Montreal Canadiens' Current Situation: How Is the End of the Season Looking?

Harani T.Correspondent IFebruary 3, 2009

I will use this article to come back on the major topics surrounding the Montreal Canadiens at this moment. The Habs have lost five of their last six games and recently lost Robert Lang and Guillaume Latendresse to injuries.

It will be an analysis of all the facts that contribute to the team and will have an impact on the remainder of the season. While reading, do remember that the Canadiens currently have 64 points (29-18-6).


After a slow return from injury and many disappointing performances, Carey Price need to shake it off and return to play like we have know him to. 

Everyone has to go through long stretches and it is too bad that Price's difficulties have to come at the same time as the team and add to the burden.

It is no lie that Price needs to give solid performances and occasionally steal games like he did earlier on this year when he kept the team in it for a long time. And Jaroslav Halak has to get his share of starts for him not to rust off on the bench. They just need to provide us with the chance to win every night. In the words, avoid the softies.

In my opinion, the problem between the pipes is the easiest one for this team to solve. There needs to be a LOT done of offense and defense. 

Injured Reserve

Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins have rejoined the team after being sidelined for a long time. However, upon their return, two players have since been sent to the hospital to replace them.

Robert Lang is said to be done for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. Guillaume Latendresse suffered an upper-body injury when he violently went face-first into the boards Sunday. 

Return of the Wounded

Georges Laraque has only practiced with the team once and told the media that he would require at least three full-contact practices before returning to the lineup. The enforcer would surely add a new dimension to the team, which everyone says lacks physicality.

Alex Tanguay's 10 goals and 16 assists in 34 games and the fact that he is still fifth in scoring demonstrate the important role he plays on this team. His constant effort and hard work, along with his passing skills, will tremendously help partially fill the void left by Lang's loss. 

Forward-defenseman Mathieu Dandenault is said to be ready to return anytime in the nest few days. It is to be noted that he was quite efficient in his natural defenseman role before he left. 

The Young Kids Are Doing Well

To start off, Matt D'Agostini's right-hand shot is highly useful in many situations. His speed and acceleration is a huge plus, as he has the capacity to outhustle many players.

His only downfall is his defensive coverage. He is a minus-7 in his 28 games. With some more work, he can better develop his talent. It is to be noted that he is a small forward who lacks size.

One thing I think Max Pacioretty does really well is draw penalties. Now, if we could only cash in on those opportunities, it would be sweet. His size, speed, and unexpected moves make his opponent panic and thus hook, hold, or trip him.

Once again, his lack of experience makes him prone to defensive errors like his Bulldogs teammate. He is minus-5 in 13 games. 

Ryan O'Byrne, who has been up and down between the Canadiens and Hamilton, seems to have improved his play during his stint in Hamilton. The complaint we had earlier about him was that he wasn't using his size enough to deliver some solid hits. In the game against Boston, O'Byrne dished out six hits.

It is a beginning, and if he doesn't score on our own goalie he can't be a threat to our team. His occasional mistake could be alright to deal with if everything else falls into place.

Alex Henry was called up from Hamilton for the game against the Boston Bruins. Henry is 6'5" and 220 pounds and adds a lot of size on the back end. But due to the very short duration of his play (just 7:24), it is hard to point out his flaws and strengths. 

Alexei Kovalev

You all had to see this one coming. Alexei Kovalev has been in the NHL for 16 seasons and he has lots of experience playing the game of hockey. Known to the Montreal fans as "L'Artiste," he carried this team on his shoulders last year with an 84-point season.

The whole uncomfortable fact in this situation is that we have already witnessed the tricks the Russian superstar can pull out of his magic hat. His highlight-reel goals and perfect shot from the faceoff circle are his trademark moves. And if you say he is getting old, it's only been eight days since the All-Star game. 

The success of this team relies on the success of Alex Kovalev. Being the veteran on this team, he has to be the example for the others who have to step it up. If he himself plays in an uninterested manner, it is hard for others to follow.

Coach Guy Carbonneau

Although he has been questioned by many because of the decisions he makes, I feel that Guy Carbonneau makes some bold moves that not every coach would.

Benching your star player knowing controversy will arise takes a lot of courage. Also, he sent Sergei Kostitsyn to the pressbox because of his lack of intensity, thus making the right call. 

The only thing Carbo does which everyone questions is the constant juggling of the trios. A lack of stability in his lines is quite confusing, but he still holds the team's best interests at heart.

I strongly disagree with comment that suggest that Carbo has lost the room. I believe that he is not pushing it too hard over the limit. It is a touchy situation but we will come out of this flukey period.

Power Play

The power play is a cause for concern and it has a direct influence on the stats of many players. Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, and Andrei Markov have all seen less production because of the failure of the power play. 

Of late, the power play has witnessed a surge with a minor change in technique. It's very simple: getting shots from the point through to the net, having some traffic circulating, and pouncing on loose pucks. This ''strategy'' seems to work. Sergei Kostitsyn can work the point and Hamrlik along with Gorges get most of their shots through. 

But it has looked nowhere near dangerous and that has to change if we want to contend for a cup.

Anyone Say Defense?

The defense of the Canadiens lacks a puck-moving player who has the capacity to make a good first outlet pass. Apart from Markov and Komisarek, all the other defensemen cannot excel as much because of their size. Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon are often neutralized by bigger forwards.

Roman Hamrlik plays well but occasionally makes mistakes that often costs the team. However, his experience and position are always a plus.

A defenseman is probably one of the more immediate needs of the Canadiens at the moment and Bob Gainey has to look into toughening up the back end. 

Above All, "Every Team Needs a Heart!"

The Habs experienced a lot of success prior to this losing stretch mainly because they rallied together to overcome their injuries. Everyone gave it their best effort and the team got victories by showing tough character and never giving up. 

Slowly, that seems to be slipping away. However much you try, without everyone having the urge to win, it is clearly not possible. They all seem to understand their mistake but coming back and making is just insanely frustrating. 

That pretty much sums up the whole situation with the Montreal Canadiens at the moment. I think I have pretty much covered every aspect. If there is anything to add, feel free to comment!


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