I’ve upgraded the Montreal Canadiens from a 4-cylinder fuel-efficient sub compact, to a full-blown 6-cylinder mid-sized North American machine. Many will disagree, but that’s why I love leaving my opinion out there for the public to scrutinize, criticize, and comment on.
As I mentioned to a good friend of mine earlier tonight, opinion is what makes the world go ’round, and I’m never shy on opinion.
Tonight, the Habs closed out their pre season training camp action against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The same team that shellacked them 4-0 a mere two days ago. Many people voiced their concern with the organization as they sat with only one win (overtime against the Senators) in seven starts.
After all, other major contenders in the league have posted far superior records in the pre season this year. Going into tonight, The Leafs sat at 4-3, Boston held a 3-1-1 record, and even the Senators were 3-3-1.
But tonight was the first game that the complete roster of le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge skated together, (despite still missing a few key players in Lars Eller, Andrei Markov, and Ryan White) and the team play was certainly taken up a notch.
Erik Cole continues to show why the franchise decided to acquire him over the summer. His size, strong skating skills, and powerful shot have been a pleasure to watch. He’s been doing precisely as is expected of him in opening up more room on the ice for his line-mates. Plekanec seems more at ease on the ice and Cammalleri is finding himself open in the slot on a far more regular basis.
There is the more consistent and powerful play of Scott Gomez. Along with his usual ability to carry the puck through the neutral portion of the ice, and gain the offensive zone, Gomez is taking it to the net and relying less on the set up pass, taking more shots on net. There’s a new “swagger” in his skating, and what seems like a more calm demeanor.
There are still a number of issues that the Habs will need to solve as the season begins, and strangely enough – it continues to be their defensive woes that stick out the most. Despite a good camp, Yemelin isn’t shining quite to the expectations that were set out, and Diaz still requires a lot of work to be full-time NHL ready.
Having said that, Gorges is looking like a monster and more than ready to prove why he should be a multi-year contract player with the organization. Spacek has noticeable improvement to his game, with increased speed and what seems to be a higher hockey IQ. There will be a lot of pressure on these two to mentor and coach the younger players and direct them. Hal Gill will also be part of that picture, and his continued work with PK Subban will be imperative to keep the young defender growing.
I do agree with many fans and critics in regards to the pre-season play in one regard. The rookies were given far too much leeway in the amount of playing time they received. Their ice time is a direct reflection of the teams pre-season record. But it’s not the record that counts. It’s the fact that the roster team should have been playing together in preparation of the regular season for a stint much longer than one game.
Having said all that, I return to my original thought. That being the six cylinder team that showed up last night. This team has more size than in previous years, and it showed. There was less “dump and run” hockey being played, and the team was able to maintain time in the offensive zone with more ease.
There are many people who will be “chirping” about how terrible the team played in the pre-season, but if last night is a foreshadowing of what’s to come from the regular season roster, then the chirping will definitely be silenced.