Saturday, November 8, 2008

A beneficial stinker?

Well, this was bound to happen at some point, and the fact it came in Toronto on Hall of Fame weekend in front of a national audience may drive the point home even harder to the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs have been getting away with playing portions of games all season, and the tone for this game was set in the first when it was clear the Maple Leafs were ready to work.

The Canadiens, quite clearly, weren't.

Guy Carbonneau looked like a ghost talking to reporters after the game, and he wasn't very happy.

"That's the most embarrassing game we've had since I've been the coach," he said.

Strong words considering the team he had his first year behind the bench, but understandable as well. Carbonneau's past teams weren't expected to walk into Toronto and spank the Leafs. They simply weren't that good, so when they lost it was almost as if it was expected.

But this team is good, at least on paper, and they shouldn't let a team as bad - again, at least on paper - as the Leafs do what they did Saturday night in a 6-3 win.

Carbonneau considered his team's commitment to the game "was zero" and that they lost every battle, which is a fair assessment.

"I think they've just learned that if you don't work in this league, you won't win," he said.

This might be a cliché, but when Carbonneau said "our best players need to be our best players," he was talking about specific people, if not one specific person. From the looks of it, I would think he meant Alex Kovalev.

The Artist played 3:17 on the power play Saturday night, which was the most on his line, but still more than two mintes fewer than Saku Koivu. Last year, it wasn't uncommon to see Kovalev play the entire two minutes of a power play, and his line was clearly the top unit.

Now, the top unit is clearly Koivu with Robert Lang, Christopher Higgins, Alex Tanguay and Andrei Markov.

I don't want to be an alarmist, but I'm wondering what Kovalev thinks about his usage with the man advantage, because it wasn't that long ago that he and the coach did not see eye to eye and ice time was a big part of that icy relationship. That was only two seasons ago, and I'm not sure if that's what's in the process of happening here, but it very well might be.

The benefit of this game is that it shows the Habs they can't simply show up and win. There is a process, and it's one they haven't really respected up until now. But when you're winning despite "cutting corners by a lot," as Carbonneau called it, it's hard to break bad habits.

A pair of games like this and the one in Columbus on Friday might be the tonic this team needed for that message to get through.


Anonymous said...

as a habs fan who made it to the game it sucked!

K said...

Well said... *crosses fingers and hopes that the Habs wake soon*

Anonymous said...

does this mean carbo can't play markov for 28min in the first game of a back to back?! (he never used to...)