Saturday night was a total heart-breaker. I decided to watch the game at Real Sports Bar in Toronto with a bunch of friends who had all heard about the Jumbo screens, and the fact that the place holds 1000 people. As is always the case in Toronto, there were many Habs fans in attendance. To my pleasure, our group which consisted of 3 Leafs fans, 2 Habs fans and 1 Sens fans were seated next to a table of 10 from Montreal. Things started out well.
It didn’t end how we would have wanted.
The positives were there: Eller has had a fantastic start to the year. He also played a heck of a game. While he only has 2 assists on the year, you get the sense that he’s going to have a break out season given how many chances he’s creating with his puck distributing skills. His pass to Moen to get the game rolling was a beauty.
Speaking of Moen – he currently leads the team in scoring. His 4 goals are double that of Plekanec, Kostitsyn, and Pacioretty (all of whom he is tied with for points – 5). Not that I expect him to continue – but credit the guy for finding his scoring touch early while his teammates stumble and fumble.
Andrei Kostitsyn has also had a solid start to the season. He had a goal and an assist in Saturday night’s game and looked very dangerous on numerous plays. He’s also one of a select few Canadiens who can go into a corner and come out with the puck.
The Negatives were also there: Brian Gionta has a goal and three assists to start the year which isn’t terrible. What is terrible is how often in this young season Gionta has put his team is a tough spot by taking penalties. His four minor penalties lead the team in a category that the Captain has no business leading. This is especially critical because Montreal’s penalty kill has been downright terrible to start the year. Montreal currently ranks 20th in the league with an 81.2% rate of efficiency. So far this has led to some pretty deflating goals which has clearly hurt the team’s ability to close out games.
The powerplay has also been bad. How bad? When is the last time you remember Montreal having the 2nd worst powerplay in the entire league? What is the deal? Up front we’re getting some chances, but on the whole Montreal’s powerplay has been far too content to play a perimeter game which has led to turnovers, and easy zone clearances. When we have gotten shots on net, there has been no ability to bang in rebounds. That is the kind of combo that will kill you.
That brings me to the coach. Martin can’t jump on the ice and bang in a rebound, but he can put the correct players on the ice in order for that to happen. Thus far in the season, Martin has used Eric Cole for an average of 1:40 of ice time per game on the powerplay. That is simply not good enough – particularly when Mathieu Darche is also getting just under 1:40. Lars Eller? He’s played 2:20 on the powerplay for the ENTIRE SEASON. I love what David Desharnais brings to the game, but it is critical to powerplay success that you have guys who can go into the corner and win puck battles to extend possession in the offensive zone. It has been the powerplay’s greatest weakness over the first 7 games and to have both Eller and Cole on the bench during those battles has led to predictable outcomes.
Tonight the Habs welcome the Panthers to the Bell Centre. The Panthers are currently enjoying close to 30% success on the powerplay….
Can the Habs figure out their issues tonight? Lets hope so – because if the Canadiens don’t start to reel in the pack they’ll be left behind for good.
Go Habs Go!!!