Sunday, September 21, 2008

A vote of confidence

Day two of Habs training camp Saturday in Pierrefonds didn't have a ton of news, which is why some people thought it noteworthy that Alex Kovalev was playing on a line with Robert Lang in the first group of Canadiens to skate through some basic drills in front of a packed house of fans at the Sportsplexe 4 Glaces.

That wasn't all that significant, because Guy Carbonneau snuffed out the possibility of the two former Penguins linemates rekindling that combination, at least not to start the season. He clearly stated that last year's top line of Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Kovalev would start together because it would be "unfair" to the two younger guys to take Kovalev off the line.

For me, the most significant part of Lang's training camp line was that Guillaume Latendresse was skating opposite Kovalev. Latendresse has already stated he feels he has a job to lose in camp, and he said it again Saturday, but Carbonneau says that isn't the case at all.

When told of Latendresse's statement, the coach was pleased to see the 21-year-old from Ste-Catherine would be hungry, but he said in no uncertain terms that a spot on the Habs third line is reserved for him. He even went so far as to suggest that it might be in Latendresse's best interests not to overexert himself in camp trying to secure his spot.

In fact, as far as the coach is concerned, all nine forwards that will be playing on the top three lines are safe in training camp, and Carbonneau figures there are "five or six or even more" players fighting to play on the fourth line.

Based on the information made available Saturday, if I had to guess, I think the makeup of those three lines can be safely speculated on.

Carbonneau had Alex Tanguay, who said Friday he preferred playing on the left side, on right wing with Hamilton-bound youngsters Ben Maxwell and Max Pacioretty.

Carbonneau also said it would be tough for Latendresse to crack the top two lines, but the arrival of Lang would benefit him because it will allow the team to have three offensive lines.

I might be stretching a bit here, but based solely on those two bits of info I feel the top three lines will play out like this:

A. Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Kovalev
Higgins - Koivu - Tanguay
Latendresse - Lang - S. Kostitsyn

I've already declared my preference to have Koivu play between the Kostitsyn brothers and have Tanguay play with Kovalev and Plekanec, but I would be willing to bet Carbonneau will start the season with those three lines.

The fourth line remains a bit of a crapshoot, but a rotation of Georges Laraque, Tom Kostopoulos, Steve Begin, Maxim Lapierre and perhaps Kyle Chipchura or Mathieu Dandenault is on the horizon, and each of those five guys should be prepared to sit in the pressbox more than a few times this season.


pierre said...

The projected lines are '' ethically'' and '' fonctionally'' sound.... a good way to start the season, ( baring injuries or visa problems ).

Great blog Arpon,... now I wouldn't Hab-it any other ways.

ozymandays said...

Cool analysis Arpon! I hope Carbo and his boys also read your blog,-- they could use some intelligent kick-butts. Keep it up!

ozymandays said...

Thanks for the mind-boggling stats Arpon! Hope the coaching staff reads your blog and reads it out to the players and the management!