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02-12-2007, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Catch-22 View Post
I agree with you that these players appear to be lacking intensity and commitment but I have to disagree on the reasons. This is a soft team.

Some comments:

1) The Habs were a mediocre, soft team before Dec. 23rd...their potential was at best as a 5th or 6th place team. They were winning games because of excellent goaltending and special teams play. We were playing over our heads and two significant things have happened since then: (a) Although nobody wants to say it, our goaltending has been VERY average since December 23rd. (b) Other teams have figured out that if they stay out of the box, we can't score. When they do get a penalty, they apply hard pressure with an emphasis on Souray and that's all they have to do to force us to play sloppy. Now that our special teams are failing, we don't have the luxury of a solid even strength line-up to fall back on. This was bound to happen at some point. I hope when all is said and done the degree is limited.

In sum, you are now observing why it is important NOT to be so reliant on special teams play. Other teams can easily target that element of the game.

2) Sorry, but Lapierre is no messiah. He is a marginal 4th liner and as much as I like his contribution so far and think he has a future with the team, the fate of 15+ veterans is not dictated by what happens to a call-up. In any case, those veterans were the same ones who won all those games when Maxime was still in Hamilton in October.

3) The Habs played well against Buffalo and Atlanta because these are the types of teams we can compete against. Buffalo is a quick, offensive team and while they are not as soft as us, they do not play a gritty style and that makes us more effective against them. They would still whip us in 4-5 games during a playoff series but we at least appear more competitive against them. Atlanta is virtually the same as the Habs; decent goaltending (when it's working), poor defense, and soft, talented forwards. The difference with them is that they have 2 superstars and we have none. New Jersey? Ottawa? Even Carolina and toronto? We cannot touch these teams. A first rount playoff matchup against anybody but NYR, Pittsburgh or Atlanta means a swift exit.

In conclusion, we never had heart and soul. We had a good PP, a good PK and great goaltending. Right now, we have none of these things and no real contingency in the form of physical, top-line players who can be effective at even strength.

One last word: Chris Higgins is a great player but he's being Mr. Nice Guy out there. Get mean, Chris!

Those are good reasons. We were having outstanding production from Huet, Souray, Koivu and our special teams, and the big reason why we are losing more now is because they have all slowed down. However, our team is better than what they are showing now, and you have to look to the coaching staff for the other part of the blame. A few decisions from Carbo made things worst.

- Started to play Streit on the first PP unit instead of Markov. Nothing against Streit, but with Markov, Souray, and Kovalev on at the same time, other teams had too many guys to cover. They knew that if they cheated to much on Souray, Markov was able to throw that cross-ice pass to a free Kovalev. If they cheated too much on Souray and Kovalev's side, they knew that Markov could come in for that outlet pass from Kovy or Koivu. Same with Ryder. Koivu scored a lot of goals because the Markov-Souray-Kovalev combo needed attention.

- Perez was benched and the third line, which had been one of our best since the beginning of the season, was dismantled and they have never been the same since.

- Bad asset management (sammy-Kovy duo), line-juggling (lines made no sense!). Negative atmosphere, bickering and complaining at the refs all the time, blaming the players in the media... all these contributed to our downfall.

- The defensive system: All year long, we've not been able to score 5-on-5, and when our special teams stopped working, we were dead in the water. You have all these skilled offensive players and you ask them to trap? Of course they'll look bad and after a while they lose confidence/interest/passion.

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