Saturday, October 3, 2009

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.

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