Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Musings: Blackhawks Down!

Happy Monday, Habs Addicts!!

Photo Credit: Thescore.com
Quite an interesting week that was last week:  On Monday - after losing the first two matchups - the Habs finally defeated the mighty Florida Panthers (third time is a charm, evidently). On Tuesday, P.K. Subban and Carey Price were officially named to the Canadian Olympic hockey team, ending all debate on whether Subban would make it.  On Wednesday, Subban celebrated his Olympic berth by being benched in the third period of a 3-1 loss to the surging Philadelphia Flyers.  However, the Habs as a group rebounded to shut down the mighty Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Saturday night.  Up, downs, up again. Story of the year so far. In this weeks edition of my Monday Musings -- which debuted last week -- I'll touch on these games and the upcoming Sochi Olympic games.

- The Florida Panthers made a visit to the Bell Centre on Monday, marking the third time these teams have met this season.  The Panthers won the first two games - both played in December and both started by Peter Budaj - by scores of 2-1 and 4-1, respectively.  This time the Habs stepped up and treated them like the NHL team they are, giving Carey Price the start and put in a solid defensive effort in a 2-1 victory.  David Desharnais and Brian Gionta had the goals for Montreal, who peppered Tim Thomas with 35 shots on goal and held off a late Florida rally in the third period. Carey Price had 16 stops in the third period, alone. PK Subban led all Canadiens in ice time at 27:26 and Rafael Diaz spent another game in the press box as Douglas Murray returned to the lineup.  The Habs controlled the game from the get-go until the Panther woke up in the third. Overall, a solid if unspectacular effort. The only negative to come out of this game is that Alex Galchenyuk broke a bone in his hand and will be out for 6-weeks.  Luckily 3 weeks of that will be the Olympic hockey break, so the overall game-lost impact will not be as great as it would have been earlier/later in the season.

- Carey Price and P.K. Subban were both named to the Canadian Olympic hockey team on Tuesday morning.  While Price was more or less a lock to make the squad based on his play this year, Subban was on the bubble in the media.  Depending on who you asked, he was either a lock to make the team or would be left off.  The knocks on Subban include his penchant for risky offensive play and unpolished defensive skills.  Rubbish. Yes, that's right. I used rubbish. I stated in last weeks article that Subban deserves to be there and would be there.  He has the offensive skills to make up for any perceived defensive liabilities and his tremendous skating ability allows him to make up for some of his risks that do not pay off. Paired with a solid stay-at-home option like Dan Hamhuis or Marc-Edouarde Vlasic, Subban should shine. He is the reigning Norris Trophy winner, afterall.

Overall, the Habs are sending 8 players to Sochi: Subban & Price with Canada; Tomas Plekanec with the Czech Republic; Andrei Markov and Alexi Emelin with Russia; Peter Budaj is heading back with Slovakia; Rafael Diaz is leading the Swiss defenders; Max Pacioretty with Team USA.  The 8 players from Montreal are second most of any team in the NHL with only the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks sending more (10 each).  That is a big chunk of the roster who will be playing intense, playoff style hockey games while the rest of the league is resting.  Whether or not playing these extra games being played by key veterans hurts the Habs down the stretch remains to be seen.

- After a spirited, dominant battle against the Panthers on Monday, the Canadiens came out very flat on Wednesday in Philadelphia.  Steve Mason made 19 saves - only 5 in the third period - enroute to a 3-1 victory.  Peter Budaj got the start for Montreal and has now lost his last 3 starts and 4 of his last 5 overall.  We all knew he wasn't going to have the same sparkling 8-1-1 record he had in relief last year (currently 5-4-1), his overall numbers are up.  Budaj is posting a better goals-against and save-percentage this season, the team simply has not shown up on offense in the majority of his starts.  The story of note from this game was the benching of P.K. Subban in the third period.  Michel Therrien has been full of questionable decisions this year. Chalk this one up as another one.  While down late in the third, Therrien also made the decision not to pull goalie Budaj in favor of the extra attacker.  Hard to know what the behind-the-scenes looked like after the benching, however both player and coach said all the right things after the fact.  The fact remains that the Habs need Subban to be Subban. No Subban = No playoffs. Period. When 29 other General Managers would take Subban without blinking, receiving only lukewarm praise all season long from both Bergevin and Therrien, it makes you wonder how things will play out come contract time.  Its a no-brainer, gentlemen. You sign him. You sign him for a long time. And you let him play his game.

- The Jekyll and Hyde week concluded with a solid shutdown of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.  The Hawks came into the game leading the league with 3.58 goals scored per game and had 4 players - Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith - in the top 15 of NHL scoring.  It didn't matter.  Montreal held Chicago to only 20 shots on goal, while peppering the dazzling Corey Crawford with 38 shots of their own enroute to a 2-1 overtime win.  Andrei Markov scored both Montreal goals and led the Habs in ice-time with his customary 25+ minutes.  Michel Therrien's questionable decision to insert noted speedsters George Parros and Douglas Murray into the lineup paid off, as a Parros screen on Crawford led to the first goal of the game.  One could argue that this was the most effective game Parros has played, as he finished a +1 for the first time as Hab in only 3:33 minutes of action.  A little comical note: With Brandon Prust, Douglas Murray and George Parros in the lineup, the only fight of the game was a scrap between two other heavyweights: Kris Versteeg and ... Brendan Gallagher.

- The Habs have been very inconsistent on a game-to-game basis this year, frustrating fans and the media alike.  This week alone they came out with a strong effort in the Panthers victory, a flatter than flat effort in a loss to the Flyers and rebounded with a dominant defensive performance against the Blackhawks.  Michel Therrien has been full of questionable decisions all year long. Constant line juggling, benching his top defender, giving more ice time to underperforming veterans (Bourque, Briere, Bouillon) over younger, more talented players (Galchenyuk, Bournival, Eller) and some rather illogical game-plans that occasionally pan out (Murray & Parros against the speedy, talented Blackhawks happened to work but shouldn't have).

So concludes my musings for this Monday.  This week Montreal begins with a home game against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday before two tough division games on the road: Thursday at Ottawa and Saturday at Toronto. Should be a solid week of hockey ahead.

Three Questions from my musings:

A) Who needs to step up on offense in place of Alex Galchenyuk over the next 6 weeks?

B) Will having 8 players participating in the Olympics have a positive or negative impact on the roster for the home stretch towards the playoffs?

C) Will his questionable decision making, under-performing offense and handling of PK Subban earn Michel Therrien a spot in Marc Bergevin's doghouse if the Habs fail to improve upon last seasons results (Top 4 playoff seed; 1st round playoff elimination)?




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

2 comments:

With Galchenyuk's absence Lars Eller needs to step up sometimes he is invisible which leaves me to believe he wont be getting a big contract when its time. Briere also needs to pick up the slack and show why he is a money player in the past. I think its a negative that there are 8 Habs in the Olympics especially Price. If Price starts for Canada on top of his workload with the Habs there is more of a chance of him getting dinged up and if he isn't right they have absolutely no chance but a 1st round exit against any opponent, If the Habs don't get by the first round Therrien could be let go and should be if they are healthy if not I think he gets a free pass but the following year he would be on a short leash. Next year will be important transition year where Bergevin will put more of a mark on the team with Gionta and Markov contracts expiring and some more cap room regardless of what PK will get. To the Bergevin haters which I am not after this year then you can point the finger at Bergevin more often if things go badly. Leo C a transplanted Monctonite, currently living in evil BruinLand Habs fans can be anywhere not just Quebec thank god for CenterIce!!!!!!!!!

@Leo Cormier

Eller certainly does need to step up. He looked like he was taking the next step out of the gate but has since returned to his inconsistent form. I'd like to see Briere step up too, but I think we're seeing the best of him. Older, slower, eroding skills.

I don't see the Olympic break being a positive for Markov or Pleky down the stretch. The younger legs can hold up better.

Good assessment on Therrien's situation.

And also, awesome tagline at the end!

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