Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who is that masked man wearing No. 8?

I've held back on writing this post for a while now to give him a chance to find his game, but the Habs have now played 14 games and Mike Komisarek is nowhere near the same player who struck fear into opposing forwards last season.

Yeah, he's blocking shots, he's hitting guys, and that's great. But there's a certain lack of confidence that appears every now and again in his game, and in tonight's 6-1 loss in Boston, those came at very inopportune moments.

On Boston's first goal of the night by noted sniper Shawn Thornton, Komisarek inexplicably hesitated to play a puck coming toward him in the Montreal zone, deferring to Mathieu Dandenault who was facing his own net. That puck was Komisarek's to play, and his indecision on the play directly led to the goal.

Now that's just one example, and it doesn't explain why the Habs were just as flat - in fact far more so - than they were in Toronto on Saturday night. But plays just like that one have been popping up more and more from Komisarek, and that's got to be of some concern.

Guy Carbonneau was asked after the game if the reason Komisarek didn't return to the ice after suffering a beat down at the hands of last year's playoff nemesis Milan Lucic was because of a hand injury he may have suffered in the fight. Carbonneau kind of brushed the question aside, saying they didn't know yet, but then went on to talk about emotion and work and wanting to win.

I don't know about anyone else, but the only reason I can see Carbonneau giving that kind of an answer to a question regarding the reason a particular player was nailed to the bench, I don't think his hand or either of his upper or lower body were a problem. Komisarek's problem was between the ears, and I think it may have been a message Carbonneau was sending him by sitting him in the third.

I could be wrong, Komisarek may have hurt himself in that fight because at one point he simply stopped throwing punches and fell rather easily, which is really not his style. But before that fight he wasn't playing his best game, and it was just a continuation of a trend that's been building all season, one that happens to be a contract year for the unrestricted free agent who, as of right now, is playing himself out of a lot of money.

Of course, the team as a whole was horrendous Thursday, with turnover after turnover in their own end and a bizarre inability to complete a pass. Not one, or so it seemed.

Then there was Carey Price, who was just as bad as his teammates in front of him. But you know what? I and a lot of other people at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night didn't give him enough credit for that 4-0 shutout of the Sens, so I feel he should be absolved of a good portion of the blame for this 6-1 blowout. No goalie can be ready for so many turnovers, so many mental lapses. Price could have been way better, but he wasn't about to steal this game for the Habs.

Still, Carbonneau felt inclined to leave him in there for all six goals.

"He's still a young player, but you can't play 82 games for 15 years, if he plays 15 years, and not have goals scored on you," Carbonneau said. "Obviously there's a lot frustration some times, but he'll have to learn, just like the rest of the players."

Here's hoping that Carbonneau feels inclined to use the forward line combinations he finished the game with against the Flyers at home Saturday. They obviously didn't do a whole lot Thursday, but they deserve at least a full game like that to see if they work. I'm convinced they would, with the biggest beneficiary being Andrei Kostitsyn who becomes the go-to guy on that line with his brother and Tomas Plekanec.

Another thing I'd like to see changed is the order of the power play units. The emergence of Saku Koivu's line as the top unit with Robert Lang and Andrei Markov has taken, most of the time, Markov away from Alex Kovalev. That combination is what made the power play go last year, and I feel they should be starting every power play together until it's clear it's not going to work.

But Thursday night, absolutely nothing worked for the Habs, and I was expecting far more from a game featuring the two best teams 5-on-5 in the league so far, a stat that would lead you to believe this would be a hotly contested affair.

In order for that to happen, however, both teams have to compete.


pierre said...

Such a flagrant debacle of our team in such a context at such a moment will and should be analyse to death because in the end this team really needs to take a hard look at itself.

This debacle wouldn't mean all that much on its own but if you were allready lukewarm about our team's identity and performances so far this season than this outright debacle of our team tonight become rather more significative.

I think our most serious flaw as a team is how poorly we fare when confronted by adversity.... we had big problems against hermetic discipline team like Columbus.... against speedy forechecking teams like the Isles and the Leafs and even more so when confronted against a well structured forechecking and physical teams like the Bruins tonight.

Our team possesses a rather large amount of pure skill and speed up front and a great pair of D with Hamrlik and specially Markov.... and Price as well.

We dont have it all far from it, like most all teams we are dependant on the coach's vision-strategies-expertise to be better than what we actually are and to rise above our limitations as a group.

I think the habilities of our players to score goals is a little higher than last season and the habilities of our goally to make saves to be a little higher also but my concerns is that our game as a group as not evolved above being the vulnerable team that we were when we confronted the adversity we faced against the Bruins and the Flyers in last year's series.

Individually some of our players seems not to be improving while our team's game as a whole looks more vulnerable than it should under a variety of conditions.... I am not sold on what the coaches are doing with this team.

HabsFanInCalgary said...

The Habs are turning into this years Senators. Laden w/ talent, but incapable of being a dominate force game in and game out. They seem lethargic and complacent. The biggest fear may be that they seem to have no response, on or off the ice. The continued trend of playing like rookies in their own end is resulting in their own demise, and rightly so. Most players are taught in minor hockey that getting the puck out of your own defensive zone is your primary goal. 'Off the glass, save your @ss. Up the middle, your in a pickle' Time and time again last night the Habs tried to force weak passes through the middle in their own zone, and time and time again the Bruins got just enough to deflect it away from the intended reciever. Price was not stellar, but nor was he as weak as he appeared. he was fairly strong on the PK, making a few timely saves and allowing Koivu to pot what would be their only goal of the game. What worries me is how they do not seem to respond well to pressure. After going down 3-0 in the first most teams would start the second w/ some kind of fire. Not these guys. They didn't bother doing anything until there were just 5 minutes left in the second and already had allowed another goal. Again, 4-1 after 2 you would have expected some jump. Again, not these guys. I must not be the only one who is beginning to wonder if a leader is needed. I am not talking about their on ice leader, Mr. Koivu, but more their motivational leader, Mr. Carbo. His line matching at home is very suspect < at best > and his lack of emotion on the bench is worrisome to me. No timeouts taken. No benching of the inexplicably invisible Kovalev. No change of goalie < just to muster some kind of response from the troops, not because Carey was that bad > He has failed to find a means of lighting a fire under a team that could be, and should be, one of the top 5 teams in the league. Most will disagree I know, and that would not be surprising, because we as fans, have a love affair w/ anyone who suited up for les blue, blac et rouge. How long does this continue before Gainey decides to pull the plug? A change is needed, and it should be one of impact. How long until we see a new face leading the troops into battle? Just my thought, but I'm sure there are now more than a few who are thin king the same.

Arpon Basu said...

I too was thinking of making the Sens comparison made by habsfanincalgary, but I think it's a bit too early to do that right now. The Habs have a lot more going for them than the Sens ever did, starting in nets and the depth they have at forward. The Habs are going through a rough patch, and this is the ultimate test for Carbonneau. To fire him, IMO, would be hasty right now. The guy was a finalist for the coach of the year, so I think he deserves a bit of a longer leash. But I do agree he needs to make some adjusments and stop talking about last year as being a point of reference. His tendency to continuously refer to the way the team played last year has trickled down to te players, and that's not necessarily a good thing. The Habs were good last year, but they still lost in the second round of the playoffs, and they are supposed to be better now. It's time they started thinking that way instead of aspiring to go back to being a second-round playoff loser.

Anonymous said...

Love your assesment of Komi. Not up to scratch this year. (although I wouldn't have pointed to that play in particular... I felt he was going for the puck when Dandenault knocked it away) He ain't the only one either. Everyone apart from Hammer looked scared last night. Panic. Moving the puck hastily. Not making the right decisions. What's up with Franky B? I think that's his second delay of game penalty in the last two games? Weak. The forwards are not helping either. Last year we had offensive flare, but used in the appropriate times. We we committed to defense and we waited for our offensive opportunities. We weren't impatient. We're not playing that way this year.

Sliver24 said...

Despite that ball in the pit of your stomach and the tightening you’re feeling in your chest, it’s not time to panic yet folks.

A lot of the points you made are quite valid Mr. Basu. Mr. Komisarek did indeed stink the joint out last night, although I put as much blame on Mr. Dandenault for Mr. Thornton’s ice-breaker as I do on Mr. Komisarek. Mr. Markov messed the bed too, for the most part, as did the four other players charged with the task of patrolling the blue line. And although Carey Price was certainly not to blame for the loss, let’s call a spade a spade here; he played poorly.

From puck-drop until the third period siren that was one of the worst performances I can remember seeing from the Habs. In Toronto, though they were completely listless, at least they didn’t also look utterly inept. Last night they were guilty of both.

The fact that a well-rested Habs team didn’t show up on a night they were playing a supposedly tired division rival is disconcerting. That they failed to step up in a game that, had they won it, would have put them in first place in the Northeast makes it even worse.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good:

-This team is extremely talented. All the pieces are in place to make them a contender to win it all this year.
-There are three offensive lines that are capable of lighting it up on any given night, no matter how you mix and match the players.
-The five guys that rotate through the fourth line provide Carbo with a varying array of skills, which allows him to tailor that line to meet the need he perceives for a particular opponent.
-The minors are stocked with talented young players that Gainey can draw from should an injury open up a roster spot with the big club.
-Though they’re both young, the two goalies have proven they have what it takes to be successful in the NHL. One of them has won championships at every level he’s played at and on most nights looks like he can do it at the highest level.

Last season’s Habs team was both less talented and less experienced than the current iteration is, but they still managed to win the East. Many pundits didn’t even expect them to make the playoffs. As a result they were able to fly under the radar to a certain extent. Other teams would come into a game against the Habs unprepared for the speed and talent they were about to encounter. While that advantage did diminish as the season went on and their success continued, by then they had built some momentum which they were able to ride all the way to the conference semi-finals.

The Habs, as a team, have only one thing left to do in order to achieve their potential – they need to learn how to win when they’re expected to. The answer, in a word, is work. The beginning of this season didn’t help the process. They were winning games on talent alone, showing up for 15 minutes in third and scoring three quick goals to steal a win.

This little slump is exactly the reality check needed to help right the ship. The Habs need to lose a few games to realize they aren’t a reincarnation of the team from ’76 and that they don’t have a divine right to the cup in their 100th season, despite what I might hope and they might think. Once they’ve found their new identity that momentum will start to build again, and this time it might just carry them all the way to the Promised Land.

Anonymous said...

ok take it easy everyone lets not jump off the team bandwagon just yet... I truly believe this adversity will help the team in the long run. Fact is last year we were able to suprise people with our speed game and won a lot of games that way. Then teams around the league saw how to play us from the bruins and flyers in last years playoffs and are using this to limit or take away our speed game. The team needs to learn how to adjust to this. We are a good team just young so it will take time but we will come out of the fire battle tested and playoff ready...
Although I am worried about Kovy... We need the kovy from last year. He's gotta get more pp time! otherwise he might turn into a malcontent - why not use him as the point shot? markov can feed him and Tangs can take kovy's pace on the side boards. worth a shot no? Carbo needs to get kovy more pp time otherwise he'll lose him.

Arpon Basu said...

Kovalev's PP ice time last night: 0:41.
Robert Lang's? 3:14.

I know a lot of people think Kovalev dogged it last night, but that stat is probably a big reason why. The guy is a bit of prima donna, and he needs to be treated as such. Carbonneau knows this, so there's no point keeping him off the top PP unit.

That's a good idea about using Kovalev on the point and dropping Tanguay to forward, but Carbo loves having that right handed shot to play to the left of the net, and if anything, he's a stubborn man. That's why Smolinski saw so much time there last season, especially 5-on-3. But what good is it having Lang there when he misses a wide open net on a perfect set up in that spot last night?

Anonymous said...

urg. smokes on the pp - god I hated that. Ok fine he can have lang there but him on with Saku, Kovy, tangs, and markov. Kovy takes the point. Carbo is stubborn but he's not supid...(right?) he has to get kovy pp time. If that TOI on the pp trend that you pointed out contiunes I don't think Kovy will be playing here till he's 50.

Anonymous said...

thankfully, i missed most of the game last night. so tell me, how in the world does this:

Kovalev's PP ice time last night: 0:41.
Robert Lang's? 3:14.


carbo is losing points with me and quickly. i agree his leash is and should be a long one but he has to start learning how to adjust to the opp. within any given game asap or we're not going anywhere.

pierre said...

My belief is that coachs do make a difference.... I cant imagine last year's Wings to be as good as they were without Babcock, or the Bruins without Julien or this year's Leafs without Wilson... the coach's job is to make the whole better than a the sum of its parts... great coachs can do that... lesser ones cant.

In the series last season we were all over the Bergeronless Bruins in the first game but under Julien's guidance they found ways to tame our adversity to become a trait themselves in the end..... had not Price been a magicien in the first period of the 7th game the Bruins might had won the whole show and create an upset.

What upset me in the Bruins series is that we kept the same playing formula despite the evidences that it wasn't working as intented.... the Flyers noticed it and knew exactly what to do when they faced us and they got away with it fairly easy.

As Carbo learned anything from it as a coach ? as he prepared and conditioned our team to play a better game and to be more foul proof against certain type of adversities.... from watching the first 14 games my feeling tells me that he hasn't.