Saturday, March 21, 2009

Game #72

The Embarrassment Continues; When Will it End?

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday March 21st, 2009
Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes
Final Score: 2-5 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Martin Gerber (W)

Habs goalscorers: Maxim Lapierre (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Alexei Ponikarovsky (2), Jason Blake



Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

Our second goal gave us life and gave the crowd something to cheer about. With 25 minutes of hockey to play we had brought ourselves back to within two. The play itself was a pretty simple play, the type of play that we are seeing far too little of from our forwards. Tanguay, after taking a pass from O'Byrne, was the one who really made this play. He stepped into the zone on the right and waited for Lapierre to be open on the left. Max took the pass very well and was able to beat Gerber with a very well-placed shot.



Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Maxim Lapierre
Max played with heart and spirit all night long and was rewarded for his efforts with 2 goals. I liked how he skated and attacked the puck and the defence on each and every shift. At this stage of the year you would expect each and every player to have more good shifts than bad; tonight Max was pretty much the only one who could say that he did indeed do that.



Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...

Forwards

Saku Koivu
Saku came to life after the 2nd period line changes and actually went on to play some of his best type of hockey. He was trying hard on every shift and was winning most of his battles. He had a few chances (especially when he hit the post) that, had they been slightly better placed, could have made an enormous difference. He was 10-4 on face-offs.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei looked very dangerous around the net tonight and in total had 3 shots, all of which were of quality. I am not concerned if he is the weakest defensive player on the ice for us, in fact I wish that were so. If our team was playing defence like we could very few people (even RDS) would be noticing a scoring-winger's defensive zone mistakes. Offensively he was on tonight and I hope it continues.

Maxim Lapierre
He took pretty much all of the energy that he had tonight and left it on the ice. Whether he was killing a penalty or chasing a defenceman with less than 2 minutes to go he was skating hard. He ended up taking 1/4 of all our shots as he registered 7 himself.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Josh was pretty strong in his own end tonight, actually he was one of our only competent D-men. He got very involved offensively which I liked as it was never at the expense of defence. I just wish someone could teach him 2 things: to put the puck on net and to shoot hard. I am pretty sure he is capable of these, after all he is in the NHL, but I have yet to see him do this as a Hab.

Mathieu Schneider
Markov wasn't great tonight, but neither were the rest of the bunch, thankfully Mat played semi-decently. He has had better games, but I really didn't notice anything wrong from him. The PP needs to get going, but I can at least report that he is doing his part - moving the puck well and taking good, hard shots on net.

Goaltender

Carey Price
With the team the way it is we really need a great goalie in order to get some wins. I was hoping that Jaro would be that guy tonight, but he wasn't. He didn't play horribly, but didn't play well either. The bottom line is that he didn't give us a shot as a 4-0 lead is always going to be enough against this version of the Habs. Carey likely wouldn't have done any better, but I would have been willing to find out, I mean the net result couldn't have been any worse.



Eye-Openers
In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

I noticed this trend for pretty much the whole game. There was a 15-20 minute stretch where we outplayed Toronto, but for the most part they were all over us. What I noticed was that the Habs are always attacking from the corners and from behind the net. Toronto, however, (especially on their first two goals) attack on the counter and they do it with speed. We are dumping the puck in and are then chasing it down at a not-so fast pace. We remarkably do get possession quite a bit using this technique, but the problem is by the time we do the other team has 5 players in their own zone and we have nowhere to go. It takes speed right out of our game (our strength that we never use) and we are reduced to a pretty poor cycle which often leads to nothing. I feel this all has to do with confidence as a scared and cautious team will always take the easy route - that route is the dump-in, the lob pass or the coasting in the neutral zone. We must learn how to attack before the defence gets set, kind of like the way we scored goals until the playoffs last year.


Overall Comments

The first 30 minutes of this game were the worst I have seen from the Habs in a while. Defensively they were disorganized, they lacked drive up front and worst of all they simply weren't moving their feet. Toronto, on the other hand, was playing really well. It shouldn't really surprise me because if you forget the first half of the year we are one of the worst teams in the league, we should be going down in these games. Getting excited about playing teams that are lower than us in the standings is a thing of the past as we have become one of the most disjointed groups in the league. We went on, after the horrible start, to have some moments of brilliance and the ball really got rolling when Lapierre scored a brace. A late 2nd period PP gave us the chance to get right back in the game, but despite our best efforts we fell short. That PP was probably our best 2 minutes of hockey since Gainey took over as players like Markov, Kovalev and Schneider were absolutely dominant. Not scoring on that chance, however, was bad news, and add to that the fact that the Leafs added a fifth; it was then back to pretty poor play for the last little bit. This team showed tonight that they just aren't cohesive enough to make it happen when they need it to. We can have moments, but what team can't? Making the playoffs, at this rate, will be a stretch, succeeding in them, if we get there, is highly unlikely.

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