Things just aren’t looking great in Montreal right now. While the NHL’s most storied franchise is celebrating it’s glorious past, a season once bright with promise and expectation is rapidly falling apart.
What’s wrong with the Habs? Right now, a little bit of everything. The most obvious has to be goaltending where Carey Price has looked anything but sharp since returning to action just before the All-Star Game. Price is 2-7 in his last nine starts and Coach Guy Carbonneau let him stay in the net for all of Tuesday’s embarrassing 7-2 loss against the Oilers.
Price is still a young 21 and he should be able to play himself out of his recent slump. It would also help a lot if his teammates played better defense in front of him. The big issue facing Price is that he was wildly inconsistent in the playoffs last season and needs to play well in this year’s postseason or face serious questions about his ability to perform in the clutch.
The Canadiens are also hurt by injuries right now with Robert Lang out for the rest of the regular season and Guillaume Latendresse out for the next 4-6 weeks after suffering a shoulder injury in a recent loss to Boston. Montreal will also be without Tomas Plekanec for two games due after the league suspended the Habs’ forward for hitting Edmonton’s Denis Grebeshkov from behind.
The Canadiens power play has yet to find any consistency this year and that’s really hurt the team. Last year, Montreal had the league’s best PP but this year, the team is only ranked 25th. In the last two years, the Habs have lost both Sheldon Souray and Mark Streit–two very solid point men who quarterbacked the power play and had very strong shots. Charonneau has yet to find a replacement on the point this season and that has hurt the club’s special teams.
Overall, there is enough talent in Montreal for the team to right the ship and make the playoffs. On the plus side, Mathieu Dandenault is back in the lineup and Alex Tanguay shouldn’t be too far behind. Still, don’t be surprised if the Habs make one or two big moves at the trade deadline to shake this team up.
Life Again On L.A. Ice
The Los Angeles Kings have found a pulse again this season and a lot of the credit has to go to new Head Coach Terry Murray.
Murray has been a winner wherever he coached in the NHL but most experts thought he had his work cut out for him when he took over the Kings. The first thing Murray did was emphasize team defense and it really has worked. The Kings are presently seventh in the league in goals against average with 2.64 per game. Last year, L.A. was 28th with a 3.17.
It certainly helped that Jonathan Quick has been a pleasant surprise in net and that rookie defenseman Drew Doughty has played well. Most importantly, though, has been that the Kings have bought into Murray’s system and now are learning to create scoring chances while still playing responsibly in their own zone.
The Kings are in the thick of the crowded race for the final four spots in the Western Conference playoff race. While they may not qualify this year, Murray deserves a lot of credit for turning around the attitude in Hollywood. The Kings are no longer a moribund franchise without a future. In fact, with Quick playing well and top goalie prospect Jonathan Bernier gaining experience in the minors, this team may even have found a solution at the long troubled goaltending position. Once again, the Kings look like a team with a promising future.
Green Breaking Records in DC
Defenseman Mike Green has to be a serious contender for the Norris Trophy this year. Green already has 21 goals on the season despite missing 13 games due to injury. His defensive play hasn’t been an issue either as he is a plus-24 on the season. That’s very impressive when you consider that 24 of his 49 points this season have come while the Caps were on the power play.
Green has scored in seven consecutive games, tying Mike O’Connell’s all-time NHL mark. He gets a chance to break the record when the Caps head to Tampa Bay tomorrow night.
For now, Green is trying to keep an even keel. “Things just seem to be rolling lately,” he said after scoring twice against the Rangers earlier this week. “It feels pretty special. I honestly didn’t even realize [the record] until yesterday. I tried not to think about it before the game, but I’m pretty happy right now.”
Avery’s Return to Hockey
So Sean Avery has returned to hockey as the Stars assigned him to the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL. The Wolfpack are the Rangers’ top farm club and speculation is running rampant that when Dallas puts Avery on waivers, the Rangers will more than likely grab him.
Glen Sather is looking at it this way: he liked having Sean Avery on his team, but didn’t want to pay $4.5 million per season for his services. If the Rangers are able to claim the outspoken forward off waivers, the Stars would still be responsible for paying half his contract and Sather will get Avery back at “half-price.”
The Rangers certainly can use a little grit, but that is not their biggest problem. New York has struggled to score goals all season and Avery really doesn’t solve that problem. Assuming he behaves (which may be a big assumption), Avery can help the Rangers, but the Broadway Blueshirts really need a goal scorer or two more than they need a grinder and agitator like Avery. The Rangers also have cap issues and should not add Avery if it will hurt their chances of adding a quality goal scorer. Remember, the Rangers have already lost out on Mats Sundin and Brendan Shanahan this year because they didn’t have the cap room to add them to the roster. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, Sather is running out of time to add the missing pieces to the Rangers’ puzzle.