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Game 71: Habs/Rangers

  • First things first – I want to apologize for not getting a game blog up on Saturday for the Bruins game.  I moved on Saturday and my internet was not set up. Normally I would just post from my phone, but I left my charger at work so I was completely cut off from the internet all weekend. It made for a nice surprise this morning when I found out that we won on Saturday! I figured I would post the Ranger’s blog a day early so that there would be a spot to chat about both the Broons and the Blueshirts.

    I didn’t see the game, but from the boxscore it looked as though we jumped on them early and they made it close with a goal half-way through the third.  Its good to see that Sergei had two goals as he continues to find ways onto the scoresheet following a solid showing at the Olympics. Moore had assists on both of his goals, so it seems as though they’re feeling nice and comfy out there with each other.

    The top lines was held scoreless which I can imagine is the result of playing against Chara who can be an imposing obstacle at the best of times. The other noteworthy info that I could sponge from the boxscore was the relative uniformity of ice time for the bottom two lines. 8 guys played between 11 and 14 minutes which I would take as an indication that Martin was rolling lines rather than cherry picking. Did I catch it – or did the boxscore deceive me?

    The points we gained on Boston were huge as they’re now 4 points back with 3 games in hand. They can still catch us, but they’re going to have to step it up big time to do so. The 5 game winning streak has substantially changed our positioning for the playoffs as we’re currently tied with the streaky Flyers for 6th.  We may be running out of games to catch them – but winning solves all of our problems. The Habs have chosen a fantastic time of year to catch fire.

  1. #1 Avatar37 says:
    March 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Boston was never really close in this one. Halak was mediocre but came alive for the end of the 3rd period and the shootout. Otherwise, Montreal outplayed them most of the game, and that’s with referring going in Boston’s favour. SK’s hit on Lucic was hard, clean, and legal, yet he gets a penalty, meanwhile, in the third period, Stewart hits him from behind into the boards with no call. Very frustrating. Metropolit and Moen have had good chemistry together all year and continue to do so. I’m not sold on Moore yet, as I don’t see him doing anything Stewart wasn’t doing, and Stewart is tougher, which may explain why Martin doesn’t like him.

    Here’s a thought: We aquired Moore for a 2nd round pick. Instead, we could have brought Stewart up to play in his place, and used that 2nd round pick to get Visnovski from Edmonton (and maybe sent them someone back in return), and helped our back end out. As I predicted at the start of the year, our defense is horrible, and I think Visnovski would have made a much bigger impact for us than Moore will. If this team is serious about getting better, in the off season, they’ll resign Pleks, Metropolit, Halak and Price, keep Markov, O’Byrne, and Gorges, and move all other defensemen, leaving 3 open spots. 2 of those spots can be filled by Subban and Belle, leaving 1 spot open for a bonafide #2 d-man (It’d be nice to trade Hamrlk and/or Spacek and/or Gill with picks for a shot blocking, hard hitting d-man). We need someone back there who may not get goals or assists but has a consistently good +/- and knows how to hit, how to cover in the defensive zone, and how to shot block.

  2. #2 Senet1 says:
    March 15, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Boy I guess I have been watching the wrong team lately, our defence are not perfect by any means but you do not have one of the best PK units in the league with bad defence. Gil is great on the PK becuase he does not have to travel from one end of the ice to the other, that is what helped Pittsburg win the cup last year. Hamrik carried this defence all fall while Markov was off injured. Spacek has played inconsistent but since coming back from his injury has played steady. Yes Hammer makes too much money and if we could trade him before his contact is up then maybe we can get someone for him. Likewise Gil too. Mara should have been gone at the trading deadline but was injured. MAB makes a good forth liner who can play defence when needed and really helps the PP. This is the time of year that these veterans will show their stripes and I think we are seeing the fruits from this right now. I agree that our defence should look a lot younger next year. But here is the bit question what do we do with Markov when he become UFA next year? Can we sign him and if so how much do you pay can we get a contract extension for say 6M per year this summer, if not either we pay him $7-8M or he is gone?
    A lot has to happen in the short run in order to secure the team in the long run. So you just can dismantle this defence without a better long range plan.

  3. #3 Senet1 says:
    March 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    One other thing about the defence, every one of our defence have been injured this year and none of the new guys every played with each other until this year, so their chemistry and team work was lacking and this caused in my opinion a lot of turnovers in our end because of the lack of teamwork and familiarity. This Olympic break helped our defence a lot and helped everyone to get healthy too, Don’t be surprised to find out than many of our defence have been playing injured all year. lets face it they have all been hurt and if the defence were healthy the injured players would not have had to get back into the lineup before they were healthy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that we do not know about our players but I would not be too harse on them especially right now when they are playing the best hockey they have played all year.

  4. #4 Senet1 says:
    March 15, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    As for Moore, again I disagree, he has played great since coming over, and look what our third line has done, it has won two games of that last five not only with their offence but also checking some of the top players. So I for one am glad we got him and becuase he is a big part of why we are making a strong run for the playoffs.

  5. #5 Avatar37 says:
    March 17, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Well, you must have been watching a different team for sure if you think Gill is great on the PP. The only thing he does decently is block shots or passes because he’s a big enough target to get in the way. He has no shot from the point and is frequently falling down, knocked down, or out of position in our own end. 8 times out of 10, if the other team scores a goal, have a look around, you’ll see Gill. Interesting stat I heard on HNIC the other night: out of the top 5 giveaway artists in the nhl, we have three. Gill (5), Spacek (4) and Hamrlik (1). MAB is useless as a forward, I watched the games he played and there wasn’t any sort of offensive contribution going on. MAB has a phenomenal shot from the point, when it’s not being covered, which is hardly ever. Otherwise, he’s a major defensive liability. The top 3 worst +/- on the team: Paul Mara -16, Lapierre -14, and Bergeron -11. Surprisingly, Spacek leads the team with +11, and even more surprisingly, Gill is only -6. We only have 3 defensemen with a positive +/-, and that’s a bad thing. They are Spacek +11, Markov +9, and Gorges +6. Subban is a +1 but he’s only played 2 games. All our other defensemen are a minus.

    There’s a difference between having skill and just lacking chemistry (like our forward lines which took awhile to get going), and just simply not having the skill level at all. Spacek and Hamrlk may have been good at one point, but neither are worth their contracts now. They’re old and showing it. They may do well on a younger team that needs older d-men to mentor, and all avenues to trade them to such should be explored. I do agree that Markov is the cornerstone not only of this defense, but this team. He hasn’t been the same since he came back from his injury but I’m willing to give the guy awhile to get back into form and prove himself again, he’s just that good when he’s completely on his game. Belle and Suban have shown that they can play at this level and would do at least as good of a job as Hamr and Spacek, for a much cheaper price.

    I’m not saying Moore hasn’t performed for his role, what I’m saying is that I don’t see him doing anything out there that Stewart wasn’t doing. Our third line has, frankly, been dominant all year vs other third lines, but that’s due to the chemistry between Moen and Metropolit. I really like how those two play together. My point with Moore was, for the 2nd round pick, we could have gotten Visnovsky instead, and I think he’d be much more valuable to this team than Moore is, simply because of how bad most of our defense actually is.

  6. #6 Mats Naslund says:
    March 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

    It feels good doesn’t it?

    The last time your Habs went on a winning streak like this they won the conference. Clearly that is not happening this year, but given the conversations we were having on this board as the team lost two games to back into the Olympic Break – It feels really good to be talking about how GOOD our team is at a critical point in the playoff stretch. In fact if it wasn’t for those pesky Phoenix Coyotes we could claim bragging rights over the entire NHL as the hottest. While our hold on 6th depends on what the Flyers do with their games in hand, I’m actually looking ahead in the standings. Ottawa holds a tenuous grip on 5th as they’ve now lost 3 straight. It is not inconceivable that Montreal could catch them. Any positions that they could gain would be beneficial should there be a first round upset in the playoffs that would allow them to grab home-ice advantage. Of course I’m getting WAY ahead of things – we could just as easily be in 8th as 5th… but for once it is nice to talk about this team without having to reference the log jam of teams behind us. When we play again on Saturday, the rest of the league will have caught up in games played. Then we’ll know where we stand and how we look for the playoff fight.

    I did also want to mention how important it is to have patience with a guy like AK46. He hasn’t been very good lately. Who knows why. He could still be hobbled by injury, or he could just be out of sync. Right now he is enigmatic beyond comprehension and I understand the frustration. All I can say is that with a guy like him its important to let him work through his troubles because the payoff could be huge. We’ve seen it before(this season)and I bet we see it again. There were points earlier where he was the ONLY one scoring. Maybe adding Cammy back to the mix will be the key. We’ve seen how his brother has produced when he is comfortable in his situation, and Andrei has the same upside. Unfortunately for him, his skating style and temperament makes it look like he’s simply a floater. Its also what makes it look so easy for him when he’s going strong. In the past few games he’s missed some easy chances to get the monkey off of his back, and I honestly feel like he is only one or two of those easy ones away from breaking loose. Luckily, right now, the team hasn’t needed him.

    Anyways thats my view. Maybe I’m letting him off easy because its a team sport and his team is going like crazy. I just feel like you rarely get the chance to have everyone firing on all cylinders, and so as fans we have unreasonable expectations that we’ll have all four lines killing it at one time and win every game as a 6-0 blowout with all players as plus players, with 0 turnovers and 5 blocks and hits each!

  7. #7 Avatar37 says:
    March 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Mats – No, I agree with you 100%. The line of Pleks, Camm, and AK is dominant when it’s going, out producing the first line during many a stretch. With Cammalleri on the other side, it draws a lot of the attention away from AK and boy is he a sniper too, and Pleks naturally benefits from having an amazing sniper in Camm and a near-amazing sniper in AK. That line has great chemistry, much like adding Pouliot to the first line with Gomez and Gionta has great chemistry.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know where that leaves SK. Do you bump Moore off the third line and put SK with Metro and Moen? Do you delegate SK to the 4th line? It is, honestly, another reason that the Moore aquisition simply didn’t make any sense to me, we already have enough forwards. I understand that perhaps they thought they were adding depth, but with what’s in Hamilton, it’s depth we already have. We needed to add depth at defense, which makes it even more baffling that we weren’t in on the Phaneuf deal, and sat idly by on the Visnovsky trade. To me, it shows a lack of comprehension at the top level as to what is actually going on with this team. They obviously watch the same games I do, which makes it even more puzzling to me. The only thing I can think of is that none of the front office were defensemen and perhaps don’t have an intimiate grasp of the position and therefore can’t evaluate it properly… Which makes sense if they thought letting Bouillon go at $750k per year and signing Gill at $2,250,000 was a good move. Between Hamrlk, Spacek, and Gill, they have over $11 mil in salary and that must be moved for next year to make room for Pleks, Price, Halak, Metropolit, Pouliot, and SK (and Lapierre if they bother resigning him). I’m still baffled as to WHY, if Phaneuf was available, we weren’t trading for him. Hagman Meyers Stajan and Ian White? I’m sure this is an offer we could have beat, and having that kind of defenseman on the roster along with Markov would have, in my opinion, turned this team into a contender, if not this year, in the very near future.

    Anyway, I don’t want to sound negative, I’m not really, I love this team and the winning streak they’re on and the confidence they seem to be playing with, and when we get Camm back, wow, I think we have the potential to surprise people. I’m just frustrated with what I see as glaring deficiencies that the front office continues to ignore.

  8. #8 Mats Naslund says:
    March 18, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I’m not sure we could beat that deal – or would want to. Phaneuf makes $6.5 MIL per season. I’m not sure how spending more money on D would solve the problem you mentioned? Would he be an upgrade at defense over Spacek or Gill? For sure, but we already have a cheaper version in O’B playing for the league min for another year. That said, prior to the current streak there wasn’t even really an indication that this team was capable of making a run at the post season – so making a trade for a very expensive superstar would have made almost no sense – especially since we would have had to give up so much to land him. There is no way Calgary was going to just take lousy contracts back to match the salary.

    I also don’t consider it a coincidence that the team’s fortunes have changed since the addition of Moore. In fact the line of Moore, Moen and Sergei is the quintessential third line. The fact that they’ve been lighting it up over the last 5 games is proof enough of that. It has allowed Martin to roll 4 lines, and allowed the top two lines to play against tired opponents. I can’t see Martin making any changes there. Once Cammy comes back I’m almost positive the lineup will look like:


    As far as the play of our defense goes – I think we’re just starting to see the results of having a relatively healthy corps of defenders who are just now getting used to playing with each other. Its only been in the past 10 games that Martin has stopped juggling his pairings. It takes time for guys to get used to each other – and while I would prefer to have a group of young guys who can lead us into the future – I truly believe that come playoff time, the benefit of having grizzled veterans like Gill and Spacek will pay off. Yeah Gill is slow and prone to brain cramps, but he was fantastic last year for the Stanley Cup champs when the nature of the games changed to meet his simplistic approach. Now that he’s back to where he belongs (as a third pairing D man, and a PK guy) he can be much more effective.

    Anyways, I’m not trying to pick a fight. I agree that we have the potential to surprise people. I’m not saying things are perfect, just that the defense has been fairly good over the course of the past few games, and that now that everyone is healthy and playing the roles that they were meant to, I don’t glaring deficiencies.

  9. #9 Senet1 says:
    March 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Avatar37, READ my comments again I did not say PP I said PK!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. #10 Senet1 says:
    March 18, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Also, SK, Moore and Moan have been playing on the third line since the Olympic break and have been dominating the play, in fact since SK and Moore were put together the third line has been very productive. Moore has made that third line go. Metro has played very well as the fourth line centre, and this also give Martin the option to put him on the PP where he has 11 of his 15 goals this season.
    The fact is we have not been getting any production out of our third and fourth lines all year and so when our first two lines were not scoring we lost. In the 6 game winning streak we have been getting the production that you need from especially the third line which takes the pressure off the top two lines. I agree that Spacek and Hammer are getting old but as I said earlier the defence is finally healthy and this gives Martin the opportunity to play his defensive pairings together, and since that time our PK has improved, and our goals against and winning percentages have improved. Much or the giveaway states comes from the first 50 games when the team was not playing well and the defence was all injuried for 10 plus games at a time. I am all for making some moves in the off season on defence but I will not criticize the defence we have right now they are playing as we expected they would at the start of the season it just took 50+ games for them to become a team.

  11. #11 Senet1 says:
    March 18, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    One other point about Gil who I personally have criticized myself many times this year. If you watch him he looks like he is beat in the corners and then that long reach comes out and he knocks the puck off the oppositions stick. He has to be frustrating to a forward when think you have the guy beat and he has this (seems like) a 10 foot reach and knocks the puck off your stick. As i said earlier, as long as he plays in his own end that is his strength, he is the toughest defenceman to play against n our own end becuase of his size and reach. He does not hand the puck too great but he gets the job done. I also remember how well he played last year against Detroit in the finals when Pittsburg won the cup. I wonder if Pittsburg wish they had him back because their defence in their own zone has not been too great. Having said all that, if I was sure we could sign Markov at the end of next year, then if I could trade Gil, Hammer, Mara, Spacek away I would. I do not think Mara will be signed at the end of the year because he is a UFA. Both Gil and Hammer have another year on their contracts and Spacek has two years. The only contract that hurts us is Hammer’s at $5.5M. I do not think Hammers play has hurt us but his contract sure is because of the cap space and he will be hard to trade because of that contract. Spacek’s contract is less at $3.8M so he may be easier to move, best chance to move Hammer would be at the trading deadline as a rent a player. If you could sign mara for $1M again he would be good insurance. He is not a bad defenceman as long as he stays at home, and for $1M he does not hurt our cap space. Likewise Bergeron I would sign again too becuase he can play forward and defence when needed as well as he has really helped out PP. Look how less succesful it has been since he was injuried.

  12. #12 Senet1 says:
    March 18, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    One reason you see Gil on the ice especially on the PK is because Martin uses him a lot on th PK. It only stands to reason if you are the first defensive pairing on the ice for the PK the chances of you being on the ice either at the start or the end of the PK is becuase the coach has confidence in you. As long as Gil plays the stay at home defenceman he plays as well as any of our defence. He gets into trouble when he has to skate from centre ice back.

  13. #13 Senet1 says:
    March 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Mat’s I for one have been down on AK46, about a week ago I said he was about due to start playing well becuase I remembered when he started playing well just before that 12 game streak, he was hitting and being agressive especially in the offensive end. About a week ago i believe against Boston he was playing that same way and I felt the way he was getting involved he was going to come out of his slump. I am wondering if he didn’t hurt himself one of those earlier games because since the SJ game he has played like he is going through the motions. I hope all it is a minor injury and if so maybe these few days off will help him because with Cammy due to come back we need that line really badly. So I agree for now that the coach has to let him play through this but he has to start showing some signs of improvement shortly, otherwise we need to do something about him.

  14. #14 Senet1 says:
    March 18, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    From Habs webs site:
    Settling in: After feeling each other out for the past few months, it looks like the Canadiens have finally hit their stride as a team. Currently boasting the best differential on the team with a plus-11, for example, Jaroslav Spacek is feeling right at home playing alongside fellow Czech blue-liner Roman Hamrlik

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