Ten games into the 2009-2010 NHL season, the Montreal Canadiens are a .500 hockey club.
That, in itself, is nothing to write home about. However, when you consider the fact that the Habs were dealing with a five-game losing streak one week ago, at a time when Canadiens fans were prepared to run GM Bob Gainey out of town, a record of 5-5 isn’t looking too bad at all.
It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that newcomers Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez are leading the way, offensively, for this club. Try as he might to spread the scoring around, head coach Jacques Martin will be hard-pressed to break up this threesome. As a result of his four-point performance in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime win over the New York Rangers, Cammalleri leads the Habs in scoring, after 10 games, with 11 points, on five goals and six assists.
You might be surprised, however, to learn that (drum roll, please) Tomas Plekanec is second on this club in points, with nine: on two goals and seven assists. This is clearly a pivotal season, in more ways than one, for Plekanec. After a disastrous showing in 2008-2009 (then again, he wasn’t alone) Plekanec went into the off-season as a restricted free agent, and ended up signing a one-year contract with the Habs. Determined to stick with this team, long-term, Plekanec has answered the bell this season, and could find himself rewarded with a multi-year deal with the Habs, when all is said and done.
Scott Gomez is next with seven points, followed by Brian Gionta with six. The next highest-scoring member of this hockey team? Well, it SHOULD be Andrei Kostitsyn. But it’s not.
How about Guillaume Latendresse? Not even close, with just one goal through 10 games.
It’s Paul Mara, who has chipped in with five assists. Which is fine. However, it’s his -3 showing that has me somewhat concerned. As for Andrei Kostitsyn, he has just one goal, to go along with three assists, and played maybe a grand total of, perhaps, one good game this season.
Matt D’Agostini and Max Pacioretty are still trying to prove that they’re ready for prime time, although both have looked better of late.
And how about Glen Metropoilt? Did you ever, in your wildest dreams, picture Glen Metropolit on the power play when the Canadiens picked up the journeyman centre at the trade deadline last season? The Toronto native has played some inspirational hockey with this club and is making the most of his minutes. He was missed when he went down with an upper-body injury in the second game of the season, and the Canadiens are happy to have him back.
Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate head coach Jacques Martin for sticking with Kyle Chipchura. It would have been easy to show Chipchura the bench when Metropolit returned to action. Instead, Martin stuck with the former first-round draft pick, and the young man is finally rounding into form after sitting out training camp, recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery. After Saturday’s win over the Rangers, Martin called the fourth line of Chipchura-Latendresse-D’Agostini his second-best line on the night. Here’s hoping that Chipchura can continue to elevate his level of play.
Defensively, the team obviously misses Andrei Markov and Ryan O’Byrne, particularly when you consider O’Byrne’s solid play during the pre-season. Jaroslav Spacek has been a very solid addition to this team’s blueline, but Hal Gill continues to be an adventure out there; as his -4 plus/minus totals would indicate. Newcomer Marc-Andre Bergeron is proving to be a bargain-basement acquisition and is delivering with that big blast from the point, although he won’t win you a Norris Trophy based on his defensive work.
In goal, Jaroslav Halak has been the goaltender of record during this three-game winning streak. However, you can’t keep Carey Price in the bench forever (although some might argue that point.) As a result, I think it’s safe to say you can look for Price tonight at the Bell Centre when the New York Islanders come back to town; an opportunity for the Canadiens to climb above the .500 mark for the first time in almost three weeks.