Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Game Forty-Three: Habs v Bruins

A few pre-pre-day-game notes from stuff happening this morning:

- After a pretty sub-par performance last night, P.K. Subban has been officially removed from the first line PP unit. Cunneyworth has indicated that Weber and Kaberle will be the first unit point guys. For a unit that's again slipped back to being pretty ... well .. terrible, shaking things up can't hurt.

- Cunneyworth also gave his first strong signal this morning that he's growing dissatisfied with the play of Plekanec and Cammalleri. I do think Plekanec is owed some credit considering that he's often utilized as a shadow for opposition first line forwards (and he does that job well), but Cammalleri is another story. After showing some glimmers of production against Tampa last week, Mike's game has gone pretty flat. He's usually pretty dependable for effort, but last night against the Blues he simply didn't show up. From a coaches' perspective, producers are required to produce, but they're not reasonably expected to score every night. They are as professionals, however, expected to come to play, so half-hearted efforts, even one game or one period, will be flagged. So at this time - and with the trading deadline looming, these two are on the coach's watch list.

- Brian Gionta, as we feared last night, is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. He will not travel with the team to Boston, and he will not play this weekend, which is a pretty strong indicator that this isn't a bump or bruise. Blunden has been promoted to take his spot on the "top" line.

- Price will start tomorrow against the Bruins, but will likely not start against the Sens on Saturday.

UPDATE: Arpon Basu has just posted a story about the Cammalleri situation, where the forward is ever-so-slightly hinting that he's fine with the crowd boos on Tuesday, but not with his icetime under Cunneyworth.

GAME DAY UPDATE: It's less than 9 hours before the music is faced in Boston, but right now Cammalleri's are dominating the airwaves and internet musings about the direction of this hockey club. My position on Mike's post-game comments on Tuesday night are pretty simple - he's right. The team does prepare and play like a loser. This morning I posted a comment on the Habs usenet in response to criticism that Cammalleri crossed the line, and I've reposted (most) of my comment below:

[Let's] look at the actual quote in full context:

"I can't accept that we will display a losing attitude as we're doing this year. We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose."

So ... where exactly is he wrong? Yeah - I know, players aren't supposed to go and say things that actually might be the truth, with or without the sanctity of diplomacy. But what he did say (in full context) is quite accurate. This season, this team has prepared and played most of its games not with the aim or attitude of winning, but with an expectation of losing.

I think the timing of his comment is entirely appropriate following the loss against St. Louis. The Blues, on paper, are really no deeper or talented than we are - arguably they have less talent. But man - do they come to play. Their forwards play with a high level of intensity and enthusiasm, they forechecked us to death, and they hustled back to cover their zone, and by doing so, we were limited to about four good scoring chances - for the game.

Their defense, also not wildly talented, but exceptionally disciplined. They keep opposing forwards pinned to the perimeter, they win most of the battles for pucks, and they eliminate crease traffic. It isn't ingenious or innovative - it's basic stuff, but they do it *so* well. The Blues, imho, are Stanley Cup contenders *this* year. They really are playing that well.

Why? Why are the Blues such a good team? Well, they weren't very good team to start the year, but they brought in a coach that had plenty of experience and knowledge, and little tolerance for belligerence. Since Hitchcock took over, they've lost 4 of 29 in regulation.

Funny thing is, even if he were available, and even if he was interested, Hitchcock could never coach in Montreal, because of the crazy language thing. That's a tragedy - the organization simply cannot progress because of a self-imposed restriction limiting the team's abilities to get the most qualified person behind the bench.

And this has a lot to do with Cammalleri's comments - the team requires an attitude adjustment - it needs a no-nonsense guy like Hitchcock to come in and set the tone that failure to play hard each and every shift is not acceptable, and that anyone who isn't meeting such reasonable expectations won't play a meaningful role on the team. It seems that Martin was unable to enforce these standards, and Cunneyworth hasn't done any better (if anything, matters have gotten worse).

The criticism levied against Cammalleri (La Presse's coverage is a bloody disgrace) strikes me as absurdly misguided. It may not have been diplomatic, but he got it exactly right. The losing attitude permeates every corner of this roster. Too many players are going through the motions. The loser attitude has even ventured out to (some) of the fans who idiotically cheer for the team to lose every game so that it gets a high draft pick. That's a self-destructive, dead-end loser perspective, and until there's a pretty stark attitude change, nothing *will* change in Montreal. This talent-rich team will
just keep on losing.

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Cammalleri sought to calm the storm of an overwrought story this morning, the NHL has posted a story with "clarifying" comments.

First Period:

- Ye Gods have abandoned the Habs. Simple shoot in takes a crazy deflection while rounding the boards and straight to Caron with Price behind his net. What can you say?

- Habs need to shrug that off for what it was - a freak goal and a tremendous break for the Bruins.

- For the most part, the team is so far responding, certainly holding their own against Boston.

- Two near misses. Cole streaking down the left wing, and Thomas stoning Blunden with a terrific pad save. The Habs' offense *is* generating chances.

- Weber's looked pretty solid so far, the few shifts he's had.

- Oy. Thomas highway robbery. First Pacioretty, who retrieved the rebound to make a perfect pass to Cole for an even better save. The key is to maintain pressure and not give in to frustration. Thomas can't stop them all. I think.

- Habs are going to outshoot the Bruins in the period. Canadiens have been the faster team, harder working team, believe it or not.

- Eller called for a hold. Be dammed if I could see one in the reply.

- Take it for what it's worth, Cammalleri's icetime in the first was 4:22, the least amongst top three line forwards.

- Habs really played a solid first, the Bruins goal an unfortunate fluke. If they can put together 40 more minutes of this, I'm cautiously optimistic they might come out of this with a win.

Second Period:

- Subban's demotion from, and Weber's promotion to, the first line PP ain't working for me.

- Emelin with a very unforced, and very bad turnover in front of Price that fortunately the Bruins did not capitalize on. But he and the rest of the Habs defense cannot make any more of these mistakes against an elite Bruin team. They *will* make us pay, and any hopes for a win will flutter out the window.

- It looks like Cammalleri is going to register about 15 minutes of icetime tonight, which is about what he was wanting, no?

- Wow, how'd Bergeron miss that? Really should be 2-0.

- Habs defense gradually losing more races to pucks and battles along the boards. That's a bad sign.

- Defense-dominated second period so far, which suits the Bruins just fine.

- From watching tonight's game, you'd never know that both teams hate each other's guts. Where's the passion?

- 8 total shots in the period, with but 4 minutes left.

- Bruins penalty. Sure would be nice to have this thing tied up heading to the third #isthattoomuchtoask?

- Uhhh, what? Moen was the one called, for goaltender interference, even though he was directed into Thomas. Very lame.

- Relatively routine kill. Whew.

- If you'd offered Cunneyworth a 1-0 deficit through two periods before the game, I think he'd have taken it.

Third Period:

- Considering that a week ago this Boston team destroyed Calgary 9-0, things are working out as a can't-lose for the Habs, in a strange kind of way. Even if they don't come out of this with a W, they still played a very competitive game against the best team in the Conference, which is at least something to build on.

- Why does it feel like forever since the Habs scored their last goal? I guess forever is five days.

- Emelin gives Lucic a little rub with his elbow after the whistle. I like this - show some emotion, make it look like you give a damn.

- There's the backbreaker. Gorges fumbles, and Plekanec really ought to have been able to clear that away from danger.

- Cammalleri 7 shifts in the first, 5 shifts in the second, 0 shifts 8 minutes into the third. He won't get 15 minutes. He might not even get 12.

- Well, that PK sure has looked good tonight. But we've heard that before.

- Habs forwards gripping sticks too hard, failing to convert slam-dunk scoring opportunities, the lack of offense is in everyone's head. It must be awful to sit on that bench or be in that dressing room.

- Speaking of dressing room, that's where Cammalleri is right now. Injury? Who knows. But he's done for the night, total time 8:59.

- Subban rocks Krejci with a pounding hit that would have been perfectly clean if he hadn't followed through with an arm to Krejci's face. Habs actually come away with a man advantage following the retaliation.

- Weber!! Did I mention how I didn't like him on the first line PP? Oops. Habs have a shot!!

- Report is that Cammalleri was told by management to go to the dressing room. Things just got very, very complicated.

- Sending a player to the room in he middle of a period is pretty draconian. Were words exchanged? The media will have a field day over this.

- Never a dull moment in Habs land.

- Oh yeah. There's a game happening. Habs just came agonizingly close to scoring shorthanded.

- Only other explanation for what's happened is that Cammalleri was traded during the period, and accordingly, had to be taken out of the game.

- Kudos to Price, who just made the save of the game on Krecji. Hope stays alive.

- Really??!? Plekanec gets penalized in a one goal game with just over a minute left over a marginal hold? Wow.

- Heckova effort tonight, but it's all been overshadowed by Cammalleri.

- Apparently Cammalleri has been traded. Oh boy.

- Interesting. He's been sent to Calgary. No word yet on what's coming back.

- And it's for Rene Borque. Not a joke. So it looks like a rushed trade motivated by irreconcilable differences, because a good deal would have been, well, better.

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