Montreal Canadiens-New York Islanders: Martin's Emotional Choices Sink the Habs

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IApril 7, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Head coach Jacques Martin of the Montreal Canadiens looks on from the bench during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on November 12, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 4-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Montreal 3 NY Islanders 4 SO (Nassau Coliseum)

"I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you."—HAL 9000

Before you read the attribution, were you thinking of someone else? You would be excused if the quote made you think of Jacques Martin.

It's been said that Martin is one of the least emotional coaches in the league. He speaks in a calm, monotone voice, not unlike HAL, the 9000 series computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Don't be fooled. The voice and the blank look on Martin's face are masking what lies beneath. He often makes coaching decisions based less on reason and more on emotion. When he does, like the experience with HAL, things don't end very well.

There are numerous examples going all the way back to the beginning of the season. With Martin in a snit with Andrei Kostitsyn, the sniper sat on the bench in the third period while his team trailed. The Canadiens lost the game to the Oilers.

Two weeks ago, the Canadiens' best physical defenseman, Ryan O'Byrne, sat on the bench and watched his defensive mates be outmuscled for the tying goal. Martin was upset that O'Byrne had taken a penalty in the third period. The Sabres won the game in a shootout.

The same game saw Martin inexplicably deploy Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, and Andrei Kostitsyn as his forwards to defend the lead. It didn't work out very well.

Tonight, Martin made one of his most bizarre decisions of the year when he went with his gut and selected Max Lapierre as the first Canadiens player in the shootout.

For the past three games, Lapierre has played better. Better is a relative thing. In this context, it means that Lapierre was playing well enough to keep his spot on the fourth line rather than being relegated to the press box. He was deserving of his 10 minutes of ice time.

But it's a monumental leap from being good enough to play on the fourth line to being chosen as one of three shooters in extra time.

It's not an overstatement to state that the point lost tonight could adversely affect the Canadiens' playoff fortunes by dictating a more difficult matchup. It's also still a remote possibility that the Habs could miss the playoffs.

"It's just an empty feeling knowing that we let that extra point slip away," Josh Gorges said. "We didn't play our best tonight, and that's the disappointing part. It's frustrating right now because that was a big extra point."

Lapierre has one goal in three attempts on the shootout. With Lapierre and Cammalleri failing to score, the Canadiens' best shootout performers, Brian Gionta and Andrei Kostitsyn, were left on the bench.

Even if the shootout continued for many rounds, wouldn't Scott Gomez, Tomas Plekanec, Sergei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore, and Andrei Markov rank higher on the list than Lapierre?

"I am completely operational, and all my circuits are functioning perfectly."

"It can only be attributable to human error."

Yes, of course. The execution of the orders must be to blame. By why is it that the Habs seem so ill-prepared for so many games this season? How many times have hockey writers and broadcasters used the phrase "the Canadiens came out flat?" Are the words "aggressive," "attack," and "forecheck" part of the game plan?

"They came out pretty strong and we came out fairly flat," said Gionta. "I thought the second period we played pretty good, and the third period we sat back too much."

The Islanders are a potential lottery-pick team with names like Mark Flood, Jack Hillen, Dylan Reese, Freddy Meyer, and Andrew MacDonald on defense. The Canadiens needed to take advantage of such a lineup.

As mentioned in the last game review, the Canadiens came into this game with a record of 33-3-3 when scoring three or more goals. The Habs did their job and put up three but lost for only the seventh time this season when doing so.

For one of the rare times this season, goaltending let the team down. Jaroslav Halak didn't have a good night, giving up two soft goals during regulation. Islanders shooters didn't have much difficulty with Halak, as he failed to make a save in the shootout. Halak was down early and playing deep most of the game.

Halak was joined by Cammalleri (one shot), Mathieu Darche (zero shots, zero hits), Pouliot (minus-one), and Markov (zero shots, minus-one) with subpar efforts. Gorges struggled all game long.

O'Byrne had another strong game, leading the team with 10 hits and six blocked shots. Andrei Kostitsyn had five shots on goal and an assist.

Fortunately, none of the teams chasing the Canadiens have been going on a tear. The Habs need just one point in their remaining two games to qualify for the playoffs. If that were to happen, the Habs GM would have no choice but to pull the plug on coach Martin.

"I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it I can sing it for you."

"It's called Daisy."

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two."

Rocket's three stars

1. Sean Bergenheim
2. Ryan O'Byrne
3. Tomas Plekanec

Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.


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