Midway through this hockey game, it looked like a rummage sale out there: head coach Guy Carbonneau sifting and sorting through his bench in an effort to find a line combination or two worth throwing out onto the ice.
By the end of the night, nothing worked. Certainly not his players, as the Canadiens followed up their solid 4-0 win over Ottawa Tuesday night with another mind-numbing loss, this one a 6-1 setback, to the hometown Boston Bruins.
When it was over, The Coach questioned his team’s heart, work ethic, and mental toughness, which is becoming somewhat familiar territory for Carbonneau, who watched his club put in a similar non-performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night. On Tuesday, the Habs answered the bell at the Bell with their best effort of the season against Ottawa. Tonight, they were up to their old tricks again.
The question now, is: which team will show up Saturday night when the Philadelphia Flyers are in town?
It’s a question that Guy Carbonneau must grapple with over the next 48 hours. Does the answer lie in exploding the lines, as he did midway through tonight’s game, after the Bruins had taken a 4-0 lead on Carey Price?
Mere moments after Marco Sturm’s second goal of the night, at 3:44 of the middle frame, Alex Kovalev found himself playing with Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Dandenault. Later in that period, Kovalev lined up with Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse.
Then in the third period we saw a sign of things to come, when The Coach went with a chemistry experiment that we’ve all been waiting for: Kovalev with his old line mate in Pittsburgh, Robert Lang, on a line with Latendresse. You can take that one to the bank as The Coach searches for solutions heading into Saturday’s game against the Flyers.
Guy Carbonneau is a patient man, up to a point. He is usually loathe to juggle his lines because of the disruptive trickle-down effect it has on the rest of the forward units. But clearly, he has little choice. The Kovalev–Plekanec-A.Kostitsyn unit isn’t working; neither is the Lang-Latendresse-S. Kostitsyn line. Might as well mix them up, and keep your number one trio of Koivu–Tanguay-Higgins intact.
For the record, Saku Koivu, who blew a tire on the play that led to Boston’s second goal of the game, by Stephane Yelle at 17:00 of the opening period, scored the lone goal for Montreal and was the Habs’ best player on the ice, which isn’t saying much on a night like this.
Now on to other matters, like the ongoing series of brain cramps this team is suffering from when it comes to taking care of the defensive aspect of this game of hockey. What were Mike Komisarek and Mathieu Dandenault thinking when they played patty-cake with the puck and allowed Shawn Thornton to sweep in on Price and tuck a little backhander past the Montreal netminder just 2:31 into this one?
That’s another question The Coach is going to have to grapple with.
Here’s another one while we’re at it: does he go back with Carey Price Saturday against the Flyers? After this one at TD Banknorth Garden was over, Carbonneau admitted that he considered pulling Price on a number of occasions, during the course of tonight’s hockey game. But he didn’t. Do you give Price a chance to get back on his horse against Philadelphia, or do you look down your bench and point a finger at Jaroslav Halak?
So many questions, so little time.