Panthers No Longer The Habs Beasts
I am not a big fan of afternoon hockey games. Players who are routine and regimen oriented are all out of whack. I makes for a chaotic game. Players are on the ice at the usual hour that they take pre game naps.
All that said, it often produces a wildly entertaining game based on the multitude of on ice miscues and general disorder.
On Sunday, I got to feel what it is like to be an Ottawa Senators fan, enduring watching a team show every possible side of itself in one game. The Habs players in this one, right down to every single individual, displayed both brilliant skillmanship and braindead detachment.
The two points won are the bottom line, and this one should be filed under "memorable, but preferably forgettable".
The other good news is that finally, after years, the Panthers are no longer the Canadiens' beasts.
Since Florida made it's NHL debut in 1993-94, they have owned the Habs for various reasons. In their inaugural season, the Panthers won three and tied one against the Canadiens. Florida also tied the first meeting the following season, and Montreal didn't get it's first win against the scrappy cats until their sixth meeting. Montreal has been chasing the Panthers tail ever since.
Sunday's win finally evened the mark after 15 years at a more respectable 25-25-6-2 all time. It has helped Montreal That they have gone on a 9-5-0-1 sprint against Florida since the lockout. The teams meet once more on the 29th of this month. Call it an all time rubber match, for now.
Here's some random impressions on Game 38.
If you found this game was quite similar to Saturday's Canada - Russia WJC match, you weren't alone. Unlike the Canadians, our Canadiens took a little longer to wake up.
It was kids day at the Bell Centre yesterday. Thousands of them were in attendance. I was wondering what coach Carbonneau might has screamed at his troops between the first and second period to get them out of their slumber. It might have started with: "Five thousand seven year olds think you guys suck right now..."
Jaroslav Halak was only slightly less shaky than he was against Jersey. Nine goals in two games against clubs with pop gun offenses doesn't make an argument for folks who say the more Halak plays, the better he will be. He has been the goalie of record in 13 of the Canadiens 38 games thus far, and his record is a disappointing 6-6-1, with a 2.72 GAA and .908 save percentage. My money is on Halak not being back next season, perhaps even finishing this one in Hamilton if doesn't get his act together. If some big believer in Halak were to offer a second rounder for him at this stage, Bob Gainey might bite.
Cat's goalie Craig Anderson has been no better at the opposite end. Goalies must feel like sieves when the give up goals to the likes of pea shooters such as Tom Kostopoulos, Brett McLean, Francis Bouillon and Jassen Cullimore.
The Kostitsyn brothers had a funny game as well. Andrei's nickname might soon be "The Shadow". For long stretches of time, he sometimes seems to be totally out of synch with his linemates, and then "Boom", he grabs a loose puck, and a few strides later it's bulging mesh. I still believe AK46 is one day going to nudge the 50 goal mark. The left shooting left winger's attentiveness and opportunism might best be served by playing him on the right wing, where his stick would more easily and more often find middle ice space.
Sergei, on the other hand, works like a mad, but ends up making some of the most obvious mistakes. It's often bad luck more than bad positioning. Yesterday he earned two assists on heads up plays, and surprisingly finished the game at plus four.
The hard working line of Max Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse and Tom Kostopoulos were the Habs sparkplugs yesterday, getting the team going after a first period funk. Max was probably still seething after a being called for a delay of game penalty. Lapierre stepped on Halak's stick, and in his wipeout, dislodged the net from it's moorings. The officials also suffer from afternoon game syndrome, it could be said.
Kyle Chipchura had some strong shifts in his 10:35 of icetime. His two way play shows a strong awareness of where ne needs to be on the ice. On 25 other clubs, this guy would be a full time NHL'er.
Best hitters on the day were Steve Begin (7 - no surprise), Komisarek with 6, and Max Pacioretty with 3.
Patrice Brisebois looks to me like he might soon need a rest. He's played abundantly well in a long stretch of games, but I see some old bad habits creeping back into his play. His reads on when to pinch are way off, he is getting soft in his own end, often hesitating in the physicality department, and his knack of firing pucks into oncoming shinpads have returned. These lazy signs point to a tired player. His plus three stat (all on the Habs first three goals) do not tell the whole story.
Andrei Markov played 27:19 and goes minus one on the day. The world is often unfair.
But then again, Markov has but one shootout move, a backhand five - hole slip, that always works!
Latendresse and Kostopoulos each had 6 shots on goal. Guillaume misfired on an additional four.
Least used player on the day was Matt D'Agostini, who was employed for an even nine minutes. I'm not as convinced as some other that he will remain in Montreal once injured players return.
Halak was credited with four giveaways during the game, an unordinarily high number for a goaltender who touches the puck at most ten times during the game. Maybe it points to the Habs D not getting back quick enough.
If you like these afternoon matches, you might be in the minority. An RDS poll during the game gave them a 54% thumbs down. The Canadiens play three more of them at home this season: Saturday January 31 against the Kings, 24 hours later against the Bruins (Yikes!), and three weeks after on February 21 against Ottawa.
I can hardly wait!
Photos from Montreal Canadiens.com, except for my cat!