Habs Need More From Some Players

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By Joce, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

While the regular season has its purpose for positioning, match-ups and home ice advantage for the playoffs, it is not what people remember down the road when talking about a season. Few people talk about Guy Carbonneau’s Canadiens of 2007-08, a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the NHL, because they were bumped out of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. People do, however, remember that the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings faced each other in the Stanley Cup finals that year, with the Red Wings coming out on top.

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PENTICTON, BC. — There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this year’s edition of the Canadiens has surprised everyone including the team itself, having already clinched a playoffs’ spot and finding themselves sitting second in the Eastern Conference at the time of writing this article, with only seven games remaining in the regular season. The goal set by Marc Bergevin and his coaching staff was to make the playoffs, so competing for top honours in the conference is a nice added bonus.

Even by getting a couple of key contributors back to injuries in left wingers Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust, the Habs are not winning at the pace they have done all season, with a 6-4 record in their last 10 games and playing for .500 in their last six games. Saturday’s 5-1 spanking suffered at the hands of the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada from coast to coast, due in huge part to a rare off night by Carey Price, has not done anything to dissipate the concerns by a fan base hungry for playoffs’ success.

Most people would have been happy at the start of the season had they been told that the Canadiens would be making the playoffs, but seeing their beloved team fighting for top spot in the Northeast division, ahead of the much hated Bruins with only a few games left to the season, has raised the expectation for everyone involved, players and coaching staff included. But things have changed, expectations have changed and with that, fans and media want more.

There have been a lot of very good surprises this season and none bigger than seeing Norris trophy candidate P.K. Subban who, despite missing training camp and the first six games of the season, finds himself tied Michael Ryder for the lead on the team with 34 points. Rookie Brendan Gallagher has as many points as Brian Gionta while Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller are within three points of David Desharnais in team scoring. Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec average close to a point per game this season and backup goaltender Peter Budaj’s play has earned him a shiny new two-year deal with the team.

Having a good season doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in Habs’ land however and if the team wants to get to the next level, some players will have to take their game to the next level. There are probably more which could or should be listed, but the following four players will need to find another gear if the team hopes to make a run this year, as they play an important role on this team:

Travis Moen

It’s been a difficult season for Moen, who was rewarded this past summer with a new four year deal. Many, including yours truly, felt like the arrival of Brandon Prust would inject some much needed grit to his game, a desire to compete, something he’s fully capable of doing as he had shown it on a regular basis while playing for the Anaheim Ducks during their Stanley Cup winning season. Instead, Moen has been a huge disappointment not so much with his offensive production as he’s played mostly on the third and fourth lines, but with what seems like a lack of intensity and willingness to hit and/or drop the gloves to help the teams’ skilled, but smaller players. He will need to find his game if the Habs are going to make some noise, and he’s fully capable of doing just that, and he could by the same token redeem his season.

David Desharnais

In spite of getting quality ice time and line mates, Desharnais has gone through extended stretches where he was struggling to find his scoring touch, searching for his game. Unlike a guy like Lars Eller who can play in a more defensive role, Desharnais doesn’t bring much to the table when he isn’t putting points on the board and when he’s not generating some offense. As a matter of fact, Eller has produced at a comparable pace this season in spite of not getting the powerplay time and the quality line mates handed to Desharnais. The diminutive center must be more consistent in his production and fight for every inch, like Gionta and Gallagher are doing, in order to help the Canadiens in the playoffs. Failing to do so could result in Eller getting the same opportunity with Pacioretty.

Andrei Markov

Markov is one of the best surprises of the season and he should be the prime candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Coming back from two very difficult seasons filled with injuries, he has been a key contributor to the Habs’ powerplay all season and his offensive production in those circumstances ranks him amongst the top offensive defensemen in the entire NHL. He will, however, have to improve his defensive game at even strengths, as indicated by his team worst minus-8 rating. Losing his defense partner Alexei Emelin for the season will be an adaptation on its own, but he has a few games remaining to adapt to Francis Bouillon (plus-6), his new partner. Markov simply needs to keep things simple in his own end and because he has lost some foot speed, he has to learn to better judge when to pinch in and when to stay back.

Carey Price

Much has been said and is still being said about Price this season. Some of the criticism is justified, but most of it is just mind boggling. While we can count on one hand the number of games when he had to stand on his head to give his team a chance to win, he has been good, without being phenomenal. The Canadiens are paying him like an elite goalie and he needs to get his mojo back, something he can do by focussing on his consistency. Just like a fight, a hit or a timely goal can change the momentum of a game, so does a key save. Mostly, he needs to stay focused while not getting as much work as he was accustomed to under Jacques Martin. He is fully capable of doing just that and the Canadiens will need him to be dominant while getting into the opponent’s head, like Patrick Roy used to do in the playoffs. Here is an excellent chance to prove his nay-sayers wrong on the biggest stage… but the weak goals must stop as they are too often backbreakers for a team.

Naming the players above serves in no way to bash them or to say that the finger should be pointed at them, not by any mean. Those players are and should be key contributors for a playoffs’ run and all of them have shown that they can do better in all or some aspects of their games. If the Canadiens are going to make a push this year, they are the ones who will make it happen, along with the others who are already performing to their full capacity this season. Go Habs Go!

En français: Le Canadien a besoin de plus de certains joueurs

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

2 COMMENTS

  1. this is something that we as Canadian fans have been looking for for a long time . now that they have surprised a lot of people this year ,there is a lot of pressure even more so . they are still lacking size up front and need more help at the end of the year with picking up some free agents an so on. I have been a fan at the age of 12-13 years and now I am 53 and I know that the Canadians will get there sooner than later. so as a fan of them and always will be we need to look at what they done after the last two games that they lost and let them experience there ups and down and move to challeng them self for the next six games and prepare for the first round . as we know the play offs are a new season

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