Kovy stirs the pot

Alex Kovalev, who ripped Guy Carbonneau in the Russian magazine interview he says (wink, wink) he never gave last season, is at it again.
In addition to accurately pointing out that the Canadiens had played their best 60-minutes of the season against the Florida Panthers last night, Kovalev wondered aloud why the team had not taken a timeout during the hectic final minutes in which Mike Komisarek took a penalty, Tomas Vokoun was pulled for an extra attacker and Nathan Horton tied the game.
“We knew they would pull their goalie,” Kovalev said. “We should have taken advantage of one of the play stoppages to ask for a timeout so we could catch our breath and get better prepared. We seemed really disorganized during the man advantage.”
Kovalev is right …. again.
Just as he was late last season when – in that entirely fictional interview fabricated by latent elements of the KGB – Kovalev told a Russian journalist that Carbonneau’s hermetic style of defensive hockey was stifling creative players (like himself).
Dominated for 58 minutes, the Panthers finally began to exert pressure when Komisarek was in the box.
The Canadiens could have used a breather, a chance to talk over who does what in the dying seconds of the game.
Just on general principles, I hate to see timeouts unused. It’s not as crucial as in basketball and football, but the hockey timeout is still an important element of coaching strategy and time management.
You hate to see one left on the table.

• • •

Carbo can’t be faulted for his lineup changes.
I liked Bryan Smolinski on the second line. Andrei Kostitsyn, playing with Mikhail Grabovski and Tom Kostopoulos on the third line, had five shots to lead the Canadiens.
Garth Murray, in for Steve Bégin, had four hits and skated all night.
Murray can’t score … but neither can anyone else, it seems.
The Canadiens are in increasingly desperate need of a finisher. Matt D’Agostini may fill that role eventually, but in the meantime …

• • •

Listening to CKAC on the drive home, I heard Ron Fournier using about how much ice time the fourth line got.
Murray played 12:46, Kyle Chipchura 13:40, Mathieu Dandenault 14:41.
Most teams, Fournier suggested, keep their fourth-liners short of double-digit ice time.
In Philadelphia’s 4-0 romp over the hapless Thrashers last night, former Canadien Jim Dowd played 8:43 and his wings less than five minutes each.
But in the Colorado-Calgary game, which went to a shootout won by the Avalanche, Tyler Arnason played 12:23 and Jaroslav Hlinka 12:40.

I like rolling four lines. It keeps everyone fresh – and no one complaining about ice time. Down the road, distribution of minutes should diminish the chance of injuries and ensure fresher legs in March.

• • •

May I commit blasphemy?
The Canadiens’ best defence pairing right now is Roman Hamrlik and Patrice Brisebois.

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