Sabres-Canadiens: Penalties Sink Habs, Coach Shrugs

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2009

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 1:  Andrei Kostitsyn #46 of the Montreal Canadiens waits for a faceoff in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 1, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Canadiens dfeated the Leafs 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Montreal 3 Buffalo 4 (Bell Centre)

posted by Rocket All Habs

Penalties, again. The Canadiens added seven minor penalties tonight bringing their season total to 170. They have second most in the league, only two fewer than the Philadelphia Flyers.

Hal Gill played the role of Mr. Obvious tonight saying, "It's easier to kill them [penalties] when you're not taking them."

When coach Jacques Martin was asked if there will be consequences for players who take too many penalties, he shrugged and said, "Right now, we have 20 healthy players. We basically played with 11 forwards tonight."


While the Canadiens played 12 forwards, Martin was justifiably excluding Georges Laraque who played four shifts and 2:20 in ice time.

But what was the rest of the message? Was Martin saying that he can't impose discipline on his team? Was the coach saying that he won't demand accountability while the team has a handful players with of injuries?

So, are we to understand from Martin's comments, that the teams in the league that are playing disciplined hockey are injury-free? Does he really expect us to believe that?

And can anyone predict players' reactions when they hear their coach say publicly that rampant penalty-taking is a situation he cannot control? Does Glen Metropolit breathe a sigh of relief after taking three minor penalties tonight? Do we expect any of the players to take fewer penalties in future games?

These are simple questions that deserve answers. Similar questions can be asked about defensive zone coverage and breakouts which have not improved at all through 34 games.

Yet, I expect that coach Martin would give a similar answer: Injuries are the root of the problem. And while Martin talks about injuries plural, let's not be fooled. In his mind, there is only one injury of importance.

So Habs fans, don't despair. Just look forward to Day 'M'. That's when all of the teams problems will magically disappear, according to the coach. Day 'M' is when Andrei Markov returns.

Sorry coach, I don't buy it.

Plenty of bouquets are due tonight for the Canadiens first line who combined for seven points. Andrei Kostitsyn led the way with two goals and an assist. Tomas Plekanec was 88 percent at the face-off dot. The line put three goals past Ryan Miller, arguably the best goalie in the league this season.

While the first line was effective, only one point was collected by the other 17 players in the game.

Penalty killers were excellent again tonight. The Sabres only scored on one 5-on-3 power-play in six opportunities.

Ryan O'Byrne led the team with nine blocked shots. Jaroslav Spacek, Travis Moen, Josh Gorges, and Hal Gill each had at least four blocked shots.

Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in an ordinary performance. It would seem that the only way for the Habs to win is when their goaltenders are the number one star.

Rocket's three stars

1. Andrei Kostitsyn
2. Johen Hecht
3. Tyler Myers