Daily Hab-it: Yet another leak in the roof
By Arpon Basu
Published Saturday, March 12, 2011 1:23AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
This is beyond ridiculous.
It appears Brent Sopel has a broken hand, and who knows how long it will take for him to return.
That means presently, the Canadiens have four NHL-calibre defencemen shelved. That's two thirds of a top-six, which is absolutely enormous.
When you throw in the loss of Max Pacioretty – the Canadiens top forward over the last quarter of the season – it's a phenomenally important chunk of the team.
It got me thinking, is there another team that comes even close to this level of physical devastation?
Well, obviously the Pittsburgh Penguins are in a similar boat, missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
But perusing this list of current injuries around the NHL, I can't say there is one other team that has dealt with the sheer number of quality players out due to injury as the Canadiens have this season.
And yet, the Good Ship Habs keeps rolling in spite of that listless 4-1 loss to the Blues, right into a meeting with those injury-riddled Pens at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
The Canadiens will now be forced to re-learn how to kill penalties without Sopel. In the three games prior to his arrival, the Canadiens allowed seven goals on 17 power play chances. In the five games Sopel played – all victories – the team killed off 21 of 22 chances.
With this rash of injuries on defence, is it the least bit reasonable to expect the Canadiens to take over the division lead and grab home ice in the first round of the playoffs? Not without certain people rising to the challenge placed before them.
The first would be Benoit Pouliot, who played so poorly on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta on Thursday that he played all of one shift in the third period. He took yet another offensive zone penalty in the second, something that is becoming an epidemic with him, and he was hardly noticeable much of the game.
Some might chalk this up to the Gomez effect, but I don't. I chalk it up to the Pouliot effect, which equates to a big disappearing act once expectations are raised for him. Think about his time with the team, and has he ever maintained a certain level of play when he was expected to perform? No. His best stretches with this team came when most people had lost hope in his abilities or when playing on a bottom-six line.
The other would be one of Alexandre Picard or Yannick Weber, because I feel that Paul Mara will likely be a regular fixture in uniform in Sopel's absence.
But ultimately, if he wasn't being leaned on enough already, the one who has the biggest pressure to step up his game with so many defencemen out is Carey Price. He's done it all year, but now he has to do it even better.
It's a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.