Contrary to all appearances, there were a few positives to last night's stink fest. For example:
-The win keeps the leafs two more points away from handing the Bruins another lottery pick.
-Alex Auld got some much-needed work.
-There are four days to plan how to get out of this mess before the next game.
-The breaks tend to even out over the course of the season, and the reffing has sucked hard for the Canadiens in the last two.
-There's lots of good video for the "Don't" file.
-The Habs were a bit concerned about peaking too early and wanted to go back to flying under the radar. They've succeeded.
-Dustin Boyd got a chance to shake off those sore muscles you get when you don't exercise for weeks, then work out hard.
That's it. That's all I can come up with on the plus side of this game. On the minus side, there's a lot more. Like:
-Subban is lost. He's making poor decisions, hitting when he shouldn't, pinching when he needs to stay back and shooting at shin pads with his giant windup. His windup is so obvious it's got a police escort. He needs help and there's nobody to offer it. The kid has resorted to calling Tampa's assistant coach for advice. Perry Pearn might be a fine strategist, but he never played defence in the NHL. This is where Gauthier regrets not returning Larry Robinson's phone calls, if he's smart.
-Andrei Kostitsyn has found his invisibility cloak. The guy is so dominant when he's on and so frustrating most of the rest of the time.
-The D is vulnerable without Markov. They all know how to play the system in theory, but they frigged it up in execution last night. It all goes back to Markov's injury. Without him, Spacek and Hamrlik become the number-one D pair, Gorges and Gill move up to number two and Subban is left without veteran guidance as he's stuck with journeyman Picard. Not to say Picard is a bad player, but he's only just competent and really needs an experienced guy with him too. Those two guys together can be a bit like the inmates running the asylum. Remove Spacek from the equation and you've got two rookies and a journeyman in the top six. When Roman Hamrlik is your top offensive D, you've got issues.
-Nobody can score. The Martin defensive system is extremely effective in preventing goals against because all five players collapse to the net. Unfortunately, that means everyone has to skate an extra twenty feet to even gain the offensive zone on the attack. There's a LOT of skating involved in playing the Martin way, and covering that extra distance means there are extra passes and more chances to get picked off. Throw a second game in two nights at them, and all that skating adds up to a tired team.
-The power play continues to be a big problem. It's barely respectable right now, and misses Markov more than any other aspect of the game. That's IF the Habs actually draw a penalty. In the last couple of games, they're second to the puck a lot of the time, which means they have to take chintzy penalties to recover. Between that and some really iffy reffing, there aren't many PPs to be had, and the ones they get aren't effective.
-There's nobody on the team other guys are afraid of. I don't want a goon. Far from it. I think goons are outdated and a waste of valuable cap space, as we learned in the Laraque situation. In the NHL today, though, you do need a real player who's tough enough to beat on opponents who take liberties. I hate to give that much credit to Lucic, but he's a guy who'll do that. When that little pissant MacArthur went aboard of Spacek, he needed someone to give him an atomic wedgie and punch his head. Nobody did, because nobody aside from Moen is capable. And Moen can't do it every time, especially when the team is down and they're trying to avoid penalties.
-We've been exceedingly positive because the Habs have been winning, but in reality, the team last night was missing two top-four defencemen and a top-line centre. When you're dealing with those kinds of injuries, something's got to give. If those injuries are long-term, the Habs, frankly, are in trouble.