burns’ team.

      Ottawa was beaten by the Leafs by awful untimely non-saves by Patrick Lalime.

      *Perfectly content as a HABS I/O member for 3 years 16 weeks… now forced here, grrrrrrr.

    • smiler2729 says:

      Every dog has his day…

      *Perfectly content as a HABS I/O member for 3 years 16 weeks… now forced here, grrrrrrr.

  26. Hobie Hansen says:

    Martin is one hell of a coach. Before the season started all the hockey analysts from TSN to THN thought Montreal had a nice run last year but they’d finish out of the playoffs this Season.
    He sat Subban for a handful of games earlier in the year in order to calm him down and focus on playing a team game and it did wonders for him.
    Martin and Gauthier lit a fire under Pacioretty by keeping him in Hamilton to start the year and when he came up to play for the Canadiens he was full of piss and vinegar and played amazing before the injury.
    Many people are calling for Martin to drop the defensive, team orientated game he likes to play but that’s a dumb idea. If this team played loosey goosy hockey and Plekanec and others were waiting at the redline for passes we’d be finished. Defense wins championships, just ask Washington.
    Martin is a great coach and people must be pretty damn negative and depressed in life if they have to put him down. In my humble opinion.

    • SLYDER says:

      we could ask washington, but they would respond with

      “we’ll get back to you – because we havent won anything”

    • SLYDER says:

      Me: “Hey Washington, does defense win championships?”

      Washington: “I dunno!!!! We haven’t won a championship! In fact, Montreal beat us in the first round of the playoffs last year when we were cup favorites!”

    • SLYDER says:

      “Hey Washington, does defense win championships?”

      “We have no idea, whats a championship? We have never won anything!”

    • soperman says:

      Thank you.

      It’s nice to read that someone doesn’t hate Martin for these bizarre reasons. They are playing disciplined, yes defensive hockey, but they are fairly consistent. The trip to the conference finals had a few heros last year, Halak was the most amazing, but there was also Cammalleri and everyone who bought into the system (everyone). They could not run and gun against Ovie or Crosby, but they could teach them a lesson in team hockey. And they did. That was Martin folks.

      When Markov and Patches and Gorges and others go down and a bulldog slips into the lineup without notice, thats Martin folks.

      And that’s all folks.

    • soperman says:

      Thanks. It is good to see that someone supports Martin.

    • HardHabits says:

      If you’re referring to my comment you gotta take that with a grain of salt. If not then no harm done either way. ;-)

      I just hope that in the play-offs we start seeing the team become a scoring threat as well. Sitting back on a 2-0 lead could’ve been a recipe for disaster had Price not been his usual (this season especially) brilliant self.

      Last year the Habs surprised everybody in the play-offs with a great defensive game. I have a sneaking suspicion that Martin has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

      No point in showing your hand until all the bets are in.

  27. adam76 says:

    Just win tonight, and all will be right in the world.

  28. Richard B says:

    I actually turned the game off 3 times last night. It was very boring. I think it was addiction and not enjoyment that made me keep truning it back on 5 minutes later.

    Richard B

  29. NorthernHab says:

    Let the good times roll on!


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