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Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Musings: #FreeSubban & Sochi Highlights

Greetings Habs Addicts!

I hope you are all enjoying the Sochi Olympic games. I know I have not followed along with too much of it. Truth be told, I've really only watched the hockey. Our athletes are performing fantastic so far and we've had an amazing medal showing and I'm proud of all of them. I'm just not interested in watching figure skating or curling. The hockey games have not disappointed, either. Very closely fought battles, with some surprising results along the way. Team Canada has had a closely contested defensive game, winning 3-1 against Norway and then exploded with a 6-0 rout of Austria, which saw Jeff Carter net a natural hat-trick and then had a nail-biting, rather disappointing 2-1 overtime win over Finland. Going to overtime dropped Canada from a potential 1st overall seed to 3rd, behind Sweden and the United States. Canada's next opponent will be the winner of the game between Latvia and Switzerland.

Photo Credit: Canada.com

- The prevailing theme of the tournament has been a surprising lack of scoring from the Canadian forwards. Drew Doughty has led the team with 4 goals from the blue line, including both goals against Finland. Shea Weber has contributed 2 goals himself and Carter had the hat-trick against Austria. The rest of the Canadian squad has scored a combined 2 goals. Aside from the rout against Austria, the other two games have been hard fought defensive games. Both Norway and Finland have utilized a trap-style system and it has stymied the offense. Carey Price has been solid in goal, starting against Norway and Finland. He has allowed a goal in each game while facing a low-shot total, but in his defense, both goals were deflected point shots through screens that even Roberto Luongo would not have saved. Bobby Lou was fantastic against Austria in his lone game, but it appears that the tournament will belong to Price going forward.

- P.K Subban has been a scratch in two of the three games played so far in Sochi. Subban sat in favour of Dan Hamhuis in the 3-1 win over Norway and the 2-1 win over Finland. Subban was in the line-up for the 6-0 win over Austria. The use of the reigning Norris Trophy winner has been subject to many Twitter comments as well as wide spread media commentary. Even Don Cherry on Coaches' Corner has lobbied for Subban to be in the line-up. Frankly, Canada has had trouble scoring goals in two of the three games and while Subban did not factor much into the offense, he moves the puck and has a much better offensive game than either Dan Hamhuis or Marc-Edouard Vlasic. His 'defensive liabilities' are overrated and often overblown in the media. Sure, Subban will take some chances with the puck and sure, he will sometimes turn over the puck. But so does Sidney Crosby. So does Alex Ovechkin. So does Drew Doughty. So did Bobby Orr. Elite playmakers take chances, sometimes they do not work. Often times, they do. With the amount of goal scoring coming from the defense, Canada is better served with PK Subban rotating through the line-up than they are having the limited offensive contributions of Hamhuis or Vlasic. While the latter two may be stronger defensively, Subban is used to playing in front of incumbent starter Carey Price and is hardly a drop-off defensively. Offensively, neither one of those two can bring to the ice what Subban can. How PK has not been in the line-up all tournament long is a slight to him and Canadian hockey fans. Knowing Subban, we can expect a beast of a performance down the stretch for the Habs as he uses his lack of ice time in Sochi as added motivation in his quest for a second-straight Norris Trophy. 

- Canada's next potential opponent is the Swiss squad led by former Habs' blueliners Mark Streit, Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz. The Swiss finished the preliminary round with a 2-1 record, all three games 1-0 affairs. The Swiss have also been playing a trap-style defensive game; the same style of game that has given Canada fits so far in Sochi. Diaz has been paired up with Streit on the blueline. While they have not scored too much in the tournament, the Swiss boast a large number of NHL players in the line-up, especially on the back end with Roman Josi rounding out the top-4 and Anaheim Duck's goaltender Jonas Hiller manning the crease. The Swiss team should get past the Latvian squad in the quarterfinals and could provide Team Canada with a real test to open the medal round.

- Max Pacioretty and Team USA has had an impressive showing so far this tournament and has to be considered a legitimate threat to Canada. Another Canada vs USA final is not out of the question. Patches has played with Paul Stastny and T.J. Oshie in the tournament and they came out flying in the first game against Peter Budaj's Slovakian squad. Team USA scored 6 goals in the second period of the 7-1 drubbing. Patches had an assist to go along with a +2 rating and 4 shots on goal. His line-mate Stastny had 2 goals and Oshie added a pair of assists. This performance was the shining moment for Pacioretty, has he saw limited ice time against Russia and was a scratch in the third game against Slovenia. Former Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak started and was hung out to dry before giving away to Budaj, who allowed a goal on the first shot he faced. Budaj finished the game, but has not seen the ice in the subsequent games, as Slovakia went back to Halak before giving the third game to Jan Laco.

- Tomas Plekanec has been paired up with veteran Jaromir Jagr for the Czech Republic, as they often are in international play. Jagr has been snubbed by the Habs in free-agency the past few season, as he has bounced around from Dallas to Boston to New Jersey. Each time he has expressed interest in playing for Montreal and each time was not considered. Instead we signed Danny Briere. I've already expressed my opinion numerous times in the past about this topic. Plekanec set up Jagr for a goal in each of the first two games and has played well all tournament long, providing a penalty killing presence and the same solid two-way game we've come to expect from him each year.

- Rounding out our Habs presence in Sochi, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin have been representing the home squad of Team Russia. While Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk form a very credible trio up front, the Russian squad has been somewhat of a disappointment so far in the tournament.  Filling out the roster with relatively unknown KHL players, the drop off in skill between the NHL players and KHL players is noticeable, as Russia has had some low-scoring games en route to a 1-0-1-1 record in round-robin play. Russia opened up with a 5-2 victory of a low-ranked Slovenia squad, before losing 3-2 to the United States in an epic shootout which has turned T.J Oshie into an American hero. Andrei Markov had 2 assists for Russia in this game. Russia ended the preliminary round by beating Slovakia in a shootout, with no goals scored in regulation. Very disappointing performance thus far in my opinion. Andrei Markov has played big minutes, which concerns me as he has faded down the stretch last year and has showed signs that his workload was getting to him prior to Sochi. Alexei Emelin has not done anything offensively in the tournament, but has played solidly in his own end.

That pretty much recaps our Habs showing thus far in Sochi. The biggest storyline coming up will be the goaltending of Carey Price and the usage of P.K Subban by Canada. The lack of offense from Canada will continue to draw attention to the fact that Subban has been watching from the press-box. Subban should be playing. He should have a big role for this team, but Mike Babcock has other ideas. Hopefully, his other ideas do not cost us the gold medal.

Three Questions From My Musings

A) Should P.K Subban be in the line-up every game for Team Canada?

B) Should Marc Bergevin make a play to bring Jaromir Jagr to Montreal for the stretch run?

C) Who out of Sweden, USA or Russia poses the biggest threat to Canada's gold medal chances?

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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.

Past Monday Musings

3 comments:

I think it is time to Package Max Pacioretty and get an Evander Kane type player, either that or get a Power Foward to play on his line, first, all he will average is around 50 points, he is definately not a star by any means..He is injured all the time for a guy his size and it is really annoying to fans and from what I hear, the team.

C'mon man.....Trading him is not a good idea at all.....Pacioretty's contract is amazing value, and he is a pure sniper that can bring some physical play. Supplementing him with another power forward is what the Habs need to do, glad you're not the GM....

I'm inclined to agree with second Anonymous. Patches has a great contract, what we need is a secondary sniper. Right now, we can probably acquire Brad Boyes very cheap from Florida, but making a run at Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson would be the best approach this off-season.

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