Playoff Hab-It: April 26th, 2011


T-60 Minutes And Counting

I postponed my usual game summary and Playoff Hab-It for 24 hours while I simmered down after the 2-1 loss to the Bruins in overtime of Game Five. As I sat in front of my TV on Saturday night, I thought of how many things I would have things I could go through without losing my mind. And considering it was Easter, I had to remain on an even keel. But today is another story.

My thoughts after the game immediately went to the ineptitude of Scott Gomez. Not only was he useless in the face-off circle again (an abysmal 33%), but he brought nothing to the table offensive once again. Either he is losing his former offensive touch, or he’s is really confused playing within the “Rope-A-Dope” system of Habs’ coach Jacques Martin.

Speaking of Martin, when is he going to learn that playing hockey without any type of forecheck adds up to nothing. The Bruins were able to gain access to the neutral zone freely, and attack the Canadiens with tons of speed. The Beantown Bruisers had the upper hand every time the dumped the puck into the Habs’ zone, making it an impossible task for the Canadiens’ depleted D-line to clear the zone with any effectiveness.

Looking at our defensemen, why on Earth does “Uncle Jack” continue to use Spacek in key situations, especially alongside Roman Hamrlik? It’s been apparent all season that Spacek can no longer play to the level he has in the past. While you can contribute some of his depreciated play to his use on the right side, his unwillingness to engage the opposition physically and his lack of speed has really given our back-end  a kick in the groin. Now, according to reports, Spacek was practicing on the second wave of the power play with Hamrlik. Can anyone say “short-handed goal?”

Desharnais Done

It’s a real shame that diminutive Canadiens’ forward, David Desharnais is out with a knee injury. He has been a great spark plug in the Habs’ otherwise non-existant offensive scheme. While Lars Eller and Ryan White have certainly played well, Desharnais was also used on the penalty kill, and brought a lot of jump to the table.

So what are the Canadiens’ to do? Popular opinion has them inserting Benoit Pouliot into the lineup to replace Desharnais. “Benny the Pooh” has shown that, regardless of the situation, he is incapable of keeping his composure time and time again. His ill-timed penalties have cost the Canadiens dearly, and he has brought nothing to the table offensively so far in this first round.

In my opinion, they may be better served dressing Yannick Weber to play on the fourth line and power play, and adding Paul Mara to replace Spacek. I know that Mara has not played in a while, but given his physical presence in front of the Canadiens’ goal (where the Bruins have been scoring of late), he is chomping at the bit to get in the lineup. All the while, it would give a much needed to Spacek, who is still nursing his gimpy knee.

What to Expect When Expecting

Habs’ fans are at odds with each other. When your team shows little desperation in their game, it’s hard to think that they can come out of Game Six with a heartbeat. It remains that this is the same feeling we had last season, when “Les Glorieux” were down three game to one to the Washington Capitals in Round 1. There are, however, different factors in this series.

Take, for example, the goaltending of Bruins’ netminder Tim Thomas. Sure, his playing style is probably the principal reason why Claude Julien has lost even more hair of his chrome dome this season, he is the single most important reason why the Bruins finished in third place in the Eastern Conference. While his stats at the Bell Centre are nothing to write home about, it’s his competitiveness that make him as good as he is. We can also look back to last year and see that the Canadiens fair very well when faced with good goaltending.

If you look at the Bruins offensively, there’s nothing there to really write home about. Sure, they’ve gotten the best of the Canadiens in the past three games, but they are mediocre to say the least. However, given the Habs’ inability to win key face-offs, the Bruins have managed to control puck possession. And you can’t score when you don’t have the puck.

Finally, defensively, the Bruins and Canadiens match up pretty well, with the obvious exception of the “Not So Friendly Giant”, Zdeno Chara. Other than his incredible reach and physical domination, there aren’t that many differences between the two defensive squads.

All this to say, without an improved effort in the face-off circle and maintaining a sustained forecheck, there may not be much hope for the Habs. I may sound liek a broken record, but giving the Bruins that much room to operate while dominating possession of the puck is a recipe for disaster.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to Cowboy…I mean Hab-It Up!!!