...when the Canadiens used to forecheck? I do, and it was fun to watch.
I don't profess to know anything about hockey as it's played at the NHL level, and I try to avoid questioning decisions of a tactical nature because, frankly, it's not really my place.
Having said that, I'm just wondering whether this decision by Guy Carbonneau to go with a no forecheck system is utilizing his team's number one asset to its fullest potential.
That asset would be speed, and the Habs have it up and down the roster, probably more than any other team in the East, if not the league. When you have speed like that, am I the only one who feels it's being wasted somewhat by having five guys in the neutral zone?
I kind of understood the move playing against Detroit, because you can have five forecheckers and it wouldn't bother a guy like Nicklas Lidstrom or Brian Rafalski more than an annoying fly would.
But against the Thrashers? Aside from the top pair of Garnet Exelby and Ron Hainsey - who aren't all-stars by any stretch, but are still pretty decent - the Thrashers defence was ripe for the picking last night. It seemed to me that just the slightest bit of pressure from a Canadiens forward would have forced a turnover, or at the very least forced an icing. Guys like Nathan Oystrick and Boris Valabik aren't exactly known for their poise with the puck. In fact, they aren't exactly known, period.
So why give those guys a free pass last night? Why not unleash that forecheck and see what happens? I realize I'm harping on a system that did provide the Habs with a 3-0 lead last night and a 3-1 win in Detroit, but I can't help but feel this is a system teams fall back on when they don't have much talent.
The Canadiens have tons of talent - underachieving talent for the time being, but talent nonetheless - and I just wonder what would happen if Carbonneau decided to send two forecheckers instead of pulling back the only forechecker he was using before.
The one thing I will say about the zero forecheck strategy is that it essentially eliminates any chance of the opponent entering your zone with speed gathered on neutral ice, which was a big problem earlier in the season. But wouldn't a fast-skating team rather dictate the pace of play and force the other team to try and keep up with them, rather than slowing the game down to the opposition's level?
Again, I've never coached a hockey game in my life, and if you saw me play you would think I have a lot of nerve questioning the hockey IQ of someone like Guy Carbonneau, but that's what I think. And I would venture to guess that a bunch of the guys in his dressing room might think the same thing.
Thursday night against the Rangers, it would appear Carbonneau has decided to stick with the same lineup as Tuesday's win over the Thrashers, and I commend him for that. A lot has been said about the absence of Guillaume Latendresse and Sergei Kostitsyn over the past couple of days, and it would have been easy for Carbonneau to try to stick one or both of them back in the lineup. But he's stuck to his guns and is willing to deal with the media firestorm, something he said today he's growing quite tired of.
I feel for Carbonneau in that part of what he's saying about the media environment here is true, that a lot of energy is wasted talking about day-to-day decisions because of the fact that the Habs are the only show in town. But I would also counter that the media would not be so obsessive about every little detail regarding the team if there was no demand for that kind of information.
That demand comes from the people who, ultimately, pay Carbonneau's and all of his players salaries. While some would say the opinions of fans are shaped by the media - and there is definitely some truth to that - I think most Canadiens fans have enough hockey savvy to form their own opinions. That's the nature of hockey in Montreal, and if there's one guy who should know that, it's Guy Carbonneau.