Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where's the finish?

Does anyone else see a pattern developping here?

The Canadiens have played the last two games the exact same way - come out of the gates with guns blazing, yet only manage a single goal, then fall asleep in the second period to eventually lose them the game.

It's not pretty to watch, and while teams love to talk about generating chances, they are useless unless you actually cash a few of them in every once in a while.

On the very first shift of the game, the Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta line nearly scored three times. The energy continued throughout the period, forcing the Sens into penalty after penalty, but the Habs would have gone into the first intermission down a goal if it weren't for Cammalleri's first bouncing in off the shoulder of Pascal Leclaire.

When you have a two-minute 5-on-3, you have to score. It's that simple, because if you don't, the boost it gives the other team is sometimes too much to overcome.

The Habs power play was 0-for-4 tonight, all in the first period when they could have put the game away, and they are now 1-for-10 on this homestand. At least the penalty killing has improved, but the problem with this team right now is that it's not scoring goals.

Five straight losses, nine goals scored in that span. Doesn't require much more explanation than that.

One thing that has become clear is that Maxim Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse are not Jacques Martin's favourite players. Both have hovered around 12 minutes of ice time the past two games, and they are not showing the same crash-and-bang energy they did last year. It was a duo that was being counted on to swing momentum and pitch in some offence from time to time, but they're not getting it done on either assignment.

Andrei Kostitsyn apparently played 16:29 tonight, but other than a dangerous wrist shot from the perimeter, I don't really remember him doing anything. It would have been nice to see him build off the solid performance on Thursday night, but instead he regressed back to his aloof play. That has to be frustrating for Martin and for his centre Tomas Plekanec, who again was one of the best Habs forwards on the ice.

Chemistry is not built overnight, but there's been little evidence that any is forming right now. There are flashes of it, like that first shift of the game, but they are too few and far between.

The Canadiens inability to put this game away when they had the chance allowed Alex Kovalev to have a very triumphant return to Montreal. I may sound heartless, but the people who gave him a standing ovation tonight should be ashamed of themselves. Kovalev plays for the other team, and I'm not sure he deserved that honour.

But at the same time, the crowd here Saturday night wanted something, anything, to cheer for. And so Kovalev scoring a goal in his return provided that opportunity, but it also underlined how little the home team is doing to solicit the same response.


MathMan said...

They're snakebit.

Really, that's the extent of their problems. There are no fundamental flaws that can be worked on or fixed, just fine-tuning their game, limiting mistakes, and keep doing what they're doing, only extend it for entire games. They're decisively outplaying teams but getting nothing to show for it because of, mainly, bad luck -- there is no other way to explain that a team that is outshooting their opponent 18-4 would be losing 2-1 at that point.

Then they get frustrated and let off, which is a problem, but frankly, one of these days that first period dominance is going to lead to a proper two-goal lead, not a game barely tied in the last minute of the period.

The Habs are not a team that should be riding a five-game losing streak. They have gotten better 5-on-5 every game since the Vancouver debacle, which IMO was the most important thing they needed to improve. They are outshooting teams, which is something they weren't known for.

The signs are there that this is actually a better Habs team than those of previous years. It's a Habs team that may end up not being reliant on superior special teams to win games. It just isn't showing on the scoreboard because they're getting murdered on percentages.

But it'll even out. Cammalleri is emblematic of this. He is not going to need 24 shots for every goal. Price is not going to give 2 goals on the first 4 shots of every game, especially if it takes a period and a third for the opposition to rack up four shots.

More importantly, the puck possession is starting to show. If the Habs keep throwing 66 pucks at the opposing net and limiting the opposition to 44, despite a third-period letdown, they're going to win those games more often than not. They'll lose some occasionally, but generally possession drives wins, and this is a sign of a lot of possession.

All this without their best puck-mover? It should be encouraging, but then again, it should also be making them win.

Booing the team is unwarranted at this point... but that's Montreal for you, they're hardly the best fans in the world. So is panicking. This team is showing signs that good things are to come.

I think that in the coming months and years, we'll see a team that is much more fundamentally sound than any of those we've had over the last few years. We're used to flashiness, and that's the Bell Centre fans like to cheer. But fundamentally sound, lost art that it is in Montreal, is what made Detroit a perennial contender.

Anonymous said...

math man, by far the best analysis of the habs season so far.

pmk said...

math man - i really hope you're right and they are just snakebit b/c yo me they are trying their best and their best just isn't good enough... scary

That said I would still like to see cam on RW - I believe that's where he lit it up last yr. So I would try this:
ak gomez cam
tender pleks gionta

Sliver24 said...

I cheered Kovy when he was awarded a star at the end of the game (I think the standing part was because everyone was leaving). It was a tribute to the years he spent here. While it probably wasn't warranted to the extent it was given, what's wrong with making the guy feel good AFTER the game.

During the game I booed him whenever he had the puck.

MathMan, I hope you're right about the team but I think you're wrong about booing the team. What's wrong with showing your discontent when the team is being embarrassed in its own building?

I think people tend to read too much into booing. It was simply an "in the moment" boo because they were flat, disinterested and looked like they weren't even trying. It wasn't a "I hate the team, lets fire Gainey and trade away all the players" boo.

The boos you heard (and I participated in) last night are simply the yang to the yin of cheering for a goal.

Yves said...

Martin still has some work to do... but, there are "some" fruits of what he's been talking about.

For instance, shots on goals are down... BUT... there are still to many odd man breaks and some costly defensive mistakes.

So far, I can't fault Price at all.

Arpon, I agree with you on Kovalev.

Sure, some fans loved him... I loved him too when he was on fire. But his inconsistent play is as much a liability as it is a weapon in the team's arsenal.

I don't think he did anything to deserve a standing ovation. He didn't play to the level of a Beliveau, Lafleur or even a Mats Naslund in a Habs uni.

Although this is not a comparison of 2 teams... it's important to remember that the Penguins were 5 points out of a playoff spot last season after 57 games played.

This team still needs a bit of time, the defense seems to be improving a bit, now they have to figure out how to score some goals.

It's not the end of the world.... just something they have to go through.

Since there's not only only been a drastic change in personnel, but also a change in coaching staff and approach... I'd say there's as much of a learning curve to the returning Habs as the New Habs...

I'd rather have them at 5-2 instead of 2-5.... but I haven't come to expect it. I think some fans have.

We'll see what the next week brings.

The boobirds will certainly continue the mating call if there's not a turn around....

Sliver24 said...

Arp, what do you think of this trade?
Plek and both Kostitsyns for Nathan Horton, Jordan Leopold and Greg Campbell?

Anonymous said...

had the sens been down and kovy had scored the winner or the tying goal do you think the crowd would've reacted the same way? he sealed the win for the sens and i think the cheers were split between fans who were disappointed to see him go and those who wanted to let the habs know they weren't thrilled with their game.


Anonymous said...

right now the Habs record is better than exactly 3 teams in the entire league. make all the excuses we want but the D is porous and the offense is sporadic at best. true they are not being rewarded for all their work at the beginning of recent games but also true that they are 2 OT goals away from being the Leafs. you know how they say you can't win a golf tournament on Thursday but you can certainly lose it, this team needs to pick it up and fast or they will have this tournament lost by December.

B B said...

So is Chicago a smoke screen, or is something in the works (Halak for Barker and/or Sharp)? What about Horton and the Panthers? The Kostitsyn's as a pair on the block?

MathMan said...

Same story. Territorial dominating, big shot advantadge, no goals to speak of.

Different ending, though, thankfully.

Not sure what Martin can tell the Habs to do now to fix this, except "score more"?