One recurring theme this season is the constant back and forth from many fans about who they’ve thought can and will prevail in goal for the Montreal Canadiens. While everyone probably has a favorite sometimes this “debate” has gotten ugly.
But the point of this little blog article isn’t really to go there. Instead, I want to once again state something that to me seems quite obvious.
This team won’t get far without playing stronger team defense. Name your goaltender…. even pick names like Roy, Brodeur or Tretiak….
The point is that time and time again this season I’ve seen some “same old” situations. Say like the other night…. on Monday night.
Montreal VS Washington. Game 3. The Habs are pushing hard…. then what happens?? Spacek ends up diving on a play… sliding into Halak… pushing him into his net… the puck goes in. Can’t really fault Halak on that one?
This theme has played itself out all year. You can’t fault either goaltender for alot of those kinds of plays all season long…. and as for a goalie’s confidence… well, if you were in goal and hung out to dry often by your team’s defensive play… you’d probably shrug your shoulders too. I mean, what the hell can you do about it being in goal. You can’t really make defensive hockey plays for your guys and you obviously can’t score any goals to help even up the score. (I’ll get back to team defense in a minute)
Now… game 3… fast forward to Halak getting pulled… and Price comes in.
This very scenario plays out again for the 4th goal of the game. What happens?
MA Bergeron (I believe, correct me if I’m wrong) attemps to clear the puck out of the Habs defensive zone…. it’s picked off… Caps have a couple of guys in close…. Price is left to clean up the mess.
And yet, some people will want to blame him for that goal. What’s up people?
Team defense…. if you speak with alot of coachs…. will be credited for winning games. Maybe even the Stanley Cup.
Now, back to the Canadiens team defense. Something that I have to say is that at times in this series I’ve been impressed. Why have I been impressed? Let’s put it in context.
Washington is the best offensive team in the league. There is not another team that can score goals like they can. Yet, the Habs defensive play at times have managed to shut them down. It can be said that maybe the Caps were just playing bad. But I don’t buy that. It’s happened for several long stretches that the Habs have dominated play. They obviously had a game plan and at times executed that plan to a T.
Gainey was heavily criticized for signing a couple of these guys too…. Spacek and Gill. They’ve played great hockey. Not perfect. But they’ve managed to put their sticks and/or bodies in the way of the likes of Ovechkin and co. Which is no small task.
Seems to me that this really is Hal Gill’s time of year. As I watched game 3, I was really impressed with many small things that he was doing with that long reach of his… and sometimes even though he didn’t crush his opponent with bone breaking hits… he would simply bump them out of position…. which is essentially a sound defensive hockey play. Gill has also taken up alot of real estate in front of his goaltender blocking many shots. Credit him for his strong play in these playoffs. I can see how valuable he was in Pittsburgh for their cup run.
I believe Washington has a game plan against both these guys. Something to watch for when Price is in goal. The Caps forwards will be crashing the crease more. You’ll see bodies falling on him more then you’ll see them falling on Halak. Jacques Martin and co need to find an effective way to clear these guys out.
In my mind there really is no goaltending debate at all. Both of these young guys have shown over the last couple of years that they have the ability to steal a game or 2 or 3. But experience also shows that they cannot be counted upon for a series win or playoff birth. Even back in 1993 when Roy was in the pipes…. the Habs had some other players making waves in that playoff run.