It Hab-Ened Last Night: Habs beat Canucks, But Is It Good Enough?


David Desharnais scores in the first period last night in Vancouver. He hasn't been seen since

I don't really like being a Debbie Downer. Especially only hours after the Montreal Canadiens ended a 3 game losing skid with an impressive 3-2 victory over what many consider to be the best team in the league, in the Vancouver Canucks.

But sometimes, the way this team, this coaching staff handles its business on the ice just irks the hell out of me. And I've pretty much had enough of it.

The Canadiens went into last night's game losers of their last two on this three game Western road trip. A bad 4-1 loss to the league's worst team in Edmonton and a worse 4-0 loss in Sunday's outdoor game in Calgary left Habs fans little hope against a Canucks team that, despite suffering from a ridiculous amount of injuries, especially on defense, has managed to retain its top spot in the entire league with 85 points as of this morning.

Add to that the fact that Canadiens hadn't defeated the Canucks in BC since PJ Stock was in the line-up 11 years ago, and many fans were understandably expecting a big letdown, even an embarrassment.

But we all know how this team works. The moment the criticism and anger amongst fans is about to reach the tipping point, they manage to pull out a victory out of their hats, as if they had just suddenly remembered how to win.

And that's exactly what happened last night. The Canadiens came out strong in the first period, scoring two goals on an obviously depleted Canucks blueline, including a beauty of a breakaway goal by David Desharnais, after a great pass from Benoit Pouliot, and a great second effort from Brian Gionta after a shot by PK Subban.

The Canadiens and Canucks would exchange goals in the second, as Andrei Kostitsyn would FINALLY end his 12 game goal-less streak with a great goal in front of the net as he was falling. Henrik Sedin would get the Canucks goal, to creep up to within 2 points of Steven Stamkos for second place in the scoring race, and Mihkael Samuelsson would score his 17th in the third.

But the Canadiens three goals would be enough to take this one, and they would be enough for Jacques Martin to shut it down for an entire period. Forget, you know, the fact that the Canucks are the highest scoring team in the league. Forget the fact that even the Canadiens were able to take advantage of a hurting blue-line that clearly had issues early in the game, despite Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard being returned to the line-up for the game.

Any other team would take all that and keep attacking the Canucks, keep taking advantage. Instead, Jacques Martin, like only he knows how to do, decided to shut it down the moment Andrei Kostitsyn scored his 14th in the second.

Hell, he likely made that decision at the end of the first with the Habs up 2-1. After pouring 16 shots on Montreal native Roberto Luongo in the first, the Canadiens were barely able to muster a little more than half of that for the next two periods, with 4 shots on goal in the second and 5 in the third. On the other side of the ice, the Canucks would shoot 12 times in the 1st, 14 in the second, and 13 times in the 3rd for a total of 39 shots against Carey Price, who earned this victory in his home province.

While the likes of Brina Gionta, Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn were finally able to break their scoreless streaks on this night (and benefited as a result in the ice time column), there were two players who made sure the Canadiens would get off to a good start, and instead of rewarding these players, Jacques Martin would plant their asses for the bench. I actually don't think I saw either play a shift in the third.

Apparently that beauty of a breakaway goal wasn't enough to instill confidence in the coach towards Pouliot and Desharnais, who would finish the game with only 5 minutes of ice time a piece. In comparison, defensive specialists Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern (who would spend the night playing with the likes of Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec) would each play more than 18 and 15 minutes, respectively.

I would absolutely love for someone to explain to me how this makes ANY sense at all?

I understand wanting to shut things down against a strong team, but I've had just about enough of this defensive nonsense, and this obsession with benching young players for literally no reason at all. Desharnais and Pouliot were among the many reasons that led to a Canadiens victory last night, but instead of rewarding them, it's almost like you're punishing them for providing offense. It makes absolutely no sense, instead overworking and overplaying players who have proven nothing over the last 10 games and are completely unable to provide any offense to this team.

The Canadiens managed to squeak out a victory last night, and that's great, but it could have very easily been the complete opposite result. And the crap that Martin pulls is exactly why the Canadiens have only won 2 of their last 8. People are quick to praise Martin the second the team wins for his defensive system that shuts down the best teams, and yes, they're quick to criticize him when the team loses, well I'm going to do you one better, and criticize him when the team wins.

This is a good group of players. Many of them clearly have the ability to perform, even the highly paid players that are seemingly never able to do enough. But they're ALL being held back by a coach who's head is stuck in the late 90s. This is not how hockey's supposed to be played, and if he let a few of these players loose, if he allowed the Desharnais and the Pouliots to show him what they actually had in their arsenal, we wouldn't have to be talking about how the Devils and Leafs and Sabres are too close for comfort behind them, and how the Capitals and Bruins ahead of them are seemingly always out of reach.

I've been asking for Pierre Gauthier to make a couple of big trades for a few weeks now. And I still think he needs to. But many have pointed out that if the Habs do indeed manage to steal a good, young forward, like the Blues and the Penguins have managed to do, there's absolutely no indication that Jacques Martin will give him any chance to help this team. And I'm starting to believe that this may be true. Win or lose, I've absolutely had enough of this dinosaur of a coach who doesn't seem to even care if his team wins or lose so long as they play his outdated system.

So long as the Canadiens have this joker behind the bench, it's never going to be about winning, about playing to the fullest of their potential. It's always going to be about the system, THE SYSTEM.

I'll take the two points, as anyone would, but it's not good enough. Squeezing through with a 3-2 victory that could have been much easier, losing games to the Oilers and Flames like they did, going 2-6 in their last 8, it's never good enough.

Prax
www.betterwithpopcorn.com
www.twitter.com/GeorgePrax

6 Comments

Jason Pietroniro's picture

Great read as always, Prax.
I don't hate the system as much as it seems you do. I just don't find JM is using it as well as he could be. Not to shit on your parade, but I was glad when Pouliot's line sat while AK's got more ice time. Not because Pouliot's deserved it, not in the slightest, but it was nice to see a player given a chance on a night where he looked like he wanted to score. AK impressed me last night, and so did JM. Almost seemed like they bonded lol. Unfortunately, Pouliot and DD took the shit stick for it.
As for the system, not that I'm a coach, I think JM just isn't timing it properly. 1 goal is not enough to hang on to. A 2 goal lead hardly is either. However, I feel like the system can work if applied properly. Never go straight to the system after scoring a goal that gives you a lead. Keep the pressure up. if you cannot score within 5 minutes, result to the system for the remainder of the period. Try and grab momentum early in the next period, and if that fails, resort back to the system. Reading that back right now, I think I just agreed with you after all, lol . I don't mind shutting down, just not when we don't need to. K ya, I just agreed with you. lol

Jason Pietroniro's picture

And I also didn't mind Halpern playing with Plek and GIO. I find he does a much much better job than Moen does at creating space, and he's much much more aggressive on the puck and in front of the net.

George Prax's picture

I'm not saying that adjustments shouldn't be made, but last night was just beyond ridiculous. You said AK looked like he wanted to score last night and he should be rewarded for that, sure, but DD looks like he wants to score EVERY night, and on many of them he does. Instead of rewarding him for that and his hard work, he gets benched for an entire period and only plays 9 shifts? And then people wonder why young players never pan out here? If they wanted to focus more on defense late in the game I have no problem with that, but to play basically half the game on your heels against the highest scoring team makes no sense. They didn't shoot, benched the players who were performing well that didn't have big contracts to justify and they always go back to the same players no matter how they're playing.

I actually don't mind giving a bigger role to the Halperns and Moens either, they earn their ice time, but there's a limit. Playing Moen for 18 minutes is mind boggling.

Jason Pietroniro's picture

Yeah Moen seems over his head. He needs more of himselfs out there, lol. He can't be the only "enforcing" player on the team. Either way, I agree that it sucks that DD was benched. But I liked seeing AK given a chance to redeem himself. I don't think it'll happen often, as JM seems to like DD.

kyleroussel's picture

I soured on Martin back in late november/early december 2009. The sniff test was failed, and I've been calling for his head ever since.

I can't stand that he is content to lay back and rest on a small lead. One wonders if he lost his mind when the Canadiens blew a 4-goal lead at home to the Flames. Sure, they won the game in the end but I wonder what the thoughts in his head sounded like that night. Did he want to clamp down after 2 goals? 3? Did he decide that with a 4-goal lead it was now time to shut it down? The system isn't the reason for success, in fact, it probably stifles the good players that he does have. The Canadiens won't win while he's behind the bench.

Anyway, his style is infuriating and there's nowhere else to look for the Habs place in the standings than Carey Price. As I twittered this morning: the Canadiens are 10 games over .500, but are only +1 in the goals for / against department.

George Prax's picture
kyleroussel wrote:

I soured on Martin back in late november/early december 2009. The sniff test was failed, and I've been calling for his head ever since.

I can't stand that he is content to lay back and rest on a small lead. One wonders if he lost his mind when the Canadiens blew a 4-goal lead at home to the Flames. Sure, they won the game in the end but I wonder what the thoughts in his head sounded like that night. Did he want to clamp down after 2 goals? 3? Did he decide that with a 4-goal lead it was now time to shut it down? The system isn't the reason for success, in fact, it probably stifles the good players that he does have. The Canadiens won't win while he's behind the bench.

Anyway, his style is infuriating and there's nowhere else to look for the Habs place in the standings than Carey Price. As I twittered this morning: the Canadiens are 10 games over .500, but are only +1 in the goals for / against department.

Oh don't get me wrong Kyle, I've been sour on him for a long time. Every so often I just reach a breaking point. And really the main point of this was to show that it's not just losses in which his style is frustrating, this is what we deal with every single night. You could tell that a lot of guys were just itching to score last night, and after just the first he shut them down. It makes no sense.

And totally write about Carey, I haven't been talking about him enough lately.