Thursday, November 20, 2008

Five Issues

The roller coaster season is just getting going but doom and gloom abound in Montreal. Finger pointing is at a season high right now for a team that's 10-5-2 through 17 games. It's impossible to pinpoint the exact problem but that won't stop me from trying. Here are the top five issues plaguing your Canadiens.

5. Mike Komisarek - Komisaurus has been sorely missed since injuring his shoulder last Tuesday in Boston but the fact is that his play up to that point left something to be desired. Uncharacteristic turnovers and a lack of confidence against the forecheck have been a big part of his young season and in his absence, Andrei Markov just doesn't seem to be the same player.

4. The new arrivals - Plans for the Stanley Cup parade began during the offseason when Bob Gainey acquired Alex Tanguay from Calgary, Robert Lang from Chicago and singed free-agent Georges Laraque. Obviously plans have been put on hold indefinitely as the three have struggled to find their places on this team. Tanguay leads the Habs in goals and points but he has struggled in the last two games, not registering a shot in either of them while he adjusted to playing with Alex Kovalev. It appears that experiment is over as Guillaume Latendresse rejoins Koivu and Tanguay on a line that had success during the Habs 8-1-1 run to start the season. Lang is great around the net but his lack of mobility can be an issue when he's not paired with the right linemates. Laraque is a force when he drops the gloves but a -4 rating isn't and the Habs 4-4-1 record with him in the lineup is a troubling stat. (6-1-2 without)

3. Coach Carbonneau - Carbo was a favourite for coach of the year last year but this year he's gotten back to his line-juggling ways of two years ago, a time when things were much more difficult for the team. Implications that he could be losing the room are beginning to circulate. Such claims are premature but a team can only underperform for so long before the coaches grasp of the room comes into question. Oh how I long for the glory days when the only questions we asked about the coach were whether or not he would wear a certain tie on gamenight.

2. Missing chemistry - Last year's Habs were a loose bunch that had fun together whether in practice, during games or even hanging out together off the ice. This year's edition is still trying to find their identity but it's certain that they aren't having as much fun as they were a year ago. Lofty expectations, several players in the last year of their contracts and a lack of cohesion between linemates are all very real factors. With so many guys playing for contracts, competition for ice time and unhappiness with power play minutes could very well be coming into play and that's a bad sign this early in the year. With so much offensive firepower to play with there's bound to be unhappy campers every game.

1. The Kovalev line - Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn were the Habs unquestioned number one unit last year. The arrival of Alex Tanguay changed that as he and Saku Koivu became two-thirds of the top unit. Andrei's struggles come on the heels of a new three year deal signed on the offseason and it's possible AK46 is having trouble with claims of his emergence as the dominant forward he was projected to be when he was drafted 10th overall in 2003. Plekanec is playing without the confidence that made him a 69 point guy a year ago. Kovy is Kovy. He has never benefited from Carbo's line shuffling and he isn't benefiting from it now. Carbo needs to find a comfort zone for his best player and soon. It's no coincidence the Habs best regular season in recent memory coincided with the Artist having his best year since his glory days in Pittsburgh.

Now that I've joined in the finger pointing it's time to kick back and enjoy the show tonight. The Habs and Sens have been two of the leagues' least potent offenses so far this month only one year after they were 1-2 in goals scored across the entire league. Something's gotta give and Habs fans are hoping it's Sens goalie Alex Auld who loses the showdown with Carey Price.

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