An online friend recently asked me what I’d like to see my team do differently this year and my immediate reaction was better 5-on-5 scoring. The Montreal Canadiens were 22nd in that category last season, though their No. 2 ranked power play certainly helped compensate.
There are also a few other areas I’d like to see some changes to as I get ready to watch my beloved Habs take to the ice once again, though not all of them are directed at the team itself.
If they’re going to improve their 5-on-5 scoring the Habs will have to stop getting outshot regularly. I hate the clichés, but it’s true that you can’t score if you don’t shoot the puck.
Montreal averaged around 28 shots per game last season while their opponents tended to lob around 32 at the Habs netminders. Only four teams allowed more shots on their own nets and none of those teams made the playoffs.
Having watched the Habs lose games 2-1 or 1-0 last season, I believe this team needs to learn how to score more goals period. Its little wonder that they were shut out in three of their Eastern Conference Finals games versus the Flyers.
Speaking as a fan, I also find rope-a-dope hockey pretty hard on the nerves.
A Lot Less Injuries
No doubt part of the team’s offensive problems was due to the fact that snipers Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta spent too much time on the injury roster. Defensive anchor and power play quarterback Andrei Markov also got hurt, along with a laundry list of teammates.
A lot of credit has to be given to the Bulldogs players that did their very best to fill the Habs’ skates and made it possible for the team to squeeze into the playoffs. I’m just hoping we don’t need them as much this year.
If the starting lineup can stay healthier this season there’s every reason to believe the Habs will land a bit higher in the standings instead of just backing into the playoffs.
The top two lines can’t be expected to do all the work. Depth scoring played a key role for the Habs during the playoffs, with Dominic Moore, Travis Moen, Tom Pyatt and Maxim Lapierre all contributing.
Lapierre’s coming off a shaky regular season with only seven goals and seven assists, but he can certainly do better if he remains healthy. Pyatt always brings effort, and fresh blood in the form of Lars Eller and Dustin Boyd should also help.
Sure the snipers will bring most of the goals, but it’s important for the lower lines to find the back of the net more often as well.
Scott Gomez stated in an interview that the team felt chemistry pretty much from the start last year, but Coach Jacques Martin’s repeated tinkering with the line combinations seems to belie that.
Now that the top two lines seem set with Gomez/Gionta and Tomas Plekanec feeding Cammalleri, I hope their other two wingers benefit as well. The core of this team has had a season and a playoffs run to finally gel.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Martin can find some magic among the fresh faces on the bottom two lines. With playoff stalwart Dominic Moore and centre man Glen Metropolit now gone, it’ll be up to Eller, Boyd and newly-signed veteran Jeff Halpern to find some spark.
Carey Price takes the lion’s share of the brunt regardless of his actual performance, but I’m hoping for some level-headedness amongst the inevitable criticism this year, especially with regards to the kids.
I’ve seen some fans and media alike predict higher-than-likely performances for PK Subban and Lars Eller. I know it’s stating the obvious but these guys are rookies. They’re going to make mistakes.
I suspect it would help their development immensely if the media and the fans wouldn’t haul out the tar and feathers at every given opportunity. That goes double for Price, who will be under plenty of pressure before he ever starts his first game.
Yeah, I realize it’s a pipe dream given the scrutiny this team faces even in the off-season, but that’s why this is a wish list as opposed to a reality check.
So there’s my list of wishes for the upcoming hockey season. What are yours?
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