Last year it was a painful February western Canada trip which signaled the downfall of the Canadiens season. While it is hard to attach the same importance to this trip, there are many reasons for the new look habs to take their swing through Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton very seriously.
As many pundits have noted, the Canadiens’ season rests largely on the ability of Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak to keep the puck out of the net. Last year the western trip saw the Habs goaltenders falter. One wonders how long Martin will go with Price without getting Jaro into a game. You have to believe that he’ll allow Price to play in Vancouver on Wednesday, and as a result we will probably see Halak in Calgary tonight.
In order for the goalies to do their job, they will rely on the defense in front of them to clear rebounds and to make good decisions in clearing the zone. So far the Habs D has been good, although there have been areas where they will need vast improvement. Both Toronto and Buffalo were able to control pucks down low against Habs defenders. This led to very lopsided shot totals in both games. You have to believe that while Carey was able to weather the storm in the first two matches, the defensive corps needs to do a better job as the level of competition raises. Contrary to my prediction, Yannick Weber was called up to help with the loss of Markov and O’Byrne. While his offensive skills are desperately needed, Weber will have to show that he can be resposible defensively in order to stick with the club over more solid defenders in Carle and Belle.
Offensively I have only one suggestion for the Canadiens: SHOOT THE PUCK. Far too often in the early stages of the season have we watched the Habs forwards pass the puck around until they loose posession. In a tied third period on Saturday they officially managed one single shot. That is simply not good enough. Most of Mike Cammalleri’s 7 shots have come on the powerplay this season. He needs to shoot more and pass less if the Canadiens are going to succeed. Andrei Kostitsyn, Max Pacioretti and Scott Gomez have a combined 2 shots through 2 games. If the Canadiens continue to be outshot by a 2-1 margin we will not be talking about a winning streak for very long.
That’s all for now. I’m pumped to see the Habs against some of the stronger teams in the league in order to better judge where this team is in terms of ability. Go Habs Go!!