It’s become a familiar refrain: The Montreal Canadiens are having problems putting the puck in the net.
Indeed, last night in Columbus, the Canadiens failed to find the range, at all, against former Hab Mathieu Garon and the Blue Jackets in a 3-0 loss. As a result, Coach Jacques Martin went back to his game of musical chairs in an effort to squeeze some production, ANY production, from his forward lines.
It didn’t work.
In the third period, Martin pulled Andrei Kostitsyn off the Tomas Plekanec-Michael Cammalleri unit and put him with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. The Coach replaced Kostitsyn on the Plekanec-Cammalleri line with Lars Eller.
It didn’t work.
Yes, Martin’s moves split up what has been Montreal’s most effective trio up front in Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Cammalleri. However, as The Coach pointed out when this one was over: it’s not as if those three have exactly set the world on fire of late.
With the offensive cupboard bare, what are Jacques Martin’s options as the Canadiens prepare to take on the Sabres in Buffalo Friday night? Well, you may recall that, at this time last season, the Canadiens were struggling to put the puck in the net. Never mind the lack of secondary scoring, the Habs weren’t getting ANY scoring. As a result, The Coach was forced to put all his offensive eggs in one basket, and threw out a line of Cammalleri-Gomez-and-Gionta and, more often than not, the move paid offensive dividends. It also made the Canadiens a one-line team, but at least that one line was scoring.
Is it time to put those three players back together again? You’ve got to believe the thought has crossed The Coach’s mind. Perhaps he puts the Plekanec unit back together again in time for the Sabres Friday night, and puts Travis Moen back with Gomez and Gionta. Or maybe The Coach puts Benoit Pouliot, one of the few forwards out there last night in Columbus to bring any kind of work ethic to the rink, back with Gomez and Gionta. Or maybe it’s Tom Pyatt’s turn, again. Or perhaps you split up the Gomez-Gionta duo altogether.
This is the dilemma that Jacques Martin faces as a result of the fact that Gomez and Gionta have combined for a grand total of two, count ’em, two goals through the first 12 games of the season, and the fact that the red-hot Plekanec line has cooled down.
Count me among those somewhat surprised to see Martin put Eller with Cammalleri and Plekanec last night, and NOT with Gomez and Gionta. However, last time I checked, the Canadiens weren’t paying me to coach this team. But, since you’re asking, I would reunite Cammallaeri with Gionta and Gomez and, instead of trying to find someone to play with Gionta and Gomez, I’d like to see The Coach come up with someone who can play with Plekanec and Kostitsyn.
To compound the problem, the Canadiens power play has been shooting blanks since the start of the season. Going into last night’s game in Columbus, the Habs’ were 3 for 39 while playing with the man (and sometimes two-man) advantage: tied for 29th in the NHL.
Twenty-ninth. Let me remind you that there are 30 teams in the NHL.
Last night, the Habs were 0-for-3 on the power play, despite the return of Andrei Markov to the lineup; in his second game back since undergoing off-season knee surgery. Conspiracy theorists will point out that the Canadiens are 0-2 since the return of Markov to the lineup, but I’m not going to dignify that theory with a comment.
These are the same conspiracy theorists who are absolutely convinced that the Canadiens will never win with Carey Price in goal. Their fire has been fueled by the fact that Jaroslav Halak, the goaltender who got away, is having a terrific start to the season with the St. Louis Blues.
Yes, he is. But if you think the play of Carey Price is what is ailing the Montreal Canadiens of late, well, I have some swamp land you might be interested in.