HabsWorld.net -- 

As promised, this week I will be comparing this season’s defence corps with
that of last season to try and answer whether or not what we have now is really
better than what we had last year.  Please note that I have not included
Mathieu Schneider in the discussion as he was a deadline pickup and I decided to
use the pairings that played most of the season together last year.

2008/2009 First pairing: Andrei Markov – Mike Komisarek
Once again, these two were one of the best pairings in the league. Markov put up
an impressive 64 points in 78 games, while Komisarek was again among league
leaders in both hits and blocked shots.

2009/2010 First pairing: Andrei Markov – Jaroslav Spacek
Together these two defensemen should be giving other teams fits with the amount
of offence they provide from the backend. Also, they are both very capable
defensively in their own end as well.

Keys to Success: Like the first line forwards, it all depends of the
chemistry these two develop early. If they manage to click early then the
powerplay could become tops in the league like it was when Sheldon Souray and
Mark Streit were pulling the trigger on pinpoint accurate passes from Markov.

Possible Problems: Spacek needs to remain healthy for the full season and
both may benefit more from playing with a more physical stay at home defenseman
instead of each other.

2008/2009 and 2009/2010 Second pairing: Roman Hamrlik – Josh Gorges
This pairing remains the same from last season.

Keys to Success: Roman Hamrlik needs to regain his form from the
2008/2009 season , one in which he was a steady presence on the blueline and
made the entire defence corps as a whole better. Josh Gorges needs to continue
to improve as he has done in all of his previous seasons. He has proven himself
trustworthy in many situations and will be counted on to take up some of the
team leadership that was lost when Komisarek skipped town.

Possible Problems: The season that Hamrlik had last year could prove to
not be a fluke and he could show that age has finally caught up to him. On the
other side, this could be the season that Gorges finally has an “off year.”

2008/2009 Third pairing: Francis Bouillon – Patrice Brisebois
This pairing, when healthy, proved to be a decent duo that provided a veteran
presence on the back end, but both had areas where they could have been greatly

2009/2010 Third pairing: Hal Gill – Paul Mara
Here the backend went from aging and small to powerful and huge. These two could
possibly be the largest defensive pair that Canadiens fans have ever seen.

Keys to Success: They need to use their size and strength to punish other
teams forwards along the walls. Their ability to shut down players near the net
and clear the crease will be needed in full to help Price regain his form. They
will also be counted on to use their physical side when it comes to showing
other teams that the Habs aren’t a team to be messed with this year.

Possible Problems: Their size could be a disadvantage as smaller and
faster players can manoeuvre around them and avoid their thundering hits. They
may be better off paired with a more mobile defenseman.

Here is what I make of the Habs blueline this year. I believe that it has been
greatly improved in both size and skill. While losing a player like Mike
Komisarek may hurt them in some aspects, the players they were able to bring in
using his payroll make the team better overall. Gainey addressed the need for a
big shot to complement Markov on the power play with Spacek while improving the
size on the backend which will keep other teams’ skill players away from the net
and cut down on goals against this season.

Note: The 2008/09 defence pairings are taken from the article linked below.

Did you know?

Montreal’s 2 Swedish prospects are currently participating in the Nordic
Trophy tournament.  Newly acquired C Andreas Engqvist is playing for
while D Nichlas Torp is suiting up for
Click the team names to follow their progress.