Monday, February 28, 2011

Habs Reinforce Weakest Position

Sure Carey Price is one of the best players on the Habs. But goaltending at an organizational level with this team was a glaring weakness.

Auld is an OK back-up, but with what future. Sanford is a good AHL goalie, but might not have the confidence of the management team. Ramo seems OK, but he's in the KHL. Beyond those the situation was more dire.

Mayer has not handled the AHL workload well. Doesn't bode well for anything more than that.

Peter Delmas hasn't exactly shown his release from Colorado's system was a mis-step on their part.

Petteri Simila is in the second Finnish league now after sliding out of the OHL and the SM Liiga.


Drew MacIntyre probably won't sets hearts alight in Montreal. Perhaps he should offer some comfort. If Carey price ever got injured and Montreal needed a back-up, it will be nice that Curtis Sanford would be contested. Mayer couldn't do that. MacIntyre might push him.

Why The Habs Might Look The Same At The End Of Today

Most Habs fans are not fools. Most know a thing or two about hockey. They should from watching 80+ games of hockey each year.

So when we at LIW polled Habs fans for the players they would like to move, I have some confidence that the results reflect something pretty close to the feelings of members of the Canadiens organization with a say in these matters.

Untradeables
G: Price
D: Subban, Gorges
F: Plekanec, Gionta, Pacioretty, Cammalleri
B: Avtsin
P: Leblanc
E: 1st rounders


Proposed trade pieces
G: Auld
D: Picard, Spacek
F: Gomez, Pyatt, Kostitsyn, Moen
B: Depth forwards, defencemen and goalies
P:
E: 5th, 6th, 7th rounders


As well as the lists of everything Canadiens fans want and don't want, these lists could also substitute for lists of what other GMs would want and not want from the Canadiens system. Interest in Price and Subban would be high, whereas interest in Auld, Spacek, Gomez or 6th rounders isn't going to make Gauthier the popular phone number of the day.

The clever fans know this, so they have keyed on Andrei Kostitsyn. He is on the list of discards, but fond memories loom close enough that peopl think he has value on the trade market. After all, he is big, he can shoot better than 98% of players in the league and he has done things worthy of note in the past. Most hopeful pundits seem to hope that other GMs might not have noticed his MO, that is scoring 20 goals each season in clusters, instead paying for him like they would a clockwork 40-goalscorer.

This isn't going to happen and it won't take too many phone calls for Gauthier to assess this information. If he intends to trade Andrei Kostitsyn, he is likely to get a player very much like Andrei Kostitsyn in return. The problem of course being that familiarity with Andrei lets us know he's already OK on defensive assignments, that he can ignore the Montreal hoopla better than many and his high points can be very high, even on a low scoring outfit like the Habs.

The alternative is an unknown.

Many would suggest the unknown is potential. It is, but it is potentially worse, just as it would be potentially better.

I think Gauthier will see what he can get for his more valuable bargaining chips and realise that he's better hoping for turnarounds in form than for integration and turnaround in form.

To those that cling to the hope that Nashville has more sentimentality than memory, consider the Predators are consistently in contention on a tight budget. This isn't because they reunite pairs that didn't really work in the past at great cost to their future plans.


The other scenario

The other scenario is that Gauthier takes the sudden view that his team will not be a big-time contender this year and looks for this year's "Ville Leino".

In this case, he'd have to loosen the hold on those middle range players (not in the Trade Now bracket) like Pouliot or Eller in order to find an upgrade.

It's also possible that a player like Hamrlik or Gill, who is key to the team's fortunes at present, and has value to a team that can fit a salary and needs a top-4 defender for some reason to make a Cup run, could be moved.

In both cases, he'd expose himself to backlash from those who think that Cinderella runs are owed to this city again. Personally, I don't think he'd be willing to face the backlash. Nor do I think he's got the eye to spot the Leino deal from the mess of other things going on today. He didn't last year.


So, with half the TSN talkfest over, a single trade to speak of and a few hours to go, I'd be pretty comfortable in sticking with the poll results together with my case here and say that the Canadiens won't be moving anything worth talking about this afternoon.

(That said, the moment I publish this, Murphy and his law might kick the smug blogger to the curb and send Gomez to Dallas for Richards).

Question of the Day:

Will Eklund Have More Visitors Than Rumours?

The race is on.

This is Hockeybuzz's biggest day of the year, and they typically look at visit and visitor numbers in the millions before the 9-month layoff where they serve absolutely no purpose.

Typically, Eklund's site also hears about generates rumours in the thousands, with about 5 or 6 teams incvolved for each, with 4 or 5 player combiations they'd accept as a correctly predicted rumour.

That's a lot of rumours, probably one for each visitor in their race to post "First" in the comments section.

Should be fun for him.


Speaking of Eklund, there's a good article on his style and success from Sports Illustrated that should provide a bit of alternative trade deadline reading. Some good reporting on an interesting story to go with the day of punditry on imaginary events.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Game #63

Montreal Keeps It Simple, Takes Two Points

Details



Date: 26/2/2011
Opponent: Hurricanes
Location: Montreal

Win: 4-3

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

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri, Eller, Plekanec, Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Jokinen, Ruutu, Stillman



Play of the game


I really liked what I saw when Kostitsyn laid that hit that led to the Eller goal. He came in on the Hurricane defender and not only rattled the player, but also won body position. From that he dove to get the puck to his centre in front. It wasn't an easy shot, but Lars certainly made it count. Not bad at all from our third line.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
Was this his last game as a Hab? I hope not, because tonight he was at his best and I would hate to lose a player of this caliber. His assist was sublime and his game-winning goal was quite simply icing on the cake. I think that he thrives on the 3rd line and always has; I hope that he stays there and tears it up in the coming weeks.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks quietly had a goal and an assist tonight as he creeps closer towards the 50-point plateau. He still hasn't found his A+ game, but tonight was another step in the right direction. His line is clicking and I believe that it is only a matter of time until he is back to being our go-to guy.

Mike Cammalleri
What a goal Mike scored in the first! That type of goal doesn't come that often in the NHL and one must only watch enough games before they appreciate how special that shot was. He also chipped in on Plek's goal which, to me, is an added bonus. It looks like he is getting back into the groove now too and I can say that he is just in time.

Defencemen

Hal Gill
Hal played a simple game tonight; perhaps reminding us that we should keep him beyond Monday. Does he fit into our long-term plans? Well, since long-term really means our till November or beyond plans then I would say yes. He is playing very well of late and I really liked what I saw tonight. He is playing well with PK and, if my hunch is correct, will keep getting better as we head towards the playoffs.

PK Subban
PK was great on offence, bad on defence and spectacular on defence all at the same time. That is the game we get from Subban as it is rarely average. I saw a lot of highlight reel stuff tonight as he seemed to be involved in as many Habs chances as 'Canes ones. I did, however, like how he always followed the play, how he always made up for his own mistakes.

Goaltender

Alex Auld
Early on this was Price's dome as Alex looked bad, under-prepared and nervous. Was he not used to the 2 starts in a row? Maybe not used to being the guy that we were relying on? Whatever the case he started badly as it was rebound or missed played puck over and over. As the game went on, however, he settled in and it started to work. He was making the saves that he had to and was gaining his team's confidence. The goals were weak, but he pulled out the win and played well enough over the 60 minutes to deserve it.


Comments


When a team is chasing you the best way to stop the bleeding is to do it yourselves. Tonight we were able to solidify our position and hurt Carolina's all at once. This wasn't a great game by either team, but it was an important one and the Habs were the only team that got the result. I liked our offence tonight and was happy that all of the lines were active. I also felt that our D did a pretty good job against a pretty tenacious offence. This wasn't a must win per-se, but had we lost in regulation we woudl be worried about next week. It is, therefore, a very good thing that we took this win and that we did it with relative ease (compared to our last few games). Things are only going to get tougher from here on in, so we can use all of the points that we can get at this point.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Hamilton Bulldog Players

Nearly there. The picture is becoming quite clear. Want the world, don't want to pay. Let's see how much we think Bulldogs players are worth.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Game #62

Habs Play Well, Leafs Refs Play Better

Details



Date: 24/2/2011
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Montreal

Loss: 4-5

Habs Goalie: Auld, Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Reimer (W)

Habs goalscorers: Halpern, Cammalleri, Wisniewski, Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: Kessel (2), Lebda, Bozak (2)



Play of the game


Cammalleri's goal was a beaut, and boy did we need a goal from Mike. It started when PK made a great play to gain the zone and then attack it. Most players would have given up on the play, but Subban kept it going. He couldn't get to the goal, but just before rounding it left the puck for Kostitsyn. Andrei then made a great pass to Mike who was able to place a perfect shot by Reimer.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Jeff Halpern - Game Puck
I haven't seen Jeff play this well since early in the season. I wonder if the trade deadline makes a journeyman veteran pick it up a bit? Proving he wants to stay? Proving why another team wants him? Nah, I don't really think it was that, but he did play a fantastic game. Towards the end he seemed to be very active around the Leaf goal and I wasn't surprised that he was in on Pacioretty's marker.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks is certainly picking it up of late. Tonight was another great example of how good of a player he is as he, at times, dominated in both ends. He was on the ice for three of our goals, but did so much more than that. His best stuff was his one-on-ones that he seemed to be winning with fairly good regularity. Making Komisarek look like a fool, even though it isn't that hard, is always welcome with me.

Max Pacioretty
If there is one thing that has been bothering me of late with Max it is that he always tries to go inside then outside on every defender he faces. It isn't working for him and, unfortunately, often ends in a turn-over. That, however, isn't enough to deter me tonight. In fact, I do quite like that he at least is getting the puck and trying stuff with it. What I did like was that he wanted to be at the net all game long and he wanted to take shots, as many as he could. In all he took 9 and it, therefore, isn't surprising that one finally went in.

Defencemen

James Wisniewski
James probably wants to make sure that he is still with this team in a week and what better way to do that than score your first of 2011. He did very well on the PP and laid some nice hits too. It will be interesting to see what our D will be next week (it looks like Spacek it out long-term), but I am hoping that James is a part of it because he adds an element that when we don't have it, we all complain that we need it; so much so some even wanted MAB back.

Roman Hamrlik
This was another fantastic game from Roman. He played 28+ minutes which may seem like too much, but for all the assumptions about him getting tired, he isn't really showing it. He has had some down times over the season, but, for the most part, has been very reliable in every aspect of play. Like the Wis, I hope that Hammer is part of this team next week and I think that he is making a very good case to be on it next year too.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Not too much to choose tonight. Both goalies played and Price played better. Auld got unlucky, but so did Price. I would like to say that had Price started we would have won, but that is taking the blame off the refs and putting it on Auld. Tonight I really don't think that either goalie was a major deciding factor.


Comments


4 refs to supervise 12 players. 4! How on earth they can get the majority of calls wrong, I'll never know. The refs in this league are horrible, we all know that, but tonight they went beyond their usual farce, they were putrid. This game would have been so different had Gionta not been called for lifting a stick and having a Leaf player catch an edge. For starters we should have been given a PP on that very play and, the real kicker, Gionta could have scored as he had a 2-0n-1 going when that call was made. Two quick PP goals by Toronto gave them a lead that they really had no business taking. We played better than the Leafs tonight and deserved a better result. I felt that we played some of our most intense, chance-ridden hockey late in the third period; a type of hockey that would overwhelm any team. It is upsetting that we didn't come out of this with a point and I can only hope that the coaches saw the same thing that I did and side with the players, and not against them, in this case. Carolina is never easy for us, but with them so close behind us I feel that we really need a regulation win, no if, and or refs about it.

Dawes, Sopel Acquired From Atlanta

Gauthier managed to find the other 5'9" 14 goal man in the league to complete his set. In addition to Nigel Dawes, he added Stanley Cup champion Brent Sopel to the backline.

The days of playing 8 D can't be far away.


What does this confirm?

Are Habs buyers?
Not sure if this confirms that or not. Dawes is a depth forward and Sopel is a depth defenceman.


Are Atlanta selling up?
Don't think this is evidence of that. Dawes is a first liner from the Chicago Wolves, but probably doesn't figure in Atlanta's plans. Sopel never seems to be in anyone's plans. If this was Ladd, then Atlanta would have sent a signal.


Is Spacek injured badly?
I think this confirms that. I can't see Gauthier spending anything to get Sopel otherwise.


Are the Habs going for it?
I think this move signals Gauthier would hate to miss the playoffs. But you know what? Without Markov, Spacek and Gorges, I'm not sure there's anything that Mara and Sopel could do about this season.


Is this signalling another trade?
People will see too many D and think someone here is on the outs. Weber is the most likely poster boy. Sopel, Mara, Picard don't make me think Weber sits, personally, but it is a possibility. Weber is probably the most valuable "tradeable" player in the lineup. I don't want him traded though.


Who wins this trade?

Maxwell had potential. Or so we heard. Third season in the AHL has not been his best. Sure there's been upheaval and changing linemates, but the onus was on Maxwell to show something by this point. The Canadiens can't hang around forever for every prospect. I think he was expendable.

The 4th round pick is a fourth round pick. Sure, there are sometimes players to be had in the 4th round or later. But on average there are not. The onus is on the Habs scouts to pick the right players with fewer picks, but not having the 4th shouldn't hurt them too much.

Dawes. 3 full NHL seasons, 3 10+ goal seasons. Not sure why he hasn't been in Atlanta, but this wouldn't be the first questionable move made in Atlanta (as they slide way out of the playoffs again). Dawes may well be the player that Gauthier wanted with Dustin Boyd. 27 goals in the AHL so far shows he can still shoot a little bit.

Sopel is the dark horse from Atlanta. Everyone hears about Byfuglien and Enstrom. He's Atlanta's 7th D in terms of TOI/G, but he's played in 59 of 61 and put up the second best +/- on the team. One of very few in the positive side of the ledger. Sopel used to be an offensive defenceman, but that was ages ago now. I think he's adapted to the lesser role and has started to make a twilight calling for himself as a solid last piece on D.


I think the Habs won this trade, but I also think this trade might be it. If that's the case, the Habs have not been a winner of this trade deadline. Chicago struck a good early deal and even Toronto has cashed in well. Pittsburgh paid nothing (on conditions) for Kovalev and other players have left Ottawa for vrtually nothing.

Montreal sures up their playoff run, but do little to change their ultimate springtime fate with this move.

Let's see where this takes us...

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Votes In On Draft Picks and Non-Pros

Gonna take a half-way poll on this, as the trade deadline creeping closer. Still enough response to feel fan sentiment on these assets.



This list is interesting as it starts to show how precious Canadiens fans are with their assets. In terms of trade now, we're talking about late picks, and even those assets people seem to be willing to give away are only in the round 3+ range. I assume that if I had not pooled 3 and 4, 3 would be higher and four would be lower. Bennett is a player we don't know or hear about, so it's not too surprising he's in the tradeable book.

In the land of having to give to get, there won't be much available for teams that are precious about all their decent draft picks and all the players that are deemed worthy high choices. We'll see how people feel about Hamilton prospects.

Once again, those who haven't voted and still wish to, the poll is still open (I will keep updating the stats, perhaps to publish again closer to the deadline):

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Draft Picks and Non-Pros

Had some great voting on the current players (Forwards, Defence and Goalies).

A team like the Canadiens, if buying aren't likely to find many takers for their slag without using sweeteners like recent and future draft picks. This vote is where we get to see what kind of fans you really are.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Game #61

Fantastic Game On The Coast; Habs Back On Track?

Details



Date: 22/2/2011
Opponent: Canucks
Location: Vancouver

Win 3-2

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

Habs goalscorers: Desharnais, Gionta, Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: H. Sedin, Samuelsson


Play of the game


That third goal, the winner, was one of the most crucial plays that we have made in the past few weeks, maybe of the whole season. The goal took the game to 3-1 and helped to kill Vancouver's attack for enough time. started with a great fore-check by Kostitsyn who won his battle and the puck. Eller then received the puck, but quickly got it back to Andrei who unleashed a quick shot through Lou.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
That was a great game from Andrei who played very, very well all night. I thought that it all started with player-management in his case and was happy to see him getting regular time on the PP. Instead of Pou, Desh or Moen, Kostitsyn was given a regular go on the man-advantage. I think that he took that vote of confidence and decided to express himself on his line, in particular with Eller. This is Andrei's type of game, fast and full of chances. The Calgary game was everything that he (and the Habs in general) is not as it was slow and near-impossible to get into a rhythm.

Tomas Plekanec
He was finally back with one of his regular wingers in a real game and I thought that he looked really good. He used Mike well and Halpern managed to keep up too. He was dynamite on the PK and led the team in shots.
I wonder when the Habs last iced a line with 3 successive numbers (13/14/15) on it was? With all the retirements and players using random big numbers I would guess that is has been some time.

Brian Gionta
Early on he played like a true leader as he was all over the ice. That all paid off for him and the Habs when he scored his 22nd just 7 minutes in. I think that he and Gomez can certainly work for us and I would rather that happen now than at the beginning of the season. If they can gear up for the stretch and do well and lead the team then I would deem their seasons success as I could care a less about how many points a player gets in October/November when the team is winning.

Defencemen

Hal Gill
That was playoff Gill, that was the Gill that we longed for last week when he was out. Can you believe that he played 26+ (most of any Hab) and was that good? He is so good on the PK and is the definition of calm and steady in his own end. There was a fantastic dive at the end of the game to get an icing call and I think that that won us the game as it forced Vancouver to keep tired players on the ice with no rest as there was no time-out left.

Roman Hamrlik
Subban was good, but Hammer was better. He, like Gill, led this group all night. What Hal was able to do on the PK, Roman did on the PP. He was sharp throughout and reacted just as a leader should after a tough few games. Knowing that he can play this well against the league's best and fastest is very reassuring.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Carey's teammates did very well to get him a two-goal lead and, so it was he who repaid them big time. After out-shooting the Canucks 14-1 in the first 10 minutes things changed fast. Over the last 50 minutes they took it to us to the tune of 38-11. Price fought his way through traffic on a lot of shots to do what he had to to keep the puck out of the net. Vancouver came close, but certainly can't be used to having so many quality chances turned aside.


Comments


I had a feeling all day that we were going to win this game. I didn't think that last week, but after Edmonton and Calgary I was feeling very good about it. That feeling came from the fact that things like this happen all of the time in the NHL. When things look their worst teams often do something totally unexpected. It was doom and gloom after the past two games, so one can only hope that the nay-sayers will take it easy for a second and get behind this team once again. I mean, they have been on the band-wagon before, I am sure they'll be ready to re-board right away.

We started this game in fantastic fashion and must have totally surprised Vancouver. Our quick start bought us a lead and ended up costing them their time-out (a move that would prove crucial for us later on). The 'nucks did wake up though and it was pretty much all them for the remainder of the game. We took penalties, but not stupid ones really, just desperation, we-can't-keep-up ones. A very timely Kostitsyn goal saved us this game as everyone could see what was about to happen.

This win doesn't mean we won't lose again. It doesn't mean that we won't lose to bad teams again (so, expect some de-boarding of the wagon in the next few weeks). It does, however, remind the team and fans that we do have a good team that is capable of doing good things. We have a lot of good players and when things line up (as is the case with every team in the NHL) we can win some games. When things don't go well or, believe it or not, the other team plays well we may lose (even if we are trying to win). The Habs maybe didn't deserve this win, but who cares about that? There are no playoff spots for teams that deserve to be there, only spots for those who get the points. We needed some points on this trip and I am happy that the players did what they had to to make that a reality.

There Will Be Trades (T6)

Trade deadline coming up. Some food for thought:



And the real-life rendition:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Game #60

Habs Have Fun Being Outside, Flames Have Fun Playing Hockey

Details



Date: 20/2/2011
Opponent: Flames
Location: Calgary

Loss: 0-4

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

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Bourque (2), Babchuk, Tanguay



Play of the game


The play of the game (or the reason I was able to keep watching this display) was that it was outdoors. It was fun and was a nice change, but, sadly, the Habs' play left nothing worth talking about.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Scott Gomez
Scott's line looked better than any of the others and were the only ones that seemed to be generating chances with any consistency. Considering how he has played of late he was the closest player to his normal form (not sure if that is a compliment...).

Travis Moen
He was part of the only line that was close to good tonight. I wish that he wasn't on a scoring line and I wish that he played tough, but I just don't think that it will happen. The rest of team should be ashamed that Travis is on here ahead of them.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Not a good game, better than at least 9 forwards, though. I am hoping that with Cammalleri's return Andrei will be able to find something in his game down the stretch. It is really now or never for his Habs career and I do think that time is running out. Is it fair that one of our best defensive forwards and offensive contributors is in this position? No, of course not, but with the French media taking no time off in their attack on him it is his reality.

Defencemen

James Wisniewski - Game Puck
Why is he getting the Game Puck? Well, I just couldn't think of anyone else and if there was one thing that I was impressed with tonight it was the fact that James played at all. We'll need him over the next few weeks, so he gets recognition for realizing that and playing with a condition that would knock most of us out of desk jobs for at least a week.

Yannick Weber
I only noticed Weber a few times out there, but when I did he seemed to be doing well enough. He played with Mara and I think that that can be a decent partnership. It will be interesting then to see what happens when Spacek is healthy as we all know that Paul wasn't a choice last season or summer over any of PK, Weber, Gill, Hammer or Spacek.

Goaltender

Alex Auld
It would have taken something really special to get a result tonight behind that team, but I am also thinking that had the game been closer towards the end things may have picked up. There were no real horrible goals, but a change, something to get this group going tonight would be what I was looking for. Add that to the fact that we rarely score 5+ goals anymore and it becomes obvious that taking a chance with Auld may have been our only hope.


Comments


That was still better than any loss indoors in Alberta would have been, so I can't complain. I do love the concept of a game out in the middle of winter and hope that we can see the Habs play a few more of these over the years. In fact, Molson Stadium would be an ideal venue as its setting on the mountain and at the edge of downtown would make for much more spectacular views than the highways and parking lots of Calgary.

The Habs just didn't have it tonight as it seemed like they weren't really playing hockey. There was no intensity, no fore-check, no hits and no chemistry out there. Calgary played well, but not that well. Had we been focused and ready to go this could have been two points. It is a shame, therefore, that this game did count for points as our team just didn't seem to be too into it. Too worried about the cold? The ice? Injuries? Who knows, but the Flames dealt with it, the old-times dealt with it better and it looked like even the fans dealt with it more effectively than our players. A must-win in Vancouver now awaits. Oh dear.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Personal Hockey Heritage

Calgary 1986-89

When people think of hockey heritage and heritage rivalries, they might not instantly jump to Calgary vs. Montreal. Most Montrealers would probably cite at least 5 other rivalries they deem to have more heritage. Calgarians are likely in the same boat.

But for this Montreal fan, there couldn't have been a more fitting choice for a Heritage Classic match-up than Calgary vs. Montreal. To me, this was the ultimate rivalry. Montreal is where I grew up. Calgary and the Flames set my hockey dreams alight.


The First Cup

Nearly every hockey fan has a first Stanley Cup playoffs tournament of note in their treasured memories. I was born in the 1970s, but moved to Canada when I was very young. Montreal was a Stanley Cup champion when we arrived, but this was all very alien to me. I probably vaguely knew of ice, but it hadn't been part of my winters till then.

After briefly living within touching distance of the Forum's back exit, my childhood in Montreal for a while consisted of school and playing on the street. Because we lived a stone's throw from a pool, swimming became the big sport. Because of our own heritage, soccer was to be the other pursuit.

1986 was the first playoffs I remember clearly in my house. The excitement at school and in the neighbourhood must have been building for this once oblivious child to take notice of something other than the upcoming Commonwealth Games swim meet. Though not vivid memories, I see snippets of games, I know Gainey and Robinson and Naslund were images from the time. I remember Patrick Roy being the only thing my friends would talk about at school. Even though it seemed a very easy time to grow up without the Canadiens (I think the 1970s must have made many fans more blase about the whole thing), May 1986 was the first spark of interest for hockey in a young mind.

Because the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in Calgary that year, I even got a Canadiens sweater out of it. In a move that I understand much more with time, our swim team coaches made the Canadiens sweater our team uniform for the important under-10 swimming competition in Toronto that June. Oh, how the 19-year starved Torontonians must have loved the gesture. Probably expecting their chance to return the favour to come very soon.


Calgary Olympics


If hockey had eluded me before 1986, sports as spectacle had not. The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles had me rapt. Canada, my country, so gracefully poaching medals left and right. Alex Baumann and Victor Davis, of course, being pivotal figures in all swimmers thoughts from that era.

4 years is a long time to wait for a child. So, when I discovered that 6 months before those Seoul Olympics, that couldn't come soon enough, Canada would be hosting a different set of Olympics, I jumped in feet first. I got the Petro Canada and Post Office gear and scheduled my entire two weeks. I was going to watch the entire event if I could. I probably nearly did. From Pirmin Zurbriggen to that final hockey game, I watched and watched.

If Calgary in 1986 had provided the spark and the sweater, then Calgary 1988 had begun to provide an education in the game of hockey and a basis for something to come. I loved Canada and cheered for Sean Burke, Andy Moog and the guys, but one couldn't help but be fascinated with Larionov, Makarov and Krutov. The Canadiens and Oilers won the NHL trophies, but this showed the young fan a whole world of players who didn't even compete for that one.


1988-89 Season

If I think about how perfect stories are reconciled in the imagination, the 1988-89 season comes to mind. The Canadiens were a good team in 1986, but they had surprised a bit, they certainly came from nowhere into my consciousness. The Flames too had accepted Steve Smith's help to make that final. 1988-89 was different.

Chelios, Roy, Robinson, Naslund, Smith and Richer were battling all season long with far-off rivals Loob, Mullen, Nieuwendyk, MacDonald and Vernon. There were two teams that season. Montreal won the East by a clear 23 points, Calgary cleared the Campbell Conference by 26 points.

The struggle for the President's trophy throughout that year was the most important hockey contest I had come across to date. Because we had moved to Canada, our family didn't really have a notion that regular seasons are unimportant, so scoreboard watching, particularly through the winter and spring of 1989 was tremendously exciting. Back then, of course, things were a bit more romantic.

Because there was no internet and very few people had TSN yet, results from the Western timezones were typically unearthed in the morning newspapers. I can remember raiding my local depanneurs with some frequency to steal a glance at Calgary scores, the exotic boxscores and the standings. Montreal went 14-3-3 over the last stretch to really pour on the pressure. But Calgary put it away impressively with an 8-1-0 run in the final nine. A win less would have been a tie break win, one more loss and tie, Montreal would have received the President's trophy. Those were some riveting boxscores, I can tell you.

And then with only the slight blip of Calgary:Vancouver, both teams swooped into the final as teams do in perfectly written seasons. The Vezina, Norris and Selke trophy laureats would face the storming offense where Doug Gilmour

0-1, 1-1, 2-1(!), 2-2, 2-3, 2-4 and it was done. Despite curfews getting in the way, i watched these where I could. Part of me expected all to go as planned and the good guys to claim victory. The villain with the red moustache was an image I couldn't shake for a long time.

This season and this final, grueling months of anticipation, celebration and work was the first of its kind for me. Hockey may not have been the sport that lived in my imagination before. it was now.


The rest is history

While Calgary may not be the Canadiens most important rivals anymore. For a few short (and pivotal) seasons, the Flames were. The city of Calgary, being the locale for a Stanley Cup victory, a mesmerizing Olympic hockey tournament and a pivotal Game 5 (among other important wins that year) was the second home of my hockey imagination.

For years after, I'd consider the possibility of the pure final (Calgary vs. Montreal) in all predictions and dealings with hockey pools. Probably right up until 1993 with the big 10-man trade and the ensuing playoffs. I knew these were the two best teams of an era, and the stats even back that up.

That's why for me that alumni game (with plenty of characters and villains from that very era) will be very exciting. The game itself will be. This rivalry just works that way.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Votes In On Defence and Goalies

Another big response from readers on this. Thanks again.



Obviously trades from these positions are more difficult given the injury-a-game pace the team is maintaining. Even so, it seems the masses have had enough of Picard and perhaps even Auld (a bit puzzled with that one). The clearest messages are that Subban and Price are strictly "hands off". That's just good sense.

To play the devil's advocate, though. Are we all very very sure that this isn't a high point where cashing in on a player might not bring back a better one?

The only other slight surprise for me was Yannick Weber's near-average vote. Most seem indifferent to him. Perhaps Subban and (hopefully) Markov make him expendable?

Once again, those who haven't voted and still wish to, the poll is still open (I will keep updating the stats, perhaps to publish again closer to the deadline):

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game #59

Montreal Overwhelmed By Young Oilers

Details



Date: 17/2/2011
Opponent: Oilers
Location: Edmonton

Loss: 1-4

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

Habs goalscorers: Halpern
Opposition goalscorers: Hemsky (2), Eberle, Jones



Play of the game


A Subban shot towards the end that went wide was, disappointingly, our best play of the game. Right after we killed a 5-on-3 we seemed to show some life. Weber did a good job to flip a high one in the air into the neutral zone. Their Gomez did an excellent job of controlling the puck and got it to Gio before getting it back. He then found a streaking PK who made a nice move to get in close. It was the story of the night, however, as the eventual shot went wide.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Scott Gomez - Game Puck
Is this the start of something? Camms could be back which means we could have two real lines (man, is Moen ever brutal or what?). If Scott plays like he did tonight with Cammalleri and Kostitsyn on his wings there would likely be very different results. A game like tonight wouldn't just be a good game in our eyes, but likely also in those who value stats above anything.

Lars Eller
I wondered if this could be Lars' last game with the big club this season, but then he went and played well enough to justify his spot. I can't however, really see a place for him long-term as it seems the third line is already set and I am not sure if he is a fourth-liner. I think that everyone involved would benefit from him being a top-6 in Hamilton rather than a bottom-3 up here.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei was our most dangerous forward tonight and I wasn't the only one who thought so. JM was using him more and it seemed to help him with his confidence. He was connecting well with Gomez throughout, but I would still like to see him reunited with Pleks as that combo worked so well for us early on this year.

Defencemen

Yannick Weber
Yan was our best defenceman tonight and he was rewarded with an insane amount of minutes. Our D continues to drop which means the young Swiss rearguard, who started the season as our #8, is up into our top-3. He is doing a formidable job, but it would be nice if he could go back to learning his trade on the third pairing.

Roman Hamrlik
I almost put the Wis in here, but thought that that was a bit silly, so went with the least bad of the remaining four. That, tonight, happened to be Hamrlik. I wasn't too big on his defensive play, but did quite like what I saw from Roman in the offensive zone. With all the injuries we have we have to be very careful with him as at his age he is the most likely one to pick something up as fatigue must now surely be becoming an issue. Is Chelios available? He can't be too much worse than Nash or Mara.

Goaltender

Carey Price
This was a bit of an off game from Carey. He has saved much harder stuff than he let in tonight. Edmonton, however, is never a good place for him and it showed again tonight. With a tighter D corps this could have been a win and we wouldn't have noticed any weaknesses as those shots would have never been so dangerous; so, much is forgiven.

Comments


We lost the winnable game which in a way may not be a bad thing. We still have two more games to play in the west and I am sure that we will play better now having lost to the league's worst team. A win would have been nice, but maybe this loss will serve as a reminder to us in the coming weeks. It can be a reminder that no opponent should be taken lightly, a reminder that constantly pinching our D-men will bite us and a reminder that we must be much more efficient as we are too vulnerable; our lack of depth is starting to show on the face of the team. Sunday will be a good game, but now it has to be more than a shinny game, it has to be a win. We can't slide too much and I would much more comfortable heading to Vancouver off a win rather than off 3 losses in a row.

Canadiens Fan Trade Philosophies

The trade deadline is an interesting time for Habs fans. Everyone has a whole set of ideas on how to improve the team for the impending Cup run and the fledgling dynasty of the decade.

Trades, you see are easy. Just get rid of your bad players and bring in good ones. Simple as.

We are having a good time polling the readers and compiling their thoughts on different players (forwards, defencemen and goalies). As well as the obvious trade bait, there are some subtle surprises in fan sentiment. We'll continue polling and sharing the results as we try to build fictional trades together in our discussions.

On the subject of fictional trades, I wanted to share the perspectives of two arm-chair GMs that I read yesterday. The first perspective is that of Arpon Basu - statistical acolyte and head-screwed-on-tight reporter.

Arpon's proposed plan for the upcoming trade deadline can be summed up by the following:
"I propose he do absolutely nothing, at least not of the major variety."
His strategy is founded on the underlying belief that nothing that can be done at this stage will change the fate of the team very much:
"Frankly, the Canadiens are not in a situation where the addition of one or two players could mean the difference between a Cup run and a first round exit."
He goes on to point out that doing nothing will benefit the team two-fold:

1) The team won't have to give up assets
2) The youngsters will benefit from the time in pressure situations

Some would call him a pessimist. others might think it boring to draw a line in the sand at late draft picks for depth defencemen for the most overhyped TSN moment of the year.

On that note, let's consider the other end of the spectrum. If Arpon is the sparingly hopeful conservative, he shares the Internet with some some extremely optimistic (in trade abilities anyway) radicals.

Where Arpon stretched a simple thought to a few well built scenarios. The trade mongers need more than one post to get through the complete overhaul they envision for the team. Willey, the ultimate arm chair GM who wrote on Habs Addict, describes the multiple trade strategy over two posts (Part I and Part II). I'll break it down for you trade by trade here:

1) 2nd round pick (presumably 2012) and Ben Maxwell or Andreas Engqvist for Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators
"One simple move that I personally feel can turn the Montreal Canadiens from a good playoff team to a team whose d-core can compete with anyone in the Eastern conference."
Or at least until Part II was conceived...


2) Tom Pyatt or 6th round pick for Zenon Konopka of the New York Islanders
"What is most appealing about Konopka, however, is that he is not a one trick pony. Konopka is one of the top-five faceoff men in the league and as we know, faceoffs are everything in the playoffs."

3) White up, Eller down


4) Andrei Kostitsyn, Yannick Weber, 2nd round pick (presumably 2013 now), and Danny Kristo or any Hamilton Bulldog (Blues discretion) for David Backes of the St. Louis Blues
"We need a top-six forward with size and a mean streak. It is time to stop the stream of bandaid and UFA players, and land ourselves an impact player."

5) Scott Gomez, 1st round pick (2011 or 2012), and Brendan Gallagher or another prospect of Toronto's choosing for Mike Komisarek of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We know what he can provide to this team in terms of a physical presence and we know what he can do in the locker room. He is exactly what this team needs."

Quite an overhaul and quite a difference from Arpon.

Willey here has traded a first round pick with second rounders from the two drafts after this one, along with our second centre (Scott Gomez), our fourth leading scorer (Andrei Kostitsyn), a young defenceman (Yannick Weber), Tom Pyatt and basically all the decent forward prospects in the system (Kristo, maxwell, Gallagher) for two underperforming defencemen (Phillips and Komisarek), Zenon Konpka and David Backes.

These trades were designed to answer the two pressing needs of the Habs (or at least the ones identified just after the Bruins game): lack of size and lack of depth. I think he addressed size, not so sure about depth.



Where should Gauthier fall?

I've made myself clear before, and through thinly-veiled amazement in this article again. I stand with Arpon.

To me, the second more radical strategy actually proves the first.

All trades starting with players a team would like to get rid of tend to become fantastic works of imagination, and you can see how draft picks get thrown around pretty quick to make up for lack of value.

I am also sure that in the long list of traded assets that you, like me, saw a few names you'd rather wait on than turn into Konopkas at this stage. And, this is an important point. There are no freebies, to get, one has to give. If the Canadiens window isn't now, then is giving Danny Kristo or Brendan Gallagher for an extra playoff jump the right thing to do? It can be if that extra jump turns into an extra series or two.

Even more than this, I look at the team at the end of the labour-intensive trading period for Gauthier here and don't see one that is greatly improved from the one before the moves.


I think there is middle ground, however, and I think there are many reasons to hope our GM will be alert to the unfolding possibilities. The Frolik trade, for example, provided the Blackhawks both the better player and the most interesting prospect. A move with a similarly sleepy GM could improve the Habs without much cost. I very much hope Gauthier comes into these conversations with serious intent, as desperate GMs are ready to be had  at this time of year. Caution, of course, in the awareness that for every good deal there will be 20 neutral ones and 10 bad ones.

To those that bemoan the Mara trade today for the 5th round pick and cap space that it cost, consider the safe buffer between this trade and radical territory. For those who bemoan it because it means we now won't be trading first rounders for Komisarek, perhaps read Arpon Basu again.

On Habs Defenceman Paul Mara

The Canadiens have moved again prior to the deadline, acquiring Centennial season also-ran, Paul Mara.

He's played with Gill, with Hamrlik, with Spacek even with Weber. Hey, he's probably even partnered Brett Festerling. He is what he is. Depth.

I have a lot to say about this, but fortunately it's already been said for me by the like-minded J.T. at The H Does Not Stand For Habs. As she points out, the Mara move shouldn't elicit too many groans. Certainly no more than the pun in the header...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Defence and Goalies

Had a good round of voting on the forwards. The results are in.

But there are plenty more assets to get through. Round two is the defence corps (including injuries - use imagination for these) and goalies.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Game #58

No Ties Here; Habs-Sabres Leave Us On The Edge Of Our Seats

Details



Date: 15/2/2011
Opponent: Sabres
Location: Montreal

Loss: 2-3 (SO)

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

Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty (1, SO), Pouliot (Desharnais, Plekanec - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Stafford, Pominville (Vanek, Ennis, Gerbe, Hecht - SO)



Play of the game


I was hoping for a defining goal, save or drawn penalty in the last little while, but without the win it is hard to play the 'crucial-moment' card. So, instead I will go for our nicest goal, Pouliot's. A great pass by the Wis to Desh sent the Habs away. The speedy forward made a nice move to get around his cover and then floated a nicely timed backhand pass to Pouliot who had a wide-open cage to hit.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
Pleks capped a nice game with a goal that doesn't count. What did count, however, was his play throughout the first 65 minutes of the night. He found a wide-open MaxPac to start his night off and followed that up with play after play of smart hockey. I noticed a few great back-checks that not only led to break-ups, but also to Habs rushes.

Max Pacioretty
Max scored a real goal and another one tonight. His goal was a goalscorer's goal as he went hard to the net and finished the job that he had started. He used good speed and hockey-sense throughout the game to make things happen for his linemates. He was separated towards the end from Pleks, but I think that that had more to do with getting the other lot going rather than it being a message for his group.

Benoit Pouliot
It continues for Ben as he made the right play to be at the net, around his defender when Desharnais was going in hard. I would have liked to have seen him score on the shootout and do hope that he tries a new move next time. Generally it is hard to score on the same move more than once as that goalie, if well prepared, should have that move at the forefront of his memory.

Defencemen

PK Subban
PK carried the biggest load tonight as he played nearly half an hour of hockey. It is the right move to do as he is young and full of energy and, for the most part, has been playing as one of our top-2 for quite some time. The best part about his game tonight (as is the case on most nights) was that he was playing hard in all 3 zones. He doesn't just log the ice time, no, he certainly makes the most of it as he is at full-tilt on each and every shift.

Alexandre Picard
The Hammer and the Wiz have had better games and it was hard to see what Nash was really all about. So, it was between Picard and Weber who I felt were more or less equal. I went with Alex for three reasons though. The first was that he logged more ice-time, with 6 extra minutes coming at ES. The second was that he didn't take a penalty; not that I blame every penalty taker, but I do applaud those who stay clean on most nights. The last reason was that I thought he played a slightly cleaner game in our own end, as clean, or just a bit less, than Subban in that regard.

Goaltender

Carey Price
A win would have been nice, but the Habs let Buffalo come at Price in the last two periods and it caught up with us. He got some nice bounces, and posts, and also made some very key saves as I think he basically stole us a point. The shootout was a bit disappointing as Carey was beaten three times in a spot that must have been identified by the Sabres. If that is the case I hope that we have already identified this area and will continue to work on it.


Comments


Our first period was a great one as we were all over Buffalo. It was probably the best 20 minutes that I have seen from the Habs in 2011 as it was chance after chance and, best of all, there wasn't even a sniff from the Sabres. We fell into that old trap, though, of great period, not a big enough lead. We should have put the game away at that point or at least played like that in the second until we had at least a 3-goal lead. It wasn't that we started to play too badly, but it certainly went their way from period-2 onwards. We had our chances towards the end and in OT, but we lacked the conviction that we had shown early on. The shootout was long and we had a chance to win, but it was Buffalo that seemed more prepared. They went for similar spots over and over and we seemed to be all over the place. Kostitsyn, Pouliot, Wis, Pyatt, Gionta and Gomez all had pretty bad attempts and have me wondering if this is something that is ever really practiced? I would hope that a coach would practice this on a regular basis because, as silly as it is, there are points to be had there. Us, for example have 3 less points (2-3) than Buffalo (5-0) in as many attempts, yet I believe we have scoring and goaltending to match them.

Next up is a trip out west to play three Canadian teams. Vancouver will be tough, Edmonton should be a win and Calgary will be a fun game in which getting points may be forgotten. I for one love real outdoor games (not ones in warm American cities) and hope that the Habs can improve to 2-0 in them. The last time it was Zednik's 2 goals (the first ever player to score outdoors) that led the way; who will it be this time? That game will be enjoyable, win or lose, so I'll call the trip a success if we bag at least 3 points.

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Votes In On Forwards

Big response from readers on this. Thanks.



Looks like most want Gomez gone (as well as Pyatt). Kostitsyn has few supporters and Moen only has a bout one more than him.

I don't know if trade when value is lowest is going to get this team anywhere, but that's the word of the people.

Does Gomez read this blog? Someone gave him a four and put him ahead of Cammalleri...

Those who haven't had their voice heard, the poll is still open:


Hilarity Ensues

Yesterday, Brian Burke made his second (in what promises a fortnight with many more) trade of the NHL GM working season. This time, he traded Kris (we hardly knew thee) Versteeg to Philly for draft picks. I listened to the conference call about the trade, and it was typical Burke. He’s already offered the 3rd rounder he got for a player – he seems to insinuate this player will be better than Versteeg?

He hasn’t ruled out trading the first round pick (why would he?) – someone audibly groaned on the call at the sound of that. And he has set his sights on the free agent market – also known as everyone rushes to try and sign Brad Richards lest end up with any one of the other 200 guys.

It made me think of a recent round of Balderdash – the game where you are read a word, a date or a movie title and are tasked with inventing a definition. One of the quirks of the game is that the words “hilarity ensues” generally come up at least once per sitting ¬ generally a hilarious moment itself.

“Hilarity ensues” is a common enough sign off for movie descriptions on the Balderdash cards themselves, and as a result has been adopted by canny players who attempt to imitate the true answers in form and style. A ridiculous title can be associated with almost any plot with this device. “Hilarity ensues” is a key to open endless character combinations and nonsensical premises.

Imagine for a moment a title like “The Toronto Maple Leafs” as I did after listening to Burke speaking to Toronto media. The answers really do write themselves, provided you always end with “hilarity ensues”.

Brian Burke repeatedly assures the media his team will be driving for that last playoff spot, …

The story of a scoring line built around Tyler Bozak, …

Maple Leafs make a series of trades to improve their team, …

Maple Leafs target truculent players via free agency, …

Torontonians open the 1967-68 NHL season with a Stanley Cup and full of optimism for the future, …

Toronto Maple Leafs fans breathe a sigh of relief as they see the end of their worst management regime in years. Cliff Fletcher poses with Brian Burke to pass the torch, …


Hilarity will likely ensue for a while, because there’s little funnier than a guy who truly does believe himself to be in the top cut of world genius making basic mistakes at every turn. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burke turned out for a ceremonial faceoff next week with his underwear outside his trousers.

Hilarity will ensue because the more obvious his errors become the more pig-headed he becomes about admitting to them. He really is quite entertaining.

As a Habs fan, it’s an enjoyable sideshow. Ferguson got us through some rough times and Burke is helping with the Houle healing process. Though I think we’d all like it better if Burke stayed away from anymore team building activities in Boston and Philly for a while.

The best part of Brian Burke’s interview (besides his smugness and his Toronto media stroking) for fans of hilarity (and other teams in the NHL) was his announcement that there is more to come. I, for one, can’t wait to see who Burke wrests away from the unsuspecting Detroit GM for his third rounder. Nikita Filatov or someone of his ilk, can’t be far away from Pearson International if a first rounder is being floated.

Brian Burke woke up on February 15th, assets in hand, ready to pick up the pieces he needed to get his team into the 2010-11 playoff, …

Monday, February 14, 2011

Canadiens Deadline Assets

Everyone wants a new star player. Too obvious.

But to get in this league, you have to give. Just how willing are you to give when it comes to the Canadiens assets. Have a turn in the GM's seat and tell us what you think of your trade assets.


The Hierarchy Of Canadiens Forwards

The other night David Desharnais was the best player on the ice for the Canadiens. Undrafted, discarded, discounted, hardened by challenge and 18 games into an NHL career, David became the top rookie forward on the team with that display.

It seems Jaroslav Halak provided an ironic parting gift. The return on his trade is facing a Carey Price scenario from an undrafted Halak emulator. The first rounder is tested by the untouted, and results are starting to trump sentiment just as before.

Desharnais's stats are staring to impress. These are his stats and rankings among Canadiens forwards compared to those of his fellow rookie:



Desharnais has great numbers, and he’s displayed some great talent the past couple of games. But though it’s pretty certain he could at least survive in this league now, what’s not clear is how this looks after a big slump to match his hot streak. I like his attitude and I like his creativity, but I wouldn’t like the team’s chances really if they entered the playoffs with DD on the second line.

Like Plekanec, Eller has shown the ability to put distance between himself and teammates (only in the opposite direction). Whatever he is doing hasn’t been working. The lessons he is being exposed to are good, but he must show he can learn from them. The only category where he even flirts with the position he currently occupies in the top 6 is Corsi. Corsi is useful for some things, but when every other indicator tells you something else, you dismiss it. Eller is not just unlucky, he’s unprepared.

At this point, a healthy Cammalleri and a much more enticing Desharnais mean Eller will be demoted and won’t see NHL playoff action. This may be good for Eller, it will certainly be good for the Habs.


Habs forwards by tiers

Interesting as this is, how one rookie fares against another for this Canadiens team is probably about as important as Guy Carbonneau's playoff ties at this point. The really important stuff will happen with the non-rookie forwards, particularly those on "scoring lines".

Eller is relevant within this conversation, as he currently occupies a plum position on what some may still be calling the second line. Desharnais' recent displays vault him into consideration here too.

For forwards entering into scoring line discussions, I looked at much the same stats as those above and have included the ranks below. Using those, I broke the forwards into tiers. There's no big surprises (bar maybe one), but the numbers might interest some of you, and certainly fuel some discussion.


Star forward

1) Plekanec
(2nd goals, 1st points, 1st GC, 1st ESGC, 3rd GC/60, 2nd ESGC/60, 6th GF/60, 2nd ESGF/60, 9th CORSI, 1st LIW/60, 8th GA/60, 7th ESGA/60, 2nd ES+-/60)

Plekanec is pretty much the best forward from both an offensive and defensive perspective this season. This makes him by far and away the best forward on the team, probably even the best player at any position, and certainly the only star forward on the team at the moment. It’s impressive that he has been able distance himself like this from his peers, even with all the continued PK duty that he was supposed to be relieved of. The C isn’t sewn on his chest, but it is on his heart.


Top-liners

2) Cammalleri
(3rd goals, 2nd points, 3rd GC, 5th ESGC, 6th GC/60, 8th ESGC/60, 5th GF/60, 8th ESGF/60, 10th CORSI, 5th LIW/60, 2nd GA/60, 3rd ESGA/60, 4th ES+-/60)

Cammalleri isn’t even having a particularly good year by his standards, but his numbers still show that he’s a cut above the rest, even if he’s a cut below Pleks. Playing with Plekanec has its benefits, as Camms defensive numbers show, but he’s no disaster on defence, as he obviously plays the winger’s assignment better than others.

3) Gionta
(1st goals, 2nd points, 2nd GC, 2nd ESGC, 8th GC/60, 3rd ESGC/60, 8th GF/60, 10th ESGF/60, CORSI, 3rd LIW/60, 7th GA/60, 9th ESGA/60, 8th ES+-/60)

Gionta is the second best offensive forward and has been average in the defensive aspects of the game this season. His clutch play is second to none sometimes, yet when he’s not needed to score a clutch goal, it seems his luck has been averaging out. Add to this, the distinct lack of assists, and he is a clear level below Plekanec.


Scoring forwards

4) Kostitsyn
(4th goals, 4th points, 4th GC, 3rd ESGC, 7th GC/60, 4th ESGC/60, 9th GF/60, 9th ESGF/60, 8th CORSI, 2nd LIW/60, 3rd GA/60, 4th ESGA/60, 6th ES+-/60)

Considering lines have yet to be juggled to get the most from the Belarussian, he’s done OK. Goals created at ES is a strength for him, and defence is near top among forwards. The deciding factor to elevate Andrei is his ability to be the best forward on the ice. Not an ability shared by all on this team.

5) Pouliot
(5th goals, 6th points, 6th GC, 4th ESGC, 4th GC/60, 1st ESGC/60, 7th GF/60, 6th ESGF/60, 4th CORSI, 8th LIW/60, 5th GA/60, 8th ESGA/60, 5th ES+-/60)

Stats show Pouliot has been very proficient considering his lot this year. Without significant time with a full-time passer, he’s slowly made a season for himself and pretty consistently now heads out on the second best line of the night. Tobalev and I think he should proclaim his total disinterest in playing anything but first line hockey. Seems to be a strategy that can work.


6th forward

6) Pacioretty
(6th goals, 9th points, 8th GC, 8th ESGC, 2nd GC/60, 10th ESGC/60, 1st GF/60, 4th ESGF/60, 2nd CORSI, 4th LIW/60, 11th GA/60, 13th ESGA/60, 9th ES+-/60)

Pacioretty is in a class of his own I feel. Since his renaissance, he has been quite a spark offensively. He currently leads the team in goals for when on the ice. However, unlike Kostitsyn and Pouliot, he hasn’t shown sustained offensive generation on his own. Nor has he shown that he can limit the risk he takes up from to curtail goals against. He’s young, this is normal.


Second tier forwards

7) Gomez

(9th goals, 4th points, 5th GC, 7th ESGC, 9th GC/60, 12th ESGC/60, 10th GF/60, 12th ESGF/60, 7th CORSI, 7th LIW/60, 9th GA/60, 11th ESGA/60, 13th ES+-/60)

Slump once, bad luck. Slump twice, start looking for reasons. We know that Gomez can do lots right. He has a knack for skating through the neutral zone, he can pass very well, and he knows the time to hold the puck at the back end instead of starting a dead-end rush. These he can do. He sits here at second tier forward because over time that is proving to be too little. His defenders will invoke luck, but his shooting percentage isn’t lacking a regression to the norm because he’s bounced too many shots of goalies flailing stick nubs, it’s because his shots are easy to save. If you invoke luck after 60 games, you’d better have a pretty good explanation as to why Mathieu Darche is miles better at GF and GA/60, as to why those who supposedly play better competition anyway are putting better numbers at both ends. Sooner or later, the answer has to be the player himself. The case is mounting here. And Gomez is falling behind three forwards he was previously ahead of.

8) Darche
(7th goals, 7th points, 7th GC, 6th ESGC, 5th GC/60, 5th ESGC/60, 2nd GF/60, 5th ESGF/60, 5th CORSI, 9th LIW/60, 4th GA/60, 2nd ESGA/60, 3rd ES+-/60)

Darche at any time is probably the 6th best forward on the team. He is pretty reliable for a good shift at both ends, and the numbers show that. The reason he will never jump a tier is that he rarely exceeds this sort of baseline scoring forward play. Others beat Darche for the exceptional games, and the potential that those are around the corner at any time. A team needs reliable forwards. On the third line. That’s where Darche fits.

9) Desharnais
(Stas above)


Needs work

10) Eller
(Stats above)


No need to mention

As a group the rest have proven very well that they occupy the checking role and shouldn't be asked to take on more. Halpern, Moen, Pyatt and White are all useful players, but not in a discussion about scoring.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Game #57

The World Is Alright; Habs Blank Leafs On Saturday Night

Details



Date: 12/2/2011
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Montreal

Win: 3-0

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

Habs goalscorers: Pouliot, Gionta, Desharnais
Opposition goalscorers: None



Play of the game


Price's save on Grabovski's deflection at the end was nice, as were a few of his other saves, but I still go with a goal tonight. All three were nice, although the Pouliot goal stood out to me thanks to the total team-effort that went into it. First, Hamrlik caused confusion when he shot towards the net. The Leafs then got tied up in knots when Desharnais grabbed a hold of the puck behind the net. He then threw the puck out in front to a wide open Pouliot. Ben was so wide-open as White had drawn two players to himself just beside the net. The goal looked easy, but the shot, pass and support that surrounded the play were all key to pulling it off.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

David Desharnais - Game Puck
Wow, David is certainly playing great right now. Tonight he added to his hot streak with a goal and an assist. It wasn't, however, the points alone that made him stand out tonight. No, he seemed to be everywhere and seems to be getting very comfortable in this league and with his role on the team.

Scott Gomez
I was happy to see Eller dropped from Gomez's line and actually thought that they looked better throughout the game because of it. Scott and Andrei were right there on the third goal as it was Gommer's great pass that led to the marker. Once Camms is back I think that we'll be able to ice a complete second line and would expect them to contribute much more than they have been doing of late.

Benoit Pouliot
What it looks like to me is that Pouliot is realizing that he is good, he is starting to believe in himself more. The hair is growing, he is winning fight and is scoring goals. With 8 to go to 20 and 25 games to get them I am predicting that 20 will not be a problem for him. That of course will be a lot easier to do if his linemates also stay hot and keep feeding him ridiculous passes.

Defencemen

PK Subban
You don't get shutouts with good goaltending and horrible offence alone, no, it takes good D too. PK was great all night and, I felt, intimidated Toronto's fragile forwards. I am looking forward to Gill's return, but do think that PK is quite capable of being great with or without his new-found mentor.

Roman Hamrlik
What a game for the Hammer. Look at this: 2 assists, 25 minutes (1st), 6 blocked-shots (1st), 5 shots (2nd) and 3 hits (2nd). This is #1 defence worthy, this is one of the best games of the year worthy. The more I think of it, the more I believe that Hammer is the key for us - this year, these playoffs and hopefully (in a slightly lesser role) for a few more years to come.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Saying that this was an easy game makes it seem like shutouts are easy, but as far as games for Price of late are concerned, this was a relatively easy game. Price was good, but didn't even have to be at his best to beat this lowly team. It is nice to know that we can play a game where we get good goaltending, good offence, good D (nothing game-stealing or outstanding from any group) and win with relative ease. 7 shutouts now for Price this year! That is incredible - think he can hit 10?


Comments


A snowy winter's night, Hockey Day in Canada, Habs blank the Leafs - now that is a good night! In a season of so many meaningless events (Thrashers games, All-Star Farce, November) it is nice to have a night like this. In fact, we are now at 25 games to go and 2 weeks from the trade-deadline - things are starting to get fun again. Tonight's game was a nice change from the Toronto games of recent memory as the Habs played like the better team that they are and didn't let the Leafs get too into it. Anytime that we can sneak by Toronto without much trouble we know that we are doing something right (it is forever implied that they are doing something wrong). This year, it seems, is now actually one of our best ever against the Leafs. In fact, for the first time since the season after their last Cup conquest (1968) we have shutout Toronto twice in a season. It is a great feeling having a good team that is moving up, but an almost as good feeling seeing just how bad and poorly managed our lowly rivals remain.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Game #56

Habs Manage A Single Point Where Two Should Have Been A Given

Details



Date: 10/2/2011
Opponent: Islanders
Location: Montreal

Loss: 3-4 (SO)

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

Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty, Pouliot, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Tavares, Grabner (2), (Okposo - SO)



Play of the game


I really liked Pouliot's goal. It wasn't, however, his shot or White's pass that stood out to me, but was instead the work that Ben did in the lead up to the goal. He had skated in, behind their net and had looked very dangerous with the puck, winning his battles. He then found himself at the point where he put the puck back behind the net. There White did well to find the puck and then to find Pou in the slot.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

David Desharnais
This was another good game from David. He didn't stand out too much, but played as well as one would expect a rookie on the 3rd line to play. He made a great pass to Patches on his goal which had the makings of a true play-maker. As he worked his way through New York's D you could tell that his focus was to get the puck to Max , who was open on the right, at the first possible chance.

Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
7 shots and a goal tonight for Max; he even led the team in hits. We are missing Camms, for sure, but it is nice to see a player stepping up lately in his absence as Max has done. It is still unclear if this is the real Pacioretty, but the more I see and the more he plays like this the more his, and our, confidence can only grow.

Tomas Plekanec
Gomez's line had a horrible game as it was bad pass after bad pass followed by mishandling of pucks all over the ice. That fact alone made our other top line look that much better. Tom added to that with a nice 2-on-1 goal. To be fair, though, Gomez's winger, Andrei, looked very good on that play as he burned up the ice with Pleks.

Defencemen

Yannick Weber
I wasn't left with many options tonight so again went with Weber. I saw good coverage in our own end and particularly liked two events. The first was similar to what he and Price did in New York. Tonight he backed Auld up on one of Alex's nice saves; had the puck gone through, Yan was there. The other was when he pushed Tavares into the goalie and, for the second straight game, got the call in his favour. I like players who push the limits, but also play smart hockey and this is the type of stuff that I look for.

Roman Hamrlik
Someone had to bite the bullet tonight and take some ice. With Gill gone and the fact that we were all tired from yesterday this wasn't the greatest job, but Hammer did his best. In all he played 27+ minutes and didn't seem to be making as many mistakes as his partner, the Wis, who was putting us in all types of trouble.

Goaltender

Carey Price
I didn't want to have to do this, but when I added it all up this was a bad game from Auld. Yes, the D was weak and under-staffed, but I just didn't like what I saw at the back end. There were too many chances other than the 4 goals that were getting through and were hitting posts or were just missing. That is 2 nights, 12 goals and two shaky looking goalies. I do hope that this was a blip and not a sign of fatigue or that our team's general luck/defence is running out.


Comments


That makes 3 losses in a row and, once again, we are settling to the middle of the pack. That is, however, where we should be, isn't it? We don't have that great of a team, have average coaching and management and are dealing with big injuries. To me we are an average (middle 1/3) team that is right where we should be. The thing about teams like that is that they lose games that they should have won. If they won all of their games that they should have won they wouldn't be in the middle third, but would be in the top third instead. Just remember that a bad team (New York) still picks up about 25-30 wins a year and that means that 25-30 times a year they beat a team that should have beaten them. So, it is disappointing and it shouldn't have happened, but at least we got one point and, unlike last night, didn't drain ourselves physically and emotionally. That means that we should be ready for Toronto in 2 days. A home game, Leafs, Saturday night, we're due, they aren't - it should be fun! As always.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Game #55

Boston Play Dirty; Hey, Maybe On The 40th Try It Will Win Them A Cup

Details



Date: 9/2/2011
Opponent: Bruins
Location: Boston

Loss: 6-8

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

Habs goalscorers: Gionta, Subban, Weber, Desharnais, Pacioretty (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Marchand, Seidenberg, McQuaid, Ryder (2), Lucic (2), Horton



Play of the game


I don't really like fights in hockey. I don't mind the odd time when players drop the gloves to stick up for teammates or to send a message, but on a night like tonight I didn't really like what I saw. I can't, however, not choose a fight for in here; simply because I can't remember much else right now. On a night when it was clear for all to see that we aren't built to fight (or be as dirty and cheap as Boston) I liked the fact that calm-old Ben Pouliot laid the nicest punch of them all. Sure he was only fighting Krejci, but a punch (a knock-out in hockey terms) like that deserves a mention. It was an irrelevant play amongst a bunch of meaningless plays, but it stood out to me as the one big Habs-better-than-Bruins moment on the night.



Dome hockey team

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

Forwards

David Desharnais
The kid was quite possibly playing for NHL life tonight. He is a small, offensive centre that isn't so great in his own end. So, to be put on the 4th (and later 3rd) line with a certain defensive responsibility against a good (and big/dirty) team was going to be a challenge. I think, though, that he passed this test. He played with heart and made things happen in their end. In all it was a goal, an assist, 56% on face-offs and an even rating.

Max Pacioretty
Players that keep playing until the end, no matter what the score, will always have a friend here. That is exactly what Max did. He didn't give up or stop trying, but instead went for goals. Is it selfish to try and score when the game is out of reach? Not at all. One should always be trying to score and what better practice than to do just that in any situation. That all said he scored 2 PP goals in the final frame to up his season totals to 8.

Brian Gionta
After a weak first period it was our captain who set the tone early in the second. Within 8 minutes the game was tied and he was at the heart of both goals (goal, assist). He also led the team in shots and happened to be the only Hab to finish with a positive rating.

Defencemen

Yannick Weber - Game Puck
If you don't think playoff goals count (like the NHL) then Weber scored his first NHL goal tonight. Of course I can see their argument: why would we count stats from the only time of the year that matters? He also picked up 2 assists and now has 10 points which isn't that bad for him at all, in fact that is a 30+ point season pace. I can't say he played well in his own end (did anyone?), but do like that we are getting contribution from him as it certainly adds to our back-end.

James Wisniewski
I liked PK tonight and felt bad that he is a perceived target around the league and now must fight pretty much wherever he goes. Stupid because apart from playing with a lot of spirit and a big mouth I can't say that he is that bad. If being young and those things is enough to be a target (it clearly is) then I guess watch out. The ironic thing is that the people who say that he has no respect are the very players who lack the most class (Richards, Lucic, Horton etc.) and who think being dirty is the way to 'teach' players the 'code'. Anyway, Subban narrowly misses this dome because I think that Wis played a better game, even though I have more to say about PK. James was instrumental in 3 of our goals (2 assists) and was only on the ice for 2 of theirs. We certainly have missed that positive contribution.

Goaltender

Alex Auld
Was this the type of game that goalies can't do well in (fired-up offence, poor defence)? Or, were goalies the cause? I realize that Carey made some big saves and kept us in it early, but I am thinking that had he played his best, even behind our porous D, we could have won. In fact, I think that this was Price's worst game, by far, on the season. 8 goals, despite making many good saves, is a horrible result. Martin probably should have pulled him after 4 or 5, but I guess assumed that it was just one of those nights. This game alone cost him .004 in Save % (now .918) and .11 in GAA (now 2.43) as he falls back towards the middle of the pack. I, however, am not worried about him because of one bad game and am actually glad that if your stats take a beating they take them all at once. He'll be ready to go next game and can rest assured as he wasn't the only reason that we lost tonight, far from it.


Comments


I can deal with a loss, I can deal with poor D and poor goaltending. One thing that I hate seeing, though, is hockey like we saw tonight. Sure, there were a lot of goals and that is exciting, but what are the refs thinking letting things carry on like this? In all there were 192 minutes of penalties! That is 3+ games worth. There were two full-out, everyone-in type fights and even the goalies got in on it. This to me is not exciting, no, it is far from it. All this really does is put players like Pyatt, Spacek, Pouliot, Pacioretty, Gionta and others at the risk of injury. For what? What is gained by playing like this? Now, don't get me wrong as I don't think that this was the Habs' fault. No, this was Boston's doing. Old Fat-Head and the other brain-dead folk on that team want to intimidate the Habs and fail to see that scoring 8 goals is as intimidating as anything else. There will now be a cry in Montreal that we need to get tougher (otherwise known as the February toughness cry) and you can bet your bottom dollar that Gauthier will give in. That means we'll land a useless player (remember Laraque and how much we loved him) at the expense of picks, prospects or talented players. If we can all agree that Boston didn't win tonight because of toughness (I am pretty sure it was the 8 goals) then we can all ask do we need to be tougher? Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington are far from being as dirty and tough as Philly or Boston (0 cups in 35 years, 4 in 70 playing like this), but their strategies seem to work. We can beat this Boston team regularly enough (and we have been doing for the past 5 years) that I really urge everyone to calm down about being tough, about the need for toughness in the playoffs. What a team 'needs' in the playoffs isn't as simple as scoring or goaltending or toughness, no, it is different for each team. The Habs right now have a very goo team and we shouldn't let one stupid game (in which we managed 6 goals, 4 on the PP, of our own) affect our plans and our design.