Friday, January 27, 2006

Ottawa 3 Montreal 0

THE GOOD:

A surge in the powerplay. The most prominent sore spot during the home and home again with the Leafs was that they were unable to capitalize with the man advantage, scoring only one goal in both games, and on most of their opportunities, unable to sustain any sort of momentum. Such was not the case last night. How much of that can be credited to the Leafs’ solid PK, or the Canadiens teri cloth one, who knows, but anytime a team racks up three PP goals when it had previously been struggling, you have to be happy. Overall, it just looked like a different team when up a man. They were able to move the puck very well, did a good job along the boards, avoided sloppy passes (namely, Jason Spezza’s threw the crease that the Leafs telegraphed every time) and kept the rubber in the Habs’ zone.

Mike Fisher. After lighting the lamp twice vs. Toronto Saturday night, Fisher was unable to do the same here, but he had a terrific outing.

Brian Pothier throwing a hit, and a big one at that. Someone check the temperate in Hell.

Zdeno Chara’s hands. Chara undressed Sheldon Souray on his goal and, when keeping the puck from going offside on a powerplay, made moves that Jason Spezza would’ve been proud of.

Anton Volchenkov getting time on the powerplay. Volchenkov has been playing especially well as of late, and deserved the shot to pad his stats a little bit and display some of the offensive upside he rarely does on even strength. And sure enough, with the A-Train out there, the lamp was lit. Might want to look into that coach.

The easiest shutout of Dominik Hasek’s career. Hasek is infamous for overextending himself and involving himself in plays because he’s bored, and usually that consists of a lot of stick slapping and much wandering out of the crease. When you consider he only faced 12 shots on goal, you’d think Hasek would be doing laps around the ice, but he seemed to be enjoying the rest.

Chris Neil. Neil played the role of superpest all night long, throwing hits and drawing penalties.

The penalty killing. Montreal’s powerplay is dreadful, yeah, but Ottawa was relentless down a man.

THE BAD:

Snake bitten Dany Heatley. I cannot recall the last time I saw a legitimate NHL sniper get so many excellent scoring chances and yet not score. Heatley registered eight shots on goal, and the majority of them were in the slot and on most night would’ve been in the net.

THE OPPOSITION:

You’d think a team in Montreal’s position, with the GM behind the bench, would play like a desperate club. You’d think the Canadiens, having taken a huge freefall in the standings in the last two months after starting the season so stongly, would be working their asses off to ensure they’re back in a playoff position.

You’d be wrong.

Rather than looking like a hungry club, instead, the Montreal Canadiens were lost out there. Zero chemistry between players, even less emotion displayed from the majority of the team, and at no point at all did you feel like it would change. It was as if the game was a foregone conclusion about five minutes in.

I realize they played last night, and beat a pretty good Philadelphia team, but there should be no excuse for the effort they displayed last night at the Scotiabank Place. None.

It was truly the kind of display that will have the Montreal call-in shows busy for days.

When a team is struggling, it’s usually up to the veterans and top players (most often one in the same) to pick up the slack. Lead by example. The Habs’ top guys did no such things. Both Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev had dreadful games. Their other key contributors up front, Richard Zednik, Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder didn’t fare much better. And on the blueline, Sheldon Souray continued to struggle. He was pyloned numerous times and just looked to be in another world for the majority of his time on the ice.

The lone bright spot was the play of Cristobol Huet in nets. He had a sensational first period and kept them in a game they had absolutely no right still being in. Until recently, I never believed much of the Jose Theodore trade rumors, but where there’s smoke, there is usually fire, and based on how he’s played as of late and how well Huet has done in relief, as well as the way the rest of the club has looked, it’s clear something needs to be done.

Theodore, in spite of how he’s played this season, is probably their most appealing asset to other teams, and could command the most coming back the other way to help their numerous needs. They’re not deep enough on defence, don’t have nearly enough scoring to compete with most of the other Eastern heavyweights, and appear to have serious heart issues.

In short, they’re a mess. A mess that a coaching change clearly didn’t cure. It was a band-aid solution, and for a while, it looked as if it had turned things around, but they’ve come back to Earth.

Besides trading Theodore to get some help in there, I don’t have any solutions. Those kind of pieces should be penned by someone more closely in touch with the team. But something clearly needs to be done, and unless it’s done fast, this season will be a wash.

UP NEXT:

A month ago, I would’ve said the cakewalk continues, but the Boston Bruins are playing a whole lot better than they were at that time, and have quietly put themselves back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Still on the outside looking in mind you, but considering around Christmas it looked like their fate as Northeast bottom dwellers was sealed, B’s fans have to be pleased with the progress.

Boston’s also a team that’s beaten Ottawa twice this year, including the day after they traded Joe Thornton to the Sharks. Both of those games were in Beantown, while this will be here, however, if the Sens take them too lightly and ignore the fact they’re playing much better, they could be in for a rude awakening.

6 Comments:

At 8:30 AM, Blogger steve said...

Lump into the good - finally gettting a win off of Huet. His stats certainly aren't impressive, except when you see that 2 of his wins are against Ottawa. Whenever I've seen him play he always looks solid. You have to get rid of those "monkeys on your back" as soon as possible.

Heatley... he needs to step his game up. The only goal I can remember him getting recently was that one-timer against T.o on sat that he didn't even get good wood on, as it slowly but surely went past a sliding Belfour.

I think that the performance last night was even more impressive than the 7-0 win against T.O, even though the score wasn't as lopsided. I find it funny that the Sens were apparently making bets to keep the Habs shot total under 10, and that it took a few slap shots from the blue line in garbage time for them to get there.

 
At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah Heatley should have scored a few. But seriously...isn't he on a six game point-streak?

 
At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandma could get a point streak playing on a line with Alfy and Spezza.

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger ninja said...

great write up, but here's a helpful hint re:telegraphing - this would mean Spezza was giving hints about where he was going to pass. A defense can't telegraph a pass and intercept it. An offensive player gives away his intentions when he telegraphs a play. hence telegraph - sending signals.

 
At 1:48 PM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

Volchenkov on the powerplay is what I've been waiting for. He has offensive ability, he should be allowed to show it more.

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Maple Leafs Fan Page
http://torontomapleleafs1967.red.tc

 

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