Monday, March 23, 2009

If only it were still January

Bob Gainey made a few moves at Monday's practice that may very well get the Habs going in the right direction, moves that I like on the surface, but moves that may very well have come too late.

Move #1
Bringing back Sergei Kostitsyn to play with Andrei is something that should have been done quite some time ago, because it's clear that Sergei makes Andrei an infinitely better player. I know, Andrei shouldn't need his little brother on his line to perform, but I don't think anyone can deny that's the reality of the situation. Sergei had better show the same intensity he did after his call-up last season, because I believe if he does his big brother's intensity will follow.

Move #2
Gainey said the line of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay was in keeping with his decision to bring up Sergei Kostitysn and send Max Pacioretty down to Hamilton, namely that he wants experience in the lineup. This line puts his three most experienced offensive players on the ice at the same time, as Gainey put it, but more importantly it makes it extremely clear which is the big line for the Canadiens. Practically all season, it was unclear who would play as the first power play unit, or when the team is down a goal in the final minute, but now there's no question. If it's not the Koivu line put into that situation, then the Canadiens problems are too deep to fix in 10 games.

Move #3
Gainey essentially designated the line of Glen Metropolit, Mathieu Dandenault and Christopher Higgins as his shutdown line, which is something the Canadiens haven't had all year, or at least not one that was this clearly defined. It could work, it might not, but at least there are three players on the team who know in advance that they will be expected to play a largely defensive role.

Move #4
Neither Georges Laraque nor Gregory Stewart will play Tuesday against the Thrashers, which means Gainey will legitimately have 18 skaters at his disposal to throw out there at any point in the game. With the way certain players have fallen asleep in the middle of games over the past weeks, if not months, having a full complement to choose from is more vital than ever.

Basically, what Gainey did at practice today was define roles for his lines, and that is something the players were saying was lacking while Guy Carbonneau was still around. There are now two scoring lines, an energy line and a checking line, which is how hockey teams are usually built. Granted, the idea of having three scoring lines came from Gainey to begin with because he's the one who was so desperately chasing Mats Sundin before bringing in Robert Lang essentially to centre a third scoring line.

The one thing I wanted to hear from Gainey that I didn't was that Jaroslav Halak would be his starting goalie Tuesday. He said he wanted both goalies to arrive to the morning skate prepared to play, but if Carey Price gets the nod I'm willing to bet the Habs lose. I don't care that Price played pretty well in that 2-0 loss in Atlanta that ultimately cost Carbonneau his job, and I also don't care that Halak gave up a few softies in that 5-2 loss to Toronto the other night. Halak needs to be given the net if the Habs are to have any chance of making the postseason because Price has squandered far too many chances to grab the reins.

1 comment:

Jody said...

I couldn't agree with you more about Halak. He really hasn't been given the space for his talent to grow in Montreal. It's a shame cuz I think he's a great goalie. ... I wonder if Laraque is going to make a stink about getting benched? That's the last thing they need.