Daily Hab-it: Reading between the lines
Published Friday, February 11, 2011 1:05AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
MONTREAL - In less than two years of attending Jacques Martin's post-game news conferences, I've learned that at times you need to do a lot of interpretation in order to draw any real meaning out of them.
Martin has patterns, pretty clearly defined ones if you're paying attention, so when he deviates from said patterns it makes you stand up and take notice.
One of those patterns is to avoid unsolicited praise.
Another is to avoid a journalist's invitation to publically criticize a player.
On Thursday night, Martin broke both those patterns following an understandably listless 4-3 shootout loss to the lowly New York Islanders and their fourth-string goalie Mikko Koskinen (fifth-string if you count Evgeni Nabokov).
Martin was invited to jump on the readily available excuse that his team left all their emotion on the ice in Boston, but he didn't.
"I thought we showed some emotion, I liked some of the things that we did," Martin countered. "Desharnais, Pouliot and White gave us a real strong game. Some of the kids have elevated their game and are emerging."
Well, there's an unsolicited compliment, compounded by a more general endorsement of the team's young players. Keep that in mind for later.
As for David Desharnais, he really has put together a couple of nice games here with a goal and two assists and a plus-3 over these back-to-back losses. Benoit Pouliot snapped a seven-game goalless drought on a great set-up from Ryan White, who in one game matched Tom Pyatt's production over his past 14.
A bit later on, I asked Martin what he thought of the response of the Scott Gomez line one night after they were benched for all but 37 seconds of the third period in a game where their services were badly needed.
Martin gave Gomez 17:02 of ice time, including 1:44 of Montreal's four minutes on the power play, and he played right until the bitter end with two shifts in overtime. Andrei Kostitsyn had similarly normal usage with 15:26 overall, 1:37 on the power play and two shots on goal. Lars Eller wasn't that far off the pace with 11:12 overall, but no time on the power play or in overtime.
Martin even went so far as to put the line in the starting lineup, giving them a chance to make up for a poor game right off the bat.
"Probably you want more out of those individuals," Martin said, before going into a canned response about reviewing the "tape" and making the necessary adjustments for the next game.
That response may sound mild, but for Martin to say anything remotely negative to that question is another break from his established behavioural patterns.
When you combine the two diversions from his own instincts, you have Martin pumping the tires of the Desharnais line and throwing the Gomez line under the bus – because that response is about as close as Martin gets to doing that.
Those adjustments Martin was talking about? I leave you to read into that what you will.
Injuries continue to mount
Meanwhile, Martin said Hal Gill and Mathieu Darche will probably miss Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs. Bad news.
The Canadiens cannot afford to lose Gill for any extended period of time, that much is obvious, but the loss of Darche would hurt significantly as well.
Darche has a lower body injury. I ran into him in the bowels of the Bell Centre after the game and saw nothing noticeably wrong, but that means nothing.
I asked him how he was doing, and his eyes simply got wide and he shrugged.
"We'll see tomorrow," he said, referring to Friday, which Martin has given his players off.
If the Canadiens lose Gill, listed with an upper body injury (if that helps), then the situation on defence becomes extremely desperate.
And Pierre Gauthier loses that much more bargaining power in his search for defensive help, if indeed that's what he's doing.
The last time we were left in the dark about an injury to a defenceman, Gauthier was busy working the phones to find a replacement.