Thursday, December 18, 2014

Game 33: Canadiens vs Ducks

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montreal canadiens vs anaheim ducks nhl habs

Match Up

The Canadiens (20-10-2) are home to host the Ducks (21-7-5) and pay tribute to former captain Saku Koivu on Thursday. The game is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and City Montreal.
This is the first of two meetings between the Habs and Ducks this season, and the only one in Montreal. The Canadiens actually managed to beat the top seed of the Western conference in both of their matches last season. Dustin Tokarski backstopped the Canadiens to a 4-3 shootout win in Anaheim with a little help from both posts when he faced Kyle Palmieri in the shootout.
Kyle Palmieri's penalty shot walks the goal line tightrope. Originally posted by @GregBallochST.

What to Watch

Alex Galchenyuk notched his first career hat trick Tuesday night against the Canes, lifting him up to 9 goals and 21 points on the season. Max Pacioretty picked up three primary assists, setting up each of Galchenyuk's goals on Tuesday. Pacioretty now leads the team with 25 points on the year.
Ryan Kesler is having a strong year with his new team, the former Canuck has 11 goals and 26 points in 33 games this season. Ryan Getzlaf leads the way for Anaheim, he has 34 points already this season, eighth overall in the NHL.

What's at Stake

The top of the Atlantic division is getting pretty crowded, with four teams separated by just two points for the division lead. With 42 points apiece, the Canadiens and Red Wings are sandwiched in between the Lightning at 43 and the Maple Leafs at 41.

Who's Out

Sven Andrighetto has been sent back to Hamilton after a fairly successful four-game stint with the Habs. Lars Eller (upper body), Mike Weaver (concussion) and Bryan Allen (illness) have all returned to practice and are cleared for contact, the trio should be available to play Thursday if needed.
Kyle Palmieri (shoulder) is the latest Duck to go down with injury, leaving Tuesday's game against the Leafs. He joins Corey Perry (knee), Francois Beauchemin (finger) and Eric Brewer (foot) on the sidelines.

What Else

Saku Koivu played with the Canadiens from 1995 to 2009, he wore the "C" for ten seasons starting in 1999. Koivu played 792 games in bleu blanc et rouge, scoring 641 points, tenth most in team history, and 450 assists, ranking him sixth all-time amongst Canadiens.
Of course, Koivu's most memorable moment in a Canadiens uniform came on April 9, 2002. He was diagnosed with cancer in September of 2001 and spent almost the entire season receiving treatment before returning on the third to last game of the season, receiving one of the largest ovations in team history. Koivu then led the team to an improbable playoff series win against the top-seeded Boston Bruins.

The Question Mark

Apart from Koivu's return after beating cancer, what other moment in his career stands out for you?

Tonight's Show

Join host Steven Hindle along with Kosta Papoulias and Rob Elbaz for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show as we go live at 6:30 Thursday to preview the Canadiens and the Ducks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sven Is In The Ghetto

Called up on December 5th to replace Lars Eller, who is out with a shoulder injury, Sven Andrighetto didn't wait to make an impact, recording a point in each of his first three NHL games (2 goals and 1 assist). The 21-year-old native of Zurich, Switzerland is currently playing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Jiri Sekac

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Andrighetto is the first Habs player to record to record at least a point in each of his first three NHL games since Pierre Mondou accomplished the feat in 1977-78. 

Andrighetto, a 5-foot-9, 183-pound forward who played two seasons in the QMJHL with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies before the Canadiens drafted him, was enjoying a solid sophomore season with the team's AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, prior to his call-up.

In 21 games with the Bulldogs, the speedy winger/center had recorded 9 goals and 9 assists for 18 points and +1 rating under the tutelage of head coach Sylvain Lefebvre, The season before, Andrighetto had potted 17 goals and 27 assists for 44 points in 64 games with Hamilton, good for second among the team's forwards. 

Andrighetto, who was selected in the third round (86th overall) of the 2013 NHL draft after being passed over twice at the draft, is quite happy to find himself in the NHL right now. Still, the young European doesn't take anything for granted and savors every moment he spends with the team that drafted him and believed in him.

Read the article I wrote on Sven more than two years ago before people knew him. Sven Andrighetto: The Next Undrafted Gem

If we look at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the only other player drafted outside of the first round to play more than one NHL game is Anthony Duclair of the New York Rangers (7 points in 18 games). Luckily for Habs fans, as opposed to Duclair, Andrighetto is not eligible for the U20 World Championship Tournament since he is 21 years old.

Andrighetto is part of a new generation of Swiss players who are enjoying tremendous success in the NHL along with the likes of youngsters Nino Niederreiter and Sven Baertschi. He is also the fifth Helvetian athlete to play for the Canadiens after David Aebischer, Mark Streit, Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz.

Both Andrighetto and rookie Jiri Sekac give plenty of credit to veteran Tomas Plekanec for their success as he has been a very good role model and mentor for the kids. The fact that Plekanec is used to help younger players has helped the two rookies to gain confidence and take chances offensively as they know the veteran center will have their back if they commit a turnover. 

While he is currently enjoying tremendous success at the NHL level, Andrighetto is not a lock to remain with the Bleu Blanc Rouge for the rest of the year as Lars Eller is slated to return to the line-up around Christmas, and maybe even earlier. Eller's presence would create a logjam in the Habs' top nine, which means Andrighetto could very well be the odd man out. 

Let's hope that Andrighetto doesn't turn into the next Cory Conacher, another small winger who was off to a stellar start (24 points in 35 games) in 2012-13 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, before being shipped out to the Ottawa Senators for lanky G Ben Bishop. Since the trade, Conacher has played 106 games with the Senators, Sabres and Islanders, recording only 10 goals and 24 helpers for 34 points with a +4 rating. Earlier this week, the Islanders waived him and he was not claimed by the 29 other teams...

The moral of the story is that while Andrighetto is enjoying much success right now, it doesn't mean he will turn into the next Pavel Bure. Keep your hopes not too high Habs fans and enjoy the Swiss wave while it lasts.

Do you think Marc Bergevin should make room up front so that Sven can remain with the big club?

Follow me on Twitter for more updates on the Habs and hockey in general.

Game 32: Canadiens vs Hurricanes

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Habs Vs Canes

Match Up

The Canadiens (19-10-2) are home to host the Hurricanes (8-18-3) Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, for the third match in their five-game homestand. The game is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and Sportsnet East.

This is the first of three meetings between the Habs and Canes, and the first of two in Montreal. Last season, the Habs went 2-0-1 against the Hurricanes. The team lost 5-4 in overtime after blowing a 3-0 third period lead. Jeff Skinner had two goals and an assist to spark the Canes' comeback.

What to Watch

Jiri Sekac scored a pair of goals in Montreal's 6-2 win over the Kings, giving him four points in the last three games and his first multi-goal game in the NHL. PK Subban scored a goal and added a pair of assists Friday as well, bringing him up to 22 on the season. Sven Andrighetto still has a point in every NHL game he's played after scoring his second career goal and third point.

The Hurricanes have lost five in a row, sending the team crashing to the bottom of the league standings tied with the Edmonton Oilers. The Hurricanes don't have a single player with a positive plus/minus rating who's played over 15 games this season. Justin Faulk the team's leading scorer with 17 points is also a team worst -15.

What's at Stake

Depending on how their division rivals do on Tuesday, the Canadiens have a chance to end up anywhere from first in the division, if they earn a win and Detroit and Tampa don't, to fourth, if the Leafs win their game and the Habs lose to the Canes.

Who's Out

Lars Eller (upper body) is nearing a return but won't be back in time for Tuesday. Mike Weaver (concussion) is also working toward a return, as is Bryan Allen (flu).

The Hurricanes are missing Jordan Staal (leg), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body) and Alexander Semin (lower body). Jiri Tlusty (undisclosed) missed Saturday's game against the Flyers but could be ready to return on Tuesday.

What Else

Montreal's new look line-up is expected to stay intact for at least one more game, giving Alex Galchenyuk another opportunity to show what he can do at center on the team's top line. Despite not picking up a point in the two games he's played in the role so far, Galchenyuk has not looked out of place in the role. David Desharnais meanwhile, looked pretty good between new linemates P.A. Parenteau and Michael Bournival, picking up a goal against the Kings.

The Question Mark

What for you has been the Habs highlight of the season so far and which player are you most excited to watch each game?

Tonight's Show

Join host Steven Hindle along with Kosta Papoulias and Rob Elbaz for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show as we go live at 6:30 to preview the Canadiens and Hurricanes.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Game 31 - Canadiens vs Kings

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montreal canadiens vs los angeles kings

Match Up

The Canadiens (18-10-2) are home host to the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings (15-9-5) Friday night at the Bell Centre. The match is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and Sportsnet East.

This is the first of two games between the Habs and Kings this year, and the only one in Montreal. The Kings took both games last season, a 2-1 win in L.A. and a 6-0 victory in Montreal. PK Subban scored the only Canadiens goal against the Kings last year, while L.A. defenseman Jake Muzzin had goals in both games.

What to Watch

Alex Galchenyuk played his first full game of the year at center on Tuesday, and while he didn't record any points, his line opened the scoring when Brendan Gallagher beat Ryan Miller with a hard wrist shot. Sven Andrighetto picked up his second NHL point in his second NHL game, an assist on Tomas Plekanec's ninth goal of the year.

That 70's Line is the trio to watch for the Kings. The line of Jeff CarterTyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson has combined for 28 goals in 29 games this season, making them one of the most productive in the league. Jonathan Quick started for the Kings in Ottawa on Thursday, so look for Martin Jones to get the call on Friday.

What's at Stake

After a tough stretch the Canadiens are down to third in the Atlantic Division behind the Lightning and Red Wings. A win on Friday would help the Canadiens turn a much needed corner and put them back on track in the race for the division title.

Who's Out

Lars Eller (upper body) could miss much of this Canadiens homestand, but should be ready to return around the time it is wrapping up. Mike Weaver (concussion) is out indefinitely, while Bryan Allen (mumps) and PK Subban are battling an illness and may be forced to miss Friday's game.

The Kings are only missing Slava Voynov, who has been suspended indefinitely as a result of his arrest related to domestic abuse. 

What Else

Home ice has been good to the Canadiens so far this season. In 14 games the team boasts a 10-3-1 record at Bell Centre, taking 21 of a possible 28 points. The team has scored 44 goals on home ice this year, an average of 3.14 goals per game. That's a big difference from the 1.81 goals a game they are averaging on the road.

The Question Mark

Is Alex Galchenyuk ready for the pressure of playing top-line minutes?

Tonight's Show

Join Steve Hindle along with Corey Collard and Kosta Papoulias as they bring you the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show live at 6:30 on Friday to preview the Canadiens and the Kings.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Therrien Changes The Lines But For How Long?

Greetings Habs Addicts!

Well, it took another lacklustre effort, this time against the Dallas Stars on Saturday before Michel Therrien finally did the unthinkable: He surgically removed David Desharnais from Max Pacioretty's hip and replaced him with Alex Galchenyuk.

Now Habs fans have been clamouring for a Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Brendan Gallagher combination for a while now and they finally had a chance to see it in action - albeit briefly - in the third period of what had been a non-competitive game up until that point. The Stars went on to win the game 4-1, but the Canadiens showed signs of life in the period. The second change Therrien made was moving Tomas Plekanec onto a line with  Jiri Sekac and Sven Andrighetto, who scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.

Photo Credit:
The big question going into Tuesday's home game against the Vancouver Canucks is whether or not we will see a full game of these line combinations or if Therrien the juggler will switch things up again. Building chemistry takes some time and Therrien never likes to take time and see how things develop. Instant results or see you later seems to be his mantra. Unless you're Desharnais, in which case you remain with Pacioretty regardless of the circumstances.

Until Saturday night.

Alex Galchenyuk is a natural centerman who has not had the opportunity to play the position on a consistent basis. Arguably, if Lars Eller had not gotten injured, he would probably still be toiling on the wing. Galchenyuk has the best stick skills on the team. Pacioretty may be a natural goal scorer, but Galchenyuk has the skills and vision to create scoring chances and put the puck in the net. With space in the middle and an opportunity to produce, he should be able to feed the sniper with some creative passes and give the diminutive Brendan Gallagher a chance to clean up the rebounds in front of the net. There is no reason why this trio cannot all score 20+ goals before the season is over. Provided they stay together. And how long they stay together is the million dollar question.

Michel Therrien's coaching decisions have been less than stellar this season. He has been a far cry from the coach who came in during the lockout and changed the losing culture in Montreal. Last year showed some regression across the board in many categories aside from their overall record, at least until the playoffs came along. He abandoned the puck possession approach that worked during the lockout-shortened season in favor for a dump-and-chase approach and it did not work. Then he went back to puck possession during the playoffs and they had the magical run to the Eastern Conference Finals. This year he reverted back to his favored dump-and-chase approach and the team is floundering from a lack of scoring, a lack of discipline and this time there is no Thomas Vanek lingering on the trading block to come in and save the season again. Off-season acquisition P.A. Parenteau has been disappointing so far, with only 6 goals and 11 points in 29 games and David Desharnais needs to have his play called out by mayor Denis Coderre again as his two goals and 15 points in 29 games is terrible for a player who averages over 17 minutes per game on the top line and top power-play unit. Therrien finally separated him from Pacioretty on Saturday, which may be a blessing in disguise for the Habs offense.

Jiri Sekac spent a chunk of time in the press-box until Marc Bergevin dealt away Travis Moen and Rene Bourque to essentially force Therrien's hand to play the touted rookie. Aligned with Lars Eller and Brandon Prust, Sekac responded by putting up 8 points in 16 games of third line minutes after his press box vacation. With Eller going down with an injury, Sekac finished the game with fellow countryman Plekanec and Hamilton Bulldogs prospect Sven Andrighetto. There is a lot of talent and speed on this line. Plekanec is also defensively responsible, which should recover some of the rookie mistakes his line-mates may make as the season progresses. A smart Therrien should allow this line an opportunity to be creative with the puck. All three have tremendous stick skills and following a dump-and-chase mantra would be a waste of their skills and play away from their strengths. But alas, it is Therrien logic that ultimately decides how things play out.

Therrien appeared to see the light in Dallas. He saw the need to take some chances and make the changes that he was unwilling to make to this point. He created two line combinations that have the talent and ability to dominate a puck-possession game and put the puck in the net. If he can find a way to adapt his strategies to exploit the strengths of these two line combinations and give them the patience and time to develop some chemistry, he may have solved the scoring woes and save the season. The 17-10-2 record is misleading, as the Habs have failed to generate any offense in the first period of games and often have to rally late to win the games. This resilience is a testament to a never-quit attitude but not the recipe for success at the NHL level. If he decides to revert back to his previous ideas and force these talent trios to dump the puck and chase after it, we can expect to go 3-6-1 in the next ten games too.

The choice on how your season plays out is all yours, Michel. Choose wisely.

Nick Malofy is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

Game 30 - Canadiens vs Canucks

#MTLHockey Preview

montreal canadiens vs vancouver canucks nhl

Match Up

The Canadiens (17-10-2) return home for the first time this month to host the Canucks (18-8-2) Tuesday night. The game is set to start at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS, Sportsnet East and Sportsnet Pacific.
This is the second and final meeting between the Habs and Canucks this season, the Canadiens took advantage of two late goals the first time these teams met to salvage a point in a 3-2 overtime loss. Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined in OT for the game winning goal.

What to Watch

For the first time this season Max Pacioretty won't line up next to David Desharnais at the start of the this game. Instead, Alex Galchenyuk will center the top line, a position many Habs fans expect the 20 year old to fill for many seasons to come. Galchenyuk has six goals and 18 points on the season, putting him behind just Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec for the team lead at 20.
The twins are once against leading the Canucks in scoring, but newcomers Radim Vrbata and Nick Bonino have been pitching in regularly as well. Vrbata with 12 goals and 23 points in 26 games is on pace for a career year, his previous best is 62 points with the Coyotes.

What's at Stake

The Canadiens have gone 1-5-1 in their last seven, crashing down the standings the Eastern conference along the way. The Habs are at the start of a five game homestand that will take them close to Christmas. They can recover some ground over the next two weeks and starting the stay off with a win will help their cause.

Who's Out

Lars Eller (shoulder) is out indefinitely for the Habs. Mike Weaver suffered a concussion Saturday night in Dallas and could miss significant time as well. The good news for Montreal is that Michael Bournival is healthy and expected to make his return to the line-up on Tuesday.
The Canucks are without Dan Hamhuis (lower body) and Zach Kassian (finger). Shawn Matthias (head) missed the last Canukcs last game against the Senators Sunday and may not be ready to play Tuesday either.

What Else

Jean Beliveau has been lying in state at the Bell Centre Sunday and Monday prior to his state funeral on Wednesday, and the Canadiens organization will have their chance to say goodbye before Tuesday's game. Member's of the Canadiens from throughout the years have paid their respects to the legend.

The Question Mark

With five home games to play including matches against the Kings and Ducks, how many points would you be satisfied with in this homestand?

Tonight's Show

Join myself Rob Elbaz along with Corey Collard and Kosta Papoulias for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show as we go live at 6:30 to preview the Canadiens and the Canucks.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Reasons Michel Therrien Is Failing The Grade... Again

Similar to last season, but after 29 games and a 17-10-2 this time, the Montreal Canadiens have seen their first place overall in the NHL evaporate due to poor play in recent weeks, going 3-6-1 in their last ten games and failing to win consistently, especially on the road.
First in the NHL not a long time ago, the Canadiens are now ranked 11th in the league with only a seven-point lead of the ninth place Florida Panthers who have four games in hand on the Habs...
Let’s see 10 reasons why Michel Therrien needs to change his way of coaching or to be fired if GM Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson have any hopes to see their team make the playoffs this season.
1. The slow starts almost every game: the Canadiens have scored only NINE GOALS in the first period, good for last place in the NHL. At the same time, the team is 6th in the league with 26 goals allowed in the first frame for a goal differential of -18 in the first period. -18! You cannot give up the lead every game and expect to win every time. Therrien just can't seem to prepare his team correctly. The Canadiens are the only playoff team with a negative goal differential this season (-2).
2. His ingrained man-crush on David Desharnais. While I like David as a person, Therrien needs to stop giving him every chance to succeed and remove him from Max Pacioretty's line. The diminutive pivot has only one even-strength goal this season and two in 29 games. He only has 15 points overall and is currently on pace for a mere 42 points over a full season. Despite his lack of offensive production, the head coach keeps giving him first power play duties as well as plenty of ice time. In Dallas, Desharnais played a season-low 14:43 minutes... that's not what I call "benching".
3. His consistent use of veterans such as Bryan Allen, Mike Weaver or Tom Gilbert over youngsters Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi. The two young defensemen are currently playing in the AHL while the above veterans keep making mistake after mistake. The same happened up front with Rene Bourque and Travis Moen who had to be traded by Marc Bergevin so that rookie Jiri Sekac could draw into the line-up every night. 
4. His constant line juggling and questionable decisions regarding his offensive lines and defensive duos. For example, Therrien keeps pairing two righties together in Gilbert and Weaver, while he sticks two lefties together in Gonchar and Emelin. His constant use of grinder Dale Weise on a line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty is comical at best. 
5. His affinity for a dump-and-chase style of play with a passive forecheck is not working. Because of the small size of the club’s forwards, the Habs would be better suited to adopt a west-east approach instead of a north-south strategy that is simply not working. The team needs to penetrate the offensive zone with the puck instead of dumping it and failing to retrieve it. The Habs need to forecheck with two forwards and use their speed to create turnovers in the offensive zone instead of letting the opposing teams come out of their zone too easily and enter the neutral zone without any pressure.
6. The utilization of natural center Alex Galchenyuk on the wing, even though players like Lars Eller and David Desharnais have struggled mightily at times. We finally saw Chucky at center last game due to the injury to Eller, but we can bet he will be back on the left wing for the contest against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
7. Poor defensive positioning had led to numerous scoring chances from the opposing teams and if it were not for Carey Price’s and Dustin Tokarski's stellar play, the Canadiens would have a far worse record. The defensemen have a hard time making a good first pass, often icing the puck because of an inaccurate pass or clearing the puck by the boards with the wingers having no real opportunity to catch the pass and make a clear exit of the defensive zone. The team is so discombobulated in the defensive zone that the opponents have been able to take advantage of this flaw.
8. The indiscipline of the team: while the Canadiens are 28th in the league with only 76 power play opportunities, and converting them at a dismal 14.5% rate, the team is 29th in the NHL with 105 penalty kill situations so far. Luckily for Therrien, his PK unit is doing the job, killing 83.8% of the penalties good for 11th overall. The team's penalty ratio is a pedestrian -31 differential on the season, a big reason why the club is in a downward spiral at the moment.
Therrien is clueless most of the time.
Therrien is clueless most of the time.
9. The inability to adjust the power play units after the early season failure. The solution is quite simple as the team needs to use movement and quick passes to free up Subban and his lethal one-timer to have any kind of success. I analysed the situation a few weeks ago here.
10. His inability to adapt during games and to match up his lines, especially at home where he is supposed to have the advantage with the last change. We have often seen the Canadiens get caught with their fourth line on the ice while the opponent’s first line jumps on the ice; situations that often led to a goal.
Below you will find the Habs’ expected lines for Tuesday’s match-up against the Canucks:
Max Pacioretty – Alex Galchenyuk – Brendan Gallagher
Sven Andrighetto – Tomas Plekanec – Jiri Sekac
Michael Bournival – Deavid Desharnais – P-A Parenteau
Brandon Prust – Manny Malhotra – Dale Weise
Extra: Eric Tangradi
Once again I am puzzled at the hockey decisions made by Michel Therrien and his coaching staff.
As for the defensive pairings, nobody has a clue what the duos will be and who is going to play or be scratched since both Bryan Allen and Mike Weaver seem to be injured and the team has yet to call up another defenseman from Hamilton…
It sounds like Therrien is quickly losing his dressing room as a result of poor decisions this season… 
Is it time to panic in Montreal, or it's simply a bump in the road?