Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to fix Habs' 2nd line, Pat Burns funeral, World Juniors and more...

News
HabsAddict.com - He Said/She Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line?
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/he-saidshe-said-what-should-habs-do-to.html

He Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line?
http://aa.habsaddict.com/2010/11/he-said-what-should-habs-do-to-fix.html

She Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line?
http://aa.habsaddict.com/2010/11/she-said-what-should-habs-do-to-fix.html

Habs Inside/Out - Bleeding for a very good cause
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40566

Habs Future
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40564

A sad day in Montreal
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40567

RDS - Le Tricolore souhaite être plus constant
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310716.html

CH : la rondelle roule enfin pour Gionta
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310701.html

Burns a marqué l'histoire du Canadien
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310726.html

THN.com Blog: Canadian world junior squad light on star power, heavy on depth
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36722-THNcom-Blog-Canadian-world-junior-squad-light-on-star-power-heavy-on-depth.html

ESPN.com - Power Rankings: Hawks, Pens on the rise
http://espn.go.com/nhl/powerrankings

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America)

Monday, November 29, 2010

He Said/She Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line?

by Kamal Panesar

It's that time again Habs addicts! Time for another installment of He Said/She Said.

There are so many storylines swirling around the Montreal Canadiens and in this edition, Tyg and Willey tackle the subject of Scott Gomez.

With only seven points (2G, 5A) in 25 games, the Habs most highly paid player is hardly getting it done. Moreover, he seems to suck any productivity out of any winger who has the misfortune of playing on his wing.

So, what should the Habs do about it?

Here is what Tyg and Willey had to say:

He Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line? by Willey
http://aa.habsaddict.com/2010/11/he-said-what-should-habs-do-to-fix.html

She Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line? by Tyg
http://aa.habsaddict.com/2010/11/she-said-what-should-habs-do-to-fix.html

So what do you think the Habs should do? Let them both know!

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

She Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line?

by Tyg

Although the Montreal Canadiens continue to hang out at the top of their division, there’s still a situation that remains unresolved as they get ready to face some pretty tough opponents in December. I’m talking about the glaring hole that’s still evident on the second line, which Head Coach Jacques Martin has thus far taken to filling with third and fourth line grinders.

While Scott Gomez’s play as the line’s centerman has left a lot to be desired, he is not entirely to blame for this line’s current ineffectiveness. Without a legitimate second winger, this line is very easy for opposing defenders to shut down.

Gomez is primarily a playmaker, and does not tally goals like first line pivot, Tomas Plekanec. With only one finisher available on his line to make plays, opposing teams need only pressure Gomez, cover the winger, and all but ignore the line’s grinder, who is hardly a scoring threat.

To their credit, the Habs have jumped off to a strong start this season despite what I perceive to be a noticeable disadvantage. However I’d like it fixed sooner than later, so here’s my usual attempt at playing armchair GM.

In making my own choice, I’d like to go over the options I see available to Pierre Gauthier and assess them independently.


Benoit Pouliot

Acquired in exchange for Guillaume Latendresse, Pouliot got off to a great start on a line with Gomez and Brian Gionta. He’s still young though, and with a coach like Martin his defensive play left a lot to be desired. He also seemed to lack consistent focus and effort as well, which directly hindered his production.

This season Martin has him playing wing on the third line instead, largely with Mathieu Darche and either Lars Eller or Jeff Halpern as the centerman. I’ve taken the Habs head coach to task over his handling of young players in the past, but this move has done nothing but benefit Pouliot.

Pouliot still has moments where he’s not as engaged or defensive as he should be, but they are more the exception than the rule now. Playing with two solid and determined veterans has rubbed off on Pouliot in a good way, and though he’s been playing a lot with Eller now as well, I’d still choose to leave Pouliot where he is unless I had no other choice.

Along with Eller, Pouliot also brings an added scoring threat to the Habs third line. Since this team usually has trouble scoring outside of the top two lines, I think that’s a strong bonus as well.


Lars Eller

Initially I wanted Eller on the second wing to start the year. It would have meant more minutes for the rookie, who has at times spent a lot of the game watching from the bench. Like Pouliot, he has the necessary skill set to be a second line winger. However it is hard to ignore Eller’s recent growth as a centerman.

He continues to flourish and gain confidence every game, to the point where’s he managed to pilfer Halpern’s wingers. I like the idea of Eller on the second line, but for now I’d leave him anchoring the third line just like Jacques Martin has chosen to do.

I’m not a big believer in tinkering with things that aren’t broken, and currently the third line isn’t broken.


Max Pacioretty

After playing 21 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Pacioretty currently has 11 goals and 14 assists for a sizzling 25 points. Of all the prospects the Habs currently have in their system, he is the call-up I would choose. But he would still be my second choice to fill the slot.

Regardless of whether or not it was overblown in the press, Pacioretty did state that he would prefer to play the season in Hamilton rather than be relegated to third or fourth line ice time in Montreal. And with a cautious and defense-first coach like Jacques Martin, I just don’t see him getting this slot.

I think the only way this kid gets called up is if Yannick Weber is sent back down, Pouliot is elevated to the second line, and Pacioretty becomes the third line’s new winger. And I really only expect that to happen if Andrei Markov is not gone for the season, and the Habs remain tight against the cap.


Trade

This is really only going to happen if Andrei Markov is out for the rest of the year and his salary comes off of the cap. It would mean about six million dollars with which Pierre Gauthier could not only shop for a much needed winger, but also a defenseman to help shore up the blueline.

I do think that in assessing which forward is possible, it’s important to point out that I believe precedence will be given to acquiring a defenseman, and for this I’ve heard names like Tomas Kaberle or Kevin Bieksa thrown around. While I’m not adverse to either suggestion, they both represent a large chunk of the available cap space.

That would naturally limit which forward Gauthier could realistically trade prospects or picks for, and still afford. It’s hard for me to drop a name regardless. We’re nowhere near close to the trade deadline, and there’s no telling how much money Gauthier will choose to spend on a forward.

Still, I do think this is the option I would choose to pursue, rather than break apart the first or third lines again or continue to use a third or fourth liner. I’d probably trade for a defender who can routinely relieve Roman Hamrlik or Jaroslav Spacek, and then spend what I have left on a legitimate winger.

I could go on and on about which forward I would choose and why, but really it would just be a guess based on internet gossip and personal preference. Absolutely essential on my shopping list though are size, speed, skill and net presence.

So which option would you choose? Would you choose to use Pouliot or Eller? Would you call up Pacioretty or a different prospect to plug the hole? Or would you choose to make a trade also?


Read the He Said counter point.

---
Tyg used to frequent the old Forum during her early childhood when her father was a corporate season ticket holder, where she fell in love with Larry Robinson, so her lifelong obsession with the Habs is entirely his fault.

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

He Said: What Should the Habs Do to Fix the Second Line?

by Willey

It is one quarter of the way into the 2010 NHL season and the Montreal Canadiens appear to be building off of their strong playoff run. It was a playoff run that saw them make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Finals.

The Habs currently to sit atop the Northeast Division and have thus far proved once again to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, along the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals.

As a team, the Habs find themselves among the leaders in goals against, on the penalty kill and for the first time in quite a few years, five-on-five scoring.

Individually, Carey Price is among the top five in the entire NHL in wins, shutouts, save percentage, goals against average and believe it or not points among goaltenders.

Our defensive core, despite losing it's best player in Andrei Markov to what looks like a season ending injury, continue to do a splendid job shutting down the opposition to the point where they are the only team who are yet to give up more than three goals in a game.

Offensively the number one line consisting of Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Brian Gionta are firing on all cylinders, propelling us to victory after victory. In addition, both our third and fourth lines have provided timely goal scoring and a defensive presence whenever called upon to do so.


What to do with the "malaise de Scott Gomez!"

Despite the success of the team as a whole, there remains a gaping hole in what is supposed to be our second line; the unit consisting of Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Travis Moen.

I don’t know about you, but I'm a big fan of Travis Moen. Unfortunately for him and for this team however, he is not a second line player.

Yes he is a big strong Saskatchewan boy who does all the little things right, but Travis has at no point of either his junior or pro career scored more than 11 goals in a season. Moreover, as an NHLer he has a career best of just 21 points in one season.

How can we justify placing our two highest paid players on the same line with a career fourth liner and expect the unit to gel and succeed. Simply put, they cannot.

If this team wants to take themselves from a good team who can play against anyone in this league; to a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup then the second line needs to be addressed and quickly.

The million dollar question, Part I, is how do we fix it?

The way I see it, Pierre Gauthier has three options. Either we continue to shuffle the lines until we find the right combination; we make a call up for a player playing in the AHL or we bring in a person to fill that roll via trade or UFA signing.


Shuffle the Deck

Let me throw out a little question: What do Michael Cammalleri, Benoit Pouliot, Mathieu Darche, Tom Pyatt, Andrei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta, Travis Moen and Maxim Lapierre all have in common?

This is the list of wingers that in just 24 games have all been paired with Scott Gomez in hopes of trying to get our second line center “going”. To my count, that leaves just Lars Eller and Dustin Boyd as the only two wingers who have not had the opportunity at second line duty this season.

Have we not exhausted every attempt to find Gomez a winger? Is it not time to start looking for a solution down the middle instead of trying to find some answers on the wing?

With the sudden emergence of Lars Eller in all facets of the game perhaps it is time to see what he can do when presented with premiere players with premiere ice time.

So if the solution is going to come from within the dressing room then I am proposing something drastic: Move Gomez from the second line center and place him on the wing.

Allow him to play those top minutes and be let him keep being creative with the puck, but take away the important defensive responsibilities that come with being a center.

Allow Eller—who is bigger and stronger than Gomez, and who has a better faceoff percentage—to be responsible for the draws and the defensive zone coverage down low. Isolate Gomez on the defensive side of the puck and ask him to focus on the offensive side of the game.

I mean we’ve tried everything else, it only seems logical to try this variation.


Call for reinforcements

The second most obvious answer to this ongoing woe is to make the call to Randy Cunneyworth and bring up someone from the farm team.

The short list includes the likes of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Aaron Palushaj, Ryan White and Ben Maxwell all of whom are having a good year playing for Bulldogs.

But who among them can truly help our squad?

As much as I would love to see White on this team, he is not a top-six player in the NHL and would certainly not be able to help our second line. Fourth line duty would be ideal but that is an entirely different debate for another day.

Maxwell is a player who, despite his offensive abilities, has done absolutely nothing at the NHL level, having scored zero points in 20 games. He has had the opportunity in the past but for some reason just does not appear ready.

Desharnais is an incredibly gifted offensive player, but when your entire top line and two thirds of your second line are all less than 6’0, then calling up yet another player in this mold is not the answer. Desharnais is an NHLer just not on the Habs.

The conundrum therefore comes down to ex-Michigan teammates and now Bulldogs line mates: Palushaj and Pacioretty—and I like how both of these guys play the game.

They are each 6’0 or taller, are both scoring at a point per game pace in the AHL and are both proverbial “North-South” players who skate hard down the wing and drive to the net. In short, they are the exact types of players we need.

So the million dollar question Part II is, who should get the call up?

I say why limit this to just one player? Why not call up both? Why not bring them up as a pair and have one play on either side of Gomez or mold the line of the future with the two AHLer’s playing on either side of Eller?

These two kids have played together during their NCAA careers and have thus far proved more than effective playing alongside one another in the AHL.

Let’s give them a shot because as mentioned above, we’ve tried everything else.


New blood

Assuming the injury to Markov is long term and using the Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR), we will have the ability to play with about $5.75 million in additional cap space. This situation will allow Montreal to replace the salary with any other player in the league as long as Markov remains on LTIR.

In essence we can sign a player or trade for a player and not have to worry about the cap restraints. The ideal situation for a team in need of scoring!

With teams like the NJ Devils, Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins currently playing right against the cap maximum, and with players on their rosters set to return to play, they face issues and hard choices. This presents Montreal with the opportunity of acquiring one or two fairly big salaried players without having to give up much in return.

With such names as Blake Wheeler, Jamie Langenbrunner, Travis Zajac, Kevin Bieksa, and Michael Samuelsson apparently all available, acquiring a player with size does not appear to be an issue.

How does acquiring Samuelsson and Bieksa in exchange for relatively little in return sound? Not too fond of that idea? Why not make a pitch to the struggling San Jose Sharks to lure a Ryane Clowe or Devon Setoguchi? The possibilities are endless!

So the million dollar question Part III is, who do you acquire?

The NJ Devils are in the biggest world of hurt having to shed roughly $3.5 million in salary. Furthermore the Devils have a history of making drastic decisions for short term gains. Remember the year they traded a first round pick along with Vladimir Malakhov to the San Jose Sharks for a song? I do.

I say you make a pitch for soon to be UFA forward Jamie Langenbrunner, who apparently has issues with John MacLean, and bring him in to town along with a veteran D-man like Colin White.

If it were up to me I would add to the deal and see if we could get the Devils to throw in a player like Adam Henrique, who again would fill a need that the Habs currently have.

In exchange, we could send Dustin Boyd, who appears destined for the Martin doghouse, along with a decent mid-level prospect like a Yannick Weber or a Ben Maxwell. Heck, it is the season for giving, so I would even include both!

Is this a move the Devils would make? Right now this is impossible to answer but they are going to have to make some very tough decisions, and right now Langenbrunner appears to be the odd man out.

So there you have it folks, three possible outcomes to how this conundrum is going to unfold. Round and round and round this wheel of uncertainty turns, and where it stops absolutely nobody knows.

Until next time.


Read the She Said counter point.


---
Willey was the shinning light among the wicked growing up as the lone Habs fan in Toronto. Pray to Holy Ghosts of the old forum and all shall be answered I was told, and just like that my family was transferred back to Montreal and away from the damned. Olé Olé Olé.

Plekanec on Inside Hockey, Tretiak, TSN power rankings, and more...

News
Habs Inside/Out - Plekanec on CBC's Inside Hockey
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40560

Tretiak returns to scene of his prime
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40562

Way to go Als!
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40563

TSN - Power rankings
http://www.tsn.ca/fantasy_news/rankings/nhl/

The Hockey News - From the pages of THN: Top stoppers like action, prefer wins
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36562-From-the-pages-of-THN-Top-stoppers-like-action-prefer-wins.html

Hockey world gathers in Montreal for funeral of NHL coach Pat Burns
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36706-Hockey-world-gathers-in-Montreal-for-funeral-of-NHL-coach-Pat-Burns.html

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Habs win, post game, Gionta, Price, Plekanec and more...

Post game: Habs 3 - Sabres 1
HabsAddict.com - Montreal-Buffalo: Gionta's Two Goals Lead Habs Over Sabres
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/montreal-buffalo-giontas-two-goals-lead.html

HabsInside/Out - Game 24: Price, Gionta lead Habs over Sabres
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40428

RDS - Capitaine Gionta se lève contre Buffalo
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310605.html

Gionta se plaît à jouer avec Plekanec
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310647.html

TSN - GIONTA RECORDS THREE POINTS AS HABS TAKE DOWN SABRES
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=343194

ESPN.com - Brian Gionta scores twice as Canadiens defeat Sabres
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=301127010

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Montreal-Buffalo: Gionta's Two Goals Lead Habs Over Sabres

by Kamal Panesar

In the world of NHL hockey, panic is never a good thing. Not from the forwards, not from the defense, not from the goaltender and not from the coach.

So, a night after getting shutout and shut down by the surprising Atlanta Thrashers, Coach Martin, who has coached over 1000 NHL games, decided to leave his lineup exactly the same.

I guess Martin's thinking was that the veteran core of the his team would ensure a better effort last night, whether he changed the lineup or not. And his veterans did not disappoint.

Led by the first line of Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Brian Gionta, the Habs dominated the first period in a game that looked like men against boys.

The Habs employed an aggressive two-man forecheck and used their speed to draw penalties and setup scoring chances. Sabres' goaltender, Ryan Miller, was stellar in the net stopping 19 of 20 first period shots fired his way, as the fiery Habs were intent to make up for a poor showing on Friday.

The Canadiens cashed in on a first period power play but became the defenders in the second period as the Sabres turned the tables on them. Outshooting the Habs 17-7, the Sabres mounted their most effective attack of the game but Carey Price was there to protect the Habs lead.

Two quick goals by Brian Gionta seemed to crush any momentum the Sabres had built.

The Habs proceeded to control the play until around the ten minute mark of the third when they seemed to take their foot off of the accelerator. The result was a barrage of scoring chances and except for one goal with less than two minutes to play, Price was equal to that task.

Final score: Habs 3 - Sabres 1

Habs' scorers: Andrei Kostitsyn (9), Brian Gionta (6,7)
Sabres' scorers: Jordan Leopold (7)

Three stars: 1. Brian Gionta, 2. Carey Price, 3. Andrei Kostitsyn


Game Notes

1. The goaltenders were really good!

Miller, in his second game back from a groin injury, was shelled for 20 shots in the first period, 33 on the night and only let in three goals. Miller is the reason this game wasn't over in the first period as the Canadiens were utterly dominant.

On the other end of the ice, Price was only tested eight times in the first frame while his team was controlling the play. But indiscipline once again reared its ugly head as the Habs gave the Sabres three power plays in the second—and four on the night. Those penalties combined with a much more tenacious Sabres squad in the second period, meant that Price had to stop 17 in the frame and 36 on the night.

The Canadiens unfortunately sat back for the last ten minutes of the game and left Price to his own devices. Were it not for a screened shot that evaded him with less than two minutes to play, Price would be celebrating his fifth shutout of the season this morning.

Not to matter though, as he is celebrating his 14th win of the season—one more than he had all of last season—in 22 games and leads all goaltenders in that department.


2. Michael Cammalleri played the point, 5-on-3.

The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead on a first period 5-on-3 power play. On the ice were Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri and P.K. Subban, and the combination worked.

Once the Canadiens got control of the puck, Subban and Cammalleri switched sides with Cammalleri on the right and Subban on the left. This gave either player the option of a one-timer and they were able to tee up more than a few blasts, with Gionta, Kostitsyn and Plekanec ready for the rebounds.

It was a great idea and I only wonder why Martin didn't do it when the Habs had their 5-on-4 advantages. Having Cammy at the back end on a regular basis would likely be more productive. In addition, it would mean that Roman Hamrlik would have to play a few less minutes per game. At 36 years of age, playing a few less minutes will help ensure that Hamrlik has enough gas in the tank come playoff time.


3. P.K. Subban and Mathieu Darche were good on the PP.

One major change that Coach Martin has made on the PP over the last few games is to have Mathieu Darche on the second wave. As much as I am not a fan of having a third or fourth liner on the PP, it's hard to argue with how well Darche has performed.

Every time Darche was on the ice during the man-advantage, he simply parked his butt in Miller's face and took all of the physical abuse that came with it. The Canadiens have had problems getting players to commit to the front of the net in recent years, so it is refreshing to see Darche doing exactly that.

Speaking of the power play, another major difference was that Subban was hitting the net more often with his shots from the point. It's great that he has a hard shot, but if it misses the net most of the time then it doesn't help the power play.

Last night, Subban seemed to take a little mustard off of his shot and gained a some accuracy in the process. The result was that the Canadiens were often able to create goal mouth scrambles and scoring chances. If he can keep it up, it should be a recipe for success going forward.


4. The Plekanec line was at it again.

Flanked by Andrei Kostitsyn and Brian Gionta, Plekanec continued to make magic happen on the ice. While his linemates are excellent complements to his game, make no mistake that Plekanec is the catalyst on that line.

Plekanec's combativeness, puck protection skills and vision are at an elite level and he instantly makes any player on his line that much better.

On the second Gionta goal, the puck was knifed into the corner and Plekanec shouldered 6'8 Tyler Myers out of the way. Then, with everyone focusing on him, Plekanec found Gionta at the top of the faceoff circle whose perfect shot beat Miller high stick side.

Gionta is a player who always works his butt off, however he was saddled with an anchor named Scott Gomez at the beginning of the season. Now, however, he is able to benefit from the physical play of Kostitsyn and the brilliant vision of Plekanec and has seven goals to show for it. Gionta finished the night with three points (2G, 1A), and plus-1 rating and eight shots on net.

With AK46 getting assists on both Gionta goals, the Plekanec trio had with a collective seven points (3G, 4A), a plus-3 rating and 12 shots on goal.

Not a bad night's work!


5. Travis Moen protected the skilled players.

Just like an old school Oilers match where Marty McSorley would demolish anyone who even looked at Wayne Gretzky the wrong way, Moen played the role of protector to Cammalleri and Gomez all game.

Cammalleri in particular tends to get more involved in post-whistle scrums and was targeted a few times by Sabres players.

Each time it happen, Moen was on the opposing player like white on rice, and even fought Cody McCormick near the end of the second period after he slashed Cammalleri. Moen got an instigator penalty for the fight, but who cares? Cammalleri got to play his game and that is what is important.

After the abuse the Canadiens took in Atlanta on Friday, it was nice to see a player like Moen making sure that the skilled players could stick to playing hockey.

That is a very important trait of any team that aspires to be a contender.


Standings and Next Game

The win was the Habs 12th against conference opponents and seventh (out of nine) against division opponents. The season is far from over, but beating teams that you are in direct competition with is exactly what you need to do to qualify for the playoffs.

That Canadiens record now stands at 15-8-1 with 31 points in the standings, first overall in the Northeast. The idle Bruins sit in second place with 26 points in the standings and three games in hand.

The Habs now have three well deserved days off before taking on the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre Wednesday evening.



(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Montreal-Atlanta: Listless Habs Fall 3-0 to Thrashers

by Kamal Panesar

Two days after their triumphant win over the dangerous L.A. Kings, the Montreal Canadiens were in Atlanta to take on the Thrashers.

Whereas a game against Atlanta used to be viewed as a "gimme", last night's game was anything but. The Thrashers had just wheeled off three straight victories including 5-0 and 5-1 wins over the Capitals and Red Wings, respectively, so they were not a team to be taken lightly.

Not to mention that, prior to last night's game, they boasted the second best power play in the league.

With players like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Rich Peverley and Evander Kane in front of strong performances from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, this was a team that was starting to make some noise.

I guess the Canadiens didn't get the memo, because aside from a stultifying first period that was about as exciting as the pin-drop quiet crowd at Phillips Arena, they just didn't show up.

The Habs played a good first period, but a lucky bounce with 18 seconds left to play in the frame allowed Rich Peverley to fire one past Alex Auld for a 1-0 lead.

Roman Hamrlik took an early penalty in the second period—the first of seven penalties the Habs would take on the night—and the Thrashers were able to grab the momentum and never let go. Atlanta proceeded to outshoot the Canadiens 23-4 in the second period and 47-25 on the night.

Needless to say, this was not Jacques Martin hockey, and the furrowed brow on the wise old coach's face during the third period was the closest indication you'll get that he was not a happy camper.

Atlanta goalie, Ondrej Pavelec, wasn't extremely busy but did have to make several difficult saves throughout the game to preserve his fourth shutout of the season.

Final score: Thrashers 3 - Habs 0

Habs' scorers: None
Thrashers' scorers: Rich Peverley (4, 5), Tobias Enstrom (3)

Three stars: 1. Ondrej Pavelec, 2. Rich Peverley, Tobias Enstrom


Game Notes

1. Alex Auld did his part.

Auld, who was making only his second start of the season, didn't look a bit worse for wear. It's amazing how similar he looks to Carey Price in the net, too. He is a big goaltender and, like Price, his game is based on using excellent positioning and size to give the opposition very little to shoot at.

Despite his best efforts, however, he did let in a bit of a softie on the second goal and that seemed to give the Thrashers all the momentum they needed to steamroll the Canadiens. To his credit, the puck was deflected down past his glove at the last second, so it was very difficult to stop.

Despite letting in three goals Auld held the fort for his team, but they were simply unable to mount any offensive thrust. Auld stopped 44 of 47 shots thrown his way for an excellent .936 save percent so don't look to fit him with the goat horns.


2. The PP continues to slide and the PK continues to work.

The Habs had three power plays on the night, including two in the first period, but were yet again unable to mount any pressure. In fact most of the time they had trouble even gaining the offensive zone. I still think that the Habs took Yannick Weber out of the lineup too soon because he is a player who can effectively play the position of PP quarterback.

If they do bring him back into the lineup tonight against the Sabres, I hope they put him on the right side, on not on the left like his first two games, because that is where he excels.

It's probably a good idea not to take a lot of penalties when you're facing the second best PP in the league, no matter how good your PK is. Someone forget to tell this to the Canadiens who gave the opposition seven man-advantages.

Fortunately for the Habs, their penalty kill continues to be near the top of the league, improving to 90 percent efficiency, as they killed off six of seven penalties.

The problem, however, is that whether you kill off the penalties or not, spending so much time in the box makes it difficult to create any momentum. Not to mention that your offensive players are not on the ice and not involved in the game. Add to that the fact that the Habs lost 34 of 55 faceoffs and it meant that they were often without the puck. And, well, it's kind of hard to score when you don't have the puck.


3. Uh oh, where did Gomez go?

To be fair, no one on the Canadiens, except for Auld, stood out in any way. But Gomez in particular looked like the lost puppy of a few games ago again.

This is utterly disappointing since he had started to take a few baby steps forward over the last few games, and you would have hoped that he would continue to move in the right direction.

Hopefully this was only a temporary setback for Gomez and he will start doing good things again on the ice as early as tonight, against Buffalo. I'm willing to wipe the slate clean and forget about last night's game. Let's just hope the players are too.


4. Josh Gorges and Hal Gill had a rough night.

The Thrashers are a team not dissimilar to the Flyers in that they are big and strong and can attack with speed. While the Habs have a lot of experience on the back end, aside from P.K. Subban and maybe Gorges, they are not the most fleet-footed group.

The Thrashers took advantage of the Canadiens slow defense and attacked Gorges and Gill with speed all game. These two, in particular, seemed to have a lot of difficulty dealing with it. Gill is a notoriously slow skater to start with and we have to remember that Gorges took a therapy day the day before the game, so he was likely not 100 percent.

But, again, this comes down to size and the Canadiens as a team seem to have much more difficulty playing against skilled teams that also have size.

With 19:37 and 19:32 of ice time for Gorges and Gill respectively, they were both minus-2 for the night. This duo is counted on to be defensively reliable for the Habs, so they will need a better effort out of them tonight against the Sabres.


5. The Thrashers looked like they got to Subban.

Subban started to get rattled by the constant physical abuse he was taking from the big, aggressive, crease-crashing Thrashers forwards. He was clearly targeted by the Thrashers from the start of the game and you could see they by the second period they were starting to get under his skin.

His frustration reared its ugly head when he took a tripping penalty on Eric Boulton at 14:48 of the second period. It was a late hit by Subban and it looked like a sign of frustration.

After that penalty, Subban started to make bad plays and get himself out of position. He was running around trying to make hits and stop players who were already covered instead of staying in position. Fortunately, he seemed to calm himself down a bit before getting into a fight with Atlanta's Zach Bogosian.

It wasn't really much of a fight. Bogosian was the first one to drop the gloves but then just held on to Subban so neither player could throw many punches.

If Subban is going to become an elite defenseman in this league he is going to have to learn how to keep himself a little more even keeled. The Habs are better served with Subban on the ice than in the penalty box, something that the young gun is sure to learn soon enough.

I think Dave Stubbs from the Montreal Gazette, put it best when he said on Twitter:
Word clearly seems to be out in NHL: test #Habs Subban at every turn, in every way

It sure does, and Subban better get ready because without Andrei Markov out of the lineup, Subban is the No.1 target for the opposition.


Standings and Next Game

The loss drops the Habs' record to 14-8-1. The Boston Bruins, 3-1 losers to the Florida Panthers, failed to make up any ground the Habs. With 29 points in the standings, the Habs have a three point cushion on the Bruins who still have two games in hand.

The Canadiens are back home today to take on the Buffalo Sabres who are coming off a 3-1 win against the Leafs, in goaltender Ryan Miller's return from injury.

The Canadiens have only lost back-to-back games once this season and seem to do an excellent job of rebounding from a bad performance. With two games in 48 hours, it will be interesting to see if the Habs are able to keep that trend going.

Carey Price will get the start for the Canadiens with the puck dropping around 7:05 pm.


(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, post game, Pavelec, Auld, HabsTalk Roundup, and more...

Post game: Thrashers 3 - Habs 0
HabsAddict.com - Montreal-Atlanta: Listless Habs Fall 3-0 to Thrashers
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/montreal-atlanta-listless-habs-fall-3-0.html

Habs Inside/Out - Game 23: Canadiens a no-show in Atlanta
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40327

File and forget
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40424

Morning off for Canadiens
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40425

RDS - Auld laissé à lui-même
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310538.html

TSN - THRASHERS PICK UP FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN; PAVELEC BLANKS HABS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=343019

Rich Peverley helps Ondrej Pavelec, Thrashers blank Canadiens
http://espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=301126028

News
HabsAddict.com - HabsTalk Roundup - Episode 3
http://pc.habsaddict.com/2010/11/habstalk-podcast-episode-3.html

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Friday, November 26, 2010

HabsTalk Roundup - Episode 3 - Nov. 26, 2010

On this episode of the show, Kamal Panesar from HabsAddict.com and Rick Stephens from AllHabs.net discuss the success of the Montreal Canadiens at the quarter mark of the 2010 season.

Topics include Scott Gomez, Carey Price, the power play, and more.

Click below to listen and, as always, let us know what you think!

Habs/Thrashers pre-game, Auld in the net, How much will Habs miss Markov?

Pre-game: Habs @ Thrashers
Habs Inside/Out - Multimedia: Auld starts vs. Atlanta
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40322

RDS - Le CH en visite à Atlanta
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310538.html

Les contraires s'attirent chez le CH
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310535.html

Alex Auld affrontera les Thrashers
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310516.html

TSN - Gameday
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/scores/gameday/?hubname=nhl-thrashers

ESPN.com - Canadiens-Thrashers Preview
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview?gameId=301126028

The Hockey News - THN.com Blog: What I'm thankful for
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36645-THNcom-Blog-What-Im-thankful-for.html

THN.com Blog: How much will Montreal miss Andrei Markov?
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36451-THNcom-Blog-How-much-will-Montreal-miss-Andrei-Markov.html

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Montreal-Los Angeles: Habs Dethrone Kings in 4-1 Win

by Kamal Panesar

One day after being bag-skated by Coach Jacques Martin, the Montreal Canadiens welcomed the L.A. Kings to the Bell Centre in another yardstick match for the Habs.

While the Canadiens looked a little tentative early in the game, they quickly turned things around by scoring on the power play and never looked back.

Coach Martin has to be happy with his teams play as they clearly heard his cries and responded with a 60-minute team effort. From Price on out, the Canadiens were the better team and played a tight, well executed game based on quick transition and speed through the neutral zone.

For all the talk about the Kings being Cup contenders, they really didn't look very impressive last night. They looked lost and even players like Drew Doughty, usually one of the best players on the ice, looked average at best. To be fair, however, The Kings do have a boatload of injuries and are going through a bit of a slide right now. As such, I don't think last night's game was a true representation of what they are capable of.

That being said, the Canadiens deserve full marks for taking it to their floundering opponent. They rebounded nicely from a disappointing effort in Philly with 11 different players getting their names on the score sheet.

The scoring included goals from veterans Andrei Kostitsyn, Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and a bonus goal by rookie Lars Eller—his first regular season goal in a Habs uniform. With assists from Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, that makes five of the top six players who got points last night.

You know that's got to put a smile on Martin's face, even if it is indiscernible.

Interesting stat of the night: Prior to last night's game, the Canadiens were 8-0-0 in games where P.K. Subban had at least one point. After getting an assist on Kostitsyn's power play marker in the winning effort, that record moved to 9-0-0.

Final score: Habs 4 - Kings 1

Habs' scorers: Andrei Kostitsyn (8), Michael Cammalleri (7), Tomas Plekanec (8), Lars Eller (1)
Kings' scorers: Alec Martinez (1)

Three Stars: 1. Andrei Kostitsyn, 2. Lars Eller, 3. Michael Cammalleri


Game Notes

1. Price was able to fight through the physical contact.

For a rare occasion this season, there was a ton of physical contact taking place in Price's crease. As such, he was knocked down and lost his stick several times during the game. With Ryan Smyth in their lineup, it is no real surprise that the Kings did so much crease crashing. Smyth is one of the best in the league at making legal or borderline legal contact with the opposing goaltender without taking a penalty.

What was impressive, however, was how well Price maintained his focus and positioning despite all of the traffic around him and the bodies crashing into him.

Price is playing with the calm and patience of a seasoned veteran right now, and nothing seems to rattle him. When he is on top of his game, as he is so far this season, he looks very big in the net and gives the opposition very little to shoot at.

Of the 25 shots the Kings fired at him, only a handful were dangerous and while Price wasn't tested a lot last night, he made the key saves when he was called upon. The lone goal that got past Price was on a play where Ryan Smyth collided with him and he was unable to get across to make the save. The play was borderline clean, as Smyth was outside of the blue paint, but there was no question that the contact impeded Price's ability to make the save.

Were it not for that incidental contact, Price would have had another shutout.

The win was Price's 13th in 21 games and matches his win total for the entire 2009 NHL season. His 13th victory puts him in first place among all goaltenders for wins.


2. Is Gomez waking up?

With Tomas Plekanec and Dustin Brown in the box for elbowing and interference, respectively, the Habs used the extra room to get a 2-0 lead on a bullet by Cammalleri from the point. On the play, Scott Gomez was tied up with the defenseman in front and screening Kings' goaltender, Jonathan Bernier. While he didn't score the goal himself, Gomez played a pivotal role in making it happen by going to the front of the net.

In fact, Gomez seemed to be going to the net on almost every shift. In addition, where he has seemed lost over recent games, he was more engaged and his focus was palpable.

Gomez was doing all of the little things to help make the team successful and, when a player is slumping, that is all you can ask of them. If the player focuses on the details the rest usually falls into place.

Now Gomez is clearly not back to the level where he needs to be, but last night's game was a huge step in the right direction.

Could it be a sign of things to come?


3. Hello Andrei Kostitsyn, and welcome back!

The slumbering bear, as Joel Bouchard from RDS calls him, awoke from his hibernation to be the main offensive catalyst in the Canadiens' win. With one goal, one assist and a plus-1 rating in 16:36 minutes of ice time, AK46 looked like that bulldog who is capable of scoring 30-plus goals in a season.

On his first goal of the game, Kostitsyn used his lightning quick release to wrist a bullet five-hole on Bernier. That goal illustrated what an incredible shot he has and why he needs to be shooting more often.

On the second goal, where AK46 got an assist, he created the entire play by beating two Kings' defenders and firing another bullet through a screen on Bernier. The shot was stopped but AK's foray into the Kings' zone seemed to destabilize their D. This momentary confusion allowed Gionta enough time to get the puck to an open Plekanec in the slot for his 8th goal of the season.

On plays like that you see why Kostitsyn went 10th overall in the 2003 draft. It is incredible how dangerous an offensive weapon he can be when he is playing with confidence as he was last night.

Now we can't talk about the resurgence of AK46 without mentioned Plekanec. He truly is the cure to all that ails floundering forwards. Gionta wasn't scoring at the beginning of the season? Put him with Plekanec. Andrei Kostitsyn was wilting on the Gomez line? Put him Plekanec.

As I've said before, it's too bad Plek can't play with three wingers because Cammalleri, Kostitsyn and Gionta would all be ripping it up!


4. Michael Cammalleri played his best game of the season.

One goal, a plus-1 rating—he is now a team-leading plus-10—with 20:41 of ice time, Cammalleri looked like the player who was leading all playoff scorers in goals last spring.

Cammalleri has had moments where he looked good but hasn't really been able to pull it all together like he did in the playoffs, despite his 15 points (7G, 8A). The biggest thing about Cammalleri, is that he hasn't looked completely comfortable on the ice and looked like he was forcing things at times.

Last night, however, the old Cammy was back as he showcased the kind of creativity that makes him a consistently dangerous player on the ice. Also, like Gomez, he was paying the price physically to make plays and setup his teammates. I don't think it is a coincidence that Cammy was more involved during the same game where Gomez came to play. At the end of the day, all that matters is that he played like the difference-maker that he knows he can be. Hopefully he can keep it up.


5. What a difference a goal makes!

Lars Eller scored his third NHL goal—and his first in a Habs uniform—on a spin around in the high slot. Buoyed by the confidence gained from his goal, Eller's skill and creativity was suddenly on display as he froze out the Kings defenders and made crisp passes into open seams, for a myriad of scoring chances.

Hopefully Eller can build off his goal and strong third period, because playing in the bottom-6 should give him the opportunity to play against weaker defensive pairings and, by extension, create more scoring chances.

If his line can get going, that will give the Canadiens yet another trio that can contribute offensively. I don't have to explain why having three or more lines that can score is difficult to defend against and a good recipe for success.


Standings and Next Game

The Canadiens now have 29 points in the standings and a 14-7-1 record, good enough for first overall in the Northeast. The Bruins, 3-1 winners against the Panthers, kept pace with the Habs and have 26 points in the standings with two games in hand.

The Habs now fly to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers Friday evening before returning to Montreal to take on the Sabres on Saturday. With back-to-back games, you would have to think that Alex Auld is poised to get his second start of the season.

Whether it will be Friday in Atlanta or Saturday in Montreal remains to be seen.



(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Habs win, post game, Eller, Price, Quarter point of season, and more...

Post game: Habs 4 - Kings 1
HabsAddict.com - Montreal-Los Angeles: Habs Dethrone Kings in 4-1 Win
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/montreal-los-angeles-habs-dethrone.html

Habs Inside/Out - Game 22: Canadiens impress in crowning Kings
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40298

Video: Canadiens defeat Kings 4-1
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40314

Practice, charter to Atlanta
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40321

RDS - Lars Eller était visiblement soulagé
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310504.html

La machine est repartie
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310438.html

TSN - PRICE, ELLER LEAD THE WAY IN CANADIENS' WIN OVER KINGS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=342756

ESPN.com - Andrei Kostitsyn, Carey Price lead Habs past slumping Kings
http://espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=301124010


News
The Hockey News - THN.com Blog: Thoughts on the NHL season at the one-quarter point
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36621-THNcom-Blog-Thoughts-on-the-NHL-season-at-the-onequarter-point.html

Tom Thompson's Blog: Hockey's beauty comes from the unique team-oriented environment
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36615-Tom-Thompsons-Blog-Hockeys-beauty-comes-from-the-unique-teamoriented-environment.html

VIDEO: THN Puck Panel - Surprises and disappointments at the one-quarter point
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36617-VIDEO-THN-Puck-Panel-Surprises-and-disappointments-at-the-onequarter-point.html

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Canadiens Game Day: Discontent in Habsland with Kings in Town

by Kamal Panesar

If you were to read reports and headlines from across the city of Montreal over the last few days, you would be convinced that the Canadiens were the worst team in the NHL.

They have an overpaid second line center who is taking a lot of heat for his lack of production. They have a head coach who was uncharacteristically snippy and sarcastic with the media. They have yet to find a suitable winger, through 21 games, on their second line. They have a starting goaltender who looks like he will get voted into the all-star game, but who fans feel will be better served by staying at home. And all of these problems and complaints are surfacing while the Canadiens sit atop the Northeast Division with 27 points in 21 games.

Moreover, the Canadiens have the best penalty kill in the league (90.8 percent), they are second overall for fewest 5-on-5 goals against (30 goals for a 2.00 GAA), and have a starting goaltender who has a 2.05 GAA (fifth overall), a .932 save percentage (fifth overall), four shutouts (tied for first overall) and 12 wins in 20 games (tied for first overall).

So maybe things are not all bad after all.

The Habs, still in the wake of their 3-2 collapse against the Flyers, were worked hard by Coach Martin at practice yesterday. Despite calls by many—myself included—for Scott Gomez to be dropped to the third line, he was still at center on the second line with Travis Moen.

Carey Price will get his 21st start of the season and with back-to-back games on Friday against the Thrashers and Saturday against the Sabres, you'd have to think that we will soon be seeing Alex Auld in the net.

The Kings look like they will be countering with Quebec native, Jonathan Bernier.

Los Angeles, who are one of the top teams in the West, have a young, speedy team that is sure to act as an excellent yardstick for the Habs. If the Canadiens want to be contenders, they must be able to at least challenge, if not beat, teams like the Kings.

The Kings, who are 13-6-0 with 26 points, have an almost identical record to the Canadiens. Also like the Habs, the Kings have struggled to get their power play going and at 14.8 percent efficiency are 24th in the league—the Habs are 22nd in the league at 15.2 percent. The Kings penalty-kill is a respectable sixth overall at 86.9 percent efficiency so it looks like the special teams are a wash.

If there is one thing we have seen from the veteran core of the Canadiens, it is that they tend to respond well to adversity. As such, I would expect a full 60-minute effort from the home boys tonight.

A few players to keep your eyes on tonight, since we don't get to see them very often, are Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. These are two incredibly skilled young players who are a treat to watch.

The puck drops at 7:30 pm-ish.


UPDATE - 1:27 pm EST: According to Habs Inside/Out, Yannick Weber will be a healthy scratch and Mathieu Darche will be back in the lineup playing alongside Jeff Halpern and Benoit Pouliot.


Live Habs Panel Pre-Game Chat

As part of The Checking Line.com's Habs Panel, I will be taking part in a pre-game live chat starting at 6:30 pm. Sign up below and join us for the conversation!



(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)

Habs/Kings preview, Canadiens' prospects, Price, Martin and more...

Pre-game: Habs v Kings
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens Game Day: Discontent in Habsland with Kings in Town
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/canadiens-game-day-discontent-in.html

Habs Inside/Out - Game 22: Canadiens vs. Kings
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40298

Awaiting the royal visit
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40299

Today's lines at practice
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40297

TSN - Gameday
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/scores/gameday/?hubname=nhl-canadiens

ESPN.com - Kings-Canadiens Preview
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview?gameId=301124010


News
TSN - WRITE-IN PRICE LEADS ALL GOALIES IN ALL-STAR GAME VOTING
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=342539

RDS - Jacques Martin n'entend pas à rire
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310417.html

Habsworld.net - Bulldogs Weekly Recap (Nov 15-21)
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2278

Hockey's Future - Hockey's Future Calder Poll, November 2010
http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/12476/hockeys_future_calder_poll_november2010/

Montreal Canadiens group of CHL prospects headlined by two former first-rounders
http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/12518/montreal_canadiens_group_of_chl_prospects_headlined_by_two_former_firstrounders/

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Montreal-Philadelphia: Flyers Third Period Comback Downs Habs

by Kamal Panesar

For all the preamble to last night's game and all of the talk about P.K. Subban and Mike Richards, the only thing that materialized was two teams that came to play hockey.

Actually, that is not an entirely accurate statement as neither team came ready to play a full 60 minutes. The Canadiens controlled the first 20 minutes of the game and took a 2-0 lead on two fluky goals by Maxim Lapierre, but the Flyers came alive over the final 40 minutes to claim the victory.

Lapierre actually came within a hair of getting a hat-trick when he rung the puck off of the post on a 2-on-1. The Canadiens, however, took their foot off of the accelerator in the second period and allowed the Flyers to dictate the pace of the game. And man, did it get ugly!

The Flyers outshot the Habs 21-4 in the second period and 45-31 overall, with the Canadiens leaving Price to his own devices. Were if not for Price's brilliance, this would have been a blowout in the second period.

Instead, the Habs carried a 2-1 lead into the third period where they were again unable to mount any pressure in the Flyers' zone. The result was two Flyers' goals before the eight minute mark and a 3-2 Philly win.

Flyers' goaltender, Brian Boucher, looked shaky all game but the Habs were unable to take advantage of his soft play and their missed opportunities came back to haunt them.

The lack of venom in this game was almost as much of a lunch bag let down as the 2-0 first period lead that evaporated. And while there are 82 games in a season and the Habs are not going to win them all, losing after taking a 2-0 lead on the road is unacceptable for a team with aspirations of being a contender.

Final score: Flyers 3 - Habs 2

Habs' scorers: Maxim Lapierre (3, 4)
Flyers' scorers: Ville Leino (4), Claude Giroux (12), James van Riemsdyk (1)

Three Stars: 1. James van Riemsdyk, 2. Carey Price, 3. Darroll Powe


Game Notes

1. Carey Price continues to lead this team.

Price was once again the best player on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens last night. The problem is, where the team in front of him usually puts in a solid effort, they took the last two periods off and left Price to take care of business.

And take care of business he did.

Stopping 20 out of 21 second period shots and 42 of 45 on the night, Price has yet to yield more than three goals against in regulation over 20 games played. As such, the Canadiens are second in the league for fewest goals against with 42. Boston has 38 but has played two fewer games than the Canadiens.

Were it not for a myriad of brilliant saves, this game would have been a blowout. What was amazing was to see how many pucks were hitting Price square in the chest, whether from head on shots or left to right saves. Those stops are a testament to Price's positioning, as pucks just tend to hit him in the chest when he is on his game.

As much as the team knows they can rely on Price, it is not an effective strategy to sit back and let him do all the work. All you have to do is look back at last year's playoffs to see how that strategy will only get you so far.


2. Lapierre, Jeff Halpern and Benoit Pouliot looked real good together.

The Habs' third line usually consists of Halpern centering Pouliot and Mathieu Darche, but the latter has been a healthy scratch the last two games to make room for Yannick Weber.

Last night, with Lapierre on their wing, this combo was yet again the Habs most dangerous line. Like Price, this line is as steady as a metronome and is consistently the Habs most effective trio.

Lapierre added a nice dose of speed and skill, and the result was two first period goals with assists going to Halpern and Pouliot on each. Lapierre's skill set is a good complement to the tenacious forecheck of Halpern and the skill of Pouliot.

While both of Lapierre's goals were weak ones that Boucher would surely like to have back, his line gave the Habs the opportunity to win last night's game. If the Habs had been able to muster one power play goal—they went 0-for-4—or one goal from either of the top two lines, victory would have been theirs.

It's great to see the third line contributing on a regular basis, but that should be a bonus and not main offensive thrust of the team.


3. The Scott Gomez situation is beyond tiresome.

I know I seem to bring up Gomez's poor play after almost every game but believe me, I am as sick of talking about it as you are of hearing about it. I keep thinking that this game or the next game, Gomez will finally play well, will be more involved in the play and will get some points. But game after game, it seems like he is becoming less and less effective.

In case you're counting, Gomez has been averaging 18:17 of ice time over 21 games, and has six points (2A, 4A) to show for it. In addition, he has only three total points (1G, 2A) over the last 14 games and three power play points (3A) over 21 games.

These are the kind of production numbers you'd expect from a third or fourth line center playing ten minutes a game with no time on the PP. But Gomez has been getting almost double that amount and is always on the second wave of the power play.

So the question has to be asked: how long a leash does Gomez have? Can the coach keep throwing him out there, game after game, for close to 20 minutes without him producing?

During last night's game, Gomez had 19:59 of ice time, 3:23 of power play time, zero shots on goal, was 30.8 percent in the faceoff circle, had zero points and finished the night a minus-1. That is simply not acceptable for a player who is supposed to be the Canadiens second line center.

As @ckraks noted on Twitter last night:
When Scott Gomez plays more than 18:40, the Montreal Canadiens are 1-6-0. When he plays 18:39 or less, Habs are 12-1-1.

Yowza!


4. The Habs top two lines are in disarray.

The top two lines are not getting it done consistently and I think the reason starts with a "G", ends with a "Z" and has the word "ome" in the middle.

I've been saying for a while that the coaching staff should demote Gomez from the second line. Now, however, the mainstream media is starting to say that same thing, so maybe Coach Martin will shake things up next game.

The biggest mistake that the coaching staff has made this season has been to split up the No.1 line in an effort to get Gomez going. The result has been spotty performances from the first and second line, instead of a resurgence of Gomez.

The Tomas Plekanec line has been dismantled and recombined several times in an effort to light a fire under Gomez, but it is not working. Were it not for the Halpern line, the Canadiens would be in serious trouble in the standings right now.

Jeff Halpern, averaging 13:21 of ice time is fourth team scoring with 13 points (5G, 8A), and Benoit Pouliot, averaging 12:16 of ice time is tied for fifth with 11 points (5G, 6A).

In addition, Mathieu Darche, Travis Moen and Maxim Lapierre—averaging 9:37, 12:39 and 11:57 respectively—each have five points; one less than Gomez.

I say enough is enough, it's time to try someone else as the second line center. If Martin is not ready to use Lars Eller as the second pivot, then he should put Halpern in that spot and drop Gomez down to the third line.

As my Hockeybuzz.com colleague, Steven Hindle, pointed out yesterday on Twitter, if Jacques Martin can't get Gomez going soon, this could quickly become Pierre Gauthier's problem.


5. Yannick Weber looked a little more comfortable on the fourth line.

The line of Eller, Weber and Tom Pyatt had a bunch of excellent scoring chances last night. And while Weber looked more comfortable playing as a forward, he is still playing out of his element and that makes it harder for him to contribute to the success of the team.

Weber, who has been ripping it up while playing the right point on the power play in Hamilton, is being placed on the left side on the second wave of the PP, with Roman Hamrlik, and you can see that he is not comfortable. If you watch the replays, Weber was unable to keep the puck in at the blueline a few times because he was on his off wing.

I don't know what it is about the Canadiens that they always seem to put players in positions that they are not comfortable with, in order to keep them in the lineup. Mark Streit, Jaroslav Spacek, Josh Gorges, Lars Eller, Yannick Weber, etc. Why not find a place for these players to play in spots they are accustomed to instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole?

Sure some players can adjust to position changes, but most cannot and it shows in their on-ice performance. If the Habs want to get the most out of Weber, they should be playing him as the seventh defenseman on the right side.

Ultimately, it is hard to properly evaluate Weber's play so far when he is averaging 9:42 of ice time on the fourth line.


Standings and Next Game

By letting a 2-0 first period lead slip away, the Canadiens missed a golden opportunity to leapfrog over the Flyers into second overall in the East. The loss drops their record to 13-7-1 with 27 points in the standings—first overall in the Northeast division.

The Boston Bruins, 3-1 losers against Tampa, failed to make up any ground and are still three points back of the Canadiens with two games in hand.

The Canadiens travel back to Montreal for a rare visit from the L.A. Kings on Wednesday evening. The Kings are a team that hopes to contend for the cup this year so it will be another big test for a Canadiens.

Hopefully Jacques Martin has a few tricks up his sleeve because the Habs' forward ranks are in major need of a shakeup.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, post game, Power rankings, and more...

Post game: Flyers 3 - Habs 2
HabsAddict.com - Montreal-Philadelphia: Flyers Third Period Comback Downs Habs
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/montreal-philadelphia-flyers-third.html

Habs Inside/Out - Game 21: Habs sit back on 2-0 lead, lose 3-2
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40168

Vintage pee yew
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40296

RDS - La réponse des Flyers
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310337.html

TSN - FLYERS USE THIRD PERIOD RALLY TO BEAT CANADIENS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=342455

ESPN.com - James van Riemsdyk's first goal of the season lifts Philadelphia
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=301122015


News
ESPN.com - Power Rankings: The Red Wings are back
http://espn.go.com/nhl/powerrankings

The Hockey News - THN.com Blog: Ownership concern in Minnesota and a classy Pat Burns ceremony in Montreal
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36571-THNcom-Blog-Ownership-concern-in-Minnesota-and-a-classy-Pat-Burns-ceremony-in-Montreal.html

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Canadiens Game Day: P.K. Subban and Mike Richards Faceoff

by Kamal Panesar

The Montreal Canadiens are in the city of brotherly love, this morning, in preparation for tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

While Philadelphia holds the moniker of brotherly love, I'm fairly certain there will be no love lost in tonight's tilt between the two conference rivals.

In case you've been hiding under a rock the last few weeks, these two teams clashed last Tuesday and the result was a 3-0 Canadiens win. More than just winning, the Canadiens, and in particular rookie defenseman P.K. Subban, played up to the Flyers and didn't at all appear intimidated by their goon tactics.

This prompted Flyers' Captain, Mike Richards, to tell the media that he felt Subban has to earn respect and if he is not careful he will get hurt.

Richards is a smart cookie and his rant has put the spotlight directly on Subban. P.K. is a confident guy and one who seems very capable of handling himself. That being said, it will be interesting to see if Richards got into Subban's head or not. While Subban is a confident young man, he is not necessarily impervious to psychological warfare.

Will Subban stick to his game or will he get caught running around? If he chooses the latter path, then Richards has won this round.

The Flyers are sure to give the rookie extra attention tonight so Subban had better keep his head up. I'd like to see players like Travis Moen and Maxim Lapierre doing a better job of insulating young Subban so that he doesn't have to get involved in fights, and can stick to playing hockey. Subban might have the strength to throw down but the Canadiens are better served with him on the ice than in the penalty box.

Only one point separates these two teams in the standings and the winner of tonight's match will stake a claim on second overall in the East.

The Flyers are coming off a dramatic overtime victory against the conference leading Washington Capitals and have revenge on their minds against the Habs. They also want to continue to put the memory of a ridiculous 8-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting, two games ago, behind them.

The Canadiens hit a bump in the road against the Nashville Predators but have otherwise won five of their last six games, killing 26 of 27 penalties in the process. They now have the top ranked penalty killing unit in the league operating at 90.5 percent efficiency.

Carey Price will get his 20th start of the season for the Habs with Brian Boucher getting the call for the Flyers.

The stage is set and the actors are all in place. This game has the hype of a playoff matchup and is more akin to the "Thrilla in Manilla," "Intensity in Ten Cities" or "The Rumble In the Jungle."

The puck drops at 7:05 pm (ish). Tune in to see who plays Ali to who's Fraser.

Habs/Flyers preview, Subban, Pat Burns, Campbell, and more...

Pre-game: Habs @ Flyers
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens Game Day: P.K. Subban and Mike Richards Faceoff
http://www.habsaddict.com/2010/11/canadiens-game-day-pk-subban-and-mike.html

ESPN.com - Canadiens-Flyers Preview
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview?gameId=301122015

TSN - Gameday
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/scores/gameday/?hubname=nhl-flyers

Habs Inside/Out - Big one tonight
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40167


News
The Checking Line - Habs Panel - Week 2
http://www.thecheckingline.com/blog/iain-carnegie/montreal-canadiens/habs-panel-week-2

RDS - CH : bilan satisfaisant après 20 matchs
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/310321.html

Habs Inside/Out - Pat Burns funeral Nov. 29 in Montreal
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40165

Habs Future
http://www.habsinsideout.com/main/40166

ESPN.com - Weekend wrap: Stamkos negotiating, Doughty waiting, Iginla rumors dubious
http://espn.go.com/blog/nhl/post/_/id/1988/weekend-wrap-stamkos-negotiating-doughty-waiting-iginla-rumors-dubious

TSN - MCKENZIE: CAMPBELL STILL HAS BACKING OF NHL COMMUNITY
http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/bob_mckenzie/?id=341501

The Hockey News - THN.com Blog: 30 NHL teams, 30 Stanley Cup contenders
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36553-THNcom-Blog-30-NHL-teams-30-Stanley-Cup-contenders.html

THN.com Blog: Pat Burns will eventually get rightful place in Hall of Fame
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36514-THNcom-Blog-Pat-Burns-will-eventually-get-rightful-place-in-Hall-of-Fame.html

THN.com Blog: NHL disciplinarian job should be done by committee
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/36484-THNcom-Blog-NHL-disciplinarian-job-should-be-done-by-committee.html

Spector's Hockey - NHL Rumors – November 22, 2010
http://spectorshockey.net/2010/11/nhl-rumors-november-22-2010/

Like this story? Don't be selfish, Share it!