Well, this is my 100th post on The Daily Hab-It, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask people for some feedback, what they like and don't like, what they'd like to see more of, stuff like that. If you don't like the blog I really want to hear from you, and if you do I'd love it if you told some friends about it.
Looking forward to seeing those comments.
Moving on to tonight's game, I won't be at the Bell Centre because my own team, the Dirty Walruses of the Concordia University Intramural Hockey League, has a game in that coveted 10 p.m. time slot. I don't get the chance to play often enough, so I thought I'd pass on the Lightning tonight and work up a sweat.
If the Lightning would care to send a scout to my game they might find someone who could compete for some minutes on Tampa's top-six defence, because it's really a sorry lot.
As far as the Habs go, when I saw the lines for tonight's game I couldn't help but think of something I wrote about back in September. It was concerning how Bob Gainey might want to proceed with the restricted free agent status of Christopher Higgins and Tomas Plekanec. At the time, I wrote that it might be a good idea to sign Higgins early but that in Plekanec's case it might be a better idea to see if he could repeat last season's breakout performance.
A third of the way through the season, and neither Higgins nor Plekanec are playing their way into lucrative contracts for next season. With Higgins on the shelf for the second time this year, his numbers and overall impact on the game have been pretty disappointing thus far when he's been healthy. Plekanec shows flashes of his former self, but it hasn't resulted in the production expected of him.
Neither player is struggling due to a lack of effort, and in Higgins' case I would say he's even trying too hard. That, to me, should be a big warning sign for Gainey because if there is one thing that has marked Higgins' career so far, it is his inability to forget a poor performance and move on to the next game. One bad game for him often times stretches into three or four because he tries to over-compensate more and more every time out. And when that becomes a full-blown slump, his look of exhausted misery in the dressing room after games and practices tells you all you need to know about how hard he takes it.
Higgins said prior to training camp that was one thing he wanted to work on this season, but he doesn't appear to have solved the problem.
Plekanec is truly a competitive guy and wants to succeed, but his problem so far this season has been the same one he identified in last year's playoffs, when he said he was playing "like a little girl." Of course, that was an exaggeration, but Plekanec often takes outside routes to the net which leaves him out of high-percentage scoring areas. He enters the zone with lots of speed, but then doesn't use that speed to challenge defenders into making a mistake, often letting them off the hook by trying to beat them outside. That might work against the Lightning tonight, but it won't against real, NHL-calibre defencemen.
Plekanec's linemate tonight is also playing for a contract next season, and Guillaume Latendresse has not done himself any favours with his play so far. He's been given every chance to succeed other than a permanent spot on the power play, yet he's squandered every opportunity given to him. Outside of a four-game point streak from Oct. 11-18, the Golden Boy has a goal and an assist this season.
Latendresse said in the pre-season that he drew inspiration watching Tomas Holmstrom and that he felt he "can make a living being around that net." Then again yesterday, Latendresse mentioned how he needed to "go hard to the net and stay there." Well, he hasn't done it on a consistent basis his entire time in Montreal, and he'd better start doing it tonight after a four-game forced rest or else his return to the lineup could be a short one.
There has to be some sense of urgency hitting each of Higgins, Plekanec and Latendresse, because I would imagine all three of them want to stay here next year and with all the unrestricted free agents Gainey has to sign, that might not be in the cards.
A third of the way through the season, one of the three needs to step up and make it impossible for Gainey to say no at the negotiating table in June.