In the two-game span, the Habs were outscored 9-3. This begs the question of the lack of offense and poor defensive coverage. It is a blatant reality that we need another defenseman on this team.
The Canadiens, however, have to be credited for an exceptional run after the Christmas break with a mere four losses and nine victories. Not many teams who lose their top scoring line and No.1 goaltender would be able to maintain such an impressive record and for that, the Habs can be commended.
However, that is not reason to see a decrease in work ethic and energy before a six-day break. The last six periods of play have been demonstrations of fatigue and laziness. In the NHL, in any given game, it comes down to who wants it more and who is ready to give that extra push. That determination, which has dominated the spirit of these Habs, seems to have disappeared.
For example, in Boston, the number of hits by the Montreal club was 28. The total number of hits combined for Atlanta and New Jersey is 26. Just because there is a greater rivalry with Boston, should we be tempted to hit them more? Or are Atlanta and New Jesey so bad that you expect to win without the physical component of the game?
Next, if we talk about the defensive end, players seem to lack grit and confidence in their outlet passing and overall decision-making. This uncertainty, extra seconds of hesitation, certainly causes many to take an unnecessary penalty, fall, break their sticks, be out of position and hence, leads to ineffective play.
When such situations happen, a team needs a goaltender to occasionally ''rescue'' them in these rough patches. Jaroslav Halak allowed three goals on 14 shots and was relieved by Price in Atlanta. This also affects the overall mentality of the team and hence, offense only becomes secondary.
In the case of the New Jersey game, Carey Price was making his first start of 2009 after missing three weeks of play. He could be blamed for the first goal, but otherwise he was pretty much left there alone.
The intensity was lacking and most importantly, the chances were there, the finishing wasn't. Each time a rebound was in the area, there were no Habs jersey in sight, everyone had returned to the defensive end. Players not being able to take risks to make a play shows the amount of confidence they have on their team.
The issue is a growing one and the solution would be cool off during the All-Star break and then start fresh with new energy...sort of like the Christmas vacation after which everyone seemed to re-find their game. A long Western Swing is about to come for the Habs and they need to be up and running for that.
36 more regular season games which need to be played by everyone. One player can't win a game. All 23 players present at 100% and you always have a chance to win.
-The Drive for 25-
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