Monday, May 10, 2010

Canadiens-Penguins: Will Habs' Passengers Wake Up for Pivotal Game Six Versus Pens?

Will they do it? Can they do it? Is it even possible?

The Habs wake up this morning in the familiar position of having their backs against the playoff wall. Lose tonight in Game Six against the Pittsburgh Penguins and go home. Win and they live to fight another day—Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

But can they do it? Do they have enough left in the tank to push the Pens back to Game Seven?

I think so. But that doesn't mean that it will happen.

The Canadiens are having success this postseason by employing a structured system and that is allowing them to compete with teams who have far more skill than them.

In addition, the leadership core of this team is showing how much more heart they have than the leadership core of last year's team.

For the past two seasons, the Canadiens had teams that were long on talent but short on heart. This year, the Canadiens are almost the opposite. While they definitely have a talent on their team, their depth is paper thin as many of their "key" players are firing blanks.

Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot are shells of the players that they could be and are basically playing the roles of ball and chain on their respective lines.

Tomas "I want a big contract in the offseason" Plekanec has been completely invisible through the Pittsburgh series. Whereas he was perhaps the most consistent Canadiens during the season, Pleky has become a ghost, a shadow of the dominant player he was during the season.

Is it, as suggest on the Team 990 this morning, because he tends to hit a wall around the 90 game mark? Is it because he can no longer fight through the additional physical attention that comes with being a No. 1 center during the playoffs?

Whatever it is, Pleky has once again become a perimeter player and, as such, is completely useless on the offensive side of the puck.

On the defensive side, Tomas is still Tomas. That is to say an incredibly responsible player who won't get you into trouble.

The problem for the Habs is that what they need more than anything right now is offense.

When all of the offensive responsibilities are being left to two players—Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta—that is a recipe for disaster.

So, will the passengers on the good ship Canadiens wake up tonight? Will the supporting cast be able to start contributing and help the Canadiens force and perhaps even win a Game Seven in Pittsburgh?

Only time will tell. But if there is one thing that is certain it is that the time for these players to wake up is now. Win tonight and you have a chance to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions on Wednesday and go to the conference finals for the first time since 1993.

Lose, and the golf course awaits.

What's it going to be guys? What's it going to be?

Injury Updates
- As of the writing of this post, the Habs were looking for a knee brace for Andrei Markov suggesting that they would like to get him back into the lineup tonight or Wednesday—if there is a Game Seven.

- Jaroslav Spacek was part of the game-day skate and should be in the lineup tonight.

-Defenseman Paul Mara also skated this morning but is not yet ready for a return to action.

- Hal Gill was not on the ice for the game-day skate suggesting that he will either not play tonight or will be a game time decision.


"Lose tonight, in Game Seven against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and go home." Tonight is Game Six, just saying.

Looks like Gill is skating with the reserves. This doesn't bode well, so IMO tonight is really a crap shoot. If the Hockey Gods don't give us the bounces tonight instead of the Second Coming and his flightless birdies, we're probably toast.

I'm not sure why all the sudden there's a whole lot of Pleky attackers. He's a consistent, solid centre, and it's not like we're going to attract or afford a 50 goal a year player. He's rotated wingmen more often than most people change their socks, and is one of the few who's managed to continue to play despite an injury (hip after Olympics which he did not rest). He's part of the reason Crosby is ineffective in these playoffs. He's gotten 8 points despite being relegated to a glorified D-man. Suddenly because he's not scoring every game (which he didn't do during the season), he's become expendable to a lot of fans, which I don't understand. Other than Cammy - who is also not scoring every game but is on the leaderboard - all of the forwards are coming up short IMO.

Pouliot and AK can both go as far as I'm concerned. They're ineffective as goal scorers and making too many mistakes to help with the defensive structure of this team. Gomez is a huge disappointment, failing to fight below the hash marks anymore, and no longer able to feed Gionta, who seems to be the only forward anywhere near the blue paint. There's problems with the forward lines IMO, but Pleks is NOT one of them. EOTP has an excellent article on Pleks right now, and I tend to agree with his assessment.

If Pleks walks, who can we get to replace him that's superior, and still afford it? If he's as bad and ineffective as people are saying (and really, even Ovechkin didn't score every single game in the post-season), we should be able to retain him for a low-ball price. I think he's worth the money. He's solid, consistent and responsible both offensively and defensively, which is something most of the 2 front lines are definitely not - not in the playoffs and not during the regular season. We can't be throwing away good players. We've got enough bad ones to deal with first.

Anonymous...thanks for the heads up! I changed it now...thanks!


Hey Tyg and thanks, as always, for you awesome thoughts!

Ok, let me dig in:

Re: Plek....yes he still is good, imo. And I am not necessarily throwing him under the bus as he still does a ton of good things on the ice.

That being said, two assists this series is not good enough. It just isn't. He is out No.1 center and is being counted on for offense and he needs to deliver the goods. To me, he looks tired because during the season he was fighting through checks whereas so far in this series, he isn't.

I, personally, think that this might come down to fatigue.

AK and Pouliot are both dead weight and the former is likely gone for sure with the latter at around 50% chance of being gone.

You're right about signing Pleks...and, imo, they SHOULD sign him. Honestly, the real problems is not Plek, its Gomez's ridiculous contract.

Imagine, if you will, having Pleks as our second center for 4-5Mil a season and a SICK top notch, big 1st line center for 7Mil (that Gomez is getting). That changes the entire complexion of this team and while I like Gomez, his ridiculous salary probably means that we are stuck with him for the next four years.

If we could somehow move him, that would allow us to make some moves to REALLY bolster the front end.

But alas....

I find it pretty funny how american teams can afford to pay the hockey players double of what we pay, have 2x more star players and yet we're in top of the NHL in money-making overall. Where is the problem? am I not seeing something?

Good question, Saveli! The problem is on a bunch of levels.

The US teams, while they have rich owners behind them who can throw a lot of money at players, they don't tend to charge a lot for admission.

The Habs have some of the most expensive seats in the league (Toronto is No.1), and as such our revenues are off the chart.

That plus the fact that Canadian teams tend to sell a wackload mor merchansiding.

You add that all up, plus the fact that our attendance numbers are off the charts, and it explains the disparity.

ps: how was the game? That must have been amazing!

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