How will the Habs come out tonight? Which team will show?
A Panthers loss yesterday gives the Habs a little breathing room, and opportunity to create a bigger gap.
I feel good about tonight. Tampa always plays well here, but they aren’t playing particularly well defensively, so another 6-3 is possible. I’m actually more confident of NYR and Flo losing tonight than I am of the Habs winning. Atl has been playing well, and except for pp and Tanguay could have won two nights ago. Phi is real and at home. Richards may be the most complete player in the east this year.
Mats N, I like your playoff analysis (game 73), but its way too early for me to make prdictions. I watch a team’s last ten games and get a feel for the team that is not only winning, but skating hard and hitting hard. Those teams are hard to beat, especially in the early rounds. That said, if they started today, Ana knocks of Det in the first round (not that big an upset) Pit looked good last night (both Pit and Cal looked like they’d sweep the current Habs – still 9 to go, though!!)
OK, let’s mobilize our D and strike early and often.
We play a great game, get up by two and them, wham!. Drop the D back, Tampa gets control in our zone, and we almost blow it. We need to keep the pressure on. The D does not have to pinch with a lead, but at least compete for the puck in the neutral zone, close to the offensive blueline. Play away from our zone. Two points are great, but this style is going to kill us. The problem isn’t the players, its the system.
Pretty spooky teetering on the edge of this razor blade we’re walking isn’t it?
Win a few, we’re 6th, slip up once or twice and we’re 10th.
The game is coming around…better than it was that’s for sure….getting the 2 points is what matters now I guess. Gotta get that PP going though, and not get tight when a team catches us with a tying goal.
The real stretch to the playoffs however doesn’t start for us until April. The last 6 against bigger, better teams will be our test and will make us or break us.
All in all…makes for some excitement when we want to compete….should be interesting next month to see which side of that razor blade we are gonna find ourselves on.
I said after the win against Atlanta that the real test for the Canadiens would come against Tampa, a team that always seems to play Montreal well and has the French-born players who play for their pride even when we don’t. While we did win the game there are reasons to be a little worried about the current state of affairs. I’m not talking about the comeback – that was only a function of our real trouble. The biggest problem that I saw last night was the re-emergence of the futility that was the Montreal powerplay. Yes they scored on the powerplay last night, but when you are given the opportunity to bury a team at this time of year, you must take it.
Some may think that I’m on drugs considering how well the “aspirin” line was passing the puck out there. It really is amazing to watch Tanguay, Kovlev and Markov zip passes through the defense. The problem with that is that for all of our passing, the powerplay became stagnant and immobile which was the most significant contributing factor to our terrible powerplay percentage his season. We abandoned what made us so incredibly successful against Atlanta which was the movement of bodies, not pucks.
Montreal has the potential to have THE most dangerous powerplay in the entire league if they will be willing to move guys back and forth in order to get the goaltender moving back and forth in the crease. Last night, for all of our amazing passes, we allowed Ramo to get set in a position where ONLY the best shots would beat him. It is the same LOW percentage strategy that gave us one of the leagues worst powerplays this season. When we combine our skill with the determination to move bodies into high percentage areas this team will be hard to beat. We can generate powerplays with speed. Good habits are infectious. We learned that last year. This year we have learned that bad habits can ruin even the best powerplays in the league.
Aside from the powerplay I have one final observation: Last season the Habs had an amazing regular season only to flounder once the playoffs started. This season we have endured one of the most painful regular seasons in my memory – and yet, with only a handful of games remaining, it seems as though the proper guys are finding the motivation they need to play well. If this play continues until the post-season, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the Canadiens could cause some troubles for teams in the Eastern conference. This team has playoff experience. We’ll have to wait and see, but at least Hockey has become fun again in Montreal.
While this team still has a lot to improve upon, of course, I disagree with most of the criticisms of their performance against Tampa Bay. Particularly those of the powerplay, which looked incredible for most of the game, and if it weren’t for a couple of goal posts and a couple of–let’s be honest–stellar saves, would have scored them 3 or 4 goals. This is not at all the same dismal powerplay we’ve reluctantly come to expect as of late.
In addition to the revived powerplay, the defensive game as well seemed to be a lot more fluent than it has in recent games. Mistakes were kept to a minimum and Tampa Bay was unable to pressure the defense for longish periods of time, save a couple of instances in the third period, which were no doubt the result fo sitting back a bit on a late 2-0 lead.
Further, they didn’t cower when Tampa Bay asserted itself physically. They hit back (for a change) and created opportunties in the process.
All in all, I found it refreshing to witness a near 60-minute effort from this team. (It was if I was watching a hockey team again.) They dominated the play for such a large part of the game that it honestly should have been one of their most lopsided blowouts in recent memory. And it is my opinion that if they bring that kind of effort for each of their remaining, then they’ll be fine wiht regard to securing a playoff spot.
That being said, there is one crticism that I feel is warranted, and it’s that of the goaltending, namely Carey Price. I realise that it’s difficult to remain sharp when you’ve faced a mere 8 shots more than 50 minutes into a hockey game, but this sort of let down has too often been the case with Price. In fact, last night’s game brought back painful memories of the playoff series against the Flyers last season – a series that the Habs never should have lost. Montreal dominated offensively for so much of that series, in every game, and then Umberger, or whomever else, would get a chance the other way and score every friggin’ time. (I even recall a comment left by a Flyers fan during that series – “See you in Philly. And bring that Price kid with you, will ya?” Indeed the Habs did, and indeed the point was made.) Perhaps staying sharp under such circumstances comes with more experience, but for now, Price is not the goaltender that this team can ride deep into the playoffs. Perhaps Halak can ge hot again at the right time but I’m not confident that he could handle the onslaught of a Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, or New Jersey in a seven-game series. This position continues to be a huge, gaping hole and a reason for concern.
Well I have to agree and disagree with both Joseph and Matts. Firstly, I agree with Matts that if you are going to score you have to move bodies not pucks. If a goaltender can see the puck when it is shot then he will stop it 99% of the time and like last year in the playoffs, we made the goaltender look good by not screening him. The only guy who seems willing to stand in front of the Goalie is Koivu and he got hit with the puck twice against Tampa. He is a small guy and although he can be effective he does not provide the screen that we need. The problem is that we need a power forward willing to do the dirty work like Philly and Boston as Joseph pointed out Umberger is a prime example. I agree with Joseph that we did dominate the game for the most part as well as the power play and we got some good shots from the point, however, without the screen the shots from the point are not going in unless they are either screen shots or deflections. Kovy has a great shot but is hardly ever in the position to shoot the puck. The other night Markov and Schneider both tried to set up give an goes about four times but the forward ignored the play and at least twice they were open for the shot. Instead we kept cycling the puck from side to side and corner to side controlling the play without getting a quality shot.
As for Price, I do not see how you can blame him for either goal that was scored, the second one he had if it was not deflected and the first one, well how many times does a guy get to shot the puck in the slot before he gets knocked on his behind. Price stopped the first shot and then got partially interfered with in the crease and know one took the intiative to protect him or take the guy out in front of the net. The nature of Price’s style makes him somewhat vulnerable to being pushed around while on the ice on his bads, but then again most butterfly goalies have the same problem. Price will learn in time how to protect himself better like Roy did but there is a learning curve with goalies and we have to remember Price is what 20-21 years old we need to be patient with him.
Donnie: I agree that it was incredibly refreshing to see a complete effort. My criticism only comes because I’ve seen this movie before and I don’t like the ending. This was exactly our problem when all of our troubles began so long ago. Our powerplay LOOKED great. There was dynamic passing and many missed opportunities. That continued until we were so out of sinc that we couldn’t even sustain pressure. If we keep relying on “the perfect shot”, one in which somebody has to beat a goalie who can see the shot, and doesn’t have to worry about re-directions or rebounds – we will continue to have an abysmal percentage. You’re absolutely right, that game could easily have been 4 or 5-2 in regulation had bounces gone our way (as was the case in Atlanta), but we didn’t do ANYTHING the easy way against Tampa Bay. When did we see Ramo have to scramble laterally to make saves? Almost never. He made the saves he was in position to make. I’m sorry to say that it is in fact the same old story. How many times this year have the Habs made some no-name goalie look like Brodeur because of our insistence on creating all of our offense on the perimeter? Atlanta worked because we were able to get guys in the slot for passes and rebounds. I hope the guys get back to that strategy tonight because it is a million times harder to defend than a team that tries to snipe goals top shelf on every attempt.