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Friday, March 25, 2011

Canadiens-Bruins: Habs Spanked by Bruins, Tim Thomas Gets Eighth Shutout

by Kamal Panesar

With all the pregame hype for last night's match between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, you figured it would either be one for the ages or a total bust.

Well from the hype perspective, it ended up being the latter and only because the Habs didn't show up.

You have to give full marks to the Bruins who not only shellacked the Habs for seven goals, chasing Carey Price from the net after five, but they did it without all of the antics.

Montreal had previously beaten the Bruins in four of the five matches by focusing on hockey and ignoring the fisticuffs. But last night Boston stuck to playing hockey and showed the Canadiens that they could beat them at their own game.

Boston scored only 1:01 into the game when Johnny Boychuk's shot beat a screened Price up high. After that, the Bruins opened the flood gates by scoring two more in the first and four straight in the third.

Tim Thomas had a relatively easy night, turning aside all 24 shots he faced for his eighth shutout of the season while Price was largely left to his own devices.

Last night was easily Montreal's worst performance of the season in their most important game of the year. Where were the veteran players? Where was this team’s infamous heart and character?

Like Frère André, I think they left their heart in Montreal.


Final score: Boston 7 - Habs 0

Habs scorers: None
Bruins scorers: Johnny Boychuk (2), Gregory Campbell (11, 12), Nathan Horton (21, 22), Adam McQuaid (3), Tomas Kaberle (4)

Three stars: 1. Zdeno Chara, 2. David Krejci, 3. Nathan Horton


Game Notes

Tomas Plekanec was back but not ready

After missing five games due to a lower body injury, Tomas Plekanec was back in the lineup last night. Given that he is the Canadiens leading scorer and plays on the top PP and PK units, you would think his presence would provide a huge boost for the Habs.

Unfortunately for Montreal things didn't work out that way.

Plekanec was on the ice for the first two Bruins' goals—he finished the night an uncharacteristic minus-four—and in the penalty box for their third.

Not exactly the "comeback" that the Habs had hoped for but after missing five games, it wasn't entirely surprising to see he wasn't in top form.

The Canadiens also got Brent Sopel, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche back last night and none of them looked entirely ready for action. It's one thing to no longer be injured, but it is another thing entirely to get back into game shape.

Give Plekanec a few games and he should get it back.


Boston was focused on victory

Before the game NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, told both teams to stick to hockey and stay away from the dirty stuff.

Well the message was heard loud and clear by the usually chippy Bruins.

From the drop of the puck Boston was disciplined and focused on winning on the scoreboard and not the fight card. The Habs almost seemed ready for and expecting a physical battle, but when it failed materialized they didn't know what to do.

Montreal tried to get things going early when Travis Moen pushed Zdeno Chara after the whistle. In addition, P.K. Subban gave Tim Thomas a spray of ice as the latter was covering the puck. But on both occasions, the Bruins didn't bite, didn't get involved in the game Montreal was trying to employ and just skated away.

That, ladies and gentleman, is playoff hockey. As much as the focus has been on the fights, hits and injuries, the Bruins played the way they needed to in order to win.

Last night's victory is sure to give them a huge confidence boost come playoff time.


The Canadiens "best" players were their worst players.

Not only did Plekanec have a bad game but Scott Gomez—two assists over his last eight games—and Michael Cammalleri—five points (1G, 4A) over his last eight—were abysmal.

Montreal was dominated for the first twenty minutes of the game but managed a little push back in the second. But just as the momentum was swinging their way Scott Gomez took a careless high sticking penalty, sending the Bs to the power play.

Needless to say, the penalty killed a lot of momentum even though the Bruins were unable to score.

A few minutes later, with the Habs again starting to build momentum and the score only 3-0 Boston, Gomez skated the puck through the Habs zone with no one pressuring him. He inexplicably lost control of it, turning it over to Chris Kelly, and then hooked the Bruins' player in an attempt to recover from his mistake.

Gomez's nonchalance on the play is what led to turnover and the penalty.

It was just another careless play from the guy who was supposed to be the Habs No.1 center. The bottom line is that ridiculous salary and contract aside, Gomez continues to hold the team back instead of leading the charge.

That Jacques Martin has let it go on all season with neither punishment, demotion nor reduction in ice time, is a huge mistake that continues to hinder the team.


Where's all the offense?

Including the shutout loss to the Sabres on Tuesday, Montreal has not gone two games without scoring a goal. 126:05 to be exact.

The young guns have brought a lot to the party this season, but how long can the team go without their top-six performing?

With only eight games left in the season players like Gomez, Michael Cammalleri and even Brian Gionta need to take long, hard looks in the mirror. These are the offensive veterans of this team and, aside from Gionta, they are not getting it done.

Cammalleri, like Gomez, also had a terrible game last night.

He was missing defensive assignments, making poor decisions with the puck and continues to be one of the worst players on the team without it. Cammalleri just isn't bringing anything to the table offensively and continues to be atrocious defensively.

Cammalleri finished the night a minus-four.

Gionta is the only one of the "little three" that has been showing any semblance of strong play but even he needs to bring more to the table.

The real problem is that aside from a few games here and there, neither Cammalleri nor Gomez have played well for any length of time this year. With the clock ticking on the season it seems highly unlikely that they will suddenly get it going.

The Canadiens have had to win this year despite these players and not because of them and as I have said before, I shudder to think how bad they would be without Price.


A Note on the goaltenders

Thomas played well when called on last night but Boston did an excellent job of keeping Montreal to the outside. Most of the Habs' shots were first chances with no one in front of or even near the net. As such, the chances of scoring on a goaltender the caliber of Thomas go way down.

As for Price, he was the main reason that this wasn't a five or six goal game after 20 minutes.

But, as has been the case far too many times this season, when Price is unable to stand on his head the team loses. Price did let in five goals on 33 shots but the team had no defensive structure to speak of.

The Jacques Martin five-man defensive unit was abandoned in favour of a scattered free-for-all. As such, Price really had very little chance on most of the goals that got by him.

Prior to last night's game, Price was in the discussion for both Vezina and Hart trophies. After the loss, however, I think Price is no longer in the running for the former.

He can thank his teammates for that.


Standings and Next Game

The Canadiens' once strong hold on sixth overall in the East suddenly looks very tenuous. With the Rangers earning one point in a shootout loss to the Sens last night, they are now only two back of Montreal.

Also, the Sabres are only six back of the Habs with two games in hand.

Montreal likely needs to finish the season with 92 or 93 points to qualify for the playoffs. This means that with seven games left, they need five or six more points. If they keep playing as poorly as they have recently they could conceivably slide all the way to eighth.

A slippery slope indeed.

Ahead of Montreal are the Lightning with 89 points and two games in hand, the Penguins with 94 points and one game in hand and the Bruins with 92 points and two games in hand.

Things don't get any easier for the slumping Habs, as they now travel back to Montreal for a Saturday night tilt against the red-hot Capitals.

---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

13 comments:

You can see my recent post for my post-game thoughts (hint: we agree!), but here are some additional thoughts:

In the past week, the Canadiens are 1-3, and Price has been yanked twice. Including the Minnesota game, the Canadiens are being outscored 16-11. Without that game, the Canadiens are being outscored 15-3. Is that a joke? Sadly, no.

The Canadiens are playing with fire. They've blown their chance to win the division, and they're flirting with sliding down the ladder with play like this.

I'm not sure what the fix is, but I refuse to listen to the excuse that the injuries are starting to take their toll. Nobody was complaining or blaming injuries when the Canadiens blew out Minnesota. We can't pick or choose when to cite injuries as an excuse for poor play.

The coaching staff had better find the answers, and if the answer is to sit Gomez and Cammalleri and let them heal, then so be it. They're hurting more than they're helping, and that's been the case all year.

It's not panic button time, but another lifeless loss to the Caps on Saturday night at home, and it may be time.

Well said, as always, Kyle!

I think, like was the case last season, this "little" team is starting to fade as the end of the season approaches.

Remember last year when the Habs needed a loser point against the Leafs to make the playoffs? And how with two weeks left they only needed something like two points and they just kept losing and couldn't get it?

Well this team right now reminds me of that.

Cammalleri and Gomez are another story altogether. With 14 millions between them and both of them sucking wind, you'd have to think one will be moved this summer.

Dave Stubbs from the Gazette reports that Cammy is not 100%. I accept that. But how does that explain his poor play before being injured?

There are very few brights spots on this team right now and unless lighting strikes twice, they could be a one and done playoff team.

At what point do we say that this team may have played too much hockey in the past year? Perhaps the small guys are showing wear from a long season last year, and another grueling on this year.

Cammalleri and Gomez have been brutal since game 1. No doubt they've been hobbled by injuries but that's tough luck. If they're that hurt, they should respectfully bow out and swallow their pride. Give themselves time to heal. It's clear that the kids are able to carry the load.

In the end we may be surprised by this bunch. They could go on another run...but as you said, that would be lightning striking twice in the same place. Not likely.

Casual fans will say to relax, look at last year. To them I say sorry. Can't do that. That was then, this is now. I can't dismiss the past week as a simple slump, or blame it entirely on injuries. It's a combination of lack of emotion, lack of execution, lack of a strong game plan, lack of health, lack of size, lack of cohesion, lack of responsibility.

How do you fix that? How, as fans, can that be excused?

You are SO right in that the "casual" fan will say "look at last year".

The problem is that last year was a mirage...at least the playoff portion was.

The Habs have a much better bottom-6 this year but their top-6 is pretty much the same. The difference this year is that Cammalleri and Gomez are NOT producing.

So how exactly is this team supposed to score?

None of this bodes well for the playoffs and if the Habs don't get their stuff together soon, they might have to face the Caps or the Flyers first round.

That would be ugly, imo.

Ever since I've been a hockey fan, I've maintained that the Stanley Cup is never won on smoke and mirrors. Last year's Habs flirted with making a mockery of that. In the end they were exposed, but their suicidal game plan nearly paid off.

Looking at the playoffs, who was the one that did most of the scoring? Cammalleri. He was on a phenomenal run! The problem is he's a shadow of that player today. Hell, he's barely topped his post-season production in a nearly complete regular season.

Yes, yes, he's been hurt. Blah blah blah. Don't want to hear it.

Again with the Gomez hate! I don't get it. Sure losing the puck and taking that hooking penalty was brutal, and I did yell loudly at the tv for that one. But the high sticking penalty flat out wasn't a penalty at all, and Gomez was the only player showing any sort of heart (outside of Price) on the ice at all!

After he took that headbutt from Marchand, (tough guy with a visor) Gomez was a wild man! The passion he showed was something he has lacked all year and it was the only positive that came out of this game.

Gomez made Gionta and Moen look good last night, and neither one of them were. At all.

I hate Gomez' contract as much as the next guy, but it is what it is, and credit is due where credit is due. He played a good game last night. (other than the hooking penalty)

My question is, "Where is Cammalleri?" I'm starting to think it's time for him to go. Think of the return we could get for him, and he is certainly showing he's not interested in being a part of this team lately.

I thought I saw Cammer at public skate at the local rink the other day, but it was just some kid pushing a chair around the ice.

You can't possibly be looking to give Gomez a pass? It's saying something that he "played well" after getting his nose popped in the 3rd period, he was angry. So what?

We're taking his whole season in to account here. There's NO excuse for his awful play this year. Has he hit 30 points yet? This season has been an unmitigated disaster for Gomez, and Cammalleri, no matter how you slice it.

One of the two will be gone in the offseason, but neither will bring a big return. It would be viewed as a salary dump and the Canadiens would probably take another big contract in return, or take on a middling prospect in exchange for the new cap space.

But don't try to sell me on Gomez' virtues this year. He's been the worst forward on the team, bar none.

Good Article, it makes you think about the problems.

Gomez & Cammalleri are playing terrible all season but if they continue in the playoffs then the Habs are done even if Price pulls a miracle on St Antoine street. If these two can't elevate their games for the playoffs then what team would stupid enough to take their big salaries with no effort in their play. I don't care if a player has 50 goals & 100 points in the season. we have seen too many players have great season only to completely vanish in the playoffs like Plekanec, Ovechkin and many others. I care about who can score and elevate their games when the Cup is on the line that really matters. Let's see if the Habs can repeat this process in the palyoffs again this year. Ask Price about the Vezina & Hart and his answer will be Stanley.

I don't get all excited about the regular season because the season totally reset for the sixteen playoff teams. We have seen the Capitals finish 1st last year, out after the 1sr round against the Habs. The year before, the Habs finished 1st, out in the 1st round to the Bruins. The year before that, the Bruins finished 1st, out in the 1st round to the Habs. Get the point.

The Habs, in 3 of the last for 4 games have shown absolutely no passion, drive or will to compete against 3 teams who they are clearly in a playoff race with. That lack of motivation or sense of urgency is very frightening to me. The injuries are no excuse if so the returning players should have given the team a boost not a bust effect. The team needs to right itself and get the players all on the same page again. They need to discover what they do best to be successful again going into the playoffs before they end up not in the playoffs or worse out in the 1st round. This team maybe lacking in certain physical aspects or some talent but they have never lacked heart which starts with their captain.

I will not start buying into the garbage about the Bruins and last night's game. It is just that, one game of a six game seasonal series. If the Bruins want to believe they skillfully beat the Habs, big mistake because they clearly did not face the same team who has mostly dominated them all year.

There is one problem that seems to be a reaccuring game in & out with the Habs. It's the needless cheap, useless penalties. I, for one am getting tired of the Habs being called for things that the other team is also doing but the referees for some strange reason choose not to call. This has been happening on a regular basis for 4 years now. The NHL refereeing is so inconsistent and it is starting to frustrate most of the players. The players really aren't sure from one game to another, different refs what is going to be called and what is allowed. This theme is a big cause of the the Habs' penalty problems. Watch what happens to their game when they get call after call for borderline, needless or noncalls for the same things done against them. The Habs become unsure, ineffective and less agressive in their forechecking thus allowing the other teams to take over the style of play. They are not a rough physical team so then why are they getting as many minor penalties as the Penguins and alot more than the Bruins? How often have you seen the Habs being hooked, interferred with or crosschecked with no penalty called, only to have the same thing called against them right after. Way too often because the first penalty is not called or missed but the retaliation penalty is always called. It a lesson the Habs can't seem to learn. I also blame the officiating for this as well.

If the habs don't get their game back in the last games of the season before the playoffs then they might have to get their Golf clubs out now.

We will see which it is going to be, but my bet is that this team not only has more skill, speed they also have buckets of pride and heart.

Thanks for the articles,

Ref Whistle

OK I too am going to throw my comments into this...Last night's drubbing was terrible, but even worse was the team's lack of support for Carey Price. I seen the look on his face last night that reminded me of the Carey Price from last year when the team hung him out to dry night after night. That CANNOT continue. The kid is a superstar and his team MUST have his back no matter what.

Ok, I think over the last few weeks that the reason that Cammalleri is struggling offensively is due to him trying to do too much since the Habs had sooo many injuries. Maybe now the Plek's is back and hopefully on a line with Cammalleri they magic will start to comeback. Looking over the stats in Cammy's career one thing sticks out for me. Sure, he isnt scoring as much as he has in the past. But the guy is a talented set-up man also. His assist totals are shocking. I know MTL doesnt score a lot of goals but you would think if Cammy isnt scoring he would still be setting up Plek's or AK46. That isnt the case. I was kind of hoping that MC13 would pull a Ovie and sit out the final 7-8 games to rest the 'nagging injury' everyone is referring to. I don't think they can afford that though.

On to Mr.Gomez. If he played 82 games the way he has played the last 2 or 3 games I think people would be saying different things about Scotty. But that isnt the case and even if he tears it up in the playoffs it wont be enough. For what he is getting paid he needs to bring it every game no matter what. He is a veteran and if he isnt doing it in the offensive zone then at least be better defensively. He isnt doing either. It just makes the case that Plek's is head and shoulders above Scotty G.

A couple things bug me about this version of the Habs, if Gomez if struggling then why not sit him out. JM has done it with AK46, Pouliot, Eller, among others. Gomez should not be untouchable. And also, if there are sooo many guys not performing to their abilities does that not say something about the coach? Should JMart not be able to bring out the best in his guys? If not should he not be replaced? Look at coaches from other teams that either get the job done or get shown the door. (ie: John MacLean(NJ) and Scott Gordon(NYI) Rick Tocchet(TB)). Those teams have turned things around. I say if the Habs struggle down the stretch and then get ousted in the 1st Round then JM has to be replaced. Hopefully by the youthful Guy Bou..oh wait he is taken. Replaced by KIRK MULLER. Muller is the perfect fit, a great 2 way guy that knows how to score, win faceoffs. He could do it all. I cannot believe more people haven't be screaming for JM to be replaced. They did it with the last 3-4 coaches after every 2 game losing streak.

Well, i think i have said enough. I will end this off by saying GO HABS GO!!!

I've been a habs fan since 1966. So I've seen alot of teams through out the years. What really bothers me about the habs this last ten years or so is how management has made this team a small ineffective, low-scoring team.I miss the days of Corson, Nilan, Richer, McPhee, and so on... guys who could score when needed and could kick the crap out of anyone when needed. Todays team couldn't match up against Hayle Wecinhauser in a corner from the women's team. They are really a sad team to watch. Why is it all the other good teams can find big talented players and we can't. Take note of the players Montreal has traded away in the last 18 months. Agostini 6'1", Obyrne 6'4", Higgins 6'1", Latandresse 6'4", Lapierre 6'2", and what did we get back--nothing over 5'11" and 185 lbs soaking wet. I blame management for this mess. And I don't see a solution in the near future. So the habs future is bleak.
A sad sad hab fan.

Wow, thanks for all the comments! Some great hockey minds out there to be sure!

Marcus T: You're right in that AFTER Gomez had already made that dreadful turnover and after he got nailed by Marchand, he did look angry and he did play with intensity. But to Kyle's point, we have to look at his performance over the entire season and not just last night.

He's been absolutely horrible this season and that has nothing to do with his contract or salary.

@Ref whistle: I agree re: Cammy and Gomer come playoff time...IF they can elevate, and that is a big IF, it will help the Habs tremendously. But after an entire "lost" season, how likely is that?

Re: Boston, I also agree that their win last night could work against them if these two teams meet in the playoffs. There is no question that Boston won yesterday by playing a playoff style game. That being said, there is a chance that, due to the blowout, they might now think they have the Habs' number. As such, there is always the possibility that they will be overconfident.

Time will tell!

@Hirky: Cammy is a good passer, that is for sure, but he is being paid to score, and score a lot. He is supposed to be leading the goal-scoring charge and he hasn't gotten it done this season.

Dave Stubbs from the Montreal Gazette was reporting that Cammy is far from being 100%, and that explains some of it. But my question is how does that explain his tepid performance over the first 50-60 games?

You're right with Gomez re: his recent performances., however I think if he DOES elevate in the playoffs, it will go A LONG way towards making the fans like him again.

@Anonyomous: I feel your pain my friend! I have been watching the Habs since the 70s, although my first real memories of the team are from the early 80s.

That being said, you are bang on in that this team, and in particular its management, has changed the complexion of the team in the last decade.

Let's face it, the Habs have been horrible since Patrick Roy was traded and have only puts this thing back on the rails in the last 5-7 years. I truly believe that while there are some good aspects to this team (Price, Subban, Pacioretty, Plekanec) they need to make some major changes up front before they can become a contender. And, yes, I would add size...and scoring size at that.

How about Plekanec as your number 2 center and David Backes as your No.1? Sounds crazy, I know, but no one is untradeable and Montreal has some interesting assets. The problem is that I think the current management team (Gainey, Gauthier et al.) lack the creativity to make a big move like that.

Ok, so its almost 2am and I am working the night shift, why not continue this excellent discussion.

@anonymous - i agree with missing those players from the 80's and 90's but the game has also changed alot. A mix of those teams and the current team would be my answer to having a contender.

@Kamal - I have one issue with the size discussion. Night in and night out which player has been the Habs best? Capt. Brian Gionta, one of our small guys. And there is no denying small guys can play, just ask Marty St Louis. Right?

Another thing to point out is those teams from the past also had their share of small guys. One of them was a pretty prolific scorer for the Habs. His name...Mats Naslund(5'7). He is almost identical in size to Brian Gionta. Another name that comes to mind is Denis Savard, another little guy that scored some sweet goals. All I am saying is that for as many big guys as those teams had, they had their share of little guys to compliment them. With players like MaxPac and Louis LeBlanc coming up the Canadiens may get a good mix of size and speed. With Carey in net the future looks good. The Habs also have some more small guys under 6ft(Kristo, Gallagher, Dumont, Trunev) coming up the ranks that can play, so I think we may be looking at a team on the smallish side for a while.

I think maybe Cammalleri is having trouble due the system employed by Coach Martin. If they employed a different gameplan then i think Cammy could find success. I dont see them trading away Cammalleri, it would be something they would regret for years. He will come around, count on it. His playoffs this year will tell the tale. Just remember he had 13g in last year's postseason.

I would love to see the Habs overtake TB and play Pittsburgh in the playoffs, the Habs have had fun lighting the lamp behind MA Fleury this season and last. That way the Lightning could take out the Bruins for us, and the Habs could avoid any more gong shows. LOL.

The future will be ok for the Habs, if they sign Wiz, Sopel, Gorges and develop Patch, Eller, Leblanc properly this team will be competitive.

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