I want to adress the team’s loss Saturday night to the Ottawa Senators. My reasoning is that up until only recently, all of the talk surrounding the Montreal Canadiens play in the first 10 games of the year centred around how well the team was playing while 5 on 5. This was significant because last year’s version of the club struggled so mightily. Rare were games in which the Habs managed to score more than 2 goals. Rare were nights in which the Canadiens managed to out-shoot their opponents. The reason for both of these deficiencies was that often the opposition dominated puck possession, using effective body-checking and neutral zone work to force the Canadiens into playing a dump-and-chase style which did not fit their little bodies and penchant for making one-too-many pretty passes.
I bring this up because: didn’t that game Saturday night remind you of something?
Granted, the Canadiens were playing their 2nd game in 48 hours. An “ambush” matchup against a rested Senator’s team after winning in Buffalo the evening before. Still, the Canadiens have been struggling of late and I can’t help but express my frustration with what I see as a few large issues with the club.
One is that for all of his fancy skating, and creative play-making, Scott Gomez isn’t doing the things he needs to do to break his slump. While the media has focused mainly on Gionta’s troubles finding the back of the net, it would be irresponsible not to note that Gomez’ sole tally this year was just about the flukiest, lame duck goal he’ll ever score. He’s currently only taking 1.5 shots per game, which has the effect of all but negating the seemingly hundreds that his line-mate Gionta puts up. Until the defense has to respect that Gomez might take a shot – they will always play him to pass, meaning only Gionta’s most perfect attempts will find the back of the net. Nothing will come easy – and that’s not what we’re going for when your team is near the bottom of the goals-per-game category.
The second issue I have with the Canadiens is the lineup. Jacques Martin is known for his defensive system which is fine by me. What kills me is his seemingly-purposeful-ignorance of how to get offensive players scoring in the NHL. Let me break this down for my man Jacques: throwing every 4th liner you have at Gomez and Gionta will not do the trick. You messed up your best line in order to try to get them going, and while Kostitsyn did everything he could to score – damage was done to the Plex trio in the process. For now, the PhD line – Halpern with Pouliot and Darche seems to be golden (amazing what constant lines will do huh?). I can’t be the only one in the universe that thinks that playing an offensively gifted player like Lars Eller next to Gomez is a better fit than trying to make Maxime Lappiere a top 6 forward… can I?
Of course Dustin Boyd will not get a shot. His play was bad enough in the previous few games to warrant being scratched and then waived by the team. Do I dare mention that his line-mate during the last game was also a minus-2 in 9 minutes of action – Maxime Lapierre? While Boyd finds himself on the verge of another club or the AHL, Lapierre this morning finds himself on the “top line”. Huh? Hasn’t the knock thus far on Eller been his defensive awareness? Lapierre has been utterly useless since the games stopped being against AHLers and Juniors.
My suggestion: if Pouliot has found a new home on the PhD line, Jacques Martin had better find on his squad a player with enough skill and grit to effectively compliment the Gomez and Gionta line. If Lars Eller isn’t that player – shouldn’t he be in the AHL learning how to be that guy? Shouldn’t we be calling up Aaron Pulashaj or Max Pac – guys who are currently tearing up the AHL and could potentially provide the required skills? I love Maxime Lapierre in a bottom 6 role when he’s skating and being physical, but he’s done neither so far this year.
Oh yeah, and the Canucks are in a 6 game winning streak.
Puck drops at 7:30.