Saturday, February 7, 2009

Blaming the goalie is too easy...

...especially when he plays like that.

Listen, it's very clear that Carey Price is not the same goalie, and his little crying episode with the media after Saturday night's 5-2 loss to the Leafs showed that maybe he's not quite as cool and calm as everyone has made him out to be.

He has insecurities like everyone else does.

But how did Price's style completely change to one where he's often on his knees before a shot is even taken, or that he rarely leaves the blue ice to challenge shooters? He's now given up five goals three times in seven starts since returning from injury, and most of them haven't been very pretty.

The Habs chances of doing anything in the post-season rest heavily on Price's shoulders, and that burden is clearly starting to weight on him, so maybe it might be time for the team to take some of that responsibility away from him.

How? By scoring some goals. By playing with the lead. By maintaining pressure in the other end of the ice. By acting and playing like a team that had the most potent offence in the league last year.

I wasn't at this game so it's hard for me to really judge body language off of television, but Guy Carbonneau looked to me like a man who has run out of answers in his post-game press conference Saturday. When he's upset with the team, he usually spells it out by using very clear, targeted thoughts, and he's never shy to share them with the media.

Saturday, when asked what he didn't like about his team, he shrugged his shoulders and asked "Where do you want me to start?"

The question was in fact meant to get him to comment on Price's play, which is when Carbonneau chose to instead indict the whole team. And with reason.

"Right now we're struggling on every front," he said. "We have a tough time scoring goals and every time we make a mistake it's in our net. That's not a good combination."

Indeed, the Canadiens looked Saturday as if they were a beaten team when they were only trailing 2-1 and were not only very much in the game, but actually well positioned to win it. But the fire simply wasn't there from beginning to end, and there are a lot of passengers right now who are, as Steve B├ęgin told RDS after the game, "watching the parade go by."

One of those is Francis Bouillon, who simply isn't physical enough to be effective these days and he's also watching a lot of pucks fly by Price and in the net. Over his last 10 games he's a whopping minus-12 after posting a minus-3 against the Leafs. He needs to sit one out, and if I were Carbonneau I would slide Dandenault into that spot.

Another one is Andrei Kostitsyn, who I think hasn't played a single spirited game since the all-star break. The Canadiens need him to become a dangerous player, a sniper who can change momentum in a game by single-handedly manufacturing goals. A lot of people are going to start piling on to Alex Kovalev, but to me it's Kostitsyn that's been the biggest disappointment over this tough stretch of seven losses in nine games.

I can go on and on like this, but it really serves little purpose because the real question is not who on the Habs isn't playing well, but rather how does Carbonneau get them to play better? He can't bench half the team, and he can't play Saku Koivu for 60 minutes, and he can't strap on the pads himself and go in nets (though I'm sure he would have loved to have been able to use Jaroslav Halak on Saturday).

His first move was to call a Sunday morning practice on the same day they leave for a 6-game road trip. The Habs often get Sunday off, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time this season Carbonneau's done this.

It had better work, because while everyone's going to be talking about how helpful it will be for the team to get out on the road to maybe do some bonding, the exact opposite may happen if the trip starts with a loss or two.


Arjun said...

This team has nothing right now. No character. There's a dark, empty space in the middle of this team. Bouillon is sucking so much and every partner he plays with looks bad too. He doesn't look like an NHL defenceman right now. And the Euro Ks (except for Saku) are sucking up the joint. They're playing like they couldn't give a fuck. This season is quickly going into the toilet. And now a 6 game road trip? I get the feeling Gainey could be busy between now and the deadline. But the problem is that the other teams are going to want the exact players he wants to keep.

Topham said...

Don't leave the NA Ks out of it. Komisarek has been atrocious, when you account for every thing he does other than hit – which is usually just conspiring to give up chances.

Carey Price needs a rest. He needed one before. Maybe he needs a good long one. Carbonneau is nearly right about every mistake becoming a goal against. This would deflate anyone, not just a European whose name begins with K. It's amazing anyone plays well when each game starts 1-0 against.