Saturday, October 31, 2009

What Happenned to the Habs Twit?

I'm sorry I haven't been very reliable this year, everyone. This week, for example, I have missed all the games. I haven't been posting game previews or recaps, and I am not putting as much thought into what is getting posted (it feels rushed).

Life has become quite busy, in a positive way, and I'm just not getting the time I once took to watch the games. Work, for example, doesn't afford me the spare time it once did :)

I will try and be more reliable, because I do want to be a source for game play-by-play for those who can't stream, and want more detail then the Yahoo! Box score reports.

Tonight is Halllowe'en, and I have to take the kid out around the neighbourhood, and then feed the hordes of children coming to the door. I'm not sure I'll get online until the 3rd period.

Anyhow, I will continue to try my best to get on for the games, and I am confident that the vibrant and entertaining #habs #gohabsgo twitter community provides enough presence so that fans still have an excellent source of play-by-play info during the game.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shootout win over Atlanta

Last nights game was actually very exciting. Although the first period was chalked full of penalties, the power-plays and 4-on-3 play was pretty entertaining.

Montreal showed some orneriness too: Lapierre going after Armstrong after Bergeron got smoked, and Gomez getting up to give Kozlov a few punches to the face after a dangerous hit from behind. Maybe they weren't the cleanest broohahas, and the Lapierre attack might have been il-timed, but I liked it for the simple fact it showed some real competitive edge.

The top line was flying yesterday, and Halak made timely saves (especially vs Kovalchuk's lighting bolt shots). The third line continued to struggle, but woke up a bit after Laps got into his fight. Mown had a good ornery game, and was rewarded witha promotion to the second line.

Pleks and AK46 one again had so many chances: sweet passes to eachother for quick one timers, and every time the chane was squandered. These guys have palued toheher for 3 years, why can't they connect?

5 posts and a hot goalie kept this one close, and te Habs almost blew it again. But hopefully mow with some (limited) success we'll see the effort continue, and the goals start to go in.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sens win 3-1. (deserve it?)

The trend continues: Habs have not won a game when Travis Moen hasn't scored.

I think Mike Boone said it best:
The Canadiens don't pressure anyone. They don't scare anyone. And they don't score on anyone.

I put it a different, less eloquent way last night: the playbook on the Habs must be: play a passing game, and don't worry about getting hit (because no one is gonna hit you.) Last night the Sens made the Habs look completely bushleague - no matter what offence the Habs could muster, it just washed off the back of the Sens' back. Once the Visitors got some momentum though the power plays, they just passed the puck around easy-peasy and burned the game out. And the Habs had no answer. To many flailing stick checks, no anticipation, too much spectating.

The Sens made scoring look easy. We can't get one for all the silk in India. How come?

I've gotta chalk it up to 2 things -- coaching, and mental involvement. Coaching because I see no set plays on the powerplay; I don't see good puck movement and I don't see anyone ready to take shots. I say coaching because their breakout is terrible, and everyone except Gionta and Gomez have no idea where they should be or where their team-mates are. Where the Habs are chasing, other teams are prep'd and ready to go.

I say mental involvement because all the missed one-timers, the lack of defensive coverage, the lack of body checks and forecheck, and the constant chasing of the play. In 2007/08, everyone on that team was committed to winning. And it showed. When the team played there was a 'buzz' about them, and they drove the play (most of the time). This year, it seems like players are caught by surprise everytime they get the puck - the the shots are sharp, there is no support (no second shot: no crashing the net after a good chance, etc..) In short, everyone in blue-blanc-rouge seems to be waiting for someone else to do all the work, and they dunno how to get into the game.

Both of these things can be fixed. Martin will have to stop thinking like a GM and be a coach again. That means telling your superstars and your workhorses how they are expected to play together. And the team itself has to collectively commit to playing together, and playing to win. Backing eachother up - being ready for passes, being ready to support eachother on the ice. Not with goonery, but with heads up, stick on the ice, mental anticipation.

Having BGL in the corner sitting on the puck for 30s is useless unless he can get it to someone to score!

I think this team can be really exciting to watch -- but they all have to get off the sidelines and into the game with Gionta and Gomez and Cammilleri - and even those guys have to simplify a bit and score some goals, instead of just looking flash.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Avs Take Home Openner (didn't deserve it)

Habs score all but 1 goal, lose 3-2. There were good shifts by all the lines, and the Avs let them be good as they played a quiet, reluctant game. The Avs were ripe for the picking. So what happened?

Quite simply, and its no secret: no finish.

The Talent (Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri) had some great plays ... some sweet 1-time passing plays, opening up the Avs and getting some blistering shots off. Although Anderson was stingy with the rebounds, there were plenty of back-door plays that just didn't connect -- either ended in a misfire, or a complete miss.

Martin tried playing Moen on the first line; but someone forgot to tell him he wasn't there for his looks, he was there to make some room. He didn't throw any offensive zone hits until he was put back on the 4th line! I think he could be effective up there, but he has to get aggressive and make sure the little guys get room.

Another thing that was still painful to watch was a lot of defensive plays were made with players bent at the waist swinging their stick, instead of taking the body. Except for Belle ... which brings us to Belle...

Belle had a good first game. Yes, he got the second Avs goal off his skate, but he also was very good at taking the puck off the Avs forwards, and breaking out of the zone. He was fun to watch, and hard to play against. He was obviously excited out there, which was good and bad. He got caught watching his own shots a few times, and went for big hits which took him out of position -- so he's lucky he had his legs with him to skate hard to catch up. I think Belle played better than Spacek; and I'd like to see him again.

Gorges and Price stood out also -- both played like elite players, fitting in with the new look of the team. Plekanec had a great game, and AK46 was out there working hard - hopefully he can start connecting.

And that's what it boils down to. Although its fun to watch a fast paced play with lots of puck movement, ultimately we want some finish. Some goals. Some wins.

The only games we have won so far are games in which Moen has scored -- what does that tell you? It tells me that LaTender, Lapierre, D'Ags, Pacs, have got to start getting a bit greasy, a little ugly, and start using their size to get some goals. Its a team game, and everyone has got to be doing their part.

See you Saturday fans.

Update: I just watched the replay of the winning Avs goal; it was Belle that left the front of the net to make a hit after Gomez got pounded. He left the front of the net wide open. Costly mistakes. He ended -2, Spacek was a Zero ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

West Coast Pain Continues

Last year, the western road trip broke Carey Price, and the rest of the team -- something like 12 goals in 2 games, a desperate win in Dallas, and then Carbo was fired. Jose Theodore got broke the same way, and was later traded by Gainey because he never recovered.

Well, new team - new rituals - new play... 11 GAA in 2 games. Granted, the loss in Calgary was actually a really entertaining, close game. And perhaps a little justice in losing a game like that after stealing 2 points in Toronto and Buffalo. But getting crushed by Vancouver... again?!?

I only saw (some) of the highlights, and I gotta say not all of the goals were Price's fault (of course not). But my problem is this: where is Jacques new system? Did he not know that GM Place is a bad place for the Habs? Did he not scout the Canucks well enough?

You know Vigneault was ready. You know Vancouver is desperate for a win. You know Luongo is gonna be on. It was a high paced energetic game in Calgary... Jacques has to have his team prepped. Vancouver, although stoked for the win, was fragile. Frustrate them early and keep it close, Vancouver might just flop on itself...

Ah who knows. I'm frustrated. I'm sick of getting spanked out west, and having the team shredded. I'm sure the Habs will recover this time, but still. I think next year the Habs go out west I'll cut my cable or something so I don't have to watch.

And really, I'm waiting to see something from Jacques, beside his "play my best players the most" technique, which he learned from Pat Quinn. No way Jacques has lost the room so early on, so let's see some damn coaching.

Price will be fine, so long as he keeps playing like he has in his first few games.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Game 2 summary: Habs win in OT again 2-1

Well, I seemed to have predicted right: except I over estimated Buffalo's scoring talent I guess. Or under-estimated Price.

We won 2-1 in OT, and the 2 goals could not be more different. Whereas Moen basically forced the puck into the net with his body, forgoing his stick entirely and instead taking the puck, goalie and net with him in what has to be the cheesiest goal I have ever seen (but it was a goal - Miller kicked it over the line before he was crushed) -- Gionta's goal was pure heads up talent - drop pass, drive the net, excellent anticipation and hand-eye co-ordination to tap it in from out of the air at the side of the net.

But the game was very similar to Toronto: the Habs were once again disorganised, and spent most of the first period behind their own hashmarks (nevermind blue line). 6 power plays, nothing to show for it. 34-15 the shots for Buffalo. I'm sure the Gazette can give you a nice recap.

A word on Gomez: the kid has vision. The kid has heart. He skates like a superstar. He also gives away the puck a lot on "creative" passes that no one but Gionta can see coming. Everytime he dishes the puck to Mara, for example, Mara looks like someone just threw him a surprise birthday party. Gomez isn't a bad choice to build a team around, but the team had better step up their mental game to make Gomez affective. Instead of a turnover monkey. (This is opposed to Kovalev, who would simply skate into a crowd and lose it.)

A word on Price: what a difference a summer can make. Stoic, poised, prepared, grounded. He's not getting upset at what gets by him. He's not over-committing on shots. He's using his size, so that if he does miss the shot, it ends up going wide. Its really a site to see: I hope he can keep it up.

The dreaded Western Road Trip that broke Theodore years ago, and Price last year, is coming up. Lets hope Martin can get his team going so that the only shining star, Price, doesn't get snuffed.

And let's hope Moen keeps on making sure the Habs are in a position to win at the end of the game :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Game 2: Habs v Sabres -- predictions - L 5-2

I don't have much more to say today, so I'll keep this short.

Buffalo wins 5-2.

Ruff always has an organized team, and they have kept their speed. I think the Sabres will finish where the Leafs could not, and the pylon line that is the current defence will get ripped to pieces.

Also, you can't count on the 4th line to score 2 goals and keep you in the game -- these guys get less than 10 goals a year. Unless Moen becomes the unlikely Bertuzzi for Gomez and Gionta ;)

Anyhow, see you at 7pm for the tweets.

Markov Gone 4 months: the purge is complete

Well, certainly not part of Gainey's design, but the 2008/2009 Montreal Canadiens are almost certainly wiped clean off the roster now. All the stars from years past are no longer playing, and Mighty Markov was the last to go. Whereas I called the 2007/08 team "a bunch of rookies and Russians," I now call the team "a bunch of rookies and I don't even know what."

All the "star" and favorite players from last year are gone, except Carey Price, and I'm watching a bunch of players I barely know.

So, are we ruined? Doomed? No Markov, fold up shop and go home?


Whereas Lang's injury was crucial last year (it poked the hole in the balloon, which just took some time to burst) it came at a vital time in the season: the post all-star playoff rush.

Markov's injury is no less severe: but its not as bad a blow. He will be back in January/February, providing they don't rush him, and will be a huge bonus to the team. Like Sergei Gonchar was for the Pens. This also provides valuable development time for the (as mentioned before) completely disjoint team to gel. Spacek and Mara or whoever are going to have to figure out how to make the power play work. Hamerlik is going to have to learn to play like a first line D-man again. This vacuum of talent that Markov leaves is not a bad thing, this early.

If the Habs can stay .500 until January, allow some of the new acquisitions to start to grow into their colours (Blue Blanc Rouge!) and work together as a team, then when Markov comes back, the team will be in great shape.

Markov -- I love you, I'll miss you, and I can't wait to get you back. But really, there is no better learning ground for this crappy defence core to figure itself out then to lose their top guy.

I still wish Markov was playing: I'm not a complete Ridiculous! But where last year we saw Max Laps and Gui-LaTender really step up as the rest of the team faltered, so now is a chance for all our new defencemen to get into this team.

Good luck lads, you'll need it!

Thoughts after game 1 2009/2010

Well, The Habs were able to pull off a most unlikely upset against the Maple Leafs -- and I'm pretty sure Bob Gainey slept well Thursday night.

What I saw was very interesting: a completely disjoint set of talented players, unsure of their roles, their plays, and their positioning. I saw terribly slow and often absent defencive coverage, and I saw a lot of individual efforts. And I saw Carey Price play a great game.

Toronto looked like a dangerous offensive team on Thursday. They were able to penetrate with speed, get open in the slot, and showed great composure and puck control. This was evident in the shot totals. Thing is, the Leafs aren't supposed to have any offence! They are supposed to be a crimpled bunch of hacks desperately waiting for Kessle to show up, and Burke to shed part of his D-roster to bring in some more firepower! And they almost get 50 shots!

The new Habs, on the other side, could barely clear the zone; they seemed to always be searching for passes instead of being ready for them. They seemed completely disjoint, on every line. Even Markov looked confused out there -- and he is supposed to be the main setup guy! (More on him later).

I was assured by Habs pundits we wouldn't see the top 3 newbies out there together - and although Jacques was juggling his lines, it didn't take long for Gionta - Gomez - Camilleri to get lined up together. Like, in the first period. And sure enough, you got 4 lines who were pretty lost out there.

It wasn't until the third, when Gomez and Gionta could smell a win despite being down a goal, that they got trucking. Plekanec did what he was told to do in the off-season: use his speed and take those shots! But in doing so, he never became the setup man for Kostitsyn, who showed he has a killer shot, but never really got into the game (despite his usual dirty play). Lapierre and Latendress, who by the end of last season where the main horses for the Habs, seemed confused as to their role -- not uncommitted, as they skated hard and generated a few chances, but almost like: "coach, should we be playing the trap or forechecking the hell out of this team?"

The fourth line scored 2 goals -- one on the power play! Encouraging? Kinda, but they had shifts where they might as well have been on my beer league team. Lost in their own end, no coverage, and letting the Leafs sachet around them.

And the D, did I mention, was terrible? Their "power play" setup might have worked on Thursday, because the Leafs were probably expecting something organised, precise, and vicious. They kept waiting for the power play to get a flow -- instead, we caught them by surprise. "Surprise! We're making this up as we go along!"

In short, the Habs look like a bunch of guys who can play hockey, but have no idea how to play hockey together. Jacques had to rely on his new talent to pull off an unlikely victory -- would you rather have that now, the first game of the season? Or in June? Jacques was supposed to provide structure, traps, discipline... and I saw a NHL Maple Leafs team shred their way through a Sunday morning shinny group.

Of course, I also saw the Maple Leafs loose, so it wasn't all bad.

Anyhow, I fear any good team is gonna rip the Habs apart. And if Jacques burns out his best players in October / November, its gonna be a quiet May/June on St Catherines street.