Friday, December 31, 2010

Game #38

RDS Dream Team Downs Habs

Details



Date: 30/12/2010
Opponent: Lightning
Location: Tampa Bay
Loss: 1-4

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Desjardins (W)

Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: St. Louis, Kubina, Stamkos (2)



Play of the game


Want to know how worthwhile this game was to watch? The play of the game was our goal. It happened in the first minute. It wasn't a shot on net. Pacioretty did make a nice play by putting in the effort to get a round a defenceman. We'll chalk that up to the element of surprise. Other good plays included the first line change after the two too many men penalties - they got right back on track with the one player on, one player off routine.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Tomas Plekanec
The one piece of good news is that Plekanec's slump may be nearing an end. he looked good at points even. Using speed is key to his success and he's remembered that after a month or so of searching. It was a game with few great chances, but Tomas had 6 shots and 10 attempts on net. He was the best of the forwards for me.

Mike Cammalleri
This may never happen again, but Cammalleri makes the dome over on the strength of his PK duty. Some of the Habs best chances came shorthanded (I guess they had ample time to play down a man) and Mike was at the heart of a few o them. Really, as the offensive leader of the team, he should be better, but I thought he looked like he was trying.

Max Pacioretty
Ultimately, with his single act, Pacioretty did the one thing Canadiens forwards as a group seem to have been unable to do for a couple of weeks now - put a dangerous puck on net. I didn't notice how he played the rest of the game really, but that goal was enough to dome him.


Defencemen

PK Subban - Game Puck
I lied, there's more good news. PK is regaining his mojo. The play of the game apart from the goal was a hit he timed on Thompson. At other times, I noticed him edging in on strong skates to swipe pucks like he used to. He even got a PP shot on net without it being deflected. The pairings need work, and the team misses Gorges, but get PK into more important minutes - he's turned a corner.

James Wisniewski
Puck control on the PP - how refreshing. He's no Markov, but he can handle a hard pass and block a clearing attempt. We didn't really get chance to see much of his shooting (thanks, Weber), but that should come. I'd say this acquisition has pleasant surprise potential. Replacement for Markov right now, and auditioning for Hamrlik's replacement in the future?

Goaltender

Carey Price
Not player of the game material, but Carey did alright. A penalty shot allowed against the best scorer in the league on the best move in the league is no black mark. Nor, to be honest is letting in a goal on a 5-on-3 (2x too many men!). Carey made some big saves and kept his team alive for a long time while they decided whether they were going to try and put their embarrassing "when trailing" records behind them.


Comments


RDS must get pretty excited for these games. A smorgasbord of French Canadiana down there in Baie Tampa. The Habs less so, as they continue their suffereing at the hands of St. Louis and now add Desjardins to the list of goalies they make look NHL calibre (keeping in mind he's a 0.900 AHLer this season). Personally I find this all a bit embarrassing. The fawning over everyone and anyone by the team of "pros" we must watch, but more importantly the way the Canadiens can't anticipate or ever rise to occasion themselves.

I don't have the tally of scoring chances for the Habs yet, but I wasn't lying when I chose the play of the game. I thought there may have been one, and it went in. In the first minute.

The defence on the team is a problem, but there's a solid explanation. Gorges is missed, Weber is teething and Wisniewski is used to treating 4 goals against like a moral victory. The offense on the other hand is a great concern. We'll no doubt be regaled with tales of Kostitsyn's secheresse next game, but Darche, Pouliot, Lapierre, Eller, Halpern, Moen, Gomez, none look like they'll be scoring very soon - or that they're particularly concerned about that. I'd still be looking to find a player who can actually play top line wing minutes, because apart from the art of having bad passes be deflected in, Pacioretty hasn't exactly ignited the goals since his recall. Barring that, I suppose it's a reshuffle. If that must happen, I'd hope that Pouliot is involved in some upward minutes following a session to view video of his play from October to December 1.

Finally discipline. What a shambles. The reffing was atrocious, and maybe even biased. However, the Habs need to adjust. This must mark at least the tenth straight game where more penalties have been yielded than drawn. It's a simple equation for defeat that. Hamrlik in particular just has to be told to cut it out. He's a costly penalty a game now.

Habs can wait till the cold light of day. All the better if they ring in the year with a win. If not, I'm sure it'll pale against the hangovers we're fighting.

Happy New Year everyone. Go Habs Go.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Game #37

Gauthier Admits He Needs Help, Habs Prove It Again

Details



Date: 28/12/2010
Opponent: Capitals
Location: Washington
Loss: 0-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Varlamov (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Beagle, Green, Ovechkin (EN)



Play of the game


Making it hard for poor bloggers, these Habs. I thought the play of the game (yes, the whole game) was Pacioretty's drawing of a penalty in the final frame. The Canadiens desperately needed someone to step up. And in his own way (by falling down actually) he did it. It took little more than putting the puck behind a defender and then looking like he wanted to retrieve it. Play of the game? See score above.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
On a night when there was far too much floating, it was the master floater who stood out most. I think it would be a fair assumption to say, however, that Kostitsyn floats on purpose - in order to find open ice in little coverage. The most dangerous shot in the game was Andrei's, the three most dangerous shots in the game were Andrei's. He even made some passing plays that almost resulted in goals.

Scott Gomez
Of the other forwards, I thought G-Love stood out. He used speed to exploit some weaker Caps Dmen and create a bit of confusion. Not enough, but enough to be noticed as a stand out on his team.

Jeff Halpern
Because his teammates were so liberal with their penalty taking, Halpern played more minutes shorthanded than at even strength in this game. And shorthanded play was the one area where one could say the Habs excelled. Because he barely played at ES, he was also unable to undo to good he did killing penalties like Plekanec did for himself.

Defencemen

Jaroslav Spacek
By far the best defender on the night. By far the hardest assignment, too. Spacek looked good all night as he kept Ovechkin quiet and disinterested for the most part. Spacek blocked 5 shots and had a lot of unscored bodychecks as he faced off against the Caps' top line. He also continues to exhibit his uncanny talent for being checked face first into the boards and drawing some important penalties in the process.

Roman Hamrlik
Hammer was the best of the rest. For the first time this season, I thought the Habs dressed 4 pretty poor defencemen. Subban was diving as if he never learned a lesson about that, Weber hasn't learned anything about blind passes, Picard is showing he needs support to thrive and Gill had some serious Gill moments. Hammer wasn't that good and he took another really costly penalty, yet he wins the dome and the battle for real ice time for a lack of options.

Goaltender

Carey Price
My word, Carey also needs to go back to October and try to remember how he prepared for the season, because he's losing his mojo. Officially he let in 2 goals, but the third was somehow disallowed again, the caps hit a post on an open net and then missed on a glorious 2-on-1 and somehow got a whistle to stop play. Carey played a good game, but the team probably needed better to halt the streaking Capitals. He's often liked playing the Lightning, and the Panthers aren't known for their outbursts, so a back on track game is in sight.


Comments


Oops. Can't beat the best team in the East still battling back from a bad losing streak without a bit of coordinated effort. The team left a lot to be desired in their play. The defence and goaltending, I've covered. The forwards? Wow, pretty poor. Probably time to resort to following up their shots, maybe.

Besides this, the coaching and personnel decisions were poor on the part of the coach again. Plekanec was having an off night and sitting in the box for 6 minutes yet still played 10 minutes more than Eller, Pouliot, Darche, Moen, Lapierre and Halpern. Pacioretty may have been brash enough to demand the time, but has he really earned twice Pouliot's chance. We've seen more NHL level stuff now. Martin can't coach from behind and it is killing the team at the moment. When his top lines are neutralized, he's not trusting enough to play his lower lines and only butts the proverbial head against the wall. It's quite painful to watch, and if this goes on, I think I'll reconsider watching beyond goal goal one, as it really is becoming a senseless waste of my time.

Two games in two nights before the New Year will be quite critical for this fragile group. Another two losses will just about completely undo any faith they had of accomplishing things without Markov (sorry Wisniewski). A couple of wins, or points from a couple of hard fought games could restore right back to where they were. Call them must wins, pivotal, potential turning points, watersheds, whatever - you need to watch the next two games because they'll define where this season goes.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MLX Skates: LIW's Review

A few weeks ago I received my brand-new MLX Skates. For those of you who don’t know, MLX (Mario LemieuX) is newish on the skate scene. To get their word out they asked that we here at LIW test and review their skates in exchange for a free pair that would be ours to keep. The task fell to me as Topham decided that I was in greater need of a skate upgrade (and maybe because he is ready to admit that I am the better skater?).


So, what are they like? How do they fit? Do they feel better or worse than other skates that I have used? I am going to try an answer these questions and am going to give an honest, unbiased opinion as that is what MLX, and the readers, want.

Check out the Skates here.

It all started when two days after taking my order the skates arrived at my door. Anxious to try them out, they were in the oven within another couple of days. No, I wasn’t baking them for fun, but instead was getting them ready to mold. That’s right, you can mold them yourself, whenever you want, in your very own oven. I made sure that I followed all of the instructions for customizing my skates as detailed in a series of videos on MLX’s website.

After the baking, came the molding and subsequent foot massage (hot skates on your feet are a very nice feeling). Unfortunately it was at that point that I realized that the insoles were too small. Had they shrunk in the baking or were they too small to begin with? Since I didn’t even put my foot in until that point I would think I was simply sent the wrong pair. So, I waited another two days, but it was another quick delivery from a company that was really easy to get a hold of and order from.

Back to square one, then, and this time it was a success. I could feel the skates form to my feet and I was excited to get onto the ice.

I have now played four games with the skates and have noticed a little difference each time. The first time I wore them they hurt one foot (which they claim on their site is normal) and I wasn’t sure about them. That, of course, happens with most new skates, boots or shoes so I wasn’t about to write them off just yet. The next three games seemed to go better and better to the point that I really felt that these were better than any skate that I had previously used. So, I’ll tell you why I think that and then it can be up to you if you are interested in this skate for yourselves

Learn all about MLX and their Skates at their website – mlxskates.com

First off: the fit. I felt that the molding was effective and the ability to do this at home meant that I could tweak them whenever I wanted. I haven’t had to change anything, but as long as we’re not in the middle of cooking something in the oven it is a quick process. I did notice that the boot was quite low as compared with other hockey skates. I didn’t, however, feel that this caused a lack of protection. My shin guard may no longer overlap the boot, but with the hardness of the boot itself I wasn’t worried about that anymore.


Things that I noticed when skating was that I was leaning forward more. This is because the chassis is actually built up higher at the heel than at the toe; more so than on other skates. I felt that this helped to keep me ‘on my toes’ more throughout the games. The lower boot allowed my ankle to achieve a full range of motion. The replaceable and very flexible tendon guard (a nice feature as a broken one no longer warrants the purchase of a new pair of skates), and the fact that there are maybe two less eyelets than on a regular boot meant that I could really get a full range of motion out of my foot. I felt that this helped with my speed, acceleration and turning as I had more motion than I was used to.

After a few games I noticed a few more things that seemed better than they had been on my old skates. First, the hard boot really gives me more confidence to step in front of a shot. They are moldable, yes, but are very rigid when they aren’t heated up. I also found that this provided more stability while I skated and seemed to help me make tighter turns. It is also night and day when it comes to the weight of these skates versus my old ones. Not that I ever had trouble lifting my old skates up off the ice, but at the end of a long shift it is nice to know that you are carrying a little less weight.


Another great feature is that you can adjust the location of the chassis on the boot which essentially can change your blade angle and position. I haven’t played with this feature nearly enough, but it is nice to know that I can customize that on my own as we all know there are many different types of skaters out there. This, of course, helps each skater to get the most out of him or herself. When you think about the new technologies that they are using in sports like speed-skating, running and swimming I can honestly say that this is a very important step for hockey skates and it is about time.

These skates are certainly high-end skates, of that there is no doubt, but if you are looking to go for something in the higher-end these might be worth a shot. I haven’t noticed that I am a better player than before, but I do notice little things improving and anytime you can do that you know that you are headed in the right direction. I am very happy to have been able to try these skates and look forward to many more years of good hockey on them.

Interested in new high-end Skates? Try MLX Skates.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Game #36

Fans Stirred From Naps To Watch Habs Who Didn't

Details



Date: 26/12/2010
Opponent: Islanders
Location: New York
Loss: 1-4

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Roloson (W)

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Comeau, Grabner, Parenteau, Wisniewski



Play of the game


There were a few nice things going on with the Habs, but this display hardly deserves recognition of something like that. Instead, a play I thought was very important and very encouraging from the game was the 5-minute major called on Max Pacioretty in the third period. The Canadiens were behind, the Islanders fans were outnumbered, Eaton didn't "protect" himself; there were lots of reasons not to make the call. However, if the league wants to get rid of hits that endanger players, then it needs together a lot firmer on making the calls. It buried my team, and I can see the arguments of those that thought it was grey area. But as a fan who wants to see hockey without senseless injuries, then I applaud the refs convictions for making it.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
One of the reasons we all like Tomas Plekanec is that he delivers a consistent brand of hockey. His effort falls within a tight band between 85-100% and the results tend to follow that in the positive. On nights when teammates are having trouble forgetting eggnog and turkey, Tomas' consistency makes him stand out. His goal was excellent, and he could have had more goals and points with a bit of luck and/or support.

Lars Eller
There's holding a player back , and there's holding a player back. When we extol Jacques Martin for doling out Eller's apprenticeship in short doses, we do it when it doesn't cost the team. Tonight, a stubborn reliance on top lines that weren't in the spirit of the game cost the team a win. Eller often looks convincing and determined during his cameos, and it's high time that in games like this, where something new is being sought, that Eller be given a real chance to show what he can do.

Mike Cammalleri
Cammalleri played a typical no-goal game for a goalscorer. There were good chances that bounced wide or didn't stick. Through luck and lack of support again, not much came of his efforts this time. He still stood tall over most of his compatriots.

Defencemen

Hal Gill
One of the Canadiens most dangerous shots was Gill's. He killed penalties. He defended the AHLers very soundly. If Plekanec's average standard stood out up front, it was Gill's that did so at the back.

Josh Gorges
Gorges sneaks in here for me. He played a sound game, which is fine. But sometimes against a team like the Islanders, players who play soundly need to do something to rouse their teammates who always provide the spark. Gorges had chances to do that and didn't. That said, it was his excellent "goal line" play and the referee's line of sight that prevented a goal form ending this contest even sooner.

Goaltender

Alex Auld
As much as anyone on the team, Carey showed the signs of disdain for the Islanders. The scoresheet says he let in 4 goals and that yet again he committed giveaways without doing any harm, but for the lack of the definitive camera angle he let in five and did get burned for puck play. It's not to say that this isn't forgivable, because after 30+ straight domes, a player deserves a break from the fans. Again we must ask, though, doesn't he also deserve a break from the ice. When will the Habs coach show a little faith in his teammate?


Comments


"The Habs didn't show up", I can see the headline. But come on. The team started a road trip with lots of traveling to games in Colorado then Dallas. Then inexplicably to Carolina. The schedule shows the games follow in Long Island, Washington, Tampa and Florida. What it doesn't show is that the team rushed home to have 2 days of Christmas holiday in Montreal before being spirited away from family and friends for a game in front of 2,000 Montrealers and a handful of New Yorkers. It's not a recipe for "showing up".

I thought the coaches might have been more creative in their efforts to coax some life out of this contest. Auld, for instance, would have been excited to start. So would Subban. Eller is raring for ice time. Instead, the coaches decided the formula for success was to go with the trusty old game plan and then decided to stick with it when it was highly apparent it wasn't working. If the players deserve plenty of blame for showing up to work with foggy minds, then the coaches too deserve to be called out for misusing their resources.

Anyway, it's only a game. A single game. Next the team rolls into Washington where they will face a rejuvenated Caps squad and then to Florida, where excuses for lethargy are not as believable. I'd like to see three contests with hard fought results. 3-4 points would be a good turn out.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Habs Fans

What a great year of hockey 2010 was. And it was nice to have you all aboard commenting and making sure our heads were on straight.


Hope you all have a nice holiday season. And though we'll be posting before New year, just also wanted to wish everyone all the best for 2011.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Game #35

A Nice Christmas Treat; Habs Get Needed Win

Details



Date: 23/12/2010
Opponent: Hurricanes
Location: Carolina

Win: 3-2

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Ward (L)

Habs goalscorers: Gomez, Kostitsyn, Picard
Opposition goalscorers: LaRose, Cole



Play of the game


A 5-minute PP is never a bad thing, but unless you capitalize then there is really nothing too special about it as it often means that one of your players could have been hurt. Luckily Spacek was OK and we scored two goals - can't get much better. The nicest play on that PP was the goal that tied the game; Kostitsyn's. The play started with a great fake by Camms at the point who went down low to his centre. Tom then hit Kostitsyn's stick with an incredible pass and the puck then took off into the stratospehere of the net.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Scott Gomez - Game Puck
Scott scored a goal and added an assist tonight as his good play continues. That now gives him 17 points which isn't very good, but I have definitely seen worse. Let's not care about the past and only the present and future for a moment and all of a sudden we are pretty happy with where Scott is. He is seeing the game very well, is using his speed and puck-controlling abilities and is doing a great job of getting the puck to his teammates.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks did it all tonight, much like he always does. His defensive play and play on the PK were great and he did a good job in the offensive zone. When he has two fully capable wingers he is great,
not just good. Tonight I felt that he was a lot closer to great than he has been in a few games.

Andrei Kostitsyn
I liked the way that he played tonight, but didn't feel that it was that much different from when he is playing 'badly'. The big difference is that he scored, but if Ward makes a big-time save on that shot is this a poor game by most people's standards? The answer if, of course, yes. I am, therefore, happy that he scored, but at the same time that will add fuel to the 'he scored in Carolina, why can't he tonight' fire. Regardless of what others think I was happy to see him getting so much ice-time and not being replaced by Moen or Darche at tough points (towards the end) of the game.

Defencemen

Alexandre Picard
When Alex shoots like he did on his goal he brings something important to our squad. He netted the game-winner and it couldn't have come at a better time. I do notice that he plays a bit better with Weber, or at least he has done lately. Maybe it's is just me, but it is possible that Weber's style is a better fit for Picard's. Either way he played a nice game. There were a few defensive miscues, but his offensive contribution made up for all of those.

Jaroslav Spacek
I wasn't too thrilled with Spacek's work on Carolina's second goal, but aside from that I thought that he played a nice game. In addition to his two assists was the fact that he drew the deciding penalty. Now, it is never a good idea to turn your back on a play, so I am just stating the obvious. Aside from those plays he played well and I thought did a particularly good job on the PK.

Goaltender

Carey Price

One more goal and a loss may have been enough for Auld tonight as I wasn't too impressed with Carey. The main issues I had were his puck-handling (although he didn't get caught I felt that he was way to unnecessarily cocky and careless with the puck) and the first goal which was a goal that he is used to saving. In the end, however, he turned in a great third period and ended up being the main reason that we held on for the win. So, well done Carey for redeeming yourself in the last 20.


Comments


We really needed this win and I think that the players knew that too. The game started well enough too, but a Hamrlik mistake gave the 'Canes a SH marker and I was worried about bad luck biting us. We did well, however, to regain our focus and to apply pressure throughout most of the rest of the game. Carolina, too, played a nice game and it was fun to watch, but the bounces just seemed to go more in our direction. It was nice to see players like Gomez, Kostitsyn and Picard score tonight as we need that variety in our attack. The more players that we can make look like a threat, the easier it will be for the whole team.

This will help the players, coaches and fans rest a bit easier over Christmas, but then it is back to business on Boxing Day. It seems silly that the NHL would make a team (it happens to us every single year) play on the 23rd and the 26th, but that is business and the holiday season means that there are tickets to be sold. I do, however, hope that the team gets home safely tonight and enjoys tomorrow as best they can as they have earned it with a great start to the season. As for me it is off to Vermont for a ski holiday and, so, I leave you in Topham's capable hands. I'll miss 5 games in all and would be very happy if we could bag 5+ points during that time, thrilled if it was 7+.

Happy Holidays everyone and I'll see you in 2011!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

It was Christmas 1951 when the wise management brought us Frankselkesigning, goals and more when the promoted Dickie Moore to the first team. The team which had been sputtering around since the Cup win in 1946 with more than a couple of sub-500 seasons turned in a 5-game winning streak, and a 21-11-6 end to the season to take them above 0.500, make the playoffs and the final and basically lay the groundwork for what was to become the core of anew dynasty.

59 years later, it seems the team may also need some wise decisions to avoid being a good team among some great rivals. In the tradition of 12 days of giving, I am hoping Pierre Gauthier might bring us multiple gifts over the twelve-day holiday.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Pierre Gauthier gave to us:



12 less microphones
Can't the Canadiens restrict access to the dressing room just a bit. Do 35 microphones need to crowd the face of players after every barely significant win, loss or tie in the early season? After watching that Capitals/Penguins show, I can appreciate how a quieter room might be a better thing (especially after some losses). It's a bit rich for a blogger I know to call for less coverage of the team, but it's the fact there's too much quote-grabbing that hurts any real analysis ever getting done.

11 months of work
Don't think it's too much to ask for a guy paid in the millions to basically play fantasy hockey to put in a bit of work more than a couple of months a year.

10% lower claims of effort
Instead of having to work out whether 110% of effort is on the 200% or 1000% scale, I'd appreciate claims of 110% effort being replaced with actual effort on the ice.

9 forwards who can play

At the NHL level that is. And I don't mean skate a lot, huff and puff and make it look like they're playing, but actually doing what forwards on other teams do - threaten to score.

#8 from 1996
As good as Halpern is, Recchi is pretty reliably a cut above that. NHL experience from 3 decades and he can still score. Plus, I'd really like to get more games out of my sweater...

7th defenceman

To fill in so Hamrlik and Spacek can actually take a rest.

6th rounder for Moen
Actually, any round will do

$5 million for Markov
It doesn't have to be done by January 6th, but some time this year.

4 years for Gorges
While we're at it, why not sign up Gorges for a contract before he gets poached in July? We all like Subban, Weber and co., but this team looks a whole lot more permeable without #26 in the plan.

3 French men
I guess you have to know the original song to appreciate this one. Anyway, as every year, Gauthier should continue to scour that QMJHL for the players that weren't picked up. This strategy has netted Desharnais and Lefebvre already, as well as more in the past. it's a strategic advantage for the Habs, and they should continue to exploit that.

2nd chance for Weber

No a real one. Weber's a good player. Better at the moment than some of the regulars and with a gun for the PP.

And a new star* in CH jersey

To replace Markov. Cap space demands it. The fact a core of players at the ages they are demands it. It'll take some work, and likely some draft picks. But the Canadiens can't get precious about draft picks now, because they'll waste all the years they've committed to big contracts.

* By star, I don't mean superstar. Someone who can score more goals than Halpern, or play PP better than Spacek will do...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Game #34

Price Proves His Value To The Team With Rare Off-Night

Details



Date: 21/12/2010
Opponent: Stars
Location: Dallas

Loss: 2-5

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Lehtonen (W)

Habs goalscorers: Darche, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Burish, Benn, Skrastins, Richards, Eriksson



Play of the game


Price made a great save on Eriksson in the second, but I felt that our second goal was a nicer play. That goal gave the Habs hope; hope for this game, hope that we haven't completely lost it. The goal was crafty and was scored on the PK to boot. Good work by Gionta got him the puck and he quickly fed Gomez. Scott then went u the right side and waited for Gio. Brian took the pass and placed a perfected slap-shot up and over Lehtonen.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Brian Gionta - Game Puck
His goal clinched him the Game Puck, but I felt that a Dome was a certainty. He played well with Scott again tonight and they both benefited a lot for MaxPac too. Gionta now has 12 goals and could still very well hit 30 by the time all is said and done.

Tomas Plekanec
Remember when Gomez's line had nothing going? I think that the main reason was Moen being there or when Gomez himself was missing. Well it was more of the same tonight. By benching Kostitsyn we have taken a legitimate sniper away from Pleks and replaced him with a rookie that will be lucky to end with 10 points. Despite it all Tom still played a good game, but when his line is going (with its potent regulars) they can be a whole lot better than good.

Max Pacioretty
With 7 shots (and another 4 misses) Max was looking like he would be bringing home the Game Puck. He unfortunately failed to capitilize though, but he was still worthy of the Dome. He is a different player than the one we saw last year and if he can keep this up it will only get better from here on in.

Defencemen

Hal Gill
Some off-nights left the door open for Gill. He also did well to end with a +1 rating. I can't say that I noticed him much, but in a game like this that is about all that I can ask for. It is still frustrating for me that he doesn't use his size or ever shoot hard, but after a season and a half of play like that I can't say that I am surprised.

Jaroslav Spacek
Jaro did well to stay out of the trouble that his partner was getting into. I actually thought that he didn't have a horrible game in his own end. One thing that I would like to see change, however, is that it would be nice to see him use that shot of his to hit the net. It seems that a lot of his one-timers miss high or wide and that is something that shouldn't be happening so often.

Goaltender

Alex Auld

Well that is a blow to the stats. 5 goals on 17 shots (and a few of them weak) is what I call a bad game. Now, he didn't get bounces and not everything was his fault, but it shows that when he isn't on we aren't quite the same team. I won't go on much as we all saw what happened, but if his team can't bail him out of games like this the season could go south (much like it often does around Christmas time) very fast.


Comments


Martin listened to Brunet and the rest of the media (mostly the French media) and Kostitsyn sat. It addressed one problem (shut Ben up for one night), but didn't see to help the team. Maybe it will be a wake-up call for AK, but I doubt it. That is because I don't think that he is doing too much different from when he is playing well (scoring goals). We know the type of player that he is and that bothers a lot of people. In an ideal world we could have Darche, Brunet and Patrick Poulin on every line, but we aren't that lucky. We may not be as good of a team with AK the non-50-goalscorer instead of AK the 50-goalscorer, but I think that I can say with certainty we are better with him than without him. A team is made up of a lot of different pieces; tonight we took away a very interesting piece because the people that really run this team yelled quite loud for a change. It is funny that the people that bleed Bleu-Blanc-Rouge the most are those that try and pick apart the team one piece at a time, but it is a sad fact. Once they have their way with Kostitsyn (like they did with Koivu and Kovalev) you can bet that Plekanec could be next. Ridiculous? Just try and remember when they were telling us that we don't need Markov. Still believe them Pierre Gauthier? I hope not.

Last Time in Dallas...

The last time the Canadiens visited Dallas was the 8th of March, 2009. Kovalev scored as he recovered from his long walk, Kostitsyn made the dome after a month of criticism and overblown allegations, Carey Price won a rare game that winter and Guy Carbonneau was the coach.

It was an auspicious time, because that game was the last of a road trip, the beginning of a return to backup duty for Halak in the face of form and the last act in Guy Carbonneau's reign.

18 months on a lot has changed. Only one of the starting All-Star team from that season is actively playing for the Canadiens. The team has a new captain, a new coach, have jettisoned the Halak issue and mostly have new personnel throughout.

The last time this team was in Dallas wasn't the catalyst for all that happening, but it certainly seemed to represent some sort of deadline for Bob Gainey, a self-imposed threshold to take control and take a new direction.


That point in time was also significant for Dallas. Because just as the Canadiens used those two unexpected points to eventually vault to eighth where they would win a tie-break to make the playoffs, Dallas needed these points. The two teams were two of the sad sack stories of 2009. Montreal was defending conference champion with a complete loss of poise from January. Dallas were perennial favourites off a conference final appearance struggling through a bad start and pretty bad February themselves. A moral victory that included beating the Sharks and then the playoff rival Ducks was curtailed by the Montrealers. And losing to the laughing stock item of February in early March led to a run that was soon to become 2 wins in 11 games and no playoffs.


At the same time on the banks of the Mersey...


Both franchises also shared more than a game in time. In early 2009, they also had the shared fate of being beset with owners who leveraged their way to everything in their empires, just when leverage was going out of style in a bad bad way.

Partners in crime (the Liverpool saga was criminal, as a Reds fan I can assure you) George Gillett and Tom Hicks were only beginning after the New Year to discover that the sports jewels they held in summer of 2008, before all hell broke loose in London and New York, were going to be the millstones round their respective necks.

Gillett, who was probably on the shakier ground to begin with was the first to move. Rumours that he denied in December 2008 of a sale, were now being confirmed in March. Hicks must have known he wouldn't be far behind, as he was defaulting on loans in April. And a default on a $100 million loan is not usually something that just creeps up on you.

As a fan of the Canadiens and the Reds, I am happy to say that the Gillett days are behind us. Luckily as a football fan, I can say the same about Hicks. Yet 21 months after that last meeting, the Stars are still the property of Tom Hicks (at least formally - it's well known he's trying his best to free some cash by releasing the Stars).


And what can new owners do for you?

Well, at least initially, it seems they can ignore their own debts as they try to establish a reputation as team the fans can like. Montreal's new ownership has meant less ceremonies and better hockey, an overhaul in ethic on the team.

Dallas is winning enough now, but fate has handed them a healthy hand. If they lost Richards or Ribeiro before the deadline would Hicks' money back them replacing either one? That said, new owners aren't always that quick on the uptake in this way...


So as we watch the puck drop tonight in the Big D, downing the appropriate Molson refreshment, let's remember how fortunate we are not to be reading a piece again about the frosty looks that will be shooting between former buds Gillett and Hicks, and even that Captain Obvious ("Pas facile de gagner sur la route") is going to be renting a luxury box, not standing on one behind the bench, even if Kostitsyn is still looking for a way to be a 25-goalscorer without a no-goal game.

Monday, December 20, 2010

WJC 2010 Primer

The Drafted (Aka, Where's Tinordi?)

The World Junior Championships face off in 6 days. For hockey fans, this is a time to enjoy hockey organized and officiated by someone other than the NHL cartel, to see flowing hockey and watch players playing for pride and joy.

For most fans of NHL teams, most Canadiens fans included, it's also a time to get a quick look at some of the prospects that up until now (whatever your best intentions were to go see junior games) you've only read about in a scouting report.

It is both a chance to evaluate the prospects and the scouting department, as other teams prospects (passed by in the draft) emerge as well.

This year the Montreal Canadiens were looking primed for a very good representation at the championships. Up until last week, they had three forwards poised to play for Team Canada (the team it means most to make). Unfortunately for those keen on seeing Bournival and Brendan Gallagher, they were cut at the last moment. As a result, Habs fans will have to make do with watching 2009 first rounder Louis Leblanc on Team Canada and 2009 third rounder Joonas Nattinen on Team Finland (both centres).

By all accounts, Louis is set to have a possible scoring breakout and could well be the star for Team Canada. Nattinen, on the other hand, seems to be along for the ride. Even so, it should be a good week's worth of amateur scouting for us all. Hopefully there will be pleasant surprises.


NHL draftees

As I said, it will also be a chance to observe many other drafted players from other NHL franchises as they power their teams to wins and cause the mistakes that lead to losses.

In all there are 93 juniors on the rosters as they stand right now (some include players who may yet be cut). So, Montreal's twosome is below the NHL average for sending players to Buffalo.

The teams that will be required to send the most representatives for scouting and schmoozing with their prospects are Florida, Minnesota, Detroit and Washington. Each team has 6 prospects spread over a few different teams.



So what does this say about Montreal scouting? Well hard to say really. Getting players onto Team Canada is the hardest thing to do, and Montreal almost had three. Had those two not been cut, we'd also be talking about a top tier team.

Yet, it's still difficult to compare Montreal's scouting of a first rounder and Nattinen to Detroit's haul of six players while winning the NHL and relying on late rounders yet again to make up ground. And Florida just did it in style as they posted two to team Canada and three to the next strongest American squad. Washington and Minnesota relied on Euros for their good showing, yet Minny has Granlund who may end up being the star of the show, and Washington has some underrated Russians on board.

If it's quality rather than quantity that spells success, then lots of Timmins reputation is riding on Leblanc's shoulders. , as there's no guarantee he'll be the player for Canada or among the top at the tournament.


The Timmins Watch

For fun, I looked through the rosters of the junior teams and looked at players the Habs could have drafted.

There are a boatload of players that were chosen before the Canadiens had a pick, and so nothing to do with Timmins (17 in all).

The following group are those who were passed over in favour of Louis Leblanc. Based on play thus far, we can't really call these mis-picks. there are 16 in that group at this tournament.

Where it starts to get interesting is the group that could have been had instead of London Knights "stalwart" Jarred Tinordi. Remember, the Canadiens traded up a pick to get Tinordi and could have potentially had a couple from this group of 28 players:



Obviously it's too early to write off Tinordi altogether, and big D's have the habit of being slow developers (yet worth waiting for). Still, there are a quite a few exciting names here, and a tournament of hockey might start to raise questions about that June day trade and pick.

The American defenders alone, all selected to vie for the medal ahead of Jarred, will be interesting to keep an eye on.

The lists get shorter and less interesting as we go. But as we get a chance to see Nattinen, it might be interesting also to watch the 18 players drafted behind him in 2009.



Many of those players were also selected behind Mac Bennett (also not a National team calibre player yet), Alexander Avtsin, and Dustin Walsh (whose currently 6th in scoring at that powerhouse which is Dartmouth).

Finally, while no one would ever confuse Michael Cichy as a candidate for the National Team, it worth keeping an eye on two players who were taken after him in the 7th round of the 2009 draft: Carolina defender Tommi Kivisto (Finland) and yet another Detroit Swedish defensive find (possibly), Adam Almqvist.

There's the undrafted by the score, but no scouts thought those would be worth more than Petteri Simila, so it's hard to fault anyone for missing them.


So as you're all watching Louis Lebalnc skate circles around Americans and wondering where on earth Tinordi is. Have a look around and notice the wealth in talent at this tournament.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Game #33

Montreal Had Chances; Couldn't Find The Win

Details



Date: 19/12/2010
Opponent: Avalanche
Location: Colorado

Loss: 2-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Anderson (W)

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri, Picard
Opposition goalscorers: Wilson, Porter, Galiardi



Play of the game


There was a 2-on-1 that I thought was going to be a goal for the Avs. Stastny and Dupuis played it perfectly and it was Dupuis who got the shot off. Price, however, made an incredible save to keep the game close.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Michael Cammalleri - Game Puck
His goal was great and he really kept it coming for the rest of the night. I liked how much he was shooting and how he was challenging what seemed to be a shaky goalie.

Scott Gomez
Scott was the best player on what was a competitive line tonight. He was quick with the puck, had a few chances of his own and did well to organize the troops on the PP.

Jeff Halpern
Jeff won 5 of his 7 draws tonight, in particular two right at the end. If he can be that guy that can win key draws, then he may see some more Dome time.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
The youngsters are having a hard time in their end these days so it is nice that Hammer has been so steady. In 24 minutes he managed to stay out of any real trouble as he was on for 1 Habs goal and none of theirs.

Jaroslav Spacek
There were a couplke of mistakes, but I really couldn't justify having anyone else in here as I felt their mistakes were greater. I also did like the work that Spacek was doing on the PP.

Goaltender

Carey Price

I didn't like the second goal and a couple of his passes, but aside from that he did play pretty well. I certainly felt that he was the better of the two goalies tonight and that he probably deserved a better fate.


Comments


If this is one loss and that's all then I'll be OK with it as I felt that we didn't play that badly. I will, however, be upset if it is back to this type of hockey for the Habs; the the type of hockey that we have played since the lockout. Maybe not so in style, but more in the way that the results go. These are the type of games that can be won, but are also the type of games that were being won a few weeks ago. I am not that interested in going back to losing 3, winning 3, being in every game, but having a hard time to score or being better on paper, but having off-nights. I think that the next 6 games, on the road, are very important. That is when we'll find out if we are a good team that occasionally loses or a decent team that got hot for a bit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Game #32

Habs Out-Bounce Bruins

Details



Date: 16/12/2010
Opponent: Bruins
Location: Montreal



Win: 4-3

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Thomas (L)

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri (PenSh), Lapierre, Pacioretty, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Wheeler, Savard, Lucic



Play of the game


A weird and entertaining affair. In my opinion, the best chances were kept out and some of the strangest went in. The best play of the game for me was Lapierre's goal. This was serious goalscorer stuff - Lapierre placing an inch-perfect shot on a first time effort. Bob Cole sells Lapierre short on the original call, but a replay shows just how good he was to react and shoot for accuracy rather than power on a poised Thomas.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Tomas Plekanec
Gamelog: No points. Gamelog: Even. Gamelog: 50% on faceoffs. The gamelog says he had an average game, maybe even an off game. These are the games we need a record for. Plekanec didn't have an average game, he played well, so did his line, generally. They generated chances in volume and quality and could have scored with some of the favours bounces were handing out to other lines. The crowning achievement for Pleks was once again his PK duty where he logged a pretty astounding 4:24 of pretty good work. Certainly without a good PK effort throughout, the Habs might have let this slip.

Max Pacioretty
The kid's got attitude, I'll give him that. Whereas, I don't remember many Pacioretty shots over the past couple of years, his new confidence means he does little but shoot. I will qualify that, however, because in this game he did make some excellent passes and banks around the boards. His best work wasn't the goal and the assist, but he deserves the reward for the rest of his game.

Brian Gionta
Another excellent game from the captain. Excellent because he did exactly what was expected of him (shoot, try on every shift, gain possession) and more. The goal he got credit for looked like a bounce, but just like Marc Savard's tip, with owners of such nimble hands you never can really count out intention.

Defencemen

Jaroslav Spacek
The most ice time of anyone, because tonight he was charged with looking after the Bruins top line. Most of the game, it was Bergeron and Recchi who looked more dangerous than the bigger line. Horton, who could be seen skating up and down Spacek's side from time to time, was rendered almost completely ineffective - a tribute to Spacek, as he's just one of three 20+ point men on that line.

PK Subban
Tonight Subban did two major things. He got back to contributing offensively in the way he can (i.e., not attempts blocked), an he should have scored for it. He also made entering the Montreal zone difficult. Now, I'm not one for hitting for the sake of it, and I'm certainly glad Subban didn't hurt anyone, but his hits while spectacular to the highlight selector are actually more impressive to me as tactical measures. Now teams will need to know Montreal's zone is not freely gained, as it has been for a decade or more.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
A funny game this. Billed early as a goaltender duel, it ended as what looked like a shootout. Really, though, I think we did witness a bit of a goaltender duel. Thomas was very solid at times, and only beaten with a penalty shot, two weird bounces and a perfect shot that needed his back to guide it in. Price similarly didn't let in a standard chance. His goals against were two bounces and a very good deflection/interference play. Apart from those, though, Price had 34 saves and was called on many times to be solid in the face of a Bruins surge. To win when lucky is one thing. To win when facing some pretty unlucky bounces shows that some true growth did take place in the summer.


Comments


As I said, an entertaining game. Another one in quite a line of them now. And really, apart from the losing, what's not to like about the fact that the forwards are opening up a bit and getting a few chances, getting a few goals.

For me the most encouraging thing to take from this game was that the Habs didn't win it by the familiar script. When the Bruins played through the coverage that worked on previous victims like the Islanders, the Habs needed to find something more. They did. There's elements to raise eyebrows too, like 37 shots allowed and a whole lot of being penned in, but the Bruins were in the same boat at times. This was just two good teams, two good rivals, having a really good go at each other with the better on the night winning.

Now the mood changes as prepare for a road trip that begins with a Saturday off and a Sunday game in Denver. Another loss might have been hard to overcome. Instead now the team can draw the positives from the points gained here and the ones they nearly gained against Philly and hopefully put in a run on the Christmas swing. Should be fun.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Game #31

Habs Drop 3rd In A Row For First Time This Season

Details



Date: 15/12/2010
Opponent: Flyers
Location: Montreal

Loss: 3-5

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Bobrovsky (W)

Habs goalscorers: Subban, Plekanec, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Carter, van Riemsdyk (2), Zherdev, Giroux



Play of the game


Our goals were good and were all timely, but I thought that a play much earlier on was the play of the game, the play that started us out on the right foot. All it was was a big hit by Subban on Philly's tough-guy Daniel Carcillo. The hit was a nice one and it electrified the crowd. It was the right thing to do after losing two in a row.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Brian Gionta - Game Puck
Gionta looked good tonight on the all-American line and his chemistry with Gomez seemed to be back. What I liked most about that line was that there was a third option. Pacioretty may end up not being that great, but I think that we can all agree that he is better than Moen. Luckily, Philly's defence agreed and, so, G+G had more space, thus more chances.

Scott Gomez
We missed Scott more than anyone realized. His numbers may be low, but he brings stability and responsible play to the team. He made two great passes tonight and was as fast as ever. It would seem that he isn't injured anymore? At least I hope so; we can't really afford to have him out of the line-up. (No offence to Dustin Boyd...well, a little)

Andrei Kostitsyn
Brunet spent the time that he wasn't complementing a Quebecer on Philly's roster tonight bashing Kostitsyn. 'How can he look like a 50-goal scorer some games and a bum the rest of the time?'. I guess that career 5-goal man BB forgets how many games there are in a season. A 25-goalscorer will, at the very least, not score in 57 games. Andrei may not have scored tonight, but with 5 shots, the ability to play well on the 4th line and the knack to always get into a good position he deserved recognition.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Subban got a star? Do people even watch? Well, we know they don't, we always knew that, so, goals and assists are key. What the stats may not tell us is that PK's play led to another two goals tonight as the mistakes and minus ratings keep coming. Picard also looked bad and Spacek wasn't exactly smart to join the rush on the PK. That leaves old-trusty Hamrlik. Roman led the team in ice-time, +/- and blocked-shots tonight.

Josh Gorges
Gill wasn't that good tonight, so default spot number two goes to Josh. It was a quiet game from Gorges, but a good one. His ice-time was lower than Subban's which was a mistake as, unless he is injured, he needs to play 20+ minutes per game.

Goaltender

Alex Auld

This day was going to come sooner or later, the day that the back-up got in the dome. I for one am very thankful that it has taken this long to happen. We have been doing the Dome for over 300 games now and I have never seen a streak like the one we just had. Price was off tonight and that is OK. Price at his best and at his usual wins this game, but tonight it wasn't enough as the team didn't fill Philly's net. For the first time this year though (3 losses) it seems like JM is getting his starters wrong. Should Price play tomorrow? Probably. But, will it be Auld instead? Like we saw last week?


Comments


The Flyers never really dominated this game, but seemed to make the most of our mistakes. It also seemed as though they weren't making too many mistakes of their own. So, tonight we made our own good and bad luck. As a a team we actually played alright, especially in the second and early in the third. We out-shot and out-chanced them and at times had them on the ropes. We can't, however, be so careless in our own end as PK is quickly finding out. He certainly isn't the only one and I am of course focusing on the goals. But, giveaways by Picard, Hamrlik, Gill and Spacek all happened tonight too. Just because Philly gave up the puck more than us doesn't mean we should feel good about our count.

Tomorrow is now, for the first time in a long time, a must-win. We can't lose to a division-rival at home after losing 3 in a row. I would go with Price and Weber and put AK back with Pleks. We really have to go for it tomorrow because we have to avoid the trap that we always fall into after our hot starts.

Bashing Kostitsyn

A Quick Guide

When things don't go well (which apparently this year means losing two games in a row) someone must be held to account. By someone, it is usually safe to assume that we mean Andrei Kostitsyn.

If you haven't been watching your games on RDS, you may not have realized that Kostitsyn was the root of all evil. But rest assured he is. As a service to readers, i thought a quick guide on how to bash him properly might help.


Some basic rules

1. Use the gamelog. Games without points are bad games. No need to check any other source.


2. Don't forget to maximize scoring drought. If the latest pointless streak is preceded by a short streak with a few points and another pointless streak, it may be better to add more 0 point games in. Do both and see which looks better (i.e., worse)

For example, right now you have these choices:

a) Only 20 points in 30 games (53 point pace)
b) Only 9 goals in 30 games (25 goal pace)
c) Only a sinle point last game
d) Only 1 point in 3 games
e) Only 2 points in 6 games
f) No goals in 6 games
g) Only 2 G, 6 Pts in last 12 games
h) Only 3 G in last 21 games (the right choice)


3. Use aspirational pace. Using real pace for goals and points can cloud the issue (like Kostitsyn might actually be having a career best year), using aspirational goals (like 50 goalscorer) assures the best point is made


4. Compare him to players in the 2003 draft. Remember not to slip up and use the players you actually said Montreal should draft at the time like Steve Bernier


5. It's important only to mention teammates that make him look bad. Plekanec is a good bet. For others look at the scoring for the year



When and how to bash
SituationExample
Just scored hat-trick goal"It's about time"
During goal celebration (single)"That's what he can do when he's not just floating around"
After a single point game (assist)"Plekanec and Cammalleri were outstanding on that goal"
One shift drought"Truly an enigma"
One game drought"Clearly the start of a new slump"
Three game drought"No points in three games, and counting"
Five game drought"I'm not sure he'll ever score again"
Eight game drought"Even Steve Bernier would have been a better pick up in the 2003 draft"
21 games, 3 G, 10 Pts"He played with Plekanec, he played with other players, he went back with Plekanec. Players need to look at their own performance. He was effective when he was involved and he gave us some good hockey occasionally (important to stress this word), but right now we need more than that."


Coming into the year, practically nobody expected Andrei Kostitsyn to ever score again. The inconvenient little streak, during which he was the best player on the team shouldn't allow us to forget those feelings and pointed summertime analyses.

Tune in tonight for a good second lesson. instructor, as always will be Benoit Brunet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Much Are AHL Goals Worth?

Last week The Great Connecticut Hope was called up from Hamilton. With him he brings fan expectations of a transformed player, a newly-miinted NHL scoring machine.

While this could indeed be the future for Pacioretty and the Habs, it is far from a certainty. The call-up and the expectations together make it the perfect time to address what an AHL goal is worth at the NHL level.


AHL to NHL equivalency has been a topic of interest to statistics fiends for years. I can't really do full justice to the story, so I'll give you some links to start you on the treasure hunt, should you wish to follow that path (Behind the Net, Copper and Blue. To boil it down to the simplest conclusion, most people doing these calculations determined that the average AHL call-up will score less than half of the goals he scored in the minors once up in the big league.

An important consideration is that there are many examples of players who defy the rule and seem to exceed the pace they should score at in the NHL based on AHL numbers alone. Copper and Blue notes TJ Galiardi who scored at a clip that was 36% higher than his AHL rate - more than triple what the average would have had us expecting.

There are examples of this on the Habs too. Take Tomas Plekanec. He was a consistent 20-goalscorer at the AHL level (scoring 19, 23 then 29 goals in three seasons). Now he is a consistent 20-goalscorer at the NHL level (20, 29, 20, 25 in his last 4 seasons). Cammalleri scored a goal basically every other game at the AHL level and has done the same in his best NHL campaigns (including last season with playoffs).

Of course, when averages are fed by extreme cases of success, they are also often dragged back down by pretty extreme duds. look at the current AHL scoring leaders probably has more potential to bring down the average than to bring it up a la Galiardi. Jason Krog, Darren Haydar? Not all AHL scoring machines have an NHL-ready talent to translate. We love Mathieu Darche, but his 30+ goal days in the AHL won't be replicated in Montreal.

Basically this tells me something. Goalscorers score goals at all levels. A quick check will tell you that Kostitsyn, Gionta and Pouliot all scored with pretty good frequency down under as well. It also tells me that just glancing at AHL scoring stats probably won't tell me what i want to know.


Pacioretty ready to break free?

Perhaps he is. As I only have stats to go on and not many first hand viewings of late, I'll stay open-minded.

Let's imagine for a minute that he lives up to all expectation that he brings. He is a 0.63 GPG player at the NHL level. With the games remaining, that would mean he'd score 33 goals by season's end.

OK, not very realistic. let's try to account for a hot streak by averaging in his play in the AHL last season. That brings us to a more sane 0.42 goals per game, and 22 for the remainder of the season. Let's call this the best case scenario.

The average scenario would have him dropping production by more than 50%, multiplying his totals by a factor of 0.44. Based on his numbers from this year alone, the stats gurus would downgrade his 0.63 GPG to 0.28 GPG. In the remaining games that gives 14 goals.

Let's apply the same trick as above to account for a streak that probably doesn't represent his entire future. 0.42 GPG * 0.44 = 0.185 GPG. Based on this more realistic average projection, we'd expect him to get 9 or 10 goals. We'll call this the realist's expectation.

As for the pessimist. Well he's seen Pacioretty in the NHL before. By his calculation, MaxPac is a 0.07 GPG player, so he's looking forward to a grand total of 3 to 4 goals over the 52 remaining games unless Max is demoted. This is probably the worst case scenario.


3 to 22 goals. Where do I think he'll fit? In all honesty, based on his entire history in every league he's played in, somewhere just below the average. But I haven't seen him play this month.

Whatever the case may be, I think it's probably a good idea to temper expectations for the AHL leader in goals just now with a bit of statistical and reflective history. Pacioretty provides another option for a goal once in a while, but he's unlikely to supplant Mike Cammalleri for while.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Deal Or No Deal?

The Canadiens are a good team on the verge of being a consistently good team. Good goalie, good defensive system (as long as the players don't tire) and a decent attack spread over multiple players.

What recent injuries have reminded us once again, however, is that much of this recipe for success is finely balanced on the optimal group of players, and once a player or two is removed the structure begins to teeter.

Originally, many people would have believed that removing Markov from the lineup would cause serious damage to the base of the team. While the damage was not outwardly showing for a few games, it's clear now that damage has been done. Without Markov, the Canadiens ability to absorb the effects of injury are diminished. So much ability wrapped in a single uniform will do that. Evidence, down goes Gomez, down goes PP, down goes attacking resilience.

The Markov injury is that it is a certainty for the rest of the year. Some people see that as unfortunate, while others look to it as a window of opportunity. Indeed, the knowledge that salary added will not have to be removed with a return from injury does make things easier. Yet, this is not perhaps a situation one wishes to find themselves in. Nevertheless, the Canadiens do have the cap space (relief, actually) to add up to Markov's salary for the length of his absence. Because he is heftily reimbursed, this means that options abound.


Trade Options

If Spacek is injured for any more than 5 games or so, then it may be that the needle will be pointing to critical on Pierre Gauthier's line-up gauge, and that he has to move swiftly, with something more than a Bulldog call up to amend the course of his club.

Let's, for the sake of a bit of lively discussion, assume that this is the case. Assume that Gauthier must now be stirred to replace Markov after a month of dawdling.

This morning, to appease my curiosity, I went through NHL rosters and made a list of candidates of potentially available, as well as somewhat feasible, trade options.


I'm not sure if you've ever watched "Deal or No Deal". Hopefully not for your sakes. It's an on-air lottery where the contestants are led to believe over half an hour that they are doing something other than picking numbers out of the air. Strategy game it is not, despite what the pointless banter on the show (aimed at who exactly?) tries to lead viewers to believe.

After looking through the rosters with a critical eye, this is the position I believe Pierre Gauthier to be in. Basically, the players likely to be available to him at this time are like numbered red boxes – all available for his choosing, yet with chance of heroic outcome side by side with risk of the 1 penny return.


The potential rewards

In the player shaped boxes lie the following:

- A player who will score 20 goals for the Canadiens and complete their top 2 lines
- A defenceman who will restart the PP and do no damage to the defensive equilibrium
- A few players who will play 10 games before demotion to Hamilton
- A couple of players whose undisclosed injuries will limit ice time to a few games
- A player who can steady the defence and take some load off Hamrlik and co.
- A player who can springboard Eller to offensive contribution
- Several players who can make Gomez plumb new depths
- Multiple players who will be talked about as the worst trade ever


Anyway, you get the point. There's good options out there. But they are hidden amongst other options, all of whom look just as promising with the lid closed.


Let's play

Looking at the mystery packages around the league, I came up with the following list whereby I narrowed risk and saw greatest hope for gain. You will notice, for the sake of not obstructing a Markov deal, one year left in contract is a pretty big condition.

Michael Ryder

One year remaining on contract, possibly available for little (see Bruins cap situation), 14 goals in worst season, 30 goals in best

Alexei Ponikarovsky
One year remaining in contract, 20ish goalscorer, big

Alexei Kovalev
One year remaining in contract, definitely available (probably for very little), can shoot, history of PP proficieny

Chuck Kobasew
One year left in contract, has scored 20 goals in the past (3 times), possibly available for little

Scottie Upshall
One year left on contract, one-time prospect getting on, potential outbreak one day?

Tomas Kaberle

One year left on contract, Leafs in desperate need of draft picks

Niclas Wallin

One year left in contract, probably not in Sharks long-term plans

Kevin Bieksa
On year left in contract, Canucks cap situation and wealth of offensive D-men (maybe they want to acquire a player for another position but don't have the space?)

Trevor Daley
One year left on contract, Dallas in dire financial straits?


Other forwards: Alexander Frolov, Cory Stillman, Nikolai Zherdev, Radek Dvorak, Chris Clark, Todd White

Other defencemen: Sami Salo, Sean O'Donnell, Chris Phillips, Eric Brewer


You can only pick one box, so who will it be?

A veritable rogue's gallery, I know. There are some players there we've been glad to see the back of before. Yet of those on contracts that won't strangle the team this summer and beyond, they do stand out as having some potential reward for risk.

If Toronto or Boston would do the trades, then I think Kaberle and Ryder would probably present the nest options (A first for Kaberle? The way Gauthier behaved last June, I'm not sure it's a bad deal). Yet, the asking price may be higher, which is a risk in itself.

Beyond these, I'd probably like Gauthier to investigate with the Kings and Stars, even knowing that they may not be dealing wingers or fairly affordable competent Dmen. Again, asking price might be a stone around the neck in years to come.

Deal or No Deal is hard...


Yet, this is the game when trading from a position of relative weakness – the potential to acquire baggage is fairly high. It's a fool's game really. Just like picking numbers on red boxes. Yet it might be a game that our GM is compelled to now play.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game #30

A Weak Toronto Team Beats a Weaker Habs Squad

Details



Date: 11/12/2010
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Toronto

Loss: 1-3

Habs Goalie: Auld (L)
Opposition Goalie: Giguere (W)

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri
Opposition goalscorers: Kessel, Kaberle, Versteeg



Play of the game


Not much to choose from here. It has to be our goal, really. I liked the work that Kostitsyn did to get the puck towards the Leafs line. From there Pleks did a nice job to cause confusion and then Camms cleaned up the play nicely with a very well-placed shot.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Michael Cammalleri - Game Puck
Mike scored our only goal tonight and looked semi-good at other times during the game. It is hard to say that anyone played well when a team like the Leafs beats you, but amongst the group Camms was the best.

Maxim Lapierre
Max was noticeable tonight, more so than usual. He seems to like games that mean something and a game against Toronto always does. It would be nice if he was a pest in all 82 games, though, as otherwise he doesn't bring much.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks, by default really, is in the dome again. He wasn't at his best, but did play better than any other centre that we have (which actually doesn't say much, but does earn domes). There were moments tonight that were good, but there certainly wasn't enough sustained effort to make this game noteworthy.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Again, when people play badly all you have to do is look to someone who didn't play as bad. Usually those players are your best to begin with and that is the case with Hammer tonight. There was nothing special, but to be +1 when your team loses 1-3 and you play 22+ minutes must count for something.

Hal Gill
Once Spacek went down it was most likely going to be between Gill or Gorges as the other 3 played themselves out of the dome pretty early. I liked Gill tonight as I felt his positioning and timing were pretty good. He was another D-Man (Hammer, Spacek) who wasn't on the ice for a goal against.

Goaltender

Alex Auld

Based on tonight's play I can't take this dome away from Auld. The goals were on the weak side, but he only let in two and his team had plenty of opportunity to win had they wanted. Going into the weekend, however, I may have played the goalies differently (assuming I wanted Price to have a day off). I think that winning in Detroit (a team that is now 35-9-5 since the Olympics) was always going to be near impossible. I may have accepted that loss (with the hope that Auld could win) and focus on getting at least 2 points from the games with a win in Toronto. We all know that the Leafs, no matter how bad they are, is always a tough game and for that reason I think Price could have been the difference. Easy to say afterward, but I do think that planning like that could sometimes help in these situations.


Comments


Three things that I noticed tonight.

1 - We need Gomez. Does it have to be Gomez? No, but someone of the top-2 variety is essential. We can't have Eller, Lapierre and Halpern as our 2-4 centres, it is just too weak. Maybe it would be nice to have someone other than Scott in there, but with his salary he isn't going anywhere, so I do wish that he could have been there tonight. When he isn't there you realize that he is your depth and that he plays a much better game than any of the others. Maybe he doesn't get the points that we all hope, but the team is a better, more competitive team when he is in and that is all I care about; he could get 5 points all year for all I care so long as we have a good year.

2 - Why can MacArthur assault Spacek for no reason? Well, you will all say that he was retaliating to Spacek's hit on the boards. Yes he was. But, this is the same hit that the refs judged was legal. But then the refs lets MacArthur take the law into his own hands and they accept that? What the hell is that? How can a player skate at someone like that, throw off his gloves, assault a player and end up with the same penalty that our player got? All Jaro was trying to do was defend himself. It was a brutal play and it cost us a very good player. In an ideal world that is a suspension for MacArthur as that type of action is totally unacceptable. In the NHL it is applauded as toughness, grit and ballsy. The league's and refs' attitudes allow this to happen. That is why we are now down a good player.

3 - PK's backswing cost us. I don't think that there is any player or goalie in the NHL that can't stop a shot when they have a 215° warning that it is coming. That shot which got blocked ended with an empty-net goal and made PK drop to -3 in the game. I still have a lot of faith in the kid, but I may be careful using him at such crucial times as the 'learn-from-your-mistakes' method can be taught when we are up by more than 1 or in minutes 0-58 believe it or not.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Game #29

Habs Run Out Of Time On Comeback Bid

Details



Date: 10/12/2010
Opponent: Red Wings
Location: Detroit


Loss: 2-4


Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Howard (W)

Habs goalscorers: Moen, Pouliot
Opposition goalscorers: Lidstrom, Kronwall, Datsyuk, Eaves



Play of the game


Quite a lot of good plays for a loss. There was a lot of solid early defending and the third was full of nice chances. The play of them all was the Pouliot goal though. In what has become typical for the young sniper, he took a pass and then with great confidence walked right down the middle of the Detroit defence and let rip. The way he set himself to find a lane was superb and the shot itself was obviously dead-on. It was the goal that re-ignited the team's hope, and the signal that Montreal players were actually allowed to make their way down the middle portion of the ice.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
Plekanec drew a tough assignment in this game. He was asked to check a line with a couple of 80 point men. All the while, he was asked to pick up the slack for Gomez while playing against the Selke owner. Did I mention he had to play lots of PK as well. I thought he did really well, and considering the third was an offensive breakthrough for the whole team, really that he beat out the Datsyuk line (who incidentally scored during a line mismatch). Pleks had a couple of shots and fed Gionta for a team high five, he had a couple of takeaways as well. his one blemish was a slash that led to a 5-on-3. But I'm not going to pretend that was the only slash in the entire game like the refs did - it was a weak call and the fact a goal was scored doesn't change that.

Mike Cammalleri
Speaking of touch assignments, how do you like Cammalleri with just about anyone except for Plekanec, Gionta or Kostitsyn. All this and the guy still manages to create chances and goals. I thought he was off track for a while in November. It feels like he's back on track now, and definitely in the coach's very good books.

Maxim Lapierre
I'm going to go with the coach on this one. Martin chose to put Darche and Lapierre on with Pleks and Cammalleri at the end of the game - his dome. I don't really agree with Darche, but I thought Lapierre was one of a number of forwards who had a decent first half and a storming third.


Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Another good game from Hammer. Although the NHL website says he was on for a goal against (as well as the empty netter). A pair of eyes can tell you he wasn't. Throughout the game, he played Red Wings conservatively and managed his end of the ice well.

Josh Gorges
Gorges was on for goals against, but I find it hard to fault him directly. His play on the first goal was probably the right one given the seconds remaining, unfortunate only that Red Wings can turn a turnover into 3 passes and a goal in the blink of an eye. Really, Gorges was solid for most of the game, especially the first period. He set a good tone for the game as he constantly bumped Red Wings as passes were coming their way. Subban watch this guy on how to throw a tactical body check.

Goaltender

Carey Price
For me, Carey came closest he has in a long to not making this dome. Not that it was a close call. But coming out of the gates he was reckless, and as if to fulfill the promise set out by articles on his puck-handling prowess and quest for a goal, he continued all game with dangerous handling. The scoresheet says 2 giveaways, I guess that depends how one gauges a giveaway. Apart form that, he was really sound again. Really sound. While his defenders worked on the premise they'd allow any shots from a limited angle, Carey worked very hard to shift and cover for each instance. The first goal was a 5-on-3 (really 5-on-1 if you consider how the D played it). The second he was completely screened and the third was a breakaway. All standard shots, therefore were saved. Many non-standard ones too.


Comments


This was a fun game to watch. The Canadiens were tested by a team that came in with a plan tailored to beat them. The Red Wings left Habs forwards to skate with speed all they wanted to the outsides, but rarely in the middle. They tried attacking across the ice to move the defenders, as Hamrlik and co. are still sealing off good shots against static attacks. The Habs hung in there in the first and second, despite not really having a good scoring chance in my books, and then to the encouragement of all fans and critics played one of their best periods of the young season just when they needed to play one of the best periods of the season. Ultimately, they fell short, but the wound doesn't smart as much for the knowledge that if the game had been 10 minutes longer, the result might have been very different.

This is especially encouraging to me, since I have been worried that the Canadiens were a team that thrived only when things went their way (i.e., scored first and closed the deal). The fact the Wings came back, made the Canadiens feel out of it for a while and the team came back was a first this season, I think. We knew they could rebound with a day off to think about things, now we know they can rebound on the fly.