The Canadiens played a first period as might be expected tonight. They were full of jump and dominated the Lightning in shots on goal 20-7. They were also playing rather loose and unfocused. The Habs could not bear down to take advantage of a 5 on 3 power-play t go up by two goals. On a 3 on 1 Robert Lang just flipped the puck towards the goaltender rather than burying it in the back of the net.
All of the above are characteristics of a team who is playing without a coach. Even Carbo kool-aid drinkers have to be wondering about a team who has difficulty beating the bottom feeders of the league. It is clearly not a lack of talent in those games. It seems that there is poor preparation, an ineffective game plan, and the inability to make in-game adjustments, and to get the most out of all players.
Canadiens bench management is puzzling. Andrei Kostitsyn came into the game as the Habs’ hottest sniper. Yet, he only had 9 minutes of even strength ice-time. If Andrei went several games without a point after getting an abundance of time of the ice, then reduce it. But why do that when presently he gives the team the best chance to score.
And I have no idea what Carbonneau said after the first period to his team, but he should trash that speech. After dominating the first, the Canadiens came out flat in the second. The Habs only managed 5 shots and gave up 3 goals. They looked like an undisciplined team.
The defense struggled again tonight particularly Hamrlik, Gorges and Bouillon. Hamrlik and Bouillon were on the ice for 2 Tampa goals and Gorges for 3 goals.
On the first Lightning goal, both Gorges and Hamrlik chased Artyukhin leaving Malone all alone to score. On the second, Bouillon left Lecavalier by himself for his goal. Bouillon was also guilty on the third Tampa goal with a giveaway right up the middle.
Max Lapierre can be such a frustrating player to watch. He can look very good as he did tonight going to the front of the opposition net which led to two goals. But Max’s checking game makes one wish for the return of Kyle Chipchura. Lapierre doesn’t play the body enough and it cost the Canadiens a goal tonight. Max had Steve Downie behind the Canadiens net and could have separated him from the puck with a stiff check. Instead, Lapierre waved at Downie with his stick. Downie was able to center the puck which then deflected off Hamrlik into the Canadiens net.
Robert Lang was completely in a fog tonight. From face-offs to his offense, it seemed like he was just going through the motions.
Special teams were not very special. The power-play was 0 for 7 including a long 5 on 3. Penalty killers gave up two goals.
Saku Koivu played well as usual even delivering 3 solid hits. Chris Higgins had his moments but will take a game or to to find his timing. Strangely enough, the line didn’t play as well when Kovalev was added in the third.
Alex Kovalev really seems to like to play with Max Pacioretty. Alex had a goal on 7 shots. Pacioretty really seems to be the complete package. He has speed and good hands but also delivers big hits and goes to the front of the net.
Both Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov played well. The All-Stars teamed up on the Canadiens first goal when MK made a great play to knock the puck down at the blue line and then get it over to Markov for a blast from the point.
Ryan O’Byrne had a solid game. He played just over twelve and a half minutes including some shorthanded time. O’Byrne was confident moving the puck, made good decisions and was very physical. O’Byrne and Komisarek were the only ones who could handle 6’5″, 255lb., Evgeny Artyukhin. O’Byrne was one of the top three defenseman on this night and certainly earned his way back and should be in the line-up on Thursday.
The Lightning capitalized on some poor defensive play and some quirky bounces to beat Carey Price tonight. He was not to blame despite allowing 5 goals. Price made a good save on Recchi on the penalty shot.
Carbonneau had to fore go his Florida vacation to attend the All-Star game. Let’s hope that he passes on golf tomorrow and makes game preparation his focus prior to the math against Florida.
Higgins will play after missing 19 games with a shoulder injury. O’Byrne will be in the line-up after being recalled from Hamilton.
Tanguay, Dandenault, Laraque out with injuries. Brisebois and Begin are scratches.
Rocket’s 3 stars:
1. Vincent Lecavalier
2. Martin St. Louis
3. Andrei Markov
(photo credit: AP photo)