habs practiceThe Canadiens coaching staff went to work on the team’s struggling power play Wednesday morning at the training facility in Brossard.  Assistant coaches Dan Lacroix and Clement Jodoin took the power play regulars to the facility’s secondary ice surface for concentrated work.  Included in the session were Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec plus defensemen Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin and Tom Gilbert.

The disappearance of the power play has everyone scratching their heads.   The statistics are there for all to see, and they’re not pretty.   The last regular season power play goal was scored in last season’s 74th game by Daniel Briere March 25th.  The slump is now up to twelve regular season games.  Over that span they have had37 advantages,  more than a full game. 67:15 of power play time with nothing to show.

Oddly, this seems to be only a regular season phenomenon.  After struggling through the final half of the season, the power play caught fire again during the playoffs.   Led by Subban (4) and Thomas Vanek (3) the Canadiens scored 12 power play goals in 61 opportunities, a credible 19.6%.

Any power play that can trot out P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Max Pacioretty on a regular basis should have a reasonable expectation of success.  The fact that that haven’t enjoyed it in any measure, may now be more a mental problem than a tactical one.   The Canadiens power play started to turn south last December.  At the time the Canadiens had one of the best in the league, operating at 24 percent.  Since then, 11.9% which puts them among the league’s worst. There is one certainty.  Teams without an effective power play have little reasonable chance of success in today’s NHL.

Notes –

…..The Canadiens open their home season against Boston Thursday.  Based on Tuesday’s practice, it appears Alexei Emelin will return to the lineup after missing two games.  Nathan Beaulieu will sit out the Bruins game in favour of Jarred Tinordi who has played well in his last two appearances.  He will be paired with Mike Weaver.

…..Expect these to be Canadiens forward lines against Boston – Pacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher /  Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Parenteau /  Bourque-Eller-Sekac /  Prust-Malhotra-Weise

…Forward Michael Bournival,  a healthy scratch through the season’s first four games, has been sent to the Hamilton Bulldogs on a conditioning assignment.  He will play in two Hamilton games this weekend and return to the Canadiens on Monday.  The Bulldogs open their home season Friday against the Toronto Marlies and will play the Rockford Icehogs Saturday, also in Hamilton.

….Two of the Canadiens injured junior prospects will be making their season debuts this week.  RW Michael McCarron, who suffered a September 23rd training camp shoulder separation will play his first game with the London Knights Wednesday against the Erie Otters.  At the time of the injury doctors predicted a five to six week recovery time.  (UPDATE McCarron, playing on the Knights top line with Max Domi and Brett Walychka, scored a power play goal as London edged Erie 4-3 in a shootout)

……Meningitis survivor Tim Bozon will be in the lineup for the first time with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice  Friday at Swift Current.   Baie Comeau forward Jérémy Grégoire, also injured during Habs training camp, will miss up to eight weeks following wrist surgery.

….Defenseman Francis Bouillon has signed a oneyear contract with Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss National League and is expected to play his first game in Bern Switzerland on Friday which will be his 39th birthday.  Bouillon played in 61 games with the Canadiens last season and nine more in the playoffs.