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Game 58: Habs/Capitals

  • Habs finally making changes, big changes perhaps. How will it translate on the ice tonight and down the stretch run?

    Regardless of the additions or subtractions from the line up, if the Habs have any chance of winning it starts with Carey Price regaining his composure.

  1. #1 Mats Naslund says:
    February 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Apologies for posting this twice, but it is more appropriate for tonight’s game..

    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.

    Today I heard John Tortorella speak about his coaching tenure with the Lightning. He specifically said that the biggest thing that he has learned since losing his job, is that he wished he had been more patient and gotten “out of the way” of his players at certain points, to let them “do what they do”. He noted Bob Gainey as someone who has been an example of how to successfully negotiate the responsibility of being accountable and running an organization. I hope that Carbo learns this lesson. He will be a great coach, and his defensive knowledge will eventually make this team better. At some point though, the players have to “do what they do” for a team to be successful. Tough times make teams better. Hopefully Montreal gains experience by this stretch of the schedule and takes their game to the next level as we head towards the playoffs.

  2. Of course the flip side of that is that the players won’t rediscover their ‘groove’. In which case a rebuilding period should certainly ensue. But I certainly hope that the worst case scenario can be avoided and the recent minor tweaks wake these guys up and get them playing the brand of hockey that they already proved they are capable of playing last season.

    On the topic of Gainey and Kovalev, it’s true that they’ve had some intimate moments in the past, one of which resulted in Kovalev’s 2007-08 season, but I also wouldn’t ignore the possiblity that Gainey is reaching the end of his patience with a high priced, talented player who seemingly plays when he feels like it. After all, one can only endure so much inconsistency.

    As stated perviously, I like Kovalev. He’s a wonderful talent and he can bring so much to a team. But his dismal play this season is something that has happened frequently in the past, and thus is not something that should be written off as a slump or even an off season. Perhaps the problem is that too many of the younger talents on this team are far too dependent on how Kovalev plays. And given his record of inconsistent play in this league, he’s probably not the best player to fill a leader role.

  3. That said, team’s can be reborn at the trade deadline–case and point, the 2006 Edmonton Oilers who played in Game 7 of the SCF that season–but the overall state of the team also has a lot to do with how far they go with new spark plugs acquird at the deadline. It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next two weeks.

  4. #4 Mats Naslund says:
    February 18, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    One more thing about the Kovalev situation.. Apparently Gainey has been talking to many teams regarding Kovalev, however, Kovalev will have the final say on anything that happens for him as he has a no-trade clause in his contract.

  5. And according to Kovalev, he really likes playing in Montreal, likes playing with the Kostitsyns, Plekanec. Perhaps recent developements have changed his opinion however. Perhaps not. Perhaps watching his team on television the next two games will motivate him enough to prove how much he likes playing in Montreal. Perhaps.

  6. What’s source of the trade rumours regarding Kovalev?

  7. Apparently I’ve forgotten how to write in English…

  8. thank You Joseph,your point is well taken it is not often that I disagree with Matts but I believe Joseph has it the nail on the head. I do not think that Kovy’s situation has anything to do with how Kovalev is being used he is suppose to be a professional hockey player. No one is asking him to be a grinder on the power play yet he has made poor passes, poor decisions and basically he has shown a lack of desire to play, similar to other years when he played poorly. Likewise Sergie came into the league last year throwing his weight around and generally playing with excitement. This year for whatever reason he just is not performing. He likes to grind it out and use his speed. I also think there is a lot to be said about some of the younger guys doing too much partying and not enough preparation for the game, A message had to be sent. I expect Sergie will be back before playoff time with a different attitude.

  9. As for Schneider, I like his experience and his shot, hopefully he will help the PP and settled down the denfence. He is not exactly what I was looking for in a defenceman but he should helop us.

  10. #10 Senet1 says:
    February 18, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    As for Carbo wanting our team to play a little more grinding style, not sure this is a true fact but actually when you think about it if we are going to beat either boston or phily we have to play that style to compete. So yes we need our offensive players to play their game but we need the guys who are cabable of playing that style to do it. In my opinion Sergie likes to play that style.He just has to get his mind back into the game.

  11. #11 Mats Naslund says:
    February 18, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Kovalev and Sergei’s problems are two separate entities. If you’re going to use Sergei on the fourth line, he’s going to be ineffective. I’m not saying his game doesn’t need work, all I’m saying is that Carbo treats young players on this team as inter-changeable parts. You can’t expect Sergei to play like Max Lapierre. Carbo does, and thus we see the problem with Sergei’s game this season. The one time that he saw some consistency in his line (with Andrei and Lang) they put up the best offensive numbers of any trio this season. As a coach you have to put players in the position you want them in to succeed. You don’t throw Steve Begin on the first line and expect him to score. So why put a player like Sergei on the 4th line? Its not where he CAN be effective. Its not just Sergei. Look at D’Agostini’s play when he was put in a similar position for a stretch of games this year. He struggled in the same way. You can say what you want about Sergei’s defensive play, but D’Agostini is a minus -11 in 35 games, yet Carbo has stuck by him (rightly so) and continued to place him in situations in which he can succeed. All I’m saying is that as a coach you can’t just lay all of the blame on the players when you slump. Carbo is the “coach of the year” and has everyone so out of their comfort zone that there are literally few who can be consistently counted on to do their proper job.

    As for Kovalev: he is the other side of the coin. He is one who has been given every opportunity to turn things around and hasn’t. While I hesitate to blame him for all of the team’s struggles, they have been epic.

    Washington can beat Boston and they don’t play that style. So can San Jose and Chicago and many others. Yes Boston is big and play a grinding game, but you win when you force the other team to bend to your will. If we play Boston’s game we will lose every time. We need to play to our strengths which is our youth, offensive fore-check and our speed which causes turnovers and odd man rushes. Its one thing to say we need to be tougher, but its another to ignore the skill that exists up and down this line-up in a futile attempt to mimic other rosters.

  12. #12 Mats Naslund says:
    February 18, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    As for the game tonight, I thought the Canadiens played fantastic. Unfortunately they didn’t get the win because of the shoootout (how many teams can beat backstrum, semin and ovechkin in a shootout?. I thought Montreal did everything right tonight including Carey Price who although he let in the shootout goals seemed to play with a lot of fire and desire. Greg Stewart was great as a call up, though I really don’t understand why Carbo insists on rolling 4 lines in the OT. What can you say about Mathieu Schneider? He was a monster tonight and will be silencing all critics if his play continues from tonight on. He was physical and really set the tone on the PP as he was focused on getting the puck at the net (and quickly). We had great chances and the game should have been over on Plekanec’s overtime shot that hit the post. What a shot. That was the Plekanec we’ve been wishing for all season long.

    So now the focus will shift to Kovalev. Montreal is probably not out of the woods yet as far as their struggles, however they did get a much needed point. Kovalev is a trade-able asset and the best offer will win. Look at it this way, at least we won’t lose him for nothing at the end of the season. The question is will Gainey sit on his hands to package Kovalev for a big deal, or will he let Kovy return and drive up (or down) his value. It will definitely be an interesting few days.

  13. Matts I understand what you are saying about Sergie and it is too bad that Lang got injuried, I do not think Carbo was expecting him to score on the fourth line I simply think he expected to see more effort which he did not get making it easier to send him down. Since Lang’s injury he has been tried on a number of different lines without success. He will return and I believe he will be a better player. I also do not disagree with you that we cannot play Boston’s style if we hope to beat them but you have to be able to with stand that type of attack and play more of a physical game come playoff time, we did not do it last year and probably should have lost to boston but our will did not let us. However, our luck ran out against the same style played by Philly. So yes we have to play by using our speed and forchecking but we also have to be able to use our body both ways giving and recieving checks, otherwise we show our weakness and will most definitely loose. Also I am not so sure we have the same speed working for us this year as last probably due to all our injuries. Let face it we have not had a full healthy team all year when all our assets were in play all the time. To me we need another big centreman to replace Lang. Not sure anyone is available that we can get because Lang was going to score 30 goals this year if not for the injury. I am not so sure we know the whole story about Sergie either, perhaps he was one of the young guns that was doing too much partying. If so then the best then for him was to be discplined first and then sent down.

  14. For me I think we have found an asset that we needed with Schneider, it should help our PP and it should settle our defence. However, if we can get another stay at home defenceman I would get one. But I am happy with what I saw tonight. He made the defence better tonight.
    As long as we have to use Koivu as our #1 centre I do not see us advancing past the first round. This division is much stroner this year than last year. It will be harder to get through all three rounds.

  15. #15 Mats Naslund says:
    February 19, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Senet1: I agree with you on the need for a center. We’re losing critical draws because Saku takes too many. Even if the guy we bring in is only average, it will help Saku in the long run because he won’t be giving away all of his moves.

    As it stands right now, our defense is solid. Where we go towards the playoffs will depend heavily on whether or not Gainey is able to make another deal to pad our offense, whether Tanguay is productive when he comes back, and whether or not we have to give up a defender in order to make a deal. Earlier in the season I believed that we would be able to move a few younger pieces and draft picks to land a superstar quality player, but it seems like teams want to have NHL ready players back. The win now theory is dominating all of the terrible teams in the NHL save for the leafs (good on them for once).

    I can’t understand a team like Tampa who with Vinny and all of their other long-term signings in place is looking to make a trade. That organization is the exact example of how NOT to build a better franchise. They are bad – with Vinny in the lineup. They need their defense to step it up. I don’t understand how trading St Louis or Vinny is going to solve their issues. Reality is if they could sit on their hands they will probably have a SERIOUS team in 1 or 2 seasons, given that Recchi and Roberts will retire/ move on and free up cap space for FAs. Now they are going to trade away their best players (who still have good years left). It makes no sense to me unless they are really walking the line of bankruptcy. In which case I sincerely hope the NHL figures out that there are many northern markets who can support a successful franchise. (Hamilton, London-KW (Southern Ontario), Quebec City, Winnipeg all have metropolitan areas over 700,000 people where hockey is the ONLY sport.)

  16. #16 Senet1 says:
    February 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Matts I can’t disagree with that, but after watching our defence play agains Pittsburg to me we still need a defensive defenceman back there who does not panic when the presure is on. Just look at that goal that talbot got the other night. What help did Price get on that goal. Talbot was allowed to steal the puck and come right out in front and score. Price was helpless because he was trying to protect the post.

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