Category Archives: hockey (defense)

At the 2010 buzzer: renovations, face transplants and imported mimes

In the USA, where I have been on vacation for the past week, there is a makeover show titled, grotesquely enough, “Bridoplasty.”  The obvious point of the exercise proposed by this fiesta of self-hatred, is to allow a bride-to-be to turn all her agression, not towards her bridesmaids and future in-laws (as it was in the old days), but inwards towards her own flabby arms, backfat and dimpled, downy chins.  The result?  A pimped out, spackled, orange thing with poufy hair and hopeless dreams that will not be contained.  But I digress. 

The time has come for teams to likewise transform themselves in an attempt to win a spot to the Spring dance, and to somehow divest themselves of unwanted flab, pine-riding backfat and unsavory accesories.  Having said that, I was not thrilled to hear that Max Lapierre would be moving to a brand new suburban Mc Mansion–this time, in California–and re-decorating all-over again, without the added thrill of having the project filmed for TV.  Our Max, a proud Quebecer who sometimes scored clutch goals of pure beauty, was lately known for his belief in the psycho facial expression as an intimidating practise.  One to jabber incessantly without the usual dropping of gloves, he resorted instead to an impressive array of theatrically stunning grimaces and bug-eyed grins.  And anyone who would rather see him slugging it out had to admit that last season’s comeback win in Round 1 proved the far-ranging effectiveness of the Lapierre Psycho Face against some of the league’s most gifted scoring lines. 

Max is gone, but we now welcome Jim Wisniewski, (by no stretch a pretty boy) a D-Man with lots of playing time but a troubling differential back on Long Island.  In the absence of Markov and in light of the ongoing saga of PK Subban, a capable and fairly tough defenseman is what the Habs do need.  His arrival certainly could not have been more fortuitous, as he scored 2 goals against the Panthers on New Year’s Eve, including the OT winner.  Not bad for a guy who made a name for himself earlier this season for having made an obscene hand gesture in Sean Avery’s general direction and subsequently having his exploit replayed incessantly in censor-blurred form on Sportsnet.  A two-game suspension followed the classy interpretive miming attempt, perhaps as a result of having been witnessed live in real time and 3D by Gary Bettman, in attendance that night.

Now Jim Whisniewski turns the page and has donned the classiest jersey of all, the holy flannel, so he’ll have to settle for either fisticuffs of psycho faces in order to get under his opponents’ skin.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league also gets set to explore new faces, less flabby physiques and leaner, meaner muscle.  In the East, the Leafs appear on the verge of a reno worthy of “La Maison de Maxim Lapierre”: some things have just proven to be bad acquisitions or useless ornaments,  Tuscan chandeliers that just do not fit in with the the Toronto glass-tower setting (Mike Komisarek, lousy without his Habs counterparts, Jiggy, he of the porcelain groin, Kaberle, a PP guy who has an acute allergy to shooting, etc…).  Buffalo and New Jersey have to do something, anything, to clean up their rosters, and out West, Calgary is sure to make some moves.

The Habs may yet be involved in some of these fixes, retro-fits and renos…

And for today, let us enjoy the so called “Winter Classic,” come rain or come rain…..

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Filed under Habs, hockey (defense), Leafs, trades

Hurricane preparedness plan: Habs vs Carolina 12/23/2010

Must!

Win!

Jacques Martin did not go ape-feces after the Habs’ loss in Dallas.  In fact, he let the guys go out for dinner and a few beers,  and cancelled a practise in Dallas the morning after this disheartening stinky face-wash by the Stars.

Ok, perhaps the acerbic big-eared coach has been delving into his (very brief) psychology manual in order to let all of this sink in and reinforce team spirit in a mellower setting than the hostile rinks of American teams.  It’s x-mas time: anything is possible, festivus miracles and all that.

Be that as it may, tonight’s game is eminently winnable, and I for one am looking forward to some of the veterans getting onto our coach’s radar.  It seems that the young’uns get the brunt of his telegraphic displeasure, while our veteran friends Spacek, Halpern and Hamrlik blunder away with no call-outs. Let us not forget that we have two young, developing players (PK and Carey) trying to fill the immense void left by Markov’s absence.  They cannot succeed without better support from the more experienced players.

A great article about PK Subban and the many perceptions of his talents and responsibilities:

 Donnons (encore) du temps à Subban

More later…..

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Filed under gametime, goalies, Habs, hockey (defense), hockey (offense), Jacques Martin

The slump is upon us

Five losses in the last 6 games.

If it weren’t for the fact that our Habs are in a division that is woefully underperforming so far, they would risk falling out of a playoff spot within the next couple of games.

While recent losses must be attributed in part to a schedule that has included some strong teams, it is clear that some problems are cropping up with our boys.  We can perhaps blame some of their lethargy on the long-term absence of Markov finally being felt (notably on the PP).  Yet there is more.

Scoring chances are few.  Goaltending is spotty and Carey seems distracted, unable to make the spectacular lateral movements that were keeping his team in the mix earlier this season.  His positioning and anticipation have suffered, and his defencemen are playing nervously.

Most telling perhaps, is the fact that the Habs seem unable to come back from even a one-goal deficit.  Habs are 17-3-2 when they score the first goal.  But when they have allowed that first goal, they’ve only won twice in the last 11 games.  They have yet to win a game after trailing in the first.  Such stats tell us that the first goal looms way too large both on the attackers’ minds, and on Carey Price’s psyche.  The will to stage a comeback is a mindset that must be cultivated with this squad.  Call it character, call it perseverance….

It seems so long ago that our Habs accomplished an exploit for the ages:

My advice to PK Subban is that instead of flying into a crazed, disconnected fight to vent frustration, a timely shot from the point would do the trick.

Habs are now headed to Raleigh, and this one against the Hurricanes is in the proverbial “must-win” category.

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Filed under goalies, Habs, hockey (defense), hockey (offense)

What was I saying about turnovers?

Two of the goals scored in last night’s game occured because of turnovers.

Sloppy play when faced with the league’s most productive offense = a costly loss.  Subban and Picard each finished the game with a -2 differential.

I am not thrilled with some of the goals that are getting in, as our Carey seems to have become a mere human once again.  The hockey gods are capricious, especially with goalies, and the 5-hole is holier than it should be these days.  The glove, capable of such exploits at times, has been given to bouncing glances at the puck that result in ugly, ugly scoring on the Habs.

This is precisely the kind of yuletide inconsistent effort and spotty energy that has me worried.

Habs are in Dallas next, to reconnect with their old friend, party animal/loud public drunk/ disruptor of Texan restaurants, Mike Ribeiro.

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Filed under goalies, Habs, hockey (defense)

Giveaways and turnovers

Who leads the league in giveaways?

NHL team stats

At present the worst offenders are Edmonton, followed by the Leafs.  In other words, expectedly, the youngest teams have trouble with blatant giveaways, as most long-suffering Leafs fans know only too well.

Montreal ranks 18th, with 253 giveaways in 32 games, or almost 8 giveaways per game.  By contrast, the Columbus Blue Jackets give the puck away a little over 4 times per game. 

For the hockey-watching fan, giveaways and turnovers are one of the most infuriating aspects of irresponsible or lazy puck management. 

They tend to occur in a variety of different situations, some more dangerous than others:  breakout passes that don’t travel as quickly or as accurately as expected, botched zone clearing attempts, puck centering in the offensive zone when the intended target has moved (miscommunication), and inefficient puck control in the neutral zone.

According to ESPN commentator (and ex-Hab) Brian Engblom, carrying the puck out of the zone is where young defensemen can make crucial errors: “If the defenseman has been able to get the puck under control and gather speed coming out of his zone, he must be very careful to make the right play in the neutral zone. If it’s congested, often the right play is not to pass it at all, but instead, get to the red line and dump the puck into the opposition’s zone. If he makes a bad pass in the neutral zone and it is intercepted, he is caught travelling in the wrong direction and is susceptible to a breakaway, or out-numbered attack on his partner (who’s backing him up).”

This is where keeping it simple (I’m talking to you, PK) can produce better results than trying for the showy, creative play.

Here are some classic hair-pulling moments from the bizarre career of Bryan Mc Cabe:

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Filed under hockey (defense), league stats