Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boucher's legacy

Though Guy Boucher and his entire Hamilton staff are in Tampa Bay this season, there remain numerous vestiges of his one year within the Canadiens organization that remain.

The biggest and most obvious one is P.K. Subban, who clearly benefited from having Boucher as his first professional coach. Ryan White, Aaron Palushaj (briefly), Max Pacioretty Yannick Weber, David Desharnais and others might still be able to use some of the lessons they learned under Boucher and apply them in doses while playing for Randy Cunneyworth in Hamilton this season.

But what appears to be the biggest residual Boucher effect is the pre-season implementation of his somewhat radical power play formation by the ever-so-unradical Jacques Martin. It's rare you get to see actual tactical changes in action in pre-season games, so it's been interesting to say the least thus far.

For those who don't know, Boucher's wacky power play set-up is essentially a 1-3-1, with one defenceman on the blue line, another in the high slot, and the traditional forwards on the side boards and in front of the net. Boucher may not have invented it, but he is widely credited for being the one to first use it in world class competition when he did so with great success as an assistant coach for the Canadian junior team in 2008-09.

That team had Subban playing the high slot and Ryan Ellis setting up a one-man wall on the blue line. While most people pointed to Subban as being the catalyst for a power play that clicked at 50 per cent over the tournament, it was probably Ellis' uncanny ability to hold the blue line that actually made it work.

The Canadiens also have a defenceman who I feel is the best in the NHL at that very skill in Andrei Markov, and now that Subban is here, I like that Martin is experimenting a little bit with a formation made famous by a coach many fans wanted to see replace him.

But I'd be pretty stunned to see it used in regular season play until Markov returns, which could be by Halloween.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't address the fact that Carey Price has allowed 10 goals on 37 shots in two pre-season games, after taking a 6-2 beating Saturday in Ottawa.

But it will be brief.

Firstly, this doesn't mean Price will play this poorly in the regular season, but it's admittedly not a very good sign.

The second thing is how even this sieve-like performance is exhibiting Price's growing maturity as a professional. He has every reason to call out Jaroslav Spacek who, as far as I can tell, has directly led to at least four of Price's 10 goals. In the past, Price would have done just that. But he hasn't, at least not yet.

Price did mention that there is a hodgepodge of players on the team in front of him as an explanation for the number of high quality scoring chances against him, and the low percentage of them he's been stopping.

But at least Price also said after Saturday's loss that he should be stopping more of those chances.

I can admit that I am forming a lot of my judgments on Price on subjective elements like the actual words coming out of his mouth, while the haters are using more tangible proof of his failings like goals against and save percentage. I would just ask that we give him a few regular season games before finally determining his fate.

Finally, I pitched in on Canadiens season preview with stories on Price and Subban  that you can check out here.


Darcy said...

To say the least Price's play is again a concern to me. Stats aside, I fear it's a simple lack of confidence the players in front of him do not have when Price is in the pipes (a great pitcher with little run support comes to mind). A failure to pocket Ws when needed - whether it's a bad break or bounce here and there - bottom line the puck doesn't go Carey's way when it counts. A do not like the lack of intensity in his game, cool as a cucumber is fine and dandy, but c'mon man ...

pfhabs said...


-not to put too fine a point on it but I wonder aloud how one determines that Price's teammates lack confidence in him when's he's playing ?

-how does lack of 'run support' aka inability to put pucks behing the other goalie translate to a lack of confidence in your own goalie ?

-lacking confidence in Price is why Spacek is coughing up chances like a perverbial pez dispenser ?

-if in fact there is some bermuda triangle correlation between confidance in your goalie and your ability to defend or ability to score Carey Price is not the problem--it's the guys in front of him

Patrick Moss said...


I agree that Price is showing signs he actually has matured. He is talking about his failings, facing the media, admitting he has more work to do, and standing up for himself at the same time. He knows he has nowhere to hide, now, because there is no other goalie the Habs can go with.

I actually blogged about this on Friday. What do you think?

Yves said...

I'm in the camp that believes it's best to let the pre-season play out... we'll get a better idea of what kind of team the Canadiens have a bit further in the regular season.

I'm encouraged, to a certain degree, by Price's comments... because just as you mentioned, he could have called out Spacek.

Although, so far it is not encouraging. But, it is still pre-season... and in the spirit of Price's comments, I won't lose sleep over it either.

Not to change the subject... but I'm very curious... I've been hoping to catch a glimpse of Avtsin and am surprised he hasn't played yet.