Position in standings: 12th in East, 24th in NHL
Losing record: 9-11-0
Habs on scoring leaders (top 30): None
Habs among statistical leaders (top 30, major category): Cammalleri, Gionta (T25, G); Plekanec (T19, A); Halak (20, GAA); Halak, Price (T29, SV%)
Were this a positive time for Habs fans, I'm sure I would be picking a positive memory from the past 6 weeks. But as it happens, I'm choosing the moment that kind of sums up the season to this point.
What can I tell you, the play had a bit of everything we have been ruing since the season began – terrible coverage, running around on the PK, flat-on-stomach-goaltending from Price and a painful opposition goal. As Viktor Stallberg outwaited Price and passed to a wide open Matt Stajan for his 2nd goal of the season (19 games later, he now has 4), I don't think we were particularly feeling the pain of anything more than falling behind the pitiful Leafs on opening night. But the next morning, we found that the real significance of the play was not the goal, but the gash on Markov's leg that was to represent the gaping abyss on the Canadiens back line for the majority of the next 19 games.
Tomas Plekanec - 20-Game Puck
All summer, there was chatter about players who would have to do better if these Habs were to have any chance at all of amassing significant points in the standings. Surprisingly, many times Tomas Plekanec was an afterthought – written off after a statistically-poor 2008-09. This season has been a different kettle of fish for Pleks. We have him named to the dome 13 times and player of the game 5 times in 20 games. He's the scoring leader, the PP engine and is always the best player when things turn sour. If the Habs have been inconsistent over 20 games, imagine how sour it could have gone if Mr. Consistent would have thrown in the towel with some of his teammates.
As advertised. That's really all I can say about Mike Cammalleri. He is quick and has a very quick shot. He has 8 goals, ranking him 25th in the league. And his MO is shooting – which is why he's top ten in that category. Like Pleks, Cammalleri has been a fixture in the dome (13) and has 4 game pucks to his name. People will get on him for his streakiness, but must realise that all scorers operate this way. Perhaps the one area to be improved over the next quarter of a season is PP output, which may be helped by playing him in position.
For anyone who sighed when we signed Gionta (as I probably did), this 20 games has been eye opening. He has netted 8 goals, just like Cammalleri and been a main threat on most nights. More than all this, what makes him stand out most are his instincts for the goal, his willingness to take punishment to win the puck and the chance, and his clever play. The third forward in our standings, he has amassed 9 domes and 3 game pucks.
The minute Andrei Markov went down with injury was the minute Roman's brief expanded by 50%. When Gainey replaced Markov with an inept PP-only defender, Hamrlik became a 30-minuter, probably for the first time in his career. To say he has responded well is fair, though it has not been flying colours. Hamrlik has garnered the most domes among defenders with 11, but his 1 game puck speaks to the fact that the 6 at the back have relied on the forwards and the goalies almost completely this season. Still, what he offers the team is a solid top-level defender who can pinch when necessary.
Spacek has been the other beneficiary of a very weak defensive unit (domewise). But he has also quietly put together some positive numbers with his ice time, under unlikely circumstances. Take for instance his influence at even strength: when he is on the ice, the Canadiens score 2.72 G/60, while allowing only 2.38. Offensively that places him among the top tier of the league, in the land of forwards. Defensively, he could be better, but at least his balance sheet reads positive.
Perhaps no one has been more hot and cold than Carey Price. Winning a couple of games early for points in the bank and a return to elite save percentage territory of late have been positive. In between all that, though, a short stretch of game changing lapses and league-worst save-making. On the whole, Carey wins the dome. His 4 game pucks are outstanding, and add to his 11 domes form 20 games. What's more, his strong form has been so strong of late that it is pulling his statistics from the basement and onto page 1 of NHL goaltending leaders.
Positive also for Price has been his (and Halak's) response to greater demands in practice. Between the two of them, they have turned quite a corner and can hopefully continue to hold onto the energy that got them back on track – even share a little with a winger, maybe.
Scroll through using the arrows below the slides.
|Name||Game pucks||Domes||LIW Pts||First star||Second star||Third star||3 Star Pts|
I could dwell on a lot of things here, but I think most has been covered. It's probably a bit cliche to try and take positives from an overwhelmingly negative period of play, but I think one should. For one thing, the past is past and if we intend to watch anymore games form here on, we might as well delude ourselves a bit in preparation. For another thing, the difference between positive and negative in this league is paper thin.
Anyway, the positives. All those forwards in the dome are positive outcomes. Spacek being there makes Gainey's signings look neutral at least. Metropolit being anything close to his form this far is positive. Winning 9 games is positive and so is winning so many in OT before the shootout, and even those shootout wins.
Papering the cracks aside, more players have to start pulling the weight on this team. The dome has done what is expected ad more, but may themselves one day tire. I would hope that our number one centre might start outplaying our number four centre and that maybe just two of our extraordinary 1-dome wingers will start vying for recognition now and again. If nothing but these couple of things happen, I feel the next 20 games could come out on the right side of 500.
I could go on, but best not to stretch the truth. As we go forward, let's hope the team looks forward, as we should. Let's hope the team looks on this season as the mighty 2007-08 Canadiens once looked on a second period 5-goal deficit to New York with a second goalie getting peppered and roasted by a Rangers PP. If that game could turn into the best game of the decade for the most fickle of fans, who knows what could happen to us over the next 6 months.