Canadiens-Thrashers: Can't Win if You Don't Score

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2009

Montreal 0 Atlanta 2 (Philips Arena)

posted by Rocket

Is there anyone who still believes that goaltending is the main problem for the Habs?

The Montreal Canadiens have scored one meaningless goal in the last eight periods of play.

The Habs were outscored 2-0, outshot 28-25, and—most surprising—out hit 15-5. This is the best performance that the team could muster after the coach put them through a punishing 28 minute skate on Thursday.

Guy Carbonneau has a short coaching resume and a limited set of tools to try to motivate his team. In addition to the hard skate, Carbonneau has tried different line combinations (endlessly), giving grinders first line ice time, scapegoating his players in the media, getting his boss to intervene, bowling, and a lucky tie.

None of these ideas has worked. It is time to face facts. Guy Carbonneau does not have the respect of this team nor does he have the first clue about how to motivate them.

Some will say, that for Carey Price, it was a statement game. Some will once again anoint him as the No. 1 goalie in Montreal. Some will say that he found his confidence. Many will say, as this commenter did, "i hate price butt i must admitt he played well 2night."(sic)

I think that Price's confidence, in part, comes from a coach who believes in him. That is something that is relatively straightforward for a coach to provide. It is much easier than trying to teach technique to a confident but unskilled goalie.

Price made saves early, and often. He was square to the shooter and controlled rebounds. He showed a great glove hand and handled the puck well. He was there on a short handed breakaway. He made some great pad saves and his glove hand was flawless. Carey Price was brilliant.

But whether it is Price or Halak in goal, it should be clear that the focus should be on other aspects of the team's play.

"With a good performance like this from Carey, unfortunately we can't score goals," Guy Carbonneau said. "It's frustrating for him and us."

Special teams were again a problem. The Canadiens power play was 0-for-5, including one minute with a two-man advantage. Curiously, Glen Metropolit was part of the 5-on-3. The Thrashers are the worst-ranked penalty killing unit in the league, yet the Canadiens chances were limited. The Thrashers scored a power play goal.

There were three changes to the line-up. Alex Tanguay played his first game in more than two months. Tanguay got a moderate amount of icetime including power play shifts. It was easy to see that his timing was off. Tanguay had two minor penalties in otherwise a very quiet night.

In a game that was dominated by special teams, Mathieu Dandenault was not a factor.

Ryan O'Byrne had a solid game. He was physical, defensively responsible, and cleared the zone with a good first pass.

In a second period fight, O'Byrne demolished Bogosian. It wasn't even close. Greg Stewart took care of Thorburn in a first period tilt. This was team toughness: fights resulting from hockey plays not prearranged boxing demonstrations.

The Canadiens have now been swept this season in Georgia by the Thrashers, one of the worst teams in the conference.  It should be an embarrassment for the Habs.  Coach Carbonneau saw it differently, "We worked for 60 minutes and gained confidence.  We keep working like this, we'll be OK."

Guy Carbonneau has used up his bag of tricks. Bob Gainey has made all the player moves he can this year. There is only one move left. Gainey will be loath to do it, but he must fire the coaching staff to save the season.


Starting lineup: Lapierre, Pacioretty, Kostopoulos, Komisarek, Gorges

Carey Price and Kari Lehtonen started in goal.
Jaroslav Halak backed-up Price. Marc Denis was returned to Hamilton.

It was the first game in 2009 for Tanguay who was back in the line-up after being out with a separated shoulder. He played with Koivu and Higgins.

Mathieu Schneider returned to the Philips Arena as a visitor for the first time since the trade from Atlanta.

Dandenault and O'Byrne played. Brisebois and D'Agostini scratched. Laraque, Bouillon, Latendresse, and Lang were out with injuries.

Rocket's 3 stars:

1. Carey Price
2. Ilya Kovalchuk
3. Kari Lehtonen

(photo credit: AP)