New System, Same Results

By Chris Boucher
The Canadiens began the 2000-2001 season with new players, fewer injuries, and a completely revamped system. Unfortunately, they came away with similar results; An 8-4 loss at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.

Unlike last season the Habs did not use a passive trap. The passive trap is used to cause turnovers in the neutral zone. Instead, they’re now using a 2-man forechecking system, in hopes of causing turnovers inside the offensive zone. This system created more offensive chances, particularly with the Habs’ speed.

The forwards were also attempting to create scoring chances off the rush. Last year (especially when injuries decimated the team), the Habs would not attempt to score off the rush, instead choosing to dump it in the corner and create scoring chances with the down-low cycle. The team’s lack of size is not conducive to cycling the puck down low, which is part of the reason for the change.

The defensemen however, are not immune to the change in the system. This season the Habs’ defensive corps has the green light when it comes to pinching-in. Pinching-in is when the defenseman attempts to keep the puck in the zone as the other team attempts to break-out. Last season the defensemen rarely pinched-in, choosing instead to back out of the offensive zone, thereby not allowing many odd-man rushes.

The defense’s new-found freedom caused many more odd-man rushes against. But it also allowed more offensive opportunities, which is something the Canadiens lacked last season. In order for the number of odd-man rushes to be diminished, the winger on the far-side of the ice must recognize that the defenseman is pinching, and immediately head toward the neutral-zone. The wingers were weak in this regard against the Devils.

The Habs were not strong on the puck. New Jersey’s forwards were allowed too much time in the offensive zone. Craig Rivet, who needs to be physical in order to play at his best, did not register a hit. Christian Laflamme only registered 1 hit. In fact, the entire Canadiens’ defense dished out only 9 hits the entire game.

The powerplay was effective, going 3 for 7. Brian Savage led the team with 7 shots on goal. Saku Koivu looked strong. He skated well, and used the ice effectively. Jeff Hackett however, looked shaky. He gave up too many rebounds, which is a sign of a nervous goalie. Hackett and Garon combined for a .765 save percentage, allowing 8 goals on 34 shots.

One game does not make a team, and it certainly doesn’t make a system. The Habs’ new system will create more exciting hockey, and it will also create higher scoring games. But the important question is, “Will it create better results?”