5 on 5: When you outshoot the opponents 30-16, you can't be playing that bad. Sure we had a ridiculously long PP in the 3rd, but it's not like a bulk of shots came from that (i'll get to that in a minute). In general, we played the right way all game long, which is to say we fore-checked well, we created opportunities in around the net, and we limited the Caps' scoring chances. Unfortunately nothing went in, and the very few scoring chances the visitors had, they scored on. Washington has a very deep squad with a lot of highly skilled players, and it showed last night. The goals scored by Perreault and Johannson were ones you'd rarely see a Habs player score. The goal scored by Ovechkin was a picture perfect slap shot with an equally perfect screen.
The game overall reminded me a bit of our playoff tilt with the Caps 2 years ago, except with the roles reversed. There, it seemed like the Capitals game plan was shoot as often as possible and hope for the best. The Habs game plan was hit them hard in transition and win with speed and skill. Last night Washington scored exactly that way, taking full advantage on the counter attack on the few chances they had. Did they win? Yes. Did they play much better? Not really.
The PP: What can you say anymore? They literally have no idea what they're doing. Mix that in with not a lot of great PP threats and you have a real problem on your hands.
Solutions? Do some research and change it up. I remember telling a friend in November (or maybe even October) that they should watch tape of other teams and take some notes. Vancouver was an example of a team to check out, but maybe that was mistake because we have nothing that resembles their players on our team. Unfortunately, after a quick look around the league for similar quality players on the blueline and upfront, I came up with the Phoenix Coyotes. Where do the Coyotes sit in PP percentage? 29th, just ahead of us. So scratch that. How about the NY Islanders? They currently sit 6th in the NHL at 19.4%. That's pretty darn good. They have Mark Streit on D who is obviously quite good, but not really anyone that much better than us on D. Our forwards stack up pretty evenly, so then it must just come down to execution. I'm pretty sure that if Cunneyworth watched tape of their PP, one thing would become abundantly clear: They hit the net on a regular basis from the points. I could probably count on two hands the amount of wrist shots PK Subban has successfully hit the net with on the PP. To me, him and Weber are the big reason why they struggle so much. They simply don't have the wherewithal to consistently get the puck on net--it just doesn't come naturally to them.
Before this year, the Canadiens had traded for or signed a PP shooter early on in the season or just before. In succession, they acquired Mathieu Schneider, M.A. Bergeron, and James Wisniewski. All three of these players greatly improved the Habs PP. I remember it being night and day last year with the acquisition of Wisniewski, where we had gone 0 for god knows how many before picking him up. He instantly changed the fortune of the team.
This year? Tomas Kaberle. Since his arrival I think our team and PP has gotten worse. People would have laughed, but I bet this team would have been better off with Brian McCabe right now. As old and horrible as he is defensively, at least he could do the one thing none of the Habs' D seem able to do. Hit the net.
Hit the net. What a concept.