Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Moen-ing in Pain

As Habs fans, most of us aren't dumb when it comes to hockey. We like to think we know the game and we have reasons for the opinions we bear. That's why many of us are wondering what the hell Travis Moen is doing on Tomas Plekanec's wing?

Look, I like Travis Moen. He's a hard-working, never-back-down Saskatchewan boy. He works the family farm in the off season. His attitude is the kind the Habs would like to inject into a couple of other guys on the team. Moen will fight when he has to and he'll do whatever his coach asks of him to the best of his ability. He will not score goals.

You can see it coming tonight, can't you? Plekanec chips the puck by a Philly d-man and breaks in on a 2-on-1 with Travis Moen. Pleks makes a lovely pass under the second defenceman's stick, right onto Moen's tape and Moen...misses the net. Or Pleks is behind the net and looking for an open man for the pass. Moen is there in the crease, with his butt to the play and doesn't see the puck.

Now, being smart Habs fans, we know what Martin's up to here. We understand he wants to put a bit of grit on the top line because he knows the Flyers will focus on Plekanec and try to forecheck him into the ice. Moen's supposed to offer the resistance the line needs to outplay Philly. (Shaking up a fairly dormant Andrei Kostitsyn would be a bonus).

It's a great idea, in theory. In reality, not only does Moen not offer the finish Plekanec needs on his line, but he's really not the right kind of tough either. "Tough" on a top line means a guy who drives the net and intimidates defencemen with his aggression. It means someone who forechecks with such ferocity he wins all his battles for the puck while his linemates set themselves up in scoring position. Once the puck is won, the top-line winger has to have the skill to actually do something with it; redirect it from in front of the net, put it upstairs on a sprawling goalie, make a nice pass off the boards to Plekanec or Cammalleri. Those things require skill, and Moen doesn't have it. Martin's trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear in this case, and poor Moen ends up looking like the whole pig.

I hope Max Pacioretty shows his AHL stuff in the NHL at last, because the Canadiens need a guy with real skill to play that net-driving role. If Martin shakes Kostitsyn out of his recent slumber, the team might, finally, have two real scoring lines. That's a lot of "if"s, true. None of them are as big an "IF" as saying the Habs could beat the Flyers if Travis Moen plays like a first-line power forward.

We, and Jacques, know, it ain't gonna happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Moen moan? Maybe he'll make some room for Pleks who plays like a little girl against an unnamed team.

MaxPac? Who knows. The AHL isn't the NHL. MaxPac's problem wasn't a lack of desire but a twofold issue of not finishing and being slammed up so hard so often he was mistaken for the gate. The finishing will come. But the man has to see those hits coming. He needs to be aware of the situation.