Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Habs need to find a power play specialist, and soon!

I guess a lot of fans in Montreal now miss Mark Streit after his departure via free agency to Long Island.

Montreal had last year’s number one power play in the NHL, but they are now sitting 29th with a poor 12.9% success rate, while the Islanders power play has improved steadily from 29th to 17th overall at a 18.0% rate. Streit has 21 points, 15 on the power play, in 30 games (he would be the Habs' fourth scorer).

Many thought Streit would struggle as a full-time defenseman, but he’s minus-8 on a very ordinary Islanders team that is sitting last in the Eastern Conference. Streit has logged the thirteenth most ice time in the NHL with an average of 25:07 each game, including around six minutes on the power play.

Meanwhile, Ryan O'Byrne and Patrice Brisebois, who usually play with Roman Hamrlik, Streit's former partner on defense, have a combined three goals and five assists in 46 games this season... Mathieu Dandenault also played with Hammer before being injured with a broken arm. Dandy, while playing well defensively, only had two assists in twenty games prior to the injury.

Streit was the shooter on a very effective 1st unit last season along with Markov, Kovalev, Plekanec and A. Kostitsyn. This season, newly-acquired Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang have also manned the point with Andrei Markov.

The latter was asked to shoot the puck at the net without great success, Markov being more of a passer than a shooter, as shown by his five goals and 19 assists in 29 games this season. As a result, the Habs have became very predictable on the power play, and the defensive team is putting much more pressure on Koivu (one goal on the PP) and Kovalev (also one goal on the PP). The team leader is Alex Tanguay with only four PP goals and he has not scored on the PP since November 7th.

The league leader is Selanne with thirteen power play goals.

Guy Carbonneau has yet to adjust his strategy and the problem is more and more obvious recently as the Canadiens have lost three of their last four games, scoring only one goal in each of these losses.

Will Carbonneau change his strategy or will Bob Gainey pull the trigger before the Holiday trade freeze and acquire a power play specialist with a hard shot (Philippe Boucher was available a month ago)? He even put Begin, Lapierre and Kostopoulos out there during the last game against the Capitals to send a message to his star players. Now with the injury to Koivu, the coach will have to find a new combination in order to spark this slumping power play unit...

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