Friday, January 2, 2009

What exactly did you expect?

Certainly not for the Habs to walk into New Jersey with their "B" squad and pull out a win over a very tough Devils team, did you?

That would be plain unreasonable, and I definitely don't think the Canadiens deserve to be chastised for their 4-1 loss on Friday night.

Missing their No. 1 goalie, Jaroslav Halak did not look like the same guy who filled in so admirably for Carey Price last month, giving up three softies and looking a little off kilter through his two periods of play. Marc Denis, though the one goal he gave up was no fault of his, did not elicit that much more confidence than Halak did with the way he was flailing after pucks.

The Canadiens are clearly a different team when Price is not the final line of defence, whether or not they know it or want to admit it. When Halak is letting simple shots on goal get past him, that little bit of tentativeness to go all out on offence becomes even more pronounced.

Guy Carbonneau didn't accept the excuse that Halak wasn't sharp after getting nearly two weeks off.

"I'm not a goalie, but all I know is he needs to be stronger when Carey's not available," said Carbonneau. "If (Scott) Clemmensen had said the same thing when Martin Brodeur went down, the Devils wouldn't be where they are today. Tonight we needed a good performance and unfortunately we didn't get it, but that wasn't the only reason we lost."

Carbonneau added that the Devils scored three goals on only seven scoring chances, which is a pretty high percentage and can become demoralizing for a team, especially when the guy at the other end is stymying you at every turn.

Of course, even if Price were in goal I'm not sure the Canadiens could have done much more offensively than they did while missing what is the equivalent of a top line in Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins and Alex Tanguay. Carbonneau said after the game that he was happy with the offensive chances his team produced, noting their shot total of 34, but I think that satisfaction was largely due to the fact he didn't expect the group he had available to come up with a whole lot against a tough defensive club in the Devils.

Though the team looked a little dull around the edges with sloppy passes and poor decisions with the puck, Montreal still wound up with a lot of shots, six of them coming off the stick of Alex Kovalev. But the top problem remains the power play, which once again looked disorganized and disinterested in going 0-for-4 on the night.

This brings me to the real shocker for me in this game, and that was to see Max Pacioretty in uniform. I'm very happy for him that he was able to score his first NHL goal in his first NHL period, and it was a beauty of a goal, one that showed off his impressive burst and shot. But why, when your power play lacks a big shot from the point, would you not dress Yannick Weber for the game?

I simply don't understand the logic behind that call, and even though the Canadiens did muster seven shots on their four power play chances, I don't think any were all that dangerous.

Perhaps Carbonneau was a little too encouraged with his team's six power play goals in the six previous games, but I thought Weber deserved a chance to be that missing ingredient Friday night. A goal on one of those two first period power play opportunities may have changed the momentum of this game before it started going south, and Weber may have been the spark needed to get it.

1 comment:

srs said...

What's the latest on Koivu? I thought he was supposed to be back in Florida.