Thursday, January 6, 2011

Habs Mid-Season Video Report Card - Part II - Defense and Goaltending

In part two of my two part Habs mid-season video report card, I grade the defense and goaltending.

As with the forwards, I have excluded any player who has played less than 20 games, meaning that I did not provide a ranking for players like Alex Auld or James Wizniewski.

Below the video are brief summaries about each player. As always, let me know what you think!

Defense and Goaltending

Roman Hamrlik – B-

Leads all defenseman in scoring with 18 points (3G, 15A) and has really picked up the slack in Markov’s absence. Unfortunately, Hamrlik has an unfortunate tendency to take delay of game penalties by shooting the puck over the glass and into the crowd. He actually leads the Habs in that department.

That would be a nice stat to reduce.

More importantly though, Hamrlik has done a good job of insulting his countryman Jaroslav Spacek who looks slower and more over the hill with each game that passes.

Another bad stat for Hamrlik is that he is second in turnovers for the Habs with 28 so far this season—54th overall in the league. Hamrlik is not the most mobile player and with Hal Gill, Spacek and Hamr in their lineup the Habs have a decidedly lead-footed defensive corps.

Jaroslav Spacek – D+

Looks slow, old and mistake prone.

Leads all Habs in the turnover department with 38 and is 20th in the league in that stat. Has looked better with Weber on his wing but is, generally speaking, looking more and more like the game has passed him by. The fact that the Habs have him for one more season is something to be concerned about.

P.K. Subban – C+

Has shown flashes or brilliance and stretches of mistake-ridden play.

Subban has a boatload of talent but he has to do a better job of picking his spots. I am not a fan of benching him and have no problem living with his ups and downs, but he has to start showing that he is learning from his mistakes rather than continually repeating them.

He has 12 points (3G, 9A) and a minus-3 rating.

Subban is capable of a lot more and is perhaps being held back or hindered by the coach.

Josh Gorges – A-

Gorges gets an "A" because he is a true heart and soul player for the Habs. Moreover, he’s been playing with an injury since early in the season and the injury has just been getting worse and worse with each game that passes. He was finally pulled from the lineup, against his will, about a week ago and placed on the injury reserve.

Over the last month or so the injury has hampered Gorges enough to make him into an ineffective player, clearly unable to play his position to the height of his abilities.

Gorges' minus-3 rating is not normal for him and, with a little rest and recovery, hopefully he will come back in top shape to help the Habs with the stretch run.

Alexandre Picard - D-

Isn’t it amazing how Picard looked real good at the beginning of the season while averaging around 14 minutes per game, but looks horrible now that he’s averaging more than 16?

No, actually, it isn’t.

This is to be expected from a player who is a depth NHL defenseman at best. The injury to Markov has meant the all of the Habs’ defenseman have been playing more minutes than they are used to, and many of them are far less effective under these circumstances.

Mostly paired with either Subban or Yannick Weber, Picard’s defensive misgivings have been exposed under the pressure exerted by excess minutes. He is a depth player and should be playing no more than 10-13 minutes per game. In his past nine games, Picard has been averaging more than 17 minutes per game and has been a minus-6 as a result.

I’d still prefer to see a lineup with Weber and Subban in it over Picard.

Hal Gill – C-

The only thing that keeps Gill out of the D-ranking, in my opinion, is his penalty killing prowess. Despite his excessively slow foot speed, Gill is a stalwart on the PK where his skating is not much of an issue. Moreover, he continues to be the best player in the league at shutting down the cross-crease pass on a 5-on-3 penalty kill.

Penalty killing aside, Gill has been serviceable but the injury to Gorges has left him exposed a lot this season. Due to his injury, Gorges has not been able to cover up for Gill's minor-league skating stride and the result has been abysmal for the usually solid duo.

Hopefully once Gorges is back in the lineup these two can pick things up a bit.


Carey Price – A-

After two months of scintillating play Carey Price has cooled down some over the last four weeks of play. Still, he is tied for first in the league for games played with 36, tied for second in wins with 19, is ninth in the league with a 2.37 GAA and is tied for 12th with a .919 save percentage.

Pretty decent numbers overall.

One thing to consider is that Price has faced the third most shots against in the league, at 1048, or an average of 29.11 shots per game and is still second overall in the wins category.

The big concern with Price is that in recent weeks he seems to be letting in one bad goal per game. Currently on pace to play 72 games this season, he could be in a position where he is being overused and maybe the Habs need to give Alex Auld a few more starts.

Still, if it wasn’t for Price’s heroics over the first 60 days of the season the Canadiens would be far out of the playoff picture right now. He is the only reason the Canadiens are still in it. Next to Tomas Plekanec, Price has been the Canadiens best player this season, covering up the many glaring holes in the Habs’ play over the first two months of the season.

Hopefully the team can get their offense going in front of him because he needs the offensive support.

Overall grade for the team: C

So far, the Habs look like the bubble team that many predicted they would be before the start of the season. The addition of James Wizniewski should do a lot to help disperse the workload on the back end and help kick the PP into gear, but the Canadiens are once again a team that has tremendous difficulties scoring 5-on-5.

Montreal is currently tied for 23rd overall with 100 goals for, with 27 of them coming on the power play. That means that the Habs have scored only 73 even strength goals this season, or an average of 1.825 per game.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that this is simply not enough offense.

If they can’t figure out how to put more pucks in the net there is no reason to believe that they will be much more than a .500 hockey team over the back half of the season.

Let's hope Michael Cammalleri can find a scoring streak, Andrei Kostitsyn gets going or Pierre Gauthier has a magic trick up his sleeve!


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