Montreal 1 Florida 2 (BankAtlantic Centre)
posted by Rocket
"There are more roller-coaster days to come. But if the Canadiens are going to take a run at a playoff spot, let's hope that coach Martin adjusts his system to allow his players to be at their best..."
The concluding sentences of the review from Saturday's game seem to be a good starting point for tonight. While others used phrases like the Canadiens "have turned the corner", "are poised for a run", "will ride the wave of their goaltender", I remained a little more realistic in my praise.
Tonight the Habs advanced through another downturn, but many fans were not only disappointed but angry with the result. Aggressive forechecking and puck pursuit evaporated, passing and puck movement were not in sync, and the goalie, who many had been anointed by some as number one, looked ordinary.
Having had a day off in the Florida sun didn't seem to rejuvenate the players as might have been intended. The Canadiens looked slow and execution was subpar. But more significantly it seemed like the Florida coach schooled his former boss.
Coach Pete DeBoer doesn't have a surplus of talent to work with at the best of times, but tonight the Panthers were without their top scorer and key defenseman. The Panthers trapped to perfection, clogging up the neutral zone and aggressively creating turnovers.
"It's an important two points," Panthers coach DeBoer said. "They beat us out on a technicality for a playoff spot last year, a percentage point. They've beaten us two times previously. We knew it was going to be a close, low-scoring game. I really liked the way we stuck to the game plan. I thought we really limited their chances."
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin didn't have any answers. Martin countered with a dizzying parade of line combinations. While many feel that Sergei Kostitsyn is a reasonable temporary compliment to Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri, he saw very little time with that pair instead being relegated to the fourth line. The younger Kostitsyn is one of the best passers on the team but his talent is wasted when matched with Glen Metropolit and Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Travis Moen was Martin's choice for most of the game. While Moen is a tough, hard working guy, he doesn't play the same style as Plekanec and Cammalleri. With Plekanec and Cammalleri (and Sergei Kostitsyn) being unafraid to fight for the puck in traffic, a player like Moen is not required on the line. It was particularly disappointing to see that Moen was not replaced with less than two minutes to play and the Canadiens needing a goal to tie.
Whatever the lines, they need more than 40 seconds to gel, before Martin is off to try his next combination.
"We got outworked tonight, they were more determined than us, and we had some very poor execution," said Montreal coach Martin. "You're winning the hockey game 1-0 in the third period, and a bad turnover in the offensive zone, that's not acceptable."
The turnover mentioned by Martin was made by Metropolit, who didn't have his best game. In that regard, Metropolit wasn't alone. The Canadiens were only able to muster 17 shots on goal, with four coming in the second period. They looked lifeless for most of the game.
Roman Hamrlik, Sergei Kostitsyn and Jaroslav Spacek were among the few Canadiens to show up tonight. So given the chance to pick up two points against a team they needed to beat, the Habs simply didn't provide the effort. And the roller-coaster ride continues.
Canadiens' next game is against Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Rocket's three stars
1. Shawn Matthias
2. Keith Ballard
3. Jaroslav Spacek
special mention: Sergei Kostitsyn
Material from wire services was used in this report.
(photo credit: Getty)