Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Still not convinced

I feel a lot of you are likely pretty pumped after last night's big time 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks, a team that lost in regulation for only the fifth time in 25 games, if you can believe that.

Well, I don't blame you, because it was yet another example of the Canadiens going into a game where they had absolutely no business winning, and then doing just that. They did it in Washington way back in November and in New Jersey very recently. Good on them.

Positives can definitely be drawn from last night's contest, starting with the inspired play of Sergei Kostitsyn, who finally looked like a forward who belongs in the top-6. Then there was Maxim Lapierre and his rag-tag linemates Mathieu Darche and Marc-Andre Bergeron, who earned every minute of ice time they got (well, maybe not the power play time Darche received alongside Scott Gomez instead of Kostitsyn, but you get my drift). The fact both Kostitsyn and Lapierre along with Tomas Plekanec managed to score at 5-on-5 after a 223:12 drought only added to the euphoria that surrounded the Bell Centre last night.

I was assigned to cover the losing Canucks room after the game and produced this report, and if you feel like reading it, I think you'll be able to decipher my general impression of the game the Canadiens played.

Overall, the Habs were spanked in every area except the scoreboard. The Canucks did everything they could possibly do to win the game, quite handily in fact, except Jaroslav Halak was on top of things yet again and stole another win. This, of course, is what is separating him from Carey Price thus far, his ability to steal victories from the jaws of defeat.

So I give top marks to Halak for his game last night, and even though Jacques Martin alluded to Price's two wins over the Bruins this season, I can't imagine Halak not getting another start tomorrow night in Beantown.

But last night's win did nothing to convince me that this team as currently constructed can make a run to the playoffs. Perhaps another win in Boston will do it, but frankly, if it's another case of Halak stealing two points I still won't be sold. I'd like to see more wins where the team wins the game, as was the case in New Jersey or Washington.

The fact we have so few reference points for just such a win is a perfect case in point as to why this may still remain a lost season for La Sainte-Flanelle.

10 comments:

Louis P said...

Couldn't agree more. Fan blinders are ridiculous. No reason to be excited about squeezing out a victory like last night's. My only hope between now and season's end is that Habs lose enough games to get Martin and Gainey fired. Sorry Bob, but your time is up.

jkr said...

Funny to hear the Canucks, a team that has relied on Luongo so often in the past, complain about Montreal winning because of their goaltender.

kyleroussel said...

The vortex of false hope is swirling again and pulling many fans in.

Thankfully, I am not one of them. This is not the path to sustained success. Not in the regular season, and certainly not in the playoffs.

Like you said, until this team starts putting together team wins instead of stolen victories, this team doesn't belong in the playoffs.

Of course, being a fan, I certainly won't cry if they make the playoffs, but if I could make the call right now (and avoid the emotional swings that come with being a fan) I'd opt to sell what we can at the deadline and look to next season.

All this being said, one wonders what this team would look like if they played night after night like they did vs the Canucks. Jacques Martin looked like he was going to puke all over his shoes, further proving that he has no intention of changing his stubborn philosophy.

john deere said...

I don't think we should fire Gainey unless we have somebody more competent lined up for the job. There are worse people than Gainey but I do agree it is time for him to go.

To me he just doesn't get the essence of the job or how all the pieces come together. And I think he has done a much better job than a lot of people give him credit for. Much better.

Anonymous said...

You still think Price’s ceiling is higher?

MathMan said...

Olivier, whose "En Attendant les Nordiques" blog I cannot recommend highly enough, counted the chances 16-24 in favor of Vancouver, but 15-15 at evens. It was actually the best showing by Montreal chances-wise at even-strength in a long while. The 5-on-5 puck possession indicators favored the Canucks slightly until the third period where the Canucks took a big edge (fairly typical for a trailing team actually).

Ultimately I think the Habs won because they were better at covering defensively. Puck possession is important, but it doesn't always result in golden chances, and bad coverage can lead to goals against in spite of a big edge in puck possession (that was the case for the Habs at the start of the season before they decided that letting the other guys have the puck all the time was a better strategy).

That said, it's occured to me today that Halak singlehandedly saved Martin's job this season. If he doesn't play like golden-age-Hasek, if he has a merely very good season like Carey Price's or even an excellent on like, say, this year's Martin Brodeur's, the Habs have lost 5-6 more games, are counting their Taylor Hall lottery balls, and Martin and Gainey are under fire if not replaced already.

Maybe the Habs should trade Halak so that they can get on with that darned one-year retool. ;)

Anvilcloud said...

I love MM's analysis of chances vs SOGs. I often feel that SOGs only tell part of the story. Besides, we're not a high shooting team. BTW, I do wish I could read French better and follow Olivier's blog, but Google Translate isn't the best.

Also, I don't think too many of us are putting too much stock in the win, but these glimpses provide hope. I still contend that if this team skates with purpose, other things tends to fall into place. At least to some degree. Why they can't or won't up their game more often remains a bit of a mystery.

pmk said...

not convinced either but it was a fun game to watch at least - haven't said that in awhile. I also thought O'byrne and Pouliot played well.Can;t really happen right now because of the injuries but I'd like to see what Pouliot could do at center.

Sliver24 said...

I think the Habs need to throw caution to the wind and play full-out, run-and-gun, fire-wagon hockey for the rest of the season. It's clear that we are not a playoff team playing Martin's sleep-inducing "possession" game so why bother playing it and putting the fans to sleep?

We need to see two fore-checkers whenever the top three lines are on the ice and I'd love to see some d-men given carte-blanche when it comes to pinching (i.e. Markov, Hamrlik, Spacek, maybe even Gorges - sorry, not you Hal).

Light 'em up Jacques. I'd rather lose 7-4 than 2-1. At least it's exciting.

Anonymous said...

How can you say this team cannot make a run to the playoofs. What an idiotic thing to say when they are sitting in 7th. Give your head a shake and wake the fuck up. We're not in yet but we're in better shape than some of the teams behind us. We've gotten rid of many games in hand other teams have held over us these past fews weeks and we've managed to get where we are today. I'd say we have a good chance at the playoffs. Cammy has been an inspiration at points in the season but he has slowed considerably the last 20 games. He sat at 19 goals for quite a spell and only recently lit it up to get to 26. We can play without him and his loss isn't as big as the loss of Markov. Jesus christ your analysis is way off. Think before your drunkenly type. Jackass!