Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Canucks (Game #58)

montreal canadiens vs vancouver canucks nhl 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (30-21-6) wrap up their pre-olympic homestand Thursday night when they host the Canucks (27-22-9) at the Bell Centre. The game is set to start at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the second and final meeting between these two teams. The Canadiens earned a convincing 4-1 win in Vancouver at the beginning of the season, scoring twice on the power play and once shorthanded. Lars Eller was credited with the game winner when Dan Hamhuis got the puck tied up in Roberto Luongo's skates and it found it's way into the net. Raphael Diaz had a pair of assists in the match.

What to Watch:

With the recent trade between these teams it will be interesting to keep an eye on the play of Dale Weise and Raphael Diaz. Weise had 3 shots and played 12:45 Tuesday night in his Habs debut, his fourth highest ice time of the season. Diaz scored Vancouver's only goal in a 3-1 defeat against the Bruins on Tuesday.

The other match up to watch is the goalie duel between 2 of 3 three men fighting for the Team Canada starting goalie spot in Sochi, Carey Price and Roberto Luongo. Price currently has the edge on Luongo with a .923 save percentage to Luongo's .919, but the Canucks goalie has a 2.32 goals against average, slightly edging Price's 2.37. After a string of rough games, Price also has 2 shutouts and just 4 goals allowed in his last 4 games, while Luongo has given up 14 goals in his last 4.

What's at Stake:

The Habs have two games left to play before the Olympic break and with just a 4-point cushion over playoff bubble teams like the Red Wings and Flyers, every point they earn now will help set them up for the race to the end of the season. The Canadiens are also tied with the Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic division, but still hold a game in hand.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are still missing Alex Galchenyuk (hand) until after the Olympics. Travis Moen (lower body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) are also questionable.

The Canucks are missing Kevin Bieksa (foot), Christopher Tanev (thumb), Andrew Alberts (head), Brad Richardson, Yannick Weber, and Mike Santorelli (shoulder). Dan Hamhuis and Chris Higgins are also questionable for Vancouver.

What Else:

In three seasons with the Canadiens, Raphael Diaz played 128 games and had 4 goals and 37 assists. At the time of the trade, Diaz hadn't scored a goal yet this season, but he potted one in his first game with the Canucks. Diaz has yet to pick up a point during the playoffs, he played 5 postseason games last year and finished the series against the Senators with a -4 rating. This season, the Swiss defenseman had yet to pick up a goal before scoring in his first game with the Canucks. Diaz will be taking part in his second Olympics, he'll join former Canadien and current Canuck, Yannick Weber, on the Swiss blueline.

The Question Mark:

What was your first impression of Dale Weise and are you expecting him to sign with the Habs this Summer?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.


My first impression of Dale Weise was "Who?" ... I let twitter tell me who he was. I felt Diaz should have been in the lineup over Murray this whole time and had just finished mentioning in my Monday Musings that he should be inserted with Beaulieu. So I was a little disappointed.

But truth be told, Diaz was not coming back until the MB/MT regime. When we call up players from Hamilton (Leblanc, Thomas, Nattinen) they are receiving 4th line minutes. But they are not 4th line players with 4th line skillsets. Its a waste of their development, as they are not ready to crack the Top 9 in the NHL.

So MB trades for a proven NHL caliber 4th liner with size, who happens to be passionate about the opportunity to play for his favorite team growing up and has a great rapport from their younger years with his linemate, Ryan White. Weise will bring a Steve Begin-like effort to the team, which served to make Begin a fan favorite here in Montreal.

I'm ok with the deal and if he can bring a consistent effort like he did in his debut, we're fine. Our D prospects are more NHL ready than the forwards anyway, so Diaz could be expendable, even though I'd rather it have been Murray.

For the record: I can't wait for Weise to crush Diaz against the boards tonight.

Why are you so hard on Murray? The guy is not Larry Robinson, but he gives you 110% every shift. And what about that 5 on 3 penalty kill the other night. He was on practically for the whole penalty kill.
Come on Nick give him some cudos for effort a least.

Mike, even strength scoring is our weakness and Murray is a player who no longer has the footspeed to play 5 on 5, he's our worst defender in +/- with the easiest assignments each game.

I gave him credit as a penalty killer, he's been a beast and our PK has been amazing the past 10 games. But Diaz can kill penalties too, less physically but blocks shots and can clear the puck out. He was great on that effort, but we can't employ a penalty-killing-only defender at the NHL level.

True he is slow. But I am sure that like me, you must be sick and tired of the opposition doing whatever they want in front of our goalie. Not since Komo left for Toronto have we had a punishing defenseman who could clear the front of the net. I remember watching the Big Three back in the late 70's and no one blocked or touched Ken Dryden without facing the wraith of the Big Three. So it has been nice to actually watch a habs defenseman clobber the opposition forwards in front of our net. Unfortunately none of our current crop or what we have in the AHL look capable of doing what Murray can do. So what options do we have; let Price get crowded and pushed around or keep a tough but slow d-man on the ice?

Tinordi will be Murray with better speed. Next year, he'll be a crease clearing, penalty killing force.

Problem is though, while Murray's physical game and hitting is an asset, he's often out of position and is getting passed by when retreating to the defensive zone. I don't doubt he still has the skills to do his job, just he was always slow and has lost a step. the NHL is a speed game and its literally passed him by.

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