Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Habs wish they had that one back

The Canadiens entered the third period on Monday with a 2-0 lead and, for lack of a better term, blew it. Montreal’s offence was missing in action for the third period, and their defence, hobbled by injuries to Jaroslav Spacek and Andreas Enqvist, wasn’t all that much better. Buffalo went on to win in a shootout, which left Carey Price without a save in shootouts thus far in 2011-12.

The big ideas from this game? After two hard fought overtime victories, Montreal folded up shop after the second. That’s never good. Erik Cole looked great yet again, as did Max Pacioretty, who had another goal and an assist. The injuries to Spacek and Enqvist hurt, as the Canadiens continue to host a plethora of players on the sidelines.

These are an important next few games for the Habs, as they fight through one of their busiest two-week periods of the season. At 7-7-3, they are only 1 point out of eighth, and four points out of fifth. However, clearly, the larger that space, and the more teams between them, the less likely the playoffs become. People can laugh if they want - yes, it’s only 17 games - but the reality is we’re almost at the quarter pole. If the Habs don’t string some wings together soon, they are going to be in the midst of a hungry pack, perhaps unable to dig themselves out and back up to a playoff seed.

So how do they fix this? Well, the call up cupboard won’t do it - the players in Hamilton just aren’t of a calibre that will affect anything substantially. A trade might work, but you know how GM Pierre Gauthier is averse to, well, anything that involves speaking to other people, and trades involve negotiations. That leaves the return of injured players, and that will be key. Andrei Markov has begun practicing with the team, so that’s a good sign. Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn are expected to be back soon. If those three can get back into games within the next week or two, that will be a big boost for the Canadiens, and could get them firing on all cylinders.

I’ll end with the biggest achilles heel. The power play. The Canadiens need a point man, and they need it now. Hopefully it is Markov, but if he’s not going to be back for a while, the Canadiens really need to do something. This is where a good GM makes his mark. Gauthier needs to get the lay of the land from the team’s doctors, and if Markov isn’t really on the verge of a return, then act. Teams can’t win games on a regular basis without a functioning power play. The Canadiens don’t have one. So it’s either get someone on the point, or throw up the white flag.

I guess the other option is they could fire another assistant coach, but that will get expensive sooner rather than later.

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About The Upper Canadien

The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com