Monday, February 16, 2009

What now?

A grounding? Being sent to bed without their dinner? What can Guy Carbonneau do to motivate his cast of hangers-on that he hasn't tried already?

Based on how the Habs have played, their 4-2 loss in Vancouver should have been their sixth straight, because they really had no business leaving Denver with two points Friday night. Any positive feelings that could have come out of that win, though there should have been none, were erased by yet another loss.

Mind you, the Habs did show some improvement Sunday night, but giving up at least five odd-man rushes (I lost count after a while) is no way to win games. Three of those odd-man rushes wound up in the Canadiens net, but the real back-breaker was the horrendous line change that allowed the Canucks to go ahead 3-1 with under a minute to play in the second period.

Up until that point, the Canadiens were competing, they had to have felt they actually had a chance to win. But, yet again, an untimely error led to a very timely goal for the opposition.

Carbonneau noted after the game how other teams also make mistakes, but his team's brain farts always wind up in their own net. Why is that, exactly? Maybe it's because not every mistake in fact ends up being a goal, but when you pile mistake on to mistake on to mistake, it only seems that way.

But even though the defence has been awful this month, the guys up front have to take their fair share of blame. That's the fifth straight loss where the Canadiens scored only two goals, and the inability to maintain any semblance of pressure in the offenive end means most of the action is taking place near your net. That's a recipe for disaster.

The one positive in the game is the Canadiens didn't allow the Canucks to blow them out after going ahead 2-0 on goals 48 seconds apart in the first. Yes, at this point, that's a positive. The fact Montreal actually managed to stay in the game and pull to within one shows that maybe, just maybe, this fragility that's taken hold of this team may be starting to wane.

But elite teams don't have to grab at straws like that to find something good to say about themselves, and it's become incredibly clear the Habs aren't elite. In fact, they're barely a playoff team, and the only reason they're still fifth in the conference is because the Rangers, Panthers and Sabres also lost Sunday night.

Had all three of them won the Canadiens would have woken up Monday morning in eighth place, which is starting to look more and more like where they belong.


Jeff said...

Thanks for your candid and realistic assessment of where the Habs currently stand. Of all the bloggers I read, you tend to tell the story most like it is and ask the questions that Hab management should be asking. As it stands, time is getting short and since the centennial season is now in jepoardy, it will be intersting to see what, if any, moves will be made to 1) right the death spiral and 2) to provide at least some semblance of respectability for a race to a playoff position and a quick exit thereafter. Any thoughts or scuttlebut floating around Habland?

Arjun said...

I don't see what Gainey can trade without getting his pockets picked or mortgaging the future. Who would want this pathetic bunch? The players we most want to see leave are the ones that are the least attractive. You look at the last 10-15 games in the league, the Habs are in the class of Atlanta, the Islanders and the Coyotes. Everyone else is playing better. Actually, the Thrashers won last night. So scratch them. This is kind of what happened to the Senators last season, they didn't act with any urgency and they got worse. I just hope Gainey doesn't make the same mistake.

Jeff said...

Arjun, you're right that Bob shouldn't mortgage the future by getting rid of assets in a moment of panic. I guess the direction he will take depends on how he sees the rest of the season playing out. Frankly, it does not seem that they have discovered the root of the problem yet. Is it because there are issues with Carbo? Is it because there is a rift in the dressing room and these guys don't want to play for each other? Something is going on. Players at this level don't suddenly lose their ability to play or forget skills they learned in minor hockey. I watched the Avalanche game the other night and could not believe the lack of intensity shown by the Habs. Pierre Maguire questioned the use of 1-2-2 system but if played properly, it would have enabled the Habs to control the pace of the game where altitude was a factor with minimal loss of energy. However to just stand and watch while standing in a 1-2-2 formation...well, you saw what happened. In order for any system to work, the players have to move and show some intensity...this is clearly missing and I reiterate the point... something is going on.

TK said...

I don't understand how a team that seems to play such a conservative style can give up so many odd man rushes. It blows my mind.
This team is not elite, and I don't see them as a contender if they make the playoffs. If I was an opposing fan, I would be licking my chops at the prospect of facing the Habs in the first round.
If the Habs don't turn this around by he deadline, I think Gainey should see if there is any interest in some of the UFA's. Maybe I am being reactuionary, but I don't see the point of holding on to these guys. Nor do I see the point in becoming buyers unless a we land a player with a long-term contract. Players like Kovalev, Begin, Bouillon, Kosto could potentially help someone else. I think he should be testing those waters, even if they are a little shallow.

Perhaps the Sharks could be a usefull trading partner, I hear they want depth players (Begin, Kosto) and 5-6 dmen (Bouillon) players.

Sliver24 said...

There are three "parts" of the Habs that are playing poorly: the forwards, the D and the goalies.

What should that tell you? That there's no silver bullet solution here guys.

How can you fix an entire team with a single trade or call up? And forget about trading Carbo - that ain't going to happen.

The Habs as a team will need to play themselves out of this slump. I think they've started to do just that.

Despite their loss last night, that's the best game they've played in a long while. Was it pretty? Hell no. At least not based on the standard we've come to expect over the last season and a half.

But when compared to the efforts they put out in Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado last night's game was a gem.

They continued to make mistakes, but there were a whole lot less of them. They didn't have a whole lot of jam in the offensive zone, but they did manage to sustain some pressure, make some decent plays and keep the SOG stats respectable.

My feeling is that you're going to see a marked improvement on Wednesday against the Caps and again on Thursday against the Pens.

Mark my words: By Saturday afternoon against Ottawa the slump will be over and starting with that one they'll go 13-6-4 in their last 23 games. You read it here first folks.

TK said...

I hope your right, I do. In recent history, the Habs have been able to turn it on down the final stretch of the season. However, If they continue to falter by the trade deadline, I think we should be sellers. I am not proposing a quick-fix, I am suggesting we cash in our chips.

pmk said...

I just don't see it sliver. The only difference btw Van and the Cal, edm disasters was better goaltending. The game was brutal to watch and very frustrating. Hardly any offensive zone pressure meanwhile the canucks were gaining are zone with ease. We give up the blueline way too easy, in fact everything is easy against this team. We are way to easy to play against. I'm sick of it -its total garbage. Markov is garbage, the sisters are useless, kovalev is a dog, Komi is hurt or playing like it - the team lacks identity - are we fast and skilled? so why do we sit back? why do we not attack? bah! garbage! The character of this team needs to change. I know its not easy but what we need is an actual HOCKEY TRADE - rememeber those?! Not a contract dump but an "i need this (a big center, a quality d man) and i have this to offer (acouple of sisters, a guy in a turtle neck, etc i think you get the point)

I can't wait till Carbo has a Terrien type rant after of these games. Its the only reason I'm watching at this point - I can't wait! its gonna be awesome!

pmk said...

Habs get Schneider:

pmk said...

Habs get Schneider:

Sliver24 said...

Nice! He's making $5.75 million and is a UFA at year's end. Another guy for Pierre to bitch about at 5:25 on the Team 990.

TK said...

I will be interested to see what impact this has on the team. However, I still beleive trading for rental players is counter-productive to a team that is not a contender. I hope Bob has something up his sleeve.

Happy Family Day (to the non-Quebeckers)!

Arpon Basu said...

I love how my commenters are scooping me on my own blog! Love it!