Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Habs Special Teams Ineffective In 6-4 Loss To Sharks

The Canadiens tied the game on 3 separate occasions, but trailed 4 separate times en route to a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavillion. The loss opens up a 4 game swing through 80% of the Pacific Division, excluding Dallas.

"Jumbo" Joe Thornton proved once more that he is a premier complete player in the league, using his size and skill to lead the Sharks to the victory. Joe wound up with 2 goals and 2 assists in the outing, and Jonathan Cheechoo figured in as well with a highlight-reel goal while adding two helpers as well.

Brian Campbell capped the evening off in style, as he tallied a powerplay goal late in the third period - his first as a Shark and 6th on the season - by coming in one-on-one with Mike Komisarek and executing a perfect spin-o-rama to get by the husky Habs defender, eventually releasing an ice-level backhander that fooled Price through his legs...another highlight-reel tally for SJ.

The Canadiens would tie the game at 1, 2 and 3, but the Sharks would finally pull away on a very weak goal from Jody Shelley, as he tallied his 1st of the season on a weak slapshot from the blueline as his linemates were changing. The dump-in wound up catching a favorable bounce off the ice and bounced up to beat Price under the arm. Price failed to properly position himself against his post, taking the shot for granted.

Cheechoo would then add insurance as he came in 1-on-2 vs. Boullion and Gorges. Cheechoo executed a toe drag to perfection around Gorges, and rather than help out, Boullion looked on, likely awaiting Price to make an aggressive pokecheck. Instead, both were caught watching, and Cheechoo finished the play off in style, going top corner past Price for the 5-3 lead and eventual game-winner.

Carey Price allowed a season-high 6 goals on 39 shots, while counterpart Evgeni Nabokov struggled as well, allowing 4 on 31, yet coming up with the all important "W".

The Canadiens top ranked powerplay went bone dry, failing to capitalize on 7 attempts. The Sharks cashed in twice on 5 opportunites.

Tomas Plekanec led the way for Montreal, tallying two goals, his 25th and 26th on the season. Maxim Lapierre and Ryan O'Byrne (1st NHL goal) also scored for Montreal.

Despite the loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak, the Canadiens were able to maintain top spot in the Northeast Division, as the Ottawa Senators dropped a 3-1 decision in Anaheim. However, they no longer lay claim to 1st in the East, as they are now surpassed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Apart from two or three pretty goals from the Sharks, the game will likely most be remembered by the poor officiating put on display by referees Tim Peel and Chris Rooney. The duo seemed to miss call after call after call, with a larger load of missed calls going against the Habs (although San Jose endured their fair share of missed calls as well). They seemingly tried to make up for missed calls by calling some phantom penalties shortly after. It was very noticeable and an absolute terror to watch, but both teams tried their best to play through it.

The most noteable of all missed calls came on Joe Thornton's 2nd goal of the game. While on the powerplay, Patrick Marleau was creating havoc for Carey Price in the crease, and would eventually steamroll the Habs netminder after Price had made a save on a Thornton point-shot which involved the puck being cleared off the goal line by Habs defenseman Roman Hamrilik. Price would recover, pick up his stick which he had dropped in the missed goaltender-interference call, and get to his skates JUST in time to face another shot from Joe Thornton from the exact same spot. Price wouldn't have enough time to properly execute his save, and the puck would beat him through his legs for a 3-2 San Jose lead.

To put everything into basic perspective:

- The Habs D was weak;
- The goaltening was weaker; and,
- The special teams were altogether invisible.

The Sharks didn't play particularly strong and stingy defensive hockey as they are accusotmed, but they didn't have to either on this night.

Oh, and Criag Rivet won his personal battle with Josh Gorges in a "my new team will beat your old team" contest.

The Habs next visit Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night at 9 p.m.


Pat said...

I didn't see the third but the refs were brutal in the first ans second periods. They didn't cal Marleau when he crashed the goalie nor did they penalize the Sharks for too many men when Higgins was going home free on a breakway! Brutal. I am so frustrated at the refs. Can someone do something please.

Anonymous said...

That missed call on Marleau was horrible and the refs cost Mtl a goal indeed. Besides that habs can pretty much blame themselves for the loss because the #1 PP should of came through when counted on the most not when your beating a team 4-0 and go on to score 2 more PP goals, that`s not gonna win you president trophies or at least 1st place in the east. Price played the worst I`ve ever seen him play and so did the D in a long time. Usually it`s the offense that`s a problem for Mtl, but not this year and definitely not last night. I think some minor changes should take place , maybe add a little more grit. When a guy like smolinski is in the lineup its not to snipe goals, it`s to create pressure. He did nothing yesterday and nothing in every other contest thus far this season. GET HIM OUT OF MTL!!


sasabainga said...

Agreed James, they really cost themselves the win more than the refs did. Let's face it, the Sharks, a premier team in the league, was not anywhere near their best. Yes, they scored 6, but 3 were really soft. The Sharks D was full of gaps, but Montreal's D was just as bad, and in a game of horrid defending and poor goaltending, Nabokov was slightly less bad than Price, so he won.

Higgins was definitely ineffective last night. Apart from his glorious chance in the slot which he was robbed by Nabokov, he was inivisble, not nearly enough from Higgins, a player who really turned heads last season. We're gonna need more, or even SOMETHING, from him if we wish to do well down the stretch and for the playoffs.

Smolinski is terrible for this team. His lack of speed really hurts his linemates, and I storngly believe that he should consider early retirement. He is of little to no help to any NHL franchise at this stage in his career. He is a stand-up guy apparently, but, sometimes it hurts to be honest. Dandenault should have dressed vs. the Sharks in place.