Hard to believe that a few short years ago, Sheldon Souray’s booming shot was leading an effective Montreal Canadiens’ power play.
When Souray left town as an unrestricted free agent, the Habs managed to replace that blast from the point with Mark Streit, a surprisingly effective acquisition from Switzerland who, two years ago, blossomed as an offensive threat in Montreal. Not only from the point on the power play, but up front, as a part-time forward.
Two seasons ago, with Streit at quarterback, the Canadiens finished the regular season with the most productive power play in the National Hockey League. At the time, anxious Habs’ fans fretted about the lack of 5-on-5 production. As it turned out, the Canadiens didn’t have to worry about the lack of 5-on-5 scoring (during the regular season, at least) because of how effective the power play was.
That was then. This is now.
Sheldon Souray? He’s doing his thing as a member of the Edmonton Oilers after leaving town as an unrestricted free agent. Not the most effective guy on the block when it comes to his defensive play, he resembles a pylon on some nights. However, you certainly can’t take anything away from his offensive game.
Mark Streit? He’s patrolling the blueline as a member of the New York Islanders, logging major minutes as a defenceman. Fact is, he wasn’t terribly effective along the blueline as a member of the Habs; but responded well to Guy Carbonneau’s offer to play a little hockey up front. In fact, Streit’s success up front may have ultimately led to his undoing in Montreal. But here’s the rub: all Mark Streit wanted to do was play defence, and he got that opportunity to do just that, as a member of the Islanders.
You know what? I’m thrilled for the guy. Here’s someone who left his native Switzerland, well into his hockey career, for a chance to grab the brass ring in the NHL. For less money than he was making playing for teams like Davos and Zurich. And he struck paydirt when he signed a five-year deal with the Islanders worth just over 20 million dollars.
Last season, the Canadiens tried to replace Mark Streit with someone like Patrice Brisebois. The move didn’t work. Then again, it’s not the only move that didn’t work for Guy Carbonneau last season.
Which brings us to this season, and Montreal’s sputtering power play. The injury to Andre Markov has been a big blow. Marc-Andrei Bergeron was supposed to help cushion that blow as a bargain-basement free-agent acquisition. And although his booming shot from the point has resulted in a couple of goals, his defensive play has been downright scary at times. Yet, there he was in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Calgary, paired with another newcomer, Jay Leach, along the blueline. However, you gotta give Bergeron credit. On this particular night, he logged almost 16 minutes of, well, let’s call it “somewhat effective” ice time. Effective for him, at least.
As for Leach, the well-travelled career minor-leaguer looked like an NHLer out there. And I think that’s all anyone could hope for, in his 17:16 of ice time.
HOWEVER, and this is a “big” however, the Canadiens lost to Calgary by the score of 1-0. Which is a pretty good indication that the Habs were not very effective on the power play that night against the Flames: 0-for-5 while playing with the man advantage. It also marked the 11th time in 18 games this season, that the Canadiens have registered two goals, or less, in a game.
When you score a goal, or two, you at least have a chance at winning hockey game. Tuff to do that, when you finish up an evening of hockey with a big goose egg on your side of the scoreboard.