Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Game 25: Montreal 1, Anaheim 4

The Canadiens, when on the powerplay, go after the puck or toward the offensive zone with all the enthusiasm of your buddy Gord when he's going to chat up a girl at the bar. Everyone knows who Gord is, he's the guy who never scores or even gets a phone number when he tries to pick up. For some not immediately obvious reason, he just can't get it done, he doesn't have 'it', and he knows it, so when he takes a shot it's more to fulfill a self-imposed obligation than with any real hope for success. So he kind of acquires a target, can't find a reason why he shouldn't approach her, and stoops and shuffles and stumbles his way over, sending all the wrong signals and the sham-attempt is over before it even begins.

The Canadiens special teams displayed a special ineptitude tonight. The power play failed to score during seven penalties, including some 5-on-3 time. The bungling and lack of direction leached onto the penalty kill, which gave up two goals after weeks of stellar achievement.

It was plain to see that the Canadiens now dread going on the man advantage. They're tentative and lackadaisical, they get bottled up in their own zone, they get muddled when trying to get into the opposition zone. The puck carrier, when rushing up the ice, inevitably loafs instead of skating with purpose, and surveys the opposing foursome with trepidation instead of licking his chops. It's sad, and it's hard to see that merely adding Andrei Markov to the lineup will cure all these ills.

Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta are ice cold instead of being stone-cold. Cammy in the previous two playoffs has been deadly when set up in the offensive zone. He'd either pull the trigger instantly, or would wait a split second to choose his corner and then execute, and either way always seemed to make the right choice. This season it seems the puck won't lay flat for him, or the passes sent his way get ticked off-course by an opponent's stick and mess up his timing. Mr. Gionta had trouble cashing in some opportunities last season, and seemingly has even more difficulty this year. He had a chance in the third period on a setup from David Desharnais, and wristed a shot, not top-corner or low-glove side, but instead mid-level, right inside Jonas Hiller's glove.

For the Canadiens to win games this season, they'll need their best players to perform as such. With Louis Leblanc playing on the third line and Frédéric St-Denis putatively on the fourth, the Glorieux were playing with just two NHL-quality lines. These need to produce, or the nervousness and febrility we observed tonight will only grow.

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