Ever since watching the Habs blowout in Columbus the other night, I've felt this sense of decline in my elation to the start of the 2010-2011 season. I've been pouring over the stats, reading articles and opinions, lamenting over next weeks schedule.
But in other moments, when I've stepped back from the Twitterverse, and all the negative thought processes that are in full flourish around the internet, and the MSM press as well, I see that we're still in a very good position at the beginning of the year.
When I look at all the other top team in the league, I notice that they're struggling too. I look at Washington who's 8-4-0, the Flyers at 7-4-1, and Tampa at 7-2-2. We've all played 12 games with the exception of the Lightning (11). Even the team that is considered top contender in the Western Conference to go to the Stanley Cup (The L.A. Kings) is sitting 8-3-0.
So all in all, we're ok. But we won't continue being ok if we don't make some adjustments. October's schedule was relatively easy compared to November, and we won't have time to coast at all as the season progresses.
The scariest stat moving forward sits in the "Goals Scored" column. I know there are many people out there that think that it's a defensive game. It's all about the goaltending. But sadly - even if your keeper stops every puck thrown his way, it won't secure a win. Without goals, you don't win: plain and simple.
No other team in the leagues top 16 have scored fewer goals in as many games as the Montreal Canadiens thus far. Some are close - but with a minimum of a game in hand. When you consider the offensive maelstrom that the Habs inflicted in the post season last year, the current level of putting it in the net is not acceptable.
So today, while going through the morning skate, Coach Martin made some changes. And at this point, I believe that change is good.
Offensively, Kostitsyn gets moved to the Gionta / Gomez line. This line has produced plenty of shots on net (thanks to Gionta), but has not been able to pot one, in far too many minutes. Kostitsyn has proven that he has good vision, soft hands, and a rifling shot. His gritty style, and movement to the net could help this line break the drought, and I'm more than willing to give it a look-see.
Eller has finally been moved up to play wing alongside Plekanec and Cammelleri. There is no doubt that Pleks is the best offensive player on the team thus far, and is the best two way player on the ice. Eller has youth, size, and incredibly good hockey intuition. With the inception of this as a whole new line, Eller will be able to draw attention off of Cammy, and create all kinds of havoc if he gets to the front of the net. Add a playmaker and goal scorer like Plekanec, and you might start seeing results here as well.
The defensive pairings have been weak as well. There is no need to put Markov and Subban on the ice together. Oft times, Markov is left sitting back waiting to bail out some of PK's rookie mistakes, and both have a point shot that needs utilized on separate lines. And despite what Gorges and Gill were able to do together last year, they are the worst defensive pairings of the season. Their plus/minus is terrible, Gill is getting even slower, and too many times they have collapsed in down low - or simply been out of position. So I like the change of Markov with Gorges. They will be a good compliment for one another. And Gill - who likes to sit back anyway (because of his lack of speed), is a great pairing for the quick aggressive styling of Subban. My concern lies in the Hamrlik / Spacek team. Two veterans that are getting older and slower. One who has shown a lot of inconsistency in his play. Just for once, I think it's time to give Spacek some press box time, and bring Picard in to play next to Hamrlik. Picard also has size and youth on his side, and so far this season has a goal on 9 shots in nine games with a +7 rating.
I don't know that these changes will remain in place come game time on Friday, when we make our way onto the ice against a very hungry Buffalo Sabres franchise. But I believe that if Martin gives it a shot with the top 6 as he's practiced them, and gives Spacek a night or two on the bench, then maybe November won't be such a bad month after all.