Monday, April 07, 2008

The World Through Rose-Tint

The Canadiens win the East.

8 wins against their first-round opponent already and a some wins to finish the season have people in Montreal a pretty positive state of mind. And, why not? After all, the Canadiens have played very well. they have finally learned ways to hang on to leads and beat teams they couldn't undo for years.

Mike Boone, in particular, is Mr. Positive. He calls the Canadiens last 3 games flawless.

Apparently the crown jewel was the Ottawa shutout where we held them to 27 shots. We let them take 32 on the night, but what's 5 shots once the rose-coloured glasses go on? It was also news to me (and Carey Price) that the Habs are now a defensive fortress thanks to Selke-winning coaches:

Ottawa was held to 27 shots and shut out. Buffalo and Toronto each scored once on 27 shots.

Earlier in the season, Canadiens routinely surrendered 35 to 40 shots a game.

That was then. This is now.

With a team assembled by Bob Gainey and coached by Guy Carbonneau – seven Selke Trophys between them, and Doug Jarvis won another – the Canadiens are stifling opponents.

I'm probably being a bit of a stickler, but it's been my role and duty all season to keep heads level when they are going too far one way or the other.

For the record, prior to their sub-30 shot last 3 games (of which one was actually over 30 shots), the Habs let up more than 35 shots in 5 straight contests. In March, they let opponents shoot on Price and Halak more than 35 times in 10 out of 14 games. That was then, but it was also now 3 games ago.

It's alright to be positive, but let's not kid ourselves: we won many more games due to offensive outburst and PP dominance than by holding opponents in some kind of shotless purgatory.

As it applies to Round 1

This lesson is important, and I hope the Habs know that. If the Canadiens suddenly fancy themselves defensive shutdown specialists, they will be playing into the hands of teams who can't run and gun, like say the Bruins. In my opinion, it will be critical the Habs press home their PP and offensive advantages and not slip into a playoff defensive cliche.

As you've heard, and worked out, the Bruins won a lot of games this year – more against teams not called the Canadiens than the Habs managed against teams not from Boston. Well, how did they do that? Not scoring. No 30-goal men here. Two 20+ goalscorers – one called Kobasew. Their goaltending has been stellar at times and has won them many games, but they let up the identical number of goals against that we did. What's the key then?

Well, something I would call caginess. This team has found ways to stay in games and win some tough ones, got points out of 13 losses too.

Always beware a cagey team. Habs fans should know this better than anyone. When we've met the Bruins in series past, with the situation reversed, we emerged with victory due to caginess of our own.

I'll leave with this as some food for thought ahead of Thursday:

In games after losses to the Canadiens:

- the Bruins got points in every game

- went 7-0-1 (the OTL was against the Habs)

- cranked up their D, only allowing 14 goals in 8 contests

- cranked up their O, 27 goals in 8 games

In contrast, the Habs went 4-4-0, allowing 31 goals in 8 games.

Also consider the only time we played the Bruins in back-to-back games, they got points from us.

If you've read this far, please know that I am positive. I like the Habs offense and defense better than the Bruins. If the Habs play their game, they are superior.

I would really guard, though, against changing style of play from the the formula for success thus far, and most all against wearing rose-coloured glasses...

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