In the summer of 2009, Jacques Martin reinvented the Montreal Canadiens. There was no place for Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu in Martin’s new-look Canadiens. Instead, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez were shipped in to change Montreal’s fortunes.
Two years on, Martin’s changes seem to have been unsuccessful as the big three have failed this season to justify their coach’s gamble.
As Montreal prepare to face the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, the Habs’ experienced players will have to find the net if the Canadiens are to advance to the next round.
All three of the Canadiens’ big names have underachieved this season, but there have been recent glimpses of hope despite a tough month for the Habs.
Brian Gionta seems to have rediscovered his scoring touch. Although the Montreal captain was one strike short of the 30-goal mark, he has three goals in Montreal’s last two games.
“A series is about winning four games, and you have to find a way to win those games no matter what” said Gionta.
“The special teams are going to be a huge key to that, making sure you win that kind of match-up gives you a definite advantage in the series.”
Gionta has had to do without the help of his long-term line-mate – Scott Gomez. The former New York Ranger only found the net seven times during the regular season, with a career low 31 assists.
Gomez is finding it difficult to explain his dreadful season, but is hoping he can turn things around in the playoffs.
“It was a learning experience as I never went through anything like that. It would be easy to say I was out of shape or injured, but I can’t pinpoint it” said Gomez.
Mike Cammalleri has had his injury problems this season, but failed to make the 20-goal mark. Despite struggling on the stats board, Cammalleri has showed some promise of late.
The 28-year-old has 6 points in Montreal’s last 6 games, including 3 goals. If Montreal are to advance to the second round of the playoffs, Cammalleri will need to rediscover his sparkling form from last season’s post-season.
In 19 playoff games last season, the sniper found the net an impressive 13 times, with a further 6 assists. The former Calgary Flames star recently showed he still has what it takes with a very impressive performance against the Chicago Black Hawks.
Cammalleri must be feeling the pressure to find the net, but feels his opponents will be under more scrutiny as Montreal has won the regular season series against Boston 4-2.
“Our record this year sends a pretty clear message of what we are capable of, but at the same time we’re playing the favorite.
“They’re supposed to win, they’re the favorites and there’s a lot of people picking them to win, so they should be under a lot of pressure” added Cammalleri.
Montreal’s last three playoff campaigns have been cut short by two teams. The Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins have out-muscled and battered the Canadiens in the past and this season will be equally tough for Montreal.
Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri don’t break the six-foot barrier, making a match-up with Boston’s Zdeno Chara almost laughable.
However, the Canadiens have improved their physicality. Ryan White’s confidence has grown, and he even enjoyed a Gordie Howe hat-trick in the Candiens’ 8-1 demolition of the Minnesota Wild. Hal Gill and PK Subban have also added some crunch to the depleted Montreal defence.
Travis Moen has no issue with dropping the gloves, and with Montreal still wanting revenge for Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty and a 7-0 embarrassment the last time Montreal visited Boston, the Habs should be fired up.
Although Carey Price will be Montreal’s most important player throughout the series, his stops would be in vain if Montreal cannot score.
Since failing to score in three straight games during March, the Habs have found the net 16 times in six games. Things are clearly improving, but against Boston everything will need to be in working order for Montreal to have any chance.