Thursday, October 27, 2011

Habs notes: making the necessary adjustments

The Habs won last night, and like most Habs faithful, I was pretty happy about it.  Still, a couple of clear problems I've noticed since the beginning of the year propped up again, and to me, it's a lack of awareness by the coaching staff.

Hal Gill and Raphael Diaz are what should be the bottom pairing in the D corps.  One is slow and not very physical, and the other is small and skilled, but quite inexperienced.  Together they've been making plenty of gaffes, many of which have been leading to eventual goals.  I single them out because they've made the most obvious mistakes since the beginning of the year, but the defense as a whole has struggled.

One of the biggest problem with this team since the beginning of the year has been defensive zone clearances and breakouts. I'd say 90% of the goals they've given up this year all stem from a simple zone breakout gone wrong. In the second in third period last night they were much better, but sadly it was the exception rather than the norm. A lot of it has to do with forwards coming back to help the D's out. They just don't do it on a consistent basis. When Diaz and Gill are on the ice its the most noticeable, because Diaz, who is young, gives the puck to Gill way too much.  I assume it's because he's a rookie, and is probably being told by the coaches to use Gill more than he should be. Subban and Gorges were good with Gill because they knew not to let him handle the puck too much in his own zone.    

Two things, thus, should be done about this (besides just changing the pairing). 

1.  Tell Diaz that it's his primary responsibility to get the puck up ice.  Far too often have I seen Gill take it upon himself to chip the puck out or make the first breakout pass.  He's good at neither.  Diaz on the other hand is pretty good at both.  This is why I think it's the coaches fault for not identifying this problem and rectifying it.  Diaz probably knows he's better at zone clearances than Gill, but normally a rookie is waiting for a coach to tell him to take more charge of the situation.  As of now he's expecting Gill to do as much or more of this task, a task he's simply not up for.  How many times have you seen Gill receive a puck in his own zone and immediately look confused about why the puck was given to him, and what he should do next?  Waaaayyyyy too often.  Gill is good at one thing: playing without the puck.  He plays so badly with it that he probably has puck-related nightmares.  I'm not even kidding. 

2.  Force the forwards to recognize when this D pairing is on the ice, and make sure to always come back. Clearly, from how Martin explains it, the forwards are always supposed to come back, to be, as he puts it, five in the frame.  Clearly, the forwards either don't listen to Martin, or they don't believe it's that necessary for them to all come back.  It's almost as if half our team think that Hamrlik and Wisniewski are still back there, and that they'll have no problem getting the puck up ice.  Maybe Martin ought to take baby steps with his team and say: "Try your best to get back on D.  But when Diaz and Gill are on the ice, I'll bench your ass if you don't get back." Something like that anyway.  

It's been two straight games where this pairing has made a careless mistake in their own zone that has cost us the team a goal.  Both times it was a situation where one D-man had plenty of time, and simply decided that his only option was to make a lackluster pass back to his D partner.  Basically a routine play gone wrong.  I think that with a little bit of extra attention addressed to this situation by the coaches, these plays can be avoided altogether. As it stands I just don't see the proper adjustments being made, though.  

It's really rather simple: when you consistently get the puck quickly out of your zone, the forwards are still fresh enough to make effective entrances into the other team's zone.  This is why we seem to go through so many long stretches of offensive lethargy in a game.  Defensive zone breakouts.  Fix this problem, and suddenly your star forwards will start to shine.  Maybe last night was a sign of things to come.  One can only hope.


  1. Where my blog post at?

    So much to discuss: can the Habs make the playoffs after the latest Markov setback? Will Martin last the season? Will Cammalleri come good anytime soon?