Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canadiens losses are clearly not on the heads of the goalies.

price-halak-091027 Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak under the watchful fans eyes. Photo: Cdn. Press

Well it was a fun streak while it lasted, but the Montreal Canadiens got a reality check in the form of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

Sid the Kid and Co. proved why they were the Stanley Cup champs last season without Sergei Gonchar in the lineup.

During last night’s game I sat in on’s game blog as I regularly do.

OK up front it’s no secret. Montreal Canadiens fans are the most critical in all of hockey. When something goes wrong, they point fingers.

Last night was no exception. My problem, as it has been all season, was that most of the fingers were pointed at the wrong people..again.

The Canadiens have lost six games, but it baffles my mind as to how the play of both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak has been criticized.

Everyone was on the “Price is Right” train after #31 carried the Habs in the first two games.

After Halak took in a start (A 4-3 loss that I still question the starting decision by coach Jacques Martin), Price returned to the nets only to get hung out to dry in a shelling by the Canucks. In light of losing the next three games, the 22-year-old played well and it was clearly offensive support that led to the slump.

I discussed this in a post from last week, on the Canadiens sputtering offence at the time.

So what happened next? Halak gets the call and the Canadiens win 2-1 and 5-1 over Atlanta and the Islanders respectively.

Suddenly, we have a “goaltending controversy”. Now debate begins as to who will start.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin goes to the “hot hand” and starts Halak in the next game. The team escapes two 2-goal Ranger leads to come out on top, 5-4, in OT and another OT win, two days later, against the Islanders.

So now Halak is the man in Montreal.

Even Price publically states that Martin should play Halak while the team is hot.

Then on Wednesday, the Habs hit the brick wall.

Crosby is left wide open at the side of the net for Bill Guerin to fire a pass, while surrounded by white jerseys, three feet in front of Halak for a one-timer.

Fans were on Halak faster than ever, claiming “he shoulda stopped him”. A “Jr. A” player? Sure. A beer leaguer No question. But hello! This is Sidney Crosby who, with the exception of one injury shortened season, has 30+ goals a year. He already had six going into the night’s game.

Clearly fans like this have no real concept of the position of a goalie.

To be in the NHL, you have to be in extreme shape to carry your body and a set of equipment much bulkier, that a skaters, back and forth across the crease.

They are trained to react accordingly to each situation, but one must realized that they can’t get everything right all the time. If they did, we’d see a lot more shutouts, right?

Add Crosby to the equation and voila.

Even Jacques Plante or Ken Dryden could have been beaten on a set-up like that.

Likewise on the second goal where a loose Crosby eluded everyone for a backhander.

The third goal was a lucky bounce off a skate, yet Crosby was still allowed to skate right on top of Halak.

Essentially, Halak was left out to dry like Price was in Vancouver. Martin did the right thing to put Price in for the third, but it didn’t help when Pittsburgh added two power play goals.

Sorry to disappoint you goalie bashers, but the real finger pointing should be made at the Habs defensive core that register just a single hit in 60 minutes and only five blocked shots.

As HabsInsideOut’s Mike Boone pointed out, “How can you beat the Cup champs – or the McGill women's team, for that matter – if your six Dmen total one bodycheck among them?”

By comparison Brooks Orpik had five blocks alone for the Penguins (15 combined) and three hits.

As for the Canadiens offence, it wasn’t there.

When 15 shots are blocked and you have 11 misses, most of the shots you do make probably won’t be quality ones.

Outside of a few tough saves in the first period, Marc-Andre Fleury had an easy night for Pittsburgh.

I would be wrong though not to say a goalie won’t have a bad game as they can/will happen to the best in the game.

Realistically, I’d love to watch the all the so-called “goalie experts” sitting in their La-Z-Boys put on the pads and experience what goes on between the pipes. Maybe when I win the lottery I’ll fly you all in.

But in the meantime, could you maybe take a look at the whole picture of what lead to the goal, rather than just the individual in the crease?

You might learn something.

1 comment:

Andrew Berkshire said...

Hey Kevin, I played goal for a lot of years, and although the loss was not Halak's fault, the first two goals could have been stopped if he was playing as well as he did against the Islanders the game before.

He had plenty of time to set up on Crosby's first one-timer goal, but didn't get tight to the post. Leaving that space open made it easy for the super star.

On the second goal Halak displayed pretty much the only thing I don't like about his positioning; when the puck is in close he goes into the splits, leans forward on his blocker hand and keeps his glove hand flush with his pads. It works against the lower end players, but anyone with a big curve or a good shot can roof it in close when given the entire top of the net to shoot at.

None of the goals let in were soft, but if Halak makes that first save on Crosby and we come out of the first period 0-0 I think it could have been a different game.