Thursday, December 16, 2010

Aftermath: Sometimes, There Is An "I" in "Team"

Hockey is a team game. Everyone knows that. That's why there are cliches.
You win as a team and you lose as a team. It was a team effort. The team really pulled together. We went to war as a team.

Sometimes, though, the team gets screwed by the bad play of individual players. That's what happened to the Canadiens last night. As a team, they had some very good moments. Both of the newly-revamped top-two lines were fast, aggressive and opportunistic. Some of the passing plays they made were just glorious, particularly in the second, when, down two goals, they began to take the game to the Flyers. The third and fourth lines contributed their usual cycle, advance-the-puck types of shifts. The D, as a whole, was pretty decent despite a half-dozen glaring turnovers.

What it came down to, in the end, was individual error. For the first time all year, Carey Price gave up a couple of softies to make the difference in a close game. The second Flyer goal, off Gill then off Price's head, was the kind he allowed last year when he was sucking. Still, the team managed to rally and draw even again. The go-ahead goal was a plain old softie that gave the game away. Price should have had that, and on 99 nights out of 100, he would. Last night was lucky number 100.

Then, there's Subban. P.K. is such a mix of risk/reward right now. We know, as he gets more experienced and better able to control his emotions, that we'll get more reward as time goes on. Last night, however, the risk clearly outweighed the benefit. He scored on a rocket from the point, which we're all hoping to see more of from him. Unfortunately, he gave up two with two horrible up-the-middle giveaways. You just can't do that when you're playing a team whose fourth-line centre has more goals than your team's top guy. It will end up in the back of the net. PK should have learned that on the first giveaway that turned into a goal. He didn't. Instead, he repeated that mistake. Now, despite his glorious rushes and great shot, he'll probably be scratched in favour of Weber against the Bruins.

Jaro Spacek, who should have known better, looked brutal on the fourth Flyers goal; the one that ruined the comeback. For some inexplicable reason a veteran who should have known better pinched deep on the PK, got caught and ended up getting back just in time to witness the backbreaker.

Tomas Plekanec has been in the box for killer goals twice in the last three games, both times for slashing. Pleks is the team's Old Reliable, but he's got to have better discipline with his stick when important games are on the line. He's got a reputation for stick work and he's going to get called for it.

And, for all his exhortations about playing as a team and playing within the system, Jacques Martin didn't hold up his end of the bargain either. From starting Andrei Kostitsyn on the fourth line where he was as effective as a chicken-wire parachute, to playing Maxim Lapierre with two minutes to go, his lineup decisions were poor, to be kind. One couldn't help but wonder why Lars Eller was on the crucial PK that led to the Flyers go-ahead goal, or why Tom Pyatt was scratched over Lapierre to begin with. If the latter decision was because Lapierre offered more "grit" against the aggressive Flyers, it was a misguided choice. Laps is a yapper, with occasional delusions of being Guy Lafleur, not a tough guy. Watching Eller, who hadn't played for most of the third, trying to kill that penalty, made fans long for Tom Pyatt's PK reliability.

Every team breaks down at some point in every game. The difference between winners and losers comes down to keeping those breakdowns to a minimum. The Canadiens didn't do that. They had too many breakdowns against a team with too much firepower to contain effectively without some serious discipline.

In the meantime, however, the flashes of team play the Habs showed were tantalizing. The Pacioretty/Gomez/Gionta line looked dangerous all night, but especially in the second. After Martin put Kostitsyn back on the Plekanec line, that trio too showed some nice skill. The impossible dream of having an actual NHL-calibre top six with two scoring lines looked close enough to touch.

It's those flashes that outshine the breakdowns. Against a team with not quite as much talent as Philly, or a goalie not as on his game as Bobrovsky was last night, the Canadiens would have easily won that one on the strength of the second-period dominance, despite the individual errors.

That's what we have to look at now, because if we look behind the Habs in the standings, the pack is slavering right at their heels. We have to hope that the team shows up tonight against the Bruins and the individual screw ups aren't the story of the game. After all, when it comes down to it, the team makes or misses the playoffs together. That's all the record will show, no matter how many mistakes add up to the loss.


Marco said...

Price did allow one bad goal, indeed. But the one that ricochet on Gill, not much he could do.
In the bad goal column, Bobrovski gave a stinker as well, Gionta's goal.
Plekanec had to take a penalty because of a bad play from Spacek. Then Spacek, in the following PK, took a very bad decision to follow the attack deep in the flyer's zone instead of playing it safe.
In my opinion, him (Spacek) and PK (with his two rookie mistakes) are the reason for yesterday's loss.
Thanks for the blog, always interesting!

Anonymous said...

Not a bad effort against a team with a half a dozen players better than anything the Habs have. For a minute there in the third period I thought they might get a point. But then reality struck and struck hard. This edition of the Habs can't compete against the Flyers (please don't say they outshot the Flyers and could have won if only Bob wasn't hot) so they better not finish eighth if they plan on winning a round in the playoff this year.

Anonymous said...

The flyers are a good team. They have better forwards, two very large, very good defenceman, Kimo Timmonen, and a good young goalie.

Last night our defence looked old, slow and inexperienced all at the same time. There probably isnt an answer to this as there is a lack of players available to trade for.

Spacek, Hammer, and Gill will get older and more tired as the season wears on. PK will hopefully cut down on rookie mistakes and Gorges will as usual be rock steady.

Picard is showing why Ottawa gave up on him as his lack of toughness and unwillingness to mix it up puts him at a distinct disadvantage against teams like Philly and Boston.

Our forwards are looking better with Pouliot, Eller and Pacioretty addressing the size issues up front. The problem will remain on the back end for the forseeable future. There is no white night in the system and no other team is going to solve the problem with a sweetheart trade.

MC said...

Good analysis JT. I was also perplexed when I saw Eller on the ice for the PK. Hopefully Eller learned something about when to pinch.

Subban will end up back in Hamilton if he keeps this up, with cries that JM ruined him, which would be total BS. The Habs and JM have given him every chance to succeed. The Habs will continue to be patient with him as long as he is not making mistakes, but that is three bad games in a row so I suspect patience is running thin. They need to get Weber back in there or shake up the pairings and put him with a veteran who will give him an ear-full if he doesn't make that d-to-d no-brainer pass. All that BS Calder Trophy hype has really hurt this kid because he has the swagger and fans but not the game to match.

Anonymous said...

Colorado has a very good young defenceman who is playing rock steady. Goes by the name Ryan. Big, young, and tough. Everything we need...

Anonymous said...

Thought from the french guy...

Will one day Jacques Martin will keep the same line for an entire game, no matter what?

Pk have is up and down, but a rookie with 1 huge mistake(on the giroux goal as i dont think he's alone to nblame on the carter one) is way better then a vet (read Spacek) make a horrible soft pass in the middle that cause Plek to behave badly. And then pinching on the other one just as you mentionned...

Great one on Gill's third defenceman stick...but i'd prefered one good D instead!!!

Your right, Flyers,Bruins are the worst, cant love them...but what sucked most is that they are actually 2 good teams VS the Leafs who we hate has well but dont go anywhere...Losing to them affects us more then a loss against the Panthers...

My Lines would actually be :
Ak - Plekanec - Cammallerri
Pacioretty - Eller - Moen
Halpern - Darche - Pyatt

ANd keep it like that for 3 games, let thm work together...and No more Moen on the 1st and 2nd line either


Anonymous said...

The game I think got a little intense and bad decisions were made. I think Price trusted his guys to play the way they had been playing and it fell apart. I wouldn't say Price had a stinker. I would say that as important as it is to believe in your goalie it is just as important for the goalie to have faith you're not going to let players breezeby, pass the puck onto their sticks, or randomly throw skates into shots. If Price starts wondering what his team mates are doing, as I was last night, then there will be trouble.

The Flyers are a good team that owns the Canadiens. The interesting thing will be to see how the team responds.