Montreal Canadiens’ Right Moves at Deadline

It was a staple of Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy career for over 40 years. ”I don’t get no respect.” A routine based on a rancid marriage, ungrateful kids and dead end jobs. No matter how hard Rodney tried, he always ended the butt of the joke. ”Never got no respect.”

The defensive side of the game is a lot like Rodney Dangerfield. Good defensive work is a sight unseen. Unlike a Max Pacioretty breakaway goal, there is nothing to anticipate, nothing to cheer at. There are no recorded stats and no leaderboard for goals prevented. After all not every blocked shots would have been a goal, not every poke check prevents a 2-on-1, the +/- differential is circumstantial, and there are no trophy given at the end of the year for good positioning.

Other than the odd 125 foot backcheck on a breakaway or the 2-on-1 blocked shot, the defensive plays that jump to the eye of the viewer are mistakes. When turnovers do occur in the defensive zone, when an attacker is left wide open, when over-zealous zone clears turn to icings or a quick pass intercepted. No one noticed the 134 good plays, millions saw the mistake. Only then will defense become a talking point.

-”Trade Emelin!”

-”P.K. Subban is a defensive liability!”

-”For fuck’s sake Gilbert!”

Defense is more than the defensemen, especially for the Montreal Canadiens. Defense is a team concept, from Max Pacioretty to Carey Price, everybody chips in. Everybody is responsible for the score on the board. Not just Price, not just Price and the D-corps, not just Price the D-corps and the bottom 6, it’s everyone. The fact that the Kessel to Montreal idea got any traction is a good example of how people don’t quite understand how the Habs play.

In Montreal’s Defense

The moves made by the Montreal Canadiens on March 2nd left many fans on their appetite. Dismissing the moves as ”small time”, Minor deals that don’t help Montreal’s need of scoring.

Sure, the moves made by the management did not help to make the Habs a more dangerous threat in the offensive zone. It won’t be easier for the Montreal Canadiens to score three goals but it got a lot harder to score three goals on them.

It’s All Right For the Montreal Canadiens

The four players acquired by the Habs are vastly different from each other. Different skill sets, different sizes, different backgrounds, but they all have a very important point in common. They are all right-handed shots.

Two reasons why that is important:

1. According to , the success rate of shots in the 2013-14 playoffs was 9.24% for all skaters, 10.17% for forwards, 6.54% for defensemen. A good majority of those shots are taken from below the faceoff circles. A majority of defensemen’s shots come from the point, especially on the power play. Since it’s the forward’s job in the defensive zone to contain the defensemen, a majority of whom are left-handed shots, a right handed forward can block that shot by simply keeping the blade of his stick on the ice parallel to the left-handed shooter and deflect it or keep it on the stick for a quick zone break-out.

Here’s an example from the March 2nd game against the San Jose Sharks, exactly what Devante Smith-Pelly was supposed to do and didn’t, leading to the Sharks’ third goal.

2. Positional changes. It is easier to open up for a one-timer when you are off-wing. By having both a left-handed and right-handed shots on the same line, they can both move off-wing without creating a hole down the middle. Smith-Pelly can and has played both right and left-wing. Mitchell and Flynn can both play centre and wing. Those that despise Michel Therrien’s line juggling, will have to learn to like it and learn to live with it because it has only just begun.

Petry-fying Defense

With the arrival of Petry, All three defenseman on the right side are right-handed shots. Again this is for the sake of quick zone break-outs. In recent years, the Montreal Canadiens did not have the luxury of having right-handed defensemen other than P.K. Subban. This allows everyone to play within their comfort zones and be more efficient.

A left-handed defenseman moved to the right will have to re-adapt and go against what he learned to do his whole life. Even the best of them will tell you that even though they’ve adjusted, it still doesn’t feel natural and that the game feels faster to them and feel less in control.

Added to the constraints are the danger of a left-handed defenseman playing on the right side coming from behind the net or dumping the puck at the opposing team’s blue line. Their back turned to the play, they are in a vulnerable position as they don’t see who might be coming. The danger of being rocked by a big hit and turning the puck over is very real.

While a right shot would dump the puck out immediately, a left shot playing right might take an extra second to go backhand-forehand before dumping it out. Sometimes the advantage in hockey is just that, one second. By having three left-handed defensemen on the left side and three right-handed defensemen on the right side, you improve the efficiency of your defense corps and their quickness to clear their zone. For the Montreal Canadiens, speed kills.

 Wheelin’ And Dealin’

The Habs don’t play a possession game but a transition one. Offense to defense and back again. Hundreds of quick plays to push their opponents to create an opening and then quickly taking advantage of it. Waiting and countering in the neutral zone until the chance for a breakaway or a 2-on-1. Opportunistic and unpredictable.

At the Trade Deadline, the Montreal Canadiens’ management took what made them dangerous and made it lethal. The quickness in skating and play making of their forwards, defensemen playing on their strong side, overall team defense (forecheck and backcheck). All this added to Carey Price in net, The Montreal Canadiens should not be in a position where they need to score five goals to win a game very often.


10 thoughts on “Montreal Canadiens’ Right Moves at Deadline”

  1. Terrible decision picking up Devonte (good grief…). You already had the mythical, future hall-of-famer, better than Orr ever thought he was, etc, PKS. Adding another will poison the room. But as an opposing fan, hey, I LOVE it…

    • “Adding another”…another what exactly? I think your white sheet is ready to pick up from the cleaners.

      • White sheet? Oh, I get it! Relax, kitten. Just wait and see. Now you’ve got TWO overrated Dmen. Enjoy.

        The Rangers just parted ways with “The Duke”-(tm), another future hall of fame, “can’t miss”, “sure thing”, etc…One NY writer actually wrote that they gave up on a guy “who might have lighted the Garden for years, who owns the potential to be a transcendent (lolol!), Haitian-Canadian (??) star, a cross-over (??) attraction”. Get that? For obvious reasons, a guy who was passed over by plenty of teams due to a rep of being “lazy”, was still going to be supernatural. Now why would that be?

        Anyway, I suppose the Rangers ought to start wearing white sheets, too?

        • I guess what you are really saying is that you don’t like black players.
          Why don’t you just say it ? You must not be a fan of hockey if you cannot recognize how good PK is , or is it just blinding racism ? Shame on you.

          • What blinding racism?

            I see certain players who are valued far beyond what they deliver (or in “Duke’s” case, what they MIGHT some day, TRANSCENDENTALLY, deliver). Why do you suppose that is? THAT is what i don’t like.

            PK is a very good player, with obvious, and easily pointed out, deficiencies. He is in no way a great player, local fans opinions notwithstanding. Yet he is fawned over as the next coming. Again, why do you suppose that is?

            • So I suppose he is ” fawned over ” because he is black ? I don’t think so.
              He is fawned over because he is the most electrifying player in the NHL, not withstanding his deficiencies, which by the way he shares with EVERY other player in the league. There is no perfect player, not even Orr, who by the way, as great as he was, often gave the away the puck.
              As for The Duke, the Rangers gave up a player with skill and great speed and they will rue the day that this trade was made, just as the Habs rue the Gomez -Macdonough trade.

            • That is exactly why he is fawned over. If he wasn’t black, he’d be “a solid player, who has some great moments, blablabla…”, and not a superstar.

              As for “Duke”, if you watched him in the pre season, he spent more time gliding than busting it, looking more like a 10 year vet than a kid trying to make the big time. Look it up, teams passed on this “incredible, can’t miss talent!”, because he had a rep for being lazy (deserved? No idea. But NHL teams don’t often pass on can’t miss superstars…).

              ***BTW, there is nothing wrong with having these discussions. They are still legal in The States (although probably not for long), no one is tossing around the dreaded “N” bomb, and no one is being harmed.

              Enjoyed the go ’round. All the best…

            • All in good fun….. but I have to say in his defence that I watched him ( Duclair ) closely during the World Jrs and he was consistently excellent thru the tournament. I only wished that the Habs had taken him instead of that lug they took instead.

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