It seems that as of late, the grumblings are getting louder in and around the city of Montreal. In a city that never seems happy with the performance of their beloved Canadiens, unless it’s a Stanley Cup winning year, the month of February shouldn’t be any different. And it isn’t.
Most of that frustration has been focused around the play of the Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Scott Gomez line of forwards. Becoming known as the EKG line for their heart stopping moments. But not in a positive way.
So trying to be a non-biased member of the Montreal community, I decided to look at the numbers. After all, we all know the old truth.
The numbers don’t lie. Or do they?
There is no doubt that during the month of February, the EKG line has posted some of the worst numbers on the team. In a total of six games, the three have amassed approximately 271 minutes of ice time (rounded off), potting 1 goal, and 2 assists from 29 shots. The most staggering stat is the collective -18 with 16 PIM.
Much of that damage was during the Habs 8-6 road loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night where the three suffered the wrath of Coach Jacques Martin – benching all three for the third period. In an article that I wrote for my own site, I questioned if Martin would carry that punishment over to Thursday nights match against the New York Islanders. The answer to that questions was a resounding “No” – much to my own personal chagrin. Instead, the threesome was awarded their usual average ice time resulting in 0 goals, 0 assists, a collective -3 on 2 SOG’s.
Last night, Twitter was going mad, asking for Martin’s head, the demotion of Gomez to the fourth line, and the immediate trade of Andrei Kostitsyn. With the trade deadline looming – it seemed like an appropriate time for the request. But that’s when I decided to check the numbers.
Despite his poor showing in the last 6 games, Kostitsyn is actually on pace to have his second best season with the Canadiens. If his game continues without improvement, he will finish with 19 goals, and 20 assists for 43 points. That lands him 10 full points ahead of his 2009-2010 totals and slips him two points ahead of his 2008-2009 season as well. He’s also +6 on the season so far; way ahead of his line-mates, and in pretty average standing with the majority of the team.
So why the screams for a trade?
Well I mentioned that numbers don’t lie. But they don’t always tell the whole story.
Watching AK-46 over the past half dozen games, there are many things that anyone should notice, that the stats don’t necessarily report on. It seems that the Belarusian, who showed great promise at the start of this season, has become complacent in his game. He’s playing lazy, skating poorly, and having a hard time maintaining puck control. He’s been coughing it up constantly, and unable to make any positive plays in the offensive zone. He’s been noted by some on Twitter as a “one trick pony”, who has only one real offensive move to the net.
So the question looms for Pierre Gauthier and the rest of the coaching staff in the Canadiens organization. Is there hope that Kostitsyn can bolster his numbers by turning his game around to what it was at the beginning of the season? Will he find the spark in his skating, and the power behind his shot that we thought we were going to see for a full 82 games? Will he regain those quick hands that make him potentially lethal from the neutral zone, forward?
With the Gomez contract being what it is, there is no doubt that he isn’t going anywhere. And it would be foolish to move Eller from the organization at this stage. Clearly he can grow here. So in light of all of that, perhaps it’s time to make some line changes once again, and get all of these players firing on all cylinders.
Because if that doesn’t happen, Kostitsyn may be the fall guy, who sees himself packing his bags for another city, before the trade deadline comes to a close.