Friday, February 13, 2009

Halak a great masking agent

Yes, even a victory beaten black and blue with an ugly stick is worth two points in the standings, two points that were desperately needed for the Habs on Friday night to avoid falling into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Beleaguered head coach Guy Carbonneau has been asking for a lot of things out of his team over the past few weeks, and he got one of them in that 4-2 win in the Rocky Mountain air of Denver: he got a goalie to steal his team a win.

Jaroslav Halak was brilliant, plain and simple, a standard which neither he nor Carey Price have been able to attain since December. A 46-save virtuoso performance was the only thing that prevented the Habs from being blown out of the water yet again, and for that the quiet guy from Bratislava deserves all the credit in the world.

But I wonder how his teammates will be able to look him, or each other, in the face and actually celebrate this victory? How can they possibly feel good about themselves?

I suppose they can, because they didn't lose a fifth game in a row, or an eighth in a row on the road, and when you're that deep into a funk no one really cares how you end it. At least not that night.

The team will wake up Saturday morning in Vancouver, I would hope, to a video session called "How not to protect a lead," and I think Carbonneau needs to be sitting in the front row for that one. Because if he actually instructed his team to sit on a two-goal lead with 40 minutes to play by simply sagging off the Avalanche and giving your own blue line away like it was Cristobal Huet, then Carbonneau deserves the lion's share of the blame for the barrage that was sent Halak's way.

A quick look at the numbers over the last 40 minutes show the Avalanche outshot Montreal 35-9, and the worst part of that is it wasn't even that close. Colorado spent nearly the entire second and third period in the Montreal end, and by the third period the Habs couldn't do much else other than to ice the puck.

To get an idea of the zone dominance of the Avalanche, consider there were 36 faceoffs in the Montreal end during the game, and not many of those were in the first period. There were only 12 draws in the Avalanche zone, and two of those came off penalties. That is striking.

If they play like that Sunday night in Vancouver, it won't end nearly as well as it did against a very weak Avalanche team.

But the Habs haven't won in a while, so maybe the positive points are worth a bit of attention. They had a hell of a first period, aggressively fighting for pucks and maintaining pressure in the offensive end. The new Maxim Lapierre line looked good in my eyes, as did Mathieu Dandenault who was once again probably Montreal's best forward.

Then there was Halak, who made a statement that he's going to make it difficult for Carbonneau to give Price the net back. But Halak has had great games in the past, his problem is he can never string together a few in a row, so we'll see how he does Sunday night.

Finally, the power play scored and didn't allow a shorthanded goal, which is practically like scoring two power play goals with the way opposing teams have been scoring shorthanded of late.

But that's about it on the positive side. Other than the score, I can't see anything else to build off from the victory, except maybe Carbonneau will see that his team needs to be aggressive to be successful. As soon as they're standing around and waiting for the other team to come to them, they start standing around in every aspect of the game.

No one wins standing around, unless they happen to be playing in front of a goalie who is up to the challenge.


Arjun said...

Kovy is out. He needs to sit. Carbo's being weird though. I wonder where Gainey's at. I just hope this team has enough backbone to stone Sundin tomorrow - because that guy is a Habs killer. And Luongo. Tomorrow night kinda scares me. It must be killing Price to be in BC and not play...

Topham said...

No, I will not accept your negativity.

This is how slumps are broken. The slump had to be broken. No calls for beautiful losses, more ugly wins please.

It looked to me like the gameplan was hold on from on high. No one tried to stir up any shots after goal 2. Is it dangerous? Maybe. But I think the coaches thought it was less dangerous than breakaways and 2-on-1s. A little less opening up in Calgary might have led to a closer game too...