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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Canadiens-Capitals: Habs Lose, Shutout for Third Straight Game

by Kamal Panesar

The Montreal Canadiens lost 2-0 to the Washington Capitals last night at the Bell Centre, getting shutout for a third game in a row. The last time Montreal was shutout three games in a row, Maurice Richard was leading the charge and the year was 1949.

If that wasn't bad enough, the shutout loss was the Habs ninth loss by shutout this season a record of futility for the Canadiens organization.

So do you think this team has problems scoring?

After getting destroyed by the Bruins on Thursday you really thought that Montreal would bring a solid effort to the rink. Unfortunately for Habs fans, the Canadiens let in an early first period goal, took penalty after penalty, looked frustrated all night and managed only 18 shots on net in the process.

To the Caps credit, they played a smart, patient game and used their size to completely shutdown the middle of the ice.

Carey Price was once again the only player that showed up for Montreal.

With the Habs trailing by a goal a brutal neutral zone turnover led Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin down the ice for a 2-on-1. Semin potted a sweet feed from Backstrom to close out the game with 3:41 to play.

For the record, Montreal has now gone 186:05 without a goal, while being outscored 11-0 since beating the Wild on Sunday.


Final score: Caps 2 - Habs 0

Habs scorers: None
Caps scorers: Marco Sturm (5), Alexander Semin (26)

Three stars: 1. Carey Price, 2. Braden Holtby, 3. Marco Strum


Game Notes

Tomas Plekanec still has a ways to go

In his second game back after missing five due to injury, Tomas Plekanec still isn't playing up to par.

He turned the puck at the Caps blueline on an early shift, leading to a 2-on-1 break for Washington.

Marco Strum put the puck past Price to make it 1-0.

After the goal, however, with the Habs handing several man-advantages to the Caps, Plekanec started to play a little better.

Shortly after the second penalty kill, Plekanec chipped the puck past the Caps defender then turned on the afterburners setting up a 2-on-1 with Andrei Kostitsyn.

AK46 wasn't able to convert Plek's beautiful saucer pass but that play gave the Habs a ton of momentum.

I think it's pretty clear that Plekanec has not yet fully recovered from his injury. That being said, he looked better last night than the previous game so hopefully, for the Habs sake, he will only get better from here.


The Habs have no confidence

That's what happens when you are in a losing streak. You get stuck in a funk and right now the Habs just don't believe in themselves.

The Canadiens are certainly not an elite team but they are also not as bad as the one we have seen the last few games. Last night, as the game wore on and Montreal's offense continued to fire blanks, their frustration became palpable.

Sights of players gritting their teeth, swearing, constantly arguing with the refs and linesman, slamming their sticks on the ice and otherwise expressing their angst, became commonplace.

The only person who seemed to have their wits about them was Price.

The funny thing is that the Bell Centre crowd, often able to will their heroes to victory, were just as frustrated as the players. By the mid-point of the second period there was a smattering of boos for the homeboys.

By the third it was a chorus.

On the bench, the Habs looked like a defeated bunch with slumped postures and heads down.

It is a truism of human nature that winning and losing are both equally contagious and right now, Habs are suffering from the plague of defeat. With six games left in their season, you figure Montreal will get a win at some point. Until that happens, however, it looks like they need a priest to exorcise their demons.


No Ovechkin, no problem

Much has been made this year about the mid-season system change that Washington made. It was a tough road for a while as the all-out-offense system was changed for one that offers more balance and a tougher overall opponent.

Last night, the Caps were missing their best offensive threat in Alexander Ovechkin. In addition, their best offensive-defenseman, Mike Green, continued to be on the sidelines.

The new Caps system, however, is bigger than one or two players and the Caps seemed largely unaffected by these huge absences last night.

The work that Bruce Boudreau has done this season is truly remarkable and puts him in the Coach of the Year conversation. His team now plays a system rather than a style.

The Caps new way of playing has won them twelve of their last fourteen games, including the win over the Habs.


A tale of two goalies

Is it just me or does Braden Holtby remind you a lot of Carey Price?

Big, positionally solid, lighting quick reflexes and, above all, cool as a cucumber.

While the Caps are looking like the team to beat in the East, their one potential Achilles Heel is their goaltending. Don't get me wrong because Holtby looks real good. So does Michal Neuvirth for that matter, but none of the Caps netminders are playoff proven.

That doesn't mean that they will fail come playoff time, just that they are the one question mark for the Caps.

For Montreal, Carey Price bounced back nicely from the seven-goal shellacking at the hands of the Bruins—Price let in five goals that game before being pulled. More importantly, he continues to be the only player that shows up for Montreal night in and night out.

As has been the case far too often this season, Price was once again the only reason this game wasn't over early.

I firmly believe that Price lost any chance at the Vezina trophy in the game against the Bruins, but he continues to make a strong case for the Hart trophy.

Can you imagine how bad this team would be with him?


Standings and Next Game

The Habs remain stalled in sixth with 87 points. Their recent tailspin has put them in an extremely precarious position in the standings.

The Rangers, who are 8-1-1 in their last ten, are now tied with Montreal with 87 points. Buffalo, 2-0 winners over the Devils, are now only two points back of the Canadiens with one game in hand.

So while Tampa is only four points ahead of Montreal, the objects in their rearview mirror are truly larger than they appear.

The Habs now have two days off before taking on the Atlanta Thrashers, 5-4-1 in their last ten games.

---
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 Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America)

3 comments:

OK, so another shutout loss. The Habs seem to have forgot how to play hockey. They cant skate, cant pass, cant hit the net, cant score on the PP, cant carry the puck out of their own end. The one thing they have NOT forgot how to do....take too many penalties. The mark of the underdog teams is play well defensively, dont take penalties and capitalize on your few scoring chances. The Habs are doing none of that.

JMart needs his head examined, he should have been literally losing it on the bench after the Habs took the only 3 penalties of the 1st period. He should have been throwing water bottles, sticks, whatever. His team needs a tongue lashing over these numerous lazy penalties and careless attitude with the puck.

Going to do my own take of by the numbers:

Jeff Halpern - Time on the 1st line - about 14mins. Time he should be on the 1st line - 0 mins. Should be 14mins on 3rd or 4th line.

Tomas Plekanec - Time on the PP point - about 4mins. Time he should be on the point of the PP - 0 mins. He should be the center, that is his position, he is NOT a Dman. He refuses to shoot from out there.

PK and JWiz - time on the PP TOGETHER - 0 mins. Time they should be together - ALL PP MINS. This duo is dynamic together, not sure why JM broke these 2 up. If it aint broke dont fix it.

Benoit Pouliot - Time on ice - 7:20. Time on ice he deserves - 0 mins. Give his 7 mins to Mathieu Darche.

Lars Eller - Time on ice - 9:10. Time on ice HE deserves - 19:10. I am sure Gomez can give up his mins. Eller has been the only Canadiens player giving 110% every shift.

Number of times the Habs were IN FRONT of Holtby during a point shot, something Jmartin said they worked on - maybe once.

Number of shots from Dmen - 6. 3 of them from Hamrlik. Shots from PK, Gill and JWiz combined - 1. Yes, 1. Why are they not letting these guys tee up shots from the point? I thought they worked on that too. Was JMartin dreaming about working on their flaws.

This team is sooo frustrating, the look so good at times and so terrible during others. They use to be able to win board battles, cycle the puck, forecheck, and create chances to score. I am not sure how you forget that, and how you forget how well that worked in the past.

The PP is NOT working, I say for the top unit you put Pleks between Cammalleri and HAL GILL, yes HAL GILL. Then put PK and JWizzer on the point. Let Gill stand in front of the net while PK JW and MC fire goals by opposing goalies. It worked for the Bruins with Chara, it worked for the Hawks with Byfuglien. Gill is the only BIG body they got. Why not try it??????

For the game vs Atlanta I say bench Gomez and Pouliot. Recall Palushaj or Dawes if possible. And dress Pyatt and one of Pal or Daw. The lines would look like this:

AK46-Plek-Camm
Darche-Desh-Gio
Daw/Palu-Eller-White
Pyatt-Halpern-Moen

If that wont happen why not try putting Halpern with Pouliot and Darche again. They worked well together. And then put Moen with Eller and White. I dont know. Something has to give. There needs to be a change of some sort to spark this team. Maybe PGauthier needs to bench Jmartin, let him watch from the pressbox with Picard, Pyatt and Weber. LOL.

there is so much broken on this team now that i hardly know where to begin. i think they honestly need a top line, cause in my estimation, they have not got one. All i know is that i love them, but i hate them too lol...
i try to break it down a little in my blog, feel free...but man, something has to give.
Wondering if they are tanking to prove a point?

Well i guess what they need is to find whats lacking them behind and try strengthening it. 2-0 is such a pressure for Habs but I'm sure they can make it to 2-1.

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