Week: 27/12/15 - 02/01/16
Opponent: Lightening, Panthers, Bruins
Locations: Tampa Bay, Miami, Foxboro
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
Tomas PlekanecTomas 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 PaciorettyMax 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.
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 SubbanWhen 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 PaterynHe 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 CondonA 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.
CommentsThe 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.