Friday, October 31, 2008

A Gorgeous performance

There are very many accolades to be doled out among the Canadiens penalty-killers for the 2-1 win in Minnesota, but one in particular jumped out at me.

Josh Gorges played over 21 minutes, and he led the team with more than eight minutes in shorthanded ice time. More than Andrei Markov, more than Mike Komisarek, and it was because he earned it.

There was one sequence in the second period I watched him his entire shift, battling in front of the net for position without once giving the refs another chance to blow their whistles, quickly challenging guys along the wall for possession of the puck, simply playing a very sound,unspectacular game.

It's amazing to think how far Gorges has come in such a short period of time, especially in terms of Guy Carbonneau's confidence. When he first arrived from San Jose Carbonneau didn't trust him at all, believing everyone else's ill-conceived ideas that someone so small could never be an effective NHL defenceman.

Even at the beginning of last year, Gorges had to prove he belonged. Now, he has done more than that, he has proven to be an invaluable member of the team, one who Carbonneau has so much confidence in that he sends him out there more often than any other player in shorthanded situations. For the season, Gorges is just behind Komisarek (3:44) and Markov (3:40) with 3:10 in shorthanded time on ice per game, third on the team.

Thursday's game presented a huge challenge to Carbonneau in terms of bench management, with 15:29 spent on the penalty kill, more than a quarter of the game. Throw in the 6:42 of power play time for the Habs, and that's over a third of the game spent on special teams.

As a result, Guillaume Latendresse played less than 10 minutes as his pre-season prediction of being out of the mix for the power play is proving true with the return of Chris Higgins.

Surprisingly, Maxim Lapierre was also a victim of the special teams focus, playing 10:59, but only 1:23 on the penalty kill. Compare that to Robert Lang, who played 15:27, with 4:12 of penalty killing time.

I like Lang, but if I have to choose between him and Lapierre to kill a penalty, I'd have to go with Lapierre. He has more speed, more shot-blocking and - so far, at least - is a better faceoff man.

Last night, Lapierre won four of his six faceoffs, while Lang lost six of 10. On the season, Lapierre has now won 56 of 99 (56.6 per cent) compared to Lang's 64-for-130 (49.2). Furthermore, Lang has taken the most shorthanded faceoffs on the team, winning only 13 of 29 compared to a 7-7 record for Lapierre. Lang's getting better in this area after a horrible start, but does Lapierre not fit the role of a penalty-killer more than Lang?

Finally, another guy who lost out because of the emphasis on special teams was Patrice Brisebois with only 12:07 of ice time. Obviously, he wasn't a factor on the penalty kill, but he only played 1:55 on the power play. If he's not in the lineup as a power play specialist, why exactly is he dressed?


Arjun said...

I don't know why we continue to dress Brisebois. It makes no sense to me. And what have I said about Gorges in the past? The guy is a stud in the making, a very solid number three defenceman. He's the real deal and Carbo can see it. Let's give him the nickname now: Gorgeous Gorges.

pierre said...

As gorgeous as was Gorges the game itself was anything but gorgeous.... no ebb, no flow = no show..... the refferees simply shredded it to pieces.... those extremists should be giving the attending people their money back.

This particular zebra has a solid reputation for stealing the show, I whish that our coach would have prepared our team to play according to that fact.... maybe he did... maybe he didn't.... unless the journalists ask him or the players about it how can we know.

As bad a spectacle as it was it shure was a good practice for our PK.... elite performances here.... specially when considering that the Minesota's PP units were rated top 3 prior to the game.

Brisebois being right-handed is a miss-matched with our other appointed leftees during PP time and the one-timer is no longer an option when he is paired with them.... the use of Tanguay and S.K. are Carbo's prefered choices on most nights and thats the better way..... so you ask... whats the point of dressing Bris instead of Obyrne if only used when 5-on-5 ? my guess is that Carbo think that Bris is somewhat better at this point in time and that he will use Obyrne against the lesser team for a while.

I agree that Lapierre is getting to be quite a player out there.... the only problem I have with our 4th line is that they are consistently good..... while the rest of our team is not.

I see a dichotomy that shouldn't exist to the extent that it does between our 4th line agenda and the rest of our team.... as a whole I wish that all of our lines would be shorter shifted and play the speed game better in order to maximise pressure on the opponents and create turnovers as a consequence of it.... this is the core principle at work behind our 4th line successes..... it is also the core principle upon witch Babcock was driving the Red Wings machine last season.... all the lines played the hight-tempo puck pursuit game... their ''take away'' stats was outstanding and their ''keep away'' stats was just as stellar.... they covered it all... I think we could too.

Sliver24 said...

Chris Lee is the ref you're referring to Pierre, and he's a moron. It seems to me that he personally ruins at least half the games he does. Last night was a case in point. It's pretty obvious that Pierre Houde agrees - he 'politely' rips into him every chance he gets. What I can't understand is why he is still an NHL ref.

BTW, anyone notice that the inimitable Mick McGeough is no longer an NHL referee? ( 'Bout time... Now Darcy Tucker can sleep at night.

Arpon Basu said...

I'm not sure if Chris Lee ruins every game he does, but he definitely plays a big role whenever he officiates a Habs game. Pierre, you raise a good point that Carbo should be preparing his team to face this guy, because he reall appears to have it in for the Habs, or at least Carbo. What really makes me nuts whenever Lee officiates a Habs game is that he makes almost all the calls, the partner, in this case Gord Dwyer, practically never does anything. Doesn't he see what's going on?

Pierre, you raise a lot of good points in your post, as you often do, but I don't think your point about the speed game with the other lines really applies, because the reason Lapierre's line can play that kind of game is all they do is dump, chase and forecheck. The other lines are playing a puck possession game, which means they have to slow up at times and see what the defence is giving them. Lapierre can just throw it down there, put his head down and skate. It works for that line, but I don't think you want to see Kovalev dumping and chasing. The reason the Red Wings can do it is because, well, they're the Red Wings

pierre said...

Dumping scenario put aside the aspect which I consider crucial in our differences with the Wings or within our own lines (3 versus 4th) as more to do with how the game is being played when the puck is out of one's own control or possession.
Our 4th line basic agenda in those situations seems to skate hard, to pursue and to confront the opponents no matter in which zone they might be in with the puck.... this agressive skating attitude creates turnover in ways that a more passive-positional approach will never created.... it help in drawing penalties too.... all of great benefits to a team long on offensive talents as we are..... thats the way I saw Caroline played the year they won the cup (the first team not to use a checking line) and thats the way Detroit played last season..... there is some prices to pay when playing such relentless two-way game... one is a slight reduction on the time spend on the ice per line per shifts.... there are others too but on the whole the dividends have proved being there for the taken.