The sound you might be hearing, well aside from the snoring after that game, is a fat lady warming up in the bowels of the Bell Centre. After such a great effort against the Sens the other night, to come out and show virtually no emotion at all is a crime, especially when the team you’re playing is one of the lowest in the league. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the entire team was sick as a dog again, because that’s the only possible explanation I could have for seeing such a poor effort.
At this point, it’s gut check time for the coach. The players are running ragged rings in the neutral zone, and while they have absolutely improved in the defensive zone, they look incompetent on attack. Surely the loss of Kovalev and Johnson is not so important that a generally pathetic attack could get much worse, and yet that seems to have been the case. The majority of shots are from the perimeter, and when the Habs do miraculously penetrate, there’s nobody to make things happen in the slot.
Huet: A By far and away the brightest point tonight, Huet was wonderful throughout the entire game. He made some absolutely stellar stops to keep the boys in it, and even when they went down, Huet didn’t lose concentration one iota. That’s exactly what the Habs needed in net. If only they could have supported him.
Bouillon: B+ Dare I say he was the only defender who had a reasonable game? What he gave tonight which was absolutely critical was some attacking confidence and some rapid movement of the puck.
Dandenault: C+ I’m going to have to start calling him Balance Boy. Frequently when he goes into a one-on-one battle in the corners, he ends up on his butt which allows the opposition to skate out. For a guy who’s known for his skating, he’s kissing the ice far too much.
Komisarek: B- Again, slower game and he just doesn’t move the puck with the alacrity that’s needed. Instead, he gets bottled up and either loses it outright, or gets his passes intercepted. Yes, there’s a huge problem with the attackers not coming back to help – that defense / offense gap is massive right now – but that doesn’t excuse the waiting from the defenders.
Markov: C Quite possibly one of the most unfocused games I’ve ever seen him play. He was scattered with the puck, flighty off the puck, and made more mental errors than he’s made in half the season. If Montreal is to turn its game around, Markov has to be at the centre. Fortunately for them, he rarely struggles for more than a game at a time.
Souray: B- Remember a couple of years back when he scored all those goals in the first half of the season and barely did anything in the second half? Yeah, the teams have figured him out again, and that means he’s just an average passing defender with some roughness and inconsistent defensive play.
Streit: C+ I’m absolutely convinced that he’s a better forward than a defender. He tends to get caught slightly out of position on the blueline and is therefore a half step behind trying to catch his attacker. I also feel he’s a useful intensity forward that we seemed to be missing tonight.
Begin: B Nice to see him with the ‘A’ on his jersey for starters, however it was pretty plain that he’s not completely in game shape yet. Valiant effort, no doubt, but he was lagging at times – which is not what you’d expect from a Begin in shape. Shame about the two-on-one with Bonk; Begin did everything right including getting the puck up on Belfour, but the latter was having himself one of those stellar nights.
Bonk: B- Defensively solid, as usual, but didn’t press as hard in the offensive zone. There are times when I feel he just doesn’t have confidence in his teammates the way he probably should. Two men in front of the net (one of the only times in the game) and instead of getting the puck in there, he curls the net and ultimately loses it, and any scoring chance, in the corner.
Downey: C+ Captain Potato takes a really silly penalty amidst a night where he didn’t show nearly the zip needed, albeit in a very short amount of time on the ice. In a game like this, however, he has to make something happen – particularly considering his role.
Higgins: B+ Well, anyone watching him can surely see that he’s back to his old self in every way but confidence in that 10-foot area around the net. He hit the post tonight from about two and a half feet out – something he would never have done early in the year or late last season. A bright spot for the Habs, it’s only a matter of time before he starts lighting the lamp again (and watch the relief drain off him when he does it the first time).
Koivu: C I have never, in all my time watching the Canadiens, seen him lacking so much confidence on the puck. His passing, usually the bright point in his game, is atrocious these days. There’s no fault in his effort, per se, but he just has to start putting the pieces together. You see glimpses here and there, two penalties drawn when he goes into high gear with the puck, but on the other hand there’s the five-on-three pass to the point where he muffed it, then took a penalty.
Lapierre: C+ Quite simply, not enough fire. He’s not finishing nearly enough checks, in my opinion, to be considered a solidly contributing fourth liner.
Latendresse: C- His game was so poor tonight he was tossed to the fourth line. Some absolutely aimless plays resulted in turnovers in the defensive zone and he was just not winning his board battles tonight. He absolutely must come out on fire tomorrow.
Murray: D+ Somehow he was credited with four hits tonight, but for a largely invisible player, I have my doubts.
Perezhogin: C Fits and starts, that was his game. He was on the fourth, was moved up to the second, and in both cases he had shifts that were very good and others where he looked out of place. Here’s a significant issue that’s been lost since the early part of the season: why is the team not taking advantage of the speed of Perezhogin? Is it his line, his play, or is it the way the system is designed?
Plekanec: B- He worked hard, made a few good plays, but in general was left alone by his teammates for the bulk of the time. It’s awfully hard to accomplish a lot when you have to do it all on your own.
Ryder: C+ There were two or three shifts tonight during which Ryder showed exactly how he became such a good goalscorer – and neither of those shifts included him even getting a shot. Instead, he was moving at top speed, making a couple of hits, and getting into the right places. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get the puck then, and unfortunately for everyone else, he didn’t play every shift like that.
Samsonov: C+ Well, putting him with Koivu, which so many fans had been waiting for, was an understandable failure. Samsonov carries the puck too long, which negates Koivu having anyone to pass to since he doesn’t have the puck, and when Sammy is in the defensive zone, you can pretty much expect the puck getting shoved right back down your throat if you try to clear on that side.
PP: C- All that great movement from the other night was gone. Is Kovalev that important to the powerplay that it goes from good to junk overnight? I don’t think so – plain and simple, no one put in the effort required.
PK: A Now why, oh why, can’t the Habs play every shift like the play on the penalty kill? Always intense, always in the face of the opposition, this is the kind of hockey that needs to be played. Very solid game tonight (and almost as many scoring chances as the PP and five-on-five combined).
Carbonneau: B- The good news is that he was quite most of the night and didn’t complain about every single thing that happened on the ice. The bad news is that, while he juggled the lines to get non-working players off supposedly attacking lines, he’s left his players with no clue who they’re with – and it’s starting to show. Add to that the absolute lack of forecheck, even when the team is behind, and you start to wonder just a little. Now, it’s hard to complain a ton tonight because the players just didn’t put in the required effort, but at some point a solution to all this *must* be found.
If you want a quick capsule of the Habs play tonight, consider the following: the puck gets cleared back behind the net and Huet stops it, leaving it for Souray. He comes out from behind the net to see all three attackers moving away from him at significant velocity – and all three are long past the Habs blue line. You wonder why they can’t start and sustain any kind of attack? There’s absolutely no support amongst the team right now. Watch Florida and you see all five players fairly close together, giving each other options for getting the puck moving. Watch Montreal and you’re lucky if you see two players in the same zone.
But again, it all comes down to the effort you’re willing to put out on the ice. If you can’t be bothered to give it your all, then I think it’s time to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re worth the millions they’re paying you. You have to wonder if, were it possible to quantify effort, the Canadiens organization would start demanding back percentages of contracts. Sorry, Ryder, you only worked at 61% and we’d therefore like the 39% back now. Aren’t these players supposed to be professionals? Well, you reap what you sow, and at this point the Habs aren’t sowing very much, so it’s pretty obvious why they aren’t getting results.
And just to make things worse, they head to the swamp to face Brodeur and the Devils tomorrow night. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, indeed.
A Concerned Fan