After the last game, Carbonneau decided that it was time to go with the angry-dad style of coaching. He grounded the Canadiens, sent them to bed with no dessert, and made them do sprints after practice. There was much debate amongst Habs fans as to whether these tactics would succeed in motivating the team. So what did Carbonneau get for putting his foot down and trying to be all tough and authoritarian? A significantly less humiliating loss.
1. The gods of hockey giveth and taketh away. Lately they’ve been taking from the Canadiens more than they’ve been giving. They took their short-handed goals and their miraculous third line, they took Koivu’s scoring streak and Huet’s save percentage, soon they’ll take the 4th place standing and give it to Ottawa, but it’s time to sacrifice a whole crate of tangerines and pray that they don’t take the power play. Please, please, please, leave them this one shining quality, let them not go down the dark path of Edmonton and Calgary, where it might as well be called a one-man disadvantage for all the good it does. Let Souray at least have all his various power-play related records, even if it is thy ineffable will that the team doth tank shamefully.
2. What this proves is that the difference between a respectable loss and a disgusting loss is all in the defense. Carbonneau’s big ‘message’ to the team (“Y’all sucked on Saturday and you better not keep sucking or I’m going to revoke your telephone privileges.”) was evidently not lost on the defense corps. Bouillon and Dandenault both played excellently, among the best efforts they’ve given all season, and Markov was back in form. Komisarek was clearly working hard, but has been looking increasingly off-rhythm in the past few games- he’s never been a hella fast skater, but I don’t seem to remember him looking this slow until recently. Maybe he’s pining for Markov. Aebischer, weirdly enough, made many saves that looked incredibly difficult and let in two comparatively non-threatening shots. Whatever, I’m not gonna criticize a guy who makes 37 saves while the other goalie makes 23.
3. RDS shouldn’t even bother putting up the Canadiens’ lines at the beginning of the games anymore. There are no lines, it’s just an offensive stew, and it’s starting to cripple the Habs. All the juggling has become pointless- The Great Leader has tried every possible combination, and he doesn’t leave any of them together long enough to develop any real chemistry. Many of the forwards were clearly trying tonight- Ryder and Latendresse, Lapierre and Plekanec, even Kovalev in his own strange way- but they were always individual efforts, there was no coordination, not even communication, and Hasek isn’t going to be beaten readily by a lone 19-year-old coming in half a step ahead of 3 Red Wings. The only constant has been the mysteriously but perpetually dysfunctional Kovalev/Samsonov pairing, and you know he’s just doing that to irritate the media. I miss Bonk, and not just for his shot-blocking and entertaining skating stride. Johnson might be good enough with Higgins, but Perezhogin looks like a little lost puppy dog out there without his former linemates. The classic 3rd liners were better together than they are apart, and it shows now more than ever.
So now, based on the early post-game coverage, Carbonneau is in really, really angry-dad mode. Possibly he'll take away their car keys, or tell them they can’t go to prom, or make them mow the lawn. Or possibly Granddaddy Gainey will get involved, and they’ll start cutting allowances and putting some boys up for adoption. Whatever happens, the fact that I’m not suicidal over, or even particularly surprised by, this loss means only one thing: we are officially in a state of slump, y‘anni a state of emergency. Residents of Habistan, if you’re in this for the long haul, best be prepared. Stock up on bottled water and canned food, board up your windows and maybe invest in a small personal generator. It’s going to get ugly.