SAINT-LAZARE, QC. — For the past two weeks, we have seen the Canadiens rise from the ashes, and win five out their six last games. Of course, game number five came after the horrendous hit on Max Pacioretty by “He Who Shall Not Be Named” of the Boston Bruins (assist to J.K. Rowling.)
Everyone is singing the praises of Canadiens Head Coach Jacques Martin, and how his coaching style has saved this franchise from certain doom, considering all the injuries the Habs have had this season. Could his defensive system really be the reason? Could “Coach K” really have been wrong in his assessment of the “system” and its benefits.
Should I be eating crow? HELL NO !!!
Let’s state the facts, people. The bottom line is that, other than the goals scored in Saturday night’s victory over the injury-decimated Pittsburgh Penguins by Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri, all the scoring has come from the third and fourth lines. The “system” continues to stifle the offensive talents of players on the top two lines, while allowing the plumbers to reap the benefits.
How does my theory work? Look at it objectively. Why is it that Andrei Kostitsyn can flourish offensive with Lars Eller and Travis Moen, yet cannot do a thing when playing with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta? The reason is simple. When facing the best defensive forwards, night after night, there has to be a time when you have to find an offensive advantage to have success. Attacking your opponent requires time and space. So when you always start inside your own zone with the puck, and normally from the top of your defensive face-off circles, it makes it easy for the defending team to limit that space. Effectively, you trap yourself in the defensive zone by allowing your opponent to cut off the neutral zone before you can even get to it, let alone the offensive zone.
Do you wonder why Saturday’s game seemed so slow? The primary reason is because the Canadiens get hemmed into our own zone, and lack the energy to attack with speed, and maintain that speed in the offensive zone. That energy was not lacking when we scored two of our three goals inside the first minute of the first and second periods.
Going into the playoffs, the Canadiens are probably the most predictable team amongst the top eight of the Eastern Conference. That lack of imagination and creativity gives whomever their opponent a distinct advantage over them. Opponents will expect the Canadiens to sit back and defend, while taking advantage of a few opportunities per game in order to score. Any “system” is flawed when it depends on the mistakes of others. Only when our offensive stars are allowed to flourish can we begin to dream of another Stanley Cup.