That Robert Lang leads the Montreal Canadiens with 12 goals is not a good thing. The fact nearly half the season has been played and the Habs’ leading goal-getter is on pace for just 25 tallies should concern every person who wants to see this team succeed.
However, those facts are in no way an indictment of Lang. In fact, the 38-year-old is one of only a couple Canadiens who have delivered exactly what was expected of them offensively this year.
Montreal GM Bob Gainey picked up the 6-foot-3 Lang from Chicago just before the season for a second round pick in 2010. The move was not only an acknowledgement Gainey wanted more size and skill among his forwards, but also a conclusive indication (or so we thought) the Habs were done pursuing Mats Sundin.
Lang averaged about 22 goals a season in the six years leading up to his arrival in Montreal, so the fact he could net 25 this year has to be viewed as a success.
Lang was originally penciled in as a third-line center, but the lacklustre play of Tomas Plekanec and an injury to captain Saku Koivu have combined to force Lang into a more prominent role.
Among Montreal’s forwards, only Plekanec and Alex Kovalev receive more average ice time per game than Lang. And the crafty center has done a good job meshing with the variety of linemates he’s played with due to coach Guy Carbonneau’s line juggling and all the Habs’ injuries.
Most recently, Lang has lined up between the Kostitsyn brothers and the trio seems to have some potential. The veteran Czech pivot is also a nice presence on the Canadiens power play.
Again, it’s a bad sign for the Habs that Lang’s four man-advantage goals is tied for the team lead with Alex Tanguay and Sergei Kostitsyn, but that shouldn’t undermine his power play contributions. He’s calm with the puck, has good vision and the size to stand in front of the net and find some rebounds.
It will be good news for the Canadiens if Lang keeps up his current level of production. It will be even better news if some other players usurp him as the team’s top goal-scoring threat.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.