At first, many thought that the plethora of injuries in the Habs' locker room was a plague. However, this has not been the case.
It has been a blessing when it comes to the young players' development such as Lapierre, Latendresse, and Kostitsyn. It has also allowed for the resurgence of veteran players like Lang, Plekanec, and Kovalev.
Lapierre has jumped light years ahead in his development—something he would have never been able to do without the absence of certain veterans. The discovery of D'Agostini and Pacioretty (although they were no secrets) has both now rising in NHL value.
It's a shame that D'Agostini is playing on the fourth line, but Carbonneau doesn't have much choice with team chemistry at an all-time high this season. Now the question is how to reinsert the comeback players, with the exception of Carey Price, without rearranging?
Carbonneau did an outstanding job when the players went down, and without a doubt Coach All-Star will do whatever is best for this team when it comes down to reinserting. Nevertheless, how can you give less responsibility to a Lapierre, Plekanec, or Pacioretty?
Higgins, who has been plagued with bad luck this season, has a lot to offer. Although he is often shunned and dismissed by the fans of this city, he is actually the player Montreal should keep an eye on. He is a man on a mission.
Carbonneau is faced with making some hard decisions. Does he possibly hinder short-term success and lose the magic recipe that has allowed Les Glorieux to go 11-2? Or does he immediately think about the big picture and bring back the veterans?
Two of Montreals' most prolific lines as of late have been AK 46-Pleks-SK 74 and Latendresse-Lapierre-Kostopoulos. Both of these lines are surrounded by hard working, fast-flying young-ins—they forecheck, backcheck, score, fight, and play with all around heart.
Changing these lines could very well slow down the hot, hot Habs. But where do you put Koivu and Higgins? Koivu is a captain who has had a stellar season. The heart and face of this franchise for 12 years now deserves nothing less than a Stanley cup.
Should he be placed on the first line by demoting Plekanec? Or is the answer removing a line that has revived Kovalev's play maker and scoring capabilities, removing the second line where Lang has gelled perfectly with the brothers, or removing the third line which is all about hard-grinder hockey?
This is not taking anything from Koivu who is tough as nails—it's not his style of hockey. Do you really place the captain and most productive player of the season's first half on the fourth line? Now, what about Higgins?
Carbonneau is going to need patience and Tylenol to try and figure this one out—without harming the current success of the team.
Some food for thought.
Photo by Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen