About last night …

Not much to add.

Your Montreal Canadiens were lousy.

It happens.

Jacques Martin’s job is to make sure it doesn’t happen often.

He and his staff had plenty to think about on the flight back to Montreal. They have to figure out which buttons to push, which lines might work tonight against Buffalo, which is coming off a 3-1 win over the Leafs.

After that late first-period goal and early second-period penalty, the Canadiens suffered a precipitous decline in what Mike Cammalleri always refers to as their “compete level”. It means, in my reading, the players’ willingness to hustle and fight and sacrifice their bodies in order to win.

On the evidence of last night’s game, it’s what you have to do to beat Craig Ramsay’s new and improved Atlanta Thrashers.

It’s too bad there weren’t more than the announced (and probably exaggerated) 13,000 and change in Philips Arena.

That’s a nice post-Kovalchuk team they’ve got down there: fast, skilled, physical and well-coached in what Ramsay was good at: bottling up and frustrating opponents through aggressive forechecking and smart positional play in the neutral zone.

Arpon Basu wonders if the Canadiens are bi-polar: Crap against Nashville, dominant against the Leafs, crap against Philadelphia, dominant against L.A. and then crap again in Atlanta.

If the pattern holds, they should stomp the Sabres at the Bell Centre tonight.

But the inconsistency is troublesome, especially as a brutal December schedule looms.

There are causes for concern:

• The Markov-less D is slow, and Atlanta exploited it. Zone clearances were laborious, with litte help from the forwards. The Canadiens do not have a defenceman with the speed and puck-moving finesse of Tobias Enstrom. P.K. Subban has the potential, but he isn’t there yet.

• Tomas Plekanec is a mess in the faceoff circle, and let’s hope that ineptitude is not symptomatic of a slump by the Canadiens’ best player not named Carey Price.

I think it’s legitimate, at this point, to second-guess Martin’s decision to break up the Pleks-Mike Cammalleri-Andrei Kostitsyn line. They were fire on start the season, and none of them has been as effective since the shuffle.

Martin based the change on sound reasoning. The coach had to try something to shake Scott Gomez out of his lethargy, and Brian Gionta needed to get untracked.

The Canadiens continued to win after the changes, but their record camouflaged the failure of the top two lines to gel. And you have to believe Pleks is becoming frustrated, the only explanation for a cerebral player like he to engage in what would have been a suicidal fight with Evander Kane had Maxim Lapierre not intervened.

• The Canadiens have problems against physical teams. As Tony Marinaro pointed out on Twitter, they’ve given up 41, 45 and 47 shots in games against Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn and Ben Eager thumped their way through the Canadiens zone like Visigoths on a rampage.

This susceptibility to size and aggression does not augur well for the remaining months of the season, when hockey will become more intense and nastier.

In his customarily excellent game analysis in La Presse, Pierre Ladouceur points out the Canadiens are 10-1-1 when leading after two periods and 0-7-0 when trailing heading into the third. They’re 8-1-1 with a lead after the first period, 0-7-0 when trailing after 20.

Ladouceur’s explanation: the Canadiens are an effective team when they can play patient hockey hockey and wait for opponents to make mistakes – a style they are able to practice with the luxury of a lead.

But when they have to make things happen in order to erase a lead, the Canadiens struggle. As they begin to press, turnovers ensue and … well, you saw the W-L numbers. Through 23 games, this team can’t play catch-up hockey.

Last night Hal Gill mishandled the puck in the dying seconds of the first period, Rich F. Peverley pounced and the rest was history.

The Canadiens were outhot 23-4 during the second period. It was dismayingly reminiscent of the Philadelphia game, when the margin was 21-5 … the difference being a 2-0 Canadiens lead pissed away in that one, rather than the 1-0 deficit they faced in Atlanta.

Shall we talk about faceoffs?

Nah. Too depressing.

The urgent need to call up Max Pacioretty and sign MAB?

Nah. Too early to push the panic button

Buffalo at the Bell tonight.

Let’s see if there’s a bounce-back.

 

32 Comments

  1. habfab14120 says:

    Best guess is 6 jerseys for the Sabres in the last 15 yrs.

    1. Original logo and colors.  1995 was the final year, so it snuck in.
    2. Demonic Goat Heat.  Black, red, and white colors.
    3. Red 3rd jersey with puck (black circle) and crossed swords.
    4. The Slug.  Blue and gold.
    5. Return to original logo (different shades of blue and gold from original, plus silver added).
    6. 40th anniversary “Buffalo” 3rd jersey.  Original colors.  Logo a tribute to Buffalo Bisons of the AHL in the 1960’s.

  2. PeterD says:

    I wonder what Byfuglien would cost us in a trade…use him forward or on D…big and mean and seenms to be able to play the game…

  3. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    excellent post RAD.

    Antropov sucker punched Gill… and got away with it… my god how far we’ve fallen…

    1:The N.A.G. (North American Grit) Youth Movement will bring us respect. 2:The NHL-Ref-Syndicate will do everything in its power to never allow the HABS to win another Stanley Cup. 3. ..call up WHITE/SHULTZ/PAX now.

  4. Rad says:

    The Canadiens’ most glaring need is size on defense. You can get by with speed up front if you have some nastiness on the blueline. Gorges, Spacek and Hamrlik are good players but not mean. Hal Gill is big, but does not have a nasty bone in his body. Ryan O’Byrne was not naturally mean either, but at least he would make an effort to take the body on a regular basis. Until Jarred Tinordi is ready to play back there, the Habs need SIZE and TOUGHNESS on the blueline. As currently constructed, the Habs are just another good team, a top-10 team, but not an elite Stanley Cup team.

    Are you listening Gauthier??

  5. Aaron13 says:

    Don’t ever expect Gomez to change. His best years are well behind him. He is talented but there is something wrong with him that can’t be fixed. I won’t comment on what the problem is but some observation of his demeanour is a clue.

  6. Number31 says:

    I would consider what Evander Kane did as a sucker punch.

    You know when your goalie freezes the puck, players usually grab the closest guy and clear him from the net? That’s all Plekanec did. Wasn’t an aggressive shove or anything, was pretty routine, but that over-aggressive little twat dropped his gloves and punched Plekanec in the face. Why wouldn’t Plekanec respond to that? Good on Lapierre to immediately get between them. (It was also why Kane got the extra penalty for useless instigating). Gooning it up when you’re the winning team? Yea that’s great…

  7. Josh says:

    They can’t play catch-up hockey because through 23 games they’ve only had one scoring line put together. Enough of this grinder experiment that has more than proven that it doesn’t work. When it comes to putting together lines, Martin is almost as bad as Carbo.

  8. New says:

    The Canadiens are short a center and D-Man. They seem good enough to take 4 out of seven from a free wheeling team. They will not survive against a physical team in a seven game series without luck, and a very healthy Andrei Markov.

    I would rather a healthy Markov and a true #1 center.

  9. habs365 says:

    This team has not been the same since JM started fooling with the 1st line trying to get Gomez going..even when he puts them back together..almost like they’re saying..we won’t be together long guys if the 2nd line don’t start scoring..one or two of us will be there again.

    after christmas when the games get more intense and physical..they better be able to handle a few ..in the playoffs they’re all like that..so jm you had better get a 2nd line scoring to take up the slack for the 1st line or last night is a sign of things to come..Halpern, pouliot/darche with gionta..Gomez 3rd or 4th line.

    Habs made a mistake taking his big contract from the rangers..you have to live with it now..he’s happy and will play the same where ever you put him and his wingers will take the blame..all the wingers you’ve tried with him..don’t tell me they’re all so, so “wrong” time to wake up….

     

  10. Wayne says:

    I’m curious to see the W/L record after a rookie paid, team meal. I think it was Mike Keane way back when, who came the closest to eating that huge steak. What was it again, 32 ounces?

     

    IMO, last night’s gang looked like a group who had their minds on tonight’s game instead. And can someone give me a number on how many jerseys/logos Buffalo has been through in the last 15 years?


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