Thursday, January 19, 2012

Habs Roundup: Pacioretty, Subban Trade, Price Contract, PP woes and more

So the Montreal Canadiens lost yet another game last night. This time to the struggling Washington Capitals who were missing top defenseman Mike Green, among others, and who was playing backup goalie Michael Neuvirth.

Still, Montreal was unable to score, getting shutout 3-0 and going a brutal 0-for-7 on the powerplay.

Yikes!

The swooning powerplay continues to be one the top problems for Montreal this season. And that's no small feat!

But aside from the struggling powerplay, there are a bunch of other interesting storylines surrounding the Montreal Canadiens of late.

This week's roundup takes a look at just a few.

Big guys

Erik Cole's addition to the Canadiens roster has been the UFA pickup of the season. He is enjoying a sensational year, having already potted 17 goals through 46 games—he's on pace for a 30-goal season.

Cole also leads all Habs point-getters with 33.

Cole's frequent linemate, Max Pacioretty, has had a bit of a different season. He started strong then, after getting suspended for a hit to the head of Kris Letang, looked tentative since his return.

In fact, he looked so tentative that he went 10 games between goals, finally getting back on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win over the Lightning.

Since that goal, Pacioretty looks like a player renewed. He is once again driving to the net with authority and using his speed to make things difficult for the opposition. As a result, he has six points (4G, 2A) and is plus three over the last six games.

Coupled with David Desharnais, who is quietly tied with Tomas Plekanec (31 points) for third overall in team scoring, that line is the Habs most consistent threat night after night.

P.K. Subban trade rumours

If the rumours of Carey Price signing a 7-10 year, $7 million per deal, imminently, and the trade of Michael Cammalleri wasn't exciting enough, there is now talk that Subban could be moved.

I know, I know, there are a lot of rumours floating out there right now. But when TSN 990's Tony Marinaro says Subban is being shopped, you have to believe there is more than just smoke to this rumour.

My HabsAddict.com colleague, Louis Moustakas, went into a lot of the reasons not to trade P.K., and I tend to agree with him.

The caveat, for me, is that if Subban is being shopped it can only be for an elite player. And I mean elite. I'm not talking Tomas Plekanec, I'm talking Ryan Getzlaf. I'm not talking Josh Gorges, I'm talking Shea Weber.

Elite. That is the only way you trade a player as young as Subban who has as much upside. Otherwise, this whole thing is going to hell in a hand-basket real fast.

This is a throw-down!

So it turns out the Habs newest addition, Rene Bourque, can fight.

Bourque played his first game against the Caps since his suspension—Bourque was suspended for five games for elbowing Nicklas Backstrom in the head. Prior to the match, Bourque said that he expected them to come after him and thought he'd have to answer the bell.

Well he was right on both counts and answer the bell he did.

Challenged by Caps tough guy, Matt Hendricks, the two threw down 1:15 into the first period.

Here's the vid:


Ohh man, did that ever not turn out well for Hendricks. When was the last time you saw a Canadiens player drop the gloves and put such a convincing beating on an opponent?

Ya, I can't remember either. It's nice to see some true toughness in the Habs lineup for the first time in years.

Struggling PP

So if you haven't heard by now, the Habs have the worst powerplay in the league. I guess that Tomas Kaberle pickup didn't work so well afterall.

I wonder what happened to all the people who flamed me for saying it was a brutal move at the time. Crawled back under their bridges I suspect.

Yes, Kaberle is a better player than Jaroslav Spacek, but he doesn't have a recent track record for helping teams' powerplays.

For more on that see Bruins, Boston.

Kaberle aside, I am left wondering why Coach Cunneyworth isn't mixing it up more on the PP. Rene Bourque, a guy who is big and can crash the net, continues to sit on the outside looking in.

Lars Eller is also a player who isn't getting PP time.

I'd change both of those things up, ASAP. The other thing I'd do is to try Gorges on the point, as suggested by some in the HabsAddict.com commentariat.

He may not have the hardest shot in the league, but it's hard enough. More importantly, however, it's almost always on net. If you watch the times when Gorges shoots it's always a low, hard shot, perfect for generating rebounds and deflections..

Gorges' slappers don't have Subban-like velocity but, as I've said before, accuracy is what is missing from Subban's game.

I don't know, the coach has got to try something so why not give it a shot? What's it going to do, make them lose more games? Somehow, I think that would be a difficult task.

---
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny segment of The Franchise weekend morning show, on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990), every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/

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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

18 comments:

@ Kamal. Excellent comments. Bourque is a good upgrade. I can't remember either the last time the Habs had a fight and won decisively. Bourgue, Moen(if he is resigned) & White will give us the added toughness. Gorges should be given a chance on the PP since nothing is working. You are dead right about Subban. He needs to work on his accuracy on his slappers. I play recreation floor hockey and in the past my slapper was hard but when I try to blast harder, the shots tend to be high or wide. This year I shortened my following thru and decrease some power and viola.....double the goal output and added assists with rebounds. Keep up the good work Kamal.

@anon

Dont think you can compare ball hockey to ice. Like you I play both ball and ice and it is a completely different game. The entire dynamics of your shot are different. Not to mention that the path of the ball is completely different then that of a puck

What they do have in common however is that if there is traffic in front of the net then it doesn't matter how hard you shoot the goalie will have restricted vision.

The Habs rarely have net presence on the Pp. It's always the same with us. One guy on half boards, another to the goalies left along the goal line and then sometimes a guy to the front right of the goalie or off to the right. With this set up our PP depends on the perfect play all the time.

It's time to get dirty. Get 2 guys in front of the net. Have the guy dish the puck and then immediately head for a rebound. Do this and Subban can take off the shot but unless there is traffic then scoring from tr point is slim to none

Good stuff Kamal.

You mention Kaberle has not been the cure for the Habs PP, but they seem so out of sync right now, I doubt any one individual can correct that.

Personally, I still like the move. And, if it fails long term, waivers. CH can afford it.

@Anon

Bryan is right, ball hockey and ice hockey are different beasts. But your point is well taken, P.K needs to take your example and reduce his windup, or opt for wristers. Not only does he take too long to shoot, but he has become predictable (fake shot then pass or slap shot)

@anon: I'm not sure if you (or any of the other readers) play golf at all. To me, the Subban shot reminds me of playing golf.

I'm by no means an expert golfer....extremely average.

But in golf, you don't always have to wack the hell out of the ball to make the best shot. In fact, when you (or I specifically) purposely try to hit the ball as hard as I can, I tend to lose accuracy. And in golf, accuracy is paramount!

Subban is the same situation, imo. He needs to take a few mph off the shot and just make sure he hits the net.

To Bryan's point, if you hit the net and there is traffic in front it doesn't matter how hard the shot is.

That too, is why I'd try Gorges.

@Louis: Kaberle lover. :-)

The way their PP performed they might as well use all forwards to see if it works better unless they are allowed to decline.

Not only is Kaberle not helping the PP..he is soft. He doesn't hit nor show any tenacity at all.

@2nd to last anon: Yep, gotta try something! And wouldn't it be great if they could decline penalties, like in football? It would probably be better for their psychology to decline than fail to score...yet again!

@last anon: Yep. Soft and doesn't defend with much authority. As much as Louis is a Kaberle lover, and as much as I see that he has some skills, he really isn't bringing anything to this lineup.

Then again, who is right now?

Kamal,

Rene Bourque being the first Hab to win a fight in years and I quote:
"Ohh man, did that ever not turn out well for Hendricks. When was the last time you saw a Canadiens player drop the gloves and put such a convincing beating on an opponent?"
As a huge Ryan White fan, ummmm, ya, remember what White did to Johnny Boychuk when he tried to run P.K.? I loved the Bourque fight too, but don't forget about the REAL toughest guy on the Habs...and when Ryan is back, more size, more toughness.....and I think he'll help out to really solidify the bottom six.
GO HABS GO!

@anon: Excellent point and too true! I forgot about White because it's been so long since we've seen him in action. He is looking to make a return to the lineup after the all-star break and will be a welcome bottom-six addition.

Too bad it will be just in time to play out the last month of the season, and then go golfing.

Ryan White did not overpower his opponents like Bourque did. Instead, he surprised his opponents because he can throw with both hands. He stunt Boychuck with a left to win the fight.

dont trade subban he is one of our best players!!

Kamal - i have never, i mean NEVER read such an eloquently written, brilliant and factual article. So what I am saying is what you wrote was awesome and it is refreshing to know that i am not the only one yelling at my TV when something is going epically wrong during 7 PP fails!!

You rock!!
i heart your articles, in case you didn't catch that.

GO HABS!!!!!!!!!!!! GO HABS!!!!!!!!!!!!

@HabsFan4Life: LOL! Thanks a lot! I'm glad you like it and thanks so much for reading (and commenting)!

I think the HABS should clean house and go and spend some money on WEBER OR SUTER

@ Anon

Only Suter is a UFA. He is a great dman but I wonder how much of his skills are set by playing with Weber.

Personally I don;t think they need to clean house because we have some great building blocks. We simply need to re-tool a couple of areas and then we'll be fine.

Had our PP been scoring on pace as it has in every other year since the lockout then we'd be in a playoff position right now.

The game stunk like a skunk, but the fight was great, Bourque stood up took his medicine and won that fight. Now if the Canadiensn would stand up as a team and fight for wins this season wouldn't look so bad. Josh Gorges believes in the team and I guess if I could see the same effort every night so would I. I wanted the same effort that was given last Sunday against New York Rangers shown against the Capitals, and it wasn't. What about the Penguins and the Maple Laughs on Saturday we need that effort night after night Go Habs Go!!!

When you have an under performer at work one of the things you have to do is ensure the organization has done everything to support that individual before you consider termination. In PK's case have the HABS tried to support this player? Last year he was paired with Gill. At the very least he helped keep the kids head on straight in his rookie year. This year, no defence coach (unless there is one that I can't see) and no Gill. Now he's turtling, has no idea when to go, hits are sporadic, etc. Before this team thinks about getting rid of him they better bring someone in to help him, Diaz, Yemelin, and the rest out. I have the perfect solution, trade Gill, let him retire, then bring him back as the defence coach. I have a feeling he's thinking of hanging them up any ways but lets let him go and get more ice time, maybe win another cup, and then come back as a guy that took one for the team (not like Sundin).

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