Friday, February 20, 2009

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.

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