Monday, September 21, 2009

Now the real camp starts

All three of the Canadiens prized free agent acquisitions played in a game together for the first time Monday night, and they didn't disappoint.

Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri finished Monday's 4-3 win over the Cup champs playing on the same line, and that was a whole lot of speed coming at the Penguins in waves. Gionta found Gomez for a tap-in on the penalty kill, and Gionta and Cammalleri later played a little give-and-go in the slot before Gionta picked the top corner for his second of the night.

It was a fun little experiment, created out of necessity because Max Pacioretty was taken out with - get ready for it - an upper body injury. And while watching three players with so much speed burn it up together was very entertaining, it actually was a disservice because I felt Pacioretty was doing an excellent job playing with Gomez and Gionta.

Jacques Martin appeared to agree in his post-game assessment, but what I found was the most telling comment from the coach afterwards was how camp will now be kicked into overdrive.

With 19 players being cut Monday, training camp now gets into full gear and Martin can actually get to work on forming some line combinations for the upcoming season. After a day off Tuesday, Martin will have two practices and two games left to form his unit before the squad heads off for a team-bonding trip north of Toronto.

"The next four days are going to be important," Martin said. "We need to work on our systems and work on our habits. It takes time to change things."

Indeed, which is why I was wondering it took so long to trim the roster. When your team goes through very few changes over the summer, keeping a bunch of kids hanging around has a benefit, to see how they react to the speed and pressure of NHL competition. But in this case, would it not have served Martin and the Habs better to cut it down to the core group much, much sooner than this?

I understand the Habs had five games in five days, and that created a necessity for extra bodies. But even now, guys like David Desharnais are still around, and even though I live the guy, he has no chance of making this team.

Based on Monday night's game - and I have to admit here that it was the first pre-season contest I saw from start to finish - I would say that Guillaume Latendresse has to wake up and realize that his dream of a top six spot on the team is being wasted away. I read the other day that Martin said he needed an attitude adjustment, which makes me wonder if this guy is ever going to understand what it takes to be a top player.

Latendresse, and to a lesser extent his buddy Maxim Lapierre, coasted through the first two periods of the game. He got a goal in the third, but even that was on a wonky bounce off the boards that fooled an inexperienced goalie. But the reason that line was a little more effective in the third period was the addition of Andrei Kostitsyn - who also looked like he was drunk through the first 40 minutes of play.

I think that even though the three of them weren't outstanding Monday, it could be a combination that could eventually work and make that line a decent offensive threat while remaining somewhat responsible defensively. To me, Pacioretty continues to show that he is in fact the big top six forward and Latendresse isn't, but if you put Andrei on that line, then maybe being in the top nine isn't so bad either.

Finally, I've got to apologize for ignoring the blog of late. I had a bunch of stuff going on last week, then I had to go to Pittsburgh for three days for a project I'm working on that I'll fill all of you in on when I can, but now I'm back. And you can expect far more frequent contributions from yours truly from here on in.


Anonymous said...

Not sure how to comment on your twitter posts. Where you actually at the game? I was sitting in section 209, had friends in 117 and 104 and no one heard the boos during the PP??? Was it maybe coming from the upper deck and if so, it must of been weak!

I couldn't care less usually, but i really didn't hear a whimper either time during both of the tweets that you apparently heard them.

Arpon Basu said...

I was at the game sitting in the press box, which is as high up as you can get. Thank you for confirming a theory I've had for quite some time about booing at the Bell Centre. I've always wondered if it was louder on press row than in the seats, especially during the US anthem come playoff time. Now I know, because tonight's booing wasn't extremely loud, but it was definitely noticeable to me.

Michael said...

I heard it while watching TSN 2 last night. The last couple power plays we had there was some booing. Potentially they may have been booing Sid when he was taking time off the clock just skating the puck around, but it felt like the PP was getting booed when I was watching it.

I know that I commented to my buddy that the people at the Bell Centre need to calm down and let the team gel some more before getting on them about the PP.

The booing was also fairly loud on the TV, the mics must be close to where it is coming from.

Anonymous said...

welcome back arp!

i heard the booing and was pretty surprised. it was loud enough.

i'm also wondering, after watching monday's game, where this boring defensive system is, the one that's supposed to make us a threat this season? were the games up til now just an audition?