Sunday, October 12, 2014


Tomas Plekanec has built himself a reputation in the NHL. He's the guy who drives Sidney Crosby crazy every time they meet, shutting him down offensively and distracting him to trash talk. He's the player Brad Marchand freely admits to hating. He's also the guy who shows up first at practice every day and demonstrates for his younger teammates how to be a pro. They all admit he doesn't say much in the room, but he's respected enough to be one of the recognized leaders for the Canadiens.

One thing you never hear about Plekanec, and has never been part of his reputation, is that he's a particularly light-hearted kind of guy. Sure, he's happy when he scores, but he doesn't bubble over with exuberance. Or, at least, he didn't used to. This least three games in...things are different.

Plekanec is having fun. He's smiling. He's jumping up and down when he scores, and chest-bumping his teammates. Yes, chest-bumping. The 31-year-old newly-minted Habs alternate captain has a spring in his step and a glint in his eye we haven't seen through the long seasons of his exile to the defensive-zone faceoff circle. Whether it's because Manny Molhotra is now taking some of those d-zone starts and killing penalties, or because the stone handed Travis Moen has been replaced by rapidly-improving Alex Galchenyuk on Plekanec's wing, the Canadiens are the better for it.

That's not to say the team hasn't exhibited some problems in the early going. The slow starts and early deficits are not habits a consistently good team practices. The defence has positioning issues while breaking in young players, and it's feeling the loss of Josh Gorges' minute-eating presence in his own zone. Despite those weaknesses, the team is showing it's got a certain uplifting spunkiness and belief in itself. Carey Price has said after a couple of the team's early come-from-behind wins that "you're never out of a hockey game." That seems to be a philosophy the Canadiens, as a group, have adopted and it's paying off. The absolute dominance they displayed in taking control of the game against the Flyers was pure fun.

In a day when analytics are trendy, systems dictate the style of the game and "it's a business" is as common a cliche as "giving 110%," sometimes it's easy to forget that fun is the point. Nobody in the NHL started playing hockey because he believed in his atom coach's system. And not one of them kept at it through injury and adversity because he hoped to improve his Corsi number. They played the game then and play it now because it's fun. And nothing is more fun than winning for both the players and the fans. We watch because the game is entertaining and we like to see the players crank it up and fight for a win.

So, if the Canadiens have some flaws to work on, they're also remembering why they're doing it. The points they're gathering now will be important, but the fun they're having is what they'll draw upon when times get harder. This is team bonding of the lasting kind. And for fans, there's nothing nicer or more fun than seeing a pro like Tomas Plekanec jumping up and down and a guy who remembers what it's all about.


Harry said...

I agree,TP is one of my favourite Habs. He is class and I am glad to see him do well.I was kind of angry at all the suggestions from fans that he be traded..I would rather see DD go than him.
Keep blogging ..

Ian said...

It is nice to see TP with top wingers for a change, giving him an opportunity to showcase his talents even more.

The addition of Manny and his faceoff skills is looking bigger now, and much more than just faceoff percentage. MM has taken a lot of tough slugging workload off of TP, and the early results are showing the benefits of the signing.

The importance of a solid 4th line cannot be understated. You simply have to have one to win in the NHL. Period! And we have a good one, with some solid spare parts to boot in time of injury or slump.

I know it is only thee games into the season, but how nice it is to see TP being rewarded.

And that's six points in the bank, all on the road, that counts big at the end of the season where points are much tougher to come by.

Steve said...

At 31 a kid again.

moeman said...

Tomas is also a recently new father and I think he is just, over all, a happier man. One of the NHL's most underrated.

Keep blogging …