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What Went Wrong: Montreal Canadiens

Apr 28, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins - Game Seven Getty Images

Much like how it was for the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Buffalo Sabres it’s tough to find a way to pick on a team that just went seven games in a series. Like how it was for the Blackhawks, it’s even harder to do when you take your opponent to seven games.

For the Canadiens, what ailed them was something not so easily found in the statistics but more in the manner of play and team philosophy. After all, when you’re going up against a team that’s a virtual mirror opposite, it’s tough to crack them to win four games.

Where did Montreal go wrong? It’s more of a matter of opinion than anything else.

1. Offensive pressure? What’s that?
Jacques Martin is known as one of the better defensive coaches in the NHL and for good reason. Look at what his defensive-minded stylings did for the Habs in last year’s playoffs against the two biggest offenses in the NHL. He was able to draw up a strategy to hold up the Caps and Penguins and frustrated them to no end. When they end up against a team with more of a defensive mindset, however, it doesn’t work out so well.

Think of it like a staring contest. They’ll throw the same kind of game at each other to see who blinks, or in this case takes a penalty, first. The plan of attack was similar for Montreal. Jump out quickly in the opening minutes to see if you can catch the Bruins napping. If the Habs scored, perfect. They could sit back and defend and pull out the soccer style of defense and essentiall y “park the bus” in front of Carey Price.

For a good part of the series, Montreal was great at that as the Habs blocked 144 shots through the series, one shot shy of the Lightning for the top mark. Considering that Boston sent 243 shots on goal through the series, they had ample time to pepper the goal.

2. Too reliant on the power play
Montreal scored 17 goals in their seven game series against Boston. Six of those goals came with the man advantage. Two of those six came on 5-on-3 power plays. Montreal went 6-27 on the power play in the series and while that’s all well and good, scoring more than a third of your goals on the power play is a tough way to live life. Penalties will happen no matter what but when you’re banking on them to generate your offense, it’s a high risk way to live life in the playoffs. Fortunately for Montreal the Bruins were totally inept on the power play which gave the Habs the leeway to be more patient. If the Bruins connected at a normal rate at all in this series, there’s no way it goes seven games.

3. Playing desperate only when it was a desperate situation
When Montreal got aggressive in their offensive game it generally only came with the team down a goal late in the game. When the Habs applied themselves like that they looked awfully tough. They could get offense from anywhere be it Brian Gionta, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Cammalleri, Yannick Weber, or P.K. Subban. That kind of offensive desperation made the Habs exciting to watch because they do have great skill players there. It’s tough to watch guys like that have to play dump-and-change hockey most of the night only to see them get a “button” pushed late when they’re behind to finally start pushing the pressure. The Habs are a team that could’ve learned from the past that safe is indeed death.

***

Montreal is a very talented team and Carey Price was outstanding throughout this series and all season long. There are many in Montreal who share my frustrations with how Martin coaches the team (All Habs did a two part series on it in February – Part 1, Part 2) and while that’s part of the problem, what Martin does defensively is what makes the Habs as good as they are.

Unfortunately, that only makes them good enough to make the playoffs and not a serious Stanley Cup contender.

  1. frankvzappa - Apr 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    the only reason that series was close was because of bogus calls by canadian-loving refs

  2. bowlhounds - Apr 28, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    Maybe they should stop playing up to the refs and flopping around around like girls and PLAY hockey for a change. Hell the only pads they had to change after the way they played can be found in aisle 7.

    • classic13 - Apr 28, 2011 at 6:46 PM

      What about Chara’s dive when Elller lightly pushed him in the back? Talk about girl play, a guy who’s 6′ 7″ falling when lightly pushed by a guy who weighs 160 lbs. at best…

  3. psujay - Apr 28, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    Really Boston fans? You won. No need for this. As a Leafs fan, I’d like to say “The only reason this series was close is because Montreal is a bunch of divers and the refs buy it.”

    Oh, and “Maybe they should stop playing up to the refs and flopping around around like girls and PLAY hockey for a change.”

    But seriously Boston, you won. No need to gloat.

  4. bcjim - Apr 28, 2011 at 7:55 PM

    two bad teams…just imagine either without their goalie. Philly should easily dismiss Boston.

  5. smurfposse - Apr 29, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    It baffles me that as sports fans some discredit and diminish the accomplishments of their rivals for the sole fact that the rival lost.

    Montreal easily could have taken this series. Fact. Montreal dominated on special teams. Fact. Montreal didn’t make the most of their opportunities in games 3, 4, 5, and 7. Fact. Thomas and Price stood on their heads and allowed for one of the most electrifying series in the first round. Fact.

    Gloating while your team barely makes it out of the first round when they got away without the call on Ryder’s high sticking the puck in the neutral zone allowing for Kelly’s goal, and the Habs’ centres being forced out of the faceoff circle 70-85% of the time in game 7 were the major reasons they won. No excuses, these are hard facts.

    Going 0-21 on the powerplay is Horrendous playoff hockey. Taking 27 penalties in a 7 game series doesn’t help either. Hot headed play and a non-productive back end will kill all of what Thomas allows the Bruins to maintain. Despite goaltending issues in Philly, their top guns are coming on strong, and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. Enjoy the win over the Habs, gloat all you wish, but golfing is in the Bruins forecast as it is currently for the Habs.

    And the article writer saying that the Habs are simply playoff worthy but not ‘contender’ ready…. Talk to me next year. You can fill me in on how ‘contender’ ready the Bruins were this year, and tell me all about the weaknesses you see for the Habs next season. I’ll likely be watching Mike Cammalleri continue his clutch playoff performances.

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