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Game 78: Habs/Leafs

  • What a potential game….

    With the Panthers blowing their game in hand, a win tonight could put the gap between the Canadiens and Panthers 5 points. Virtually insurmountable this late in the season, barring a complete and total break down.

    Not only that, but the Habs could inch higher and into striking distance of the 3 teams above them. Even 4th place and home ice advantage is not unreachable. The Habs control their destiny.

    The Leafs as we all know love to be spoilers this time of year. Particularly when the Canadiens are involved.

  1. #1 Mats Naslund says:
    April 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Tonight will be crazy. I can’t think of a crazier scenario for these two teams to face each other this year. Montreal’s situation is obvious.. but the Leaf’s situation is totally messed up after an 8-5 loss last night to Philly. The game was insane. Philly got up 6-0. Joseph gave up 2 goals on 5 shots, and Gerber came in and gave up 6 on 30 shots. What was really crazy was the fact that the Leafs were able to get back 5 goals on Biron! The Leafs could not be more unpredictable at the moment which makes them dangerous.

    I am glad Jaro is going to be in net tonight (even though I want Price back and healthy for the rest of the games). Tonight is a shot at redemption for Jaro, and if we’ve learned anything about him, its that he plays well when there is a firestorm. He was embarrassed after the last game. Hopefully he can make some stops early to allow Montreal to pick apart the Leafs HORRIBLE defense.

  2. #2 habknot says:
    April 4, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Hey Guys.
    Nice comments MatsN, Senet and all.
    I won’t make playoff prdictions until the first round matches are set, BUT…

    I can see the Habs go a long way if our defence closes the gap when we are in the offensive zone and our 1 and 2 lines are allowed to play in the O zone. There, their size is not such an issue, as a matter of fact the Kots and Plek could draw a lot of penalties with their maddingly twisty speed.
    Our 3 line also presses well in the O zone, my only concern is Laraque; is he fast enough to keep up with the rest of the team. If Bouillon is back is the 4 line better with Dandy on the right side?
    Our goalies are both playing well, now (finally!), which actually gives us an advantage as far as changing the momentum of a game or a series.

    Philly looks like the most complete team in the east right now. Boston still has goalie questions, Thomas can be unconcious, other times he appears to be passed out :-)
    NJ has looked good, and Carolina too. Was and Pit have so much talent, and I think Fleury has become dangerously good.

    So there are no easy touches, Washington has no goalie, but might not need one. With our tendency to try and sit on a lead (WHY? has it been successful even ONCE this year????), they would never be out of the game.

    That always strikes me as our biggest problem this year. The coaches tried to turn an offensive powerhouse into a defense first team, and the players try to apply a system ill suited for their physiques. Our best defensive play last year was the quick outlet pass to the stretch pass, and teams got penalties hauling us down, and we scored on the pp. Well, our pp is back, so lets get going. If we try to grind it out against Phi, Bos, Car, NJ; we will lose.

    Other than that, I agree that the NYR are very capable of an upset in a seven game series, especially against Bos or Was, whose goalies are suspect. Todays game is a good example, 1-0 in Bos, Thomas the first star, he only needs one bad game and the Rangers could win that series. They are constructed similarly to Mtl, but we are more talented.

    OK, tonights game. I think a result similar to the NYI game is very possible, even likely.

  3. #3 Mats Naslund says:
    April 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I agree mainly, but there is no way that Philly is the most complete team in the east. Last night was a perfect example of why not. Biron is SO inconsistent and their defense is pretty bad. They were up 6-0 and let in 5 goals in the second half of the game. They are still a legit playoff team, but there is no way in my mind that they are better than Boston, Washington, or Pittsburgh. I think they are actually the easiest first round opponent.

  4. #4 Joseph says:
    April 4, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    The Flyers aren’t going anywhere… same problems as last season.

  5. #5 Senet1 says:
    April 4, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    I have to agree, that the Flyers goaltending is suspect, so is Washington’s. Of the three top teams I would rather face Washington. Here is a thought if we keep winning and Carolina keeps winning, we could end up in fifth and it is conceivable that we could play Carolina. Not sure I like that matchup. They have been playing lately like they played the year they beat us out in the first round. Maurice has that team playing the way he wanted the Leafs to play but they did not respond. Something similar to Carbonneau. I still think he is a great coach, but his system just did not seem to suit the Montreal team. Much like Lemaire too. These guys know what it takes to win a cup, but if your players will not respond to that system then you have to make adjustments. The hard part about it for Carbonneau was that the team would seem like it would come out of the funk and play good then fall back into it again. So I think it made hime think that they were responding and then something would happen that would change the play of the team. If Carbonneau had the steady goaltending that Gainey has been getting then again the team may have responded better for him too. But don’t be surprised if Carbo shows up in Colorado or Pheonix or even Florida next year? And don’t be surprised if he is successful.

  6. #6 Donnie says:
    April 5, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Please don’t tell me we’ve turned this team around this much and now we have Markov and/or Schneider gone. These guys, esp. Schn., were vacant from a PP or 2 last night and you could see the diff….you could see that mid season excuse of a PP sneak back with no chances and most importantly no point shooters. This is all I’m concerned about, we look like a entirely different team not, playing better than we have all year, pretty much asserted ourselves in a playoff spot last night….this team has it’s fans believing again….but folks…we need both of our PP D-men healthy and in the lineup.

  7. #7 Joseph says:
    April 5, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Actually Donnie, they scored on the powerplay after losing Schneider–which looked just as deadly as it had with Schneider at the point–and were awarded one more powerplay after losing Markov, which suffered a shorthanded (gift) goal a few seconds into it.

    But I hear you! With this team once again looking like it did early in the season, I’m hoping that both Scnheider’s and Markov’s injuries are minor. Gainey had eluded to as much in the post-game conference, so we’ll see.

  8. #8 Senet1 says:
    April 5, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    I agree we need the point men to complete our powerplay. Without the strong shots from the point, the defence can concentrate on the forwards more and not have to come out to the point to block or stop the shots from happening. When they do it opens up ice for Koivu’s to go to the front of the net.

  9. #9 Mats Naslund says:
    April 6, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Carbo would have had steady goaltending if he hadn’t messed his team up so bad that they quit playing defense. Honestly, the Habs went from one of the most dangerous teams in the league because of team speed to a bunch of flatfooted, irresponsible hacks. None of the personnel changed. The only difference was the defensive style that Carbo implemented. When we were at out most effective we had a strong forecheck with all kinds of pressure up front. This created odd man rushes and limited the amount of shots that we gave up in our own end due to turnovers in the neutral zone. It wasn’t just defense though. Because we had guys moving with speed through the neutral zone, we were able to make easy, crisp passes out of our own end which put all kinds of pressure on the opposing defense. We brought the game to our opponent and it landed us in 1st place last season. It was the same way for the most part to start this season, and has been the story in the past 5 games.

    Unfortunately somewhere along the way, Carbo became convinced that the only way this team could win was to eek out points by trapping and getting grinder goals. The result was that we always had guys standing around in the neutral zone – so that even if we created a turnover, we were easily caught. Our offense suffered and our defense became paper thin. We started giving up a crazy number of shots, and subsequently our goaltenders lost confidence. We lost all of the traits that made us a contender last season.

    Luckily, Gainey recognized that this team was grossly under-performing. The team is fast, skilled and with the addition of a few guys here and there – tougher than last season. Are we small down the middle? Yeah. But lately those small centres have been winning well over 50% of the draws which is what you need from them. With the addition of Laraque and Stewart, and the improved play of guys like Latendresse, Kostopoulos, and Lapierre there is no way that we can be called soft. We are actually a fairly well balanced team when everyone is in the lineup.

    Having Markov and Schneider healthy for the post season is a must. We have witnessed how our team has fed off of the energy created by the powerplay in recent games. Even though we have been beating some lesser teams, the Habs haven’t given their opponents the chance to hang around which is what killed them so often in the middle of the season. We couldn’t hold a lead because of the absolute lack of a killer instinct. I won’t make any bold predictions about the playoffs yet, but I think it is such an incredible bonus that in the centennial Montreal has been afforded the luxury of flying under the radar at the end of the season. What a contrast from last year where everyone was convinced that we were destined to win. Now the pressure has been relieved and the guys have responded. I’m excited for game day again, which I am sad to say was missing for me a month ago. Not that I wouldn’t watch every game anyway – but its nice to have that winning feeling back.

  10. #10 Joseph says:
    April 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I think that that’s a pretty solid take on what had happened to this team, MN. And I guess when it became obvious that Carbonneau had completely lost control of the team’s fate is when Gainey stepped in… either by Gillett’s doing or his own.

    And, lesser teams which have been beating better teams as of late. Such as Atlanta.

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