Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jacques Martin should be banned from hockey

The Montreal Canadiens saw another lead get erased Tuesday night, and it's become a recurrent theme in Montreal these past few weeks.

Tuesday vs. Buffalo - Up 1-0 in 1st period. Lose 2-1 in Overtime.
Monday vs. Calgary - Up 4-0 in 2nd period. Win 5-4 in Overtime.
Saturday vs. NY Rangers - Up 3-1 in 1st period. Hang on for 3-2 win.
January 12th vs. Pittsburgh - Up 2-1 in 2nd period. Lose 5-2.

The three games before that were comeback wins for the Canadiens, who may be, under Jacques Martin's system, a team that plays better in desperation when they're allowed to skate. Their goal differential by period throughout each of their games has been +8, +3 and -7, which means that something is happening throughout the game that causes this breakdown. Unfortunately, no website splits goaltending statistics by period, but with an overall .921 save percentage, I neglect to think that the problem for the breakdowns has been Carey Price.

There are people who follow the Canadiens a little more rigorously than I do, probably because they're Habs fans, but check out this post from Iain Carnegie over at The Hockey Writers, who argues that coach Jacques Martin has been the problem:
It is pretty clear that this team is built for speed and movement. The incredible puck movement in the first two frames were magical examples of that. They cycled low, won the battles in the corners, were fast to the puck. It’s no secret that with the size of this team, that they need to win through use of that speed. And through two periods there was no doubt that they played in their element.

Enter the Jacques Martin System.
This post was written after the narrow win against the Rangers, but it could be interpreted for their two recent games against Buffalo and Montreal, where the team shut down in the third period clinging onto a lead.

The Habs are full of young players who love the spotlight. PK Subban, Benoit Pouliot, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Max Pacioretty and Mike Cammalleri (until they were injured against the Sabres) are examples of that. The team has veteran talent in Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Jeff Halpern, players who may not have scored a significant amount in the NHL, but all at one point 20-goal scorers. This is a team that should be scoring more goals, and in front of a goalie who's playing very well this season, it may be a little wiser to trade chances instead of simply trying to minimize chances against your own team.

So why is Jacques Martin so reluctant to let the Habs skate with opposing teams for 60 minutes? It's not because he's a fun-hating imbecile who hates it when his team plays over the centre line.

Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on baseball, always betting on his own team. Martin ought to be banned from hockey for always playing for the under. Montreal, going into last night's game, had a league-low 4.89 total goals per game rating among both teams, and they've had the advantage of having played 14 times in overtime. They have scored the lowest number of goals amongst all the NHL teams currently in playoff position.

As Carnegie points out, however, for a team that has Guy Carbonneau still on the payroll for coaching, it will be a long time before the Habs get to restructure their bench staff in order to allow their talent to play freely. They may even win more games.

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