Engels Angle: Habs Need Depth to Come Through Vs. Bruins
Published Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:35PM EDT
MONTREAL - It's natural to focus on the leaders of the Canadiens, as the team ventures towards another playoff run that everyone in Montreal hopes will be a long one. Without majority contributions from the team's most seasoned players, they don't stand a chance of accomplishing their goal.
But their task extends further than the rink, because the players who could be x-factors for the Canadiens are the young ones, who can't possibly anticipate what's in store for them come Thursday night in Boston.
Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri have a responsibility to counsel players like David Desharnais and Lars Eller. Their reach - in drawing from their extensive experience - should also extend to players of limited experience such as, Benoit Pouliot and Tom Pyatt.
Ryan White should be able to benefit from Travis Moen's Stanley Cup-winning example.
Hal Gill has mentored P.K. Subban all season, and you would hope Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek and Brent Sopel have been doing the same with Yannick Weber.
For as much as the Canadiens leaders are expected to provide, hockey remains the ultimate team-sport. That much has never been more true. Our most recent playoff memory is the most tangible evidence of the point, with the incredibly balanced Flyers and Blackhawks battling for the Stanley Cup, instead of your Canadiens who had a chance.
With the slate clean, whether you want to believe it or outright refuse to, your Montreal Canadiens have as good a chance as any of their competition. They can make it far on Gionta's, Cammalleri's and Price's shoulders, but ultimately they'll need every member of the team operating at capacity.
Importance of Eller and Desharnais
With Jeff Halpern sidelined by back spasms, the roles for Eller and Desharnais increase. One will be used more defensively and one will be expected to provide an offensive push.
Eller is looking at starting this series with Tom Pyatt and Ryan White. All three will have important defensive assignments and Eller will have to pick his faceoff percentage up from his worse-than 43% efficiency throughout the season. His ability to do exactly that will determine how much of a role he'll play in the Canadiens potential success.
In speaking with Eller yesterday, he assured me that his confidence level is exactly where he'd like it to be ahead of the playoffs.
As for Desharnais, he's just happy to have a new canvas to work on, having failed to find the back of the net in his final 15 games of the regular-season. He's still expected to hold his own in the defensive end (as are all of Jacques Martin's forwards), but if he can find a way to provide offence for the team, it'll be like found money.
Contributions Expected of Pouliot and Kostitsyn
If there were two players who could make a tremendous impact on Montreal's chances, they would have to be Pouliot and Kostitsyn. From a physical perspective, both players have the capacity to do what most of their teammates can't. They need to be leading the hit parade, and if they can create space for their linemates, they'll both garner the kind of opportunities they need in order to score. Both have boundless offensive upside, but both have a tendency to struggle to consistently invoke the appropriate emotional investment.
At 5-on-5, where the Bruins are among the league's best and the Canadiens are among the league's worst, Pouliot and Kostitsyn can make all the difference, and both are at a stage in their careers where the time to prove they can is now.