Playoff Hab-It: April 19th, 2011

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The Canadiens Effort Stayed In Beantown

Coach Jacques Martin said in his post-practice scrum that his players didn’t practice as hard as they normally do on a game day. It certainly showed on the ice last night, as it took two periods for the Canadiens to find their legs. It almost seemed like the incredible amount of energy from the fans was more of a crutch than a catalyst.

Such was the case when it came to Jaroslav Spacek. The veteran defenseman seemed unwilling to engage the Bruins physically. His fear of being hit showed tremendously on the first goal, when he tried to avoid a hit from Bruins’ forward Patrice Bergeron, instead of being strong on the puck. The second goal was no different, when he coasted into the corner where Brad Marchand was setting up the play.

The entire roster was tentative. While they showed signs of life in the final stanza, a more concentrated effort in the first 40 minutes may have led them to a 3-0 lead in the series, instead of allowing the Bruins back into it. There isn’t a hockey mind on the planet that will not tell you how pivotal Game 3 of a series is. After the bashing Boston took from their own fan base, they certainly responded.

Face-off Futility At The Forefront

Can someone please explain why the Canadiens continue to seem uncompetitive in the face-offs in this series? I pointed out in earlier posts that their inability to control the draws would lead to eventual problems. In Games 1 and 2, the Bruins had the match ups they wanted at will, as they continuously won face-offs and limited the Habs ability to get the proper players on the ice. Once again, in Game 3, they did exactly the same thing. Only this time, the Canadiens had the home ice advantage.

With this advantage, the visiting player taking the face-off is required to put his stick down first. Why then was Tomas Plekanec caught on multiple occasions putting his stick down first? With their inept results in the first two games, why wasn’t the problem addressed at practice by the coaching staff.  Plekanec was only 33% on draws in the offensive zone, while Scott Gomez wasn’t much better at 38%. If you add defensive zone face-offs, Gomez was only 31% for the entire game.

Getting control of a face-off allows not only for a personnel advantage, but it allows team to execute set plays off the draw, that lead to scoring opportunities, or simply to easily clear the defensive zone. It’s an issue that must be addressed by the coaching staff moving forward.

Should Players Be Sequestered When Playing Home Games?

Many players look forward to their trip home from a road trip. They spend some time with family before getting back into the swing of the playoffs. In the 1993 Stanley Cup run under Canadiens coach Jacques Demers, the Habs were not allowed to communicate with their family while in the playoffs. Demers made sure it was practice and back to the hotel on a daily basis. No one can argue with the result.

Should Coach Martin follow the same mold? Maybe, but I would certainly avoid any days off. Keeping your players at the rink, be it on the ice or in the video room or the gym, keeps them sharp and concentrated on the task at hand. While family is important, wives and children understand the importance of the playoffs, and normally don’t have a problem supporting their spouses or the team in any way they can. After all, the Stanley Cup is what it’s all about, right?

Pouliot Is Just…Disinterested!!!

If someone can put a finger on what’s wrong with Benoit Pouliot, I’d sure like to know.

The 2005 Top 5 pick continuously falls on his own, is lazy in his pursuit of the puck, and makes bad reads on a regular basis. Last night, he was benched after taking a bonehead penalty on a meaningless play late in the first period. It surprises me that a player with the pedigree with which he came into the league would be such a bust.

Whether it’s because of the style he is being asked to play, being that of a power forward, or just plain laziness, Pouliot should be given a seat in the press box. With players like Yannick Weber and Paul Mara itching for playing time in the playoffs, it certainly wouldn’t hurt Benny the Pooh to take a seat and see what playoff hockey is like when you play with a little bit of passion.

Et Cetera

It was another heated discussion on Habs Talk Radio last night. JD was back, so check it out.

My buddy Kyle Roussel posted a couple of great pieces on Cowhide and Rubber

I’m sure the gang at Causeway Crowd is breathing a little sigh of relief right now. Check out their take on things.

Too Many Men On The Site has all of your NHL Playoff news and notes.