Habs Need All the Help They Can Get
If you’re as passionate a Canadiens fan as I am then this Stanley Cup Finals has been hard to watch. The Canadiens have gone onto have one of the most improbable playoff runs in recent history, just look at what they accomplished. They were able to come from behind, when they were down 3-1 in the opening series, and defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Next up was another North Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets, who were manhandled by the Habs, as the club from Montreal completed a four-game sweep. This series win would crown them as kings of the North, but what lied ahead was their toughest task yet; the Vegas Golden Knights.
When the Habs going up against the Golden Knights, the general consensus around the hockey community was that the Canadiens had enjoyed a solid playoff run but sadly, it would come to an end at the hands of the Golden Knights. Then we won, and all the doubters started to walk away with their tails between their legs.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that the Canadiens are in this spot right now. Referred to as the “team of destiny” in this playoffs, they’ve looked like anything but in the Finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So far, they have run into several problems, whether it be lack of focus, Andrei Vasilevskiy, or trivial mistakes. The point is, it seems that the Habs are out of whack right now and need to get back to their normal selves. So, how can they do this?
Here, I will be covering the five things the Montreal Canadiens can implement into their gameplay in order to steal a game in this series. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile comes easy in life. Without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
#1 – Insert Romanov and Kulak Into the Lineup
In a series where goals are scarce for the Habs, they seem to not think they can implement lineup changes, which baffles me as a fan. The big four defensemen we have playing at the moment are absolutely golden and don’t need to be changed, but the bottom two do. No offense to them, as they’re skilled players, but this team needs a spark, and they might find it in their young Russian defenseman Alexander Romanov. and standout bottom liner Brett Kulak.
Romanov brings a certain flair, poise, and intensity to the game that goes beyond the stat sheet. His ability to make crisp tape-to-tape outbreak passes, control the puck up the ice, and vision, all led to the offensive aspects of the game. His tenacity, ability to use the body, and box-outs, all lend to the defensive aspects of the game. With this multitude of factors it’s a shame he doesn’t see a chance to hop on the ice and try to spark something for the “bleu-blanc-rouge”.
Kulak is very much the same, as he possesses great break-out abilities, has a heavy shot, and splendid vision. He may not be the best skater but he can certainly get around. These abilities can also lend to the generation of some quality scoring chances.
The fact is that these two have the capabilities to create scoring chances, which is exactly what the Habs are lacking at the moment. If I were Dominique Ducharme, I would seriously consider getting them back into the line-up.
#2 – Work on Special Teams
During the first three rounds of the playoffs, this Canadiens team was perfect on the penalty kill. They looked as if no one would be able to score on them on the man-advantage. Then Tampa came along and exposed all.
The Habs penalty kill has been anything but spectacular in this series. It’s often looked sloppy, uncoordinated, and tired. What the Lightning are finding success with is getting multiple bodies in front of Carey Price, causing him to lose sight of the puck leading to more goals caused by net-front presence and deflections.
When it comes to the power-play, the Habs don’t look any better, as they have struggled mightily. Same as the penalty kill, the power play looks uncoordinated, sloppy, and downright a mess.
If the Canadiens are going to want to get anything going on the power play, they are going to need to send at least two bodies to the front of the net. Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Eric Staal, Joel Armia, – really anybody who isn’t either a defenseman or as lethal a shooter as Cole Caufield could do this. Getting two bodies to the front of the net will create havoc, which is exactly what you want to do when coming up against a goalie like Vasilevskiy.
For the penalty kill nothing major is needed, just a return to the basics. Stick to your man, jump up when the defensemen look like they are about to unwind a shot, and most important of all, stay calm! If the Habs implement these three things they will find some more success on the PK.
#3 – Switch Up the Lines
Now I know that this is a fairly simple proposition, but it is fairly valid. The truth of the matter is the Habs could not generate enough offense in this series to muster a win. When that happens, you need to change things up.
I’m not sure what exactly Dom Ducharme should do, but I say get creative. Want to try out Caufield and Anderson on a line together? Have at it! Think Danault and Perry would have great chemistry? Why not try out it. The Habs have already lost the first three games by staying status-quo and not switching anything up. With one game left to get back into this series, it’s safe to say the time is now.
#4 – Get Carey Price’s Confidence Back
I cannot stress this enough, but the man who got you to the Finals (Price) must be protected at all times. Too many times in this series I have seen two or three Tampa Bay players camping in front of the net. This is unacceptable.
The Habs must clear the front of the net out and allow their goalie to work within a crease that is not blinded by opposing players. The only way to beat Price is with traffic in front of the net, which is exactly what the Lightning are doing.
In order for Price to get his mojo back, the Canadiens need to clear the front of the net and allow Price the ability to see the puck at all times. Only then will he gain momentum and get his confidence back.
#5- Insert Tomas Tatar Into the Lineup
When it comes to regular season play, Tomas Tatar is a stud. During the 2020-21 season, the Slovakian sniper managed to pot home 30 points in 50 games. During the playoffs, however, Tatar is known to disappear, which is partly the reason behind him not slotting into the Habs lineup during the entirety of the playoffs.
I get it, Tatar is not the fastest skater, or best defender, by any means, but that doesn’t mean he can’t create scoring chances. In fact, that is probably all he does. In a series where you need some goals, why not sub him in for someone like Eric Staal. It wouldn’t hurt.
With Game 4 being played Monday night, the city of Montreal will be on its feet in anticipation. If the Canadiens want a different result this time around, maybe they should read my article and borrow some tactics 😉
Dropping the Mike on ya!