Watching the Canadiens against Carolina last night was a painful experience. Carey Price was outstanding but the signs of trouble continue to multiply for this group. Guy Carbonneau's revamped lines have provided no inspiration for the team and his post-game comments are becoming more and more ridiculous. The coach is running out of ideas fast and the catastrophic November continues tomorrow night for this team.
After a shootout win on Sunday, Carbo said "everyone played really well, I thought it was one of our best performances of the year." then he proceeded to give his team the next day off in scenic Raleigh. His team responded by giving up a season-high 48 shots while the $15 million line of Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Alex Kovalev produced a grand total of 3 shots on goal.
I'm all for trying new things but these guys need a wakeup call. Ryan O'Byrne was exposed last night in a difficult third period for the young blueliner. Sergei Samsonov made him look like a beer leaguer on the Canes first goal and O'Byrne took a bonehead penalty that led to the game-winner. Lack of depth on the blue line is an issue for the Habs. If Carbo wants to send a guy down to Hamilton that guy has to clear waivers unless it's Sergei Kostitsyn or O'Byrne. There's no viable option for replacing O'Byrne in Hamilton so that idea doesn't hold water.
The other option is the pressbox. The production of Alex Kovalev's line has tailed off severely from last year. It's hard to pinpoint where the issue lies with that line but their production has reached a new low. Their success was such a huge part of what the Habs accomplished last year and their play up to this point leaves much to be desired. There is a lot of finger pointing happening in this city right now but the buck stops with that line. The Artist needs to start playing angry. His linemates need to start playing.
The fact is it's impossible for the Canadiens to live up to or exceed what they accomplished during last year's regular season. It's also easy to forget that it wasn't all easy all the time. There were struggles, trials and tribulations. There has to be. If a team never has to overcome adversity they will fail when the going gets tough in the playoffs. That's what happened last year.
The 2008-2009 Canadiens are a team better built for the postseason than last year's version. There will be peaks and valleys throughout the season but better they happen now than in the playoffs. As long as they can stay reasonably healthy and Carey Price finds consistency they will make the playoffs and surpass last year's postseason accomplishments.