March Madness

Winless (and scoreless) in their last three games, the Canadiens will be looking for a much needed win at home tonight when they face the Atlanta Thrashers.

The bleu-blanc-rouge started the month of March on a high note; a four game winning streak that saw them defeat Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston. Nearing the end of the month though, it is a completely different story.

They have now fallen seven points behind Boston, who has a game in hand.

After crushing the Minnesota Wild 8-1 the Habs went on to lose their next three games, being outscored 11-0, including an embarrassing 7-0 blowout to the Boston Bruins.

Who is to blame for this?

It is impossible to point a finger at any one player in general. The forwards aren’t scoring, the defencemen aren’t defending. Carey Price continues to stand on his head in net but the team in front of him is not producing results.

A few months ago I posted a blog where I mentioned an interesting stat about Scott Gomez and the correlation between his time on the ice and the result of the game.

When Gomez has more than 18:40 minutes of ice time the Canadiens almost always end up losing.

At the time the Habs were 1-6-0 when he played more than 18:40 and 12-1-1 when he played less.

While studying the way the month of March has unfolded I’ve come to realize that this stat still holds true.

When Gomez has played more than 18:40 in the month of March the Habs are 2-6-0. When he has played less than that they are 5-0-0.

I’m not going to say Gomez is the one to completely blame for this. It’s not like he decides his own ice time.

The problem with Gomez is he is a defensive liability (hence why he is -16 on the season). His style is very offensive; he does not have a strong defensive mind set. However, with only seven goals to his name his offensive talent is being completely discredited.

When the Canadiens are down Gomez gets more ice time and the fourth line sits more solely based on this fact that he should be producing goals. This is why the ending result is a loss when he plays more. He just isn’t scoring.

When the Habs are leading Gomez sees the bench more because he is a defensive liability and he’s not needed on the ice. This is why the ending result is a win when he plays less. He isn’t on the ice to get scored on.  

As I mentioned in By the Numbers the best thing the Habs can do is keep Gomez’s ice time below 18 minutes a game. He’s proven time and time again that he is not going to be a high scoring player this season.

When Montreal and Atlanta last met on March 1, the Canadiens won 3-1. Gomez had 19:09 minutes of ice time and was +2. Hopefully they’ll see similar results tonight. They cannot afford to keep losing.

Justice for Patches

The NHL had yet another chance to show they are serious about their new stand on head shots and once again they completely flushed it down the toilet.

On Tuesday, the Boston Bruins were in Montreal visiting the Canadiens. Near the end of the second period 22-year-old Max Pacioretty was breaking out of the Habs’ zone when he was hit by the B’s captain Zdeno Chara.

The hit took place between the Home and Visiting benches where the stanchion is located. Pacioretty’s face went into the metal pole and he crumpled to the ice, unconscious. He was taken away from the game on a stretcher where he remains in hospital with a severe concussion and a broken neck (fractured, non displacement of the fourth vertebrae).

While Patches lies in a hospital bed with his neck in a brace, Chara is en route to the rink to take on the visiting Buffalo Sabres this evening.

Senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy decided not to suspend Chara for the hit that will likely leave Pacioretty sidelined for the rest of the season, if not the rest of his career:

“I conducted a hearing with Boston Bruins’ defenseman Zdeno Chara with respect to the major penalty for interference and game misconduct that he was assessed at 19:44 of the second period for a hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline. This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards. I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.

“This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface. In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

Could not find evidence to suggest that Chara targeted Pacioretty’s head…

Is that not Chara’s hand shoving Patches’ face into the stanchion? The proof is in the pudding:

I’ve done my ranting and screaming. I’ve unfollowed the NHL on Twitter and unliked them on Facebook. That’s about all I can do as a fan.

  1. It annoys me so much that the NHL gets to decide what Chara’s intent was. That should not even be a basis for a punishment. No one but the perpetrator himself would know what his intent was the moment he lined Pacioretty up for the hit.
  2. The hit itself was illegal, as was deemed by the referee when a five minute major was called on the play. Because the crime resulted in a severe injury there should have been a bigger consequence. For example: if you were to get into a fight with someone in a bar and punch them in the face and accidently cause them a broken neck or death there would be more severe charges against you. Your “intent” was not to break the person’s neck, but it happened and you are held criminally responsible for your actions. It is called accountability.
  3. Last season when Ovechkin was suspended for two games Colin Campbell told him “if you cause a player to be injured, then you have to be responsible for the play that you’re involved in, if there’s any carelessness or recklessness in it.”
  4. The NHL said they were going to get serious about head shots yet they are continuously ignoring them. It seems like once a week someone is being carted off the ice after a huge hit. Some commentators have said it’s going to take a death on the ice before the NHL smartens up. Well someone HAS died. Remember Don Sanderson? The 21-year-old rookie defenceman with the Senior AAA Whitby Dunlops of the Ontario Hockey Association died three weeks after hitting his unprotected head on the ice during a fight. Thankfully, Air Canada has stepped up and sent the league a message saying if they don’t do something about head shots soon they will withdraw their sponsorship. Well apparently money does talk because Kubina was suspended for three games by the league today for a hit to the head.
  5. In the NFL when a player gets a four or five game suspension they are losing a third of their season. It really makes them think twice before re offending. In the NHL a four or five game suspension is only 1/16 of a players’ season. Do you really think they care? NO.
  6. Sean Avery received a six game suspension for trash talking Dion Phaneuf’s girlfriend and James Wisniewski was handed a two game suspension after making inappropriate hand gestures at Sean Avery but Chara broke Pacioretty’s neck and walked away Scott free. What message is the NHL trying to send here?
  7. Campbell should not be allowed to hand any decisions down while his son is an active player in the NHL. Sure, he excuses himself from all Boston related matters (which is why Mike Murphy dealt with this case) but either way it is an absolute conflict of interest. Of course the other league VP is not going to want to piss off Campbell.

This topic has led to some very heated conversations with my fellow companions. It has brought NHL fans together, no matter what team they cheer for. Meanwhile I’ve also received comments that Montreal fans are only outraged because “they’re French and that is what they do.” All I have to say is grow up. True hockey fans that have respect for the game and the players in it rise to the surface in times like these. The meatheads who think they know everything also come out and it is when I realize who I should and shouldn’t associate myself with. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think the decision on Chara was legit and you have accurate arguments to back you up, I’d love to hear it but don’t start chirping about a persons’ nationality as your argument for why there should have been no suspension.

I wish Max Pacioretty good health and hope that one day he can return to the game he loves so much.

Habs fans mark your calendars. March 24 will be a night of retribution for Patches when the bleu-blanc-rouge head down to Boston. The Canadiens will beat them where it counts…on the scoreboard and in the standings.

Get well soon Patches, xox

Go Habs Go