Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Remember the good old days...

...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.


Arjun said...

It looks like a trap. I said it before, we're a skill and speed team and we're not playing like one.

Arpon Basu said...

It does n't loo like a trap, it is one. And even Lemaire's trap usually had one forechecker steering the puck to one side of the ice, so this is even worse than the trap. It sucks.

pmk said...

no doubt its a trap and its lame. Not fun to watch at all. last night i caught myself flipping over to "criminal minds" b/c i was bored. that didn't happen last year. could have it been atlanta? certainly played a part of it but the habs aren't playing fun hockey right now... no wonder kovalez is disgruntled. you KNOW he doesn't want to play the trap.

pierre said...

Its not normal to be still wondering about which system is being in used by the CH 25 games into the season..... lets face it the coverage of our team in Montreal sucks.... its all about quantity not quality.... mondaine reports thats pretty much all we get from day one to the last...... how was it possible to enter a new season and not a single scribe ever bothered asking Carbo about the specifics of what his goals would be for the team and about which system and what strategies were on his mind to use in order to get them there...... most reports only bring is something for the fans to chew on.... if you look for substance or anything insightfully interesting look elsewhere.

According to Lang the MTL CH system was a simple one and an easy one for him to adapt to
'' look, react '' was the dictum....
it was obvious to me from his answer that Carbo hadn't learn a thing from the series and had nothing new to offer to his team which was about to start a new season.

Not surprisingly it went from bad (except for the points accumulated the team sucked big time in their first ten games)... to worse... if that was possible... and it shure was.... everything was missing... total lack of cohesion.... a joke.

Thanks to our coaching this team was not well prepared to play as a team from the start and the fact that we are still 5th or 6th in the overall standing is a testament about how good some of our players are..... is this team too good for Carbo ? Would last year's Wings been as good as they were without Babcock ? Would this year's Low Leafs be as good without Wilson ?..... hopefully I am wrong but Carbo has never convinced me as a head coach.

Picturing the salvaged type system in used here lately.... I would outline its latest version as to be something like....

Two men deep forecheck
Third man back

Agressive neutral zone checking by all including the D who are no longer giving up on the blue line while being assisted by the forwards to recover behind them the dumps-in from our opponents provocated by this form of agressive trap style.

The point of it all is to refrain the other team from entering our zone and taking control of the match in the same manner Boston was able to do against us last year in our series.... most teams have learned about some of our weanesses in the back-end and that an intense forecheck in our zone is the best way to neutralised our attack and win games against us.

This style is o.k. as it is based on being fast, pro-active and agressive..... it should create many turnovers for our teams to capitalised on..... the same way it hapened in our last game to Plekanec.... or later to A.Kostitsyn.

Any system will be a good one if we outshots our opponents on a regular basis...... if we dont.... its not a good system for us.

Sliver24 said...

Carbo's 0FC system may indeed be boring but I find it promising that he's willing to try something new even though he knows full well that he'll get a daily earful (and eyeful?) in the media.

Whatever he was doing before wasn't working as well as he wanted it to, so he's being creative. A little thoughtful innovation is a good thing, not a bad thing.

It’s important, however, that he be prepared to dump it just as quickly if it turns out that it doesn't work. So far so good though, so you should probably get used to it.

As for Carbo's frustration with the media... well it looks like he has something to get used to as well.

Guy Carbonneau was my favourite player when I was growing up. That's something that started long before he was wearing the C. I was happy to see him wear it when he did (although I thought Chelios should never have shared it with him) and I was extremely upset when was was shipped out of town for something as harmlessly stupid as flipping the bird to a photog.

That being said we're so very sorry, Mr. Carbonneau, to have offended your sensibilities. In this case you just need to suck it up!

Carbo, when you deposit that six figure paycheque each and every month(!) think about why exactly you're able to earn that kind of dough. In the simplest terms, it's because this city is obsessed with everything Habs.

Fans and media were focused on your neckties in the playoffs for crying out loud! That should have given you all the information you need to be fully aware of where we all stand.

Let me boil it down for you. You want people off your back? There's only one way to achieve that. WIN! And deserve it! I’m not talking about stealing two points in a game you had no business winning, which your team has been doing all too often season. I’m talking about the games you played agains Ottawa and Detroit!

People in this Habs-obsessed town know a lot more about hockey than you give them credit for. They know when a team plays like crap and wins, just like they know wen you play well and lose. You’ll get a whole lot more unhappy fans and members of the media in the former situation than you will in the latter.

Until then you’ll have to repeatedly answer the same old questions from the same old people and hear the same old unhappy fans on the blogs and call-in shows.