About this afternoon …

I know this is hard for Montreal Canadiens fans, but can we just admit the New Jersey Devils had a solid game plan and executed it to near perfection?

It used to happen on a regular basis when the Canadiens played the Devils.

This time around, the visitors only needed Martin (he didn’t earn an F. today) Brodeur for 20 minutes.

By the time the future Hall of Famer left the game with what looked like a knee injury, the Devils led 2-0 and were on their way to winning the Jacques vs Jacques systems war, largely on the strength of size, hustle and hard work.

I thought Ilya Kovalchuk set the tone early with three hits on P.K. Subban during his first shift. This was an indication the Canadiens defence would be under pressure – from bruisers like Dainus Zubrus, Jason Arnott and David Clarkson – and New Jersey was able to induce stress in all three zones.

Lemaire did not like the conditioning level of the team he took over from John MacLean. So the new old coach ran what was, in effect, a training camp in mid-season; and the result is a Devils team that will skate, hit and contest every inch of the ice.

The Canadiens could not get any flow going. Zone clearances were pressured, hurried and often ill-advised. Passes were bouncing off skates. And clearing was just the first step; advancing the puck through the neutral zone was another challenge complicated by white jerseys that seemed to converge in a heartbeat, reducing time and cutting off space.

This is what New Jersey used to do in the glory years.

Minus Zach Parise and with an aging legend in nets, Lemaire has them doing it again.

The good news: the Canadiens don’t play the Devils again until April 2. They have become a VERY tough out.

 

It’s funny: Philadelphia sits atop the Eastern Conference standings and New Jersey is near the bottom.

But the Flyers and Devils are two teams that give the Canadiens fits.

I don’t know what the Canadiens can do to beat the Flyers. But against the less-talented Devils, matching their compete level would be a start.

The Canadiens began the game sluggishly. By the second period, they were a three-line team, with Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez trading wingers in an effort to get some sustained offence going. DD, Mathieu Darche and Tom Pyatt ended up playing single-digit minutes.

Gomez, who set up the only goal, played a solid game. Perhaps his jittery and unpredictable passing style was more of a challenge to New Jersey’s tight checking scheme than Plekanec’s more studied techniques.

Pleks had six shots on goal. But I thought NJ pressure stifled his playmaking.

Kovalchuk matched Pleks’s shot total, played 25:10 – high for both teams – and scored twice.

Kovy II’s second goal came off a ruling I’d never seen applied: With Carey Price on the bench, Kovalchuk was breaking away and was hooked by P.K. Subban before releasing a shot that hit the post.

Rather than award a penalty shot on en empty net, Kovalchuk was credited with a goal. Weird one.

Fans booed Kovalchuk. Probably because of the $$$. Like any of the boo birds would turn down a raise … which might be offered these schmucks if their bosses thought Earth was about to be hit by an asteroid.

Kovalchuk has no personal history with anyone on the Canadiens’ roster or in the organization. It’s stupid to boo him, like it’s stupid to boo Zdeno Chara and Daniel Brière.

Montreal fans like to think of themselves as the best, most knowledgeable and sophisticated in the league.

The Bell Centre is supposed to be the La Scala of hockey. But in Milan, they throw rotten vegetables at bad singers, not at great ones.

No one ever mistook the TD North Garden for a great house of culture. The Canadiens are there Wednesday for a four-pointer with the Bruins.

I’m not holding my breath on Mike Cammalleri, but maybe James Wisniewski will be back. That would allow Jacques Martin to restore the Alexandre Picard-less defence pairings that were working so well.

•  •  •

Guest Comment from Coach K:

Not a bad game really.  This is what I saw…

  • A
    Habs team that was flat for the first 10 minutes-but also a team that
    just played a hard won game less than 24 hours before.  So in fairness
    not a totally unexpected outcome.
  • A team that once awake,
    contested every puck but couldn’t get the puck to bounce thier way. 
    Again, sometimes you get the breaks other times not so much.  Probably
    evens out over the course of a season.
  • The youth on the team
    played well under relentless pressure – Price included.  The vets, not
    so much and looked really flat in their own end.  It was a game with
    playoff intensity at certain points.
  • I also noticed that the
    Habs choice of shot selection on dump ins left a lot to be desired. 
    Hard rim arounds with les boys overloading the side where the puck
    should be coming around were consistently overloaded by the Devils
    instead.  Essentially a turnover in the O-zone.  When that happens you
    have to change your approach if you want to come up with the puck.  Our
    guys-coaches included, didn’t adjust until the 3rd period.
  • Obstruction
    hockey is back.  I saw a Devils team that was permitted subtle hooks,
    picks and a lot of quick but effective holds as the Montreal players
    attempted to move with the puck through the neutral zone.  These tactics
    made it easy for the Devils to get to get away with it and get to the
    puck first on any dump in.
  • The root-cause of the obstruction was
    poor positional play (couldn’t see the foul) or just plain laziness of
    the officiating team.  Unacceptable by any standard.

I’m
sure the coaches will watch video of this game to learn how to counter
this next time so no real need to worry.  That said, if I were the
coaches or GM, I’d be screaming about the quality of the reffing and
asking why Jersey is still allowed to get away with that obstruction
crap.

No matter what, if I’m coaching I tell them file it away as a learning experience and look forward.

14 Comments

  1. Mike Boone says:

    For the record: Green bay is a great franchise and an excellent team with a superb quarterback were full-value for their win. Now if it had been Dallas …

  2. joeybarrie says:

    So not only does it apply to Montreal hockey, but now to the Super Bowl. So I will ask this question.

    Exactly how were EITHER team embarrassed???

    I will leave the whole -to-back comment alone….

    There may be other teams, but only ONE Club De Hockey…

  3. geo_habsgo says:

    Wow Boone is in a happy mood today isn’t he? Well I guess I would be too if both my favourite teams were embarrassed  -to-back the day before. Lol it’s gonna be okay Boone!

  4. Thenumber11 says:

    Lemaire for the Adams if they keep this up? It would be hilarious to give it to a bottom feeding team, but this is a different circumstance. They’re a completely diferent team now, and they still don’t have one of their best players on the ice. 

  5. geo_habsgo says:

    I agree. He is retiring for good this time anyway so I think it would be fitting. He has turned them into winners too bad it came so late in the season. These players really are headcases, eh?

  6. Ian Cobb says:

    BeDevilled by more than the Devils folks.

    We are starting to slip a little this past week. But not as bad as some may suggest. Other teams are now starting to get the injury bug now as well. This time of year the game picks up in speed and intensity.

    We have been hit with slow starting first period hockey, this has to be turned around. The season is becoming very short. I wonder if Gauthier and staff are going to make a move.?

     

    In a 30 team league, here is where we are placed this week over last week.

     

    Goals Against—-131,  We are in  6th place.   Last week we were in   4th place.

    Total points——-65,  We are in  9th place.   Last Week we were in   9th place.

    Goals For——–139,  We are in 22nd place.  Last week we were in 22nd place.

  7. geo_habsgo says:

    Meant to right back-to-back. And neither team was embarrassed really..just adding salt to the wound and rubbing it in. Imagine if people could understand tongue-in-cheek comments over the internet..

  8. mbplekfan says:

    The habs got beat on the back half of a double header. 3 core defensemen over the age of 35. Wiz in the infirmary, and Picard taking a regular shift with Weber.

    What did you think would happen?

  9. Habnofear says:

    If you weren’t around to see the Habs of the 70′s you know have a glimpse on how good they we’re….Lemaire and Robinson just took the worst team in the league and beat the Habs over their heads with them. And Kovy looked like Kovy except even better….

  10. ClaytonM says:

    “Kovalchuk has no personal history with anyone on the Canadiens’ roster or in the organization. It’s stupid to boo him, like it’s stupid to boo Zdeno Chara and Daniel Brière.”

    They boo Brière because of his comments when choosing to sign with the flyers. They probably boo Chara for going after Kovalev and Latendresse that one time, but I like to think it’s due to his sucker punch on Raitius Ivanans. Chara had essentially won the tackle fight, but with Ivanans down and immobilized by a linesman on top of him, Chara took a free swing that broke his orbital bone.

    I’ll never have something positive to say about that shaved gorilla. In my eyes he’s another Louis Slegr.

  11. rogieshan says:

    “The Devils…were on their way to winning…laregly on the strength of size, hustle and hard work.”

    There’s the rub. We can match with any team in the league in hustle and hard work, but not size. And both the Flyers and Devils have it in spades.

  12. Aybara says:

    Me thinks Mr. Boone is a little hot under the collar cause his precious Steelers just weren’t able to do it.

    People in Montreal boo players like Kovy II and Chara because they give the Habs fits. Not because of some slight to the organization, but dirty plays in Chara’s case and skill that hurts the Habs. I wouldn’t be surprised if these players don’t take the booing as a sign of respect. Kind of like the fans saying, “we know you are skilled and those skills could lose the game for us. Guess what, we hate you for it!”

    Regardless, this is not Opera where the audience wants all the performers to do well. This is hockey, where 99% of the arena only wants the guys in red to succeed.

    Ease up Boone, maybe next year the Steelers can finish’r off.

  13. RGM says:

    Was a stinker of a game and once the Devils went up 3-0 any hopes of a comeback were squashed. But hey, they took three games out of 4 coming out of the break and moved themselves into a position where they can be tied for 3rd on Wednesday. Such is the ride of the 2010-11 Montreal Canadiens.

    Go Habs Go!

  14. redgorf says:

    when the puck was drop and the vdevils shot it in to corner,it was obvious the game was lost, nobody on the canadiens wanted to get the puck.a stick on the chin with the ref right behind him and no call and so it whent…..


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