Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Descension to Panic Mode

So I haven't posted in a few days. This is a product of my inability to talk coherently about the Habs when they're failing miserably. The Canadiens were lucky to take a point from a tired Tampa Bay Lghtning team tonight but at the same time, Tomas Plekanec's brilliant late goal gave Hab Nation another painfully short whiff of what could be with this team.

The fact is, there isn't a dominant player on this team.

Look at the roster, up and down and see it. There are guys who may have been projected, at one time or another, to be brilliant but the fact is that they're not there. There aren't any Alexander Ovechkins on this team but there are encouraging signs.

Not enough to make this team a bona fide contender right now.

I'm a Tomas Plekanec guy. I have been since the Habs played the Carolina Hurricanes and had them on the ropes a few years back before Saku Koivu caught Justin Williams stick to the eye and turned the series around. Plekanec was, in my view, the best Canadiens forward in that series. He won faceoffs, battles and got points. He's capable of doing amazing things given the opportunity.

For me, the problem is that the opportunities aren't there.

Take Tampa as an example. It's plain to see that coach Tortorella leans heavily on Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards to get it done for him. Those guys get about 40-45% of the ice time for their team and the formula has yielded mixed results. One of those results was a Stanley Cup.

Alex Kovalev plays about five minutes less per game than he did during his best years. Same goes for his linemates, and you could say the same for Koivu and Higgins.

For me, Koivu, Higgins, Kovalev and Plekanec and to a lesser extent Andrei Kostitsyn are catalysts for the forwards and their success on this team. I'd like to see the coach lean on them for a lot more minutes than he does.

If the Habs get scored on and relinquish a lead or fall behind, I don't want to see Tom Kostopoulos or Mathieu Dandenault on the ice. I like those guys, but they're around to get 6-11 minutes of ice per game, shut down the opposition and kill penalties, not to create offense.

People talk about the political climate, taxes and the media as factors that weigh in on why top players don't want to come to Montreal.

That may be somewhat true, but guys also don't want to come here because they're going to get 14-17 minutes of ice time and be expected to produce in a big way. The system is good in theory, but let's be honest, you have to lean on your best players to get results. Scoring isn't going to spread out between everyone evenly. The Habs should be getting most of their offense from five or six guys.

Look at the Red Wings. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are out there killing penalties and doing everything else. You have to lean on your top guys.

The fact that Andrei Markov has stopped producing has me mystified. He now has two points in his last eleven games. He had 17 points in the 19 games before.

This, to me, is an obvious reason why the Canadiens are stinking up the joint.

They were awful tonight and need to either make changes right now or give up on the season and hope for a high pick in next year's draft, which is alleged to be one of the deepest in years.

Let's hope the Habs don't take another David Fischer this time around.

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