Friday, April 23, 2010

Under the gun

WASHINGTON - How would it feel if you could never make a mistake? Ever.


The Canadiens are facing a 3-1 deficit in their series with the Washington Capitals not necessarily because they are that much worse than them (though really, they are), but rather because the Habs have absolutely no room for error.


None.


In Game 4, Hal Gill tried to make a play on Alexander Ovechkin as he entered the Canadiens zone, the same play the Canadiens have been executing so well the whole series. Ovechkin, as he crosses the blue line on the left side, almost always cuts to the slot to unleash his lethal wrist shot. But the Canadiens have pretty consistently thwarted that by taking that move away, meeting it with a well placed stick or simply getting in his way.


That's what Gill tried there. Except this time, he missed. Result? Game winning goal.


"It’s frustrating because I made an aggressive poke check and just missed," Gill said. "It’s a fine line. If I poke it away it’s out of our end. But I miss it and it’s in our net. That’s the frustrating part of playing hockey, you’re an inch away from making a good play and he’s the type of player that makes you pay when you miss."


That "frustrating part of playing hockey" has been the story of the series for the Canadiens, because the Capitals are not paying for their mistakes with goals the way Montreal is. And the Capitals are making mistakes, perhaps even more than the Canadiens are.


"We feel like we're the better team," Habs centre Glen Metropolit said this morning after the skate. "We do."


That is debatable, to say the least, but the point he was trying to make is that the Canadiens have controlled the play for more of this series than their opponents. In fact, if you take out the blowout in Game 3, the Canadiens have only trailed for a shade over 16 minutes in the other three games of the series.


But Metropolit quickly added a condition to his comment, that Jaroslav Halak will have to bring it tonight and match his Washington counterpart Semyon Varlamov.


"You need your goaltenders to play well, too. Varlamov's been so great for them. He's given them life," Metropolit said. "You need your goaltender to be your best player."


Before going all crazy about Metropolit's pretty candid comments, know this: he's a guy who sees the end. 


Not that he wants to lose tonight, or lose the series, but Metropolit legitimately questions whether or not he'll be brought back next season. He also says that he's starting to think this might be his final season.


"It's in the back of my mind," he said.


The reason he thinks that way is the ice time he's been getting of late from Jacques Martin. He got five minutes in Game 3 and seven minutes in Game 4, with one shift on the power play. 


"When you're 35 years old, it's hard to play five or seven minutes a night," he said. "It's hard to sit there and watch it, you want to be involved. Then when you do get on the ice, you're cold. It's hard to tell a guy to pass it to you when you've been sitting around so long."


Martin said Metropolit's production on the power play dropped off in the second half of the season to explain his reluctance to throw him out there. But Metropolit says he never head that from the coach.


"I really don't know what happened," he said. "There was no communication. It seemed like when I was out there I was generating chances."


Metropolit is clearly frustrated with the situation, but let's be honest, he is not a player that will win tonight's game or the series for the Canadiens. It's pretty normal for a player in his shoes to want to gripe a bit, though the timing of it is not ideal. But do his feelings reflect a wider malaise on the entire team?


I can't say for sure, but I think Metropolit's thoughts on this matter may be an exaggerated version of how his teammates feel about Martin's bench management skills.


If you were a player on that team, how would you feel when your coach chooses to ignore match-ups game after game, even at home? When the series has essentially turned on two shorthanded goals, and there was one player largely responsible for both, yet he still sees a regular shift? When a talented, young defenceman remains with the farm club when the parent club has a dire need for help on the blue line? When he appears to refuse making any in-game adjustments whatsoever, even though everyone in the building can see they need to be made?


All those things, and all these as well, make me feel that the coach doesn't necessarily have the confidence of his players.


And I can't say I blame them for feeling that way.


NOTE: I know I haven't been updating the blog much of late, and I've chosen the most interesting time of year to do that, but I'm overrun right now. For those who don't know, I'm blogging the series (anonymously) for CBC.ca. You can go here to see what I've been writing. Also, my regular work for The Canadian Press continues. I'll be covering Game 5 tonight for them and you should be able to see my story on most of the main sports websites tonight. Will it be a eulogy? We'll find out in a few hours. 

22 comments:

Olivier said...

"If you were a player on that team, how would you feel when your coach chooses to ignore match-ups game after game, even at home?"

That one surprised me... It seems pretty clear to me that Martin played the line matchup game, especially at home, where Pleks was up against Backtrom in game #3 and Gomez in Game #4 (after Pleks got tagged in #3); on the defensive side, Gill and Gorges always took on the big line.

Spacek and Hamrlik both played over 18 minutes at ES during the season, always against the top opposing players. In games #1 and 2, Martin obviously tried as much as possible to get them out there against Ovie/Backstrom and played them 17+ minutes at ES. Par to the course.

And then, back in Montréal, they get third pairing duties, play 10 minutes a game at ES with Spacek missing game #4... I mean, there is no way in hell Martin did that to punish them or whatever, are they injured?

And Hamrlik in on the PP's second wave; once Markov and MAB are out, who else should Martin send with Gorges? O'Byrne? Gill?!

Tyg said...

This is it in a nutshell. While Martin remains coach, you could ice a team of Washington clones and still barely squeak into the playoffs. He's just that bad, at everything.

NYG24 said...

Once upon a time when this franchise was the most respected franchise in hockey if not any North American sport a coach named Toe Blake when having to face the then powerful Chicago Blackhawks' Ovechkin of that time Bobby Hull, Blake assigned winger Claude Provost to check and follow and hit Hull every second he was on the ice. Then another guy named Jinny Roberts for another great Habs coach did the same job - AND IT WORKED!

This Martin is only there because he is Gauthier's friend. Listen to that boring monotone's preass conferences, as boring as the monotone Gainey, how on earth do you expect sucvh men to inspire and fire up their players.

Molson's should clean house after tonight. Gauthier and Gainey have run this team for 7 years and will get no smarter this summer. Bring in fresh minds who know today's game not hockey of the 80s when gainey started coaching and gauthier started managing or 90s martin, gauthier's friend. everyone knows how the rules changed the game after the lockout, these guys have had the sport pass them by.

after tonight habs lost

7 of their last 8 games this season

and have lost 12 of their last 13 playoff games.

enuff is enuff!

Tyg said...

It might have been more merciful if the team didn't even make the playoffs to begin with. Yeah, yeah I'll get bashed for that, but all that's happened is fans get false hope - not because the players aren't good enough (with the exception of a few obvious cases) but because the coach doesn't know how to use them. This way, JM gets praise from BB (what is he smokin' anyway), and his team made the playoffs, so it looks good on him. I think we're going to suffer at least another year of JM behind the bench.

I think Metro's commentary pretty much says it all - he's just the only one who's going to stand up and say it because he knows he's probably getting shown the exit tonight. I find it hard to believe the JM every Habs fan sees behind the bench is a raging genius awe and game inspiring maniac in the dressing room.

Olivier said...

NYG24: reading your last few comments, it is my understanding that you want all of the management and coaching staff fired?

A daring proposal. It's nice to see some of us can think out of the box at this time of the year.

MathMan said...

I don't like Martin's system, and I do think he's hurting the team. I can't imagine his players are too happy with him, but now, in the playoffs, is no time to sulk.

That said, I'm not gonna claim there are flaws where I don't see any. His personnel management skills are fine, and he does match up -- much, MUCH more than Carbonneau ever did.

V said...

For those of you with the dire predictions and the claims Martin does not know what he's doing... how does it feel to wake up the morning after and recognize how wrong you are. Does it have you hoping the team loses just to prove your right.

The Canadiens have skated with the best team in the league for 5 games. In most periods in the series they have looked better. They really deserve some credit - including Martin.

NYG24 said...

Can't believe Habs fought so hard to avoid elimination after how they have played from the last 3 games on the regular season on. Shocked me. Maybe they can do it one more time, twice. That is all the have to do - win one game in a row, two times.

I just hope they won last night NOT because like the first game, t was because the Capitals never showed up?

NYG24 said...

TSN

".... Montreal appeared content to protect that lead in the final frame, generating little on attack and sitting back in the neutral zone to wait for the Capitals. Martin severely shortened his bench as Pouliot only got three shifts in the final period, Roman Hamrlik got two, Glen Metropolit and Sergei Kostitsyn got one apiece while Marc-Andre Bergeron didn't get any. ...."

Tyg said...

I'll give props when it's due, and Martin did a good job last night with his Moen move, and shortening the bench. It is not, however, his standard operating procedure, and I still think he's a bad fit for this team. If he continues to prove me wrong, I'll be overjoyed. Of course I didn't want the Habs to lose to prove I was right? That's utter nonsense, and for the record - I've been one of the few remaining positive throughout this series. I know these boys are a much better team than most analysts and even more than a few of their own fans believe them to be. I just hate JM, and until he starts performing like this regularly, my opinion on him is likely to remain the same. I said from day 1 he was a bad choice, and I stand by that. I'd love to be proven wrong.

V said...

Fair enough.

NYG24 said...

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/sports/hockey/moose/no-subs-subban-one-tenacious-bulldog-91892849.html

NYG24 said...

Tyg said...
I'll give props when it's due, and Martin did a good job last night with his Moen move, and shortening the bench.
--

Fact is it took him to game until game 87 to figure out Hamrlick and Bergeron are a danger to our own defense! And with a Subban and Weber already good enough and better than both of them. Weber was excellent in the Olympics. Subban is a budding super-star right now - yet Martin and Gauthier refused to call either of them back up with these 2 weaknesses. Darche isa a lifetime minor leaguer nothing more.

And what also is troubling, Habs have a great young up and coming coach in Hamilton and while Gauthier protects his longtime coach Martin, some other team will sign Guy Boucher for themselves.

What

NYG24 said...

c/p habs inside out

--

Submitted by sampson12 on Sun, 04/25/2010 - 22:00.
guy boucher is getting bigtime attention from NHL clubs and its been said that the thrashers and blue jackets are interested. we need to keep this guy around. he should be next in line to fill in when martin moves on, not saying martin is doing a bad job, but he wont be around forever.

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Tyg said...

I think we're going to lose Boucher, and I think we'll suffer for it. Only consolation is it might make Gautier look like the incompetent fool he is. Like I said in an earlier post, a one-off from Martin is not going to make me like him. He only got props for one game, and if it hadn't taken him 87 games to figure it out, we wouldn't be in this mess and most of the fanbase wouldn't want him out. By the time Molson figures out the dead weight in his organization, a couple of years will have gone by. I can't see losing Martin before the middle of next season at the earliest, but likely at the end of next season if the Habs can't get past the first round. I also said in an earlier post that it might have been better if we had missed the playoffs again, because JM would have been cut loose sooner rather than later. If the Habs make the 2nd round, we're going to be stuck with him for a lot longer than he should be around.

That being said, Moen was practicing with Gio and Gomer yesterday, and that line is expected to be maintained again tonight. Also, on Habs I/O this morning, on the boards, team 990 is saying they've called up PK Subban. Dunno if it's true, but I hope to God it is.

Go Habs Go

B B said...

Put it on the big screen Wednesday night!

NYG24 said...

Cannot believe this series went to 7 games. UInbelievable!

NYG24 said...

TWO ABSOLUTE IMPOSSIBILITIES

1971
Boston 78 games, 399 goals scored, 121 points
Montreal 78 games, 291 goals scored, 97 points

Quarter-final
Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

L April 7, 1971 1–3 @ Boston Bruins 0–1
W April 8, 1971 7–5 @ Boston Bruins 1–1
W April 10, 1971 3–1 Boston Bruins 2–1
L April 11, 1971 2–5 Boston Bruins 2–2
L April 13, 1971 3–7 @ Boston Bruins 2–3*
W April 15, 1971 8–3 Boston Bruins 3–3
W April 18, 1971 4–2 @ Boston Bruins 4–3
*Montreal was down 3 games to 2 after 5 games
Montreal wins the series 4–3

--

2010
Washington 82 games, 318 goals scored, 121 points
Montreal 82 games, 217 goals scored, 88 points

Apr 15 Montreal 3 at Washington 2 OT
Apr 17 Montreal 5 at Washington 6 OT
Apr 19 Washington 5 at Montreal 1
Apr 21 Washington 6 at Montreal 3
Apr 23 Montreal 2 at Washington 1*
Apr 26 Washington 1 at Montreal 4
Apr 28 Montreal ? at Washington ?

*Montreal was down 3 games to 2 after 5 games

Anonymous said...

ARLINGTON, Va. - Washington defenseman Tom Poti has been ruled out for Game 7 Wednesday 7 pm against Montreal with an eye injury, and the best-case scenario has him missing most or all of the second round should the Capitals get there.

As a result, the Capitals recalled Karl Alzner from Hershey of the American Hockey League on Tuesday and it's likely he will be paired with rookie John Carlson against the Canadiens in the do-or-die game.

Anonymous said...

After last night's game, 130 NHL playoff series have gone to a Game 7 and the home team has won 80 times (.615).

Anonymous said...

In the last 25 years, the Capitals have blown a two-game lead in a playoff series six times. All six times, they finished in a total tailspin, losing either their last three or four straight games.

But if the Caps squander a two-game lead for a seventh time, this time against Montreal, they will break new ground. No top-seeded team has ever blown a 3-1 lead to an eighth-seeded team.