Posted by Rocket All Habs
Goaltenders. We spend a disproportionate time talking about them, particularly in Montreal. Game in and game out, the Canadiens' offensive shortcomings are masked by the focus on what is happening in the Habs' crease. Mainstream media have all but ignored the complete failure of the head coach's so-called "puck-possession" system as they report the latest tidbit of information designed to reignite the Montreal goalie controversy.
So let's get the goaltending comments out of the way first. Jaroslav Halak didn't bring his A-game tonight. In the first period, he looked nervous and shaky. There was no argument that the first New Jersey goal scored by Zajac was soft.
"After the first goal they scored I knew I had to better, because it was a pretty weak goal," admitted Halak.
As the game went on, Halak mostly righted his goaltending ship, although he continued to struggle with rebound control. In that regard, Halak owes a big debt of gratitude to his defense, who cleared away everythingm not allowing second chance opportunities for New Jersey. In the third period, Halak made some tremendous saves to keep the Canadiens in the game.
At the other end, it was a typical Martin Brodeur game at the Bell Centre. Translation: He was sensational and deserving of the No. 1 star.
But Brodeur playing well was to be expected, and hopefully built into the coach's game plan. The Canadiens needed bodies in front of Brodeur, and needed an effective power-play tonight to come away with a win. Unfortunately, neither happened.
While Scott Gomez scored a power-play goal, the Canadiens were 1-for-4 and often seemed disorganized with the man advantage. Tape-to-tape passes were rare. Andre Kostitsyn, the player normally in front of the net and the finisher, is missed more and more each game, as he is out with injury.
"We stuck right in there, played a patient game and got the point out of it, we needed that," Gomez said. "We can play with anyone when we're all healthy."
Unfortunately, the Canadiens were not at full strength. In addition to Andrei Kostitsyn recovering from knee surgery, Sergei was out with injury and Ryan O'Byrne was home dealing with a family matter.
Despite the players out of the lineup and difficulties on the power-play, the Canadiens showed their best five-on-five play in quite some time. The Canadiens' defense was also strong tonight, particularly Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek, and Roman Hamrlik. Markov had more than 28 minutes of ice-time.
But as Mike Cammalleri is fond of saying, "There are no moral victories." The bottom line is that excluding an empty net goal, the Canadiens have scored a total of four goals in their last four games. With Andrei Kostitsyn out, the Habs have a major problem putting the puck in the net.
So, perhaps we can give the goaltending debate a rest for a spell, and turn our attention to how the Canadiens can generate offense.
The Canadiens will have the next two days off and will return to practise on Tuesday. They play next on Thursday, hosting the Dallas Stars.
Rocket's three stars
1. Martin Brodeur
2. Andrei Markov
3. Zach Parise
Material from wire services was used in this report.