Monday, May 17, 2010

Habs system needs a change of direction for Game Two


A failure by the Habs in the direction of their strategy, and they could find themselves at the end of their playoff rope.

Ok, so it’s only Game One. There’s no need to panic. Jaroslav Halak got chased out in Game One against the Pittsburgh Penguins too, don’t forget.

But to lose 6-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers with Michael Leighton in goal, was clearly the Montreal Canadiens worse game of the playoffs.

There were several costly mistakes across the board. Foolish penalties, bad defensive plays and sloppy point play, especially with the man advantage, were the biggest of them.

The most concerning issue though might be the style the Canadiens are trying to play against the Flyers.

An east-west/dump and chase style is not going to work against a Flyers defensive quartet led by Chris Pronger, plain and simple. It didn’t work in 2008 either without Pronger, you think it will work now?

The Philadelphia defense clogged up lanes. blocked shots and had an easy time fetching pucks out of their own zone. The Canadiens 11 giveaways and Flyers 12 takeaways reflects that.

In essence, the Canadiens made it too easy for the Flyers, and their goaltender who had no problems seeing the puck Sunday night.

The Canadiens attackers also have to be patient and not try to do it alone. Many a time, the Flyers forwards would wait, circle back inside the blueline and allow their teammates to attack the net. We basically saw a clinic on that.

A key example of how not to do it came on the sixth Flyers goal. P.K. Subban attempted a one-man rush and got shut down, leaving Maxim Lapierre to play defense and hung out to dry.

It was interesting too, on Coaches Corner, how they centered on Subban and how he’s been playing the same way since Bantam. You think Flyers scouts figured that out, or noticed it in the playoffs?

Philadelphia knows how to shut down a team’s offense if they come right at them, the Boston Bruins will tell you that. Leighton does have to come up with some big saves, but he’s not stealing games like Halak has in the first two rounds.

To be effective against the larger Flyers defense, the Canadiens have to play more north-south against the Flyers, playing them off the boards to open those scoring lanes. Do that and they wear the defense down and expose the weaker pairs.

If they don’t and continue with the Game One offensive strategy, this could be a quick series. You can expect Jacques Martin and Kirk Muller make the adjustments required on Tuesday.

The Canadiens other problem lies in the size department in their own end.

Of the four Flyers’ goals that beat him, how many clean shots did Halak actually see? Hal Gill and company were blocking their share of shots (20 in total) but they have to get the bodies out of Halak’s way. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ryan O’Byrne back in the lineup for Game Two to help nullify this problem.

Failure to get the Flyers behemoths out of their own crease will make it a shooting gallery for Danny Briere and the like, and a Sunday afternoon tee time at Le Club Laval Sur-le-lac for the Habs.

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