Brian Gionta's Return Making the Difference for Montreal Canadiens
In Wednesday's contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was clear just how much the return of Brian Gionta was a huge relief for the entire team, especially for the Habs' first line.
Not to make the first line sound bad, but the likes of Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, and Andrei Kostitsyn must have been relieved when they saw they wouldn't have to carry the team anymore.
After being a non-factor for a long stretch, Scott Gomez has quietly been putting up multiple assists the past four games, and those numbers figure to go up with his buddy Brian Gionta on the line.
When matched with Gionta, Gomez's passes connect more often, and those passes are often in scoring areas, and with the great offensive talent that Gionta possesses, that should mean more points for both of them.
If both American-born players can start producing, the Canadiens can have two solid scoring lines that can do some serious damage to the opposition.
However, there are three players on an offensive line in hockey, so therefore contributions from all three players are needed to make a line "click."
This is where Benoit Pouliot comes in.
Acquired in a deal that sent golden boy Guillaume Latendresse to the Minnesota Wild, Pouliot just recently came back from injury and is starting to hit his stride on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta.
Pouliot seems to be fitting into the role that Guillaume Latendresse was supposed to take.
Blessed with an imposing stature and soft hands, Pouliot seems to be more willing to do the things that Latendresse wasn't doing, such as getting in front of the net and using his size to score goals.
But the effectiveness of this line still goes back to the presence of Brian Gionta, for without him, Sergei Kostitsyn would be taking his spot. Kostitsyn never seemed to fit in on that line, and he could have been the reason for its struggles.
Gionta also brings intensity and leadership to the team, two traits that are indispensable to any team during the course of a season. His hustle along the boards is truly something to behold.
If he can continue his strong play on the second line, Gionta can make the players around him better, and if they can follow suit, it's quite possible that the Canadiens have a strong second half of the season.
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