Sunday, October 16, 2011
All Downhill From Here - The Avalanche in Montreal
Things seem so complicated during a losing spell. Therein lies the cure - simplify the game.
The Canadiens have lost the ability to defend their zone. Opposing forwards scream through the Habs blue line at will. Carey Price cannot stop a puck anymore than Erik Cole can get one on net. PK is looking like the foolish rookie trying so hard to do so much, only to cost the team that much more.
3 games out of 4 now, Montreal hasn't just been bad, they've been last place bad. In that scare we also find the comfort: the season is only 4 games old.
The boys frankly can't play much worse in their own end.
The unfortunate thing is that Montreal's poor defensive showing completely eclipsed some inspiring play at the opposite end as the team held a wide lead in shots over the Avs throughout the game. The forwards were overshadowed on a night where Hall Gill looked like skating was the most arduous task anyone could as of him, where the rookies turned in rookie performances that featured rookie mistakes such as taking a penalty late in the third that allowed the Avs back in the game. A determined Travis Moen looking every bit like a power forward, Lars Eller showing quick hands and spontaneous skill, Kostitsyn playing loose and Pacioretty renewing hope in Montreal that their long awaited natural scorer may be on the horizon - all this laid to waste by uncommitted, unfocused, incoherent defence.
It's a downhill slope these Habs are engaged in and as word spreads around the league that anything inside the Habs blue line is a free for all things may get far worse. No reason to throw the life boats to the water but there is cause for concern. Why so deflated on Thursday for the home opener? Why so easily prone to shut down for the last 2 periods during the season opener in Toronto? Is this group that took the eventual Stanley Cup champions closer to the edge than anyone else simply believing they are that good instead of going out there and proving it?
The season is young, the answers will come. Some of the injured will heal and the team will define its own sense of bonding. But there appear to be glaring holes on D so for an organization that prides itself on having hired a defensive specialist to man the bench, this should merely be a matter of early season tweaking.
The Avs, Leafs and Flames were all greeted with biscuits and tea at the Montreal blue line. Carey is alone and so far incapable of posting bail for the deficiencies before him. And when time came to take responsibility in last night's shootout, he wasn't up to the task.
Discomfort, worry, unease, these are all part of the conversation. Coach Martin has some work to do to get the players out of their heads and have them recommit to the simplicity of the game.