Just in from the Habs Desk, Matt brings us up to speed on his team’s last 8 games, a mixed bag of success and sucksless. Matt is a lumberjack and he’s okay…
“I have two jobs which, together, add up to full time employment. One uses my creativity and brawn – landscaping and tree cutting. The other one, as an economic development consultant to municipalities and private businesses, uses my beleaguered yet expanding brain. And I do volunteer work.
Though I am completely dedicated and give my heart and soul to this free work I am just one of millions. I’m talking about being a loyal Canadiens fan. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it. Someone with patience. Patience being a virtue that it was not seen fit to bless me with all the time.
Since I last wrote the Habs have played 8 times resulting in 4 losses, 3 wins, and one game that had a controversial and, in my mind, inconclusive ending. We’ve skyrocketed from #24 to #22 in the league, owing to the fact that we’re only winning every other game and now have a 10-10-4 record. True, not many points separates most of the teams in the league but it’s hard to feel like you’re making any progress when it literally has been one step forward and one steps backward.
No team is perfect unless, of course, you are the Penguins and you are listening to CBC or most any other station gushing about St. Sidney and his Apostles.
The same problems with the Habs and its management are apparent now as they were two weeks ago. Everyone from the usually dead-on Dave Stubbs (columnist at the Montreal Gazette and writer on hockeyinsideout.com) to little ol’ me has been saying pretty much the same thing for a while now.
The defensive play, overall coordination, composition of lines and special teams are just off. Most of these are more coach caused problems than player problems. But many nights even the energy and enthusiasm seems to be flagging. One Twitter commentator said that it seems like the Habs are a mediocre team with an above average goaltender. I’d modify that to say that the Habs are a split personality team: Some things are great, some things are awful, and the end result is a hot mess of something neither here nor there. Although we all gush about Carey Price basically carrying the team as the goaltender and the defence all in one, the only things fans and professional commentators disagree on are exactly to what extent the coach is the problem and about whether several players are keepers or sleepers.
The bright spots: Awesome PK (53 out of 55 through a recent game have been scoreless). Awesome goaltending. Awesome checking by Emelin and Cole. Awesome goal scoring by Pacioretty, Moen, and Cole. Awesome assists by Eller, Plekanec, Kostistsyn, and Gionta. The dark spots: Idiotic PP (zero goals in last 19 PP). Idiotic defence (I’m talking to you Diaz, Webber, and Subban). Idiotic prima donna offence that won’t take checks or make any checks or goals (Cammaleri). Just plain idiotic (Gomez). Idiotic coaching, playmaking, and overall organization and energy (issues already discussed ad nauseum).
Many have pointed out that the Habs have great skating skills and speed. If only they would just turn them on and leave them on instead of fizzling after the first period or so then things could get kicked up a notch. Where I diverge with my fellow professional and amateur analysts is over whether one of our problems is that our relatively short forwards are losing the puck to bigger players on opposing teams. As a short guy myself I am naturally inclined to side with my fellow men of shorter stature but larger-than-most in endowment of skills.
But more than stumpy brotherhood drives me to this conclusion. Smaller guys can run around the bigger guys and are used to doing so. That I know well. Both from my mini-mite efforts at basketball as a kid and from such (hockey) examples as Martin St. Louis who’s vertical challenge did not impede his amazing ability to be a big part in Tampa’s successful cup win a decade ago. Besides, I think Gionta (5’ 7”) is cute. And that’s reason enough to keep him. Captain Gionta My suggestion is that we trade Cammaleri for someone who is more of a goal scorer and team player. Or he could just retire. And be preened over as an advertising model or treated like royalty in the gay porn business, neither of which professions would require him risking getting hurt or marred.
There are rumours that he may be traded soon but I’ve been saying to do this since near the beginning of the season. And trade out underperforming defencemen for ones that might flourish in the lofty Montreal air. Markov is slated for return later this week when the Habs head to California – he’s been cleared for contact and has been training with the team.
But even if he is as good as he was before, which no one is expecting him to be, he can’t carry the defence with Gill and Emelin alone. Just please don’t trade in (or bring up from the minors) any more green players. We have enough of them. The Habs are not a training center. They are a professional team that is supposed to be on a mission.
That mission was clearly evident in the latest game, versus the Penguins. The first period and a half saw the Habs display uncharacteristic energy, focus, playmaking, checking, and – dare I say professionalism. Result was a 3-1 lead against the top team in the East, the team who’s captain was found in a manger.
But it soon fell apart as the Habs characteristically sat on their lead and played like their evil twin – lazy, unfocused, lacking any discernable playmaking, and eschewing checking. Result was a 3 – 3 tie by nearly the end of the third period. Price says not this time, St. Sid Then all hell broke loose. Not as in fighting. But two events marred the game irreparably. The first was a gruesome hit by Pacioretty on Letang, which resulted in Letang’s nose being broken, blood spilled, and cries of hypocrisy on Paci’s part (having been knocked out by Chara last year, lest we forget).
Astonishingly, he did not even get a penalty for it. That boggled me. The tape has been showed over and over and it was not as clearly intentional as Chara’s hit, nor did it result in the catastrophic injury Paci had. But it certainly was not a clean hit and deserved a penalty. Shanahan will be reviewing the matter tomorrow and he will likely, and justifiably, at least fine him or possibly give him a short suspension. Unlike what they did to Chara. But that was not the only highly questionable call. Much more egregious was what occurred in the inevitable OT. Carey Price had his glove over and held the puck to stop play for what seemed like a minute but was definitely many seconds. AND YET THERE WAS NO WHISTLE.
Instead the Pens eventually jammed it out from his cold hard fingers and buried in the net for the winning goal. Review of the matter showed that this was indeed the case but the goal referee could not see what Carey was doing and apparently if he doesn’t see it then it didn’t happen. Talk about feeling like the father, the son, and the holy ghost of present day hockey (Crosby, Malkin, and Letang) mugging you in broad daylight (or at least in front of millions of viewers) and getting away with it. Between the Paci hit and being robbed it was a sad end to a riveting game.
Price was completely justified in his barely concealed anger. If only the Habs had played better all third period long then there wouldn’t have had to be an OT or a controversial ending! Hopefully someone will light a fire under Coach Martin and the team. They must be feeling the heat from the fans. You know, the ones (the 99%) who work their asses off for free hoping they will work theirs off for millions. In the meantime, Cammy and Martin might want to put out feelers for day jobs because an awful lot of us would be happy to see them go. I might be able to use Cammy, come to think of it, for assisting me in my lumberjack jobs this winter. He’d be perfect for it: No checking involved.
EPILOGUE: By now everyone’s heard Shanahan’s decision to suspend Pacioretty a jaw dropping 3 games. As I said earlier, Pacioretty deserved some form of punishment. Like a fine and/or a game suspension. But 3 games? That’s 3 games more than Chara got. Or, more recently, 3 more than Malone got for his hit on the Habs’ brand spanking new defenceman Campoli at the beginning of the season – a hit very similar to Paci’s on Letang.
I’m not upset about a suspension I’m upset about the amazing inconsistency in Shanahan’s ruling… made right at the same time as the bogus non-whistle on Price covering up the puck in the Pens game OT it is no wonder Habs fans are pissed off in a big, big way. For Christ’s sake (sorry to take Sidney’s name in vain) there wasn’t even a penalty called by any ref on Paci’s hit! Shanahan confirmed in his video that Letang saw Paci coming at him and he made the decision to shoot the puck yet when he ruled on the Malone hit on Campoli he said Campoli was at fault for going for the shot instead of the duck. That’s inconsistent.
@HABraCHadabra summed it up on Twitter perfectly: “The Patches [Paciotretty] suspension is objectively correct if the NHL wants to eradicate headshots, but subjectively dubious given the precedents so far” (11/28/11). The precedents so far: Malone, Chara, Lucic – no suspensions. Between this ruling and the OT goal fiasco the Habs are being treated unfairly while the Pens and Bruins are being treated like saints. And, honey, they aint no saints.”
You will follow Matt on twitter or he’ll chop your trees down: @mattsko