35 games into the season. What do you know about your Montreal Canadiens?
When they’re on – they’re one of the best in the East. They get crazy good goaltending from a guy everyone expected to fall flat on his face. They get a lunch-pail effort from an ageing defense corps who remain under-rated – even after an incredible post-season run last year. They have some exciting players in Plekanec, Gionta, Cammalleri. They have some head scratchers in Gomez, Pouliot, Kostitsyn. They have young defensemen learning the game, and making mistakes. PK Subban is an amazing talent – but will not even come close to winning rookie of the year honours. Yannik Weber is clearly ready for the challenge of playing defense in the NHL – but may not get that opportunity unless the coaching staff radically changes its patterns. Max Pacioretti is emerging as a legitimate blue-chip prospect – but will be lucky if he doesn’t receive the same ping-pong ball treatment that Lars Eller has gotten over the first 35.
One thing I do know – the Habs had better come out with a great effort tonight in Carolina. In Montreal, being on the verge of losing a playoff position is like the running through a thorn-bush and cannon-balling into a shark tank. The 9th place Hurricanes trail us by 6 points – but hold 2 games in hand. A win tonight would make it possible to knock the Habs from 3rd place – straight out of the playoff picture. That is not what this team needs, because while things have been hairy in the media lately surrounding the club – it would get downright ugly if the Habs are on the outside of the playoff tournament looking in.
From my perspective it is time to cut the “sending a message” routine. Its sink or swim time. Its time to put your best players all out on the ice and see what happens. Jacques Martin has been on a crusade to shake things up almost from day 1 of the season. Frankly, this team looks shaky enough. Its time to let your best players do what they do -and to get out of their way. I’m not trying to second guess Martin’s decisions, but the carousel act is getting tired for everyone involved.
Tonight the Habs need to come out flying – and create REAL chances early. That means not just shooting from the outside with the traffic – but taking the puck to the net. Its been a while since I saw a Montreal player try to work the inside ice. I’m not saying cut to the middle and drop pass. I mean take it to a scoring area and shoot! We’ll see what happens.
Go Habs Go!!!!