Saturday, November 15, 2008

Prozac anyone?

The Montreal Canadiens, from the head coach right on down, have their heads spinning right now trying to figure out what on earth has happened.

How did a team expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup become such a shell of its former self? One that has no confidence, cohesion, or co-anything right now, and is questioning every little thing they do on the ice?

It's not as if this has happened overnight, and if Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the Flyers had come after three wins in a row, it would have been easy to be pleased with the effort because aside from the second period, the Habs played pretty decent. Not great, but decent.

Except that second period was horrendous, and it's become a recurring theme this season that the Canadiens take at least one, if not two periods off per game. Earlier in the year they were able to get away with it, as they did in Philadelphia in the third game of the season.

But no longer.

"It’s been a problem from early in the season," said Habs captain Saku Koivu, one of the only players to give it everything on every shift in this game. "We won some games, but it was only a couple of times that we really played 60 minutes. I mean more the defensive effort and playing without big mistakes in our own zone. Our skills haven’t gone anywhere so we have to believe we can create some offence. But right now we really have to forget that part and concentrate on team defence and making sure the puck gets out of our zone."

It's a simple concept really, one that everyone in the Habs room knows because they've heard it repeated to death over this stretch of four losses in five games, and here it is: you can't score when the puck is in your end.

The Canadiens repeatedly get caught trying to make a pass that is too cute coming out of the zone. A few of those invariably become turnovers that, even if they don't wind up in your own net, force you to play without the puck for a while longer.

Here's how Josh Gorges sums it up:

"When you don’t get the puck out and you lose a battle, you spend an extra 30 seconds in your zone. By the time you get it out, you don’t even have enough energy to go in on the offence. You just dump it in and change and they get the puck back. So we’re killing ourselves and not using our assets by not winning the battles down low in our end."

Pretty basic stuff, no? But for some reason, these guys aren't getting it, and head coach Guy Carbonneau is starting to get worried. And more importantly, he's getting very annoyed.

"I think we’re relying too much on what we did last year, both as a team and as individual players," he said. "We did some nice things last year, but last year is last year. When you start a new season you don’t start with 20 goals or 13 assists or 40 assists, you start at zero. You have to work for those points, and right now we have guys who think they’re working, but they’re not working."

Just after saying that, though, Carbonneau referred to how his team had to find the "tempo from last year," and earlier he referre tohow his team has proven it can bounce back from tough stretches.

So maybe his players aren't the only ones guilty of using last season's tremendous record as a launching point.


pierre said...

As I like fast skating, nice plays and nice goals there is no doubts that I was in dreamland last season.... yet throught it all I remained conscious of the facts that we had it easy injury wise when compared with the other 29 teams and that our PP prowess got us out of trouble on many an occasions during the whole of our season..... putting those advantages aside we were still a pretty good team.... but we were not what the 104 points might have suggested..... in the end our series made that clear for anyone that was watching.... and those teams were nothing compared with how great the Cup Champions were.

As a fan I whish that Carbo as a coach would have isolated those aspects that made us such an average team last season and used the training camp to start the process of making this team a better more complete team ..... I dont believe that he did.... nothing he said so far would believe me to think that he did... nothing I have seen from watching this year's Habs would either... bien au contraire we regressed damned it... come-on, the Bruins toyed with us while the Flyers owned us without their 7 million dollards guy in the line-up... even when working at it they still looked unprepared and unstructured to play a better game as they should be doing this year.

Arjun said...

They aren't playing as a 5 man unit. The forwards keep waiting for hail mary passes from the defence. But worse, the team can't complete a pass period. Even in the pre-season, the team looked like a unit; they were scary good at times. Now, not so much. Carbo has to do something to get Kovalev going and interested. There are only three players earning their keep right now. Maybe four: Koivu, Tanguay, Hamrlik and Lapierre. Higgins is coming around. But the K brothers and Kovy and Plek are out to lunch. They're playing like beer leaguers out there. And you look at Carbo's face at the end of the game and you can tell he doesn't know what to do...