Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Canadiens dead in the water, headed for the reefs, due to poor goaltending.

I don't understand why so many fans insist that the Canadiens are a one-player team, that it's unhealthy to rely on Carey Price to such a degree, that they shouldn't be so bad for losing one player.

Again, the Canadiens have gone from the very top of the league in goaltending to the very bottom.  First to worst.

To do so at the most important position in sports, comparable maybe to the quarterback at football, is going to dramatically change any team's fortunes.  Refer to the Alouettes results since Anthony Calvillo got injured and retired.

Criticsinsist that Mike Condon plays great but lets in a bad goal now and then, or that he was playing well for a while there and we were still losing.  And that's a myth.  When he played well, we generally won.  When he didn't, we didn't.

Same for Tikker before he got traded.  And now, same for Ben Scrivens.  He's played well recently, had a great Sv% for three games, and we won all three.

And some fans take it as a personal attack on the players involved, which it isn't.  Mike Condon is a great guy, a standup guy, you can tell it wears on him to lose, but he faces the media and accepts responsibility, doesn't try to deflect.  Same with Dustin Tokarski, he was a popular teammate, charming guy, his mom on 24CH last year did a great job telling us who he was, what he faced to make it to the NHL, despite the doubters.

It's not an excuse but an explanation that the Canadiens are not getting NHL-level goaltending right now.  They're not getting average goaltending, they're not getting mediocre goaltending.  They're getting abysmal goaltending.  League-worst goaltending.

And some naysayers may actually be stalwarts who'd have stood shoulder to shoulder with their 300 comrades at Thermopylae, undeterred.  They may be relentless Series 800 Terminators straight from the Cyberdyne factory, who could not be stopped from their ultimate goal.

Nos Glorieux are not made of such stern stuff though.  They're only human, and it's affecting their morale to go into a game fearing that you can't win, that you'll need to score five to have a chance, and then see your goalie let in a softie in the first five minutes.  "Here we go again..."

We've all played on bad teams, or teams with fundamental flaws like this.  I've mentioned how for years I played hockey and kind of resented our goalie(s), they were kind of quiet and didn't do much.  I didn't even realize this until one year my team had this great goalie, who'd make awesome saves on the ice, and was a vocal ringleader in the dressing room, on the team bus.  It was like hockey was a different, much, much more enjoyable game with him around, especially for a defenceman.

Same with rugby, I didn't really understand the game and why that guy in the backs kept kicking the ball, willy-nilly, why any ball he had to handle was a crisis, an incipient try for our chortling opponents.  "Why is he always kicking the ball?" I wondered as I trotted listlessly to 'support'.

Until I got to university, and our fullback was one of the best if not the best player on the team, and now I saw the huge difference a good fullback made, cleaning up mistakes, putting the pressure on the other team with nifty kicks and crazy runs, converting penalties into points.  The game suddenly made sense.  I was heartened.  We were winning.

One player can make a huge difference on a team, if he's in a pivotal position, and there's no one to replace him adequately.

We can (and I do) fault our GM for taking a calculated gamble that a rookie unpedigreed goalie was sufficient to act as our backup goalie.  Mike Condon might have served quite well relieving Carey on back-to-backs, occasionally, 12 or 15 times this season, but he wasn't a reasonable insurance policy in case of a prolonged absence by Carey.

It's akin to a space-saver spare tire, suitable for short drives in emergencies, but you're kind of hooped if you need to rely on it way on in the boonies on a 4WD road on a hunting trip.  You wonder what the heck you were thinking driving this far into the bush without a fullsize offroad spare tire.

The Canadiens have many flaws.  Losing Carey Price and three players not being able to replace him adequately has exposed many warts.  The famously harmonious dressing room, which Daniel Brière, P.A. Parenteau, Dale Weise and Jeff Petry lauded, seems much less united, more fractious.  The coaching staff's ingeniousness and leadership is in question.  Fundamental roster weaknesses are glaring.

These all need to be addressed.  But they would not be so prominent if the Canadiens had goalies doing the job.  Our roster wouldn't look as bad as it does now, our team wouldn't be what it is now, a listing ship with a broken mast, headed straight for the reef, and every one scurrying to the lifeboats.

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