Sunday, October 16, 2011

Take It Easy

On many nights this season, Carey Price will be the difference between the Canadiens winning or losing. Last night was one of them. On a night when offence, for once, wasn't an issue, Price played his second dismal home game in as many starts and cost his team the win. The good news is, Price is the least of the Canadiens' worries. He knows he sucked last night, but he's got the talent to pick up his game and return to the form we've come to expect.

So, with that in mind, we should remember there were a lot of good things in last night's game, and a 1-2-1 start doesn't mean the Habs will miss the playoffs. The defence isn't the greatest, but their biggest problem seems to be a lack of cohesion. That's going to happen when three of the D-men have played fewer than 80 NHL games between them. It's also almost inevitable when the pairings are juggled so often every guy has played with every other blueliner on the team. On the plus side, Raphael Diaz is starting to show a bit of a physical side, landing some nice, effective hits. He's already proven to be adept at moving the puck quickly and efficiently. Alexei Emelin, while still appearing a bit hesitant to use his size to its best advantage, is proving he can handle the puck and make some nice passes. He's also not afraid to rush. Josh Gorges looks to be completely recovered from his knee surgery and P.K.Subban got a dose of humility after his glaring giveaway that cost a goal last night. After that, he dialed way back on the dipsy doodling and proved he can play an effective, no-nonsense game when he wants to.

The really exciting thing about last night, though, was the developing chemistry up front, especially among the younger forwards. David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, when they were recalled from Hamilton last December, were first and second in AHL scoring. That was no fluke because the two of them have a special knack for finding the other on the ice. Pacioretty even said last year that Desharnais is the best centre he's ever had. That was in evidence again last night, with Pacioretty setting Desharnais up for a beautiful, opportunistic goal. Andrei Kostitsyn on that line gives it some extra size and strength and helps shield the smaller Desharnais. Lars Eller, too, looks like he picked up an extra gear over the summer. He and Tomas Plekanec caused some problems for the Colorado defence, and while Erik Cole is still looking for his first goal, he's not going to go pointless forever.

This is a team with significant possibilities, but it's not fulfilling them yet. That's not to say it won't. It may take a couple of weeks, but Carey Price will find his game, the defence will get better and the kids will prove they can score. The team is learning itself right now. When it does, there's every chance it can find a level of consistency that will keep us all away from razor blades and liquor stores. It's tough to do, but the trick right now is just to take it easy.


Anonymous said...

I feel so much better now :)

Anonymous said...

The defence is as soft as it can possibly be. Subban is not hitting. Gill is vying to be the softest big man in the game. Give-aways that are reminiscent of pee-wee hockey. Then the comments are that Price cost us the game! Astounding.

Price will be better as he will need to be for les Canadiens to have a chance, especially when the big teams come to town but I fear, when the Avalanche forwards can bump him with impunity, what the real bumpers are going to do, as our defence stands idly by.

Something needs to be done. Markov will make the team better but after missing most of two seasons, expecting a saviour role is unfair, to him and to the fans. We need some and desperately.

moeman said...

I agree with J.T., its gonna be ... Allright.

TCHABS FAN said...

I sure hope Price can pick up his game, so far he has looked like the Carey Price of 2 seasons ago when he lacked any confidence. As for Subban after his initial success last season he seems to be going through the dreaded sophomore jinx. It's still early but wins in October are just as important as wins in March/April.

Tara said...

I remember the beginning of last season (and the one before) and going into my husband's office and saying things like "We're screwed" and "Why am I a Habs fan?". You know the feeling. I did the same thing after the Flames game. But I watched the Avs game and came away thinking, "Wow. OK, so there's lots of issues on the D, and Price looks human but our forwards look good." I love Pax and DD together, Pleky looks his typical gorgeous self, and Mo! - is this the same Mo from last year? The boys are scoring - is that two 5-goal games already?!
The D is off with injuries and being young, but what has all of that done to goodness of our front line? I like the drive, speed and new plays going on up there. And, hey, it's not like we couldn't use some scorers.

Woodvid said...

Thanks for the perspective. I didn't watch the Avalanche game. It feels good to disconnect a bit. I don't know when I'll start watching. I'm really tired of:

* Opponents taking liberties with us with impunity (e.g. Komisarek knocking around our guys in the crease, people running Price)
* Crappy NHL refereeing
* The still inconsistent disciplinary rulings from the NHL.
* Jacques Martin's system on the periphery.

I still do hope it gets better though.

Rock said...

I think JT is correct; the boys are alright. Their/our problem is Martin. If you're told "now boys, don't worry about SCORING goals just keep them out of our net", you have a problem!
Rock on

Anonymous said...

I was worried when Pax was put on the 3rd line but it obviously worked out(Did JM do something right ?) Gill is really fading and PK needs to remember their is no "i" in team ! I still wish we had someone who could play and rough it up (I don't really think White is the answer)
Very nice way to start my week-JT- thanks

JF said...

Nice perspective, J.T. I found the game frustrating because it was so winnable. But with a little distance, I have to give the guys a lot of credit. In recent years, this team has lived and died by its goaltending. We've won very few games in which the goaltending has been subpar,so it was good to get a point, especially when we had to battle from behind.

I agree that the team is learning to play together. In fact, the game reminded me very much of some of the early-season games the newly-formed Habs played two years ago, when an overall solid effort was undermined by spectacular defensive breakdowns.

The offence was creative, thrilling, and very promising. If JM keeps those lines together, even-strength scoring should not be the huge problem it was last year.

But I'm a little concerned about the defence. Not the new guys; I think Weber is underrated, I love Raphael Diaz, and Emelin is rapidly adjusting his game. But Gill seems slower than ever, and Subban has had enough object lessons already this season for him to start simplifying his game and avoiding the high-risk plays that have already cost us several goals. I hope he can do it. As for the Markov situation, there seems no certainty, despite reassurances from the top brass, that he'll be back anytime soon, possibly even at all.

But it's great to see the kids getting so much ice time. For years we've been clamouring for the team to stop plugging holes with aging, overpaid veterans and give the kids a chance. Now we're seeing it. The team is getting younger and more exciting.

Hadulf said...

My biggest surprise is Lars Eller. He started showing great signs in last season's playoffs and he was injured. Now, coming back from surgery, missing a summer of regular training, missing training camp, jumping in the lineup in an "emergency" situation...He's stepping up big time. I'm impressed with his patience with the puck, smooth hands and passing abilities. He's going to be good if The System doesn't turn him into a 4th line checker. He needs to play with the best on the team, or at least, someone who can match his skills. Big things for Eller...

Steve said...

Montreal showed more offense in the AV's game than I can remember, lots of good chances. I am with the put Gill at 6th defense movement. Put PFK with Jorges and give him the greenlight. Practice so when he comes over the blueline at top speed he has other options than trying to beat 4 guys to get a good scoring chance. I would also keep Lego at wing as long as that line remains a constant threat.

Woodvid said...

Interesting theory by Elliot Freedman: If on November 1st the habs are more than 4 points out of a playoff spot, then we panic. :-)

Oh, and one more thing I'm tired of (to add to my list above):
* Freaking injuries! The game has become so fast, with such short shifts, and with such hard equipment, that no team can stay healthy through a whole season.

dusty said...

Another thoughtful and well written post. Why am I not surprised?

1-2-1 is not the end of the world but 3-7-1 would be. Only 3 points against lousy opposition is very discouraging. With a significant upgrade in opposition for the rest of the month I am fearful to put it mildly. Two years ago the Habs went on an early 5 game skid and ended with 88 points which won't get them in the post season this year or lead to a good draft pick.

The Habs seem to win games they shouldn't and lose games they shouldn't. So I'm hoping that they can win 3 of the games with Philly, Boston, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Beating toronto and Florida would be a bonus.

It's fun to watch the new found offense but it seems that defensive breakdowns come along with it. Play tight defense and they can't score enough. Either way the game is a struggle. That is JM's predicament. Until the Habs actually upgrade the defensive corps, the season ending fight for 7th or 8th place will continue. Unless, course they slide too far behind early.

I am sick of other teams making significant progress when all the Habs seem to do is tread water. That has been my ongoing complaint for far too long.

Anonymous said...

I think the 3 point games are terrible. They allow fans to believe their team is better than it is. Your favorite team is a contender up until it becomes apparent that the chase ends just a few points short. In today's NHL you win in regulation and 28 other teams don't - result you are up a point on 15 teams and even with 14. Whee! Lose all 82 games a year in overtime or a shootout. Not win a game and finish with 82 points! Yay, you could be just a couple points out of a playoff spot.

Because of that off topic rant and Friedman's insightful article on the standings after 10 games you will perhaps see where I am coming from when I write that this team will go nowhere without a first line center to eat up minutes, tire out the opposition, and lead the team. St Patrick changed the mindset in Montreal but not the facts of the game. Suddenly the goalie became the center of the team. If you have a great goalie the thinking went, well you are a contender.

I call BS on that. A team wins the Cup and every team winning the Cup has been strong down center. Shoot at any goalie from point blank range with a $350 stick and it is only position that stops that shot. There is no time to react.

Don't get me wrong. Price is world class. Just human. He is head and shoulders above Halak, Theodore, or the dozens between Roy and him. Gomez however is not a first line center. First line center's don't turn it on once every 30 games then disappear. He is a real time problem.

The Montreal Canadiens won the first two games in their only playoff round last year and came home all singing and dancing against the eventual Cup champions. Since then the Canadiens have lost seven of nine games.

Gomez promised to be better. Talk is cheap. Professionals do something about their statements. Too often fans and media accept platitudes instead of actions. Subban has always wandered off page and cost the team. He always says he will focus. Players holding important positions have to step up to that responsibility. (See Crosby, Sydney, for example)

So IMHO the team lost 6-5 in a shootout because there is no one to stand up and eat those minutes, win those faceoffs, set the plays, and hold that puck until the forwards can position. Most games the team shoots from the perimeter because they cover the gap between the D and forward. They are the one step behind entering the O-zone. When they get high percentage shots they open the gap and a smart coach sees that. Run and gun.

If Gomez played like he is capable of playing or the team obtained a first line center they would go far. Right now, in my books, they are 2 wins, seven losses and going nowhere except to the bank.

dusty said...

Buffalo has a better coaching staff, better GM, better goalies, better defense and better forwards than the Habs. Those are all the reasons why I believe that the Habs will win and Price gets his 100th win tonight.

dusty said...

I really thought the Habs would win tonight. They looked pretty good but Miller, well Miller was Miller.

I hope everyone who follows this wonderful site got to see Boston self destruct tonight. The refs actually called all the penalties that the Bruins deserved, which never would have happened if the opponent was the Habs, but the Hurricanes were an inspiration and it was hilarious to see Julien (tell me he isn't Homer Simpson's double) blowing a gasket and getting thrown out of the game. Chara and Horton were out of control and that asshole Marchand got kicked out for (I'm guessing here) swearing at the ref. What a classy organization. Thankfully I got to watch the Carolina feed. No way I want to hear Jack Edwards take on the game.