We are about to complete the first quarter of this 2008-2009 season in the NHL. Some teams have risen up since last season, while some are having big problems.
The New Jersey Devils and the Vancouver Canucks, for example, should have a hard time in the coming weeks. Both teams have lost their starting goaltender because of injuries, and these teams are now vulnerable. The Canucks have a bit more offensive firepower, and could get through these difficult times a little better than the Devils.
The Montreal Canadiens 100th season started with an impressive string of victories, as they picked up 18 points out of a possible 24 during the first twelve games of the season. But the team's performance has declined dramatically since that point.
Yesterday's match against the New York Islanders was a good indication of how the Canadiens are playing these last weeks. Holding a one-goal lead with under five minutes to play, defenseman Ryan O'Byrne committed a huge mistake when he pushed the puck in his very own net during a delayed penalty against the Islanders.
The young defenseman didn't need to act at all. The referee would've stopped the play as soon a New York player touch the puck. But O'Byrne decided to push the puck away from his opponent and into his own net, which had been vacated by Carey Price in favor of a sixth skater.
O'Byrne's brain freeze allowed the Isles to tie up the game, and eventually fly out of Montreal with a 4-3 victory after the shootout session.
The slide of the Canadiens is not the responsibility of a single player in the roster. The whole team is playing sloppy as of late. The top line, composed of Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Kostitsyn, is having all kinds of trouble finding its mark. And the Canadiens' power play—which has gone from No. 1 last year to No. 25 this season—is pitiful at best.
The team's record after 20 games (11-5-4) is still good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. It is not the time for the general manager and coaching staff to push the panic button. But there is work to be done to put the train back on its rails.
Will the General Manager Bob Gainey be active on the market—or will he try to find a solution within the organization?
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