Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The cavalry's coming!

Yes, the answer to the Canadiens funk lies in today's recall of centres Tom Pyatt and Ryan White from Hamilton. Wrong.

This will do nothing to help cure the Canadiens of what ails them, other than to send a message to the regular group of forwards that they need to improve their backchecking to help the team's heavily depleted defence corps. Because if there's one thing the two guys who were called up are known for, it is that.

Martin did not mince words after Tuesday night's loss to the Kovalchukless Atlanta Thrashers that the Habs defensive breakdowns in fact started in the neutral zone, when forwards were allowed to cross the Montreal blueline with far too much ease and speed. That puts the defence on its heels, and the result is what we saw.

I'm not too sure who will sit out in Boston on Thursday to make room for one or both of Pyatt and White (even though Brian Gionta missed practice today, I'd be shocked if he missed the game), but someone I would like to see on the ice at TD Banknorth Garden is Carey Price. This guy is owed something from someone this season, because while I wouldn't argue he's been spectacular (that would be ludicrous), he hasn't been nearly as bad as his 3.64 GAA and.883 save percentage would suggest.

In half of Price's starts this season the Habs have been a defensive trainwreck, and if there's any team in the NHL that should be a welcome sight for this defence right now, it's the Boston Bruins with no goals in their last two and only three goals over their last four. As bad as your Habs have been of late, the Bruins have been far worse all season.

“Before beating Atlanta we had lost five games in a row, but in the three games before that win we limited the other team’s shots, we gave up fewer chances to score, but we had sequences that prevented us from getting a win," Martin said of a stretch where Halak saw most of the action. "You can't control the result of game, but you can control how you play. Same thing with Carey, he can only control the way he plays, continue working to improve and eventually a win will come."

Jaroslav Halak has had the benefit of a lot of cream puff starts this season, and while the last one should have been one for Price, his teammates didn't make it so. If I'm Martin, I come back with him for a whole slew of reasons, to give him a chance to erase the bad taste in his mouth from last year's playoffs and to prove to him that he wasn't to blame for the loss to Atlanta being tops among them.

While the Habs were sweating over their defensive ineptitude at practice today, CKAC was revealing that Bob Gainey had a little chat recently with his former teammate Chris Chelios, who will be 48 in January. Watching Marc-Andre Bergeron attempt to play defence the other night would lead you to believe that Chelios could not be anywhere near that bad, especially when you consider he has five points in as many games and is a plus-7 with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL so far this season.

But there remains another potentially available defenceman playing in Chicago these days, one promising, young power play quarterback who is being grossly overpaid considering the minutes he's getting, and if I were Gainey my focus would remain squarely fixed here. Cam Barker played only 12:28 in his last game, that 3-2 win over the Habs in Chicago where he notched a goal and an assist. He hasn't played 15 minutes since Game 4 of the season nearly a month ago.

The more he watches his own defence play, the more I would imagine Gainey would be willing to live with whatever Barker deficiency leads the 'Hawks to play him so little in even strength and penalty killing situations.


pmk said...

since when are you s price appologist? 2 goals last game were directly on him - the bank shot through his legs - a price special this season. and the 50 ft (division 4 concordia) floater high glove side. again a price special. When are we going to stop making excuses for the guy and realize maybe he's not very good.

We have no one on the farm better than MAB - I thought that was the position we were stocked in. Belle? Weber? they can't be worse...

Anonymous said...

This is the whole problem with people in Montreal...they're still preoccupied with nursing Carey's confidence level, and not focused on the most important thing...WINNING! Jaro is 5-2, Price has lost 6 straight, including one of your so-called 'cream-puff' starts against Atlanta last game. No, it wasn't a cream-puff start, nor were some of the games Halak played in. Just because we're playing less than average teams doesn't make them easy starts...we're a less than average team! I feel for poor Jaro...not matter what he does, people still talk about what we need to do to make things better for Price. Ridiculous!

Anvilcloud said...

You're right that CP hasn't exactly been lucky, but he hasn't exactly helped his cause. IMO whether he should start or not depends on whether we should coddle him or go with our best chance of winning.

nk said...

i'd give price the start if it wasn't boston. i get that it's one of those games you psych yourself up for and i do think back to back starts would help his confidence and positioning but i wouldn't take any chances with the bruins, even if they haven't scored in two games because you know they're looking forward to this one.

as for barker...who are we sending their way? we have no roster player we can afford to lose as the injuries continue to pile up. are you thinking picks because he's used so sparingly?

HoustonHab said...

Price is simply not a good goalie!

What as he done to prove that he is a #1 goaltender in the NHL?

Couple 20 win seasons?
Looked shaky in 3 round of the play off over two seasons?
Horrible start in his third season?

Face it, Price as sucked since leaving junior. If you don’t think so please tell me when he has looked good in the past 3 years!

Its too bad people don’t realize this since we have a back up that has done nothing but win under pressure the past 4 years. Those wins where in the NHL, by the way.

MathMan said...

HoustonHab: AFAIK, the AHL is not junior, and a dominating, MVP-winning championship run in the playoffs is not "sucking". This may not justify being anointed the starter, but it is why Price is in the NHL right now, after all -- he's already won it all in the A, and looked rather good doing it.

Halak is being because he's been supported better by his team and, yes, because he's the underdog and it's popular in Montreal to question every move the organization makes, but there is no way to tell which of the two is the better goaltender until they BOTH play behind NHL caliber defense, something only Halak has benefitted from so far this season.

I will say this though: Price has actually stolen a couple of wins this year. Halak hasn't done so; he's only been good-enough when good-enough was good enough to win. I like Halak, but I don't see any real reason why he should be ahead of Price.

pfhabs said...


-as I review these posts one wonders why these guys are focusing on the goalies as opposed to the stiffs Gainey brought in on defense

-as for Price being not very good, or that he's sucked since leaving junior those comments speak more about knowledge of the game than a goalie's capabilities. btw there's 29 GMs that would take him a heartbeat but what do they know ?


-still happy w the July moves ? just asking :)

TK said...

Come on! I can`t believe some of you have given up on Price already... all of 22 years of age, and already assigned to the graveyard of goalers!
Price has to be given an opportunity to find his rhythm, he needs people to put a little faith in him. Let`s not be so hasty in rendering him obsolete. I still think his best days in the nhl are ahead of him.

Arpon Basu said...

Just to see if I was barking up the wrong tree, I looked up the combined records of the teams either goalie has started against before writing that post:

Halak: 46-44-18
Price: 54-38-5

Halak has not started in pressure games his whole career, and his only two losses this season came against teams where the Habs needed a big performance from their goalie to win it - Calgary and Pittsburgh.
I'm not writing this to roast Halak because I like him a lot, but he's had the benefit of playing behind a team that was tight defensively. Again, I'm not saying that Price has been out of this world, but I think Halak's performances this season have been somewhat overvalued because he wasn't tested much in any of his wins except maybe against the Rangers (when he allowed four goals).

pmk said...

I am not giving up on him but right now he is not getting it done. poor defence or not, glove side floaters from the blue line and weird bouncers continue to elude him. This has been a problem in his game for a while now and until he fixes it he will not be a good starting goalie.
You are right. He is only 22, he has plenty of time for his game to evolve so why can't he be a backup right now? why shouldn't he earn his ice time? What I really don't understand about this organization is why they are willing to let Price learn on the job but our other young talent (weber, belle, sergi) are kept in the ahl while we sign brutal journeyman to play their positions (mab and now maybe chelios?!). what kind of message does this send?

Topham said...

A Price apologist after all this.

Your last comment was both inaccurate and unfair. Halak has started in a lot of pressure games in his career and he has won a few to boot. 2006-07 as a rookie he did quite a job to rescue us from Aebischer and then again last season, he cranked out some very important wins when Price was "recovering" from some ailment.

Even this season, Halak has faced teams that we call cream puff, yet it turns out perhaps weren't. The Islanders are ahead of us in the standings and have shown they can score. The Rangers were no cream puff and the Flames and Penguins are top outfits. It's unfair to constantly call it the other way.

No one should be that happy with either goalie at the moment, in my opinion, as neither is really taking the bull by the horns. The last good game was that loss to Chicago, but the last win in which a goalie played well wwas well over 2 weeks ago now.

Anyway, I'll never win an argument with a fan of the darling, so I'll stop now. But stick to the things Price has done right: Chicago, for example. And please spare us the spin next time, will you?

Chuck said...

Bottom line is these are the goalies we've got. Barring a major trade (not likely) we have to deal with it. Things could be a lot worse. Yes, they are struggling, but they are both young and have good upside. The team in front of them won't be winning a cup any time soon, so organizationally speaking the only smart thing is to hold onto them and continue to build a team in front of them...

As for acquiring Cam Barker, great idea, but how are we going to get him under the cap?

Arpon Basu said...

Topham: Price apologist? Hardly my friend, and not a spin doctor either. The facts are that because of the way the Habs have favoured Price over Halak, the latter has never faced a high pressure game. He has one NHL playoff start against Philly when he was placed in an impossible situation by Carbonneau, far too late, and Gainey refused to give him the net in last year's playoffs. You know very well how hard I campaigned to have Gainey start Halak last year, but he never did it. Halak never played a playoff game in the AHL because the organization sent him off to the world championships to leave room for Price to do what he did. He played four playoff games in the ECHL and eight in Lewiston. Price, despite his recent inability to rise to the challenge, has faced a lot of pressure situations and thrived in all of them until he hit the NHL.
If you look objectively at the games the two have played this season, Price has had the tougher docket of games thus far, based both on the opponent and the way the team was playing at the time, or a combination of the two. That's all I'm trying to say, that Halak benefited largely from a homestand where the team happened to be playing very well in front of him and that Price hasn't had the same benefit.

Topham said...

It's just Arpon when you use words like never, it almost seems like that playing the best team in the NHL on the eve of the trade deadline is not a pressure game, or that coming in for an injured Huet to try and rescue a team that should miss the playoffs in 2006-07 with no margin of error were not pressure games.

Anyway, all I've ever asked is a little bit of recognition for the guy who never received an iota until last February. Maybe we both just need to be clearer, as we actually seem to be on the very same page.