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Game 54: Habs/Flames

  • The infamous six game Western road trip.

    It’s hard to imagine the Canadiens could be any worse right now. Digging their way out on the road rather than at home in front of the cannibal fans at the Bell Center might be easier.

  1. #1 Mats Naslund says:
    February 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    I think a lot of people have been looking at this trip as an indicator of where the Habs will be at the end of the season. They need points – simply put. I do think its important to acknowledge that there is a lot of games left for Montreal to turn things around, and not to forget that young players need to be allowed to play through adversity. Everyone is riding way high on the Bruins bandwagon right now forgetting that Phil Kessel was a healthy scratch for the last few games of the season heading into the playoff series with Montreal last year. A span of one playoff series changed his career. Its not unreasonable to think that players like Andrei Kostitsyn, Ryan O’Byrne or Max Pacioretti can have a similar experience. Secondly, momentum like that is infectious. No one on that Boston roster save for Chara and Savard were considered top players in the league going into this season, and yet the whole team is having an incredible run. If I didn’t hate the Bruins so bad, I would almost cheer for them.

    The next 6 games will reveal a lot about the future of this hockey club. Western teams are going to have scouts at every game. If we have a good trip, we will be back in a solid “buyer” position for trades. If Anaheim, Colorado, LA etc fall too far out of contention during that 6 game stretch, Montreal will have many partners to dance with. If we tank the trip and continue our own losing skid, we may actually be in a “seller” position where one of our many UFA’s will draw the attention of teams looking to pad their depth. Its hard to imagine this season becoming like that of 06/07, but we will know a lot more than we do today when it is over.

    We’re going to need a few things to go right:

    Primary Scoring. Its easy to see where the problems with this team began. Our best players have been hurt or slumping for almost the entire year. We’ve relied on the 3rd and 4th lines, defensemen, and rookies to provide all of the goals that we could count on from the top lines last season. All of our troubles could vanish if we could begin to generate consistent first line scoring. This will include the powerplay where Montreal has been excruciatingly predictable and inefficient.

    Goaltending. Simply Put, Price has been garbage. Carbo put it best when he said that it seems like all of our mistakes end up in the back of the net. In the game against the Leafs he was beat by simple shots that NHL goaltenders HAVE to stop. Given that this team has been so challenged offensively, we don’t have the ability to make up for bad goaltending. Whether its all Price or a combo of Carey and Halak, we need them to be better.

    Team Speed. We are still one of the quickest teams in the league. When we skate, teams have a really hard time breaking through the neutral zone against us, and have a hard time shutting down our attack and cycle game. To be successful, this team needs to out hustle the other team. Our best defense is pinning the other team deep in their zone. The Pittsburgh game was a great example, the Toronto game was the opposite.

  2. #2 benchcardinal says:
    February 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    As a lifelong Habs fan, Saturday night’s (Feb 07/09) was embarrassing!! I’m from Montreal, live in Toronto now, and was watching the game with my flatmate ( a Leafs fan). Nos Glorieux humiliated all their fans with that weak effort. What happened to Price? He stinks!! He’s gone, in one year, from being a Vezina contender to a Bantam 2nd stringer. Is he still injured and too proud to say so? Can’t be, the docs wouldn’t let him play. What happened the power play! It too, is a reeking embarrassment! If they don’t want to play/win, get rid of the whole lot of them and start all over again! Overpaid bums playing a boy’s game that make more in a season than I’ll make in a generation!! Maybe these tough economic times will force these spoiled scumbags to work harder (i.e. do their damm job) for their paycheque.
    Finally, you don’t win games if you don’t score goals!! I shouldn’t have to tell you that.
    Shame on the whole damm lot of you save for Carbo!!

  3. #3 Donnie says:
    February 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    It’s the difference, it seems to me, in playing for money or playing to win. We can talk all we want about the young guys playing well or some defensive effort put forth in a certain game…but….simply put, our best players have to be better, and it doesn’t seem they are going to come around this year.
    Kovalev looks like he’s out for a Sunday skate almost every game. Drive, determination and the desire to win is what separates cup champs from the rest. We see this lack of desire from more than 1 guy, every single game we play.
    Shooting when we shouldn’t. passing when we should shoot…looks amature out there. And the lack of desire by our top guys is also shown in their lack of willingness to go to the rough areas, the grind zones to get goals.
    Just take notice guys, in the next game we play as to where 90% of our game is played….along the boards, on the outter perimeter. Very few scoring chance from there, and teams are more than willing to let us stay out there. Gottta cut to the net, go to the net and EARN a bloody win. Getting real tiresome watching these guys play, and having to hear “well, its not too bad”…”they will come around”….say what it is. It’s horrible hockey and a team playing like this is going nowhere. We are 3/4’s of the way thru the season…when is this “magical” turnaround gonna start. I’ll tell ya when…in the offseason when Gainey has to unload some of these soft, undetermined players…thats when. Enough excuses…we watch every game and can see whats wrong…time to address it !!!

  4. #4 Joseph says:
    February 9, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    That’s a very thoughtful post, MN. But despite your levelheadedness, I continue to have difficulty letting the lazy underperformers on this team off the hook. These players need to be held accountable, not excused. The Kostitsyns had a real coming out party last season. But this season, their development seems to have gone into regression. Plekanec’s as well. What’s that all about? Perhaps they’re like Kovalev in that they have a good season, bad season, good season, bad season, etc, and isn’t that wonderful? If that’s the case, then it’s not at all desirable… unless of course you plan on competing every other season. Ridiculous.

    This past Saturday night, I met and had a refreshing discussion with the actor who played the role of “Toe” Blake in The Rocket. He, a long time and loyal Habs fan, was telling me what an incredible honour it was just to be part of that film. I bet! But I wonder if Kovalev, Plekanec, the Kostitsyns et al would have felt the same.

    Get Lecavalier.

  5. well were do I start? First after watching the last three games of which we lost two of them, I would have to say I agree with most of the comments that I read above in the top three blogs. To me what we need is to bench kovalev and if he is tradeable then get rid of him. He is not interested in playing or getting is nose dirty at all. He made stupid plays, poor passes. and even poorer decisions with the puck and just when it looks like our team gets some momentum he takes a unselfish penalty. I have never seen a player with so much talent play so poorly game in and game out. He has got to go.
    Second problem is our defence, again making poor decisions with the puck and in the opposition zone as well as in our own zone. Even Komy made about three serious mistakes in the leaf game. To me the only defenseman we have that is playing well is Hamrlik. I have said this before and I cannot understand why I do not get more support for this idea and that is we need a steady defenceman at least one if not two. One to run the powerplay and one to be a steady rock that protects our goaltenders. Finally, our goaltending, I could not wait until Price got back into the net because I had a hard time watching Halak let cheap goals in every game, but Price seems to have lost his confidence and maybe the all star game caused it I am not sure. If it were me I would not have cleared him to play until after the allstar game, that way he could not be suspended for not participating. Hopefully, the goaltender coach can get him back into his normal positioning so that he will not be allowing those cheap goals. Against the leafs he was too far back in his crease the entire game. He has to start challenging the shooter like he did earlier in the season. I think he will come out of it but he needs time and maybe we will have to live with Halak a bit in the meantime.

  6. Coach Carbonneau, press here

    If Tampa wants Markov, fine. This team isn’t going to win anything at all, so I’d welcome a trade that sees some of these socalled assets leave town in exchange for a leader who cares enough to play his heart out in return.

    As to Kovalev, when he chose to sign with Montreal he said that he wanted to play somewhere where hockey matters. Well, perhaps he himself should play as if hockey matters. I really don’t know what else to say about him anymore.

    Also, I see that the Laraque presense on the PP which was so evident in the Leafs game has been thought better of. Completely and utterly illogical.

  7. #7 benchcardinal says:
    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Price was so far into the net (vs Leafs) he should have had a mortgage. So he got bombed during the All Star game, big deal, these things are always high scoring shootouts anyway. The goalie is ornamental or ceremonial. He should know that. Carbo should have charged the defence the price of front row seats because they didn’t pay to get in to watch the game (vs the Leafs), and watch they did. Kovalev is running hot and cold, like he won’t make an effort unless he’s captain. Big baby.
    Last night vs the Flames (Feb 9) they showed up for the first period, then took the rest of the night off. Not one but two shorthanded goals scored on them?? On our has-been power play?? 100yrs of tradition? We’re going through the club’s longest cup drought, and there is no oasis in sight. Are they hoping the Bruins go into a slump? I was looking at the team stats in the paper today. We haven’t even one 20 goal scorer in the bunch. Shame on all of you except Carbo and Gainey.
    By this rate they’ll sink like a stone and be lucky to make the playoffs!

  8. I as well putting Price in goal was a poor decision and it were me I would not even cleared him to play until after the all star game. He seems to have a fragile confidence problem right now, probably because he is young and needs more time to develop. I say ship him to Hamilton for 20 games and then bring him back for the last 15 games we have to play. He needs to get back on track and with the team playing so poorly he is not going to get his confidence back playing in front of these guys.

    One thing about our 20 goal guys, I think the only guy that has given us an effort game in and game out has been Lang as far as our top goal scores are concern. Too bad he got injured because he would have got 30 this year. Tanguay another bad break, we finally get another decent goal scorer and he gets injuried too.

    It seems we were playing better when all the other guys like Koivu, Higgins, Laraque, Price etc were injuried. Maybe be at least three of them should be traded along with Kovalev.

    Here’s a trade for you Koivu, Higgins, Larague, Kovalev and a draft pick for Vinny. I would even through in Obyrne, Jorge.

    What concerns me the most is that if we keep playing like this we are not going to make the playoffs in the most important year of the teams history. What a slap on the facr that would be!

  9. Not that I want to make any excuses for the poor play that many of the players. Good play is infectous and that is what we need. An example of that was our fourth line when we were having trouble back in November-December. Our fourth line played so well and they eventually brought the rest of the team back to life and we played pretty good for about three weeks or so. It is hard to find fault with management they went out and got three players that should ahave made us a much better team and in their own right two of them at least did. But case in point, Tanguay has been injured now for almots two months, Larague comes into came out of shape and then gets injured as well and then our third and in my opinion the most important addition to the team was Lang and just when we start to get healthy he is injured probably for the rest of the season. So how does a coach and GM plan a team when most of its major starts are injured and the one who is not injured just like to skate and stick handle??????????? So as much as we have played poorly of late, I for one am not giving up on this team just yet. The season is not over until it is over and if we can get healthy and with a possible trade or two this team can still be there come playoff time, if we can just overcome this inconsistent play. We need someone to take control out on the ice and make everyone want to do the same. Call me what you like but I still see the glass half full.

  10. In a word, leadership.

  11. I agree with Joseph. No leadership on this team.
    Also. Do you think last years team was overachieving and this year is actually playing to there realistic levels?
    Just a thought.

  12. #12 Mats Naslund says:
    February 11, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Last season’s Habs absolutely overachieved. This year we have absolutely underachieved. Senet1, I’m with you. This season is FAR from over. As bad as the past 10 games have been, there isn’t one among us who wouldn’t be fully back on the train if the next 10 are wins. I don’t agree that we lack leadership. There is tonnes of it on this team. We lack production. It seems like every time the Kovy-Plex-Kostit line is sent out, we spend the shift defending as a result of poor puck movement, forwards trying to weave through the neutral zone, and an utter lack of puck retrieval on dump ins. That line was among the best in the game last season. This year it stinks. Until things change on that front (or a new number 1 line emerges) we will continue to be mediocre at best.

    A word on trades, FAs..
    Lang’s injury is disaster. The man is 38 years old, and was a slowish skater to begin with. I absolutely loved him for this team when he was here, but his time in Montreal, barring a miracle is over. We have to begin to look at spending his 4 million elsewhere either this season or next.

    Tanguay has had a tough season. It is hard to tell if he would have been sucked into the slump that the whole team has endured this season if he hadn’t been hurt so much. One thing is for sure, he was far more effective away from Kovalev than with him. I wouldn’t mind hanging on to him after this season although his contract would be the best match in making a deal for another player. Again, he is a FA so he could very well walk after this year. Having his 5.25 million to spend wouldn’t be a bad thing. (Thats 9.25 million in capspace for next season if you’re counting at home).

    Koivu makes 4.75 million per year and is nowhere near value for that money. I would like to see him stay, at a discount and finish his career in Montreal. He isn’t the biggest most talented guy, but as we all keep screaming for someone to at least care, Koivu has carried this team in the past and is a great example for the young players. As a second line center he could be very effective playing with young guys like D’Agostini and Pacioretti. If he walks you can add his contract to the pot and end up with 15 mill for FAs next year.

    Kovalev’s struggles have been front page news all year. In the beginning he was unlucky. Now his game (to steal from Battlestar Gallactica) is totally “fracked”. Last year his $4.5 million contract was a steal. This year it is a curse. What will it be next year? If there are other talented star players around town next year (FAs or deadline deals) Kovalev might be worth the chance. If you don’t have to depend on him to produce you could be surprised by a good year. Add his contract to the pile if he walks next season and you have $19.5 million to spend on FAs.

    What is Tomas Plekanec? Is he a young player who could still emerge as a scorer in this league? Or is his vanishing act simply an indicator that he had an overachieving year with Kovy last season? At 1.6 million per season he doesn’t break the bank.. but considering that when he’s on the ice he does NONE of the things a top 6 Center needs to do to be effective, he is a liability none the less. His is the spot Gainey needs to replace most desperately with a star player. Most of us can see the potential of Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn- a big, center with the ability to go to the net could put them over the top. Unfortunately this year Plekanec has been a frail center who sticks to the outside and gets knocked off of the puck. If he is gone next year we will have 21 million for FAs.

    Sorry for the long post, but those are the pieces that at the end of this year could change if Gainey were to ignore the deadline and ride out the season with the current roster. In a salary cap world we can bet that young, cheap players like D’Agostini, Pacioretti and Latendresse will be on the roster next season. We may even see other names like Weber, Subban or Chipchura. Who knows what will happen with trades – there could be a whole new set of players here in a few weeks, but it is at least comforting to know that Montreal will have all kinds of money to spend on bringing in quality players next season.

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