Sunday, April 28, 2013

Habs End Season On A High Note, Playoff Match Ups And More...

Good Afternoon Addicts!

Lars Eller had his best game of the season last night leading
the Habs past the Maple Leafs.
It doesn't matter whether it was Peter Budaj or Carey Price in goal for the Habs last night, what's important is that Montreal showed the Maple Leafs, their long time rivals and potential first round opponents, that if they stick to their style of play the Leafs' size and strength mean nothing.

Toronto fans have been dreaming of meeting Montreal in the first round because of the way they owned the Habs in three of their first four match ups this season but after last night's game if any team is psyched out it;s Toronto.

After giving up the first goal, Montreal just took over the game. Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller were phenomenal in leading the good guys to a 4-1 victory.

Gallagher finished the night with a goal and an assist and a +2 rating while Eller notched two assists to go with his goal, +3 rating and a jaw dropping six hits.

Aside from those two standouts, the entire team played the way they have through the first 40 games to get to the top of the division. After finishing the first frame tied at one, the Canadiens came out flying in the third with two goals and allowing only one shot on Budaj.

The Boston Bruins face the Ottawa Senators tonight in the league's finale game and the outcome will determine who the Habs will meet next week. If the Sens win, they will leapfrog over the the Islanders to face the Habs. If the Bruins come out on top they will win the division dropping the Canadiens to fourth place setting up a match up against the Leafs.

Habs And Hockey News

- Last night's loss leaves the Leas heading into the playoffs with some unanswered questions.

- NHL.com breaks down the playoff match ups that have already been decided.

- The Dallas Stars have fired GM Joe Nieuwendyk and are expecting to name Detroit Red Wings assistan GM, Jim Nill as his replacement.


(Photo by Agence QMI)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Habs Face Leafs In Crucial Season Finale, Price/PK struggling, Kristo To Represent USA And More...

Good Morning Addicts!


Carey Price will need to be on his game tonight if he gets the
start against Toronto.
 The Montreal Canadiens are in Toronto tonight to face the Maple Leafs in the final game of the season for both teams. Toronto has owned the Canadiens this season winning three out of the first four meetings including two blowouts.

Montreal has already clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs but will need to give all they have tonight regardless to prove to themselves they can keep up with the Leafs. There is a very high probablility that these two teams will meet in the first round of the post season and there is no doubt that Toronto will try to make a statement tonight.

It's no secret that the Leafs are a bigger and tougher team and I would be surprised if they didn't bring their physicality to tonight's tilt to initimidate the Habs. Brendan Gallagher will undoubtedly be a target as he has been a pest against Toronto all season.

If Carey Price starts in goal you can be sure that there will be alot of crease crashing in an attempt to get him off his game. If the Leafs can get inside his head the Habs will have a hard time making it through to the second round.

This is one of the Canadiens most important games of the season. A playoff berth may have been clinched for over a week and home ice may be secured but it is imperative that their offence is buzzing, their defence is strong and their goaltending stellar. I do believe that once the playoffs start the season means nothing and everything resets but when one team has been as dominant as the Leafs have been over the Habs this year the importance of one last win can not be ignored.

If you were Michel Therrien, would you rest guys like Andrei Markov and Francis Bouillon to prepare them for the playoffs. Would you have Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk sit to avoid possible injury?

How about between the Pipes? Should Price sit to avoid further humiliation against a team that has had no problem putting pucks past him or would you give him the chance to prove to the team as well as himself that he is capable of leading this team past Toronto?

Habs And Hockey News

- Fred Poulin (@FredPoulin98) points out that the penalty kill also plays a factor into the Habs recent struggles.

- Andrew Berkshire @AndrewBerkshire brings up some good points in questioning whether or not this is Marc Bergevin's team that has brought success back to Montreal.

- Hamilton Bulldogs forward Danny Kristo will represent team U.S.A. in the upcoming World Championships in May.


(Photo by Bryanna Bradley/The Gazette)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Carey Price and A Weak Penalty Kill Are Sinking the Montreal Canadiens


Carey Price has lost his confidence (Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)Another game, another loss for the Canadiens last night against the New Jersey Devils. This time, the Habs managed to stay in the game after trailing 3-0 early on to finally capitulate 3-2, losing their fifth game in six contests. Montreal surrendered two more goals in four attempts on the penalty kill, ultimately sinking the team once again. Luckily for the club, the Boston Bruins lost 5-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers, so both teams remain at 59 points.
In fact, the team’s short-handed unit has been abysmal during the recent slump, killing only 15 of their last 25 penalties for a mediocre efficiency rate of 60% since they clinched a playoff berth on April 11th, 2013 in Buffalo. The Canadiens are now ranked 25th in the NHL with a putrid 79.35% efficiency rate, a far cry from last year’s excellent penalty kill rate of 88.6%, that was good for 2nd in the league.
Another problem is that the Canadiens are very undisciplined this season, having to kill 164 penalties in 46 games this season. They rank 6th in that area in the league, the five other most undisciplined teams all being out of the playoffs (PHI, BUF, DAL, EDM, COL) at the moment. Overall, the Habs have allowed an astounding 34 goals with a man short, which ranks them 27th in the NHL. Overall, the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks have allowed the fewest goals (18) with a man down this season, or almost half as the Canadiens.
What is even more strange is that the team fares better on the road with a man short, killing penalties at a good efficiency rate of 81.3% (good for 11th) away from Montreal, while posting a dreadful 77.5% efficiency rate (good for 27th) on home ice.
To illustrate the team’s penalty kill woes, Carey Price has a great 2.05 goals against average (GAA)/60 minutes at even strength compared to an abysmal 8.87 GAA/60 minutes with a man short. In comparison, Peter Budaj has a 3.87 GAA with a man short to go along with a 2.35 GAA/60 minutes at even strength. This statistic would explain Price’s inflated GAA of 2.60 this season, good for 28th among qualified goaltenders in the NHL.
Josh Gorges is clearly exhausted which hurts the penalty kill (Icon SMI)
Josh Gorges is clearly exhausted which hurts the penalty kill (Icon SMI)
As for save percentage, the Price is still wrong as the Habs’ number one netminder is 36th among qualified goaltenders with a putrid .904 save percentage (to Budaj’s .906 save %). The problem is that Carey Price is worst in the entire NHL among qualified goalies with an abysmal save percentage of .803% with a man down. In fact, only Ryan Miller has allowed more goals on the penalty kill (31) than Carey Price (30).
Is it because the whole defensive unit is a mess or simply because Price is unable to make the key saves when the team needs him most?
The fact that the Canadiens have yet to score a single goal on the penalty kill doesn’t help them to create scoring chances and killing precious time. Instead, the forwards always dump the puck deep in the opponent’s zone instead of taking more chances and take advantage of odd-man rushes. Michel Therrien also needs to adjust his defensive strategy and use different players on the penalty kills.
Why play grinders like Travis Moen, Colby Armstrong, Brandon Prust and Jeff Halpern when they don’t get the job done? Why not use faster players that are an offensive treat such as Lars Eller, Rene Bourque, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk? These offensively-gifted players would keep the other team’s defensemen on their heels and would create turnovers rather than allow them to play with great confidence.
As for defensemen, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are clearly exhausted from playing too many minutes, so why not cut their ice-time at even strength in order to allow them to be more efficient on the penalty kill? Once again, Markov was the most used rearguard last night, playing 23:34 minutes despite showing clear signs of fatigue in the past ten games, posting a -10 plus/minus rating while recording a mere 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points.
With only two games remaining to the shortened NHL season, why not use seven defensemen to spread out the minutes better and rest Markov and Gorges, while playing more the Habs’ first three lines instead of playing the fourth line 12 minutes a game? Young defenseman Jarred Tinordi has joined the team in Winnipeg in prevision for tomorrow’s match-up with the Jets, so why not dress him as a seventh defenseman? This would give the Habs some much-needed toughness on the back end, allow Michel Therrien to rest his key elements on the blue line and ease Raphael Diaz’ return to the line-up even more after a long-term injury.
To be successful in the playoffs, the Canadiens will need to take the lead early as they have yet to win a game when trailing after the first period this season (0-7-1). The Canadiens will also have to play a good defensive game in order to win as the Bleu Blanc Rouge has only three regulation wins when the opposition scores 3 or more goals! Finally, Montreal will need to be disciplined! If they can avoid taking lazy and dumb penalties, they will have success and go deep in the playoffs.
Now, let’s start the game on time Thursday against a desperate Jets team, otherwise we might as well be playing for the home-ice advantage against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Time To Panic? Plekanec Review, 5 Differences From Last Year

Good Morning Addicts!

It's up to Michel Therrien to rally his troops as they head into
post-season play.
With the Montreal Canadiens being handed another lopsided loss by the Washington Capitals last night, is it time to hit the panic button?

During the Habs recent three game skid I thought not. It isn't unusual to see a team release their foot from the gas after clincing a playoff spot. Whether it's due to knowing you've got a ticket to the dance or just a matter of trying to remain healthy sometimes a team's willingness to give their all just tapers off after earning the "x" next to their name in the standings.

The way they're losing however, is making it hard to have an optimistic view of things heading into the postseason. Their goaltending is suspect, the defence is a mess and their forwards aren't getting the job done. It's as if the Habs of last year have come back to haunt us.

With one win in their last five games and only three games remaining it's imperative they turn things around right away and find a way to build some momentum heading into the postseason. Being outscored 25-12 in that five game span, is making the Canadiens the team that any team in the East would drool over the oppurtunity to meet in the post season.

Last night's 5-1 loss at the hands of the Capitals was unacceptable for a team who wants to be taken seriously by anybody in the league. With only three games remaining there are no more excuses. Michel Therrien needs to find a way to get his troops to play the way that got them on top of their division.

New Jersey may not be in the hunt for a playoff spot but will relish the chance to play the part of the spoiler Tuesday night. The Jets are fighting for their playoff lives and will bring everything they have to the  ice on Thursday. The Habs final game of the season is in Toronto next Saturday and and they've struggled against the Leafs even in the best of times this season. There is no doubt the Leafs would love to walk all over the Habs one more time so Montreal needs to shape up and find their game fast or their Cinderella season will not have a fairy tale ending.

Habs And Hockey News

- Tomas Plekanec is the most recent Hab in Andrew Berkshire's (@AndrewBerkshire) Mid Season Player Review series.

- Avi Goldberg (@AviGoldberg) goes over the five differences between last year's Habs team and the current one.


(Photo by John Kenney, Montreal Gazette)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Habs/Caps, Prust Wins Jacques Beauchamp Trophy, Norris Race And More...

Good Morning Addicts!

Habs defenceman Raphael Diaz returns to the line-up tonight
after a 25 game absence.
The Montreal Canadiens host the Washington Capitals tonight in their last home game in the regular season. The Capitals are coming in to Montreal off a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators which put a stop to their eight game win streak. In their last ten, the Caps are 8-1-1 while the Habs have struggled as of late winning one of their last four and going 5-5 in their previous ten contests.

While the absence of defenseman Alexei Emelin has been hard on the Habs blueline, Raphael Diaz will return to the lineup tonight after missing 25 games with a concussion. The Canadiens will benefit from the return of the Swiss rearguard who looked to be having a breakout season before suffering a concussion. Colby Armstrong who has missed nine games with a knee injury could possibly return tonight as well.

The teams have split the season series so far this season with the Habs winning 4-1 back in January and the Capitals responding with a 3-2 victory in April. This will be the last meeting between the two clubs in the regular season.

While the Habs have clinched a spot in the post season already, the Caps could use the two points to extend their division lead over the Winnipeg Jets. Washington is currently up by two points and have a game in hand on Winnipeg.

Habs And Hockey News

- Fan favorite Brandon Prust is the 2013 winner of the Jacques Beauchamp- Molson Trophy as the Habs unsung hero.

- Andrew Berkshire focuses on Ryan Suter and P.K. Subban in the Norris Trophy race.

- Justin Dahan of Habs Eyes On The Prize has an exclusive interview with Charles Hudon of the Hamilton Bulldogs.


(Photo By Bernard Brault, La Presse)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Montreal Canadiens’ Alex Galchenyuk Looking For More Playing Time


Galchenyuk is red-hot for the Habs (Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)After a month-long slump, the Montreal Canadiens’ most highly-touted rookie is finally showing signs of life for the struggling Habs. The 18-year-old American, who was drafted 3rd overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, scored his 7th goal of the season on Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In his last 8 games, the versatile forward has notched 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points to go along with a +2 plus/minus differential and 15 shots on goal. On the season, Galchenyuk (AKA Chucky) has recorded 8 goals and 15 assists for 23 points with an impressive +10 rating in 43 games with the Bleu Blanc Rouge. Galchenyuk has also 20 penalty minutes to go along with two game-winning goals and 72 shots on net (1.67 per game).  This ranks Galchenyuk 6th in scoring among rookies, behind players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Nail Yakupov and his teammate Brendan Gallagher. He will certainly receive some votes for the Calder Trophy awarded to the best NHL rookie.
After going scoreless in 18 games from February 25th to April 4th, when he finally found the back of the net at home against the Winnipeg Jets, Chucky has finally regained his confidence and is clicking very well with linemate Lars Eller. Despite his offensive drought, the young forward has demonstrated great defensive qualities and a good positioning in his defensive zone this season after dominating junior hockey during the lockout.
Galchenyuk is currently ranked 6th among rookies both in scoring with 23 points and in the +/- category with a +10 differential. The big difference compared to the most productive rookies is that he is ranked 58th in time among rookies who have played at least ten games this season with an average of 12:24 minutes per contest.
While his teammate Brendan Gallagher is getting 2:17 minutes/game on the man advantage, Galchenyuk is barely getting any ice time on the special units, averaging a mere 1:03 minute/game on the power play. Heck, Chucky has only one PP point this season, recording a stunning 95.6% of his points at even strength. In fact, the former Starnia Sting star has recorded one point every 23.68 minutes of play.
Galchenyuk is producing despite the lack of PP time (Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
Galchenyuk is producing despite the lack of PP time (Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
In comparison, the team’s #1 pivot Tomas Plekanec has notched one point every 26.06 minutes of play and team captain Brian Gionta has scored one point every 33.08 minutes of play. The best forward in this department is the other Habs’ rookie Brendan Gallagher with a point every 22.08 minutes of play.
With Brian Gionta slumping right now (only 2 goals in his last 13 games) and Michael Ryder missing last night’s contest with an upper-body injury, it would be a good opportunity for head coach Michel Therrien to use Galchenyuk and Eller with Plekanec on the first power play unit.
Galchenyuk has also been reunited with familiar linemates as Brandon Prust drew back into the line-up after missing Monday's contest with a shoulder injury. Prust will line-up beside Eller and Chucky, a trio that played very well together earlier this season.
Like Therrien did with Gallagher, it is time to increase Chucky’s playing time in prevision for the last stretch and the playoffs. The kid has proven that he is ready to benefit from more playing time, especially on the man advantage where other players have been underperforming this season, most notably David Desharnais (only 5 points) and Brian Gionta (only 6 points).
The Canadiens would make the most of Galchenyuk’s creativity and hockey IQ by rewarding him with more quality ice time with better players, rather than play only the remaining 20 seconds of a power play where he has practically no chance of putting points on the board.
Alex Galchenyuk undressing Robin Lehner on March 13, 2013
It’s time for a changing of the guard in Montreal, and Galchenyuk and Gallagher should be the main beneficiaries of this much-needed change in Habs land!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Who Will Step Up?

Gump Worsley, Roggie Vachon, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Jose Theodore, Jaro Halak... What do they all have in common? They all took the Montreal Canadiens on their backs and carried them to victory. Those victories led to many series victories that the Habs had no business winning. These goaltenders were great for the Canadiens when they were needed the most.

Which brings me to my question who will step up for the Candiens? Will it be Price? I know I will feel the daggers of many Price fans but I have to get this off of my chest. The aforementioned group were "Money Goalies". They stepped up and single-handedly carried the Habs to victory. Can Price do that? Unfortunately, in my own humble opinion, the answer is NO.

Sure, he won the gold at the World Juniors, and the Calder cup in the AHL, but what has he done since? He is consistently inconsistent. Since taking over from Huet as the heir apparent between the pipes, Price has not lived up to his expectations. He is no Dryden, who carried the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup on his back versus the big bad Bruins. And who can forget that miracle save in game 7 of the 1971 Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Black Hawks, when he stopped Jim Pappin with minutes left in the game and the score 3-2 for Montreal.

As far as Patrick Roy is concerned, no words can describe the look in his eyes when he carried the Canadiens to two Stanley Cup victories in 1986 and 1992. It could have been three, if there was the let down in 1989 against Calgary.

Price has yet to steal a series for the Habs. So the questions is, "Will he ever?" Can he ever live up to his potential or has he already peaked?

Judging from his last few games, reality has sunk in. The Habs are in trouble and Price has now been blown out in two consecutive games, so it appears he has hit a wall. I think the Canadiens have to seriously look at their goaltending situation moving forward because Price will not be able to carry this team to any series victory. Budaj is a good backup but not a front line goalie. What should the Habs do? I do not know, but Price is not the answer. What are your thoughts, especially after getting crushed by the Philadelphia Flyers tonight?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Leafs Embarrass Habs, Eller vs. Desharnais, Gallagher Review And More...

Good Morning Addicts!

Carey Price will look to bounce back tomorrow night against
the Flyers after being pulled in last nights loss.
Ouch!

Last night's 5-1 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs was one to forget. Carey Price was pulled from the game after allowing three goals on only four shots and Leafs 'tender James Reimer made big saves early when the Canadiens were still pushing despite being down.

Davis Drewiske scored his first goal in a Habs uniform to make it 3-1 at the 13:08 minute mark but Dion Phaneuf snapped a shot through a plethora of Habs players and past Peter Budaj to regain the three goal lead just four minutes after.

Montreal just didn't have any fight in them after that and Toronto just blew through the Canadiens for an easy two points.

If there was any silver lining for Habs fans on a night that left little reason to be smiling, the Carolina Hurricanes doubled the Bruins two goals to leave Montreal atop the Northeast Division.

The Canadiens, who have now been embarassed twice by the Leafs, will have one last chance to redeem themselves as the two clubs will finish their seasons against each other in Toronto on April 27th.

Habs And Hockey News

- Brendan Gallagher, as per usual, did not quit through 60 minutes last night and was the Habs only bright spot. It seems fitting to post Andrew Berkshire's (@AndrewBerkshire) mid season review on the Canadiens' super pest.

- There's been quite a debate this year in Montreal on which player is more valuable to the team. Lars Eller or David Desharnais? Here's an in depth look at the two players from HabsWatch.com.

- It was another tough night for the Hamilton Bulldogs as they were defeated by the Lake Erie Monsters for the second consecutive night. Their 3-2 defeat was their third loss in a row and their seventh in their last ten games.


(Photo from discusshockey.com)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tonight's Habs/Leafs Game A Playoff Preview?, Brian Gionta, Habs Depth And More...

Good Morning Addicts!

Michael Ryder has been on a tear since re-joining the Habs
notching 20 points in as many games.
There's nothing like Saturday night hockey between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, especially now the Leafs are somewhat relevant!

With Toronto poised to make it to the post season for the first time in seven years, it marks the first time since before the 2004-05 lockout that a match up between these rivals this late in the season actually matters for both teams.

What makes it more interesting is the strong possibility that the Habs and Leafs could very well meet in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto currently leads the season series with a 2-1 edge earning a 2-1 victory in the Habs season opener and a 6-0 blowout in February.

Since the embarassment at the hands of the Leafs however, the Habs have gone 20-5-5 including a 5-2 victory over the Leafs.

A big difference between tonight's game and the previous three between the two clubs is the presence of Michael Ryder. The 5-2 win over Toronto was Ryder's first game in his second stint as a Hab and he played without practicing with the Canadiens and on very little sleep after the trade that brought him to Montreal in exchange for Erik Cole.

Since that game Ryder has accumulated 20 points in 19 games.

Montreal will be heading into tonight's tilt without forward Colby Armstrong (knee) and defencemen Alexei Emelin (knee) and Raphael Diaz (Concussion). Nathan Beaulieu who was called up to replace Emelin played extremely well in Thursday night's 5-1 drubbing over the Sabres with 16:50 minutes of ice time while registering four shots on net and posting a +2 rating.

Toronto will be playing without forward Joffrey Lupul (concussion) and Mikhail Grabovski could be a game time decision.

Habs And Hockey News

- Our own Fred Poulin (@FredPoulin98) takes a look at the Habs possible playoff match-ups.

- Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) continues his half season review series on Habs players with captain Brian Gionta.

- Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) of NHL.com provides a piece concentrating on the Habs balancing their offence with depth.

- Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.ca writes up on what's driving P.K Subban to a possible Norris Trophy nod this season.


(Photo by Bernard Brault, La Presse)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Roz's Rant: Lyings, Tygers & Prizes! Oh My!

I haven't been blogging as much this year for a variety of reasons, and a lot of that is because there's not a whole lot to "rant" about when my favorite team goes 28-8-5 and catapults itself into second in the Eastern conference.

Who ARE these Habs anyway?

I like them. I like them a lot.

Also I like to rant and debate and nitpick, and sometimes that can be misconstrued as being overly harsh when really it's just my way of having fun and something to talk about other than "Wheeeee the team is winning!" which is also a really, really good thing.

That said, I don't think this team is going to take Lord Stanley's Cup home to Montreal this year. I'd be lying if I told you otherwise.

I would truly, dearly, absolutely love to be wrong and have the Habs turn around and do just that and tweet me a good old "NYAH NYAH NYAH Told you so!" but if I was a betting gal (and I am), I'd put money on Anaheim.

The recent loss of Alexei Emelin from the Canadiens blueline is no small blow. It has been clear for sometime that neither Tomas Kaberle nor Yannick Weber are even part of a back up plan, and call up Nathan Beaulieu is a rookie.

Will Raphael Diaz return in time to help make a difference? He's skating at least, and Rene Bourque looks set to return, so who can foresee the future for the Habs in the rapidly approaching post-season? It will be fun to find out!

There are only 10 games left (9 after tonight)! How did we get here so soon? But the Habs will be playing hockey in May, and if we're both lucky maybe we can even get to attend a game FOR FREE!

Scotia Hockey Club has recruited me to blog about my favorite team as we approach the playoffs. As a long time supporter of Canadian hockey they are partnering with 10 bloggers to promote their High Five Contest, and there are some nifty prizes to be won.

Last week a Toronto Maple Leafs fan won free game tickets. I'd really love to see a Montreal Canadiens fan get in on free game tickets too. Are we not the best hockey fans in the world? Are we not just as deserving? If you doubt me, go ask a Habs player.

In addition to free game tickets, there is also a grand prize VIP package to the Stanley Cup Finals. Entry is pretty simple. Just register and click HERE every time the team scores a goal and voila, you're entered!

The contest is open to all Canadian residents and fans of any NHL team and closes June 9th, with the grand prize to be drawn on June 10th.

And if this blogger gets the most clicks, I just might be able to meet up with you and help you cheer on our Montreal Canadiens during the playoffs! Can you imagine? Good luck and don't forget to click with each goal!

GO HABS GO!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Marc Bergevin Drops The Ball As Canadiens Lose Alexei Emelin

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in the following article are those of the writer, and do not reflect the opinions of HabsAddict.com or WebSports Media Network.

Despite a very important 2-1 win against their division rivals on Saturday at Bell Centre, the Canadiens lost a key element of their defensive brigade when bruising defensemen Alexei Emelin left the game midway through the first period. He sustained a left knee injury in a thunderous collision while taking a run at big Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic in the neutral zone.
Alexei Emelin Canadiens
Alexei Emelin will miss an extended period of time (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)
The injury forced the team to play newcomer Davis Drewiske more than 23 minutes, something he was not accustomed to doing with the Los Angeles Kings. Drewiske finished the game with four blocked shots, two hits and a minus-1 rating. Following Emelin’s injury, Therrien had to deploy the remaining five defensemen in various combinations, and the rearguards rose splendidly to the challenge.
After the game, head coach Michel Therrien said that Emelin had a lower body injury, and unfortunately for the Habs, the news got worse Monday, as it was announced that Emelin would be sidelined for the rest of the season.
With that blow to the lineup, there are numerous factors that have to be examined.
Who will replace Emelin Boom?
As a result of the injury, the Canadiens called-up puck-moving blue liner Nathan Beaulieu from the AHL to fill the void left by Emelin’s untimely injury. Beaulieu played two games with the Habs earlier this season, notching his first NHL point, an assist, to go along with a +2 rating. The left-handed rearguard has 7 goals and 21 assists for 28 points with 56 penalty minutes in 64 contests with the Hamilton Bulldogs this season.
While Raphael Diaz has resumed skating, he has yet to participate into a full practice with his teammates, so we still don’t know when he will be able to return to the line-up. As for Tomas Kaberle, the team does not want to play him as they don’t want him to suffer a major injury which would prevent the organization from buying him out this summer. The other option would be Swiss defenseman Yannick Weber who has only played two games this season, more often relegated to the healthy scratch sheet and sustaining a lower-body injury that sidelined him for a few weeks. 
The problem with the right-handed defenseman is that Michel Therrien doesn’t have any confidence in him or he would have used him more often after the injury sustained by Diaz. According to Renaud Lavoie reporting on RDS, the Blue Blanc Rouge, who were shopping Weber at the trade deadline, was asking a 2nd or 3rd round pick for Yannick Weber… no wonder they didn’t find any takers! This was the first mistake by GM Marc Bergevin as he should have let Weber go for a lower draft pick as he doesn’t seem to fit into the organization’s long-term plans.
Who will play with Andrei Markov? (photo by azarius@Flickr)
Who will play with Andrei Markov? (photo by azarius@Flickr)
Bergevin’s mistake
Bergevin’s other mistake at the trade deadline was to be very passive and only acquire a journeyman defenseman who didn’t play a single game last Spring during the Los Angeles Kings’ magical playoff run. Drewiske was the team’s eight defenseman after the acquisition of veteran Robyn Regehr. While Drewiske can do the job in a short period of time, he is not a top-four defenseman by any means. With Andrei MarkovPK Subban and Josh Gorges all playing great hockey this season and Francis Bouillon being paired with the team’s sixth defenseman on the third pairing, whether it is Drewiske or a youngster called up from Hamilton, the Habs are left with a gaping hole in their top four slots.
Montreal could also decide to call up a more physical rearguard for the playoffs, namely Jarred Tinordi, but the way they will use that defenseman is still a mystery to most fans and journalists. The problem with Tinordi is that he was very soft during his first six-game stint with the Habs earlier this season, recording a paltry three hits despite his big 6’6”, 205-lb frame. Tinordi will have to be more physical if he gets the nod in order to replace Emelin’s physical presence on the Habs’ blue line.
Bergevin should have acquired more than a journeyman defenseman at the deadline, and his inertia will come to bite him in the behind as injuries to key players always happen during the season. With Rene Bourque close to return to action and a lot of depth at forward following the waiver-wire pick-up of Jeff Halpern, I understand that Bergevin didn’t want to pay a premium to acquire a rental forward before the deadline. The team’s general manager had already made his move, acquiring Michael Ryder and a third-round pick in exchange for disgruntled forward Erik Cole. Ryder has been terrific for the Habs, notching 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 18 games with the team. Ryder’s acquisition has improved the power play drastically, with him scoring half of his points (6 g and 3 a) on the man advantage.
What now?
The team better pray Drewiske is the next Josh Gorges and turns into an efficient shutdown defenseman able to log more than 20 minutes a game every game, playing alongside Andrei Markov. The Canadiens are only three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins with one game in hand for the Eastern Conference lead, so they have a great chance to go very deep in the playoffs this season as they could begin each series on home ice where the team has had great success in 2013.
The problem with Bergevin looking at the parade, is that the team might struggle mightily and suffer serious injuries next season, pushing the team outside the top eight teams in the East, making them miss the playoffs… The window of opportunity was open wide, but Bergevin decided to close the shutters instead of looking at the bigger picture and add more depth to his blue line!

Monday, April 8, 2013

If It Was A Full Season, Things Would Be Different

montreal canadiansThis season started off with a lockout. Then finally they came to a conclusion, and the season would go on with forty some games.

Do you think with a full season the Montreal Canadiens would be at the same position there are in? In my opinion , I don't think so. The Habs are known to perform well the first half of the season, so consider this the first half of a regular season .

Surprises This Year

Many might say being first place is the biggest surprise this year, and yes it is. P.K. Subban is yet another one that really shocked the media and the fans . He has changed his game playing methods, Therrien has molded him into a d-man that has ten years experience already.

The youngsters like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher , Lars Eller just too mention a few have grown into great players. They have been giving the ice-time required to prove themselves. Eller was sitting on the edge of the bench sometime this time last year.

Peter Budaj, a goalie that game in game out has been winning games that no one thought he can win, and not only that he wins them big. Budaj is a great secondary goalie to Price, he his not as talented as other back-up goalies in the Nhl, but he's getting the job done this year.

The management and staff that are behind the scenes at games. Jean Jaques Daigneault, the coach for the d-men, far from others might think, Daigneault has been teaching his way through all the defencemen. His vision is very simple and easy to understand, keep it away from you, dump the puck, get the first pass out of the zone, slow down the game, the d-men keep the game under control.


And finally Michel Therrien, well what can we say . Therrien has brought this group of guys closer than before. He has turned this team into a serious machine that can compete versus the best of the league. Therrien 's
philosophy must not be hard to understand for the players.

On a final note thus being a short season the Habs are on top. If this year was a full season I personally don't think the team would be at the same position they are now.

(My2cents)
Terry  Argiroudis

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Habs Hold On Against Bruins, Therrien A Situational Coach, 2014 Winter Classic And More...

Good Morning Addicts! 

The Montreal Canadiens held on to beat the Boston Bruins for the third time out of four contests last night, with each game being decided by a single goal.

Alex Galchenyuk played with the confidence that he's been lacking over the last month or so and scored his second goal in as many nights for the Habs. Michael Ryder tipped a P.K. Subban point shot past Tuuka Rask for his 16th of the season and his 18th point in his past 18 games. Subban earned assists on both goals giving him 32 points in 32 games and 21 points in his last 16 contests.

Daniel Paille had Johnny Boychuk shot deflect off of him and past Carey Price to bring the Bruins to within one but Price played outstanding for the remainder of the game to give the Habs the W.

The win could prove costly however, as Alexei Emelin left the game midway through the first after taking a run at Milan Lucic and getting the worst of the hit. Emelin did not return and his injury was described as "lower body". Look for Jarred Tinordi to ba called up from Hamilton.

The Canadiens only penalty of the night came with :57  seconds left as Lars Eller held on to Zdeno Chara's jersey sending the bruins captain falling into the boards. With Rask pulled and the Bruins enjoying a two man advantage, the visiting team failed to get a single shot off.

According to Bruins coach Calude Julien and center David Kreiji, the lack of shots was due to bad ice...not diving.

With the win the Habs extend their lead of the Northeast Division by three points with the Bruins holding one game in hand.

The nest team on the docket for the Habs will be the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. The Caps have been hot as of late winning seven of their last ten and Alexander Ovechkin has founf his scoring touch as he earned a hat trick and an assist in last nights 4-3 win over the Panthers. Ovechkin has tallied 14 goals and seven assists in his last 15 games.

Habs And Hockey News

- Michel Therrin seems to find his way through games by choosing his lines based on game situations.

- Chris Boyle of Habs Eyes On The Prize has an interesting piece on why possesion matters and provides a visual look at fenwick.

- The NHL announced today that the Detroit Red Wings will face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at The Big House in Michigan at the 2014 Winter Classic.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Habs Take On Bruins, Travis Moen, Subban And Price To Sochi? And More...

Good Morning Addicts!


Tomas Plekanec will likely return to the Habs line up tonight
aginst the Bruins.
 The rivalry continues as the Montreal Canadiens will face off against the Boston Bruins tonight for the fourth and final time this season. The Bruins took the first game in due to the stellar play of goaltender Tuuka Rask and the Habs followed with two of their own wins against their rivals.

Each game has been decided by one goal and the home team has yet to win on home ice. Tonight's contest is at the Bell Centre.

Michael Ryder, who won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2010 is coming off a three point night and continues his point per game pace since re-joining the Habs earning 16 points in 15 tilts. Raphael Diaz and Rene Bourque are each inching closer to their return to the line-up but will both miss tonights game as they are recovering from concussions. Tomas Plekanec missed Thursday nights game against the Jets and his status for tonight is unknown. He was however on the ice for the morning skate and so he should be good to go.

Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins is also out with a concussion and Chris Kelly is doubtful as he recovers from a fractured tibia. Jaromir Jagr will tak part in his first game against the Habs as a Bruin and is more than likely going to be booed every time he touches the puck. When asked about the Habs/Bruins rivalry Jagr responded by saying " I know something happened when Zee (Zdeno Chara) hit that guy from Montreal, and since then things have turned around". Many Canadiens fans were angered by Jagr referring to Pacioretty as "that guy" especially because of the severity of the hit and will no doubt let Jagr know every time he's on the ice.

Habs And Hockey News

- Travis Moen has not quite lived up to most fans expectations this year. Here are Andrew Berkshire's (@AndrewBerkshire) thoughts in his Travis Moen half season review.

- It's hard to doubt Pat Hickey's (@Zababes1) belief that Carey Price and P.K. Subban will represent Team Canada in Sochi in the 2014 Olympics.

- Steven Ellis (StevenEllisNHL) of the hockeyhouse.net weighs in on Finland's goaltending situation in his 2014 Olympic Preview


(Photo From http://www.habseyesontheprize.com/2009/7/6/939295/tomas-plekanec-one-of-20-nhl)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

PK Subban A Serious Norris Trophy Candidate


After missing the first six games of the 2013 season because of a contract dispute, PK Subban finally signed a two-year pact worth $5.75 million with the Montreal Canadiens. The bridge contract has proven to be a genius move by rookie general manager Marc Bergevin when we look at Subban’s production on the ice. Thanks to his improved attitude and near-perfect play, the 23-year-old rearguard has shut up his most severe critics since the beginning of the season.
P.K. Subban Norris trophy
Subban is a key contributor this season (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
In 29 games for the Canadiens, the puck-moving defenseman is leading all NHL blue liners with 10 goals to go along with 18 assists for 28 points, good for 1st in the NHL, along with Kris Letang and Ryan Suter, who both have 28 points. The Toronto native has also cut down dramatically on his penalty minutes after earning 124 and 118 penalty minutes in the past two campaigns respectively. So far in 2013, Subban has only received 26 penalty minutes with no more than 4 penalty minutes in a single game.
Subban has also improved his shot efficiency drastically compared to last season, a direct result of him no trying to kill the opposing goaltender. Instead of winding up to reach the ceiling of the arena, Subban has been trying to hit the net more with quick slapshots and well as accurate wrist shots.
After scoring only 7 goals in 81 games last season on 205 shots for a putrid shooting percentage of 3.4%, Subban has been much better during the shortened campaign for the much-improved Habs, recording his 10 goals on only 86 shots, for an increased efficiency of 11.6%.
Paired with shot-blocking specialist Josh Gorges, Subban is also playing very well in his own zone compared to the previous two seasons, minimizing the turnovers on the rush or in the defensive zone. As a result, Subban has a +10 differential in 28 contests this season, good for second on the team, only toBrandon Prust.
Playing only 22:45 per game, good for 45th among NHL defenseman, Subban will be fresh for the playoffs, which will certainly help veteran Andrei Markov, who is currently playing 24:42 minutes per game despite dressing for only 20 games over two seasons prior to the NHL lockout.
Markov and Subban are respectively 1st and 2nd in power play time per game among NHL defensemen with 4:58 and 4:30 minutes respectively, a situation that was made necessary following the injury to Swiss-born player Raphael Diaz, out with concussion symptoms.
“I hope he keeps up his antics … that they end up trading him to the Bruins because I’d love to see him on this team because I think he’s a very talented player,” Hall of Fame defenceman Ray Bourque told former Hab Chris Nilan on Nilan’s Off the Cuff radio show on TSN Radio 690 last week.
“I like his game,” added Bourque, a five-time Norris Trophy winner. “I think he’s so talented. He’s got the speed, he’s got the skill, he’s physically strong and he gets under your skin. He moves the puck … he does some great things. And I think as he matures his game is going to tighten up to the point where when you talk about Norris Trophy contenders he may be one some day. He’s got that amount of skill.”
P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban was named the NHL’s second star for the month of March (Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE)
The Subbanator, who was selected in the second round (47th overall) of the 2007 NHL entry draft, has been the steal of that draft along with Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, who was picked in the fifth round. Subban is one of those rare players who performs at his best when the spotlight is the brightest, the only player to do so in Montreal since Patrick Roy left for greener pastures in 1995.
With only 25 giveaways, or less than one per game, Subban has learned to minimize the defensive mistakes and has more often than not opted for the safer play instead of trying the long pass or the end-to-end rush that were so common in the previous season. The league leader in that department is Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf, who has 41 giveaways.
The unstoppable Subban was even named NHL’s second star for March, notching 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points in only 14 games with the Habs. 11 of those points were recorded on the man advantage, this cementing his candidacy for the Norris Trophy awarded to the league’s best rearguard. Subban had 7 multi-point games in March, seven!
Subban also became the first Bleu Blanc Rouge defenseman since Mathieu Schneider in February 1994 to score 7 goals in a month! Heck, even controversial commentator Don Cherry, a frequent Subban critic, compared Pernell Karl to his all-time favourite player Bobby Orr in his last HNIC rant.
If we use advanced statistics to quantify Subban’s play, we can confirm the flashy defenseman is having an all-star calibre season. His on-ice Corsi of 15.29 (On-Ice Shot Differential (goals + saves + missed shots + blocks) is good for sixth among NHL blue liners who have played at least 20 games this season. The oldest Subban is also fifth among defensemen with 0.9 penalty drawn per game, which leads to more power play opportunities for the Canadiens, where he has been excelling in recent games.
PK Subban scores on a wicked slapshot
What is scary about Subban is to think that he will only turn 24 in May and that he has yet to reach his full potential… I would not be surprised to see him score more than 80 points in a single season, especially under the wise tutelage of new head coach Michel Therrien. As for this season, Subban will have to beat Kris Letang (currently injured), Ryan Suter, Niklas Kronwall and perennial candidate Zdeno Chara for the prized hardware given to the most deserving NHL defender.
Do you think Subban will win the Norris Trophy this season?

Monday, April 1, 2013

April 3rd Deadline approaches...changes?

Will the Montreal Canadiens make a move before April 3rd deadline?

All of the rumors say someone is coming to Montreal via trade before April 3rd. Names bounced around were Clowe, Talbot, Smid, just to name a few. However the question to be answered is do they really need any outside help to go into the playoffs?

The way the team has been playing this year they seem to find a way to come together and win against all kinds of adversity. This team reminds me of another special team; the 1993 Stanley Cup Champions. There were no special players on that team. They were a group of guys who stuck up for each other and persisted against all kinds of obstacles. Guys like Kirk Muller led they way with selfless play; something that Mr. Prust has exemplified this year.

So should the Canadiens bring in help? I think the answer is no.

The pieces are all in place. They have goaltending. They have sound defense with good prospects in the AHL ready to step up and Diaz in the background. They have a solid group of forwards. Are they as good individually as the Pittsburgh Penguins? No. As a team though I would match them up against them anytime even with Jarome Iginla in the line up. As this past week showed, the Canadiens can play with the best and the toughest anytime and match them stride for stride.

I say leave the team as is and bring on the best time of year; playoffs in the spring!

What do you think? Do you agree we have the team we need or are changes needed? Let me know your thoughts as deadline day of April 3rd approaches.

Peter Budaj Deserves a Contract Extension

Greetings Habs Addicts!

Photo: Courtesy of Canoe.ca
What a great week of hockey for the Montreal Canadiens!

On Tuesday, the Habs hung around all game long with the now 15-straight wins and counting Pittsburgh Penguins, losing a close one 1-0.  Pittsburgh had scored at least 2 goals in each game prior to this match-up and are averaging 3.5 goals-per-game.  They have also since shutout the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Islanders. So losing 1-0 is nothing to be ashamed of.  More impressively, the Habs flew into Boston the next day and came back from allowing four goals in the 2nd period to tie the game 5-5 with 8 seconds left. And I'm sure we all saw the highlights.  Brendan Gallagher won it for us in the shootout.  A 6-5 victory of our greatest rival. Then we capped it off by shutting out the New York Rangers 3-0 for the second time this year, completing the sweep of the season series.  

The 2012/13 season has been set up with the Habs working as a team.  Aside from P.K. Subban, who is playing like a Norris Trophy winner, this years Canadiens are winning as a team.  They are a team that is built on depth and are not top-heavy in elite talent like the Pittsburgh Penguins. Each game seems to have a different player or line combination stepping up to contribute. Lars Eller, Brandon Prust, Brendan Gallagher, Brian Gionta and Michael Ryder have all had great individual performances leading to wins this year.  The comeback win against Boston was Peter Budaj's time to shine. 

Budaj has played well this year, going 5-1-1 in his 7 games (6 starts).  His defining moment (in my eyes, seeing as how it was my first Habs game in Montreal in 3 years) was his 3-0 shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes back on February 18.  His second defining moment came a few days ago, in relief of Carey Price in the Boston game.  After Price allowed 4 goals in the second period (not all his fault, Montreal was out-shot 17-5 in the period), Michel Therrien turned to Budaj for the third period. Budaj did not disappoint, stopping 14/15 shots he faced in the third period and overtime, as well as all 6 shots he faced in the shootout and earning the win.  

Budaj is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.  His contract is modest at $1.2 million.  The Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs wrote an article about how comfortable Budaj is in a backup role. He also indicated Budaj is the player Marc Bergevin should think about extending next.  I would have to agree with Stubbs in that regard. Since signing with Montreal prior to last season, Budaj has been solid in relief of workhorse starter Price.  In 2011/12, Budaj has a 5-7-5 record with a 2.55 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .913 save percentage (SV/PCT) in 17 games, all starts.  Solid numbers for a backup.  This year on top of his 5-1-1 record, his 2.47 GAA and .906 SV/PCT are very respectable numbers.  

If the Habs wish to upgrade the position they can look at other options after the season through free agency.  At a quick glance, the crop of free agents available this year (as of this posting) will either cost a lot more money than they are worth in a backup role (Mike Smith, Ray Emery) or are closer to the age of 40 than they are to 30 (Evgeni Nabokov, Nikolai Khabibulin, Mathieu Garon, Jose Theodore). If they wish to look towards the farm system for the answer, Dustin Tokarski has been extremely solid since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cedric Desjardins. However, the Canadiens do lack solid NHL ready talent. Tokarski has potential to be a solid NHL goaltender.  Robert Mayer is a prospect, one who I personally view as nothing more than a career AHL player who provides organizational depth. Carey Price is the present and future workhorse in goal.  Budaj is an established NHL veteran and a capable starter is called upon. At $1.2 million and on a team with salary cap space to spare, there is no reason why an extension to a player who is certainly proving his worth this season is unreasonable.  
 
What do you think:  Should the Habs extend Budaj or should they pursue other options?