Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Canadiens - Blues: Jaroslav Halak Shuts Out Habs in Bell Centre Return

Well that was disappointing now wasn't it?

In what was one of, if not the most hyped game of the year, your Montreal Canadiens were completely flat.

The return of the "great" Jaroslav Halak to the Bell Centre was not enough to stir his Canadiens counter-parts to action. Or, more accurately, the Canadiens were just no match for the high-flying St. Louis Blues.

While the teams skated to a 0-0 tie after 20 minutes, this was a game that the Habs were never in.

The Blues pushed the pace and dominated in every aspect of the game. Were it not for Carey Price—who was awarded the Molson Cup for the month of December prior to puck drop—this thing might have been 3-0 after the first.

Final score: Blues 3 - Habs 0

Game Notes

Goalie battle - With Halak playing his first game at the Bell Centre since his heroic playoff run of a few years ago, you expected a big Price versus Halak battle.

And, at the end of the day Price was solid for Montreal. More so than Halak for the Blues. And it's not like Halak was bad, just that the win wasn't much of a challenge for him.

Yes, Halak got a shutout but aside for an early Tomas Plekanec breakaway, he wasn't tested by many of the 19 shots thrown his way.

Oh and did anyone else notice that Pleky just slide the puck along the ice into Halak's pad?

Great save indeed.

Price, on the other hand, had to contend with serious speed, grit, net crashing and constant pressure on his D. The Blues made the Habs defense corps look like what it is: a rag tag collection of inexperienced young and untalented, lead-footed and/or over the hill veterans.

It was really no contest.

Lars Eller versus D'Agostini - The other story line to watch was at forward with Eller and Matt D'Agostini facing their former teams.

With so many players crossing enemy lines you know there had to be a lot of money at stake behind the scenes!

Out of these two players, Eller was without a doubt the one that had more of a focus on him. And man did he, and his linemates of Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen, ever fall short.

They were completely manhandled by their Blues counter-part, often being physically dominated by the likes of David Backes and co.

As for D'Agostini, he was mostly a non-factor too aside for one good scoring chance from in close.

Talk about your classic lunch bag let down!

The power-less forwards - If there were two players who could match the size of the Blues and who needed to step up for Montreal, it was Max Pacioretty and Eric Cole.

However, like their teammates these two were completely ineffective. If the only two "big" guys in your forward ranks can't get it done then what hope do the handful of smaller players have?

Pacioretty finished the night with two shots to Cole's one. Hooray.

From bad to worse - On man, is Michael Cammalleri ever dogging it out there. Wow. For a guy who looked like he might have been turning thing around over the last two games, he was completely ineffective last night.

And it's not just that he was shutdown by the opposition, but that he has become a perimeter player. He seems like he never makes any attempt to get to the dirty areas. Moreover, as an outside floater, when he does get a chance at a one-timer it is usually from close to the boards, where it is ineffective.

As quick a release as Cammy has, his strength is shooting the puck from 15-feet in or less. From inside the two faceoff dots. That is when he is effective. He simply doesn't have a hard enough shot to score from outside that range.

Is there a player on the team who looks more like they need a change of scene?

Oh and I'm sure Habs fans would be happy to oblige at this stage, booing Cammalleri throughout the third period.


Nice shooting, Tex - I've said it before and I'll say it again: P.K. Subban does not know how to shoot the puck in the NHL. And his windmill slapshot windups and high and wide wristers are a large part in the the Habs powerplay woes.

Subban had only two shots on goal last night. But he took three that missed the net and two more that were blocked. That is just not going to get it done.

Less velocity, more accuracy. That's what's needed but apparently no one in the Habs camp sees fit to communicate this to the youngster.


It wasn't all bad for Subban, though, as he threw his best check of the season on Barret Jackman, sending the Blues player crashing into the boards and off to the dressing room for the night.

It was one of the few bright spots for Habs fans. Here, check it out:

Adding injury to insult - Playing in only his second game back and his 30th of the season, Habs Captain Brian Gionta was once again bitten by the injury bug.

He took a shift after what looked like an innocuous collision with the boards, and then left for the dressing room, throwing his stick down the hall in anger.

As of this morning, they are saying Gionta has an upper-body injury and will be reevaluated Wednesday.

If I was a betting man, I'd say from his reaction that the injury is bad and he'll be out indefinitely.

Stat of the night - 12.8 percent. After going 0-for-3 on the powerplay last night, that's the Habs PP success rate this season. In case you're wondering, that ranks dead last in the NHL.

It seems that adding Tomas Kaberle to the lineup has had the exact same effect on Montreal's PP as it did on the Bruins' last spring.

Question of the night - So did you break your leg yet jumping on and off the bandwagon?

This past weekend on the Sunday Shinny, Gary Whittaker took the angle that, after two straight wins, the Canadiens would turn things around and make the playoffs.

That might still happen and, last night aside, they are playing better hockey. But I think that the hole they got themselves into over the first half of the season is just too deep.

Barring a miracle, which I don't see happening, I don't see how they can make the playoffs.

Do you?

Up next - The Habs have the day off before going from the frying pan to the fryer. If the Blues weren't enough of a juggernaut, Montreal plays the Boston Bruins on Thursday night in Boston.

Boston is one of the hottest teams in the NHL having gone 8-2-0 in their last ten and owning a ridiculous plus-70 goals-for/against rating. That is tops in the league.

Moreover, the Bruins are the top offensive team with 147 goals-for, and the top defensive team with 76 goals against. Does this ever sound like a team that is ready to repeat.

Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on and featured columnist on Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at

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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


That was indeed a let down. 19 shots, and another 24 missing the net. Yikes.

As for P.K, it is not only his shot accuracy that leaves much to be desired, but also his play selection on the man-advantage.

Too often, he opts for the 'windmill' slapper. Low wrist shots, shot-passes and chips all represent valid options on the powerplay.

Hopefully, these notions can be taught to P.K, who still has the potential to morph into one of the better blueliners in the NHL.

While I would consider moving him in a package for an elite player, let us not forget that he is currently in his dreaded sophmore year (slump)!

@Louis: Well said and too true. It's WAY too early to give up on P.K. unless, as you said, we are getting an elite center in return.

The problem, imo, is not P.K. but the coaching staff. I have been baffled, all season, that no one has taken the kid aside and shown him how to shoot effectively on the PP.

I mean everyone and their uncle can see he doesn't know what he's doing, yet the coaching staff, seemingly, does nothing about it.

The kid needs to be coached is all.

I'll be at the game Saturday with my family who has never been to a HABS game in Montreal.

I love this team, bleed HABS blood, but cannot understand how we have gotten to this place. This goes deeper then players, coaches, and owners - no one wants to play for this team. No one will come here, no one will play their hearts out here, and no one will stay here - and when I say no one I mean franchise players and TRUE first liners.

Lets face it, this club is a shell of what it once was. If the performance of the team was paralleled with a business we would have gone bankrupt long ago. Unfortunately like myself, we still keep paying the money because we love this team. So I'll take it the blame since no one else seems to want to.

@sanman_11: You hit the nail right on it's head my friend...this organization, top to bottom, is a shell of what it used to be.

The thing is that they had weak hockey people but brilliant marketing people behind the scenes for that last decade.

As a result, they sold fans smoke and mirrors, memories of the past, ghosts of an era that is long gone. They had people so focused on the good that used to be that they were distracted and lost focus on how mediocre the on ice product was (and is).

Now, however, the team is just not getting it done on the ice either. They won't even make the playoffs this year and so no amount of strong marketing can distract people from this fact.

That people still pay the exorbitant prices to go to the game is because, on some level, we all hope to relive a little bit of the least for a moment.

It is why as soon as the Canadiens string two wins together people start thinking they'll suddenly be able to make the playoffs.

It's because fans want to believe.

Hopefully, Molson does a complete reset in the off-season...and I'm not just talking Pierre Gauthier, but also Bob Gainey whose greasy finger prints are all over this disaster.

Time to start over and get it right.

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