For the second consecutive spring, the Canadiens are going to enter the playoffs without a defined second line because Canadiens management and the coaching staff has been unable to find linemates for Plekanec, especially on the left wing.
After an 82-game season Michel Therrien still can’t decide on Plekanec’s left winger. At Monday’s first pre-playoff practice he alternated Daniel Briere and Rene Bourque. On Tuesday, it was Brandon Prust. This not a good sign, but hardly a shock. We’ve seen for two seasons now.
In the 48 game schedule last season, Plekanec centered 18 different line combinations and in the five game playoff he had different linemates in four of the five games before the Senators eliminated them.
This year Plekanec has been in the middle of 17 different lines. The only regulars not to appear on one of his wings for any signifiicant even-strength minutes were David Desharnais, Ryan White and George Parros. Right wing has been fairly stable. Brian Gionta played there for 68 games and Brendan Gallagher the final 14 and, apparently into the playoffs.
Among his eleven different left wingers, rookie Michael Bounival and Alex Galchenyuk got the longest consecutive looks with eight games each. The Bournaival stretch was early in the season and Galchenyuk”s led up to the time he suffered his knee injury in Chicago early in game number 79.
So it seem’s to have become a Hobson’s Choice of Brandon Prust, Daniel Briere or Rene Bourque, two of them coming off the worst seasons of their careers another just coming out of an injury filled season. We’re eighty-two games into the season and the coaching staff is still grasping at straws.
Briere has played 20 games with Plekanec and Gionta. In their first eight games together Briere had 5 goals and 2 assists. In the 12 since, 0 goals 2 assists.
Bourque started the season on the line and lasted three games. In game two he scored a goal and an assist which turned out to be the highpoint of his season. He was to see action with Plekanec only five more times, with no points. Total for the year, 8 games, 1 goal, 1 assist.
Prust was on the Plekanec line at Tuesday practice and despite only three games in the role, this choice is the most interesting. Prust played with Plekanec and Gionta in season games 7 & 8. In game seven, Plekanec had 2 goals and Prust was plus-3. In game eight he suffered a shoujder injury and missed the next eleven games. He was given one more opportunity on the line with no points and that as it for a season that saw him suffer three separate lengthy injuries.
Going up against a team as well-balanced as Tampa, a gaping hole in one of the two lines from which offense is expected to be generated is not a good thing. For the final three games of last season, Therrien finally settled on a line of Ryder, Plekanec and Gionta. It lasted one playoff game. The juggling started in game two against Ottawa when put Bourque and Colby Armstrong on the Plekanec line. Game three Gionta replaced Armstrong on right wing. Games four and give it was Ryder, this time on the right wing with Rene Bourque. Five and gone with those four different Plekanec lines producing one goal.
Now a year later. The first round opponent is different. For Plekanec, the issue is the same.
Plekanec 2013-2014 Line Combinations
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Galchenyuk – 21 Games Plekanec 81-games Gionta – 68 games
Breire – 18 Gallagher 13 games
Bournival – 15
Bourque – 8
Moen – 4
Pacioretty – 3
Prust – 3
Vanek – 3
Gionta – 2
Eller – 2