Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Sure it had its moments of up and down hockey, but let's be clear about one thing: Jacques Martin has convinced his players to buy into his system.
It took a while for the players to gel last year. Even in the playoffs, given the amount of times the Habs were outshot by a wide margin, you could tell the team was still scrambling fro a real identity. There was no such thing as Montreal Canadiens hockey last year - even when the team had made it to the Conference finals.
This year is different. There isn't much room to move out there. It makes Carey Price's numbers much more convincing. It makes the goals against numbers a little daunting for the opposing teams. Fact is, this team isn't giving up too many chances, odd-man rushes or any free ice for that matter.
These Habs are a bit reminiscent of Pat Burns' team of 1989. Nothing flashy but stingy as heck. When the team loses, it's never ugly. Games are usually close, win or lose. Goaltending is very stable and the penalty kill is very efficient. What these guys can also do is skate. Team speed is making life hard for Montreal's opponents right now - and that's despite rusty wheels Gomez, where is my killer instinct Gio and variable X skating on that not so first line.
Martin is getting his guys to apply the boa constrictor squeeze on the other team. Last night had its moments but this was not a consistently free flowing game. This style of hockey doesn't afford it. Yet, it's working. And the style has had a huge benefit: it has made the players collectively committed to defence, and in the process has shielded Carey Price from what could have been a real franchise disaster. A poor start from Carey and the fans would have been all over the guy, team management and anything bleu-blanc-rouge; how much more negativity could Price have tolerated? In view of Halak's numbers to start the season, the comparable the fans dwell on may have culminated into a major story the Canadiens could do without.
The other side of this involves the space Andrei Kostitsyn continues to create for himself and for his linemates. He's putting it all together and that's what organized chemistry can create - a far more cohesive style that allows for an easier breakout and gaining of the offensive zone.
Cammy's goal last night was almost a walk-in. A cool stride into the slot and an ensuite goal.
Several rushes by both teams up and down the ice but all contained within the confines of what Martin hockey will allow. The Pyatt brothers bumped shoulders a few times, but a Hunter brothers duel it was not.
The Boa slivers on, to the next game tomorrow.