Game 14 Preview: Mike Komisarek comes to town, Habs vs. Leafs round 2!
Another night, another game...
Oh wait, the Leafs are in town? That's a totally different story! And despite both these teams not being overly impressive to start the season, (an understatement when it comes to the Leafs), there are still some very interesting storylines being set up in this one. Besides the obvious one, which we'll get into a little later, both teams are looking at dismal performances as of late and are looking to get back on track in front of a hot crowd tonight at the Bell Centre.
Both teams are going to have to do a lot of things differently if they expect to win tonight or any game in the future, and both teams face different problems coming into tonight's tilt:
THE LOSER LEAFS?
A 1-7-3 record is never fun to look at when you're the fan of a team. But, admittedly, even as a Habs fan and a professed Leafs hater, you have to admit that this record is much worse than what the Leafs can accomplish, or how they've been playing. Admittedly, they have been playing better as of late and could have picked up a few more wins over the last couple of weeks.
And it all comes down to three glaring holes in their play:
TOO MANY PENALTIES!
The Leafs take over 17 minutes of penalties every game, one of the worst teams in that stat. Moreover, their penalty killing is literally the worst in the league at 63%. Now, I may not be that smart, but logic would probably dictate that when you take a lot of penalties, and your penalty killing isn't all that great, the solution would be to take less penalties, no? I don't know if this team's management is still preaching truculence and belligerence to this group, but if they are, then someone needs to be fired.
Clearly truculence and belligerence has translated into, basically, stupid penalties, and more poweplays for the opposing teams. There has already been speculation about how solid Ron Wilson's job is, and while Brian Burke has stated that he would fire players before firing Wilson, one has to wonder if that's the right message to send to anyone. It makes the players think that the coach is more important that they are, and it makes Wilson think he should continue to do what he's doing. And if what he's doing is allowing his team to take so many penalties, that needs to change.
Last night agains the Sabres, Matt Stajan took a penalty with less than two minutes left in the game. Somehow, the Leafs pull the Monster and manage to score and tie up the game, but the Stajan penalty costs them the game in overtime. Go figure.
NOT ENOUGH SCORING
Another simple one... to win games, you need to score goals. And the leafs are cellar dwelling when it comes to goal scoring, as the worst team in the league for goals for. Moreover, beyond Hagman, there is a logjam of players with 3 and 2 goals on this team, but that isn't good enough. And it's a shame, because the Leafs have the league's second best powerplay and averaging over 30 shots a game. This situation will obviously be helped by Phil Kessel's return, but clearly there are some issues with how the Leafs run their offense. You don't become the league's lowest scoring team by fluke.
Leafs fans will tell you that the Monster has been good, and while he hasn't been bad, his numbers aren't that great. He seems to have won the spot as number one goaltender for now, even with Toskala making his first start in a while tonight at the Bell Centre, but if the Leafs don't start scoring more goals, he isn't going to be getting them many wins. Joey MacDonald was given a chance after he gave Don Cherry a raging hard-on early in the season, but he hasn't been able to accomplish anything for the league. And Toskala? Well he just sucks, of course.
So how does this team remedy their goaltending situation? Naturally, they're going to ride Gustavvson for all that he's worth, and that's what they need to do. And while they're keeping their shots against totals under 30 most nights, and their penalty killing seems to be the source of a lot of their goals against, fixing their goaltending situation might be easier said than done...
All that being said, can the Leafs beat the Habs tonight? They certainly can. Do they need to? More than the Habs need to beat them, probably. Will they beat the Habs? All the above considered, it's doubtful.
Not much to say about the Habs to be honest. Last night was a tough loss, as the way they came back from a 2-0 deficit to rally against the Hawks before losing the game on a Patrick Sharp goal late in the game was impressive. But they didn't play a 60 minute game, which upset Mike Cammalleri, who went as far as saying that the Canadiens need to play with a sense of urgency tonight (didn't he say that two weeks ago?)
“I thought we were too easy to play against tonight and that’s not acceptable,” said Cammalleri, who scored his sixth of the season and has a team-leading 13 points.
“Carey (Price) stood on his head again and we have to play better in front of this guy.”
“We had a little momentum for a short period of time,” he added. “We start doing some good things for a short period of time, but it’s not good enough for a whole game. It’s disappointing to give those two points up.”
“We play tomorrow night at home and there’s no excuses,” Cammalleri said. “We’re at home and we’re playing against the Maple Leafs. We have to come with it to tomorrow night. I want see a better sense of urgency out of our game.”
And while one may or may not agree with Cammalleri's choice of words, he brings up some very good points, and I'll leave you guys to make your own conclusions about what the Habs need to do tonight...
Only other notes are not confirmed:
- Matt D'Agostini left the game last night after a dirty hit from Andrew Ladd, no word on whether he'll be in tonight. If he's out, Greg Stewart takes his place.
- Elliot Freedman confirms Halak between the pipes.
- Habs will be wearing the barbershop jerseys for Halloween. They are winless in them.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
"I'm sure it's going to be loud," he said, "but I don't think it's going to be open arms. ... It's not like it's Brett Favre is back in town."
From the man himself in an interview with Marc Shalhoob today.
I think that quote speaks for itself, and I'll let the Bell Centre's reaction do the talking tonight.
Final Prediction: Canadiens 7 - Leafs 3
Simply put, Habs vs. Leafs on a Saturday night at the Bell Centre... I'm going to be a homer. :)
Enjoy the game folks.