Thursday, October 9, 2008

A golden opportunity for the golden boy

So the Canadiens have taken off for Buffalo without Francis Bouillon, Georges Laraque and Christopher Higgins, which is not good news on the whole.

But as far as Guillaume Latendresse is concerned, this is a real opportunity.

Latendresse has had his best moments in a Habs uniform whenever he's had a chance to play alongside Saku Koivu, who has a unique ability to get the puck to players where they are most comfortable. Latendresse, for his part, is an above average talent when it comes to getting his hands on pucks in close quarters, and this is a perfect complement to Koivu's abilities.

If Latendresse can score against the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday night, he would probably earn himself another game on Koivu's wing in Toronto on Saturday. But even if he gets some chances and makes his presence felt in front of the net, as he's promised he'll do this season, I think Guy Carbonneau may just see the makings of a solid line.

Latendresse has spent most of his career playing with Maxim Lapierre at centre, which is not the best way to take advantage of his talents, and in fact makes his biggest weakness - his skating - even more apparent because Lapierre's game is predicated on dumping the puck and forechecking.

With Koivu and Alex Tanguay carrying the puck into the offensive zone, it will allow Latendresse to head straight to the front of the net instead of having to go dig in the corners to try and force a turnover. If he does establish that net presence - it still remains a big if because he hasn't done it consistently through his first two years in the league - Latendresse could be a perfect fit with two able playmakers.

If Latendresse were to become a permanent fit on Koivu's line, it shouldn't be seen as a demotion for Higgins, either. Adding his talent to Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn makes that line much stronger than if Latendresse were playing there, and I feel would bring more balance to the three scoring lines.

The role Latendresse would play on the Koivu line could be filled by Lang on this one, because those 37-year-old legs won't be able to keep up with Sergei and Higgins. I see Lang becoming the Habs' go-to guy on important faceoffs, so strengthening his line while not necessarily weakening Koivu's will only help Carbonneau in making the opposing coach's match-ups ineffective.

The opportunity has presented itself to him, now it's up to Latendresse to go grab it and run with it.


Sam said...

unless Lats scores in his own net tonight, you'll see him against Toronto and Philly because Higgins has not made the trip and is likely being kept safe to start in Montreal next week.

i really hope Gui gets it going because i can't stand watching him play. he looks lost out there. i wouldn't mind seeing Higgins with Sergei and Lang either. those two deserve some grit and talent and Higgins, imo, is it.

pierre said...

I was looking forward to catch the originally planned line of Koivu-Tanguay-Higgins in action because of their potential to be together one of the most exciting line to watch in the whole league..... I just love it when the puck control of a line is there as a result of the foot quickness and passing habilities of its members... it create a whirpool effect not found in any other sport
but hochey..... exhilarating stuff, something I am always craving for to see.

Aesthetic aside moving up lats might even up the scoring prowess of the two lines a ''little'' better.... althought in the end, Lang and Sergei are good puck control guys and seems appropriate choice to complement Lats as well.

One way or the other things will work out for everyone as long as Lats skating as improved and that is commitment to play a role in front of the net becomes a reality and perdure from game to game throughout the season.