Daily Hab-it: Freed from his shackles
By Arpon Basu
Published Saturday, February 26, 2011 11:54PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
Andrei Kostitsyn was thrown onto a line with Scott Gomez Feb. 1 in Washington, and spent the next 10 games playing with him.
Prior to that switch, Kostitsyn had three goals and two assists in six games. After getting an assist in Washington, Kostitsyn went nine games without a point.
Now, three games into a stint with Lars Eller as his centre, Kostitsyn has four points including the winning goal and a great assist Saturday night in a big 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
It's pretty staggering to see what the Gomez effect has become, as winger after winger have been placed by his side only to fall into a black hole of production.
Consider this: over that 10-game stretch where Kostitsyn was playing with Gomez he was a minus player five times, going minus-8 overall. In his other 52 games this season, some of which were played with Gomez, Kostitsyn has been a minus player only 11 times (including Saturday night, by the way), going plus-12 overall.
It doesn't get much more striking than that.
I don't have the time or the inclination to check it out right now, but I would venture to guess that if you went through the same exercise with Gomez's other wingers you'd find a similar phenomenon taking place.
I'm not quite sure how much clearer it can be that Gomez is dragging his linemates down with him, and how much longer Jacques Martin will wait before giving him linemates that don't have as far down to go to reach those depths.
Kostitsyn was asked after the game what the difference is between playing with Gomez and playing with Eller. Listen carefully to what he said.
"When I play with Gomez we play close to each other, move the puck around and take some good shots. With my line now, we make easy plays, put the puck behind their defence and try to play in the offensive zone."
That part about "easy plays" and putting pucks deep to play behind the defence, that's the Canadiens offensive game plan in a nut shell. In fact, it's the offensive game plan of just about every team in the NHL.
The fact that is the main difference between playing with Eller and playing with Gomez speaks large to what the game plan becomes when Gomez is on the ice.
When Martin was asked to explain the disparity between Kostitsyn's production alongside Gomez and with Eller, he predictably chose to focus on Eller's positive play than Gomez's negatives.
"They have some good chemistry," he said. "On Eller's goal, Andrei did some good work on the forecheck finishing his check and sending it in front to Eller for the goal. Lars may have had difficulties at certain points of the year, I've always liked his play without the puck. He's a young player who understands the game, he has some nice skill and lately we've seen him execute much better offensively. He passes the puck quicker, does some give and go, and he's shooting quicker."
Martin didn't say so, but I think it's safe to assume that he doesn't feel quite the same way about Gomez these days.