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Friday, December 18, 2009

Post Game Quick Hits: Habs 1 - Wild 3

Another day, another loss. It seems that us Habs fans are getting used to the idea. We're not happy about it, mind you, but we are definitely getting used to the heart break. You could tell, in the third period last night, how unhappy the fans were as their boos changed focus from Latendresse to their beloved Habs. The booing started with about three minutes left in the game and ushered the Habs off of the ice. While the 3-1 loss to the Wild was bad the worst part is that it is now glaringly obvious that this team just does not have the horses to get it done in this league.

1 - The Price was not exactly right. While you cannot blame Price for the loss and for the second or third goal - he should have stopped the first goal - he clearly did not look in top form last night. The bottom line is that you do not win games by scoring one goal unless your goalie gets a shutout so the Habs offense has got to get going. Over the last few weeks, Price has looked solid and confident in every start he has had, whether they win or lose. Last night, however, he looked shaky. You could see that he was not always square to the shooter and as a result was flopping around in his net a lot. The first goal, by the Wild, was the perfect example of how he was off his game. He crouch into that 'one pad down' stance, and the puck went right through this miniscule 5-hole space. It is never a good sign when pucks go THROUGH your goalie and it usually reflects a lack of focus. In addition, Price did not handle the puck as much or as well as he usually does. This is a clear sign that something was off because when he is on his game, Price handles the puck a lot. Watch for that as one of his tells in the future...the more he plays the puck the better he is feeling. Not to worry though as this was one game and Price will come back strong. That much I am sure of.

2 - Is that a second line I see emerging? Last night, coach Martin tried another chemistry experiment by placing Travis Moen and Matt D'Agostini on Gomez's wing and while they didn't produce any points, you could see that there was chemistry. In Moen, that line gets a banger that can grind in the corners and go hard to the net, resulting in plenty of room for Gomez to skate. In Dags, that line gets a shooter. someone who, hopefully, can capitalize on the great passes that Gomez will make. Watching the game, you could see them causing problems for the Wild's D. Hopefully they will be able to put some points up on the board going forward, because it is just too easy to shutdown a one line team and that is what Montreal is right now. If Cammy, Pleks and Andrei can't create goals the Habs simply do not score.

3 - Moral victories abound! While this was the Habs' fifth loss in a row, there were some positive signs. Last night, the Habs only took one penalty in the game AND they outshot their opponent for the first time in weeks. While neither positive resulted in a win, they are both steps in the right direction. The problem is that you can hear analysts talking about the Habs in terms of 'steps in the right direction'. That is great in the first twenty games of the season when the team is still trying to find itself. But when you are closer to game 40 than you are to game 20 - as the Habs are right now - the time for 'steps in the right direction' has come and gone. We need action and we need wins. With 5 loses in a row, Montreal now has to look in their rear view mirror and the sight is NOT pretty. With 33 points in 36 games, Montreal sits in 11th spot overall in the East, two points out of the 8th playoff spot. Montreal is currently tied with the Isles and Rangers - who have 1 and 2 games in hand respectively - one point ahead of Philly (with 3 games in hand) and two points ahead of Toronto and Tampa (who each have 2 games in hand). This is a bad place to be and if they don't right the ship soon, this season will be lost.

4 - Once again the only real scoring threat all night was the 1st line. That line has not only become a force on the ice, but they are also Montreal's only offensive catalyst. After going down 1-0 to the Wild, AK46 scored a beautiful goal - with a great setup by Gomez - less than a minute later to tie the game at 1. Here, watch the replay:


Great move to the outside and then he goes roof from a VERY tight angle. That gives Andrei 6 goals in his last 5 games and officially puts him in the "I'm on fire" category.

5 - Et tu, Hamrlik? Roman Hamrlik has been the key cog on the Habs D since Markov went down, and you felt the lack of his presence last night. While Mara did a pretty good job filling in for him on Spacek's wing, it is clear that he is not a top line defenseman. We do not yet know what the status is on Hamrlik's injury, but if it is anything long term, it will be another disastrous blow to an already staggering Habs line up.

6 - Last but not least the Return of Latendresse was a non story. Latendresse played just like he did in his days in Montreal and that was largely in the role of the invisible man. He admitted in interviews after the game, that it was very difficult and that he was not able to get into the game properly. Understandable, I would think. The trade is too fresh and I think he is still traumatized. Whatever. Good luck in Minne.

There is no question that the Habs have a ton of injuries to key guy but that is no excuse as a lot of other teams in the league are suffering from the same affliction. While Markov and Gionta are big losses to this team, it is apparent that we have a bunch of third and fourth line depth, fifth to seventh defensemen depth, but not a lot of top line depth. You've got to think that Gainey also sees the problems with the team he has assembled and is trying to make some moves to change things up. Last night there were reportedly 14 scouts from 12 different teams, in the building, and 2 were from the Detroit Red Wings - the second game in a row that they were scouting the Habs. Something is clearly brewing. In my opinion, Montreal needs a top-6 forward and a top 4 D-man before they can start being competitive and/or a real threat. You can see that there are some good things about this team, but after the 1st line, there is a serious drop off in scoring ability and it is killing us. I don't know if Bob will be able to pull a move off before the holiday roster freeze or not, but if not, he better get something going quickly, once January rolls around or his team will slip out of the playoffs and into contention for a top-10 draft pick. Who knows, at this point, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

K.

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