I really don't know what he's doing or not doing , but it seems that whoever play with Plekanec don't score . His line looks always dangerous but nothing at the end finish in a net .
Just look how the play of Higgins was good when he was playing with Pleky , but he got only 3 goals . Once Gainey put him on the first line , he scored 23 goals ( for what ? 30-35 games ). The first line was at that point going nowhere , so if Saku helped him to be a better scorer , i don't buy the idea that he " made him " good . Higgins was already good .
I think Koivu has the knack of getting the player the puck at the right time. If you get open, you'll get the puck, he has limitations, but that's his strength. It's a wasted strength if the player you get the puck too doesn't do anything with it. Late last year and early this season, it was the perfect marriage, Koivu got Higgins the puck in situations where he could use his attributes, and Higgins scored.
It's interesting to watch how he changes his game a bit with different linemates. With Latendresse, it seems he knows the line isn't as fast, but he has more room and is going to the net a bit more.
Regarding the D to D passes, I thought a cross ice pass was considered the best trap breaking strategy. I find Buffalo does this,but they do it quickly and once. They do it at faceoff circle depth, while when Mtl is in a bad stretch, they do it near or behind the net when under fire. Probably under fire because they hesitated or were stationnary too long.
Higgins-Plekanec ? Higgins may be far enough in his development to lead the duo but the fear is that we lose what he was bringing and he becomes an energy player.
I'd like to give Habitue's suggestion a chance before anything else.
I agree with your points, and I think the first two, the berakout pass by the D, and the forechecking is very well illustrated by what i think has been the Habs biggest problem this year, their inconsistency.
All year they have had problems playing three solid periods.
They have been very good at playing catch-up, while never really burying any teams with a big lead. Which leads me to the conclusion that they are much more effective when they are in need of a goal especially in the third period, as they then are much quicker with the breakout pass and forecheck more aggresively without it really hurting them defensively.
If they could play that sort of game form the the first period, as I think Buffalo does, i am sure they would be much more effective 5 on 5, although I can see a possible problem with our slower defense getting penalized more than the Buffalo D as it would lead to more odd-man rushes against us.
My bigest concern is are play 5 on 5. Its not normal that are pk is better than are play 5 on 5. Usualy when you kill of a penalty momentum should turn in your favor but thats hardly the case with this team.