Game one didn’t exactly go as planned for the Montreal Canadiens. Despite out shooting the Leafs by a 32-18 margin, the Habs walked away with a loss and some serious criticisms. Most of those criticisms are being levied against head coach Jacques Martin.
First, the decision to play Erik Cole on the third line was a curious one. The Habs have lacked a true power forward with with soft hands for years. Pierre Gauthier went out and committed $4.5 million a season to a proven goal scorer known for playing with a physical edge.
Instead of playing him on the wing with Plekanec and Cammalleri, Martin chose to go with Andrei Kostitsyn, a man who time and time again, has failed to provide the consistent offensive production that comes with the job of being a first line player.
Now, a balanced lineup isn’t a bad idea; it makes sense trying to squeeze offense out of your top three lines. But let’s not kid ourselves, the Habs simply don’t have the guns that the Flyers do. The Habs aren’t nine deep up front, and shouldn’t pretend to be. Why hurt your first line only to strengthen the third?
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, Cole wasn’t just misused in even strength situations.
The American power forward played only 1:04 on the power play. Mathieu Darche meanwhile, played 1:21 on the PP. Why Darche would even come close to Cole’s PP time is a mystery that likely won’t be answered anytime soon.
Yes, Mathieu Darche is a hard working forward who can take up space down low and in front of the net. Unfortunately, he has hands of stone.
Speaking of the man advantage, Martin once again demonstrated that he has absolutely no faith in Yannick Weber. Rather than consistently play Weber, who happens to have a cannon for shot, on the point, Martin turned to Thomas Plekanec.
Not only did this put Plekanec in a position which he failed at towards the end of last season, but it took away his ability to use his soft hands and deadly playmaking ability down low. What purpose does Weber serve if he isn’t trusted to utilize his offensive abilities on the point?
If the Habs are to be successful against the Jets on Sunday, Jacques Martin is going to have to restrain himself from making the same mistakes he made in game one. Erik Cole needs to be given a more pronounced role in the team’s offence, Thomas Plekanec needs to be used in a role he’s more comfortable with, and Yannick Weber should either be given a chance on the PP or subbed out of the lineup for someone who will actually be allowed to make a contribution.