Monday, March 30, 2009

A good sign

I often think back to a question RDS reporter Luc Gélinas asked Guy Carbonneau last season after a particularly long series of inquiries on the make-up of his fourth line. Basically, that when reporters are asking you about the fourth line, it means things are going pretty well.

It allows me to keep a pretty good dose of perspective on things, because we can often get carried away by picking apart a single negative aspect of the team and turning into a scourge, one that threatens to shake the team's foundation to its core.

Monday in Brossard, that negative was the play of Tomas Plekanec's second line and how the Canadiens absolutely need production from him and the Kostitsyn brothers to continue their progression toward the playoffs.

This focus, to me, is an excellent sign.

Why? It means Carey Price has found his game, against all odds, and for that Bob Gainey should be commended for sticking to his guns and playing his franchise goalie despite all the signs pointing toward turning to Jaroslav Halak. It means the power play has resumed its effectiveness, with five goals on its last 18 chances, and by extension the first line of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay is humming along over the last three games. Gainey deserves a good deal of credit for that as well. It means the two checking lines centred by Maxim Lapierre and Glen Metropolit are doing their jobs and even pitching in offensively. Finally, it means the defence is showing signs of respectability again, led by a resurgent Mike Komisarek who apparently needed the threat of a healthy scratch to be convinced he needed to play better. Again, kudos to Gainey on that front.

If any one of those elements were still tanking, that would be the focus in Brossard on Monday. Instead, it fell to Plekanec and the Kostitsyns, which is an important element of the team, but not nearly as important when those just mentioned are working.

I personally believe the line will work itself out once its given a few games to actually play together, which hasn't really happened yet. They had that one game against Atlanta where they were unspectacular, then Andrei got sick, and here we are. So what's the problem?

Whenever the brothers have played together they've found a way not only to make some pretty magical stuff happen on the ice, but also to motivate each other. And Plekanec is the type of player who is always a perfect complement, not one who will necessarily insist on having the puck.

Yes, the Kostitsyns tend to pass to each other too much, but so do the Sedins, and every now and then the Canucks get a tremendous goal out of it. The biggest difference between the Sedins and Kostitsyns right now is the number of games they've played together. In terms of talent and potential for production, I would put the K brothers up against the twins, especially a couple of years from now.

So let's give them some time, like maybe two or three games? Is that reasonable enough? In the meantime, the fact this is the Canadiens biggest problem is a very encouraging sign, and just imagine what could happen when this is no longer a problem.

"That will be a bonus for us when they come in to play," Gainey said of the brothers K today. "I think they will, we need them. And when they do we’ll have a complete team to play with."

If that happens between now and April 11, the Canadiens could very well be a dangerous foe come playoff time.

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