Wednesday, March 11, 2009

EDM v MTL - WIN 4-3 Summary

Well there was little doubt that the Canadiens would come out with zip last night. I mean, if you manage to get your coach fired, you better show your appreciation, right?

Funny thing was, Edmonton was up to the challenge. Fighting for a playoff spot of their own, they met the Habs face-to-face, toe-to-toe. It turned out to be a very exciting game!

A few things I noticed that Gainey had made:
  • More of the top 2 lines: unlike Carbo who liked to roll his lines even, Gainey put the onus on his top 2 lines to get the job done. I haven't looked at the icetime numbers, but the impression was Tanguay-Koivu-Kostitsyn and Kovalev-Plekanec-D'Agostini saw more play time that in their last month.
  • Stretch pass: Gainey encouraged this in his 'competition committee,' so its no surprise to see him using it. Although it did generate more offense in the first, it certainly is a tactic that teams can easily adjust to. In the second period, even, Edmonton seemed to be wise to it.
  • New Power Play setup: The new setup was fairly effective once; but the Canadiens had trouble getting parked on their next 2 power plays. It seems that they go with an overloaded side with a tight triangle: someone on the half-boards near the hash marks, someone deep in the corner, and a forward in front. So long as they hold the puck, it seemed to work well to draw the P-Killers out of their box; and opens up some chances. I liked it -- but it needs to get set up quickly to be effective (or the Bad Guys have an easy out on the far side, where there is space)
  • Movement on the 4-on-4: The overtime saw the Canadiens with the craziest 4-on-4 cycling I have ever seen; and it worked. It was like a figure-8, with the D pinching in and swooping around -- Edmonton couldn't handle it and broke right down. They fell over each other and ended up taking a slashing penalty. Schneider made space to get the pass from Markov, and Koivu tipped the shot for the win.
The Good:
The Canadiens looked like a team that had a coach again; they listened and responded to Gainey. Just like they listened and responded to Carbo last year. Price made a few good saves in the third to keep the game within reach; and overall the Habs played with some good energy. But then, they usually do for a home game. Metropolit played an awesome game, and made it clear why he is a better choice than Begin for 3rd line Center. The new defensive pairs were also better, and Tanguay was a bloody wizard with his passing.

The Bad:
The second period was, once again, a donkey show. Although there were lots of chances that didn't count as shots, there were long stretches of time where the Habs just didn't have the puck; and couldn't get it. This has to change, period. Further, in the offensive zone in the third, there was no puck support for the carrier; so the Bad Guys would simply put 2 men on the puck carrier and walk away with it.

The Ugly:
Andrei Kostitsyn's passing was just - plain - terrible. Even his pass on the winning goal was ridiculous; Koivu just happened to get the bounce. And really he's there to shoot: Tanguay and Koivu will set him up all day, so he's gotta find the ice and fire it. Price had a tough 2nd period; there were 3 'sure goals' that Markov himself saved by clearing the puck.

And finally I hear there are complaints that the Canadiens were lucky to get their 3rd goal, and it could have been a loss, blah blah blah -- Edmonton's 3rd goal was as horse-poop as they come, with Koivu diving on top of Price and knocking it in as it trickled to the goal line. So I gotta say it was even all round, and a well fought game. You don't get "lucky" unless you work for it, and the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge certainly worked for it. Nay-sayers can cram it.

But there is the big question: can the Home Team continue to play like this? Or do they only have a couple games of spunk in them, then its back to Crap-Ville?

I guess we'll see.

Was listening to team-990 online and an guest RDS analyst pointed out the wingers were coming back in their zone, and thought it was on purpose. I thought it was a mistake, so didn't want to comment on it: the Wingers were certainly way too deep in their zone, openning up the point shots for the opposition. The Centermen certainly seemed more defensively invovled, which was good, but the wingers gotta stay higher in the zone to help with the breakout. IMO

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