Uncertainties persist in the Canadian, despite two victories

Sport 2 October, 2017

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The canadian Press
Jonathan Drouin is apparent winner of the duel against Miro Aaltonen at the meeting of the Canadian against the Toronto Maple Leafs, at Quebec, on Wednesday.

This is Alex Galchenyuk, who remarked after the spectacular performance of the Montreal canadiens on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre : it is better to lose at the beginning of the calendar preparatory and finish on a note of victory than the reverse.


If this analysis holds the road, it can be concluded that the Tricolore is ready to start its regular season next Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres after his two great victories of the weekend. And this, in spite of all these uncertainties that have marked the training camp and that, at some levels, still remain.


These uncertainties are such that head coach Claude Julien was left to hover in the possibility that the direction of the team takes all the time required — time limit is set to 17 h Tuesday — to announce his formation of 23 players.


At least, the state of mind was to positivism in the locker room after the thawed of 9-2 that the Canadian had inflicted upon the Senators, for all sorts of reasons. One of them is that Julien can count on having a true number one centre by Jonathan Drouin.


“I see a player who is certainly capable of evolving at the center, said head coach of the Canadian speaking about her new come. It is a center that will support the game everywhere in our territory, and not launch the attack without support. He has great respect for the appearance of the game center and I found that it improved as we progressed in the camp. “


Also, it seems that Julien has had the happy hand by putting Brendan Gallagher on the right side of Drouin and Max Pacioretty. If he can avoid injuries, unlike the last two seasons, the pugnacious right wing will add to the aggressiveness, believed Julien, a duo that seems destined to get along like thieves in a fair.


“Sometimes, you have to watch your lines and analyze what they need, noted Julien. In this case, I thought that if we could give him a player capable of practicing failure-before, cause turnovers and give space to his two teammates, it could create a beautiful set. But there was no guarantee there and I had to see it and try it. “


Production offensive


Beyond this first trio, and despite the backfire of Saturday night, there is still uncertainty to the attack.


Phillip Danault has shown great things last year and we feel a chemistry with Andrew Shaw. Now, is that Galchenyuk can use his talents as a marker to give the biting that is offensive to this trio ? After the game on Saturday, we would be inclined to believe that yes, except that it was not the case at the beginning of the camp.


Moreover, what can we expect of a trio who, in theory, meet Charles Hudon, Tomas Plekanec and Artturi Lehkonen ?


Hudon had promised to play “the knife between the teeth” during the training camp. This is what he has done to the point where, unless a huge surprise, he will start the season in Montreal. But one fact remains : he has only six games of experience in the NHL, even if he took the opportunity to register four points.


Lehkonen has a shooting quality, and it shows a lot of intelligence to the game. But it is hardly more experienced, with only one full season in the NHL while Plekanec has seen a dramatic slump last season. Will he take advantage of a new lease of life with these two young people ?


Also, is that Paul Byron will be able to repeat its performance of 2016-2017 ? That will play to his sides at the center and to the right ? Is Jacob De La Rose has supplanted the veteran Torrey Mitchell ? And is it that Ales Hemsky may support the attack of the Habs beyond the numerical advantage, where it seems to be at ease ?


Shea Weber and who ?


The questions are also many on the blue line, even if the brigade defensive has limited their rivals to just 40 shots in the last two preseason matchups.


A fundamental question has still not been elucidated, at least officially : who will be the partner of Shea Weber ?


Can we imagine that Julien is going to entrust such a mandate to Victor Mete ? The defender of the Knights of London proved to be the most beautiful surprise of the camp, and he seems to have deserved, at the very least, a test of a few games in Montreal.


But at 19 years of age and without the experience of the NHL, can we ask him to play around 20 minutes per game against the best trios adverse ? And, even if he has the strengths required to complement the style of Weber ?


The second tandem seems to be cast in concrete with Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry, but that will be the fifth and sixth defenders ? Jordie Benn should be part of the equation, but Brandon Davison is limited, Mark Streit has visibly slowed down and nothing is known of David Schlemko. Is there a place for Joe Morrow in Montreal ? Unlikely. For his part, Éric Gélinas has signed a contract with the Rocket de Laval, the club-the school of Canadian in the american League.


All of these defenders will look better if Carey Price is at the peak of his art, and there is no reason to worry about it. But we can’t say the same for Al Montoya, who has not been too reassuring during the training camp.


Charlie Lindgren seems to be past him, but he is probably better as it gains experience by playing regularly in Laval, rather than in admiring the prowess of Price from the bench.