Monday, March 29, 2010

Habs Notebook: Games In Hand Edition

Habby topics on my mind today:

-I think Habs fans are getting weirder. The other day I noticed a guy in the supermarket having an animated discussion with a can of soup. He was wearing a Habs jacket. Then I saw a house using a Habs towel as curtains, and it was NOT a student residence. Yesterday, a guy in a Habs cap was walking along the centre line of the street, oblivious to traffic passing on either side. I'm sure it's just because the Habs have so many fans to begin with that more of them are a little on the wonky side. Sometimes, though, I think there's a trend happening.

-Josh Gorges is a very, very solid defenceman. I often save items of interest after I've read them, because you never know when you might need to refer to them again. One such tidbit is a statistical analysis of defensive defencemen published in the Globe and Mail back in January. At the time, Gorges came in at number five in the league. The stats looked at quality of opponent faced, short-handed goals against and even strength goals against. That's not bad at all, when the guy is playing a number-five role on your team. He's even mostly stopped falling on his own goalie lately.

-I'm worried about Benoit Pouliot. I just finished reading a candid interview with him in the team magazine, in which he discussed his downward spiral in Minnesota. He said, "I wasn't drafted fourth overall to make defensive play my main focus. From the very start, that's all the team wanted from me. There are only so many times a player can chip the puck off the boards of dump it into the offensive zone before it becomes all you do. I couldn't get rid of the puck fast enough. I honestly think it began to erode my skills." He went on to say, "I fought it all I could, but it eventually began to consume me and I began to wonder if I even had what it took anymore. Ask any young player what it's like to know that as soon as you have a bad shift in a game or make one mistake, you're going to be nailed to the bench. It really takes a toll. It was devastating, unbearable and it ate at me inside."

He then talked about the difference in Montreal, and what a pleasure it is to play with smart, talented veterans like Gomez and Gionta. Now though, I see him making some inevitable mistakes, perhaps reaching with the stick a little more rather than moving his feet, or shying away from the crease when a month ago he could be found parked there. When Pouliot first came to Montreal, he looked like he'd been released from a cage and played with that kind of joy. There's no doubt he's got the skills to shine in the NHL. But if Jacques Martin is going to be benching him or demoting him to play with fourth-liners when he makes a mistake, it's not going to work out for him in Montreal. That's exactly what Lemaire did with him in Minny, and it didn't help. In any case, I'm not sure Pouliot is even really in need of discipline at the moment. Sure, he's making some of those errors I mentioned, but he's also got a couple of points in the last five "poor" games he's played, and is a plus-three. I want the kid to play flat out in every single game too, but everybody slumps sometimes and he seems to be trying to work through his little production lull. Martin hasn't worked wonders with any of the Habs' youngsters this year, and I'm afraid he's going to be Lemaire 2.0 when it comes to handling Pouliot.

-I think Carey Price's luck is about to change. I saw the reports of him drawing hundreds of supporters to a public autograph session today. Perhaps realizing that there are lots of people who cheer him on, no matter what, will be enough to lift the cloud that still seems to be hovering over him since last year's playoff booing. I expect, unless Halak is phenomenal against Carolina, Price will get one of Philly or Buffalo on the weekend. I hope his time has finally come and he pulls off a big win. He's due, and I don't know how much more devatastion he...or we...can stand this year.

-Did you ever notice that whenever you really need Jersey to beat someone to help the Habs in their playoff attempt, they fail? They come into Montreal and win, then they stink out the joint against Philly. I'm expecting Marty to play like crapola against Boston tomorrow, just because.

-I'm a little worried about the Habs' playoff chances. They SHOULD be able to get in, based on the relative difficulty of their remaining schedule compared to that of their immediate rivals'. But they really need to win a couple this week. The thought of it all riding on one of those chaotic, wretched leaf games on the last night is nauseating.


DB said...

I suspect if Lats ever gave a really honest interview he also would say "Ask any young player what it's like to know that as soon as you have a bad shift in a game or make one mistake, you're going to be nailed to the bench. It really takes a toll. It was devastating, unbearable and it ate at me inside."

I think with Lats, Pouliot and other young players that coaches will try to focus on improving the weak aspects of the players game and may forget to praise the strengths. The player responds by trying to do what the coach wants and stops doing what he's good at. The coach then becomes more critical and the player gets worse. This downward spiral continues until the coach has no confidence in the player and the player knows it and feels he can't do anything right. At that point the only solution is to trade the player or change the coach.

My question is how far down the spiral is Laps with Martin?

GK said...

I always snicker at your deliberate and consistent reference to the (lower-case) leafs!

Anonymous said...

I love your personality in writing. Are you taken? Really.

J.T. said...

@DB: I think Laps, for some reason is still fairly high up in Martin's opinion, relative to more offensive-minded players. He's still getting in the lineup for the most part, although he's doing very little out there. If he were to actually start playing like he did last year, I think he'd rise pretty quickly. I don't like the way Martin's been handling the young guys, though. Chipchura, Lats and D'Agostini are already gone under his regime. Andrei Kostitsyn, fortunately, has responded to his early-season demotion to the fourth line, or maybe he'd be gone too. A team can't waste assets like that.

@GK: Well, how can you capitalize them? A friend of mine pointed out that until they start deserving the title of Original Six franchise, they should be lowercase. :)

@anon: Yup. Thanks though!

billy said...

Never say never but looking at the Thrasher's schedule, playoffs should be in the bag for the Habs.

MC said...

I had the privilege of listening to Larry Robinson on the radio as a guest host yesterday for about an hour. One of the most interesting things he talked about from his coaching days was the importance of knowing your players and how to get through to them. He said that some players need a kick in the ass, some need a pat on the back, and some players, you don't say anything at all to them!

After listening to the Big Bird and reading your post, in made me worry how Pouliot will respond to JM's heavy hand. Let's hope Pouliot is in the "kick in the ass" category of player.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the wonders that Boucher will be able to pull with this club in two years. It was practically built for is style of coaching. Lets just say that I'm giddy!