Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Need For A New Cup

Today, we got the "surprise" news that Carey Price will be receiving the Molson Cup for the second consecutive time. It was even less of a surprise this year, because of the new system of voting.

Carey Price is very much deserving of the Award from November, and he'd have won it with any form of voting and tabulation. I have no issue with the award going to him this month, this year (he's probably got enough votes in the bank already with the new voting system!).

I do, however, take issue with the Molson Cup as a whole.
In reality, the award might as well be given on the basis of a vote on the final day of the season:


"Who should win the Cup? The goalie or the leading point getter?"

Cynical? Only because it's true.

Since Wikipedia records begin on this award, it has been given to 37 different Canadiens. 37 chances to honour the player of the year. In that time, the award has been given 16 times to a goalie and 20 times to a forward. 13 times the forward was the high scorer, 2 times the top goalscorer, 3 times second in scoring.

Habs Molson Cup 1973-2010 - http://sheet.zoho.com

There were a total of 2 forwards who weren't at the very top, and a single defenceman honoured from a list of alumni that includes the Big Three (Robinson, Savard and Lapointe), Langway, Chelios and now Markov.


Around the Canadian teams, it's been largely the same story.

League Molson Cups 1973-2010 - http://sheet.zoho.com

122 times a forward (85 high scorers, 10 high goal-getters, 15 second scorers), 78 times a goalie and a measly 7 times for defencemen. This group now includes guys like Housley, MacInnis, Coffey and Salming (he actually accounts for the majority of those), etc.


The age of the goaltender

Since the age of the goaltender began (I put this at around 1994), the stats are even more skewed. There's a single defenceman from across 6 teams with a Molson Cup (Kaberle last year) and 50 goalies.

League Molson Cups 1994-2010 - http://sheet.zoho.com

The Habs are even more goalie happy (I think we knew that), and for them it's been 11 goalies in 16 chances to give the award. Sure Patrick Roy got it twice in there, but so did Hackett, Huet and price even in so-so years.

Habs Molson Cup 1994-2010 - http://sheet.zoho.com


Does this seem right?

I thought there was a reasonably good premise making the rounds that one built a team with defence. Give me a good defenceman and I'll give you a solid team for years.

When we talk about the 1970s dynasty, The Big Three are rarely omitted from conversation. When the 1980s come up, we probably look to Robinson and Chelios rather than Tremblay and Penney.

Yet, the Molson Cup as an award is almost completely unavailable to defencemen because of the way the stars are chosen.

It's easy to see how it happens. Not paying attention? need to get those stars in? Who scored? Who got more than 1 point? Does the goalie have a save percentage over 0.900?

Over a season, it's even easier. The goalie plays 60 minutes of each game, it's his star to lose it seems. A player scores, and it's almost certain it's an important goal. But a good defensive effort? Well that's nice, but we'll put that on file for a later time. Rinse, repeat.

I know the players probably don't put much stock in an award they know to be faulty. I know they still think Markov was their best player last season and the one before that, even though there are other names on the Molson Cup. Yet it seems a shame then that the only trophy publicly honouring a "player of the year" is this one.

That's why I ask whether there should be another trophy to award to the player who was the team's most valuable for the year. Perhaps not to replace the Molson Cup and the "wonderful" fan experience we get from paying Bell for the privelege to vote, perhaps to complement it.

At this point, Price would win the new one too, but at least he couldn't be doubted for simply winning an award by virtue of being a goaltender.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lions in Winter to Test MLX Skates


A couple of weeks ago MLX Skates contacted Lions in Winter about the possibility of testing their skates and getting their word out. MLX, or Mario LemieuX, Skates is a company that is looking to get the most out of the player by giving one the ability to customize their skates in a revolutionary way. It is all based on Speed-Skating technology as they have been developed by David Cruikshank, a four-time US Long-Track Speed-Skating Olympian. David thought that there were so many ways in which to improve a hockey skate, ways to get players peforming at a higher level. Custom moulding and adjustable blade angles are the aspects which I most look forward to trying as skates like that are clearly at the cutting edge.

Check-out their skates at mlxskates.com by following this link: SKATES

This seemed like a unique opportunity for Lions in Winter and, as there is really no risk for us (free skates, free shipping), we thought that we would give it a try. The nature of the skates and their customizable features is such that they are really only good for one person. So, with a bit of luck, and generosity, Topham asked that I be the one to test and review the skates. Players like Alfredsson, Gonchar and Byfuglien are on them now; soon Tobalev will be joining the ranks.



Now, Tobalev wasn’t always Tobalev. In the early days I may have been called the Toadster (I was very slow), Straightline (for my inability to neither turn nor stop), or Crapeau (named after a player who’s name seemed to suit me more). I like to think, however, that that has changed and I think skates may indeed have something to do with it all. It started with Cheese-Cutters in the early days, but then it was soon onto my very own pair of skates. Bought at one of those second-hand everything stores these metal-chassis Daoust’s looked like hockey skates, but didn’t feel that great at all. Eventually, when I really started playing it was onto a series of Bauer skates; at first second-hand, later onto my own new pairs. The next pair, my first in adult sizes, was a pair of CCM Tacks which were previously owned by one-time NHL player, Jason Doig. Eventually, and for quite some time now, it was onto a pair of CCM 652 Tacks which I have grown to love over the years. I knew that the day that I would require a new pair would one day come, but never thought that it would be with something quite as interesting as the MLX skate.

First up will be some games, but I do hope to get them onto the outdoor rink and even down to the Rideau Canal to test them more in different conditions. I won’t give MLX a free ride just because of their generosity and will try to give an honest and worthwhile assessment of their skates. I will approach this in the same way in which I look at every Habs game – I won’t jump to any conclusions, I will be fair and I will attempt to look at these skates, and their performance, from every possible angle. Check back soon to see what I think, check out their skates at (www.mlxskates.com) now if you're interested in learning more.

Spacek For The Norris Trophy

Now that the Habs have clinched a playoff berth and got a virtual by to the Conference final, it's only natural that we Canadiens fans start talking trophies.

Between the obvious bids: Price for Vezina and Jennings, Plekanec for Selke, Martin for Jack Adams; I feel some deserving members of the team have fallen through the cracks.

Take Jaroslav Spacek.

He plays on the team that has allowed the least goals per game in the NHL. He is the #1 in all but name (and minutes played). He frequently lines up against the other team's top lines and makes them shoot from the outside. How else to explain Montreal's suddenly impervious net?

Against those top lines, Spacek is an impressive +4, and that doesn't account for his penalty killing excellence.

He has an incredible 15 takeaways already, easily outnumbering his 14 giveaways. that puts him 10th in the league. And only Lidstrom of those ahead of him can boast fewer giveaways. But Jaro has hit and blocked more shots than that pretender.

Realistically, the best defender in the league should come from one of the best defensive teams. And what better defensive team than the Habs? Sure, you could say the Bruins, but they are only riding two goalies who for consecutive years posted league best numbers, and following the orders of a coach who is afraid to attack.

Spacek, as a member of the top pair on the top team, and with better looking stats than Hamrlik deserves full consideration for the Norris trophy. And what better time to start lobbying than in November, now that most stats have been compiled?


Tom Pyatt, gentleman

While we're about it. How has Tom Pyatt been in the league so long without gaining recognition?

Here we are talking a bout a guy that has played in every game (well nearly) for the best defensive team in the East. He's played against the Bruins, the Flyers, the Leafs, the Panthers, his enormous brother and plenty of other goons and yet continually upholds the values of sportsmanship.

Even his obvious frustration built form the inability to direct shots within 45 degrees of his desired target hasn't come to the boil.

At this critical juncture in the deciding who will and won't win trophies this season, it shouldn't be forgotten that Tom Pyatt has only visited the penalty box a single time, and that was a misunderstanding (hooking) in the very first contest of the season.

He's a virtual lock for the Lady Byng trophy to anyone with a serious interest in that trophy.


"We used to wait for it.
We used to wait for it.
Now we're screaming sing the chorus again..."

Patience good fans, the awards will be awarded when they are awarded. The playoff teams will be known after Game 82. The Cup will be won in June.

24 games does not a season make.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Game #24

Habs Forget Thrashers Game Better Than Expected

Details



Date: 27/11/2010
Opponent: Sabres
Location: Montreal

Win: 3-1

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

Habs goalscorers: Kostitsyn, Gionta (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Leopold



Play of the game


Gionta started a nice play to send us on a 2-on-1; a play that resulted in the game-winning goal. It ended up being a clean looking play between the captain and Kostitsyn. Andrei, who we (and Miller) expected to shoot made a very good pass to Brian who, quite easily found the back of the net and, essentially, sealed the game.



Dome hockey team

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

Andrei Kostitsyn
This was another very good game from Andrei. He added another goal and assist and now has 9 of each on the year. Aside from the points he played a strong, two-way game and has been doing for most of the season. His chemistry with Plekanec was expected, his chemistry with Gionta is very welcome indeed.

Tomas Plekanec
The glue that holds his line, this offence and, at times, the team together. Pleks is that behind-the-scene type guy who really does do everything well. His passes, like the one on the Gionta goal, look effortless, but are really world-class. I can't imagine where we would be without this player, the player who is clearly a #1 centre.

Brian Gionta - Game Puck
Tonight Gionta took a lot of shots again and it really paid off. In all there were 8 shots, 2 of which went in for goals. Another one of his shots, on the 5-on-3, ended up being saved, but pulled Miller out of position enough to allow for Kostitsyn's simple put-in. I love how Brian is playing these days and it is nice to see him getting the points as a reward.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Josh, on the last night of Movember, impressed me yet again. Was it because I was excited that the stache was soon to be shaved or was it because of his play? Thankfully, after a convincing 3-1 win, I can say it was his play. His 5 blocked-shots and 21+ minutes really made a difference and set the team up nicely for another big win.

Jaroslav Spacek
Jaro had another good game tonight against the team that he once captained. His most interesting stat may be that he played exactly 1 period of hockey, but that doesn't mean there wasn't anything else there. He was strong in his own end and was the top player on his pairing as he is now at the same level as Hammer; where he was last year.

Goaltender

Carey Price
It was a shame the Carey didn't get the shutout, but, because we got the win, it doesn't really matter. In fact, if he gets too many of those he may end up being too expensive for us at the end of this contract! So, thank you Buffalo. He did, however, play well enough to deserve the shutout which is more good stuff from the kid. It is amazing that a team can take 36 shots on Price without any of the 21,273 fans ever worrying about him costing us the game - much appreciated!


Comments


I had a feeling that the rest we bagged last night would pay off tonight. Montreal played a good game from start to finish as Buffalo never really got to where they wanted to be in this one. We took advantage of our big chances (very happy with the 5-on-3 goal) and it seemed that the Sabres didn't (or weren't allowed to). This game just shows you that wins and losses aren't far apart, though. One less bounce for them and one of their posts ending up in the back of our net and all of a sudden this is a totally different game. Right now we are playing well and when you play like that I truly believe that you make your own luck.

To Watch Beyond Goal 1?

Last night the Habs allowed the Thrashers the first goal.

Then for the 4th time this season, they simply couldn't do anything to answer that.

Should we be surprised? I'd say no.

If you want to look for a weakness on this Canadiens team, beyond the PP and their "second" centre that is, the proven inability to be beaten by a first goal might be it.

This season, the record is clear enough:

2-7-0 now after being scored on first.
That includes 4 shutouts against, and 6 occasions where they never even tied the game up again.

Even the two games they won were quirky in that they scored rather quickly to negate that early lead. Vs. Phoenix, they answered within 5 minutes and had the lead within 8 minutes. In Buffalo, they answered the first goal within the minute, and the same for the second.

This season, at least, this is a team that plays like champions with a lead, but rather like chumps when chasing.


There's a history here too.

In the playoffs last spring, the Canadiens let the opponents score first 8 times. They lost 7 of those games in very similar fashion to the above scenarios, again being shutout 4 times over.

Last regular season, the team was ranked 23rd among the 30 in win percentage when trailing after the first period (It isn't exactly the same thing as being scored on first necessarily, but for someone who just wants to make a quick point without doing lots of work, it's a good approximation for now). A piddly 0.256 percentage, once again indicating their propensity to find brick walls to run into.


Rivals


As all the talk these days seems to be intent on declaring the Habs true contenders based on their November run, this must be a factor to consider, a serious chink in the armor.

Good teams, well the best teams, win from in front and win from behind (again, I'll use trailing after the first to illustrate): Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago are all above 0.400 when needing to come back after 20 minutes. Washington is above 0.600.


Being beaten

All athletes will tell you there are different types of competitor. Among them these that can be beaten with an early flourish and those you can never turn your back on. My own experience is that the resilient ones, the ones you can never count out are the opponents you have to worry about. Those that win from in front when everything goes right but give up when they trail are easy enough to build a strategy for. There's no strategy to put down the ones that keep getting up.

Yesterday, I was listening to some radio guys go on about the Canadiens resilience and their apparent ability to bounce back from anything. This was evidenced by good games after bad they proposed. I think this is at serious odds with the in-game findings that show an almost total requirement for that first goal. With it, they are league contenders, without it, they are peers of the Islanders.

I only hope that the coaches and the team take these frequent shutouts as lessons for future use. To find, I suppose, ways not to fall into the typical defensive traps that leading teams create to make the appearance of offensive generation. Heck, they could learn those lessons from their own wins.


Yes, losses happen and we mustn't fret. Trends in losses, however, are worth paying attention to. If the Habs don't buck this trend, they may have enough trouble making the playoffs, let alone contending in them.

At least, I suppose, we could all save on a lot of hours watching the games if first goals continue to spell out results.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Game #23

Canadiens Get Their Rest For Tomorrow's Game

Details



Date: 26/11/2010
Opponent: Thrashers
Location: Atlanta

Loss: 0-3

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

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Peverley (2), Enstrom



Play of the game


You don't often get credit for doing nothing, but, in a game when the whole team does nothing, Auld's stone-cold breakaway strategy worked for me. At the time, we were down by one and Atlanta wasn't playing well enough to have me thinking that we were out of it. A Ladd breakaway had me nervous, but Auld did well to out-wait the speedy Thrasher. A shot over the net kept the game close and gave the team a chance to rebound.



Dome hockey team

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

Andrei Kostitsyn
A few nice plays and attempts on goal were noticed tonight as I felt that the effort was there. I know he can play better, but the margin between his best and tonight's performance was not as great as that of most of the other Habs.

Tomas Plekanec
He never stopped trying and his fight versus Kane was well appreciated. I like that, no matter the situation, he tries, maybe not his best, but there is still effort.

Brian Gionta
Hitting the back of the net would have be welcomed, but 4 shots on net and a certain feistiness towards the end of the game showed good spirit from the skipper.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
By default the Czech brothers (and their tight slacks) are back in here tonight. In reality, Hamrlik was our best in this game and was probably the only one who wasn't bad at times.

Jaroslav Spacek
Subban - bad, no moustache; Picard - below average, no moustache; Gorges - bad, brutal moustache; Gill - brutal, bad-ass moustache. Sadly, Gill almost got in here based on the moustache alone; shows what type of game this was.

Goaltender

Alex Auld - Game Puck
Auld played well tonight and was the only real bright spot on the team. Tonight shows me that he is worthy of getting some more work as I believe that he can be trusted. I would have liked saves on one or two of those goals, but, when we think of it, two of them were pretty unlucky. He was also the busiest Hab as he made 44 ssaves on 47 shots.


Comments


It was a hard game to watch tonight, but games like this happen. The bottom line is that we didn't need the points, this loss won't derail us and we know that tomorrow we have the ability to play like the best team in the league. I am not thrilled with what I saw, but after the hot start I am willing to let this game go and not worry one bit. Buffalo, on a Saturday, at home, is the priority; tonight will be forgotten very, very fast.

Andrei Who?

Nearly two weeks on from Markov's injury against the Carolina Hurricanes and the storm of attention has all but disappeared.

What started on the next day with know-it-all reports from RDS and Team 990 "medical experts" has all but dried up. There's no speculation. there's hardly any news. It's so far off the radar that I didn't notice Habs Inside/Out even re-reporting the TSN story of Markov's status.

It leaves one wondering if Montreal is already asking Andrei who?

I certainly am not. And I look to reports at least once a day to check in on the general's condition. For I understand that although the team will have nice streaks in his absence, as they have done twice this season now, that players as multi-talented as Andrei Markov aren't simply replaced.

The current replacement strategy is working well, and Picard is a better fit than MAB. However, we mustn't forget how we fret every year when Hamrlik runs out of steam, or how fatigue catches up with the group.


Encouraging news
The encouraging news for Habs fans is this: if Markov needed surgery, he'd be having it. The very fact he needs more evaluation is the glimmer of hope in this catastrophic loss. Someone doesn't think surgery is necessary: doctor, player, other.

While it doesn't really matter whether Jacques Martin has ruled anything out or not, it does matter that Markov isn't quick to surgery as some players might be. His determination (and that hyperbaric chamber) is what got him back so quickly after the last two injuries, and it will be the most important factor this time too.

While that is encouraging short term, we can't comment on the long-term implication of this knee thing without some detail. No one has that. If he needs surgery and plays through, there could be argument that his career would be in jeopardy (not what we want). In terms of contract, it's a spanner in the works too. The Canadiens will likely have to get a bit creative with a hedged bet on his return to full health rather than risk losing the best player they have developed in a full 20 years.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Game #22

Price Matches Last Year's Win Total as Habs Cruise to Win

Details



Date: 24/11/2010
Opponent: Kings
Location: Montreal

Win: 4-1

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

Habs goalscorers: Kostitsyn, Cammalleri, Plekanec, Eller
Opposition goalscorers: Martinez



Play of the game


During the first 10 minutes we were playing well, but it seemed like one bad bounce would energize the Kings and the game could derail after that. So, I was very happy when Jack Johnson held a Hab behind the net and drew 2 minutes. We played well on the PP, but the Kings got a 2-on-1 and I thought that would be it. Subban, however, made an amazing diving play to ensure no scoring chance would be had. Hamrlik then put the puck into the corner and PK got it up to Darche, having just got back to his feet. Darche fluffed on a pass to Kostitsyn, but it was enough for Andrei to work with. With his head down and one thing on his mind a perfect shot came from AK46 and we had the lead that we needed.



Dome hockey team

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

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
The way that Brunet talks about Andrei would have you believe that he is Hamilton-bound. His failure to look beyond the scoresheet and see the player that has been one of our two best forwards for most of the season really makes TSN or CBC look that much more appealing. Well, if you were at the game or watched with no sound you probably wouldn't be surprised that Kostitsyn was the 1st Star and Game Puck winner tonight. His two points give him 16 and has him on pace for 60 on the year. I am very happy with his play and thought that he was at his best tonight. It seemed that every time he was on we could count on some sort of scoring chance.

Michael Cammaelleri
Mike was the main reason that we took a 2-0 lead. There were nice passes from Hammer and Gomez on his goal, but it was really Camms who made that goal happen. Aside from that play he had a strong game as he and Gomez left Moen behind. Those two form a nice duo, but a winger who could score 10-20 a year (not 0-5) would help them in more ways than one.

Brian Gionta
Gionta is playing well with Pleks and Andrei and doesn't seem to need Scott after all. I wonder, however, if that is the best plan for our team? If Brian is the only player that can really work with Gomez then why not leave him there to get both lines truly going? Ah well, I'm not a coach and all I really care about is that we won. The third best forward tonight, therefore, was Gionta who peppered the net all game long with good shots. He also had a very nice assist on Plekanec's goal, a pass which demonstrated fantastic vision and patience.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
A tired Roman on the the PP almost cost us a goal and was maybe the main factor that lost him serious Game Puck consideration. Beyond a few mistakes early on I felt that Hamrlik played a very strong game, the type of game you need from someone trying to fill in for Markov. Spacek also played a good game and it was their pairing that was our top tonight. When Roman plays so well in both zones he becomes a very hard player to play against and a very fun player to watch.

PK Subban
A great play by PK on the Play of the Game earned him this dome; his solid play beyond that ensured that he didn't lose it. I do think that we have to find more ways to get him on the ice, though, as 17 minutes of ice time just isn't enough. I can understand that playing with Picard will hurt your ice time, but I wouldn't mind seeing him take 2-4 minutes of Gill's time. Hal plays a solid game, but 2 penalties and 19 minutes of ES ice are too much for my liking.

Goaltender

Carey Price
It is amazing that Carey can make 24 saves and let in just 1 goal and we don't seem surprised, we in fact expect it. This was just another night at the office for Price who won his 13th of the season. At this pace he could play 78 games and win 48 - can you imagine! If he keeps playing like this I am interested to know what could stop us. Right now he is making it look easy and is, seemingly, making his teammates jobs easy too.


Comments


I like how the Habs are rebounding after losses this year. In fact 7 of their 8 losses have been followed up with wins which isn't something we are used to seeing. Can they keep this up? Are they for real? Well, it is still early, but the closer we get to 30 games and to Christmas time, the less and less we can play the early card. I think that this team is good and that is has a lot of good elements, but, unfortunately for all of us, there are a good 10 teams in the league that also fit that bill. What I do like, however, is that we can play a good team, like LA, and we can impose our style. For too many years we have played down to our opponents' level or we have let better teams dictate the play. That, thankfully, isn't the case this year and it is certainly showing in the standings. Our win tonight gives us 29 points with 60 games to play which is getting to be quite comforting. I am looking forward to when a .500 record in remaining games will ensure 90 points - a win in Atlanta will do it.

Other Forwards At The Quarter Pole

Moving on now to the forwards. Finally up are the other forwards without whim, the Habs record might look a whole lot different.


The legend again:

G, A, Pts - you know already
PM - Plus/minus
Ch +/- - Differential in scoring chances at even strength (these chances combined by Olivier are basically shots, misses and blocked shots that happen from danger areas)
Fenwick - Shots and missed shots for minus those against at ES
Corsi - Shots, missed shots and blocked shots for minus those against at ES
Dome - Dome for that game = 1


Jeff Halpern

Grade:

A-

At 20 games, I think it's fair to say Halpern was a good signing. For minimum salary he provides a good third line option, a penalty killing deputy for Plekanec and, so far at least, some surprising offense.

That said, he has had his low points. Off games where he seems to lose the assets he brings in other games. He'd have full marks if not for these.


Dustin Boyd

Grade:

C

Through a combination of missing a golden opportunity to take a top line spot and then being benched for missing that opportunity, Boyd was rendered pretty well useless. It's a hard read to know if he could recover from this point. I tend to think he might deserve a chance

Still, one can't give marks for aspirations. Over his limited playing time, Boyd made little to no impression. Some fans think he is called Justin. He was pretty consistently negative in all categories and unable to score except in game one. Still, he sat tight, did what he was asked and played in a few wins. He gets a boost for that.


Travis Moen

Grade:

B+

Moen tries. my goodness he tries. And I admire that. I just wish it wouldn't be reason to keep giving him scoring line duty. The guy for all his effort has stuffed many a scoring play already because he either never expected a pass (not used to playing with people who deliver) or can't handle it if it comes (not used to having to deal with passes).

Moen still gets a good grade as a role player on this Habs team.His ideal role resides on the fourth line, doing what he is told for 10 minutes an outing.I didn't hold Gomez's salary against him, so i won;t here. But it's worth considering if Moen brings an extra million to the table on a cap-strapped team.


Maxim Lapierre

Grade:

C

This is Dustin Boyd's profile pro-rated to 20 games. There's little to get excited about. It is more reminiscent of the Lapierre that went about 40 games without making a contribution last regular season than the one who scored clutch goals in the playoffs.
I am happy to say that Lapierre is already on his way to upgrading though, as Game #21 was an inspired effort from the guy who would seem set to make me look a fool with my grading.


Mathieu Darche

Grade:

B

Four excellent games get Mathieu a B. In those four games, he was truly among the outstanding Habs. He helped Halpern look better and helped Pouliot finally score a goal.
Still, not every NHL GM of the last decade missed out on something here. Mathieu is what he is. What I think that might be is a guy with some talent, but not enough to push through tight checking. He's an excellent option for third line duty, however, and a reason the Habs have the record they do. I'd like to see my fellow Redmen back in the lineup.


Lars Eller

Grade:

A-

You know, it takes a lot for a rookie to play 20 games under Jacques Martin with only a single benching. Even more in an environment where goals are scarce and he's not providing any. That is the testament to Lars Eller's start. Though he hasn't made the impression of a Jeff Skinner on the NHL web page, his play has been good all around apart from that inconvenient truth.

If you think an A grade is high, I'd only justify it by saying that taking the minutes he's given without complaining or skating a single sulky shift, together with the way he thoroughly has outchanced, outshot and out-attempted his opposition is enough.


Tom Pyatt

Grade:

B-

Blah. It's entirely possible that an AHLer might be worse than Pyatt, that he might bleed shots and chances against. but at this point, this fan is willing to find out. Pyatt is Mr. Responsible at times, but he cheats on D like MAB would cheat on O. His tendency to turn back before pressing forward belies his statistics that do him a favour.

At the end of the day, I suppose one can't be excited about every player on a 19-man outfit. I suppose every team needs a quietly effective and mostly dull option to send out for 10 minutes. Pyatt does this well, and doesn't seem to complain or seek out more. Maybe I'm too hard on him. I still think I might like to see Palushaj, though.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vote Tim Thomas: A Vote For Montreal

Two seasons past, Canadiens fans embarrassed themselves and their city by voting Mike Komisarek onto the starting lineup of the All-Star Game. Komi was one of four Canadiens voted to the line-up that year, only one was without question deserving.

That same year, Carey Price was voted to the mid-winter "Classic". He was deserving of a look at the time, though perhaps not deserving of eclipsing Tim Thomas in his sensational Vezina campaign.

Well, karma it seems doesn't take kindly to being cheated by Montreal voters. Following their All-Star appearances, Price, Kovalev and Komisarek (the usurpers) all tailed quite drastically. Kovalev was benched; Komisarek managed to use those months to lose the team's and city's confidence, and Carey price couldn't stop a first period shot for a while.

I'm a bit of a superstitious fellow. And to see Carey Price go from second year unquestioned reliability to such depths right after the All-Star game didn't sit well with the less logical of my hemispheres. The moment that sticks is his dismantling at the hands of Blake Wheeler high shots during the All-Rookie game - an effective sign post for the rest of the league.


Here we are again in 2010.

Just today, I was going to write about the blessing in disguise that was Carey Price's omission from the All-Star ballot. It was to be no distractions, no unwanted ego trips and an All-Star appearance that he was set to earn at the behest of the Eastern Conference coaches.

Instead, the afternoon brings news of thousands of Price fans who have so much unbridled passion for this guy that they've been writing in votes for the past 2 weeks.

Price is a most deserving candidate, that's true. And in any other year, he's the most deserving candidate. But this year, Tim Thomas has had a start for the ages. The Vezina winner who never got his start at the game is currently harbouring obscene statistics on his profile page. Yet Thomas sits at third in voting behind two write ins and barely ahead of the undiscerning Pittsburgher choice of Marc-Andre Fleury.

If you vote, rather than priming your pen for paper, I suggest Tim Thomas.

This will be good for karma. It will be good to deflect from the fact that many Montrealers are blatant homers. It will recognize Thomas' standard. And most importantly it will mean that Price, if he is an All-Star will have earned his selection this season.

A vote for Thomas would be doing the Habs a favour in so many ways.


Plekanec write ins


While we're at it. Do people realize that Crosby, Ovechkin and Stamkos have this thing locked up. Not only are they already the fan favourites, they all three are also having amazing starts.

Save your writing hands people. While Pleks must be flattered, he's not one to require this kind affirmation. If he plays like he does, he'll be an All-Star, but not because you voted for him, but rather because he is one of the 9 forwards selected by the coaches.

If The Habs Can Do It...

The Habs have opened up three star voting to the public to OT scorers, Habs goalies and visiting Quebecers delight. Given the different opinions floating round on many players after games, we thought it might be interesting to hear from all of you on dome picks as well.








It's simple. We've set up a form. All you have to do to start voting for your own Dome and Game Puck picks is click on the "Reader's Dome" logo above.


If this works as an experiment, I'm sure it will give us lots more to discuss at Lions in Winter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Game #21

Shots, Not Hits, Lead Philly Past Habs

Details


Date: 22/11/2010
Opponent: Flyers
Location: Philadelphia

Loss: 2-3

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

Habs goalscorers: Lapierre (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Leino, Giroux, van Riemsdyk



Play of the game


A compound play of the game. Price has Briere and Carter bearing down on him. The pass comes across to Carter and Price makes the save of the game on the PK. Meanwhile, the puck flies behind the net, our regular everyday assistant captain battles behind the net and wins the puck in time that Price can find his feet. So well he wins it, that the suddenly extremely dirty Daniel Briere pulls him back and negates a good chance to take an important PP. Let's never mind what happened on 4-on-4.



Dome hockey team

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

Maxim Lapierre - Game Puck
Maxim Lapierre got it this evening. Maybe he anticipated what his upcoming Quarter Pole review is going to say. He set the tone for the game early with decent shots on a very shaky goaltender. His first goal was no wimpy shot, even if it should have been saved, and his second goals was a well-prepared and taken one.

Benoit Pouliot
As the Canadiens led, Pouliot was impressing. I thought, dome in hand. The towards the end of the game, I wondered where he went, why his play had diminished to the point of being unrecognizable. Turns out it wasn't Ben, it was good old coach stacking the minutes of other forwards. On this night, martin made a tactical error in not identifying Pouliot's strong start. I'd have had him out there much more than his 11 minutes.

Tomas Plekanec
Tomas played a decent game by his standards. He actually did quite well against the tight coverage of Pronger, better than in the past. Several times, he was able to break inside instead of being forced outside. Tonight, he's really in here because he did another good job on the PK. Of the two forwards killing penalties, I always notice Plekanec as the thinker, the one who doesn't just go through the motions at the top of the box.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Please get Roman onto the number one PP unit. he hit the post tonight as he continues to show why an accurate wrist shot is better than 27 PK Subban backswing specials. On the back end, Roman had as good a game as a defender can have when in the process of allowing 42 shots.

Alexandre Picard
As I've said before, we're learning each game that not all French Canadian last minute signings on D are equal. Picard is a much better defender than his 2 predecessors as he keeps things relatively simple. Tonight, I felt he had a good outing and actually covered quite a bit for what I thought was an off-game for the possibly distracted Subban.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Another great start from Price. His preparation for games this season is truly impressive, and more than his suddenly nimble arm, is the biggest reason for his gulf in statistical showing. He definitely gave his team the chance to win, even late, and for that he wins his 20th dome in 20 starts – an unprecedented feat on this blog. While Auld may never get a dome from Price's largesse, it's about time he gets chance to win one through play. Price is hot, and riding high and a game off won't change that. Auld hasn't played in a month, and it's not always wise to leave back-ups on the shelf for such long periods, as you never know when you might suddenly need an able alternative.


Comments

RDS left the broadcast tonight with the thought that the Flyers are the best team in the East. I am not far from agreeing with them on that. Though certainly not scary with the Boucher of the first period in goal, the Flyers do have 3 very exciting lines and 6 name defenders. The Canadiens ran into them tonight as they fired on many cylinders. 42 shots were not all dangerous, but told the story of the possession. When the Flyers weren't installed in the zone, they seemed a defensive zone steal away from an odd-man rush.

Considering how well the Flyers did play, Habs fans must again be encouraged by their team. To hold them so long, to keep shots outside, to take the lead and then hang in until the end, the Canadiens proved themselves to be true contenders. And this when not firing as fully themselves.

Wednesday is the Kings. The newly excellent Kings. I feel the Canadiens have a good chance as they line up well. Their goalie is off to a quick start, but as Mathman will attest, he'll not sustain over 0.930 forever. What's more, Montreal mustn't look at teams with 26 points from 20 as out of their league anymore.

Scoring Forwards At The Quarter Pole

Moving on now to the forwards. First up are the "scoring forwards" who as a group have 32 goals over 20 games.


The legend again:

G, A, Pts - you know already
PM - Plus/minus
Ch +/- - Differential in scoring chances at even strength (these chances combined by Olivier are basically shots, misses and blocked shots that happen from danger areas)
Fenwick - Shots and missed shots for minus those against at ES
Corsi - Shots, missed shots and blocked shots for minus those against at ES
Dome - Dome for that game = 1
Scott Gomez

Grade:

B-

Who is this player, Scott Gomez? Those that look at points alone would say a third line forward. Those who add in salary would call him a liability. Those who look at things like Corsi thought, call him a horse.

Gomez gets a B for the balance of his work. he is part of the good defensive start, the rebirth of Carey Price and the outstanding PK. But he loses a lot of marks for not being the guy. At a certain point it is not enough to be a Corsi machine (some might be beginning to think he's only trying to be a Corsi machine). He's the top salary earner on the team and we have him down for 3 domes and no game pucks. Stats aside, that means he hasn't been outshining his compatriots. If he doesn't want to sink into true mediocrity, he needs to find some extra inspiration.


Mike Cammalleri

Grade:

B

Cammalleri is second on the team in scoring, third in goals and first in plus/minus. It's a strong B. To the traditional fan, looking at traditional scoring summaries and traditional gamelogs, he's having a nice start. But of all the mirages on the team, Cammalleri's might be most misleading.

Apart from these stats we track many others. Most informative for Cammalleri is the goals created record we have. Though he's been in on 14 goals, he's been a minor play in most of those. The same must be said for his plus/minus to date, he was on for a lot of Plekanec to Kostitsyn plays. Of course he opens the ice for them, and that gives him marks.

You might say that I have been harshest on Cammalleri, and I think that would be accurate. But as a top winger with a top quality passer, missing the net or having shots blocked, or just running into dead ends on the PP must be worked out.  He's picked it up recently, and that's been noted. His goal last game was sniper stuff.


Tomas Plekanec

Grade:

A

Can anyone believe the Andre Savard regime drafted this player? In fairness, they didn't commit a very high pick, and picked Duncan Milroy before him, so they may have lucked out a bit. And the Canadiens development? Tomas has mopped up all the lessons.

His first quarter represents a great start. Point-per-game pace is not the least of his achievements, but he is also the leading goalscorer, the leading penalty-killer and a pretty good model of consistency. He doesn't get an A+ yet, because as scary as it seems, he can be better.


Brian Gionta

Grade:

B+

A very very slow start had me thinking that something had changed with Gionta, and I pondered whether the only superficial change (the C on his sweater) was weighing him down.

But take a look at Gionta from Game 5 onwards. He's been outchancing, outshooting, and out-attempting all his opponents. That and 5 goals and 10 points in 16 games is about right for the captain's historical pacing. Of course, this chart doesn't show it all, as his shooting percentage (low) and PK work are also important stats.


Andrei Kostitsyn

Grade:

A

Andrei has been the revelation of the season. At least Carey Price had supporters who thought this would happen. Andrei's fans were probably thinking half of what he's done so far was a successful start.

For a guy who isn't a machine-gunner like Cammalleri and Gionta, his Fenwick and Corsi are quite telling. For every shot he takes, there are still more held back as he waits for seams. This is important, because teams with non-discriminating shooters need some danglers, else the defensive plan becomes rather straightforward. Kostitsyn's rise mean other teams can indeed focus on one line, but can't altogether ignore the next.


Benoit Pouliot

Grade:

B+

Yes, I'm calling him a scoring winger. And yes, I'm giving him a good grade.Pouliot was questioned to an insulting degree before the season and his first quarter has gone a long way to answer his critics. Largely without a good shift or a centre other than Halpern, he has made chances and buried chances.

A look at his work in chart form shows he's a net asset. And remembering this is his second NHL season, looking at 20 goal and 40 point pace is very sound for a third line winger. .

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Defenders At The Quarter Pole

20 games into the season is as good a time as any to look at some stats accumulated.

I present to you here the rundown of the defence as I've seen it so far, complete with expanded gamelog statistics. Green means good and blue means bad. Note how good in the goals, assists, and points scored does not always correspond with the rest -- hence the need for a gamelog that tells us more...

And just a quick recap for the legend:

G, A, Pts - you know already
PM - Plus/minus
Ch +/- - Differential in scoring chances at even strength (these chances combined by Olivier are basically shots, misses and blocked shots that happen from danger areas)
Fenwick - Shots and missed shots for minus those against at ES
Corsi - Shots, missed shots and blocked shots for minus those against at ES
Dome - Dome for that game = 1



Jaroslav Spacek

Grade:

B

Spacek has been plenty maligned for his play up to this point. Yet, for the most part, it must be said he is meeting expectation. He is often on the top defensive pairing for an improved defence and has chalked up 8 points already.

If you look at his gamelog, it doesn't show giveaways, but it does show that he's mostly been having good games with about 5 in 20 worth questioning. He has really turned it on lately as well, a timely spurt given the injury situation.


Ryan O'Byrne

Grade:

N/A

Not very much to judge him on, so I won't. He may thrive in Colorado and may yet be missed here.


Josh Gorges

Grade:

A-

Josh gets some hard assignments and comes through with flying colours most of the time. But if he wants an A+, then he has to find a way to avoid big blue patches on his even strength gamelog (see below). Still, over the first quarter, he has been the best defender on an improved defence, so that's worthy of praise.


Roman Hamrlik

Grade:

B+

Hamrlik is viewed as Spacek's babysitter at times, but the partnership actually seems more mutual than that. Hammer has lived up to all expectation of himself so far and has had a a few standout games. What this even strength gamelog doesn't show is PP and PK, where Hammer is actually quite a talent. I'd say a good quarter, and looking solid as we move ahead.


Alexandre Picard

Grade:

B+

Yes, Alex has had all the easier assignments at ES, but he's made a mockery of those he's faced at times (see Game 9). He's really been a pleasant surprise in the line of French Canadian Brisebois aspirants, as he gels better with his partners and makes less ridiculous passes. He too could have a higher mark, but for his pretty ineffective PP work to date.


Yannick Weber

Grade:

N/A

He's been a Hamilton stud so far, and last night he played well enough. There's nothing here to base a mark on, but keeping his record from last night will result in two changes: a move to the forward list, and a higher than average mark.



Hal Gill

Grade:

B

Gill really has taught us to think of defence differently, and Martin too, I think. The barely ambulatory lug is very effective when he's doing what his skills are built for. PK and playing obstructive ES D is where he thrives. A higher mark? Well, his limits as a defender do still hurt the team. His slow feet cost odd-man situations and his passing is not always Markovian. Gill has a ceiling, and so a B is more than it might be for others.


PK Subban

Grade:

A

Subban has been extremely impressive in his first NHL season. No hesitation, no fear, no reluctance to show people up. You can see from his outstanding gamelog what an asset he is on the 3rd pairing -- it gives those opponents hardly a chance to move as he cleans up and sets up offense with aplomb.

Things to work on for Subban are shooting without a 3 second back swing (too many attempts blocked) and even trusting his partner a bit more. To be saying only this about a 21-year-old defender is astounding.


Andrei Markov

Grade:

B+

Markov's game time doesn't allow much analysis either. Still, in seven games he gave enough impression to earn a grade. While Markov left the ice hobbling as the best Canadiens Dman, his seven games were a build to that point. When first back, he was quieter. 3 games in he was ambitious, even dangerously so. And against Carolina, he wasn't starting to conduct the orchestra again.

It is a shame that he leaves as his impact was just beginning to be felt. You will note there has only been one 7 goal effort for the Habs this season, and though they've won an impressive number, few wins have left the lingering feeling of offensive juggernaut. That is probably the biggest loss with this injury. The defenders (as seen above) have all been working out how to defend, but few can put it together with the extracurricular offence the way Andrei does.


Game # 20

Habs Continue Shutout Pattern

Details



Date: 16/11/2010
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Montreal


Win: 2-0


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

Habs goalscorers: Halpern, Cammalleri
Opposition goalscorers: None



Play of the game


I didn't catch the play of the game first hand, but I saw it later on. You have to admire the Canadiens on nights such as these, because for all their faults they really can step up like no other with little notice when it counts. The tribute they put together for Pat Burns was both empassioned and restrained. The tribute was top class. And though Pat Burns was said to eschew attention and special treatment, it must be special for his family to see the wonderful show of support from fans of teams that he left years and tears ago.



Dome hockey team

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

Andrei Kostitsyn
Carey Price's evolution may be the shadow that's preventing us from seeing it, but Andrei Kostitsyn has had a stunning quarter season. Stats aside, his play has been much more confident this season. We're getting to the point where people who chose before 10 in the 2003 draft are starting to list him as a missed opportunity. Tonight, he was not always the best forward, but I thought he did create the best chances. A season ago, we'd be worried about yet another change of scenery for him as he gets going, yet this Andrei has his own agenda and playbook.

Tomas Plekanec
Jacques Martin "called him out". Tonight Pleks answered. He rekindled his chemistry with Kostitsyn and led a dangerous line of attack for the Habs. 5 shots and 8 attempts of his own give an idea as to how his line wrote the agenda for this one.

Brian Gionta
Gionta may not be a highlight reel player at all times, but he plays sensible hockey. And good sense will tell a player that a second year goalie from Sweden behind a shaky D just needs to have shots put on him to be broken down. Well there were no breakdowns from Gionta shots tonight, but there will be in the future. Tonight he had 8 on net, and 12 altogether. That's not a rarity with him.

Defencemen

Jaroslav Spacek
Spacek has got to be one of the best players on the team at repairing his mistakes, and specifically at diving. His second diving stop followed by recovery to feet for a blocked shot was focused D if you've ever seen it. Tonight, he played well against one of the "better" Leafs lines and stood out for defensive reasons. Add to that his solid offensive play and the shot that won the game, and he's won back a dome place.

Josh Gorges
Price deserves a lot of credit for the Canadiens recent run of stingy scoresheets. But so do the defence. And no one on this team epitomises the Habs evolved defence better than Josh Gorges.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
Carey Price in previous years was criticised for a lot of things. One thing I often tallied against him was his overconfidence in simply blocking the puck. In this game, he was showing how he has evolved. That save on Kris Versteeg in the second (which kept the game at 0-0) was a goaltender using more than angles to stop shots. Other than big saves, i think once again that the biggest compliment to Carey Price this season is that players are running out of ideas against him. The shots Toronto took as the game went on went down in quality it seemed, if they didn't miss. That's the reward of getting into players thoughts.


Comments

This win against the Leafs tonight is a fun win. It's 2 points again, though I don't think a four pointer. Somehow, I just don't see the Leafs in the mix. Beating the Leafs is always worthwhile, even i it is only for personal bragging rights over friends. Beating them with a second goal from a clean Komisarek pass to Cammalleri is all the sweeter, as that Habs $5+ million could have been spent in the exact opposite way.

Speaking of opposites. Isn't this shutout segment of the season is really strange? Carey Price hadn't had a shutout in nearly 2 years. Now he has 4 in 30 days!?!

I think the team has to get a lot of credit for this. While Carey is undoubtedly making key saves, that simply would not have been enough a year ago (for Price or Halak), there would have been an ugly rebound or 10 3-on-1s or goodness knows what other catastrophic breakdown. This year, though, the defence is starting to resemble something we might call a system. Shots against, though high, do seem to be coming from the outside. I rarely get to the end of a period and say "10 shots, is that all?" More often, it's "10 shots, when?" That's testament to a calming defence keeping my heartbeats low. And Carey for all his improvement personally has to get credit for meshing with this system more than all else. He is holding the puck when it needs to be held and deflecting it to corners where possible. He's playing like he knows where the D are. It's good stuff, it's encouraging stuff, it seems like someone is coaching. I'm encouraged.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Game #19:

Nashville Introduce Montreal To Central Division Grudge Hockey

Details



Date: 18/11/2010
Opponent: Predators
Location: Montreal

Loss: 0-3


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

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Goc (2), O'Reilly



Play of the game


Sometimes, as with results, we get hung up with outcomes and miss the beauty and skill of hockey. Even before this game was 20 minutes old, I thought the play to beat o the night would be a nifty little thing from Tom Pyatt. In the record it won't be a goal and it won't be a shot, but if it were a goal, my goodness. The play was all Pyatt, he got a hopeful, but pretty awful pass into coverage. There he knocked down the puck for complete control broke the coverage and burst in for a shot. His shot beat Rinne, but ultimately not friction or gravity as it never made the goal line. Still, if this went in, it'd be a video to vote on in April.



Dome hockey team

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

Lars Eller – Game Puck
There's no point hiding this further down the list. For anyone who watched it was plain to see that Eller was inspired. Olivier will no doubt tell us that he had the softest coverage, but know what, he made a lot of them. He not only skated and danced but he alimented his linemates. He played to own the puck, and you know how much I like that. Only one shot, but a good one. 4 hits as well.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei just played like Andrei in this game. He didn't jump out of the screen for his entire 18:25, yet he ended up with some of the most dangerous chances to score and just happened into a pretty solid looking stats sheet. The main difference between his play last year and this is he is driving the play rather than deferring to another all the time. Even when he doesn't he pops up in the slot with some hard shots on net. He continues to play well and even gets begrudging praise once in a while from RDS (his goal in Carolina doesn't really count though, that was in a game with a lot of goals).

Mike Cammalleri
This last choice yo-yo-ed a bit for me. At different points there were different forwards here, all except Halpern, Darche and Pouliot just about. The thing I liked about Cammalleri is that he seemed to be able to break coverage when Nashville were at their most suffocating. He released a few attempts and created a bit of danger during the 0-0 deadlock. That to me was the pivotal point of the game, so that's why I give him the dome.


Defencemen

Josh Gorges
A quiet game from Gorges. But if this were a 1-0 victory, which it could have been if everyone played like he did, then we'd be singing his sweet praises. He did what Canadiens defenders do nowadays and kept shots from nonthreatening positions.

Hal Gill
I was thinking tonight of the differences between this team and the team at this time last season. The player make-up isn't that different, but the feel from watching is changed. There was all that talk of players having to adapt to one another, the focus on Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri. But in reality, there was probably no bigger adjustment for the 2009-10 Habs than the adjustment they had to make to welcome Hal Gill to the lineup. Where previously they had skating defenders, they now had an oaf who could barely turn. At first they expected him to be a standard defender and he failed. Now they seem to have adjusted, both in expectation and play. Gill played Gill's game and because Price now knows Gill and Gorges knows him well, that play can be counted as an asset.

Goaltender

Carey Price
This game was bound to come. It's not that Carey could have or even should have stopped any of those shots. but in recent games, he just did, somehow. Tonight he played in almost the same way and didn't get a shutout. Them's are the bounces as they say. He definitely gave his team ample chance to win and the nail n the coffin that was the second goal, though it wasn't done with a kicking motion was definitely intentionally put in with a foot. The huge positive from Carey was another first period shutout. The team must appreciate this.


Comments

Nashville tonight provided reminders to Montrealers of a few things we'd forgotten. The first is that the Central Division is a difficult place to play your hockey, and teams that come with CD practice tend to be pretty battle-tough opponents. The second thing they showed was that Montreal still has a ways to go as a contender. While the team has been thriving against opponents that stroll in, teams that come in with a clear game plan in mind stifle this attack. Nashville had a plan for every line and every player (with the notable exception of a suddenly inspired Eller) and it kept the game scoreless. Even after a goal, they had the numbers of the top two lines until Martin's belated reaction. This, I see as a warning shot. Not because we should worry about Nashville in any more important games, but rather because the playoffs are all about other teams preparing for the other. If Nashville can come in and see the way to defend on two days notice, then a team will surely spot weak points in a seven game series.

Well that's the warning. To close, I should speak to luck, or bounces as players so fondly name it. On a different day, the same shots and chances generated by each side in this game would have gone in the completely opposite direction. Instead of imagining a goal by Pyatt, we'd be praising it. Instead of complaining about a goal kicked in, it would have been disallowed. So what? Well, indeed. Sometimes after these games, these games after we've been spoiled to greater expectations, it becomes all about choosing the Blame Dome. And the heroes from 2 nights earlier are trod upon for sport. I think in this case, there's little need for that. The Habs lost to a team that played them tight and took their chances. It doesn't mean this will be the lot for the future.

It's Probably Asking Too Much...

It's probably asking too much of a Phildelphia Flyer to take reflection before he speaks, or heaven forbid before he hits. But that is probably just what Mike Richards needs to do in the future.

By now, you've all read what Richards said about PK Subban. Basically a rant against rookie respect, etc. etc. Tobalev addressed this with succinct and prescient truth in the post-game report, so I won't get too much into where we stand on the actions of rookies again.

Instead, I just want to talk about reflection.

Mike Richards, we all know is not the man to be making judgments on the largesse of 21 year-olds. By the age of 21, he was already putting NHL veterans in hospital.



And that's very relevant to my point. Pots that don't know their colour shouldn't necessarily be too quick to come down on kettles.

Just in blogging, I can tell you there are many finished and unfinished posts that never get published because of reflection. Before posting, I try to honestly answer a few questions after a re-read of my position. If an attack on the media sounds on second read like it could be an attack on myself, i usually restrain myself from sharing the half-baked thoughts. I held one back about something, just today.

There are two things at issue here. The first is that obviously made himself look a foolish hypocrite. That's fine. But the other more important issue is that Mike Richards seems to honestly think that he cares about respect in the league. All I would ask is that upon a little reflection, maybe before the next career he effectively ends, that he think about what that means and whether he himself is living up to the "lofty" standard he pretends to.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Game #18

Flyers Not Used To Not Cheaping-Out Win; Flyers Mad

Details



Date: 16/11/2010
Opponent: Flyers
Location: Montreal

Win: 3-0

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

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri, Plekanec, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: None



Play of the game


I really loved some of the early saves that Price made as I felt that they set the tone for the win. I also liked Lapierre trying to stick up for his mates, Subban backing down from no one and the team playing a pretty version (non-goon) of hockey. The play of the game, however, was the first goal, scored on the PP. My favourite play on the goal was the effort that Kostitsyn put in to win the puck. He used his body and speed to win a puck back and get it to Gionta. Cammalleri finished it off with the type of goal that he had wished he had scored 6 months ago against this dirty squad.



Dome hockey team

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

Andrei Kostitsyn
We'll call this a continuation of Saturday's dome as the 3 forwards are the same as they were 3 days ago. I start with Andrei who was strong throughout the game. He proved that he is tougher than Zherdev and that he can actually do offensive things with the puck. Not bad for a team's token winger from the USSR.

Tomas Plekanec
Mike Richards spends the whole game, every game, yapping about something. Whining, yapping, complaining, crying into Carter's lap are all part of the dynamic centre's repertoire. Plekanec, on the other hand never says a word, he instead lets his play do the talking. Tonight it was a goal and an assist more and one penalty less than Philly's leader.

Brian Gionta
Imagine Claude Giroux focused more on hockey and less on slashing and dirty hits? It would be hard, I guess, to disregard every message from your teammates, coach and management, but I wonder if he would have more than 11 goals if his focus was purely on the finer points of the game. Gionta, our speedy, talented winger, outshot Claude by 4 and scored a goal and added two assists. Amazing what you can accomplish when you play the game.

Defencemen

Hal Gill
A game against Philly (when the refs are present (October-March) at least) means penalties galore. Unfortunately we can be 10x less dirty than them, but will still end up with close to the same amount of PIMs. So, we needed the PK (Kill, not Karl) tonight and at the heart of that was Gill. Of our PK'ers he was the strongest (honourable mentions to Spacek, Gorges and Hammer too) and was the #2 (Price) reason that Philly didn't score during their 16 minutes of PP time.

PK Subban
The NHL code says that you can't be feisty as a rookie or else seasoned (bad) veterans (O'Donnell) will make you pay (do something stupid). Well, we here at LIW hate things like the NHL code and the type of stigma that comes with being an NHL rookie. It looks like we, therefore, have a friend in PK. He isn't afraid to go after 'stars' to hit the 'untouchables' or to mix it up with 'respected veterans' and it is much appreciated. PK was our best defender tonight and by enraging the Flyers so much he almost single-handidly threw them off of their game.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
All of that PP time and the fact that, at their base, Philly is a talented team meant that Carey was busy tonight. In all there were 41 shots to be stopped. Early on it seemed that they were all challenging stops that he was making look easy - it was quite something. All throughout the night I truly believed that he was going to win us this game, never was I nervous when Philly came knocking. When the fans, the team and the goalie all have confidence it seems that wins are made to look easy.


Comments


There are two things that I am reminded of tonight, two things that I hate. The first is that the Flyers are a dirty team that don't seem to have any regard for the safety of other teams' players. Making it worse is the fact that when they are down by a couple of goals things just get dirtier and dirtier and this is how players get hurt and seasons get ruined. The second thing that I hate is that we can make this Philly team look like a joke in mid-November, but come April, when the refs and Philly have decided that we all like the game to be played with no rules or concern for safety, the Habs don't stand a chance against a team that has had 82 games worth of cheapness and cheating practice. After tonight's game, last year's playoffs and the whole Colin Campbell ordeal I am getting tired of this regime, a regime that Philly seems to benefit as much as anyone from. Montreal has a good team that can score and play an exciting game, but a game against Philly leaves us with 2 hits to the head, multiple slashes and a reminder that our team isn't built in that dirty, old-time NHL, manner.

Now, let's focus on the Habs for a minute. This was our first game without Markov and so far, so good. He was missed, but I felt that we adapted well. We may need a little help on D, though as we are now only carrying 6 in the NHL (think Colorado is up for a trade?). Our offence is going, in particular our captain, who now has 11 points, is going. If Price keeps this up and we continue to score 3+ goals a night then I think that it will be another very fun week. I am excited for the game against the Predators, but, for some reason, am really excited to play Toronto on Saturday; time to avenge that opening-night loss!

The Auld Enemy

Flyers Preview

Ever since the Flyers have existed, they have been the enemy of the Montreal Canadiens. The city that was once home to some of the greatest intellectuals the world has seen now has a hockey team that leaves intellectuals cold.

If Montreal builds hockey teams that inspire poetry (maybe not lately), then Philly has always been a tabloid team. The two philosophies may never be reconciled, but when they intersect, it is always interesting. So tonight.


Key match-ups

Montreal goalie vs. Philadelphia shots
No matter the record, the momentum, two of the last three playoff exits happened because Montreal goalies went stone cold when facing Philadelphia shots. Some might dismiss this as simple coincidence, as luck catching up with people. I wonder as Philly locks up another sharpshooting duo, whether it's so simple.


Plekanec vs. Pronger
Plekanec is the best player on the Canadiens. Pronger (given the right refereeing) is the best at his trade. Last playoffs, Plekanec was not his regular season self under the stifling Philly blanket. This game is a chance to prove either a) he has learned from that, or b) refereeing is critical to how this match-up goes.


Picard and Mike Richards
Throwing Picard out against most teams' third lines is a relatively safe bet. You get the match up, you can limit his exposure to true skill. Philly has depth with Carter, Briere and Richards down the middle to go with Giroux (11 goals), Leino, Hartnell, Zherdev and van Riemsdyk. I'm only going by message board lines for Richards, but any third line pair from those 8 poses a challenge.


Price vs. Bobrovsky
The NHL first star of the week and the NHL rookie of the year to date. As Montreal revels in their goaltending choice, Philly may at long last finally be revelling in a good decision at the back end. Bobrovsky brings in a 2.01 and 0.930 in 14 games , so this should be a match-up of two of the hottest so far this year.


Momentum

Montreal had something very good building until that crushing knee collision. With Markov firing, this team was quietly and not so quietly dominating games. Philly has their own, of course. They haven't lost in November (fully) and have scared the league with their out-of-town scoreboard updates. It's two hot teams, tow hot goalies, but only one having to deal with the loss of a keystone player. Advantage Philly on momentum.


Flyers the Habs covet

Claude Giroux
If Pierre Gauthier could have his scouts redo one pick in his tenure, it might be this one. Kostitsyn vs. Carter or Richards, well at least Kostitsyn plays. Mr. High School Hockey vs. Franco-Ontarian QMJHL scoring star, now that's a flub. His 11 goals lead one of the most solid teams in the NHL. Fischer plays for the Florida Everblades...

Andrej Meszaros
The Canadiens have thrown around second round picks like it's nobody's business recently, but they have never made one into a defender like Meszaros. Meszaros is expensive, but he has potential and youth. After this season when Hamrlik, Gill and others depart, starting a stable with someone like Meszaros beside Subban would feel better than say Mathieu Carle.


Habs the Flyers covet

Josh Gorges
The Flyers have names on D, but if they have a weakness it may be there lack of quiet (and cheaper) efficiency. Josh Gorges is what they need to complement their big D.

Carey Price
Bobrovsky or not, the Flyers could use Price. He's more seasoned than the rookie Russian (as they look to contend now) and it wouldn't hurt his skills to practice against the shooters he has most trouble with.


Impact of this result
Both teams at this point will shrug off a loss quite easily. Both teams are just about due. The value of winning in Montreal may be greater due to the playoff hangover and the feeling that the Habs have won against the lesser crowd so far (I don't agree with the latter). The impact of a win for Philly may be the firming up of an Achilles heel for the Montrealers, depending on the result.