Canadiens Watch: Tough road ahead

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In two weeks, we’ll all know a lot more about the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs, already losers of two straight, are about to embark on a tough stretch of schedule that will see them play seven straight on the road after hosting a pair of tough draws in the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins this week.

Montreal still sits atop the Northeast Division, but the club will be in tough to start the New Year there given the treacherous road ahead.

Without trying to sound like a clichéd coach, this is the type of test that can reveal a lot about a hockey team. First of all, the Canadiens must prove they can be as effective on the road as they have been on home ice. Of the 38 points the Habs have accumulated, 24 have come at home. Montreal must prove it can fight through unfavorable matchups when it doesn’t have the benefit of last change and scratch out close wins in other teams’ buildings. Top-liners Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn have combined for just three goals on the road. A team needs its No. 1 unit to lead the way in enemy territory and that paltry total isn’t going to get it done.

Stiff challenges also present great opportunities for players to take a step forward and that is certainly the case on the Montreal blueline. Injuries on the back end have opened the door for two rookies, P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber, to show what they can do. We already know Subban can be an effective player, but he’s wandered away from what was making him successful to start the year. The Habs need him to make good decisions with the puck, while still allowing for the creativity and competitiveness that sets him apart to shine through. Weber, meanwhile, has been a solid citizen in his six games and needs to keep focusing on doing the small things right.

Just as Weber is trying to prove he belongs in the NHL, the Canadiens are still trying to demonstrate to doubters they’re rightfully among the top teams in the Eastern Conference standings. The next couple of weeks will go a long way in determining if that’s true.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.

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