Monday, October 27, 2008

The virtues of patience

If Andrei Kostitsyn gets the go ahead from the doctors Tuesday, Guy Carbonneau will have a full lineup for the first time this season when the Canadiens host the Hurricanes at the Bell Centre. It will be everyone's first shot at seeing this vaunted attack running with all its parts, but I'm more curious to see how Carbonneau's patience will be tested.

Last season, before he found the winning combination of playing Alex Kovalev with Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, Carbonneau rarely went a game without changing his lines. More often that not, at least prior to last Christmas, Carbonneau rarely even finished a game with the same lines he started with.

The coach has a lot of qualities, but patience isn't exactly one of them, and I'm wondering how long that trigger finger is going to sit idle. Up until now, Carbonneau hasn't had a reason to change the forward lines. The team was winning, the new line of Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Guillaume Latendresse was clicking, and he didn't even have all his forwards at his disposal.

Now, if indeed Kostitsyn plays Tuesday night, Carbonneau will have all his horses, and the team is coming off a loss where a series of neutral zone turnovers by the forwards led to a bunch of goals.

Will Carbonneau allow the lack of production from the top line to continue much longer before making a change? I'm tempted to believe he will smply because he has all of last season to draw on. But, as colleague Francois Lemenu pointed out Sunday, there is a certain Robert Lang who has a well documented bit of history playing with Kovalev, and if he takes much longer to get going, Carbonneau may become tempted.

There's also the repeated evidence of how well the Kostitsyn brothers play together that could lead Carbonnau to shake things up. In theory, while keeping the Koivu line together Carbonneau could evetually try playing Kovalev with Lang and Christopher Higgins while sliding Sergei Kostitsyn up to play with Andrei and Plekanec.

I'm not saying Carbonneau would do this Tuesday night, but what I am saying is that if the top line doesn't get going soon the coach will not wait much longer to act. And one of the line's final chances to make an impression could be against the Hurricanes, assuming Andrei can play.


Sliver24 said...

It's nice to have a group of forwards that can be shuffled around in almost any combination and make three great offensive lines.

While I tend to feel that most NHL coaches start to play with the lines much too quickly, at least Carbo is in a position where has a lot to work with.

If Carbo (and the fans and media) gives Plek, Kovy and AK46 enough time they'll eventually break out of their slump. All players and all lines go through ups and downs - theirs just happens to have come right at the start of the season. And it's not like they're not showing promise, they just haven't been able to finish thus far.

Keep your hand steady on the tiller Carbo. You're already going in the right direction.

Arjun said...

I've always liked your lines better. The team still doesn't look right. I don't know that Lang-Kovalev will make sweet music but the two brothers will, we've already seen that, and we have to get Pleks going because he's holding his stick so tight it's about to shatter in his hands.

Anonymous said...

i think pleks is the key to getting that line back on track. here's hoping he finds his confidence and soon!