Report Card with Cam: Ponder before Panic
Last season, I wrote a couple of opinion articles, all with some good success and great feedback. I would like to take a moment to thank all those who read my previous articles and took the time to comment, it is much appreciated.
I would also like to wish all Hab’s enthusiast B/R writers a great season and to keep up the great work. This year I will be doing a weekly assessment on the situation from my perspective, grading the Habs overall performance for that respective week.
Grades- Effort: B+, Performance: D+, Powerplay: D-, Powerkill: D-, 5-5: C, Goaltending:C-, Offence Overall: D, Defence Overall: C+
Overall Team Grade: D
Now on to the heavy stuff. … All kidding aside your 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens, to put it abruptly, well suck.
Yes its harsh, but its still very early in the season, five loses in a row would give heart burn to even the most tenacious of fans. Simply put, Montreal Canadiens fans are like over protective parents who encumber their children with so much love that their child begins to resent them and fails to live up to his or her true potential
This team has played seven games together. Count them 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. When the NHL’s most disfigured team went under Bob Gainey’s knife, there were mixed feelings. However many optimists arose, a new era had begun, and the winds of change blew vigorously down Av. Canadiens-de-Montreal.
To understand how to win together; how to fight for goals; how to play as a unit; this team needs to lose together. From failure comes victory.
By no means will they emerge in the next week as a cup contender, but you can bet your lunch money that this team will grow together over the course of this home stand, win or lose. There is a sense of stability that has been lacking in the Bell Centre for a while.
With coach Jacques Martin we will be OK, he is one hell of a coach. I like what I am hearing and seeing believe it or not, when it comes to coaching of course.
Lets also remember that our newly acquired players are here to stay, so they know they have to live with one another, and by the looks of it they are extremely content to do so.
Now don’t let the fact I am an optimist fool you, I know there is much to be done here. I know that there are many glaring problems with the 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens.
Lets start from the net out. Carey, Carey, Carey. Should I repeat that? That name is single handily the most important name within the franchise, his name will be synonymous with the success and failure of les Glorieux.
Carey came out of the box firing on all cylinders. He stole the first two games. What happened after that? Some say that Jacques Martin should have never benched him; he was the hot hand, and by doing so effectively removed any and all his mojo.
That being said, is a completely and utterly naïve and crazy belief. Lets face it, Carey has stunk up the joint since the Canadiens last victory a distant and dismal two weeks ago. Just look at his goals against and his save percentage they speak for themselves it is quite frankly Bush League.
That is not the Carey Price I have come to love and believe in. The team is slowly building its confidence; Carey needs to make those big saves, which he has failed to do. In doing so he would light a fire under the rear ends of those around him.
Goaltending is without a doubt, the most important position in hockey. Carey’s biggest problem seems to be his glove hand. He has tremendous form and size, his movements are fluent, quick, and out right sensational. Against the surprising Colorado Avalanche, his five hole looked open for business, in retrospect however two unlucky deflections can not be blamed on Price.
Diagnostic: Weak glove hand, which leads to the inability of making clutch saves.
Treatment: At this point Pierre Groulx, the Montreal Canadiens goalie coach should work purely on Carey’s glove hand, with repetition comes a keener sense of reflex.
Now onto the Canadiens Defense. Two words; can you guess’em? Andrei Markov. On the home opener, he was raucously applauded. I think it was the first time I saw Montreal’s stoic General smile. Him smiling brought a tear to my eye.
The man wants to play; the man wants to win. The man is Montreal’s most important asset outside of Carey Price. I believe that we have a very good defensive corps.
Josh Gorges has stepped up since last year, with the eventual return of O’Byrne and Markov will return stability to a shaken up team.
I like what I’m seeing from Hamrlik and Mara. Hammer has played extremely well on both ends of the rink, making big plays at the right time. Mara plays with emotion, something this team lacked so much of this year. I think he would look great with an A on his jersey he is well spoken, lovable guy, who has a ton of experience in this league.
I also want to note I love what I see out of the young Shawn Belle. The kid played for team Canada in ’04 paired with likes of Seabrook and a certain Dion Phaneuf. He was a first round draft pick.
An excellent skater he gets around the back end with speed and ease. He is a defensive D-Man he can throw around his big body and dish out punishing hits. He has made simple and smart decisions and that is extremely key for a rookie.
I would think twice before rushing him back down in favor of Marc Andre Bergeron. Let MAB get into pro form, so when the time comes he is ready both physically and mentally. We have had misfortune on the defensive side of the puck, but this is a perfect time for the Shawn Belle’s of this franchise to show their immediate value or lack there off.
Diagnostic: Injury plagued
Treatment: Prayer? Nothing can be done to bring back Markov except for good rehab, and that is entirely out of our hands.
There is also the issue that he may be back in time for the Olympics. Some believe that would be the end of the world. Markov is his own man if he feels ready to play in the Olympics its because he can.
I hope he can, this will allow him to get the rust off in game time situations which would have been impossible otherwise with a one way contract. Four months is a long time, we should not only be ok with him playing for his Motherland we should cross our fingers and hope he does. In doing so management can assess the situation on someone else’s terms.
Lets move onto our much talked about front line. I won’t go into as much detail here as I do believe we have some talented hockey players. Once, and trust me it will, the “smurf” line clicks it will be majestic.
They lack finish for now, but they are proven playmakers. Lets not throw them under the bandwagon quite yet. Mike Cammalleri got his first goal and it should be interesting to see if the Camy show begins.
The only thing that has been really blatant for me has been Chipchurra playing his way back to Hamilton. Love the kid, but its time to realize he may never be NHL caliber and take advantage that he hasn’t seen many NHL games and the fact he is a former first round draft pick and try and use him as trade bait to some extent, packaged or not.
The fourth line with Glen Metropolit plays amazing grinder hockey. With Metro back in the alignment sooner rather than later, things can go back to normal.
The first line is bound to become productive, with the sudden rise in stock of Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec it will be harder for teams to just shadow and prepare for only one line. Andrei is finally using that brillant shot of his and his size to his advantage.
Plekanec has been paying inspired hockey this is great timing as a young but potential ridden kid by the name of Max Pacioretty is starting to understand his position more and doing the little things better.
Diagnostic: Too much pressure and expectations for such a new team.
Treatment: Let the kid’s play some hockey. Five loses now is better than five loses towards the playoff push. We will talk about it a couple months from now, but for now let Jacques Martin continue to do his job.
A win would be a great remedy also for now it would get the proverbial monkey off of their shoulders and they can think about playing hockey.
It is going to be a close year. That one save or that one goal will be the difference day in and day out. This team needs to have that killer instinct, and that develops when a team gels. They won’t have to worry about individual play and thus avoiding getting caught up in the other teams traps, but play together without overplaying, there is a fine line and it takes time and confidence, something that’s a work in progress.
Photo Courtesy of Habsinsideout.com