Friday, November 6, 2009

Running out of chances Part Deux

So just when you thought maybe Carey Price wasn't what he was made out to be, he comes up with a 42-save gem to steal a win in Boston.

Now, maybe it's time for Guillaume Latendresse to do the same thing.

Watching him circle around the net with the puck over and over again Thursday night in Beantown got me thinking whether or not the Golden Boy will ever understand what he needs to do to establish himself as an effective player in this league. Instead of circling the net, why isn't he bulldozing his way to the front of it? Or better yet, why is he even carrying the puck to begin with? That's not the strength of his game, and frankly, I'm starting to wonder what exactly that strength is.

It's supposed to be his physical play, yet for a second game in a row Latendresse was credited with only one hit the entire game. That's nowhere near good enough, not when he gets 20 shifts in a game. His strength is supposed to be his hands in tight quarters around the net. Except he's never there, and his 24 shots on goal through 16 games shows that even when he is, he's not really effective at getting his hands on pucks. Also, I don't think I've ever seen anyone who is worse at tipping pucks in front of the net. More often than not, he winds up blocking the shot rather than re-directing it past the goalie.

Perhaps it's time for Jacques Martin to put him on the fourth line like he did with Andrei Kostitsyn, because ever since he did that, AK46 appears to be finding his game. He's getting physically involved, creating turnovers, getting (a few) more shots on goal and generally making himself a lot more noticeable on the ice.

Latendresse has had a few games playing with Tomas Plekanec and Max Lapierre on what is supposed to be the Habs second line, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Latendresse demoted the next game. He was on that line at practice today, but Brian Gionta got another therapy day, which meant Kostitsyn took his spot on the top line. But if Gionta dresses Saturday night against Tampa, you would have to imagine Kostitsyn would drop down a spot to play with Plekanec.

While the natural selection for a demotion would be Lapierre, I think he's starting to find his game a little, no doubt inspired by his hatred of the Bruins that had him at his agitating best Thursday night. When you think about it, that quality is pretty well suited to the gentler natures of Plekanec and Kostitsyn. That would leave Latendresse to drop down and play with Tom Pyatt and Ryan White, which might make for a pretty decent combo if Latendresse decides it's time to play as physically as he did last year, when he averaged 2.5 hits per game. This year, that number is down to 1.9 per game.

Speaking of Pyatt and White, I was pretty impressed with their games Thursday night, which is bad news for Gregory Stewart and Kyle Chipchura because I think Martin was impressed as well. I'd be shocked if both of them weren't back in the lineup on Saturday.

I thought Mathieu Carle was also much better in his second game, making a number of smart decisions and sound defensive plays. I don't know if today's waiver claim of Jay Leach means Carle should be worried about his spot in the lineup, but I hope not. Because if the Habs are going to dress a mistake-prone defenceman, I'd rather they do so with a 22-year-old prospect than a 30-year-old minor-league journeyman.

While the question of who will be starting in goal is a constant one with the Canadiens, I don't think there is much debate as to who will be front and centre Saturday night. If it's not Price, I'd be stunned. Which means you should probably expect to see Jaroslav Halak.


Phoff said...

The big issue with Latendresse, IMHO, is his lack of speed. It affects every other part of his game, especially his hitting.

As for Leach, I hope he replaces Bergeron and not Carle (unless MaB is on a one-way contract, of course. I can't remember). Why not call up Weber and/or Belle?

nk said...

i'm not at all impressed with lapierre yet. at least he's being an agitator because no other facet of his game is working right now, imho. i know he'll find his timing but right now he's poor on the backcheck and worse on the forecheck. i'd get him off our second line asap.

Anonymous said...

you expect too much of these players. lapierre is playing out of position in an offensive role. he is not an offensive player! comparing latendresse to ryan malone is also unfair because he has spent his career playing with crosby and lecavalier. gui isn't a checker because that has never been a great part of his game, and right now he is too slow to be a top 6.