Feb 27, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (RC) celebrate with right wing Brendan Gallagher (11), Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76), and defenseman Andrei Markov (79) after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens Ideal Lineup For The NHL Playoff Race


Feb 2, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien reacts during the third period against Winnipeg Jets at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens received some positive news on the injury front at practice today, as Brandon Prust was cleared to play, Carey Price faced shots for the first time since his Olympic injury and Michael Bournival continued to progress, albeit in a non contact jersey.

With the recent additions of Thomas Vanek and Mike Weaver to the Habs roster, and several players returning to health, the Canadiens will soon have a plethora of healthy players available, but can only dress 20 players a night.

It is very difficult to get inside the head of Canadiens Coach Michel Therrien, who continues to make  baffling decisions, but I am going to give it a shot. So who will be taking a seat more than they are used to down the stretch?

Mar 8, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Thomas Vanek (20) takes a shot on goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Up front, I see seven forwards who will never be scratched, and they would be Thomas Vanek, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk.

I also see two guys who have been scratched in the past but are unlikely to spend much time on the sidelines in the future and they are Lars Eller and Daniel Briere.

These nine players basically make up the Habs top three lines and though some have struggled, I would use these players as my top nine every single night.

Pacioretty Desharnais Gallagher

Vanek Plekanec Gionta

Galchenyuk Eller Briere

The Canadiens currently have 16 forwards on their NHL roster, so this leaves seven guys fighting for the three spots on the fourth line.

The seven remaining forwards are Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust, Travis Moen, Michael Bournival, Dale Weise, Ryan White and George Parros.

Out of that group, when healthy Brandon Prust is by far the most logical candidate to use on the fourth line. As the only natural center, White makes the most sense to regularly dress as the fourth line center.

Feb 4, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brandon Prust (8) takes a shot on goal against Calgary Flames goalie Reto Berra (29) during the first period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Right now we are sitting on:

Pacioretty Desharnais Gallagher

Vanek Plekanec Gionta

Galchenyuk Eller Briere

Prust White

I apologize to any Rene Bourque fans that remain out there, but he has been horrible all season and does not serve a purpose on this team anymore. He has been given a pretty substantial role for much of the season and has been outscored by Josh Gorges. I may run the risk of sounding too much like Don Cherry here but a guy has to score or fight or hit or do something if he wants to stay in the lineup. Bourque does none of these things and though I am not sure Therrien will sit him for a length of time, I sure would.

Mar 5, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Montreal Canadiens right wing George Parros (15) and Anaheim Ducks right wing Tim Jackman (18) fight during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Now we are down to the final forward spot and we are choosing between Travis Moen, Dale Weise, Michael Bournival and George Parros.

You have to admire a veteran guy like Parros for continuing to battle after suffering a severe brain injury in the season opener, but what he offers to this team right now is much less valuable than what the others bring, so Parros is out.

You can’t really go wrong in choosing between Moen, Bournival and Weise but if I were to pick one, I would move Prust to the right side and put Bournival on left wing on the fourth line. His speed and tenacity along with occasional bursts of offense make him a highly valuable player in a minor role. This would give the Habs a very deep crop of forwards and four lines capable of producing offense.

Pacioretty Desharnais Gallagher

Vanek Plekanec Gionta

Galchenyuk Eller Briere

Bournival White Prust

Of course things could be tinkered with to keep Moen and Weise in the lineup from time to time, but I would wave goodbye to Parros and Bourque as their best days are far in the past.

Feb 27, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Canadiens won 6-5 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, the Canadiens currently have eight players on the NHL roster and could and should bring up Nathan Beaulieu as well.

It is quite obvious that P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov have top four spots locked up in the lineup. Josh Gorges would as well but he is out for a month, so I will construct a group of six with and without Gorges.

Without Gorges I see no choice but to leave the pairing of Markov and Alexei Emelin together. I also think that Jarred Tinordi has played exceptionally well alongside Subban and should stay there for the foreseeable future.

So if the top four is Tinordi with Subban and the Russian duo of Markov and Emelin, that leaves Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray, Mike Weaver and Nathan Beaulieu battling for a spot on the bottom pairing.

I think since Bouillon has played just one of the Habs last 16 games it is obvious he will not be in the ideal top six. I also think Beaulieu should be playing or else I would not have just recommended he be called up. So basically, Beaulieu would be on the third pair with either Murray or Weaver. I would lean toward playing Weaver more, but would platoon him with Murray to keep both of them fresh in case of another injury.

Feb 2, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (40) skates with the puck against Winnipeg Jets during the first period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

So the Habs top six defenders are:

Tinordi – Subban

Markov – Emelin

Beaulieu – Weaver

When Gorges returns to health, he would immediately draw back into the lineup. At whose expense would of course depend on who is playing the worst at the time, but based on what we have seen so far this season, here is what I would do.

First I would reunite the top pair of Markov and Subban. These two were absolutely incredible together in the past, and the emergence of youngsters Tinordi and Beaulieu affords the Canadiens the chance to put them back together.

I’d want to keep the rookies, Beaulieu and Tinordi separate, so I would put the offensive minded Beaulieu with defensive specialist Gorges, and then put together a physical third pairing of Tinordi and Emelin.

Markov Subban

Gorges Beaulieu

Tinordi Emelin

March 6, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi (24) moves the puck against Phoenix Coyotes right wing Martin Erat (10) during the second period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Using a pair of rookies on the blue line is certainly risky, but I think adding Beaulieu, a third defenseman capable of bringing offense, would be valuable to have on the second power play unit. Putting him on the ice with Gorges at even strength would minimize his deficiencies in his own end, and would make for a solid pairing.

Tinordi and Emelin both play a simple, defensive game and both would be pushed by Weaver and Murray so they would have to stay on top of their game to remain in the lineup. Tinordi has exceeded expectations this season but Emelin has failed to live up to the promise he showed in the past few seasons. Putting them together on a third pairing and trying to keep them away from opponents top two forward lines would put them in a place to succeed, and would give the Canadiens a great top six.

So my ideal Montreal Canadiens lineup would be:

Pacioretty Desharnais Gallagher

Vanek Plekanec Gionta

Galchenyuk Eller Briere

Bournival White Prust

Markov Subban

Gorges Beaulieu

Tinordi Emelin

What do you think? Who would you take out and who would you place in your ideal lineup for the Habs? Let us know what you think by sounding off in the comments section below, or firing a tweet our way @FSAWinningHabit!

Tags: Carey Price Montreal Canadiens

  • Abhit

    U stupid gionta sucks and is old put him on 3rd line and replace him briere he played with vanek.i would put weise instead of bournival because of chemistry with white and tinnordi subban can grow into the best dffenc line because speed,skill and the deffence and strenght from tinordi

  • Jasiah Schaaf

    What’s up with carey price

    • Kenny MacMillan

      They have been very quiet about Carey Price. He faced some shots at practice yesterday which is a step in the right direction. Hopefully he can play one of the games this weekend.

  • Peter MacDonald

    I’d say you gotta get Emelin on his natural side somehow on that bottom pair, perhaps he and Weaver? Beauleau showed he can play his off side and with Murray no less. Put him with Markov on his off and you’ve got a solid set for now.

    • Kenny MacMillan

      The only thing that would worry me there is defensive play with Markov and Beaulieu paired together. Could even just have Emelin and Tinordi switch sides so it is Tinordi playing his off side.

  • JR

    Not sure Beaulieu will be called up and if he is they will send Tinordi back down. They seem to not wnat both of them in the NHL at the same time. Probably to keep them playing. We miss Gorges big time. I thought Weaver looked pretty good as a substitue for him, very stay at home, block shots and passing lanes kinda guy. It’s the Offence that we need. Bourque got benched last game and he should stay there. Briere should be getting more time, Seems to me Briere-Plekanec-Vanek would be an excelelnt idea.