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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Canadiens - Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski Pots Two in the Third to Down Habs

Picture it...Habs, Leafs, Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada. There's nothing like it right? A classic, right?

Usually it would be but, when both teams are floundering in the NHL standings, things were a little different last night.

Still, the game was entertaining for fans with goals, strange plays, a fight and some great saves. Mostly by Carey Price who turned aside 39 of 42 shots thrown his way, including 17 in the third period.

But both teams came out of the gate with high intensity, with Montreal folding over the back half of the game. Toronto just wanted it more and, that one-goal lead just wasn't going to standup for the Habs.

Mikhail Grabovski took things over in the third, potting two and dropping the Habs in regulation.

At the end of the day, the win was an important one for the Leafs who, by winning in coach Randy Carlyle's debut, kept ground on the eighth and final playoff spot.

For the Habs? Operation Fail for Nail is in full effect.

Final score: Leafs 3 - Habs 1

Game Notes

Gotta love Staubitz

From his first shift you could see that newly acquire Habs tough guy, Brad Staubitz, was just looking for a fight.

Every time he was on the ice he was hitting every Leaf he could, trying to provoke something. It really looked like he was just waiting for someone to challenge him.

Fortunately for Staubitz, as Mike Brown obliged after the former put his shoulder into Dion Phaneuf. And man was that a fight!

Both players, clearly looking to make impressions on their coaches and teammates, had a seriously intense fight.

Here's the vid:


Intense!

How ironic...

The Leafs are a team who, under GM Brian Burke, aspire to be tough as nails. The Habs are a team who has gotten considerably tougher over the last 30 days. So which players were at the opening faceoff?

Mikhail Grabovski versus David Desharnais. Truculent indeed.

Poor Tomas Plekanc

Seriously, what did he do to Coach Cunneyworth? Run over his dog?

Whatever it is, it is clear that RC is using Plek as his third center. Moreover, flanked by Ryan White and Brad Staubitz, as the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs said on Twitter, he is clearly not being put in a position to succeed.

Last night, Plekanec got 17:50 of ice time with a scant 32 seconds on the powerplay.

Strange numbers for the player who has been the Habs point leader the last two seasons.

Who knows what the real reason is for Plek's diminishd role, but with speculation that Pierre Gauthier is no longer running the team, and others that say the GM is pushing coaching decisions, this thing is a mess, top to bottom.

Let's hope TSN 990's Tony Marinaro is right, when he says that every will be sorted out this summer. Because right now things are decidedly off.

Nervousness abounds

During the press conference announcing his hiring as head coach of the Leafs, Randy Carlyle said that there was a lot of tension surrounding the team.

And you could see it on the ice last night, at least in the first period.

Jonas Gustavsson's early jitters aside, you could see that the Leafs were gripping their sticks tightly. And, to their credit, the Habs seemed to smell blood, taking the play to the tentative Leafs over the first 20 minutes of play.

Toronto really looked like a team who was afraid to lose, rather than playing to win.

Sounds like the Habs under Jacques Martin!

A sad state of affairs

Let's face it Habs and Leafs fans, your teams suck. Badly.

No, seriously. I mean these are the two biggest hockey markets in the NHL and both teams are in danger of missing the playoffs.

Well the Habs are unmistakably out, but the Leafs still have a chance. But a chance at what? A first round exit?

The fact is that neither team has been anything better than mediocre for the last decade, and the NHL is the worse for it. This league needs the Habs and the Leafs to, well, not suck.

Mediocrity is not enough. Just squeaking into the playoffs is not enough.

These teams need to battle each other for the Northeast crown and face each other in the conference finals. That is the kind of success I am talking about. That both fanbases have accepted such tepid performances for so long, just shows how much they love their teams.

Supporting a terrible on-ice product, while paying for overpriced tickets, jerseys, and other memorabilia? Wow, ownership has it too good.

Stat of the night - The loss was Carey Price's league worst 25th of the season. But that's not the brutal part. Montreal has scored one or less goals in 17 of those 25 losses.

Ya, and some people actually blame Price for the Habs poor showing this year.

Question of the night - Nothing much matters anymore for the Habs but, for the Leafs, the question has to be, will they make the playoffs under their new coach?

Up Next - The Habs now set out on a four-game road trip, staring on Tuesday in Calgary where they face recently trade sniper, Michael Cammalleri. With Montreal all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the best they can hope for is to play spoiler to the Flames.

Yep, pretty dismal out there in Habland. But look on the bright side, Habs addicts, there's only 16 games left!

---
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a regular contributor to the Sunday Shinny segment of The Franchise weekend morning show, on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

10 comments:

I like your comments about the sorry state of the Habs/Leafs and how the fans need to stop supporting medocrity. Montreal fans will stop supporting them, they did for a time in the late 1990s/Early 2000s when the team was terrible. So long as the team makes the playoffs, the fans are happy. And that magical run a couple of years ago shows that just making it can lead to bigger things.

But I agree. The biggest way to spark change is to hurt them financially. I will be going to see in Buffalo on the 12th. 3 years running now. Sadly, its a better value to drive the 2 hours and watch them play there.

I don't get the crazy ideas. Punish yourself by not watching something you enjoy with the hope you are punishing someone else.
This is a bad year, I agree with that but in general we have been pretty competitive over the past 5 years.
It's a 30 team league, not 6. The past history of the Habs has no bearing on the current product.
I would think this is one of the toughest teams to keep competitive due to the numerous negatives that surround this team even in a good year.
Highest taxes in N.A.
School language laws(which Pierre McGuire cliams is a huge issue for players with kids)
Climate (one of the worst in the league)
Fan & Media pressure (not for everyone)
The idea that we should be winning cups on a regular basis or even being a top team is a stretch.
I love the Habs and will support them regardless.
I wish more fans were just that, fans instead of lunatics.
Maybe if they were more of them in this town we'd still have the Expos!

@Nick M: I'm not sure that a boycott is realistic. I mean in order for it to be effective, you would literally need hundreds of thousands of people to boycott the Habs...or the Leafs.

And that's just not going to happen.

That being said, I think (hope/wish/feel/have my fingers crossed) that Geoff Molson is a man of his word. I pray that he sticks to the "I'm a fan too" speech he gave when he bought the team. If he does, then I am confident he will do the right thing(s) to right this ship.

If not...ugh...

@Hockeyhype: Well said my friend! You are right in that the past has no bearing on the present...except that the present is forever in it's shadow.

You're also right that it's a 30 team league and much tougher to remain at the top.

But if that's completely true, then what is Detroit's excuse?

Yes, there are obstacles to getting players to come to Montreal...but if this was a winning program—and by winning I don't meaning perennially winning the cup, but always being a contender or damn close—then everyone would want to come here.

You think UFA's go to Detroit because of, well, anything outside of the rink? Detroit is a nothing, sleepy, working class town. Nothing wrong with that, just not a huge draw.

What makes people want to go to Detroit is that they have a winning program. And players want to win.

When you DON'T have a winning program, it is MUCH more difficult to attract players...and then, issues like language and so on become a bigger issue.

I'm not saying they're irrelevant issues...just that they are magnified under the the light of mediocrity.

@Kamal
I couldn't agree more. Detroit is the model for which all teams aspire to be.
I wish we had a Ken Holland and Mike Babcock but the reality is there is only one Detroit in this league.
I think there are some other good organizations but they are the Gold Standard. I don't know if you have ever been to Detroit but I have and it ain't pretty.... so you are correct in the fact that a winning program is what is drawing people there.
Without checking any numbers I would imagine that before this season our record over the past 5 years would put us in the top 1/3 of the league.
This is a bad year but I don't believe the team is as bad as the record.
A few tweaks, mostly on D, 2 buyouts (hopefully a big one that won't count against the cap), a new GM and pro scouting dept along with a new coach and this team could easily be very competitive again.

There is no doubt that Detroit has become the organization by which all other organizations base their success however Detroit doesn't exactly lure the top UFA's.

Last year it was Commodore and Ian White. I mean was there a lineup of teams after these guys? Hard pressed to think of another top or even middle tiered UFA that they have signed in recent years.

What Detroit does extremely well is with twir pro scouring to acquire players they know will fit into their system which few other teams want. Going back to guys like Draper, Murphy, Kocur, and more recently with Bertizzi, Cleary, Miller.

What else they do extremely well is drafting. The organization has parted ways with their 1st round picks more often than they have drafted in the past 17 years yet they find gems like Datsyuk, zetterberg, Franzen with late round picks.

And most importantly leadership oth the players. Players simply conform to the team or find their way out of town.

What we need to model this situation is a GM who commands respect, a veteran coach who can put people in line and a better leadership corp.

@bryan
You're exactly right. Detroit does things so well internally that they don't need to sign UFA's. Their scouts have picked well and they develop players that succeed. Those players get used to playing on a team that consistently has a shot at the cup so they rarely walk away.
Although its hard to imagineyour Red Wings having too much trouble attracting players if they needed to.

@Hockeyhype: "This is a bad year but I don't believe the team is as bad as the record.
A few tweaks, mostly on D, 2 buyouts (hopefully a big one that won't count against the cap), a new GM and pro scouting dept along with a new coach and this team could easily be very competitive again."

LOL! That's a lot more than a few tweaks, my friend! ;-)

But, to your point, they don't need to rebuild, just to retool and, most importantly, change the management team.

@Bryan: Too true. Detroit's strength and path to success has always been through the best drafting in the league. That and, as you mentioned, having exceptional pro scouting/the ability to properly identify players that will fit in/complement their existing lineup.

It's really beyond impressive. Still, look at the Bruins right now. They are a solid team and, through shrewd moves, will continue to be so for a decade at least.

What's most impressive about the Detroit model is that they must have the smallest group of centers inthe NHL an have been that way since 1997. Yzerman, Larionov, Draper, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Helm, Abdelkader, and on and on. Apart from Fedorov who I think was 6'1 every other center has been under 6'0.

Small down the middle with big size on the Wings, no pun intended, has been there key for success

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