IT’S IN THE BAG (SKATE)


Today’s Montreal Canadiens’ skate was no trip to the bowling alley.

You remember the trip to the bowling alley the Habs took last February following a 6-2 loss in Calgary against the Flames?  An exasperated then-head coach Guy Carbonneau who, in the midst of a particularly brutal stretch of 8 losses in 10 starts, opted for a little 10-pin action in an effort to get his players out of their deep funk.

P.S. The move didn’t work, as the Canadiens went on to lose their next game, 7-2, in Edmonton.  The rest is history.  So was, as it turned out,  Guy Carbonneau.

But that was one year ago when little went right for the Habs during their Centennial season.  It couldn’t get any worse than that, THIS season.

Could it???

Well, four games into the current campaign, current head coach Jacques Martin dipped into his bag of tricks following last night’s 7-1 disaster in Vancouver and worked his players hard at today’s practice in Vancouver: a “reward” for their dreadful showing against the Canucks.  The workout included some serious skating at the beginning and end of the session: understandable, as The Coach was sending his players a serious message.  It’s affectionately known as a bag skate:  a drill made popular by the late Herb Brooks when he coached Team USA at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.

After stealing overtime wins in Toronto and Buffalo to open the season, largely as a result of the play of goaltender Carey Price, the Habs came up short in Calgary (although they DID get an “A” for effort) and then fell flat on their faces in Vancouver.  As a result, the Habs will take a 2-and-2 record into Edmonton for Saturday’s night’s contest against the Oilers. Then it’s back to Montreal for the team’s first taste of home cooking this season: Thursday, when the Colorado Avalanche are in town.

Will the Canadiens return home one gave above .500, or one game below .500?  (Yes, yes.  I know that the Canadiens could technically come home with a .500 record with an overtime or shootout loss. But, in my books, a loss is a loss.  So get over it.)

That will depend on whether or not the Canadiens decide to play a little team defence in front of their goaltender.  It’s something they didn’t do nearly well enough last season, and they certainly didn’t do it well enough in front of a beleaguered Carey Price last night.

When your young, up-and-coming defenceman (hello Yannick Weber) finishes up a minus 3 on the night, as was the case against the Canucks, you know that can’t be good: not for Weber, and his chances of actually sticking with the team, and certainly not for the Canadiens, in their quest to win a hockey game.

Memo to Marc-Andre Bergeron:  hows that conditioning thing working out in Hamilton?

When one of your veterans (hello Hal Gill) who was obtained during the off-season to help shore up the blueline, finishes up with a minus 2 on the night, as was the case against the Canucks, you know that can’t be good: not for Gill, who is NOT going to end up being a fan favorite at the Bell Centre if THIS keeps up.  And certainly not for the Canadiens, in their quest to win a hockey game.

Then again, last night’s scoresheet from GM Place is littered with bodies on the negative side of the plus-minus ledger:  Travis Moen (the responsibly defensive Travis Moen) minus 3;  Guillaume Latendresse, minus 2; Maxim Lapierre, minus 2.  And on it goes.

The numbers aren’t pretty.  And they don’t lie.  Not in this case.

Yup, it would be easy to hang your netminder out to dry after your team loses 7-1.  But that would be much too convenient.  Mind you, I was  a little concerned with the “Carey Price for Mayor” movement that was reaching a fever pitch after Price’s first two appearances this season.  Yes, he was very good against both the Leafs and the Sabres. However, the last time I checked, an NHL season covers 82 games.

Lots of time for the Canadiens to mess up.  And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what they did last night.

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About ahefter

I have covered hockey extensively during my 30-year sports broadcasting career. From the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid to the Edmonton Oiler dynasty years, I've shared my views on hockey with listeners in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You can "catch me in action" on Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n5BdB9ngYw My radio stops include TSN 690 Montreal, CJAD Montreal, CKNW Vancouver, and CKEY Toronto. I also ran the Canadian Press sports desk (radio). My travels as a network reporter have taken me to four Olympics, most recently Vancouver 2010. I'm currently an Applied Assistant Professor within the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.
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