The last few days in Montreal have seen the talk show airwaves and blog forums light up with talk about the Canadiens' two goaltenders.
Who should be in the net? Who is the better goaltender? Who has the better long-term potential? Who should be re-signed in the offseason?
When Jacques Martin chose to put Jaroslav Halak in the net before last night's game against the Flyers, that only added fuel to the fire.
Halak, however, had plans of his own and was simply brilliant all night long. Beyond brilliant actually. He put on a performance for the ages with a scintillating 35-save performance to post his fourth shutout of the year and steal two precious points.
The first two periods of this game were relatively evenly with the Habs nabbing the sole goal—Tomas Plekanec's 24th of the season from Andrei Kostitsyn. The shots were also pretty even over the first two periods with the Flyers holding a 21-20 shot advantage.
It was in the third period that things went off the rails for the Canadiens. From the drop of the puck, the Habs fell into a defensive shell, playing the trap and trying to wind down the clock.
While that strategy can be good to hold off your opposition with a few minutes to go, it is not advisable with 20 minutes to play as the Habs found out yesterday.
If it was not for Halak's 14-save period, the Flyers—who utterly dominated the Habs in every aspect of the game in the third period—would have blown the Habs out of the rink.
Final score: Habs 1 - Flyers 0
1. Halak continues to show that he is the one the Habs should be playing, win or lose.
While all of the discussion swirled about another or a perpetual goaltending controversy, Halak calmly and quietly put on one of his best performances of the season.
That's saying a lot too since he has had a myriad of spectacular performances so far this season.
With four games to play in the season I think that Jacques Martin has to just ride Halak to the Habs ultimate success or failure.
While Halak is definitely ahead in his development I believe that Carey Price is not too far behind him.
That being said, Halak has established himself and it is time—long past time actually—for Coach Martin to give him the reigns.
As one smart Twitterer pointed out last night, the difference between the goaltenders is that Halak wins despite the team in front of him while Price loses because of them.
2. What's goaltending got to do with it?
Speaking of goaltending controversies, I don't personally understand why this is even a topic. The Habs have arguably the best one-two goaltending punch in the league. So why is it then that this is all anyone seems to talk about when the real problem is that the Habs can't score goals.
The Habs can't score. Let me say that again. The Habs cannot score. They are dead last in the league for 5-on-5 goals and their power play has been sputtering lately.
Last night, the only reason they won was because of Halak. The game before, the only reason they had a chance to win was because of Price. So can we all start to focus on what the real problem with this team is?
Where was Gomez and Gionta and Cammalleri last night—to Cammy's credit, he is still trying to find him rhythm after missing 17 games? What has happened to Benoit Pouliot, who looks like he is still playing with the Minnesota jersey on his back?
What happened to the third and fourth lines who got 20 points over the Habs' six-game winning streak?
No, goaltending is not the problem with this team and if they make the playoffs and are still having this problem and quick four game exit will clearly demonstrate that point.
3. What is Jacques Martin thinking?
While he has brought structure and discipline to the team this year, I find myself scratching my head a lot at the decisions he makes. Missed opportunities to take timeouts, having the wrong personnel on the ice to defend a lead and play the trap too early and just a few of the gaffs he has made over the course of this season.
Last night was no different as with the Habs winning 1-0 after 20 minutes the wise coach decided to have his team play the entire third period in a defensive shell. Ouch! With over 1,000 games coached in the league, shouldn't he know that this is a bad idea? I mean it's not like they were leading by three goals.
Lucky for Coach Martin, his goaltender bailed him out but that strategy won't bear fruit too often.
Standings and Next Game
Despite the horrible performance by the Canadiens last night, they did pull grab two extremely important points in the standings.
With 84 points in 78 games, the Canadiens are now in sole possession of the sixth overall spot in the East.
Ahead of the Habs are the distant Ottawa Senators with 91 points in 78 games while behind them are the usual suspects: Boston (82 points, one game in hand), Philadelphia (82 points), the Rangers (80 points, one game in hand), and the Thrashers (80 points).
The Habs flew back to Montreal last night and will take on the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre tonight.
So, do I dare ask who will be in the net tonight?
Nah! But you know we're all thinking about it.
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