Saturday, November 22, 2008

A question of focus

I understand the Canadiens are going to play the Bruins and Milan Lucic three more times this season, and I know watching a 20-year-old kid run roughshod all over your team and knock out a top-pair defenceman for at least six weeks stings.

But still, shouldn't Guy Carbonneau's focus be elsewhere, other than making sure Georges Laraque is on the ice shadowing and harassing Lucic? Is the most important thing not winning the game, and if you can get retribution on Lucic in the process it's a bonus?

I felt the Habs were ready to play this game and showed a lot of jump in the first, but lost some of that momentum when they came out of the period in a scoreless draw. But it's hard to score when you have your enforcer playing on your top line running around after a 20-year-old kid begging him to fight.

"I tried everything," Laraque said of the constant dialogue he had with Lucic.

I thought the drama the whole Laraque and Lucic subplot brought to the game was very entertaining, but it wasn't necessarily constructive for a team with a fragile psyche right now who needed a win to erase that 6-1 embarrassment in Boston on Nov 13.

But Carbonneau was still pretty pleased with his little sideshow.

"I think it had an effect on Lucic, I don’t think he was as involved as he was in Boston," Carbo said after the game. "There's more games to come, we'll see how he keeps playing. But he was a lot quieter tonight than he was in Boston."

Really? How exactly is one quiet when he scores a goal and forces you to completely alter your lines and game plan just to get him off his game? To me, that's not quiet. That's pretty darn loud.
Bruins coach Claude Julien was miffed after the game, and he expressed it in a typically deadpan Julien way.

"I betcha Milan never thought he was that good that he'd have a shadow on him," Julien said, clearly annoyed. "I don't know if it's ever happened in his career but it's pretty simple. We've got a good hockey player, he's 20 years old, a first line player, it's as simple as that. Do you think we're going to send him against probably the toughest guy in the league? I know Georges Laraque was doing that because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy. He respects the young kids, he knows what it's all about. There was no way it was going to happen. (Shawn) Thornton was there, ready for Georges, that never happened either. My tough guy was ready for their tough guy and it's as simple as that. I told him not to fight so if you guys are wondering, it was me."

Well, that sums it up quite nicely, I think, except he forgot to add that he won the game, and the hex the Habs had on the Bruins appears to be slowly shifting the other way.

The Canadiens face the Isles on Monday night and then have games in Detroit and Washington, two tough ones where the team's - and the coach's - focus had better be on winning the game and scoring goals.

With nine goals in their last six games now, you would think having that as a focus wouldn't be a problem.


pierre said...

Despite Lucic's goal is role last night was minor compared with the all dominant one he played in the trashing of our CH by the Bruins last time.... in that respect I felt the use of Laraque was effective and I would disagree that it interfered with the game plan where we saw our team FINALLY outshouting someone this year..... by a descent margin to boot !

When Carbo was asked about the game plan on RDS before the match had started his reply was as undescriptive as they usually are but the word '' initiative '' came to my attention and I for once this year had the feeling that the CH might have been asked to play the game the way they should have been asked to do in every one of our game thus far but wasn't.

Last night I saw a team playing that was asked to skate and to confront the opposition as a unit of 5 in the neutral zone instead of backing down as we did deprolably too often this season.... the end results was that we spended less time in our zone and created more turnovers than as been the case so far..... two crucial elements of our game that needed be change if our offensive depth is to generate on the potential it has.

Unless the players are ask to play a hight-tempo pro-active two-way game working as units of 5 nothing of significances will ever happen in a ligue were having possession of the puck is the most determining aspect in the avantages a team has over its opponents..... I though last night was a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

agree with pierre on this on arp - Laraque shadowing lucic WAS effective. From ice level I could see that lucic was bothered by laraque and i don't think it a coincidence that when lucic scored laraque was actually not on the ice.
I know we lost technically but a shootout loss isn't a REAL loss...
overall i thought we played well. zylb disagreed (shocking)but i thought they played hard, got a lot of chances,and just couldn't score on fatty thomas. like to see andrei back with pleks and kovy though.

Sliver24 said...

I like that Laraque started the game against Lucic. I like that Lucic's first two or three shifts were spent with Laraque breathing down his neck, reminding him of the consequences of crossing the line with out skill players.

But once that message was sent, Carbonneau should have put Georges back where he should be - on the 4th line.

Georges' role is not to cover opponents' first liners. His role is to have a calming effect on opponents that would otherwise let their emotions (generally anger, as it were) get the better of them.

The role of the hockey enforcer is unique in the sense that it's one that can often be effectively filled from the bench. And nobody is better at doing just that than BGL.

Yves said...

I also thought the shadowing took Lucic out of the game when Laraque was out there.

A few times, I think he prematurely went to the bench... who cares if S Thornton was there for Georges.... I think the point was to take Lucic out and it worked very well at times.

It was an interesting strategy.... I thought the first couple of times Carbo did it, that line played well... Tanguay and Koivu had chances.

I guess we'll see what they do next time around.