Monday, November 19, 2007

11-19-07: Senators 4, Canadiens 2

Tomorrow morning, Larry Robinson is going to go out and buy a cemetery plot just so he can dig a grave, lie down in it, and spin around a few times. It must have been quite the triumph of willpower for the man just to refrain from running out on the ice mid-game, grabbing Markov by the neck, and screaming “STOP DESECRATING MY TEAM! STOP DESECRATING MY TEAM!” Although I guess that’s not really his style.

[Yes, that’s the entire recap. I’m tired, my arms hurt, and I have no enthusiasm for writing about this game. See y’all tomorrow.]


Jeff J said...

It's hard to blame Markov for much of last night.

1st goal: Two minutes into the game, Carbonneau had Chipchura/Begin/Dandenault with Markov/Komi out vs. Spezza/Heatley. That's to be expected for Markov/Komi. They can handle the big guns, but it's much easier for them if they have capable forwards out there with them. Having a rookie centre and a guy who hasn't played forward for for 10 years on the ice vs. the highest scoring line in the league is just plain irresponsible. Result: Markov is forced to hook Kelly and Sens score on ensuing PP.

2nd goal: A Habs PP has just ended so you know the Sens top players will be on the ice. Brisebois/Hamrlik stay on the ice after the PP for a long shift. Sure enough, Spezza/Heatley relieve the Sens PKers. Carbo counters with Smolinski/Latendresse/Grabovski. Of all the players on lines #3 , Smolinski has probably been the most successful vs. top lines. However, Brisebois, Grabovski and Lats are bad news against Heatley/Spezza. Result: Sens goal.

3rd goal: Carbonneau hasn't been matching lines as tightly as usual. Halfway through the 2nd, Koivu/Higgins/Ryder get a shift vs. Spezza/Heatley. Habs carry the play, get a couple of SOG, a tired Heatley hooks Streit at the end of a shift. Result: Montreal PPG.

4th goal: It's a carbon(neau) copy of the Sens' 2nd goal. The shift after a Habs PP, we see Chipchura/Begin/Dandenault with Markov/Komi out to face Spezza/Heatley. Markov's tired because he was on for the PP of course. Result: Spezza/Heatley/Neil dominate down low and go ahead 3-1.

5th goal: The backbreaker. Habs had a brief PP carryover from the 2nd and started Koivu/Higgins/Ryder. The next shift it's Plekanec/Kovalev/Kastsitsyn vs. Heatley/Spezza. This one's understandable - normally these guys would be nowhere near the Sens' top line, but when you're down by 2 in the 3rd you take risks. Result: The puck lives deep in Montreal's end until Sens score.

6th goal: Things get sloppy as Koivu/Higgins/Ryder get a reprieve from Phillips/Volchenkov. Result: Higgins' goal, and a 4-2 game.

To sum up,
Montreal's #3/4 lines + Heatley/Spezza = bad.
Koivu vs. Heatley/Spezza = less bad.

Carbonneau's philosophy is to
- use a checking line and Markov/Komisarek against 1st rate opposition
- use Koivu's line against the next tier, or against the 1st tier when he must
- keep talented opposition away from Kovalev's line at all costs.

The problem wih Carbo's preferred approach is that Montreal is stacked with unknowns in forward slots #7-#13. Smolinski *should* be able to play against Spezza, and I think that was Gainey's plan when he was signed. After all, Bonk was a fading offensive centre when he arrived and transformed into a fine checker. The rest of the gang doesn't inspire even that much confidence. Begin and Kostopoulos are established 4th line energy types. I suppose they might be able to step up to checking line duties, but they haven't yet after a combined 500 NHL games. I'm not holding my breath. Latendresse and Chipchura might get there some day, maybe even this year, but it's a bit much to ask of 20 year old kids. Grabovski is a bad fit in this role, period. Dandenault played some 4th line forward minutes ages ago on a powerhouse Detroit team. He hasn't regularly played on the wing since and it shows. Lots of speed and some physical play, but his opponents are shooting the lights out.

There are warning signs surrounding this team. They're being outplayed 5-on-5 again, though not as badly as last year. The PP won't continue to score at a 30% clip. If Carbo wants to employ a checking line, I think it would be best to bolster it with an established vet who can keep Spezzas out of the zone and give Markov some rest. If he wants to run Koivu against the likes of Spezza (an approach that would seem to have some merit, judging by last night's game), the bottom lines could still be improved. A more offensively skilled vet who can help outplay opponent's #3/4 lines would be good. It seems like Smolinski has created a number of scoring chances only to see them botched by his wingers.

Matt D said...

Jeff! We've missed your analysis. Nice call on the game. (By "We" I mean "me", but I like to think I can generalize broadly from my own opinions.)

I'm scared you're right about the team playing above its head again: the record from last year is frighteningly similar. I try ro take hope in the fact that, this year, at least, the Habs aren't being outshot every single night.

Are you going to start Sisu Hockey back up, or are we going to have to find your analysis in the comment sections of other good blogs?

E said...

hey jeff, thanks for doing what i was too lazy to do, and probably (actually) much better than i would have done it. i've been trying to avoid, at all costs, calling up the spectre of last year's team too often here, but you're right, the es play is starting to look not-so-good. granted, though, it can be difficult to tell against such opposition- there's no arguing that the sens are a faster, higher scoring team than the habs, generally. not that they're unbeatable, but i'd say even playing in top form, the chances of a win against them are not fantastic.

i'd always thought it was sort of a given that carbonneau would have to change his coaching style this year due to the loss of bonk and johnson, who he relied on so very heavily to keep games within reach last season. to a certain extent, i thought he had, but your analysis suggests otherwise. however, i think the problem is whether or not one sees this year's team as an end in itself or a stepping-stone in the great, mythic 'gainey plan'. if it is indeed an end in itself, then yeah, i think you're right about needing another veteran checker. on the other hand, the reason we're so kid-heavy at the moment is because of bob's interest in building from within, and the thing about having so many darari is that they need to play to improve, and if you're hoping to build your team around them in future, you want to have the patience to let them. so is it better to let chipchura, latendresse, grabovski, kostitsyn, hell even gorges, play- even when they're still comparatively weak at their assigned roles, even when it might mean losing games- on the hope that their eventual development will justify it?

Jeff J said...

- There are similarities to last year's team, but there is also measurable improvement. The Hamrlik/Souray switch alone should be enough to get into the playoffs. Baby steps!

- matt: I just don't have enough time right now to commit to regular, coherent posts. People allow a lower quality threshold in comments. Expect occasional incohesive rambling, alternating with quick and dirty bullet point comments :)

- e: No question, the Sens are good. It's just frustrating to see their big dogs beat up on the kids and fringe guys.

- Actually, I think your instincts were right about Carbonneau. Last year his line matching was set in stone. He's been more free wheeling this year, trying different approaches on different nights. His checking line(s) are more of a tendency. Sheltering the Kovalev line is still set in stone.

- Good point about developing the kids, too. The growing pains are occasional lost points in the standings. That's easy to accept 'right now' when you're a 100 point team like Ottawa or Detroit. When you're on the bubble for the playoffs (like most teams, I suppose) it's enough to give you ulcers.