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While the Canadiens certainly got off to a good start, the past two losses have cooled the team’s momentum considerably and have contributed to fuelling discussion on our forums. In this week’s ATB, we talk about what to do with Lars Eller, the return of Andrei Markov and the team’s October performance.

As usual, the forward group was at the heart of many exchanges this week. Concerning the recently acquired Danish center, JCG21 has a slightly different perspective on how to handle him: “I can’t help but think that Lars Eller would probably benefit from a stint in Hamilton playing center on the first or second line. His play with the Canadiens hasn’t been awful, but it hasn’t been great either. I think the Canadiens should call up Ryan White in Eller’s place and insert him into the 4th line”

Many on the forum disagreed with the above statement, but as Brian pointed out in his recent weekly recap, it is perhaps best for a player to thoroughly dominate in the minors before making the leap to the NHL. His 57 points in 70 games with a decidedly average Peoria team last year are commendable, but hardly dominant. With only 1 point in twelve contests and limited ice time, it seems sensible to allow him to play top minutes down on the farm. Ryan White is a gritty, cap-conscious option, but sending down Eller could also allow the Canadiens to take look at David Desharnais or Max Pacioretty, who both have the potential to provide some much needed scoring.

Amid some disappointment over the Habs lack of goal, and powerplay, production since Andrei Markov’s return, The Chicoutimi Cucumber makes the following point: ”We’ve seen this movie before. How many times does a team do surprisingly well without its best player, only to hit a slump the moment that player returns? It happens all the time. The reason seems to be that there is a psychological let-up: ‘now that X is back, I can take it easy a little bit.’ It may take another 2-3 games before Markov gets his sea legs and the team starts to realize they can’t coast on his back. “

There is no doubt that a number of players expected extra offense and a prolific powerplay would materialize simply thanks to Markov’s presence. Decidedly, some were waiting for Markov to make passes and plays as opposed to taking charge themselves.

Regarding the Russian’s slow start, it seems many, including myself, were expecting a much more dynamic performance from the blueliner. Usually, even at the beginning of the season or following an injury, he looks in midseason form. In the first seven contests of 2008-09, he went on a tear, posting an impressive 10 points. Last year, when he made his debut in December, he went on an identical streak, producing 10 points in seven games. However, considering that Markov has not played a meaningful contest since May, it is obvious that our collective expectations were not entirely reasonable.

Finally, while many are pleased with the squad’s excellent first month, Wamsley01 offers a word of caution: Everybody is excited about the October start, myself included, but since the lockout the Habs are a .716 hockey club in October on average! Yet 4 out of those 5 seasons resulted in a desperate last week playoff run.

Indeed, such performance may be misleading, especially given the Habs status as a bubble team. However, there is one important difference that should be noted. In past seasons the Canadiens would win games thanks to stellar goaltending, opportune scoring and an element of luck. They were regularly outshot and relied heavily on their netminders. That has clearly not been the case this year, which is most reassuring.

That’s all for this edition of ATB. Until next week, see you on the boards.

Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at [email protected]