Saturday, January 16, 2010

Power outage

Many of us on press row were laughing Saturday after Jacques Martin provided this assessment of Carey Price's play in a 4-2 loss to the Senators at the Bell Centre: "Our goalie was excellent. You look at the winning goal and it was tipped by one of our own players. He had no chance. The difference in this game was the special teams, not the goaltending."

The word "excellent" was still ringing in everyone's ears as we walked out of the press conference, and I was wondering which goalie Martin was referring to. Price was weak on the first two goals, plain and simple, and it was clear Martin didn't want to call him out. Price didn't speak to reporters after the game, which is generally a a requirement for that night's starter in goal.

This was the second straight game Price gave up two goals to put his team in a hole. Thursday night the Habs power play bailed him out. Saturday night, it didn't.

That's why, even though Martin was clearly sugar-coating his goalie's performance, I agree with his assessment that the bigger story was the futility of the power play, missing out on six chances and giving up a shorthanded goal. And what's an even bigger story is that Andrei Markov - as frank and honest a player as there is in the Habs room - felt the Canadiens just didn't bring their lunch pails for a game that had pretty heavy consequences on the conference standings.

If the Canadiens would have won this game, they'd be sixth in the conference right now. Instead, they're ninth.

“We were not working enough," Markov said. "We need to move the puck quick, we need traffic in front of the net and we need the shots. Tonight, I don’t know what happened, but we need more.”

When asked by veteran reporter Marc De Foy how Markov could explain a lack of effort like that in a game that was so important, Markov stopped and thought about it, a rarity from an athlete. He thought about it for a good five seconds before saying: “Actually I can’t explain that. Everybody knew that was a huge game for us, and we just lost the game. They were better, they outworked us, and there’s no excuse for us.”

The lack of power play success Saturday is a byproduct of a far more dire issue for the Habs, and that is the lack of depth of talent up front. With one key player injured in Andrei Kostitsyn, the Tomas Plekanec line is in disarray because Matt D'Agostini has been dragging his new linemates down to his level, or at least it seems that way.

Perhaps Sergei Kostitsyn will work once he returns from his ankle injury, which appears to be far more serious than the team is letting on, but he's done nothing this season to suggest he will be able to give that line a little more punch.

While Carey Price was spotting the Senatirs two freebie goals tonight, the guy sitting on the bench was again a topic of discussion.'s Pierre LeBrun mentioned on the Satellite Hot Stove that Bob Gainey has been discussing Halak with the Dallas Stars for the past two weeks, and RDS's Renaud Lavoie followed that up by confirming the information and adding that Marty Turco might be the guy coming back in the deal.

I don't particularly see the point of doing that, since Turco is a UFA at the end of the season and makes about $5 million more per season than Halak does, but I think what has become clear since Gainey began shopping Halak is that he will not find a top-six forward coming back. I'm not even sure he could get a top-nine forward out of any trade.

The only possibility I could envision with Dallas would be Fabian Brunnstrom, whom the Canadiens were interested in signing when he was at the centre of a Jonas Gustavsson-like free agent frenzy two years ago. The Stars recently called Brunnstrom back from a two-week "conditioning" stint in the AHL, where he had five points in six games, but he wasn't in the lineup Thursday night against Montreal. You would have to imagine if he was someone being discussed in Halak talks, he probably would have played in that game.

In 79 games with Dallas over the last two years, Brunnstrom has 18 goals and 18 assists. Not bad totals, but perhaps not what the Stars were expecting when they signed him to a two-year, $4.45 million contract. And Brunnstrom, like Halak, is a restricted free agent at the end of the year. If the Stars have already decided they won't sign him, then trading him for a goalie they would be interested in keeping long-term would make perfect sense.


Krons said...

A Halak for Brunnstrom deal would probably turn out like Ribeiro for Niniima... We'd end up with nothing after this year...

pierre said...

Mike Brodeur was weak on plek's desparated attempt to score from a no angle shot..... other than that one all goals scored tonight had merits of their own.

This game was an important one and the team managed very poorly under the circumstance..... there is plenty to worry about there.... we have a pair of goalies to make it to the spring dance... but with this team... am not so shure.

We scored plenty of goals in our last game and we played one of our best " team game " of the season in the previous one against the Devils...... the problem with those two games is that they werent representative of the season we had thus far and because of it my expectation towards last nigh's game were higher than usual..... simply said the team's effort and performance were way subpar to where it should have been and was a huge disapointement to me..... pointing the goaltending performance last night as one of the reasons as to why we losted like Arpon do seems so utterly silly to me.

Anonymous said...

i'm as big a Price-lover as there is but it has become clear that he is at the moment, and shld continue to be for the foreseeable furture, our #2 goalie....the points we're letting slip away are too important. Time to ride Jaro for a while. It just seems that Carey not comfortable. I'm hoping he can bounce back eventually but it is no longer time to experiment.

Anonymous said...

Three goals on 12 shots isn`t going to cut it in the NHL most nights.
I have to believe this more then anything is the reason for the loss to the Sens. Taking a lead only to lose it each time must get to the players, it has to effect their play in a bad way.
I just hope Halak can do better, tonight is a big game for him. He has not been treated fairly so far and if he were to string together 5 wins in a row i`m not sure even then he would get the credit he deserves, must be very hard for him. If he`s smart, he`s out of Montreal as soon as he is able and who could blame him?

Anonymous said...

I would have to say Price wants out of Montreal more than Halak. He gets booed damn near every time the other team scores when they are at home, good goal or softy, no matter what. He has got to hear all the talk on the radio and see it in the papers about how Halak is the better stopper and Price is overrated. He is still young and maybe just wants to be able to show up for work and go to work w/o having everyone questuon what he does. Halak wants a trade, but Gainey says he won't trade until afer the olympic break, and to be honest, I cannot see us making the playoffs anyways. Spacek looks like an 18 yar old rookie juggling the puck every time he gets it. The PP was weak at best, Markov, although still the top guy, is not at the top of his game. I'll be happy to see the season end and maybe get riled up for a run next year. With or w/o AK46, we are not a good team. As for Price allowing 2 soft goals, I disagree. The first SH was a beauty of a shot, might have went down a little early, and the Alfie goal was aon a rebound and Alfie had ALL the time in the world to slide it under Price as he was moving across to get in a better position. What do you doÉ NOt saying it wasn`t stoppable, just shouldn`t throw all the blame on him (as always)
Robby G

Anonymous said...

It`s a shame that Bob didn`t have enough sense to let Price mature with the Dogs rather then put him in a position to fail.
Bob may have ruin this young mans career, only time will tell, but it doesn`t look good atm.
Look at what Lats is doing. How does a player go from a underachiever to a goal scoring machine, what is wrong in Montreal with their player development? Dag, MaxPac, Lappy, they are all underachieving, why? I am at a loss to explain it but it has to be stopped and now.

john deere said...

I think it would be best if both Plekanec and Halak were traded at the deadline to say someone like New Jersey for a defenseman (Matt Corrente) and a prospect (Kory Nagy). Those are the kind of players Montreal needs and New Jersey is good at finding them.

If in two or three years Price is a bust deal with that then but for now it's time to clean out a few people that aren't going to be here next year anyways. Halak could of and should have waited until he became an UFA and gone where he wanted to instead of starting this nonsense.

Montreal needs to overhaul their defensive corp and there should be three decent defenseman in the top 10 of the next years draft. Time to put the team in a position to move forward.

Anonymous said...

If you can call it positive, the good thing about Price not performing to expectations is that his salary negotiation should be lower than we've all been speculating. That should leave room for paying Halak a little more. Considering Halak isn't even drawing a top 6 forward in a trade he can't expect too high a salry level. So it is possible that the Habs can afford to keep both goalies. As for Halak expecting to be traded, his alternative is to stay with the Habs another year and continue to play well to up his worth on the market. Price has shown this year that the Habs can't rely on him to be the stopper of choice. At this rate the Habs could probably do better trading Desjardins.