Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Montreal Canadiens' fans, from left, Bruno Paradise, Felix Pilote and Pierre-Luc Lachapelle cheer for their team at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Wednesday, May 12, 2010 prior to game 7 of an NHL hockey Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Canadiens and the Pittsburg Penguins. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Montreal Canadiens' fans, from left, Bruno Paradise, Felix Pilote and Pierre-Luc Lachapelle cheer for their team at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Wednesday, May 12, 2010 prior to game 7 of an NHL hockey Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Canadiens and the Pittsburg Penguins. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadiens glad to return home Add to ...

The Montreal Canadiens made it to the Stanley Cup semi-finals because they were the hockey equivalent of music's British Invasion.

The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins refused to change their offensive tactics when confronted by the Canadiens and goaltender Jaroslav Halak and went the way of the American rock 'n' rollers who ruled the top of the charts in the early 1960s until they were swept away by the Merseybeat.

More Related to this Story

Now, the Canadiens are in danger of falling victim to the same stubbornness - although head coach Jacques Martin and his players insist there will be "adjustments" for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final on Thursday. There better be, as the Canadiens are down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series because they've refused to adapt to playing a bigger, tougher, more physical team in the Philadelphia Flyers.

For two games in Philadelphia, the Canadiens forwards - tiny by comparison to towering Flyers defencemen Chris Pronger and Braydon Coburn - declined to penetrate the forest of sticks and legs put up in front of goaltender Michael Leighton by the twin towers and their colleagues. The Canadiens also stuck to trying to carry the puck over the blueline when the Flyers took it away from them, rather than switching to the obvious remedy of flipping the puck into the offensive zone behind the defence and then fore-checking to create some scoring chances.

After they lost the second game on Tuesday, the Canadiens' mantra was "we outshot them and did a lot of good things," rather than discussing a way to penetrate the Flyers defence and finally score a goal. By Wednesday, though, sanity appeared to have prevailed, bolstered by consecutive shutout loses to the Flyers - although nothing will be known for sure until Thursday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Martin held a 45-minute meeting with his players and delivered two messages. First, he said he still has faith in them, even if they have yet to score a goal on Leighton, and they have survived tough times already this spring. Second, there will be changes to the Canadiens attack and their beleaguered special teams, which faltered badly in the first two games.

"I think we have to bring some adjustments to our game and that's why we had a 45-minute meeting today," Martin said. "After Game 1 [a 6-0 Habs loss] we brought some adjustments and I thought they were really positive in Game 2. Now, we need to bring other adjustments to part of our game to help us solve the problem."

So, coach, could you share those adjustments with us? Martin, whose public pronouncements are as studiously bland as his mind is sharp, blanched.

"Well, I think I will keep that to our team," he said after a pause. "That is part of the strategy of a team."

All Martin would say is his team was in a similar predicament in the first round, down 3-1 to the Capitals, and managed to come back.

"A lot of people in this room after Game 4 in the series against Washington weren't too optimistic of this group," he said, looking sharply at a group of media agnostics.

But Martin's players, bless them, practically spilled the beans. Then again, the answer is not exactly on the same level as finding the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem.

"Maybe get some more guys to him and in front of him," Canadiens winger Brian Gionta said of Leighton. He was then asked about dumping the puck in rather than trying to carry it over the blueline.

"Yeah, for sure, that's definitely one thing," Gionta said. "If you look at it, they play four [defencemen]pretty regularly. You need to tire those guys out and make it a long night on them. And our special teams need to be better at both ends."

However, lest Martin suffer a heart attack over the prospect of one of his players leaking carefully-laid plans, sketching a solution is easy. Actually doing it while a behemoth like Pronger is trying to remove your spleen on the ice is something else entirely, as Gionta noted.

"We need to make adjustments, for sure," the Habs winger said. "We've done that all playoffs. At end of the day, it comes down to execution and we need to do a better job."

Getting back into the series will also be helped, the players believe, by that singing, chanting, mob of fans at the Bell Centre.

"It's almost like you feel them pushing at your back when you're going down the ice," Canadiens winger Mike Cammalleri said.

Follow on Twitter: @dshoalts

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories