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Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Musings: I Hate Being Right.. Sort Of

Its Monday, Habs Addicts.

Well this past week was a challenge for us as fans.  Trounced by Pittsburgh 5-1, beaten soundly by Detroit 4-1 and soundly whooped by Washington 5-0. Embarrassing performance by everyone involved. Was it surprising? Hardly. Let me take you back to the concluding paragraph of last Monday's Musings:
This weeks games include matchups on the road in Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby's Penguins on Wednesday, followed by an original-six battle in Detroit on Friday night. The Habs return home to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday. With the defensive showing we saw this past week, going 0-3 and allowing 15 goals against is a very distinct possibility
Photo Credit: Days of Y'Orr
Wow! I hate being right.. sort of.  Truth be told, they went 0-3 and allowed 14 goals against. While scoring 2 goals in those 3 games.  Two. Deux. Dos.  No matter how you say it, its terrible. This week puts the Habs 2014 record a.k.a the month of January at 4-6-1. In those games they've scored 25 goals (2.27 per game) while allowing 40 goals against (3.64 per game). Needless to say, thats pathetic.  The defensive slide actually commenced just prior to the new year, as the last to games in December were losses as well (4-1 to Florida & 5-4 in overtime to Carolina).

What happened? How did one of the best defensive teams in the NHL suddenly turn into the Edmonton Oilers of the Eastern Conference?  Where did our scoring go?  Our friend Andrew Berkshire (@andrewberkshire) at "Habs Eyes on The Prize" has delved into this at depth.  I'm not too much of a stats guy, so I'll let him breakdown whats happening this season compared to last season.  Its not pretty.
I'm not going to talk about the lack of scoring. Even-strength scoring has been a problem for us all season long.  Solid goaltending and defensive play put us in the position we were in before the swoon started (Top 4 team in the Eastern Conference).  Since the calendar year has changed, the scoring output is the same but the defensive effort has evaporated.  Its gone. Carey Price has allowed some weak goals but has otherwise been hung out to dry most nights.  Surely he must be frustrated.  Why has this happened?

What we all know just by watching the games is Michel Therrien has had a revolving door of defenders this past month with no set pairings.  The past few games, Douglas Murray has been paired up with P.K. Subban. I can see the logic. Murray has been atrocious. He has no offense abilities, and while he was never known to be mobile, he'd make Hal Gill look like Erik Karlsson out there. Murray can still lay the body on people - he's still a 240 pound monster - but only if you skate right at him. Its like watching a Steven Segal fight scene (PG-13 for violence). Sure he'll whoop you, but only if you come right to him.  What was the result of this pairing?  We saw the 3 worst games of the season for P.K. Subban. Not an improvement in Douglas Murray.  Murray is now -13 at even strength, tied with Alexei Emelin for worst on the team.  Emelin has also looked shaky since returning from his knee injury and has been a healthy scratch recently. Mind you, he's also playing on his off-wing (the right side as a left-handed shot) and is clearly not comfortable on that side.

Andrei Markov has recently started to slow down, just like he did at this point last year.  Its clear that his legs cannot hold up to the workhorse minutes (25:18 average time on the ice per game) that he could in the past.  Things aren't going to get better for Markov, either.  For 1) This is an 82-game season, not the abreviated 48 games we saw last year and 2) He'll be logging big minutes in high pressure games for Team Russia at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. While other veterans are resting, Markov is logging more ice time on his already tiring legs.  Oh, and we still have the home-stretch of the season right after that.

Therrien's revolving door of defenders also seems to have no rhyme or reason behind his choices.  Pittsburgh and Detroit are both speedy, skilled teams. They play an up-tempo game, not a physical grind-it-out style that you see from Boston and Toronto. So naturally, Murray replaced Rafael Diaz in the lineup.  While Diaz has not played very well this season, he represents a better puck-moving option as well as possessing the ability to skate, which is a very important skill in today's NHL. Markov and Subban have been paired up. Markov and Emelin. Subban and Gorges. With that said, pairings have also changed mid-game.  No rhyme or reason. No chemistry either. On the plus side, rookie Nathan Beaulieu was inserted into the lineup this week and has played well, considering the outcomes of the game. He should be here to stay. Hopefully.

Two very good articles have been written this past week about Michel Therrien's coaching abilities and anyone who follows us on the #mtlhockey tag on Twitter knows that Habs fans are calling for a coaching change.  Habs Addict's own Fred Poulin (@fredpoulin98) wrote the following piece:
This article more-or-less sums up the entire season, with some very valid points by one of our knowledgeable contributors.  Hard to disagree with his assessment.

Andrew Berkshire also has another good read, this one directed at Habs management on his Eyes on the Prize blog.  Again, Andrew is a stats guy so he has a lot of numbers to back up his arguments and also has some very good ideas.
Normally I spend my Monday Musings recapping the week that was. Not much to say. It played out basically how I predicted it would play out. Horribly. What's in store this week: A home game Tuesday against the surging Carolina Hurricanes (8-3 in 2014), a road-trip to Boston to face the Bruins Thursday, capped off with a home game against a strong Tampa Bay Lightning team.  I expect the Habs to win one of these games at the very least. Carolina won 5-4 last matchup in over-time and the Habs and Tampa have exchanged 2-1 wins this season, both games going into the extra frame as well. And lets face it, no matter what, we always step things up for Boston.

Three Questions from my musings:

A)  Will Marc Bergevin make the coaching change we are all calling for or will Michel Therrien be given the rest of the season to turn things around?

B)   Will Nathan Beaulieu stay up with the big club and remain a steady contributor on the blueline for the remainder of the season?

C)  Will we beat Boston?


Nick M. is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

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