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Game 63: Sharks/Habs

  1. I’ll say this, Philadelphia isn’t exactly ‘all that’, so the Habs could afford to commit turnovers, have defensive meltdowns and take penalties against the Flyers and still pull out a win. If they do any of these things against San Jose, however, they’ll be toast before they know what hit them.

    The Habs will need to continue with the positives–the powerplay conversions, the forechecking and offensive attack, the strong goaltending–and they’ll also have to tighten up their defensive play something fierce if they’re going to win this game. Can they magically solve their defensive problems, which have plagued them for so long now, in a day? Probably not, but hopefully they’ll at least show an improvement in this area. And maybe the bounces will go their way tonight.

  2. Lord Halak does it again. Great first by the whole team…excellent 2-way game. But, we have gotta stop trying to fend off leads for 40 mins. We got the 2 points tonight…thats great…but we;ve also gotten burned numerous times this year doing exactly what we did tonight. Not Halak or any goalie is gonna play like this night after night. We have gotta play a good, solid 60 minute 2-way game…that is if we have any expectations for the playoffs. This system after we get a goal or 2 has gotta go out the window. We got 3 and I knew that was all we were getting. Gotta change this…mega-soon.
    Great win tonight though..keep it up.

  3. #3 Senet1 says:
    March 1, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Well another great defensive effort and a excellent goaltending performance. A week ago we were heading for 9th place now we are back in the running for 4th place. There are many positives to this four game steak and yes a few negatives as well, but all in all the team has improved its PK, PP, it’s goaltending, and its defence, we are capitalizing on a high % our chances and scoring some goals. The wins are not a pretty as we would like them but considering who we have beating in the last week, I would say the team is heading in the right direction. Now if we can just get the offense to play a little more in the other teams end then we would all be a little more happy and less negative. But Hey it would seem that we are building some momentum.

  4. #4 Senet1 says:
    March 1, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Joe Thorton, “We’re just a good team. We’re fast, we’re strong, we’re big. A lot of teams don’t know how to play us and really just can’t handle us and I think you saw that for forty minutes; they just had no clue how to stop us. Their goalie played well, but we’re just big and strong.” The last time I heard someone blow their horn like this (Peter Forsberg) his team lost the most important game the final one. It will be interesting to see if Thornton eats his words.

  5. #5 Joseph says:
    March 1, 2009 at 1:08 am

    How incredibly arrogant. Hey Joe, what has your unstoppable team won so far? That’s right, nothing. You’d do well to keep your trap shut. Not too bright.

    Meanwhile, Thornton’s Sharks have done nothing but fail miserably in the playoffs, year after year.

  6. #6 habknot says:
    March 1, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Thornton can say what he wants. They did spend alot of time in our zone, but 95% of the time, they were on the outside, along the boards, or back at the point [I think Carbo is not afraid of their D shots]. A couple of times they penetrated, but Halak was sharp and we were nasty in front of the net [if not exactly organized]. Our biggest weakness was clearing the zone, we have to be willing to give up possesion for a little chip, especially with 2 or 3 big forwards deep in our zone. Carbo is trying to remind our guys how to play without puck possesion and tonight I think they realized the benefits of defensive positioning against a team with good offense. I thought we rope-a-doped and beat San Jose [as opposed to just winning the game]

  7. #7 Mats Naslund says:
    March 1, 2009 at 11:37 am

    From my perspective everything Thornton said was 100% accurate. They absolutely are a good, fast, big, strong team. And for 40 minutes Jaro stood on his head. Without that there isn’t one person in here who could argue that we played a good defensive game. We scrambled (just like all of our past games), and were frankly pretty lucky to win given how many close chances they had to score over the second half of the second period and the third. Lets call a spade a spade here: We got 3 quick goals in the first period and then stopped pressuring. We were great at getting to rebounds, but the Sharks were ALL OVER us as Thornton said for 40 mins. They won almost every battle on the boards, won over 60% of the faceoffs, and I would love to see the turnover stats from last night because I bet they beet us 2-1 in that stat as well. If I was him, I’d be pissed right off that a team that we so clearly handled was able to still win the game. In the end the only thing that matters is goals. We were opportunistic on our offensive chances and scored enough to defend a lead. In my opinion this team is WAY too comfortable defending leads, as if a couple bounces had gone SJ’s way we could have been looking at a blowout. It is WAY easier to defend a lead in the other teams end on the forcheck than to sit back and hope they don’t score. Full credit to the Habs on the win, but while it may get them closer to the playoffs, it will do nothing to help them when they get there.

  8. #8 PACTUM SERVA says:
    March 1, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Carbo is the one telling the players to sit back,the players are olny doing what they are told. I called it after the first period that they would sit back and the sharks would come back. I do blame the coach and it has been an ongoing problem for awhile. We got lucky……very lucky. Carbo will be a big reason this year why we wont go far trust me.

  9. #9 Mats Naslund says:
    March 1, 2009 at 11:55 am

    It usually doesn’t pay to put a lot of stock in what Eklund says over at, since his cryptic trade rumors are often just a reflection of team’s interest in a player rather than actual deals, BUT, his most recent message involves the Habs and given the info in it, it may be a little more likely than usual.

    He talks about how Bill Guerin was pulled from the lineup before the Isle’s game and how his sources are leading him to believe that Montreal may be his destination. He also mentions that the Habs are looking at sending a top 6 forward to Calgary in conjunction with this deal. Given how rare 3 way deals are in the NHL I thought I might throw this (possible) one into the fold. It could also be two separate deals. Either way, this deal is supposed to go down TODAY. The most confusing part is that Guerin is rumored to be headed out of town for a high pick. We have a first and 2 thirds… I hope Gainey isn’t letting go of our 1st for Guerin.

    On a personal note: Bill Guerin has been my most HATED player in the league since his 2000-2002 days in Boston (proving once and for all that the Bruins-Habs rivalry is in my mind the deepest of the rivalries). Seriously the mention of his name in the subsequent 9 years has driven me to anger. If this deal in fact does happen, I guess I’m going to have to move on. My love for le tricolore is always stronger than my disdain for players. I was prepared to cheer for Sundin…

  10. #10 habknot says:
    March 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    OK, Mats N., we saw two different games, but that’s OK. My glasses are always tinged with pink when I watch the Habs. I still stand on what I said, the real quality chances the Sharks had were few and far between in spite of them ‘controlling’ the game. I think they were lucky to score the second goal. Schneider was great on Marleau, Lapierre shadowed Thornton like I’ve rarely seen since the original six.

  11. #11 habknot says:
    March 1, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    As far as Guerin is concerned, we need a big rugged CENTER, Bob. Tanguay will be back. Pleks, Lapierre and Saku are fine; but an upgrade on Metropolit would be great, though that line was effective last night, even with limited ice-time.

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

    Its alright habknot, I fight to see through my own three-coloured glasses most nights. But I do watch an “insane amount of hockey” according to my wife and I saw a pretty big difference between a game where there are a lot of outside, non-threatening shots, and last night where San Jose had traffic on the net, and straight up missed, got robbed, or lost a rebound. In a game where you ‘contain’ the other team on the perimeter you have 1 and done chances. You give up shots, but not quality scoring opportunities. That was not the case last night. SJ got MANY 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances, and much of our defensive strategy hung on an all out collapse to the goal crease. It works if the goalie is outstanding, but that is also how we lost all of those blow-out games.

    As for Guerin, like I said Eklund’s trades happen 1 out of 10, but he IS very in tune with who is talking to who.. Its no “guerin”tee that the deal happens, but is interesting in that there are WILDLY conflicting reports as to what Gainey is doing at the deadline. If we get tougher at the wings, our size at center matters less. Latendresse coming back will help the team size as well. People talk smack about him, but he was playing well on Lapierre’s line when he got hurt.

  13. #13 Senet1 says:
    March 1, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Hey Matt,s I must have had blinders on my glasses too, I will admit that SJ did get some quality chances but for the most part their shots were from outside and the rebounds did get cleared. HAlak did have to made a few great saves on second shots but SJ did not get the shots off like they would have liked to because our D was interfering and playing scapping in front of the net. We also blocked a lot of those outside shots . Thornton is correct they are big and fast and good and very hard to handle, but what empressed me most was that we handled the onslot and finally about a little over half way through the third period as usually out third line started to take the play back to them and relieve some of the pressure. I think the two goals that they got early in the second period took us off our game play really quick and we actually never recovered until about the 12 or 13th minute of the third period, from that point onward i think we frustrated SJ because they had a hard time getting their flow into our zone, yes they still did penatrate but not to the same degree from that point forward. Personally, I was impressed with the defence, what I was not impressed with was the forwards, not getting into position to take a pass out of our zone, that caused the D to have to just shoot the puck out or lob it out to relieve the pressure, therefore we would loose puck possession. Anyway, I prefer to look at the game from Habknot’s glasses I guess.

  14. #14 Senet1 says:
    March 1, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I think Thornton will eat his words before the playoffs are done, it is one thing to think those statements and another thing to say them, I still like to refer to Forsbergs comments a few years ago and how he ates his works. There is no doubt that SJ is the class of the league right now, but there are other teams that are close and we saw how good goaltending can change the complexity of a game last night. SJ may not make it to the finals and the eastern teams may not even have to deal with them.

  15. #15 Mats Naslund says:
    March 1, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    To further illustrate my point, I found this from Mike Boone at inside/out: “The Canadiens blocked 24 and another 19 went wide. That’s 91 pucks directed toward Jaroslav Halak. The Canadiens had 21 shots, 10 blocks and 6 misses: 37 chances.” If you give up 91 chances to 37, you got outplayed, period. SJ looks good, but you still have to play the game.

  16. #16 Senet1 says:
    March 1, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Yes but I am not sure anyone is disagreeing with you that SJ out played us because after all the puck was in our end most of the time. The fact that we block 21 of those shots says a lot for our defensive zone coverage as well one of the reasons the that many shots went wide again was because of the coverage of our players forcing SJ to shoot quicker than they wanted to and therefore, their shot was not affective. When they did put it on the net Halak made the first save and most of the time the puck was cleared out of harms way. To me that is good defensive coverage. That is what you want your defence to do. Again the fault I find is that the once the defence got possession of the puck they did not have anyone to pass it to so they had to dump it out and give up puck possession, so to me that is not the defencemans fault but the forwards not getting in position to accept a pass and move the puck up ice with possession. To me that is our weakness that we have to work on as far as defensive zone coverage I think we did a great job. Also look at our 5 on 3 coverage as well. How many times are you successful defending against 5 on 3. We seem to get a lot of those situation lately.

  17. #17 Mats Naslund says:
    March 2, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Yeah, but you get in 5 on 3 situations because your defense can’t handle offensive pressure and take dumb penalties.. I hear what you’re saying though. Credit to the Habs for being able to roll with the punches and play well enough defensively that San Jose couldn’t find the back of the net. I really do think that puck luck played a huge roll in our favor as there were a couple moments in particular in which posts, bounces and near misses came into play. I also think that our forwards had more to do with our defensive struggles than the D. They were not in position to make plays to get the puck out of the zone. As a result the defense resorted to blindly flipping pucks, and trying long bomb passes that were easily intercepted. What is in the past is in the past though. Its a win and I’m livin’ high on a 4 game streak!

    I’m far more interested in the deadline at this point. Things change so quickly. Everyone was talking about the Guerin deal last night, and a day later people are of the impression that it could still be a couple days. Things are so uncertain, and teams are unwilling to commit to a deal if they think that some better offer may arise. No one wants to get ripped off this time of year, and I’m having fun trying to figure out which combinations of deals could happen and make each team better. Montreal isn’t in the greatest of positions considering the cap, but we do have assets and contracts to move, along with Tanguay returning which is like a deadline deal in itself.

  18. #18 Donnie says:
    March 2, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Was a great win guys…gotta love beating the Sharks…but, you’re gonna win only 1 maybe 2 like this in a 7 game series. We’ve gotta start playing a strong 60 min, 2-way hockey game. Once we achieve that…I’ll be more optimistic.

  19. #19 Joseph says:
    March 2, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    I cannot agree with those that saw the Habs-Sharks game as an ‘impressive’ defensive effort, in any way. Watching the Habs hang on for dear life for a period and a half against one of the league’s best (regular season) teams doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in me. As has already been stated here, that kind of effort would get them elminated from the playoffs in a New York minute.

    Had the goaltending been anything but exceptional in that game, everyone would have been on here complaining about how badly we got blown out in our own building by the type of team we’ll need to beat.

  20. #20 Senet1 says:
    March 3, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Well Donnie and Joseph I guess neither of you saw the Boston Montreal series of 1971? There were seven games in that series and six of them were like that game against SJ. Montreal won four of them with solid defence and excellent goaltending, they also won the cup. Most of the announcers agreed it was the greatest defensive display of hockey that they had ever seen.

    That team was a young team with good players that were just starting to come into their own and they were playing against the powerhouse Bruins with Orr and Esp. and getting outshoot by 20-30 shots.

    Now don’t get me wrong, this team has a way to go and in most cases no you cannot win a series very often when you play most of the game in your end. But if you read my earlier blog the defence was not the problem, it was the offensive players and their lack of positioning that caused most of our outlet problems. To me our defence played on hell of a game and obviously so did our goalie. Did we get the bounce of the puck absolutely, but then again as they say you make your own breaks and the defence were doing their jobs by keeping the front of the net mostly clean and rebounds to the corners, between that and blocking shots and forcing SJ to shoot early a lot of the shots neve saw the net and the ones that did Halak could see. In most cases if a goalie can see the puck she should be able to stop it. It was a poor offensive display but no body can convince me that we didn’t play a good defensive game.

  21. #21 Joseph says:
    March 3, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Senet1, when I criticise a defensive effort I am not singling out the defencemen alone. The forwards have a defensive responsiblity as well. So I agree with you in this regard. But this begs the question…

    Why are our forwards so lost in their own end? Perhaps the best acquisition that this team can make by the deadline is a better coaching job? Too many players softly flipping the puck up the middle of the ice. When there’s no clear outlet pass available, off the boards and out please.

    I do notice however that Schneider, although certainly not immune to mistakes, tends to make calculated decisions with the puck in his own end. Carbonneau needs the whole team to do this.

  22. #22 Mats Naslund says:
    March 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Re: Deadline.

    I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about what Montreal needs to be successful and whether or not these issues can be addressed at the deadline. There are 2 major issues that I have with most fans in their assessment of the trade deadline that I wanted to bring up.

    1. You rarely solve all of your team’s problems with one guy.

    There have been players that have been tied to Montreal through the rumor mill that have caused a certain amount of controversy. This became very apparent when Gainey traded a second round pick plus a conditional pick for Schneider in February. It has continued in names like Jokinen,Cole and others. Many people say that Montreal doesn’t need a ‘soft’ player like Jokinen on the roster, or that Cole doesn’t have the offensive upside that we need. Personally I don’t think that we have the luxury of waiting for that PERFECT player to come along. Look around the league, the teams that are successful are balanced. There are only so many Alex Ovechkins to go around. If Montreal waits for a home run deal, they will miss the opportunity to add impact players. Will the Jokinens or Coles of the league solve all of our problems? No chance. What they do offer is an upgrade at the specific skill sets that we need to build a contending team.

    2. Fans ALWAYS over-estimate the value of the players that they would package in return for superstars.

    Seriously, how many rumors have you read in which Higgins + Subban are set to land Lecavalier? I’m not saying they couldn’t be part of the equation, but in every real deal made there is usually at least a PERCEPTION of equality between the two sides. You cannot take the most expendable pieces of your roster and package them together to land a superstar. It almost never happens. This is not exclusive to Habs fans either: the delusions run league wide. NONE of us would say that Nik Antropov is worth a first rounder, and yet every Leaf fan in the nation expects him to return the next Crosby or Malkin. Reality is a cruel b!tch. To land a legitimate superstar calibre player, your offer has to be very impressive. The players in return at least have to have shown enough firepower that they could one-day be more valuable than the superstar. If I was Tampa the list of players from our roster that would need to be included would contain SOME of: Markov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Gorges, Pacioretti, Komisarek, Price and definately a first round pick. The most likely way to land a roster full of superstars is to DRAFT and DEVELOP them, which is exactly what the Habs have been doing for the past 5 years. So is Gainey done? We won’t know until the deadline, but his ability to create something from nothing is surely hampered by reality, and the fact that he has little on his roster signed long term that he would actually give up in a trade.

  23. #23 Joseph says:
    March 3, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Or at least that those players could well complement a team’s new direction. Supplanting a superstar is also something that rarely happens at the deadline.

    I am beginning to think that there are too many factors in the Habs’ equation this season for them to be successful in the playoffs. The pending UFAs, the goaltending fiasco (if in fact there is one), the defensive weaknesses, the bipolar play of the team throughout the season, etc, all point to the idea tht it might be better to invest one’s hope in next season rather than this one.

    On that note, Gainey should just make the Islanders an offer–one which they can’t refuse–for their first round pick in 2009. :-)

  24. #24 Mats Naslund says:
    March 3, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I agree Joseph. If I am brutally honest with myself, I will ask “Mats,”, of course if I’m really honest I will use my actual name, “is this team close enough to a Stanley Cup contender to add an expensive piece and make a cup run?”. My answer is a resounding NO. At the beginning of last season success for the Habs would have been to make the playoffs as a bottom seed. We got two rounds, which even though was disappointing at the time, was a success. If at the beginning of the 07/08 season we had asked the question: “What would need to happen in 08/09 for the season to be a success?”, most of us would have said something like: “Have young players continue to step up, and make the playoffs as a top 5 seed”. Given where we were in 07/08 in October, that would have been a realistic vision of what ‘success’ in Montreal would look like in 08/09.

    Reality for the Montreal Canadiens is that the young players who will carry this team forward are CLOSE to being able to take over the reigns. And while having so many UFAs can be seen as a daunting task ahead for Bob Gainey, I think that he has allowed himslef an incredible advantage heading into the offseason. Given that this team is a playoff team, but unlikely to make a deep run, Bob can use this year to decide who among the UFAs will be around to help in 09/10, and what the ACTUAL needs of his team are.

    None of this team’s UFAs have had the kind of season that will allow them to really cash in in July. Komisarek will make the biggest jump, but even his value is not what it was once perceived to be. It is also conceivable that Koivu, Kovalev, Tanguay and Schneider could all take paycuts given their age, play in recent years, and desire remain in Montreal. Gainey has tweaked his lineup as a ‘buyer’ this season – but has spent next to nothing in his purchases. Begin and a second rounder didn’t exactly break the bank. So as we inch toward the deadline I’m inclined to believe that unless Gainey can sweep Lecavalier away from Tampa, he is likely to simply patiently wait for this season to end and get to work hammering out next year’s version of Le Tricolore. Those who are conservative with their prospects often benefit by having superstars emerge from within.

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