Friday, February 20, 2009

A tale of two Kostitsyn

credit habs inside/out

Tonight the Habs played a better game than yesterday against Washington. I know, it’s not a huge statement to make considering Friday’s game but it’s still something positive to work with. Against a surprising (at least to me) Sabres team the Canadiens ended up outplaying a hard working team. But not all was well.

Now what the hell is wrong with Sergei Kostitsyn? He took three fully deserved and entirely unnecessary penalties with the first one leading to Buffalo’s opening goal. Yes, he redeemed himself a little after his second penalty when he screened Patrick Lalime on Steve Begin’s goal but he has to be smarter than that. It’s not like it’s the first time he takes bad penalties like that, he’s already at 30 PIM this season. That’s 5 shot of Kostopoulos who fought twice and got 17 minutes against Toronto for his check from behind. Right now, I hope he’ll be sent back to Hamilton for a couple of games when Tanguay comes back.

I was against Matt D’Agostini playing on the first line as a general concept but then again, why not see how he reacts under pressure right now? We know his stint with the big club is only temporary so giving him a chance to shine is understandable. He was out of position a couple of times, especially in the offensive zone but you can see the kid has talent and will probably be in the lineup to start the next season. I would love to see him a couple of games more playing on different lines to see how he handles third or fourth line duties. Again, send Sergei down for a couple of games. It could do him some good.

His big brother, however, played a much better game. I’ve said recently that Andrei is at his best when he is physical and today he registered 4 hits and scored a somewhat lucky goal. After fanning on a shot attempt he tried a second time and buried the puck. He also was very close to score the third goal of the game when he missed an empty net from a closed angle but Markov ended up scoring less than a minute later from a beautiful play he set up himself with help from Koivu.

Again the captain was working hard and it got me to think about Kovalev. Since the beginning of the season Saku saw his ice time go down significantly compared to last year but it also let him be much more efficient on every shift. Maybe Kovy needs to do the same. Kovalev was sometimes very efficient tonight, especially on some penalty killing missions but he also was trying to deke too many players at some times and that’s something that he does too often. Every player in the NHL knows how good this guy is, one of the best stickhandler in the league, but they also know how much he loves to keep the puck. That’s why he can often do a great set up for his teammates; his opponents don’t expect that. I think AK-27 should pass on every opportunity he can until the NHL start taking notice and start adjusting. Then he will be able to use his deking abilities more and with a better impact.

Carey Price was good and even spectacular in the last minute of the game. Those who doubted the kid ability to be a starter in the toughest city for a goaltender can relax. He is calm, collected and can obviously lead his team to victory if given the chance. Bob Barker would be so proud…

Josh Gorges had a difficult night being somewhat responsible for letting Thomas Vanek score twice. On the first goal, Higgins missed his clearing attempt and Josh took a risk trying to poke the puck away but instead left Vanek alone. He also missed his chance to clear the zone and ended up giving the puck to Buffalo for the second goal. But I have no fears, he’ll be back with a big game on Tuesday.

The last thing I want to touch upon is the 5 on 3 in third period. I was happy for multiple reasons. The first one being that while I am not impressed with the calibre of NHL referees I am at least glad to see that they aren’t afraid of calling two penalties on the same play, something that was nearly unheard of before the lockout. Also, the puck movement was efficient and I prefer Markov as the set up man rather than taking the shot. And since I love Andrei Kostitsyn shot, I was pleased to see him there. Buffalo played very well for the whole two minutes and you have to give them credit for their numerous blocked shots on that particular sequence.

Overall a feel good victory with the Canadiens coming back twice from one goals deficits. Not a dominating performance by any means but at least some good moments and a much better effort than the day before.

Now let’s all pray the Habs don’t fall into the same “not showing up against inferior opponents” pattern that plagued them all season.

Another solid effort

credit Habs inside/out

You can’t ask for much more. Against the red hot Wings, the Canadiens played a very solid game. From start to finish I saw a team that understood what it took to win games. Finally! Even when Detroit opened the machine in third period, the Montreal players didn’t panic. They nearly scored but the goal was called back since the puck never entered the net. I would love to see the Habs take control of the third period when they lead by three goals but against a team as good as Detroit, it was a very solid effort. But let’s start back from scratch.

After a first period that ended up scoreless, Lapierre scored with a shot from the corner while Kovalev was fighting it out with Lidstrom who ended up deflecting the puck in his own net. For the past two or three games Kovy started to go back to the net even if it means getting hit behind the back of the head (think Mark Streit in overtime last game who took Kovy’s helmet off). Kovalev was also a big part of the second goal with a nice three way passing game between him Markov and Plekanec who scored on a sharp one timer. Conklin couldn’t do much about that one. And then Higgins made it 3-0 after him, Koivu and Kostopoulos buzzed in front of the net for quite some time.

My favourite part about the first two period was Andrei Kostitsyn hitting Hossa hard at the blue line. Hossa spent two players trying to get retribution from a legal hit, got a penalty for his efforts and it’s on that penalty that Plek scored the game winner. Andrei does a lot of little things that don’t appear on the score sheet and that was one of them. He also tried his laser screened shot entering the zone but Conklin got a pad on it.

O’Byrne played more game that I would have gave him (I would have aimed for about 14 minutes) and played a solid game overall but for the 8th game in a row he did a mistake that directly cost a goal. In this case he played the puck instead of the man and you can’t do that against a player as talented as Franzen. He’ll make you pay. He did. O'Byrne has some potential but he'll have to do less mistakes than that. This is becoming an habit and it has to stop.

Josh Georges impresses me more every game. He was solid and won most of his battles in the corners against guys bigger and more talented. He is by far the player who helped the most negate the Komisarek injury. Markov was back to his usual self and that’s a good thing. Hopefully he’ll offer another solid outing when asked to check his buddy Ovechkin on Friday. Strangely enough Hamerlik seemed a bit off his game today. Nothing specific I could talk about, just some weird positioning.

The Captain is really showing he is underrated. At one point in third period the Habs were short handed and he asked Higgins to go around Detroit’s winger to get the puck he’d force back. The play worked and nearly created a scoring opportunity. Higgins was also very good today and Kostopoulos worked better than I expected on that line when asked to replace Tanguay, injured. From what I heard it was a neck injury but we’ll have the official “upper body injury” version tomorrow.

Carey Price was very good again, as predicted. When he position himself to stop the deflection of a shot, he just amaze me. An athlete like him want to prove he can beat Detroit. He did it in preseason. He did it in season. You know what he want to prove now.

Overall a great game. Not perfect but considering the way the team was playing a week ago, I’ll stay on my usual positive side and see that as I said after the last game: I’m happy to report the Habs are back on the right track.

Montreal Detroit bullet point preview

Hey guys, just a couple of details before the game. Stuff to look for and random information. Bullet point style baby.

• In the preseason game between the two teams, TSN called it the Stanley Cup preview. While it may still be true, it looks more like an All Star starting lineup preview.

• Will Carey Price realize another miracle tonight? In you remember, he did that unbelievable save by hitting the puck with his stick behind his back in mid air that forced Pierre McGuire to scream “That’s the save of the year and it’s not even the year yet”. Good times.

• How much time will Ryan O’Byrne play tonight? Hopefully, not much. A smart team like Detroit will put a lot of pressure on him. They will dump the puck his way all game long and try to get in his head to force him to do mistakes. He needs to play less than the 20 or so minutes he played last game. Oh and pair him with Hamerlik as much as possible.

• Will the offense finally convert on more opportunities? The reason I am not too alarmed with the Habs play is because they have their chances, they just missed too often. There are a lot of streaky players on that team and if half of them can finally wake up, the Habs will be in business.

• Will they show the same effort as last game? If they don’t you can forget the last point and the game. But if they do, it’s only Chris Osgood. He can give up fat rebounds and get beat by good shots. They need to play a simpler game. Put the puck on the net and go for it.

• Guillaume Latendresse shouldn’t be playing tonight and Georges Laraque stayed in Montreal so he won’t play before Saturday at the earliest. Will the “Latendresse not playing on Koivu’s line” curse be lifted up? Let’s hope this curse is just something I made up...

Well you have it. Those are my little comments before the game. Hope you guy enjoy it. I’ll have my review later on.

Finding new ways to lose

credit for the picture to Ryan O'Byrne and Habs inside/out

I am more than happy to report that the Montreal Canadiens are back on the right track. Tonight your beloved team played a solid game. From start to finish, from the first line to the last one, everybody played hard and with a passion we haven’t seen enough this year. There are only two players who made me cringe today. And I’m not even talking about Ryan.

Tanguay looks like a guy who doesn’t want to play the style of game the Habs played today. No shot, no hits and he seem to try to play like he doesn’t want to get hit, like he doesn’t want to get his nose dirty. He is the only player who entered the offensive zone with a backpass tonight. It was towards Higgins and as soon as he got the puck he pushed it hard in the corner. More on Higgins later.

The other player I have troubles with is Sergei Kostitsyn. He has a cocky attitude I like to see when he refuse to back down from any opponent but at the same time I think he’s playing over his talent level. Maybe he thinks he’s Kovalev. The 27 takes risks but at the same time, it’s a player who has great vision and more than 1200 games of experience in the NHL (regular season and playoffs). It was Sergei’s 83rd game tonight. He should keep things a lot simpler than he makes them. Some of his decisions are borderline stupid. I’m not doubting his talent but his play his inconsistent and erratic. Come back to the basics Sergei.

But those are only two players in a game that was a big team effort. Kovalev played one of his best games this year. Maxime Lapierre is back and Steve Begin was also solid. Koivu is always good this season and Higgins finally showed he deserved to play on the first line this year. Josh Georges got his first goal as a Habs and Price was his usual self. He doesn’t deserve the L. But without naming each and every player deserving of a pat of the back, the team played with energy. They were going hard in the corners to get the puck, they were circling the puck well and were avoiding fancy plays overall.

You have to give credit to the Islanders, they protected the slot all game long and blocked many shot. Richard Park and Trent Hunter in particular played a very solid game. Then again, the referees helped them a little bit too. The early whistle on Andrei Kostitsyn no-goal is a good example but my main complaint is how sometimes the interference penalty is forgotten.

And then there is Markov, hitting Price on a backcheck before the first goal. Markov isn’t playing well lately and I’m wondering why. And then… there is the other gift. I have been patient with O’Byrne even though he looked bad on at least one goal allowed in each of his past 6 games. Now, he just overdid himself. I’ll give him credit to face the Montreal media after the game but as an NHL player you have to look where your pass is going and he obviously didn’t. Guy Carbonneau said he didn’t think less of O’Byrne after the game, stating that accidents happen. I agree. Now we’ll see if O’Byrne can give a huge effort Wednesday against Detroit. He played well but his confidence could be shattered after this.

It’s a shame O’Byrne blundered like that. If the goal was scored any other way, we would talk about how the powerplay didn’t produce yet again. Or how the team isn’t able to kill penalties. But instead, we’ll talk about how a young player just gave a victory away late in the game.

We’re talking about how the Habs are finding new ways to lose…

Welcome home Pat


It wasn’t surprising to see the goalies steal the show on St-Patrick’s jersey retirement. Tim Thomas just happened to be a better thief tonight. The all-forgotten All-star was spectacular at times and lucky when he needed it. Markov’s open net late in the third period had me curled up in foetal position for hours after the game. But then again, it’s not like he was the only one missing chances. Kovalev had a breakaway and the puck slipped on his stick. Again. I am wondering if it’s Kovy’s bad luck this year or if the ice at the Bell Center is sub par. If there is one thing I’d love the Montreal Canadiens organization to work on, it’s the ice. Make a statement: The best place to play ice hockey!

But back to the game, I cringed when I saw that Carbo’s option to replace Guillaume Latendresse was Georges Laraque. I don’t like Georges. I would rather have him lose it on Lucic and scare him and the rest of the league but instead, he politely asked for a dance. And as the reject he is, he can’t get a partner. However, no matter how painful it is to admit it, when he was shadowing Lucic in the first period, Milan was invisible. Two hit; one against Tom the Bomb and one as a retaliation to Ryan O’Bryne who hit him seconds before. That’s it. Actually Lucic only came to life in the 2nd period. On the second shift of the period where he didn’t have to bother about Georges he hit Koivu, Kovalev and score. All within a minute.

To an even bigger surprise to me, Laraque Koivu and Tanguay had one of the best scoring opportunities in the first period with Tanguay barely missing a backhand rebound. I hate to say it but for the 6 minutes he was on the ice, the Habs 17 was effective. It’s a shame we can’t say the same of 27. On Lucic goal, Kovalev was replacing Bouillon who ventured in the offensive zone to keep the pressure. That’s the perfect play. But when he had to backcheck and keep it up with Lucic, he failed. That’s on top of many missed opportunities. I can live with giveaways from Alex, his style of play will create as many scoring chances as turnovers. I expect that. But losing the puck on breakaways, that’s a problem. Another big surprise was how totally ineffective Lapierre was tonight. No shots, no hits and a very poor 33% on faceoffs. Keep Begin if Max can’t get the message after missing 3 games.

Sometimes I feel like I’m saying the same stuff over and over. Again tonight the captain of the ship was good. His hit one Wideman was a highlight moment and created a turnover. I loved it. Again Price was solid. He can’t do everything by himself. Again, I’m wondering where the hell is Higgins (good job of closing your eyes on that one Rocket). Again O’Byrne looked bad on the first goal. I’ll give him some room, again, for not having support but that’s got to stop. Maybe he’s not as ready as we all hoped he was. Again the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge was playing in shootout. 7 games already. That’s way too much. With the talent this team has they have to score that goal that gives them a clean win and avoid giving points. Although tonight, the shootout was a point the Habs could have lost.

The Lang, Andrei K and Tom Kostopoulos combination seems to be working better than I expected. Hell, Tom even looked liked a superstar with that deflection from Breezer point shot. But Tom is working hard every night. Every shift. He deserve the credit for never giving up. That’s a positive.

And I think I’ll leave it on a positive note. Against the red-hot Bruins, the slumping Habs came out with a point. They played their better “jersey retirement game” in a long time. They failed to score on many occasions but the occasions are there. It’s only a matter of not losing the puck next time…

Best of the worst

credit habs inside/out

Well, I said that the Montreal Canadiens stand a better chance of winning when Guillaume Latendresse is playing next to Tanguay and Koivu. And while the Habs won, it clearly showed that the problem/solution wasn’t Latendresse playing or not on that line. Guy Carbonneau said after the game he was happier with his team effort, especially on the defensive side. It’s true. They played better defensively. But I think the coach tried his best not to simply lash out on some players.

Koivu was a lot more honest about his team play. They need to do better than that. They need to play better as a unit and the solution/problem can’t be imputed on a single player. Or even a couple of players. Or the coach. EVERYBODY has to give more than they are giving right now. Well, to a couple of exceptions.

Carey Price is playing his ass off and the team owes him a couple of victories. He has been spectacular multiple times this year and yesterday wasn’t different. I can’t blame him on the first goal, a shot that deflected off Markov and ended up on Heatley’s stick. I was wondering why put Ruttu and Vermette before Heatley in shootout but then again, I don’t really care. You could blame Price on the second goal, I guess. But he can’t do everything alone and Bouillon didn’t help on that play, letting Foligno get to the puck without doing much.

Saku Koivu has been one of the most consistent Habs this season. Tanguay is getting results and shows how talented he is but he isn’t working as hard as the captain. Clearly, Saku wants to win. It’s a shame not enough players show the same intensity because we wouldn’t have to talk about a team nobody feel confident about despite a very respectable 24 points in 18 games. The team is getting the results their talent should get them, but they are lucky. It could easily be 8 points less by the way they played.

Now we know officially that Komisarek will be missed longer than we all hoped. Five weeks is a long time in this sport. Will Bob Gainey be able to move some of those extra veterans on offence to help his defensive corps? Let’s just hope because neither of the players we have right now are able to effectively replace Big Mike.

I really liked Begin reaction, when facing Cody Bass. As soon as he saw Laraque over his shoulder he dropped the gloves. F*** you Georges. I’m fighting for ice time here! Also, I swear I saw Carbo talk with his players on the bench before the shootout and say “five hole”. Saku tried a different move than usual (that was a big surprise) going between the legs and both goals were there. The only player who didn’t try it was Kovalev.

So there you have it. Out of two teams playing way under their talent level, we are the best. Yay! I guess… Now we’ll see if they can pull it off against Boston.

Urgh. This has the potential to be another ugly jersey retirement…

Use the players who will help you win


I said in my game review that I had another complaint about the coach and I think this is the biggest problem on this team right now. It’s about the use of some players. I won’t touch the defence today because of Komisarek being injured so the coach doesn’t have nearly as many options. But on offense, it’s high time we smell the coffee. Tom Kostopoulos is NOT as good a player as Guillaume Latendresse. And Gui doesn’t deserve to play on the fourth line. He needs to be on the top offensive lines. Sergei Kostitsyn should be reminded that we can still send his ass to Hamilton without having to put him on the waivers. Not be used as the sixth men when you take Carey Price out late. Maxime Lapierre played his heart out but he’s pretty much interchangeable with Begin. I can understand the coach giving a couple of game to his veteran. I just hope he’ll see action before Laraque.

If Guy Carbonneau is serious about using the players that will help him win, he needs to realize which combinations work and which don't. After playing 17 games, we can come to some conclusions. Some players work well with others. Some players are used to other players and Guy is falling into the same trap he accused his players of not seeing. Let me quote him

“Guys need to realize that what happened last year is last year. You don’t start the season with 12 or 40 assists, you start from scratch.”

Well coach, you are doing the exact same thing. You think some combinations are working. You think some players are adding to a line and some don’t. But you mainly looked at how Higgins and Koivu used to work well together and how Koivu and Tanguay are getting points together.

The truth is: Guillaume Latendresse makes the world go round.

Here are the Habs results with various players on what has been the best line this year.

Latendresse on Koivu’s line: 7-1-1

Higgins on Koivu’s line: 2-3-1*

Kovalev on Koivu’s line: 1-1-0

* I counted the NY Islanders game as a Higgins victory since he played the third period with Koivu. It was Plekanec’s line scoring 3 times in 3rd period who stole the game but let’s be generous here.

Do I need to explain more? I will. Here are Tanguay and Koivu numbers with and without Gui.

(using the “goal-assists-points +/-” format)

With: Tanguay 6-5-11 +7 and Koivu 4-6-10 +9 in 9 games.

Without: Tanguay 2-4-6 -1 and Koivu 2-4-6 +0 in 8 games.

It’s more than time we admit a couple of things about Guillaume. He’s a hard working, honest power forward who will apply good forecheck, be physical and has good enough hands to score every once in a while. I think many people expect so much of him that they see how he fails to achieve standards that don’t fit the player. He’ll create space for Koivu and Tanguay. He’ll get secondary passes most of the time, score about 20 times and end up with around 50 points but so often he’ll be the guy who skates hard towards a defencemen, forcing him to cough up the puck to Saku or that body in front of the net to screen the goalie.

The Montreal Canadiens are a better team when Latendresse is playing on the first line.

He makes the Habs a better team than Higgins does.


I said it.

Let the hate mail flow.

Forward momentum is a beautiful thing

credit Habs inside/out

I am a positive guy. Or at least I try to be. And from what I see, we’re close. We’re missing something, but we’re damn close. First off, let me state that the stat sheet is a lot uglier than the game was. 48 shots allowed to a team like Carolina may sound extremely bad but teams like that often shoot from every possible angle and rely on rebounds and deflections. I’m not saying Carey Price wasn’t spectacular tonight, because he was, but I’m simply saying that 48 shots to Carolina doesn’t scare me as much as it sounds.

A team like the Montreal Canadiens will hold onto the puck more and rely on passing and trick plays. I usually prefer to look at scoring opportunities which, for the Habs, doesn’t necessarily translate to shots. But tonight, I must admit I would rather see them play like the Hurricanes. The best moments of the game for the Habs came from shooting at Cam Ward from every angle and going to the net. He often gave rebounds and snipers like Kovalev, Tanguay, Markov, Kostitsyn and many others can zip one in against a goaltender like that. We’re not talking Martin Brodeur here.

Don’t get me wrong. Passes are fine. But look at the third period. Kovalev stopping on a dime to lose his opponent and then go for a cross ice pass to Koivu on the side of the net. Fine. Kostitsyn (both) soft back-passing a puck entering the zone hoping the guy following wears the same jersey as him. Very Wrong. Am I the only one who loved to see him fire that bullet? No, it didn’t score. It was still a better scoring opportunity than giving the puck to Brind’amour. Forward momentum is a beautiful thing.

And this is actually the real big problem with the Habs. How often do they lose 40 seconds of a power play trying to enter the zone? If Bouillon or Brisebois do “the right play” and dump it, it’s predictable and too often the players are idle at the blueline. If Sergei or Plekanec try to keep the puck at the blue line for a couple of seconds, it’s as predictable. The difference is that even if a Carolina player is first on the puck on a Breezer dump, he’s still far from the net with 5 players in front of him. When the Habs lose the puck at the blue line with 3 idle players waiting for the puck to enter... my neighbours think I’m losing my mind.

I’m not advocating dump and chase as the only option, but look how Kovalev tries to enter the puck usually: deke a guy at the blue line, follow the ramp and go deep in the corner. This gives time to your defencemen to enter the zone and give you additional options if Koivu or Tanguay aren’t open in the slot. Forward momentum is a beautiful thing.

This is one of my two real complaints about Carbo’s work (other to follow in next article). I understand he needs to keep 23 players happy but if I was in his place I’d blow a gasket and promise anyone who enter the zone doing a back pass some extra push-ups to be done immediately after the game. When the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge shoot on net, go for rebounds and keep the passing game to honest forward passes, they have their opportunities. Carbo… force them to do it. It’s your job. Oh and a similar threat about bad changes or stretching ice time may be in order. Kovalev is one thing. Sergei doesn’t have the credentials to deserve that special treatment.

But back to the game, The Koivu line doesn’t work. No shots on goal for him and Tanguay. It’s nice to see so much talent on one line but there is something missing. And when did Kostopoulos become a valuable option on the second line? How does it complement the work of Chris Higgins? With Thomas Plekanec who doesn’t seem to know what to do, that’s one screwed up line. The fourth line, despite Habster’s dislike, is a usual highlight for me. They don’t often score, but they work hard every shift and often create chances. Lang and the brothers have some potential but only when they go toward the net and shoot. Forward momentum…

Come on guys, go back to the basics. For the centennial, give us some good old north south hockey. There is enough talent to score with simple play here. Use the trick play when they don’t see it coming, not as an option A.

Look how the Hurricanes beat you tonight. Shoot to the net and go for the rebound. Simple isn’t it?

Leave the tricky play for the All Star game. By the look of the voting, it’ll be the Western Conference against the Sainte-Flanelle anyway.

A game of luck.

There is no real good way to analyze this game. The effort seemed shallow but when you start a game only 20 hours after finishing your last one and have to travel to a city 1100 miles away, you are facing difficult conditions. To help matters, you have one of the weirdest referees in the NHL making sure this game will have absolutely no flow.

I will apologize to our readers for this late post and for this bullet point format I’m about to use. I promise to have a better full game review on Tuesday.

  • It was ugly, but for far more reasons that the Habs. Yes, they were facing a bottom of the league team but the conditions explained earlier explain some of the fatigue from the players.

  • Yes, they were 0-10 on the power play but how many power plays were killed by a weird call? 4 from the Habs and two from St-Louis. Out of 10 power plays, only 4 of them went two minutes.

  • Did Keith Tkachuk elbowed three of our players? This is a situation where I would be glad to have Laraque in the lineup. I’d give him a very specific mission. Go talk to Keith, preferable when other players of his team are around, and simply tell him “Next time you elbow one of my players, I’ll elbow one of your superstars”. Granted, with Kariya already injured, there weren’t any superstars left to target but you get my point.

  • A good point from my dad (Big Uncle?): Laraque could benefit from losing his mind on the ice once; enough to make sure the rest of the league sees him crush every player on the ice. Enough to scare. Yeah, he’d be suspended. Yes, he’d be fined. I’m sure his teammates would pinch in to pay it.

  • I was happy to see how the powerplay reacted. They seemed more involved. Breezer and Markov hit the post after some good setup.

  • I usually defend Carbo but the line changes looked extremely weird. Lapierre out? Latendresse on a 4th line with Kostopoulos on the second line? I’ll give him another game or two hoping this was to shake up everybody but both players played well enough in my opinion to deserve better. Breaking the Plecanek line was a no brainer and Lang seemed to play with added motivation tonight.
  • When I said game of luck, I meant it. Kostitsyn was lucky Legace gave him a free goal, Lang was lucky to hit the puck in the air. Hell, Kostitsyn was lucky the St-Louis player didn't steal the puck from him on Lang's goal. But then again, St-Louis was lucky Brisebois and Markov hit the post. Otherwise they could have lost the game in regulation.

  • Again, too many players were idle tonight. Brisebois standing in the middle of the ice as a penalty was closing. Andrei Kostitsyn doing nothing to help Breezer on at least two attempts to get out of the zone. Bouillon and Gorges waiting for a slow puck to arrive, giving time to St-Louis to apply forecheck, instead of going for it. Lang playing in the offensive zone like nobody would come from behind to steal the puck. I’ll give them a break today and put it on the fatigue but honestly, this is something I see too often.

  • Like Carbo said: "Teams are getting ready for us. We have to work harder than that."

Now let's hope this victory will put the team in a better mindset for Carolina.

Raise your hand if you want to win

source habs inside/out
Flyers win 2-1.

I guess we’ll have to stay positive about it. It wasn’t as bad as last Thursday. Not even close to the humiliation against the Maple Leafs. At least I have positive comments for about half the team. The Habs, as a team, worked well in the first period and most of the third but the second period sunk the team.

I refuse to blame Halak tonight who played a good enough game to give his team a chance to win. He wasn’t the problem. Mike Komisarek absence wasn’t a real problem either. Maybe he would have reacted better than O’Byrne on Philadelphia’s second goal but Markov was on the ice and didn’t do anything either to stop Jeff Carter from going all alone in front of Jaroslav. Bouillon was beaten on the first goal but it wasn’t by much.

On the offensive side of the ice, things were much, much uglier. Sergei Kostitsyn will be a very solid hockey player one day but for now, he need to look in the mirror and ask himself if he want to help his team win or if he want to look good. Multiple times tonight he could have sent the puck to a teammate skating hard to the blue line. Instead Sergei tried to deke his way into the offensive zone, forced his teammates to slow down and pretty much killed any good opportunity to take the puck deep in the offensive zone. Hey Serge. This isn’t junior anymore. NHL teams are NOT going to let you simply waltz your way in their zone and give you the blue line. They will protect it. They will create a wall and the only thing you’ll be able to do is to take a shot from 60-80 ft from the goalie.

Of course, I don’t have insider’s information, I am not in the dressing room and I haven’t seen any practice but I can guess that the coaching staff asks for one of two things from their players. To use their speed to open the defense and create odd man rushes. This is done by having one or two players going full speed toward the offensive zone and having quick passes to take the defense off balance. If you look at Ottawa’s game, they did it all night long. The second option is to dump the puck deep into the zone, preferably as a player is already skating towards the offensive zone, thus using your speed to get the puck back. None of those strategies will work every times but it sure as hell beat trying to take the offensive zone holding on to the puck as three players are stationed on the blue line. The only player who can make this work is Kovalev, because he scares defensemen enough that they treat him differently. He can then center the puck to a player the defense usually forgot because they didn’t want to look bad to Kovy.

Lang was ugly to watch. Bad decisions combined with bad passes and a worst in team 4 out of 10 in the faceoff circle made him a hindrance tonight. O’Bryne is not ready to play 18 minutes a game. He was shaky, was off balance more than once and was too often immobile.

There is no reason to panic. Most of the team are playing well. Saku is inspired and inspiring. Latendresse is proving to everyone he is ready for a new step in the NHL. Andrei Kostitsyn is progressing nicely and while Plekanec isn’t producing up to last year standard, I see him work hard. Lapierre is playing so well, I’d put him on the third line with Sergei and Higgins, just to see what would happen (and to shake up Lang). As long as his teammates work hard, Tanguay will produce. Kovalev look hurt, but he’s a warrior. He’ll bounce back. The fourth line will keep giving everything they have and will benefit from Kostopoulos return.

And hey, with a 9-4-2 record, the Canadiens can take back the first place in their division by only winning their games in hand. And it had to start tomorrow against the Blues.

THE GAME IS AT 6PM. Don’t forget.

Habs kneel down to the Bruins

source: Habs Inside/Out

Big Brother:

Please someone tell me the Habs were wearing black and gold tonight.

This game review is going to be hard to do without swearing.It was simply ugly. To quote Shaquille O’Neil: “It was Horrawful. It’s horror and awful put together.” While Price was shaky on two goals, he’s hardly to blame. I argued in Rocket’s last article that the Ottawa shutout was a team effort. This 6-1 game was a team gift. Would you believe me if I told you the Bruins had only 3 shots more on Price than Ottawa did two days ago? It didn’t look like it! Nobody played a full game.

Let’s try to find some positive. Andrei Kostitsyn actually played a solid game with Thomas Plekanec. Both worked most of the game, just not hard enough. Kovalev looked a step behind all game long. I am usually a fan of “L’Artiste” but tonight, he looked like a Picasso. And while Lapierre and Dandenault gave everything they had, it clearly wasn’t enough. They did too many costly mistakes. But I feel for those two guys. They have to play PK every shift. Can you imagine what these two could do if there was a third player on that line to help them out?

For the first two periods the L.A. Kola line (Lang, Kostitsyn, Latendresse) was the best one on the ice. Sergei was more involved, Latendresse still impressed me (although I didn’t see his penalty) and Lang played a solid game. It’s the only line that didn’t give an even strength goal. They applied a good forecheck and kept the pressure on the Bruins defense. At least until Kovalev was switched for Kostitsyn. I heard a mention that Kovalev has some knee or leg (let’s call it lower body) injury. It might be a good idea to leave him out of the lineup until he heals to have him back at full strength. Kovalev at half speed isn’t good enough this year. Every single team makes sure he receives special attention.

The Captain worked hard as he usually does but he’ll need his linemates to help. I didn’t see Tanguay all game except for a soft shot that looked so weak Manny Fernandez felt he had to give it back to Saku Koivu. Higgins didn’t do much better and was mostly invisible.

Gorges and Bouillon looked bad most of the night. Komisarek and Markov weren’t close to their usual standards. Hamerlik slept through Lucic goal. O’Byrne was the only defensemen I didn’t find out of place all game long. I still think Brisebois deserve to play Saturday. But based on the last couple of games, I’d send Francis Bouillon in the stands. I’d have Begin play too but I’ll let you guess who I would scratch. (hint: read article below)

Now let’s give some credit to Boston (man that was painful to write). They wanted that game more. They battled and fought for the puck. Stephane Yelle was solid on the PK and managed to score twice. Lucic is becoming a real rivalry player who shines in games like tonight. Hell, even Ryder didn’t look bad defensively. Not that the Habs tried to make him look too bad.

I’ll stop the review right now as I have been able to go that long without going “PG-13” or worst. Now I’ll leave a question to ponder until Saturday. Since the workload of the weekend will probably be divided between Halak and Price, would you put Halak in the net against Philadelphia Saturday or would you keep him for Sunday’s game against St-Louis, giving a chance for Price to redeem himself for tonight’s game and the playoffs?

We could use a heayweight

Can someone please show Laraque the way to the stands? He doesn’t belong on the ice. Not on that team. He is painfully slow, can’t create any type of offense, isn’t a good defensive player and doesn’t want to fight.

Actually, Georges of the Jungle actually received three fighting majors this season. The first one was against Shawn Thornton who actually went right for Laraque, knowing full well he would have to pay for what he did to Steve Begin. In hindsight, maybe Shawn could have skated right next to Big G all day long without having to drop the gloves. But instead, Thornton faced the music and did his best hanging to Laraque, trying not to get hurt too badly.

Then there was this farce in Phoenix. After Kurt Sauer injured our most talented left winger, Tom Kostopoulos had to drop the gloves to avenge his teammate. Then the toughest fighter in the league dropped his gloves and danced with Todd Fedoruk, a guy he owned 5 times already in his career. Again, Fedoruk tried not to die.

And then, the funniest thing happened. In Long Island he faced somebody even bigger than him. Mitch Fritz is 6’8” and on this fight, Big G barely tried not to get hit. He probably didn’t want to mess up his good looks.

This year the Montreal Canadiens were involved in 10 fights. Laraque got three. Didn’t we sign him to make sure guys like Kostopoulos, Lapierre and Begin could do their job without fear? Now Begin fear for his job, Kostopoulos had to drop the gloves twice and Lapierre had to fight too. Add to that the two fights Bouillon was involved in, another fight from Latendresse (???) and tonight’s episode with Komisarek and you have to wonder… WHY did we sign Laraque?

I am not questioning Bob Gainey’s move. I’m wondering about Laraque’s motivation to play. I’m wondering about his “code”. After the Phoenix game, he explained his decision not to fight Kurt Sauer by saying that he would have probably been suspended. Here’s some news for you Georges: NOT having you in the lineup would be an improvement. Begin, Kostopoulos, Dandenault are fighting tooth and nails for their job. You don’t want to? Get your towering frame in the press box. Go have a little talk with Michel Bergeron. You are probably the only male in Montreal who could learn from him anyway.

I would love to have Georges Laraque in the Montreal lineup. If he was ready to drop the gloves to protect his linemates fast enough that Bouillon doesn’t have to do it for him. If he was ready to drop the gloves to change the pace of a game where his whole team looked asleep. If he was ready to drop the gloves to shut up Lucic. NOT if he is ready to fight only a list of 17 players he handpicked before the start of the season. People “in his weight class”. Right now “Big Georges” is only a big #*%?$ waste of ice time. Ice time that could be used by Begin. And I’m pretty sure he’d drop the gloves to protect his teammates.

RDS is even reporting that Komisarek might have injured his hand in the fight. It’s funny because in a conference call last summer, Georges said he was brought in so that a guy like Komisarek wouldn’t have to drop the gloves. “He is too important on the ice to have him in the penalty box for five”. How about on the injury list for a week?

Real game review to come later on.

image taken from

Sens hit a wall

I am barely coming back from the Bell Center where, for the first time this year, the Tricolore showed us why nearly everyone saw them as favourite in the East. It was a damn near flawless game. And as I mentioned in my article earlier today, the best defense is a good offense. And today, the best offense offered their goaltender a shutout, probably trying to redeem themselves for the lacklustre effort they showed in the past couple of games. And this shutout was well deserved by the entire team.

As soon as the first period started, you could see the message Carbo sent his players was well received. They skated harder, they hit harder and at midpoint were leading 11-2 in shots. The powerplay (0 for 4 if I am not mistaken) managed some solid opportunities but just couldn’t bury the puck. Then again, the penalty killing unit was superb all night long with the winning goal, stopped Heatley and his gang four time also and even managed to receive a standing ovation after being more threatening than Ottawa’s powerplay.

As I mentioned, it was a near flawless game. I spotted three things that bugged me. The first one was the younger Kostitsyn. He seemed slower than usual which may be caused by Carbo’s decision to have him play on the fourth line a couple of shifts early in the game. Dandenault, who replaced him on the third line early and took back his spot later, played one of his best game this year.

Consequently, the fourth line bugged me. While I’ll admit Laraque is playing his best hockey has a Habs, he still is a huge downgrade from Kostopoulos, Begin or Dandenault. It’s a shame to see him eat ice time that could go to faster, more reliable players. If at least he was the guy protecting his players instead of Bouillon. I’ll give him that, I didn’t see Chris Neil too often trying to play with Carey Price. MAYBE he is a good deterrent.

Last but not least, Komisarek. I love the guy, but his penalty late in the third was pointless and stupid. He was getting away roughing Dany Heatley but tried to see how much further he could go. It reminded me of a kid in class, trying to see how much it took to piss of his teacher. He does it too often for my tastes.

Beside those three minor complaints it was a great game. Solid from start to finish, the Habs showed they can control the pace and flow, create their chances and limit the opposition. Yes, they allowed 28 shots but very few presented any kind of danger to Carey Price.

I couldn’t ask for tickets to a better game. Now bring on Boston

Random notes:

  • My tickets were 38$. While I didn’t expect great seats, I didn’t expect a ladder and a map to a lamppost.

  • I swear too much for the family section.

  • How many hot babes wearing bleu-blanc-rouge can you fit in a building? Apparently: a lot. I just replaced Angelina Jolie as my no 1 fantasy.

  • The worst thing in the family section wasn’t the kids, but the “entertainers” the Montreal Canadiens put in every section. No. I don’t want to dance. I want to watch hockey.

Until next game…

A good defense is a good offense

Hello everyone. I’m Big Brother, the newest addition to the All Habs family. Allow me to take the first couple of lines for personal mentions. First off, thanks Habster for the opportunity to write here and Rocket, I’m looking forward to have our first official head to head game review later tonight.

Some of you may know me on other various websites, I wrote as Big Brother on a multitude of subjects. If you are a long time reader, please drop a line.

Now, as Habster already mentioned in my introduction, I have a good knowledge (and big love) for statistics. I read them all the time, devour them you could say, and try to understand even more about my team, my coach and the sport I love.

Looking at the year so far, the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge is, on paper, impressive. 8-2-2 for 18 points in 12 games is more than I was asking for. Markov, Kovalev, Koivu and Tanguay are all playing for a point per game or better. So why on earth am I cringing every time I watch the Sainte-Flanelle?

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against an offensive minded team if you have enough talent. And the Habs happen to have that. They can win games against two thirds of the league by relying on their talent only. But they have to rely on talent more than 20 minutes per game. Right now, they rely on talent… and luck.

As much as it pains me to admit, I enjoyed the humiliating loss to the Lafs on Saturday. A team who rely on Grabovski as second center clearly shouldn’t beat the powerful Centennial team, right? Well as it was showed last weekend, the team who work harder will get the puck more often and get more scoring chances.

Early this season Guillaume Latendresse was working hard to prove to his coach that while Higgins was injured, he belonged on the second line. Higgins replaced him well on that line. Tom Kostopoulos rewarded Carbo’s decision to put him on the third line by offering some of his best effort. None of them have the stat sheet to prove how good they were, but they made their teammates look better by applying good forecheck and creating turnovers.

And even when talking about the dizzying KPK line, goals come with hard work. Kovalev’s goal against Boston early this season was created by Andrei pushing Zdeno Chara from the front of the net. His own goal against Philly was created by flattening Mike Richards. (see video)

Tonight things have to change. Not that the team has to stop being a menacing offense, on the contrary. The reason this team was so succesfull last year was because they were thinking offense as soon as they got the puck, creating odd man rushes. But starting tonight, they have to be more aggressive. They have to be an offense that controls the game. Not one that wait for their opportunities, one that creates them. A team whose forecheck is feared. A team that give it all.

Sometimes I wonder if they don’t need another coach. One that comes from curling. Just to hear him scream.

Hurry. Hard. HARDER!