JACQUES MARTIN’S BENCH MANAGEMENT

May 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Canadiens, Stanley Cup Playoffs

It’s often said, “Nobody pays 150 dollars a ticket to watch NHL coaches coach.”

Outside of obvious line juggling, most in-game moves are subtle and difficult to fathom in the moment.

On Thursday night, the Canadiens trailed 2-1 entering the third period against the Penguins.  In the first two periods, Martin ran a traditional bench making use of all of four of his lines.     He had opened the period the same way.  The Gomez/Gionta/Pouliot line followed by Plekanec/Cammalleri/A. Kostitsyn and then Moore/Darche/Lapierre.  Lapierre tied the game with his wraparound goal at 2:40. 

At that point, Jacques Martin went to work.  He followed the Moore line with the regular Plekanec line, but when Gomez went out for his next shift Tom Pyatt, who had scored his first playoff goal in the first period, replaced Benoit Pouliot on left wing. Thirty-four seconds after the line was put together, Gionta banked a puck into the net off Kris Letang.  We were now at the 3:40 mark of the third period.  Canadiens outshooting the Penguins 5-2 in the period and faced with protecting a one goal lead. 

First Martin benched Glen Metropolit who had ten shifts through the first two periods, mostly with Moen and Pyatt. Twenty-three seconds after the Canadiens scored the go-ahead goal, Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke was sent off for tripping Mathieu Darche.  For the power play Michael Cammalleri was moved on to the line with Gomez and Gionta.  Gionta and Gomez had shots on goal before Gionta was given that questionable boarding penalty 1:12 into the power play. 

When the Penguins went on their power play, Martin used Plekanec and Kostitsyn up front, followed by Moore and Moen and then Plekanec and Pyatt.  The Penguins had two shots with the man advantage. 

Just over a minute after the Gionta penalty expired, the referees, who were clearly having a very bad night, infuriated the crowd by handing Mathieu Darche a penalty for tripping Ruslan Fedotenko.  Once again it was up to first Plekanec/Pyatt followed by Moore and Moen.  Two more Pittsburgh shots, no goal.  It was the last power play of the game. 

What was left was nine minutes of tension filled five-on-five hockey. Crosby and Malkin were on the ice four of the final five minutes of the game.    Up front, Martin put together a line of Plekanec, Moen and Pyatt.  They,  along with Gill and Gorges,  completely shut the pair down.  When the Plekanec line wasn’t  on the ice, Gomez/Gionta/Cammalleri had two shifts; Moore/Darche/Lapierre-3 shifts and Cammalleri/Plekanec/Kostitsyn with two shifts.  

The fact that Martin has so many players he can trust in game situations has made the Canadiens a very difficult team for the opposing coaches and  the biggest story of the 2010 playoffs so far.

Some statistics from the final even strength nine minutes as the Canadiens protected their one-goal lead.    The Canadiens outshot the Penguins 5-4.  They blocked three shots.   They outhit Pittsburgh 4 to 2.  Plekanec faced Crosby in the final four faceoffs of the game and won them all.  In the final minute with the extra attacker, the Penguins did not get a shot on goal.  Gonchar missed the net three times.  Sydney Crosby had one shot on goal in the period, that one during the Darche penalty.  Malkin’s only shot was on the third period breakaway at the 16 minute mark.

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