Well I'll admit it, Spacek looks bad, looks like he's in training camp trying to get into game-shape in what are the most important games of the year. He looks slow and a little lost on the ice, a lot of which can be attributed to the fact that he had been out of the lineup for 2 months prior to the playoffs. So the big question is, with Paul Mara and Yannick Weber lying in wait, 2 players that appear to be more up for the task of 6th defensman, why is Spacek still in the lineup? It seems that Habs fans and media alike have argued about which player(s) are the scapegoats for all the losses this year, but almost everybody can agree that Jacques Martin is the real problem.
It should have been clear after Weber's goal and solid performance in game 2 that he deserved to be back in the lineup, but he was benched. It should have been clear that Spacek looked extra rusty in game 3's loss and that it was time to take advantage of their D depth, but no changes were made. Martin's obsession with giving veterans a limitless leash could very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back. With that said, my biggest problem with Martin is, and has been all year, his inability to adapt to in-game situations. Last night was another glaring example of this. The second the team took a 3-1 lead, which capped off about 7-10 minutes of complete domination, the Habs clearly took their foot off the pedal and resorted back to a completely defensive system. From that point on they never looked the same, and the Bruins began to take control of the game. The change began immediately after the Bruins timeout, where Julien riled up his team, probably telling them to start playing like the Canadiens. I don't know what Martin said to his team, if anything at all, but somehow they got the message to start playing like the Bruins.
The key word here is aggression, or lack there of. In the first two games, the Habs were super aggressive on the fore-check and one-on-one battles in all three zones. Not only did this result in great scoring opportunities, but our defense became more aggressive on the puck carrier as well. When we switch from this aggression to ultra passivity (as seen in the 2nd period of last nights game) the defensemen become nothing more than pylons to shoot around. The reason Spacek gets caught flat-footed on the Ryder goal is because he is barely moving to begin with. It's like a goaltender who gives up a goal because he hasn't seen a shot for ten minutes: You're more likely to screw up if you're constantly waiting for the action to come to you, instead of being constantly implicated in it. That doesn't mean that the d-men need to pinch all the time, or that the forwards always have to fore-check like crazy--no team, especially a smallish one like the Habs can sustain that kind of pressure. However, you're only adding fuel to the fire, i.e. giving the Bruins confidence (that they had little of), by continuously putting no pressure on their D, and letting their forwards walk willy-nilly into our zone, time and time again. The Habs lost the game because they went into a defensive shell, and it's not the first time we've seen this. Hopefully if we get a lead of this magnitude again, we'll know how to handle it better, because last night was a complete travesty.