If you ever played hockey, (if you weren't a goalie) you remember The Goal you scored. You know what that means. Not the tap-in while you stood at the side of the crease, or the one that bounced off your ass. You remember The Goal. One time in your hockey career, you went end-to-end, moved on the D, went in alone on the goalie and scored. It's the reason why skaters play hockey in the first place. Some players may get tremendous satisfaction from containing the other team's top guy...Tomas Plekanec and Bob Gainey, I'm talking to you...but most of us get joy from scoring a really great goal.
I remember mine. I picked the puck out of a defensive scrum, and cut through the middle. One defenseman tried a poke check, but I heel-dragged by her. The other D tried to block the shot, but went down too early. I evaded her extended stick and faked forehand on the goalie. He stacked the pads and I went high backhand. It all happened within about ten seconds, but I'll never forget it. I never scored another goal like it and probably never would if I'd played another ten years. It's the one memory of my hockey playing life I recall when I think about that time.
Michael Cammalleri has The Goal too. Maybe it happened in college or in pee wee. Maybe it was last season. Whenever it came, there's a goal in his memory that makes him remember why he plays hockey. It's time the team and the coaches focus on him and help him bring that goal back, because something's wrong with him.
Cammy looks angry and unfocused. He's taking bad penalties, and he's misfiring on what last year would have been sure goals. He's acting from a goalscorer's frustration when the things that usually come naturally don't come at all.
His line with Plekanec and Kostitsyn offered him the best chance of scoring, but that's been broken up. Jacques Martin needs to think about letting that line get back together for the sake of his six-million-dollar sniper, because no matter how much a guy gets paid, he still needs to get inspired to produce. Martin has done a pretty good job of managing his assets so far, but Cammalleri is one of the most precious of those assets. The coach might need to move things around in his favour because the team needs him.
There's been some speculation that Cammalleri worked hard on his campaign to be named Habs captain, and now he's mad because he didn't get it. I don't believe that's true, but if it is, Cammalleri needs to put that to rest. He's not behaving in character and whatever it takes to get him going, whether coaching manouvers or self-examination, must happen soon.
The Canadiens only function well if they're working as a team, and Cammalleri...as we saw last playoffs...is an imporant part of that. He has to produce for the team to be successful.
Maybe the answer is to remind him of The Goal. Maybe he needs to remember why he plays the game and forget about all the adulation, photo shoots and tire-flipping commercials. The coaches can help. Linemates can help. The rest of it comes from within, and it's time for Cammaleri to look there for some answers.