Friday, October 8, 2010

Aftermath: Suckulence

Well,that was a rotten way to start a brand new NHL season. There's nothing quite as galling as watching the leafs win their Stanley Cup in the first game of the season. Make no mistake, that's what it was for them. Their offence was lucky, their defence pretty rotten and their power play dormant. Giguere saved their bacon for one night, but that won't happen all year long. So, the leafs got to jump up and down and pretend they're going to make the playoffs based on their big, exciting home opener against the hated Habs. Good for them.

It was a disappointing showing for the Canadiens. Despite missing Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik (what the heck is really wrong with him, anyway?) and Mike Cammalleri (suspension looks even more stupid now), their lineup is better than Toronto's. Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez are better than most of the leaf forwards. None of them put up a point. The Canadiens' power play was a dismal 0-for-5, carrying on from where it left off in a less-than-stellar pre-season. It felt like the Habs came out strong, hitting and skating. Then, after the first goal, they deflated and sat back.

Speaking of the first goal, O'Byrne and Picard looked horrible on it, and Plekanec deserved an assist for a horrid clearing attempt that ended up on a leaf stick.

Carey Price proved once again last night he's a solid NHL goaltender. He will mostly make the saves he should be making, and he doesn't often do something egregious that costs his team. The only problem is, he rarely makes the saves he shouldn't make. So, every time the Habs' patchy defence broke down last night, it ended up in the net. It wasn't Price's fault. He did what he was supposed to do. Unfortunately, when the defence features a couple of guys who won't crack the lineup next month, he needed to do a little bit more.

Benoit Pouliot looked like a softer Andrei Kostitsyn on those nights when the latter is drifting around in a dense fog. The guy did little to cement himself a place in the top-six. It didn't look good on a night when Guillaume Latendresse went and scored the year's first goal for Minny, even.
though he put up an assist after getting bumped to the third line.

Lack of discipline permeated the Habs game as it did so often last year. Five minor penalties for lazy crimes like hooking and tripping don't help a team trying to get some flow going. On the plus side, the PK worked well.

Among the lowlights, there were certainly some bright spots. The brightest of them was Lars Eller. The kid looked aggressive and showed some nice wheels and hands. If he keeps skating like he did last night, he could be the one to bump Pouliot out of his spot next to Gomez and Gionta.

Maxim Lapierre is going to have a good year. His surgically-repaired ankle finally healed in time for last playoffs, and we saw the results of his good health in markedly improved play. If he stays healthy this season, he's going to be fast, aggressive, opportunistic and annoying. Just the way we like him.

Dustin Boyd has better hands than he gets credit for having. Most people forget he made the Canadian world junior team for a reason. Calgary rushed him and wrote him off when he didn't put up huge numbers in the NHL, but the kid has skills. If he turns out to be a late-blooming 40-point guy, the Habs will have done well.

Josh Gorges is getting better every year. He was the Habs' best defenceman last night, making calm decisions and moving the puck well in his team-high 26 minutes of ice time. If he could only shoot on the PP, he's be a star.

Last night wasn't the best game we'll see this year. It's probably also not the worst. It wasn't a great way to start the season, but the season is long and we can only hope they finish it on a lot better note.


Anonymous said...

Well said. One thing surprised me and that was the lack of intensity by both teams. It looked alot like preseason and was disappointing in that respect. Also something has to be done with the Gomez line. Pouliot is just plain weak and the line as it stands won't scare anyone. Time to give up and play someone else there. Gionta and Gomez deserve a strong linemate and maybe Eller is the guy. I hope so.

If the Habs are going to make the playoffs they have to be a plus team in their division and this better be the only loss to the leafs this season.

mr trivia said...

great recap. we lost last night and we'll lose again. it's a long season.

put cammy and markov into the line up and we're a much, much better team.

eller looked great. his skill was evident but i also liked his hustle. he'll be very good for us.

saturday will be tough. pittsburgh will be seriously gunning for us. i'd hate to start 0-2 and be facing tampa on wednesday.

Anonymous said...

Last year the Habs beat the Leafs in game one due to spectacular goal tending by Price. They won the last game in overtime to snatch a playoff spot. In game 82 these squandered two points might loom large. I for one was not impressed.

Anonymous said...

I think your disappointment at the result may have coloured your assessment of the Habs' actual play. Theirs was a pretty spirited game with a very encouraging showing from the bottom-6. Ragging on Price for not being superhuman is a bit rich, considering that he looked confident and strong all night. The problem last night was (a) two costly defensive miscues in the first and (b) an invisible first and second period from our core forwards. There was lots to like other than the score itself.

moeman said...

Agree 100% J.T. Weird how our vets didn't have top energy. Methinks they lowered their game to the level of the leaf.

MC said...

The top six did not look good at all, which is a major concern. I think Price will be good enough this season and the defense will pull it together (Martin will not tolerate those kinds of mistakes), but if the top two lines don't score this year, it will be lottery pick time.

Plekanc's line will be okay when Cammalleri is back. But Gomez's line is not getting it done. Despite early success last year Pouliot is not working out on that line. I think he needs to skate on the third line for a while. Gomez looks good but has no finish around the net. I wonder if the Habs place too much value in the Gomez-Gionta "chemistry"? I don't want to go back to the Carbo line juggling, but the Habs will have to try something different to get Gomez's line scoring 5-5.
AK46 is so frustrating to watch. He has so much raw talent with a lethal big-league shot, but he is so often invisible on the ice. He only had 15 goals last season, but 10 were in December alone. But Eller showed great hockey intelligence against the leafs, so he might be a good fit with Pleks and Cammy who are also very intelligent players. Put AK46 and Pouliot on a 2b line with Boyd or Halpern to see if they can produce.

Anonymous said...

A little underwhelming start from the Habs. Kinda worried that it has been along time since Price has stolen a game.

I recall Belfour and Joseph doing enough for the Leafs to win.

With goaltending , its just a matter of stopping the puck and being the difference when it counts. I am not sure that Price has that ability in his game right now.

That said I think that they made the right decision trading Halak!

Anonymous said...

Pouliot is an interesting player. Whatever is wrong isn't skill or size. They'll sort it out. Probably nothing more than he needs to get up to NHL stamina and confidence levels. This should actually be the year (he has about 100 small minute NHL games under his belt) where he begins to come into his own. If not, then next year.