Canadiens-Sabres: Defense and Special Teams Fail Habs


Montreal 1 Buffalo 5 (HSBC Arena)

posted by Rocket

Hockey is a complex game. Sometimes, when you do most everything right, you don’t get the fate that you deserve. For the most part, I believe in creating your own breaks. But once or twice in an 82 game schedule, there is a period when the bounces just don’t go your way. Tonight was that period.

The Canadiens had a great start. They dominated in most categories including time of possession. Most of the first period was spent in the Sabres zone. The shots at one point were 16-3 for the Canadiens. They also had a 12-6 advantage on faceoffs.

Does this mean that Patrick Lalime was turning in a spectacular goalie performance? Not really. Often times he had no idea where the puck was. Lalime started shaky and it seemed that if he gave up one goal, a half dozen would soon follow.

There was a good chance that Mikhael Tellqvist would get some game action only hours after being picked up by the Sabres.

Looking at the scoresheet one may think that Buffalo sat back. We saw San Jose dominate a period when the Canadiens sat back. But the Sabres were aggressive with their forecheck sending two and three forwards. The Habs were simply playing well enough to clear their zone.

As pucks bounced near the Buffalo goal , or trickled through the crease the Canadiens shooters began gripping their sticks a little tighter. Even the Canadiens red hot power-play went cold in the first despite some excellent puck movement. The power-play unit was 0 for three in the first period.

Buffalo seemed to gather some momentum from the failed Canadiens’ power-play opportunities. They started to press but Carey Price was solid. Even when Daniel Paille went in alone, Price stood his ground. As Paille went through the crease, he elbowed Price in the head.

There were verbal protests and some pushing but no one on the ice went after Paille. Not even Josh Gorges who was responsible for Paille getting free after a terrible line change.

Shortly after, Mat Schneider went off for a delay of game penalty. On the ensuing Sabre power-play, Jaroslav Spacek fanned on a shot from the point. The bouncing puck when off Lapierre and found its way to Derek Roy who was all alone with an open side of the net. Buffalo had a 1-0 lead on a broken play.

It’s rather easy to imagine what Lindy Ruff said to the Sabres in the first intermission. You played a horrible period and are fortunate to have a lead. Now let’s makes these adjustments.

We also can imagine what a good coach would say in the Montreal dressing room. The team needed to be encouraged. They had played well but had some bad breaks and a fluky goal against. Guy Carbonneau should have been stoking their confidence.

But we know from various sources that Carbonneau saves his communication skills for his media conferences. We also know that the psyche of the Canadiens is very fragile. Lastly, we know that without coaching adjustments, the Habs have a history of poor performances in the second period this year.

With a power-play to begin the second period for 1:42, the Canadiens should have come out with a plan that would get them back into the game. Instead it was the weakest power-play of the night with little net pressure.

Just over a minute after the power-play expired, Derek Roy made it 2-0 for the Sabres. Gorges was guilty of a giveaway and abandoning his man in front of the net. Again, Carey Price had no chance.

Early in the second period, Price made some good saves to keep his team in the game. Price was square to the shooter and was not allowing rebounds.

Jaroslav Spacek went around Patrice Brisebois with ease and in alone on Price. Spacek made the score 3-0. Commentator Harry Neale said that Brisebois looked like a 90 year old grandmother on the play. Neale was being generous. Brisebois looked worse.

The Canadiens effort in the second period was feeble. Buffalo had made adjustments and had carried the play. The Habs didn’t improve in the third.

Early in the period, the Sabre power-play struck again. Josh Gorges was caught out of position in the slot leaving his man alone in front to deflect a point shot past Carey Price. Again Price had no chance on the play.

Later the Sabres scored on a Mathieu Schneider giveaway that sent Gaustad in alone on a breakaway. The Canadiens were on a power-play.

Buffalo dominated on special teams. Their power-play was two for three. The Canadiens power-play was 0 for five while giving up a short-handed goal.

The Canadiens defense was awful particularly Brisebois, Gorges, and Schneider.

Carey Price will be blamed but shouldn’t. He can’t be faulted on the goals. While the Canadiens did a good job keeping the shot to the perimeter the past few games, tonight the Sabres had free lanes to the goal.

This would have been a very different game if the Canadiens power-play had scored in the first period; or, if an experienced coach had settled the team between periods; or, if the defense had performed.

What was Guy Carbonneau’s assessment? Carbonneau said “This is our playoff spot. we are battling for this and if we’re not able to sustain the energy and the focus then there is something wrong. They’re either tired or not in shape so again we will go back to the drawing board and talk to them tomorrow and see what we can do to get it better.”

We know that other than changing line combinations, there is not much in Carbonneau’s “drawing board.” In other words, he doesn’t have a clue.

Post game

Georges Laraque left the game and did not return with an undisclosed injury.

Starting lineup: Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Kovalev, Schneider, Markov

Carey Price and Patrick Lalime started in goal.
Marc Denis backed-up Price. Newly acquired Mikhael Tellqvist was the back-up goalie for Buffalo.

Dandenault and O’Byrne scratched. Halak out with the flu. Bouillon, Latendresse, Tanguay, and Lang were out with injuries.

Rocket’s three stars:

1. Paul Gaustad
2. Derek Roy
3. Daniel Paille

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