Saturday, December 13, 2008


That was Guy Carbonneau's answer, his face stern, his voice grave, when asked if he was sending a message by using Maxim Lapierre, Steve Begin and Tom Kostopoulos on the power play in Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the Capitals.

Seemingly, that message didn't get through.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with a message or anything like that,” said Alex Kovalev, who played the point on the power play for the first time this season and didn't really make the world shift. “You get to the point where you have to try different things. They’re all good players, hard-working players, and he decided to try them. Everybody’s got to get a chance.”

I'm sorry, but it was clear to everyone in the building what Carbonneau was trying to do by sending lunch-pail mucker types out on the power play. He was trying to show his regular guys they're not working hard enough, and either Kovalev knows that and doesn't want to admit it, or he's just thick.

I don't think he's a dummy, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was standing up for the pluggers, but I'm not sure he and his power play colleagues understood why Carbonneau chose those players in particular.

“You can write whatever you want, right now our power play is non-existent because we get outworked by the opposition,” Carbonneau said.

In case you haven't read it yet, the Habs were 0-for-8 on Saturday and are now 6-for-77 over their last 17 games. That's a whopping 7.8 per cent, and it's gotten to the point the other team thinks it might score when they take a penalty.

“When a team is struggling on the power play the way Montreal is, the more power plays they get _ if they don’t score _ the more they struggle," said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, one of the most candid and pleasant interviews in the league. “I was just worried they would score early and then all of a sudden the confidence takes over and they get two or three and get back in it. Once they were 0-for-4 and then 0-for-5, I figured we had a chance and if we got another penalty against us we might even score a goal because they’re going to really be holding their stick tight. I think it was the best effort our penalty killers gave all year.”

I don't think Boudreau meant that to be insulting to the Canadiens, but something tells me that once Carbonneau reads that, he won't be very impressed.

But then again, he can't really argue with what Boudreau was saying either.

In their first game without Saku Koivu and without Christopher Higgins, Kovalev was wearing the captain's "C" and while, again, he didn't play horribly, he messed the bed when it counted most. His shot off the post with less than four minutes left in regulation has to go in the net. The goalie, Simeon Varlamov making his NHL debut, was completely out of position and Kovalev had tons of net to shoot at.

But he missed.

Alex Tanguay also hit two goal posts and put a pitching wedge over the net just before Kovalev's post. Those are things that happen when teams are tight, but the Habs can't afford to be tight anymore.

“We keep saying that we had chances, but we have to find a way to bury them, and I don’t care how," Carbonneau said. "We can teach defence, but we can’t teach scoring. We can’t keep scoring just one goal and hoping to be successful in this league. We have guys that need to do that for us. Especially now with the injuries, we need our best players to be our best players every night.”

His best players are playing like rookies right now, putting up the effort yet cramming up when they get an opportunity.

1 comment:

Arjun said...

When does the trade talk start? With all those UFAs in the line-up and so many not producing, I think Gainey needs to make one symbolic move and see if that revs up the troops. Even my kid, the greatest Habs booster ever, stopped watching the power play last night. He was imploring the Caps to stop taking stupid penalties so he wouldn't have to watch the Habs impotent power play. Can you imagine? I think Komiserik's return is going to be huge. But I'm starting to think, um, let's get rid of Kovy.... Or perhaps one of either SK or Latendresse. Hate to give up on a kid - that's what they both are - but just to sent a jolt to the team. Or, to be less radical, Pleks.