Monday, January 04, 2016

New Year's Resol(ve)ution

Week: 27/12/15 - 02/01/16
Opponent: Lightening, Panthers, Bruins
Locations: Tampa Bay, Miami, Foxboro
Record: 2-1

Habs Goalies: Condon 1-0-1, Scrivens 0-1-0
Opposition Goalies: Bishop, Luongo, Rask

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec (2), Galchenyuk, Weise, Pacioretty (2), Descharnais, Byron (2), Gallagher
Habs playmakers: Petry, Andrighetto, Descharnais, Pacioretty (2), Subban (2), Markov, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Plekanec, Weise, Beaulieu, Flynn, Barberio, Emelin

Play of the week

Over the last week there's been a few things to talk about.  The fact that the worst month in Canadiens Hockey history has come to an end might be a good one.  An absolutely abysmal month of December has entered the record books and has hopefully come to an end with Montreal posting a (2-1-0) record this past week.  It could be the loss of gritty forward Dale Weise for a couple of weeks just as we get one back.  It could be Mike Condon potentially returning to his early season form, playing a major factor in a win in Tampa Bay.  Maybe it's Michel Therrien reverting back to a line up that saw success during the first two months of the season.  It could have been either of the deft hand eye coordination goals scored against the Bruins as forwards batting pucks out of the air past a hapless Tuukka Rask.  Instead I will go with the return of a player who scored one of the goals in question and who's return was the catalyst in Therrien reverting back to the lines that brought us so much success in October and November.  Yes, Brendan Gallagher could be THAT important to the Canadiens.  His return to the lineup meant a return to a lineup that we were all familiar and comfortable with.  The style of hockey he helps the Canadiens play, perhaps, better than no other player, saw the Canadiens run roughshod over the Bruins with him chipping in for a goal and an assist himself.  Santa was a week late bringing Gallagher back to us but better late than never.

Dome hockey team

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


Tomas Plekanec

Tomas had a pretty solid week in the faceoff circle going 37/64 (57.8%) and squaring off against some pretty solid centermen, Patrice Bergeron being most notable.  On top of that and his ever present two way game, Tomas had 2 goals and an assist in the three games this week.

Max Pacioretty

Max puts up points.  Rain or shine, win or lose, Max is our offensive leader.  There's, of course, a good argument for Brendan Gallagher after this week but it's Max who has brushed up against 40 goals two years running and it's Max who leads by example in the offensive end.  He cycles well and has an understanding of where to be to receive quality passes and increase his shooting percentage.  This week was no different.  2 goals and 2 assists are just another week at the office for Patches.

Brendan Gallagher

A lot of guys could be here to round things out.  Galchenyuk contributed well.  Byron was hot against the bruins.  Weise was getting his nose dirty.  Even Eller, who is becoming a true power forward with a real physical presence wouldn't be that much of a stretch but it was Gallagher's return that sparked the return of the November Canadiens.  In his first game back he potted one and added a helper against a hated rival.  Brendan, apparently just needs to be in the lineup to change how the entire team plays.  What more do you want from a Dome player?


PK Subban

When he is good he is very, very good but when he is bad he is horrid.  Perhaps he is victim of his own fame.  That is, he is more scrutinized than most so his mistakes are often highlighted to an unfair level.  Perhaps.  Against the Tampa Bay Lightening PK was very, very good.  An assist, coupled with 3 blocked shots, 4 hits, and 5 shots on goal is not too shabby.  Another assist against the Bruins and we've got a decent week.  Then his 9 penalty minutes against Florida remind us of the tale of two Subbans.  Still, he factored heavily in the two wins so if we're looking to win in the Dome, and we are, we'll need Subban on his "A" game.

Greg Pateryn

He doesn't add much offensively and that's being generous but he's a responsible defensive defenseman.  He's big, tough and blocks shots (a combined 6 in the two games in Florida).  He put his body on the line 6 times and in this day and age with howitzers rocketing off practically everyone's composite stick, that's no small feat (just ask Gallagher).


Mike Condon

A shootout win and a regulation win in Mike's two starts were enough to put him in the Dome.  That and I don't think I'm ready to put in a guy who didn't even make the Maple Leafs.  Mike also stopped 63 of 67 shots over both of those games for a 0.940 save percentage.  As long as Mike plays like this, Price can take his time getting back.


The bad news is Montreal went 1/8 on the power play.  17.5% on the power play this past week is nothing to write home about.  It's below their season mark of 18.8%; a mark heavily inflated by their early season success.  I've said it before; special teams reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the coaches and I'm not convinced Therrien can fix this on his own.  On a better note, the penalty kill went 10/12 (83.3%) which keeps them in the top 10 but is again lower than their current mark of 84.8% (also inflated  by early season success).  They cannot limp into the playoffs with special teams like this and expect to go anywhere.  Therrien needs to have a serious look at what he's doing here.  Perhaps the return of Gallagher and to the lines that were working will see something similar regarding the special teams.

Another positive from last week is that Montreal is scoring first again.  All three games saw Montreal pot one before their opposition.  For a lot of December, Montreal was playing catch up.  It's not a fun game.  Oppositions tighten up and greater risks need to be taken in order to score.  These risks leave the team open to more opposition scoring opportunities and often times more goals.  This vicious cycle is not a game any team, contender or otherwise, wants to play.  These first goals are an important step to Montreal getting back on track.

So what did we learn last week?  That a return to the lineup used in October/November was a good idea.  I don't think there's a Habs fan out there who didn't have that deduced long ago, but was it really just a case of missing players?  Did the lines need to be shuffled to the point that they were?  Weren't we better off leaving as much of the original lines in place as we could?  Did Therrien really need to put on his experimenter's smock the way he did in most of December?  Are the Habs really that dependent on Brendan Gallagher for their offense and ultimately their ability to win?  I've heard more than one hockey analyst point to this and maybe it's true.  I am of a different opinion.  This is not the first time Therrien has done his Vegas dealer's impersonation by shuffling the lineup on a nightly basis.  The original line set up had the benefit of preseason games and training camp to learn to gel together and, save for Semin, they all did so nicely.  The sans Gallagher lineup would, logically, need some time to figure each other out as well.  If you recall, it was only two losses into the abysmal Gallagher-less run that the shuffling began.  I don't think a coach comfortable in his skin does that.

To further my point, Andrei Markov was relegated to the third pairing.  The man who has played 929 games in the NHL, all for the blue, white, and red; the man who has 523 NHL points was shouldered with blame for a loss and unceremoniously dropped to the third pairing.  Montreal was stinking but Markov was just another in a long line of players who were playing subpar.  To put Nathan Beauloieu up with PK is a recipe for disaster.  Now I have touted Nate's skill and potential all year, but Nate plays the same game as PK, high risk, high reward, and to put them both on the same line will either light up the opposition's lamp... or our own.  To move Nate up and relegate Markov doesn't seem to be the well thought maneuver of a quality, seasoned coach and yet it is something our coach did.

Perhaps I'm hard on Therrien.  Maybe this is a stroke of genius.  Markov has seen his better days behind him for sure.  There's no question that at 37, our all star defenseman and alternate captain is in the twilight of his career.  No longer is he the deft puck moving defenseman racking up the points (although he still has quite a few) or the workhorse shouldering the minutes.  That mantle has been passed to PK Subban.  Markov is in the second year of a three year/$17.25 million contract.  It's unlikely that at 38 he'll factor much into the Canadiens future once his contract expires.  It is also more than likely that Subban's athleticism is covering for the aging blueliner as he begins to slow and falter.  Montreal has great depth on the blueline with Beaulieu showing that he didn't look out of place up with Subban and Emelin/Petry being as solid of a second pair that you'll find.  Montreal has a wealth of defenseman that can easily fill into the third pairing, so why not use Markov while he still has perceived value.  Markov can still move the puck and that's as much of a commodity as a scoring forward.  Perhaps a package deal for Steve Stamkos or something for Jonathan Drouin could be put on the table.  The great Montreal teams of old usually knew when to trade an aging star to reap some return value from him.  Does Marc Bergevin have the savvy of the GMs of old?  I hope so.



  1. Remember the days when no Markov meant much panic? Depth is nice now, on D.

    Didn't the injured players force therrien's hand with lines? I say that wishing he had kept desharnais with weisse and fleischmann, though.

    Nice to have this blog back. Jay, would be helpful if you put the score or result next to the week's games played.

  2. I will keep that in mind the next time I do a summary. I am experimenting with formatting to try and find balance between enough to keep readers interested and a work load that is manageable. I will get the scores in the next time I do a summary.

    I believe injuries forced Therrien's hand to a degree but I'm not convinced there needed to be as much tinkering as there was.

    And yes, when they decided to show up and play, our D-core can be impressive.