Montreal Canadiens (from left) Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban and Carey Price and St. Louis Blues forward Alexander Steen.
While the holiday break is officially over for NHL players, the New Year is still a few days away, and the Montreal Canadiens can definitely take that time to reflect on possible resolutions for 2014.
Overall, the first half of the season can be considered a relative success, as they currently hold down one of the Atlantic Division’s three playoff spots, with a nice four-point cushion over the Detroit Red Wings (and one game in hand as well).
Nevertheless, their current 3-4 stretch and a nearly blown three-goal lead against the Nashville Predators in the Habs’ last game entering break indicate there is room for improvement.
Assuming “win more” isn’t an option, here are five other New Year’s resolutions for the Habs to consider that should help them realize that ultimate goal:
Nashville Predators forward Colin Wilson and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov.
Maybe the resolution should instead be worded as to “not take any unnecessary risks,” but to a certain extent, it’s out of defenseman Andrei Markov’s hands.
One need only look to the last game against the Nashville Predators for proof as to just how quickly he can get injured and see his career flash goodbye before his eyes.
Thankfully, Markov avoided injury on the play in question, when forward Patric Hornqvist took him into the boards from behind (and the Habs avoided being scored upon during his subsequent 10-minute misconduct).
The fact remains, though, that, even taking into account his full 48-game 2013 season, Markov has averaged 36 games lost due to injury over the last five seasons. He will also be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and him getting another deal is undeniably contingent on him staying healthy.
It’s safe to say most Habs fans want to see him end his career with the Habs, just not prematurely. Markov theoretically has a few good years left in him. The first step is getting through the rest of this one in one piece.
Montreal Canadiens forward Rene Bourque.
With exception to George Parros (6’5”, 224 lbs), Rene Bourque (6’2”, 217 lbs) is Montreal’s biggest forward, but you wouldn’t know it if you were to try to find him on the ice.
His seven points in 26 games aren’t exactly awe-inspiring, nor are his 29 hits, especially when one considers defenseman Douglas Murray leads the team with 64 despite constantly being a healthy scratch.
It would be easy to ask Bourque to take a page out of Murray’s book, but he might misunderstand and see it as a golden opportunity to sit instead.
Bourque displays flashes of dominance every so often. It’s evidence of what still could be were he to actually try consistently. Unfortunately, it’s the time in between that makes Habs fans wonder what could have been had the Habs not traded for him in the first place.
Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk tries to score on Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.
The common misconception is that forward Alex Galchenyuk is breaking out in his sophomore season with 22 points in 38 games. That’s not necessarily the case, as that would put him on pace for, give or take, the same 27 points he had through 48 games last season.
What is different, however, is his goal total. He now has one more (10) than he had all of last season. He also ranks fifth among forwards in shots on goals with just 72. Considering his shooting percentage of 13.9 percent, he can probably stand to put the puck on net a little more.
To put it in the proper perspective, Max Pacioretty leads the Habs with 15 goals and he has 113 shots on goal (13.3 percent). So, theoretically, Galchenyuk could be leading the team in goals since his shooting percentage is second only to Brandon Prust.
(I’ll stop short of saying Prust can theoretically be leading the team in goals).
Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban covers St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie.
For defenseman P.K. Subban, the secret to continued success and greater respect for his abilities is sealed with a KISS, or to “Keep It Simple”…and let’s say “Subban.”
Subban’s offensive abilities are already well-respected, but his defensive game is constantly criticized. This isn’t to say the criticism is well-founded, only that his play is constantly under a microscope because, among other reasons, he attracts attention with his flamboyant personality.
For example, just due to the amount of media attention his mistakes receive, one would be forgiven for thinking Subban leads the league in giveaways. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even lead the Canadiens. Markov does with 40.
Subban, meanwhile, has 36, behind Ottawa Senator Erik Karlsson (57), Chicago Blackhawk Niklas Hjalmarsson (47) and even Los Angeles King Drew Doughty (41), with whom Subban is competing for a spot on Canada’s Olympic roster.
So, technically, Subban shouldn’t have to change his game. However, because his critics remain and unfortunately even seem to outnumber his supporters, if he wants greater acknowledgement for his abilities, he’ll have to try and not do too much from here on out.
Alternatively, he can continue to do what he does best and perhaps win another Norris Memorial Trophy to see if that shuts his critics up. It probably won’t, but it will help make them look “stupid” instead.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
This isn’t to suggest goaltender Carey Price will necessarily celebrate a gold medal in the streets like Canadian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery did back in Vancouver in 2010. This only constitutes a friendly suggestion that he doesn’t suffer a monumental second-half letdown like he did himself in 2013.
It’s almost guaranteed at this point that Price will be named to Team Canada. With each passing game, it’s also becoming increasingly likely he will end up the starter.
With exception to Minnesota Wild starter Josh Harding, who likely won’t get the nod due to his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis, Price leads all Canadian-born No. 1 goalies with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.
So, the chance for a celebratory “beer walk” is definitely within the realm of possibilities. So is a collapse down the stretch, though. For example, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo went on to play pretty badly following the 2010 Olympics, allowing 50 goals in his last 16 games.
Price is arguably even more susceptible to a similar meltdown, as just last year he struggled down the stretch despite a good start to season when he allowed just 14 goals in his first eight games. In his last eight he allowed 27. In the playoffs, he allowed 13 in just four games.
While being named to Team Canada would be a nice feather in Price’s cap (and lead to yet another Price mask...with maybe a feather on it, who knows?), he needs to realize that there is more hockey to be played immediately afterwards. Here’s to a great second half from Price (and everyone else). Cheers.