Watching the CH get schooled 3-0 at the Bell Centre against a playoff rival whose players finished last night by nearly killing Jaroslav Spacek, I wonder if the game of hockey has passed Jacques Martin by.
It’s become abundantly clear over the past 63 games that the passive 1-2-2 trap isn’t an accident, some horrible aberration against which our valiant coaches fight day after day. We saw the same system under Guy Carbonneau. We’re seeing it again this year, so it should be the players’ fault, right? Except that Bob Gainey replaced half the team last summer in free agency, and the current Bulldog-augmented squad has even less connection to last year’s group.
Playing a 1-2-2 trap, with the forechecking forward high to the blue line and thus little real pressure on the enemy team below the hash marks, requires a willingness to be physical through the neutral zone. If you’re physical, you force turnovers. If you force turnovers, you counterattack with speed. You counterattack often enough and you’ll light the lamp more often than not.
Martin’s style reached its apotheosis in the pre-lockout NHL, when obstruction was a way of life and the red line made two-line passes a relatively rare phenomenon. You didn’t want a player to gain your zone? No problem. Get both hands on him, do your best mugger’s impression, and force play to a standstill. It’s the kind of hockey that brought us thrilling 0-0 ties between expansion teams in states without snow. I’m glad it’s gone. So are you, probably.
Post-lockout, you can’t lay two hands on a player without going to the penalty box. In today’s NHL, the 1-2-2 requires a level of strength, physicality, and positional awareness that our current forwards just don’t have. You ever notice that we have the most success when we use an aggressive two-man forecheck to force pressure down low? You ever wonder why that only happens once in a blue moon?
Depressingly, our previous GM, with the aid of our present GM, has hired a coach stuck in the ‘90s, and brought in players admirably unsuited for the system said coach is asking them to play. Oh yes, and those core players are overpaid and signed for the next five years.
Enjoy tonight’s game, folks. Because these will be your Montreal Canadiens for the foreseeable future.