Canadiens-Lightning: Going Through the Motions

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2010

Montreal 0 Tampa Bay 3 ( Centre)

posted by Rocket
All Habs


Is there any other way to describe the effort of the Canadiens tonight? Well that is, other than the title of this review "Going Through the Motions?" Did the players want this game to end as much as I did in the third period?

The Habs looked like they wished to be anywhere else other than on the ice. It was a painful game to watch.

Montreal coach Jacques Martin said that he saw some good things and that he thought it was a better effort than the previous game against the Panthers. We apparently saw different games obviously, although this isn't the first time.

Ryan O'Byrne, in addition to much better play, has become a candid voice of reason in the dressing room.

“It’s disappointing to come down here and play two, for the most part, uninspired games,” O’Byrne said.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

It appears that the Canadiens have stopped playing for their coach. Some may say that they were never on board. The two most recent wins against the Devils and the Rangers, the Habs forechecked aggressively, and played a puck pursuit style that we don't often associate with coach Martin. And how do the players feel?

“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Montreal center Scott Gomez said. “We’ve got to regroup. We’ve got to come up with a new game plan and go at it again.”

"A new game plan" could simply be a sports cliche from a veteran. Or it could be a player, who was schooled in the Devils organization, tactfully and with subtlety making his point that the present system is not working.

It would appear that the NHL has passed Martin by. What worked pre-lockout is no longer successful. A passive system like Martin's is ineffective and doesn't take advantage of the Canadiens strengths (speed) and exposes their weaknesses (defense).

The Lightning were a beatable team. They had nine giveaways, in the first period alone. Anterro Niittymaki made 33 saves but the Habs made him look good for his first shutout of the season. Few shots were dangerous. The Canadiens didn't go to the net. The Habs were not a threat while five on five.

Carey Price did his job. No, goaltending wasn't the problem for the Canadiens in Florida (and hasn't been this season). The fact that the Habs scored a grand total of one goal in two games means they didn't give themselves much chance to win either game.

Mistakes and uninspired play were the key. A giveaway by Scott Gomez, poor coverage by Max Lapierre, turnovers by Josh Gorges and defensive lapses by Benoit Pouliot were all to blame. Hal Gill also struggled and was a minus two in the game. Canadiens' forwards were a pitiful 35 per cent at the faceoff dot.

Jacques Martin singled out two players, Ryan O'Byrne and Sergei Kostitsyn, for their fine play. I agree, and would add Tomas Plekanec to that list.  The Canadiens showed emotion on one occasion when O'Byrne manhandled Matt Smaby and Gomez disrobed Victor Hedman.

The Habs only dressed 19 players for the game with Jaroslav Spacek being a late scratch with flu symptoms.

Rocket's three stars

1. Steve Downie
2. Vincent Lecavalier
3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Material from wire services was used in this report.

(photo credit: Getty)