Friday, December 12, 2008

Time to answer the call

The perplexed look on Guy Carbonneau's face in his post-game press conference was a pretty good reflection of how most anyone who watched Thursday's 3-1 Habs loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning must have been feeling.

How on earth can the Habs so thoroughly dominate a team in the Calgary Flames that should have given them loads of trouble, then fall flat on their faces against a team they should have skated right out of the building Thursday night?

The individual problems with the Habs during this game were too numerous to list here, but they all stem from something that has become a clear trend this season, and that's playing down or up to the level of their opposition.

The Canadiens have had some of their worst performances of the season against the worst teams in the league, even though they didn't all result in losses: a 5-4 win in Long Island and a 4-3 shootout loss against those same Islanders at home; a 6-3 loss in Toronto, Guy Carbonneau's most embarrassing game as a coach; a 3-2 shootout win in St. Louis; a 5-4 win at home against the Thrashers after blowing a three-goal third period lead in the span of 59 seconds; and finally Thursday night's complete no-show against the league cellar-dweller.

Yet this same team is able to waltz into Detroit and hand the defending Cup champs a 3-1 loss, completely spank the Rangers 6-2 and dominate the Flames 4-1.

Legitimate elite teams dictate the pace of their games, they don't rely on their opposition to do it for them. This is something that will definitely need to be corrected if the Canadiens have any hope of being a contender this spring, and it needs to be done soon.

However, the guy in the dressing room who can help the most in that area went down to injury Thursday night, and while Tomas Plekanec can't fill the leadership void that would be left by a prolonged absence for Saku Koivu, he can definitely do his part to try and provide a bit more of a spark in the captain's place.

Of course, it's possible Koivu won't be out for that long, and he might not even miss a game. But if he was too hurt to come back in Thursday, I would have to believe it must be something relatively serious.

This would be a chance for Plekanec to get his season on track, and he desperately needs to seize it. He only has two goals and an assist in his last 16 games, and if you take out his four-point performance in that comeback win on Long Island, he has only nine points all season while playing significant minutes with good linemates.

If Plekanec is able to find his game while eating up some of the minutes made available by a Koivu injury, then it might actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise because it would make the Habs a far better team in the long run.

But if Plekanec turns out not to be up to the task and Koivu's absence triggers a losing streak, that weird faceoff where he appeared to get hurt Thursday could wind up being the biggest play of the Habs season.

And Plekanec might just find himself playing elsewhere next year.


Anonymous said...

I really like your site and read it pretty much every day. Thanks so much for your commitment to it.

I agree that elite teams do not tend to play down to their competition. Our team does because it is not an elite team... yet. I am confident that from February on, you won't see this sort of thing happening.

This team is fine and on track.

Sliver24 said...

First of all, I'd like to send a big scowl out to whoever put together the large schedule magnet the Habs handed out at a game earlier this year. It had last night's game listed as a 7:30 start. Thanks to their apparent lack of competence I missed the Habs only goal as well as Frankie B's fight.

The Gazette did that to me once this season too. I guess I just need to assume every game is a 7:00 start, or maybe use RDS's sched in the Bell TV guide.

Despite the fact that I missed the Habs' best parts of last night's game I don't think a freak-out is necessary. These lacklustre performances are almost predictable and I don't even think they played all that bad.

The fact is that they just didn't capitalize on their chances and Halak didn't exactly have his best game.

There have probably been eight or ten games this season in which the Habs have played worse than they did last night.

Hopefully they come back strong against AO and the Caps on Saturday, and with Saku and Higgins in the lineup. It looks like I'll be in attendance for that one, and I'm looking forward to an exciting game to wash away the memory of that snoozefest against New Jersey, which is the last game I was at. Ugh!

Hey, did anyone see Lafaiblesse last night? I thought he was supposed to dress... ;)

Anonymous said...

I knew they were gonna lose last night. I just knew it. I heard Tony Marinaro on 990 yesterday say "this is a game mtl MUST win" and i thought - oh he just jinxed it. no way we're winning now. Really should have won yes - but it was not a must win. Those happen in April to June.

going to game as well on saturday - see ya there Michael!