Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 01/24/11 at 11:15 PM ET
Another solid weekend for the Habs saw them take 3 of a possible 4 points. Max Pacioretty continues to impress, and Carey Price continues to make big saves. A few Monday evening observations:
1) The late period goal continues to be the Habs’ Achilles heel. Anaheim scored to make it 3-1 with less than a minute to go in the second period on Saturday, the umpteenth time this has happened in 10-11. Surely I’m not the only one noticing this, am I?
It seems to keep happening over and over again. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’m not sure who’s responsible really, but the coaching staff must do something. Is it possible the players who are on late in periods are tired as they are playing more in the absence of Markov, Gorges, Cammalleri, etc.? This is the most glaring problem the Habs need to correct going forward.
2) Montreal’s depth is impressive. Many people can take credit here, such as Bob Gainey, Julien Brisebois, Pierre Gauthier, Trevor Timmins Don Lever, Randy Cunneyworth. This is something the organization should be lauded for – yes, they don’t produce buckets of superstars, but they produce many quality players. I am impressed every single time the Canadiens bring a player up from Hamilton. They may not light the world on fire, but these guys can play a system, and they have talent. Desharnais hasn’t been the second coming of Lafleur, but he has been a consistent, two way presence who takes his lumps. Max Pacioretty isn’t going to be a superstar, but he plays hard every shift and makes a solid contribution game after game. These guys have been brought along slowly and taught well – perhaps the Habs learned from the Guillaume Latendresse experiment? Regardless, Montreal has depth, and right about now it is coming in handy.
3) Now this is out of left field, but have you ever heard of Jerome Samson? This is exactly the kind of guy I think the Habs should be adding to their system. He’s a Quebec kid, 23 years old, and he has 43 points in 46 games with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL this year. He was signed by Carolina but has played only seven NHL games since leaving the QMJHL in 2007. I’d love to see the Habs make a pitch here. He’s six feet tall and plays a physical game. The Habs system has depth, but it can never have too much. Especially not too much local talent. I wish Pierre Gauthier took more flyers like this one.
4) Back to the club, if they are going to succeed again in the playoffs this year, they need two pieces: a scoring forward, and a veteran defenceman. I’ve harped on this before, but here’s a question: which one is the more important piece? I say defenceman, due to the system they play, but that’s debatable. Chris Phillips would look awfully good right now as a Josh Gorges replacement, but if he’s not available, how about Andy Sutton? Big, shot-blocking defenceman making less than $3 million and likely available if Anaheim falls out of the playoff race. I’m no GM, but he’s a Gorges replacement I’d take a look at.
5) Grit is important. We saw Ryan White defending his teammates on the weekend, and I really hope we see more of it the rest of the way. Not just from White, from everyone. Many Habs will come to a teammate’s aid, but there are only two that I have seen do it consistently this season: Travis Moen (often with his fists) and Hal Gill (with his imposing size). Championship teams are built with a group of players than rely on each other. Trust, and knowing teammates have their back, makes players better.
One more to go before the all-star break. And a big one. Philadelphia. But many in the media today made it sound like a win tomorrow is an insurmountable challenge.
Newsflash: it isn’t. The Habs have beaten the Flyers this year. They very well could tomorrow. That is, after all, why they play the games.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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