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A Shift in Philosophy

Posted By Corey Krakower On Mar 26 2010 @ 1:58 pm In Montreal Canadiens | No Comments

When the Canadiens went out and traded for Gomez, and signed Cammalleri and Gionta; I was a big supporter of those moves. The key to being a successful team in the new NHL is all about puck possession, speed and attacking and those 3 guys would be able to be Montreal’s cornerstone for that style of play.

I was very worried when I was in Toronto for game 1 of the season and saw them sit back and defend for virtually the entire game. Some late game heroics got them the win but it was a major concern to see them outplayed by an inferior opponent, especially offensively.

To be perfectly honest, I was very skeptical that Jacques Martin would be willing to adjust to the new NHL and let his star players hunt the puck when they don’t have it, and control it when they do. He did have some bad teams in Florida but he has yet to coach a playoff game in the post-lockout.

Last night’s game against the Panthers was a pretty good game on Montreal’s part, but there was 1 shift in the game that had me more encouraged than ever about this edition of the Habs. Funny how on back to back nights I can go from being absolutely furious with the team for losing focus and blowing a 2 goal lead in just over 1 minute late in a game, to being thrilled and optimistic because of 1 shift. This is specifically why it was the best thing for the Habs to play a game the night after a very disappointing performance. Anyway – back to “the shift”.

It was 2-0 Montreal and they were playing a good third period. With 3:36 on the clock, the Panthers cut the lead to 2-1 on a very nice play from Keith Ballard and Radek Dvorak. I can promise you that everyone in the building, remembering the collapse in Buffalo, said to themselves “you’ve got to be kidding me, here we go again.” Then, off the bench comes Montreal’s scoring line of Cammalleri – Plekanec – A. Kostitsyn. Wait, what? You’re trying to defend a lead and you send out your scoring line that was also on the ice for the tying goal in Buffalo? Are you crazy? Turns out Jacques Martin had everyone fooled. Instead of trapping, that line went out and dominated offensively. They cycled the puck, they got some shots on goal, and they killed a lot of time off of the clock. They didn’t score but it was brilliant! They showed that the best way to keep the puck out of your net is to have possession of the puck, unless of course your name is Ryan O’Byrne! Sorry – cheap shot!

I hope that the 1 shift taught everyone, the players and coaches, that the John Tortorella motto “safe is dead” is a valuable lesson. The best way to defend is to attack. That’s how the NHL works today. Going back to late June and early July when they acquired their impact players, the best things for this team to do from game 1 to game 82 is to play to their strength, and that strength is speed and skill. If they stick to that style of play, they can be very dangerous in the playoffs. It only took 75 games to figure out, but better late than never, right?

Here’s to hoping that “the shift” was a sign of a new mentality in Montreal, and not just a onetime thing.


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