Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The other side of stupid penalties

The Canadiens buried themselves with undisciplined play yet again Monday night, with yet another parade to the penalty box likely costing them at least a point in a 4-3 loss to the Sabres.

The consequences of those penalties are blatantly obvious when a 5-on-3 power play results and the opposing team scores the winning goal, but I want to look at what isn't so obvious.

During Monday's game, two of Montreal's most dangerous players were Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitysn. Neither of them play on the penalty kill, and even if they did, it wouldn't be a situation where they can best exploit their skills.

Cammalleri played 17:47 on the night, or 91 seconds fewer than Travis Moen. Kostitsyn was on the ice for 16:46, or just under a minute less than his younger brother Sergei, who had an excellent game but still is not quite as dynamic an offensive force as Andrei. Josh Gorges led all Habs defencemen in ice time with 24:29, and while he's a noble player who always puts in a solid effort, Montreal is in trouble when he's your top minute-muncher on defence.

The point I'm trying to make is the Habs are a team with very little firepower, especially the way it is currently composed, and when they continuously take penalty after penalty they are preventing what little firepower they do have from getting out on the playing surface.

So even though the power play is producing at a ridiculous rate these days, 7-for-16 over the last five games, it's overshadowed by the fact Montreal is spending 10-12 minutes a game killing penalties. Even if the penalty kill continues to shine, that kind of frequency prevents the team from creating any kind of offensive rhythm, which leads to an inability to sustain pressure, which leads to an inability to draw penalties from the other team, which puts pressure on your goalie, and so on, and so on.

This team has a lot of limitations, but playing with discipline is something the Canadiens can control. Granted, often times the Habs are taking penalties as a result of extended periods pinned in their own end, but you would think that after the same pattern repeating itself over so many games the message would get through to pay extra careful attention to what you're doing with your stick or your hands.

Obviously, the message is not getting through, and head coach Jacques Martin says he'll soon be in a position to do something about it.

"Right now, we have 20 healthy players. We basically played with 11 forwards tonight," Martin said after the game, when asked when he will start to impose consequences to the players who are showing a consistent lack of discipline at key moments. "But we'll have some players coming back eventually."

So for now, his hands are tied. But if he could, you have to figure Glen Metropolit would be due for a punishment after back-to-back games of taking penalties that cost his team the game. I love Metropolit for everything he brings to the table, but these penalties the last two games have been inexcusable.

A final note before I pass out for the night on Jaroslav Halak. First off, let me say that I don't believe in showcasing players, and I'm not sure NHL teams do either. Trades are usually made after weeks, if not months of scouting, and I have trouble believing a team will base its decision on a given player based on a single game seen live.

However, having said that, it's clear that Halak has been a subject of discussion lately, and rightly so. At his salary, practically every team in the league could add him to their puzzle without suffering severe cap consequences, and he's a very capable goalie. I was expecting to see scouts from the some of the usual suspects who have been linked to him of late, but the only one that caught my eye was a Detroit Red Wings scout.

The Red Wings don't play the Habs again this year and they play Buffalo three months from now, so the presence of the scout could not be explained by simple advanced scouting. While I don't blame Halak for Monday's loss, I can't imagine that scout was overly impressed.


Olivier said...

""Right now, we have 20 healthy players. We basically played with 11 forwards tonight,""

Sooooo... They are dressing up Laraque only because they have no other viable option? Because I keep wondering how we can afford to have the guy skate around for 4 shifts (during which the team gets shelled into oblivion) and then be done with it.

Anonymous said...

I believe, sadly, the last 3 games have cost the Habs a playoff spot...simple as.

They were in every one of the three games, and came out with 1 point of a possible 6. Heartbreaking.

We now have the second most regulation losses after Crapolina.

Regulation losses kill you in this Nhl. Always work for the OTL at least! More than 32 reg losses on the year, and you're in big trouble.

We have 16 regulation losses in 34 games. That means any more than 16 in our remaining 48 games and we're done.

In other words: More than one reg loss every three games from now on, we'e golfing in April.


Good blog!

Jeff Hong Kong

Sliver24 said...

Jeff, I don't like the picture you're painting. Depressing as hell!

Arp: "...often times the Habs are taking penalties as a result of extended periods pinned in their own end..."

While you're right about that I think you're remiss when you fail to point out who's to blame for the two penalties that have hurt us most in the last two games.

Both were a direct result of selfish retaliation on the part of a player that a) should know better and b) isn't an a position that makes him untouchable from the coach's perspective (at least when we're healthy).

Since it's impossible to bench him I'm hoping Metro starts the next game centring the fourth line. Sure, it was O'Byrne's penalty that resulted in last night's 5-on-3 but at least it was an "honest" (though careless) mistake that occurred while he was doing his best to contain an opposing forward behind the net.

pmk said...

reposting this cause i posted it bellow but meant to post it here.

Sliver: I agree about the dumb penalties. A message must be sent. Metro is suddenly turning into Steve Begin and thats unacceptable but to me the penalties, other than the really dumb ones, are a result of us running around like decapitated chickens when a team decides to do any semblance of a forecheck. horrible horrible stuff and very frustrating to watch.

off topic - what about these Vinny rumours I'm hearing (again)? they're killing me. I see Gomez and all I can think is - you should be Vinny. I hate you. You suck (and he really does suck right now -2 no shots on net last night plus a really stupid penalty - awesome.)

Rocket fan said...

The Habs current win percentage is .485. Considering they have 48 games remaining and will need about 93 points to make the playoffs, they need a 30-18-0 or 25-13-10 (.625) record between now and the end of the season. Can the addition of Markov and Gionta turn a .485 team into a .625 team?

Arpon Basu said...

Sliver, you're right about the Metro penalties, but I was talking generally about the sheer number of penalties being taken by the team. I believe Metro is indeed centring the fourth line at practice today. O'Byrne could also be on the hot seat with the imminent return of Markov and Mara to the lineup. Bergeron should be safe in a fourth line role, but if O'Byrne keeps taking bad (albeit "honest) penalties, he might spend some time in the press box. It's a shame, the guy blocked nine shots last night, but that penalty is all anyone will remember.