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Game 57: Habs/Canucks

  • Nothing more abnormal than a Canadiens game on Sunday at 10pm.

    Can Halak repeat his Friday night performance?

    Mats Sundin chose the Canucks over the Habs, extra inspiration for him tonight? For the Habs?

  1. I’d just like to see the entire team–not just a portion of it–show up for a game and play with some conviction. That would be a refreshing change.

    Suffice it to say, that seems like a tall order given the dismal play we’ve witnessed over the past couple of weeks.

  2. Another loss hurts but it was a better game especially the 2nd and 3rd. i was really impressed by higgins, koivu, kostopolous, jorges and dandenault’s hard work, you can really tell those guys really want to turn things around. this goes back to something i read here before about the lack of effort shown by the europeans on the team (kovalev, markov, sergei and even andrei at times). we really miss tanguay and lang as that real offensive threat. somebody should ask kovalev to waive his no trade clause.
    ps: does anybody else notice since last year the turnovers by hamrlik? everytime he gets the puck i cringe. alot of people thinks he’s steady but i would get rid of him in a heartbeat

  3. #3 Mats Naslund says:
    February 16, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I know people will think I’m crazy for saying this after a 4-2 loss on a road stretch where we’ve been badly outplayed, but last night things changed a bit for the Canadiens. It was subtle, but after the Canucks scored their fourth goal and all was over, Montreal seemed to start playing the brand of hockey that we’ve been used to. Certainly I wish that the sustained offensive pressure, fore-checking, and crisp passes form the defense to the forwards had happened when the score was 2-1, but when you’re a slumping team you can’t be picky about when things turn around. For much of the third period Montreal was buzzing around the Vancouver net, and the whole time I was thinking “one goal could make all of the difference”, and it did. Montreal wasn’t going to come back from 4-1, but for the first time in a long time, they didn’t quit. They didn’t fall into the trend of blunders that have recently produced lop-sided losses. Yes they lost last night, but for the first time in a long while thats all it was – a loss.

    I know Markov and Kovalev will still have to answer for their play. Markov was a minus 3 and Kovalev had no shots on net. Unacceptable. You do not pay them 10 million dollars combined to be your worst players night in and night out. But the thing that I am encouraged by from last night was that the rest of the team finally seemed like it wasn’t afraid to attack the opposition.

    Here is the deal Montreal. The trap doesn’t work for you. You’re not that good defensively. Your best defense this year has been to skate and fore-check effectively so that you can attack the opposition and force YOUR style of play on them. To accomplish this you will need to be aggressive. Every player will need to confidently participate, and costly odd man rushes are not an option.

  4. Nope, not crazy at all. In fact, I was more inspired by last night’s loss than I was Friday night’s victory, and for precisely those reasons. I was glad to learn that so many of our players still have a heartbeat. Most of them played like they actually cared last night, and that’s all a fan can ask for.

    That being said, there are still those who need to go, and I’m sure that Gainey feels the same way. I would be surprised if the Habs didn’t have a couple of fresh faces in the locker room after the trade deadline.

    Also, I will not budge on my criticisms of coach Carbonneau. He doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of this team.

  5. 9 of 13 games next month at home…if we don;t shake this, it’s gonna be an ugly month-long boo-fest at the Bell Centre.
    This game was a little bit better, not enough to think we are anywhere near being out of the woods. The hard workers are not demonstrating the skill needed to produce goals. I know what Carbs is trying, but get Kostopolous off that line. He’s a 4th line player at best, and doesn’t fit in with more skilled players.
    We can’t do any worst than we are now…put the top lines back together and live or die with that…let them find their groove…at the very least they might work out some of the kinks. We are playing our game right now along the boards….our guys are not shooting most of the time unless they feel the boards at their elbow. So funny to watch, when we get the puck at our end, its like up the center of the ice is the peak on a roof, and everything slide to 1 side or the other. Not gonna score from these poor lanes. There a middle to the ice also guys…every other team strives to get there and it works…no excuse why we can’t.
    There’s your scoring areas, and goals will follow.
    Taking low percentage shots, mixed with mega odd man rushes and lack of desire from our “guns” are all accountable for this brutal play. Only 4 points from no playoff spot now. If in fact we did get schneider, that better not be it Bob…another average player is really not necessary is it?

  6. I think that Schneider will escalate his game in Montreal. Atlanta was a bit of a lost cause this season.

    And Gainey isn’t done. He eluded to as much in the post-trade interview.

    Also, given Markov’s play for the larger part of this season, I wouldn’t hesitate to ship him to Tampa for Lecavalier… if that is still a realistic possibility.

    Defense wins championships? I watched the Penguins win two without much defense at all. In fact, they didn’t even have strong goaltending. Their defense was their overpowering offense, and Montreal has that when the top players decide to perform. Of course that example comes from the early 90s however, so…

  7. #7 Mats Naslund says:
    February 17, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Wow, an interesting weekend for the Habs. Signs that the Habs may be finally repairing their game, and a trade for an old face (pun intended)in Mathieu Schneider. Gainey sent a second and third rounder (for the ’09 and ’10 drafts respectively) for Schneider and a conditional pick which hinges on Montreal’s performance this playoff season. There are a couple interesting developments that have arisen because of this move.

    First, there is Gainey’s admission that he has been nursing this deal for some time. He told reporters that he was waiting for a window of opportunity that would allow the Canadiens to make this deal financially. The Habs are only on the hook for $1.7 million of Schneider’s $5.625 million dollar contract for this season. That means that while Tanguay and Lang remain on the IR, Montreal still has about $2.75 million in capspace. Could this mean that Gainey has his mind set on making another deal? Its a complicated scenario with many intertwining factors… so my guess is we’re right where Gainey wants us to be (other than the losing streak). Without a doubt we have learned that Gainey is very calculated in his approach to this team.

    The second development hinges on the return of Alex Tanguay. If Tanguay returns from the IR, it will be like having made a trade without losing any players. Having him back in the lineup will add experience on our very young forward lines, powerplay help, and most importantly some scoring punch. If between the addition of Tanguay and Schneider the Candiens’ play picks up, we may not see another addition this year. We would be right near the cap going into the playoffs. The money for Komisarek next season can be found in either Schneider’s contract (if he stays he will make considerably less, should he retire he will free up capspace). One has to believe that almost none of the impending free agents will make anywhere near their current contracts which will also contribute to the cap. Even Komisarek’s value will be lower than most previously estimated.

    The third development is is that because of the addition of Schneider, Montreal now has a deep defense core, with three players making over $5 million per season. The question is, does this open the door for a more “blockbuster” deal in which one or more of the Habs expensive pieces could be on the move for that elusive impact forward that Gainey has sought for almost his entire time has GM in Montreal? There was a time when Kovalev or Markov were seen as untouchable. Now there is much more of a feeling that one or both of these players could move before the deadline. Between them they account for $10 million in salary and could bring healthy returns if packaged with prospects or draft picks. It will be an interesting few weeks as the rest of the chips fall at deadline day. My gut tells me that Gainey isn’t finished as this deal reeks of a type of deal to set up another.

  8. #8 Mats Naslund says:
    February 18, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    So maybe I should have waited to talk about new developments.. Kovalev told to stay home and Sergei sent to the Hammer. I’ll get to Sergei but first lets dish on Kovy.

    As soon as this happened everyone immediately called trade, but I’m not convinced. Gainey has had “pow-wows” with Kovy in the past. I’m sure we all remember the well documented personality clash that occurred between Carbo and Kovalev at the beginning of last season. It was Gainey who spoke with Kovalev and settled the waters. While I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of trading Kovalev (if their was a market for Avery, there is a market for Kovalev), I think that this move is legitimately focused on trying to bring last season’s Kovy out of his walking coma. If he plays well for the few games before the deadline, his value will be augmented, or he might actually be worth holding on to. My second thought on all of this is that Bob Gainey may be practicing the Brian Burke-ian method of media drama to drum up offers for Kovalev that may not have existed to this point. Burke’s well publicized “calling-out” of Nik Antropov has accelerated the process of teams submitting offers for his large Khazak. Either no one has called regarding Kovalev, or Gainey didn’t like the offers, but his dramatic-yet-respectful timeout of Alex Kovalev will definitely increase the likelihood of other teams offering trades. Whatever happens on this front, you can bet this is not the end of the saga for Gainey.

    The second development that I wanted to talk about was the move to send Sergei Kostitsyn to Hamilton in favor of Gregory Stewart. This move came at the request of the coaching staff and I am unsurprised that it has happened. First, it is clear that the only players who can get along with Carbonneau are grinders. I am not willing to call it a coincidence that all of the talented offensive players on this team have all decided to go into hibernation together, while all of the grinders are having break-out seasons. This is a huge problem for the Montreal Canadiens. While I do respect Carbo as a coach, I think he has made some serious mistakes in his approach to coaching this young team. Sergei Kostitsyn played in London for the Hunter brothers and amassed 131 points in 59 games playing alongside the talented Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane. He played in all situations and most people who watched him regularly knew that of the three, he had the MOST NHL ready game. He was physical, incredible in creating offense and was solid defensively. Clearly there is a difference between the OHL and NHL, but since coming to the NHL he has had success when used in a way he is accustomed to playing. Fast forward to a few nights ago and Sergei is returned to the lineup playing on the fourth line next to George Laraque and Steve Begin because Carbonneau has Tom Kostopoulos playing on the top line next to Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu. Surprisingly (note sarcasm), the 5’11 playmaker didn’t exactly light it up playing with the 4th liners and has subsequently been sent to Hamilton to find his game. I’m fine with that. In fact he probably needs the time because his game has been so screwed up playing in Carbo’s system this season. However, it is glaringly apparent to all who watch this team regularly that Carbo’s attempt to have goal scorers play like grinders, and grinders like goal scorers is futile. It is reactionary and reeks of a coach who has run out of ideas.

    I have nothing against Gregory Stewart. He was successful in his short time with the big club earlier this season, almost certainly because he is a grinder. And while all of us in Habs nation have been screaming for passion and physicality, it is so much more important that every player on this team fulfill their role. Sergei Kostitsyn (substitute any of the offensive minded players on this team) was not drafted to be a hulking, puck possession grinder. He was drafted for his ability to make defenders look ridiculous with his incredible vision and ability to set up players for open shots at the net. Unless Carbo is willing to go to war with the army he HAS, instead of the army he WANTS, this team will continue to struggle. There is a lot of offensive talent already on this team. If this team is going to succeed, Carbo will need to get every player playing effectively at what THEY do best. When that time comes the Canadiens will be a top team, but until then they will continue to look like a team out-of-sinc, and playing someone else’s system.

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