With one line firing, now the Montreal Canadiens can set about trying to find another trio to contribute offense.
Tomas Plekanec is the driving force behind the Habs’ attack, playing between Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn. After snoozing through the first two months, Kostitsyn has emerged from his slumber to contribute nine goals in his last 10 contests.
Cammalleri isn’t scoring at the same clip he was earlier in the year, but he’s still getting his points. Plekanec, meanwhile, has been one of the absolute best set-up men in hockey this season. Through 40 games, the slick Czech center had 36 assists, second only to San Jose’s Joe Thonrton for the league lead.
But quieting all that offense won’t be too much trouble for teams if Montreal fails to develop any kind of threat from another top line. Scott Gomez was supposed to be the sparkplug behind the Canadiens’ No. 1 trio and while his production has fallen well short of what was expected, there’s some reason to believe things could be turning around.
First off all, Gomez had seven points in his last five games. But the real reason for optimism comes in the form of Brian Gionta, who is expected to return from a broken foot soon after being sidelined since mid-November.
For all the disappointment associated with Gomez this season, there is still undeniable chemistry between he and Gionta, established from their highly successful days with the New Jersey Devils.
If they can re-kindle a little of that magic upon Gionta’s return, teams will be forced to spread out their defensive resources when facing Montreal, especially if the third member of that top line – be it Sergei Kostitsyn or new addition Benoit Pouliot – can contribute the odd goal here and there.
A club’s top two scoring units have an incredibly symbiotic relationship and a return to health by Gionta could trigger a return to form for Gomez, which only means more good things for the Plekanec line and the entire Canadiens team.
This article also appeared in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursday and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesday.
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