Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Musings: Subban Is In Therrien's Doghouse

Greetings Habs Addicts!

Interesting week last week for the Habs. The week started off with a marquee Tuesday night match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Going into the game, Montreal was two points ahead of the Lightning for second-place in the division. Having already played three games against each other to start the season - all three decided by 2-1 scores - the Habs had a chance to earn a series split and gain a valuable two points. Instead, it was another typically tight game and when it was all said and done, Tampa won 3-1 after potting an empty-net goal. The Lightning scored two power-play goals as well as a short-handed goal in a game that was a special teams nightmare for Montreal. The Habs followed that up on Friday with another comeback victory over the Ottawa Senators in a game that could be described as anything but defensive. The Senators jumped on the Habs early, putting three goals past Peter Budaj before the six-minute mark of the first period. But Montreal stormed back to tie the game 3-3 by the end of the period and then rolled on to win the game by an exciting 7-4 margin. Max Pacioretty had 3 goals and 2 assists while Thomas Vanek added 3 more helpers. David Desharnais added another goal and assist as Montreal's top line continues to pound the puck into the net. Pacioretty has 39 goals and 60 points on the season and with one more goal in the remaining three games, has a chance to be the first 40-goal scorer for Montreal since Vincent Damphousse during the 1993-94 season. The Habs ended the week with a home game the following day against the Detroit Red Wings. In a game very similar to the last time these two teams matched up, Montreal jumped to an early 3-0 lead before allowing the Wings to tie the game in the third period. After that happened, Montreal scored twice more to seal the 5-3 win. Brian Gionta had a two-goal game and Carey Price stopped 34 of 37 shots he faced, including 27 over the final two frames as the Habs were outplayed by the playoff-bubble Red Wings.

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- P.K Subban did not have his best week. While it was encouraging to see him killing penalties against Tampa Bay and Ottawa, he made a few more mental gaffes this week that drew the ire of coach Michel Therrien. After a couple of turnovers led to an early Ottawa lead, he found himself stapled to the bench again. Subban played a meagre 13:39 for the game and saw just 37 seconds of ice time in the first. He didn't get another shift until the Canadiens went on the power play at the two-minute mark of the second. He finished the game -3 with no points in a game that saw eleven total goals scored. Subban saw more ice time against Detroit, including over five minutes of time on the power-play, but failed to contribute any points. For his past 20 games, Subban has registered 2 goals and 14 total points but is a glaring -9 at even strength. For the season, Subban is currently sitting at a -3 at even strength despite contributing 53 points in 79 games. To say his play as fallen off since last season is an understatement. CTV Montreal's Brian Wilde had a very interesting article about the relationship between Subban and coach Michel Therrien. Wilde discusses the seemingly unfair treatment of Subban as it relates to other players making similar mistakes. It also reminds us the result of another superstar who faced a similar situation with his head coach and ultimately forced himself out of Montreal (Hint: He currently coaches the Colorado Avalanche). Wilde also reminds everyone that while coaches - no matter how good they may be - can and will be replaced, players like Subban are very seldom replaced. Wilde makes some tremendous points in this article that I agree with. While Subban may not ask his way out of Montreal the way Patrick Roy did, somewhere down the line there will be a breaking point. Everyone has one. Marc Bergevin better be prepared for it, maybe even as soon as this off-season. 

- The top-line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek continue to put up points for Montreal. In the 15 games played since Montreal acquired Vanek, centerman Desharnais has 5 goals and 14 points while Pacioretty has been on fire with 9 goals and 17 points in 15 games. Vanek himself has been no slouch with 6 goals and 14 points in 15 games with Montreal. While stat-hounds such as Andrew Berkshire at Habs Eyes on the Prize would prefer to see Vanek and Pacioretty split up due to the poor Corsi and Fenwick numbers they produce at even strength, the results you see with the naked eye as well as on paper make it hard to justify. Maybe the advanced stats tell a story, but the advanced stats also stated that Raphael Diaz was our best defender. Diaz is currently a healthy-scratch for his 3rd team of the season (New York Rangers acquired him from Vancouver for a 5th-round draft pick) while the Habs are 10-5-0 during this stretch, including 10-2-0 once Vanek found his way onto this line.

The Canadiens are hot right now but this week showed some very sloppy defensive play. Douglas Murray will return this week after serving a three-game suspension for a nasty head-shot he placed on a defenseless Mike Kostka during the Tampa game. While Murray showed class and apologized to Kostka after the game, the hit was the result of Murray not being able to adjust on his feet while trying to hit Kostka. Once he shifted, Murray was in trouble and he reacted with a forearm to the temple. While Murray was out, Nathan Beaulieu was recalled from Hamilton. 

This week the Habs have three games to wrap up the regular season. The first one will be a tough match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in Chicago. That is followed up by two home games against New York teams: The Islanders on Thursday and the Rangers on Saturday. Ending the regular season on a high note would be a positive, even if the defensive play has not been.

Three Questions From My Musings

A) Will P.K Subban's defense recover enough to play effective minutes in the playoffs?

B) Is Michel Therrien being too harsh in his handling of Subban?

C) Should Vanek & Pacioretty continue to play together even though advanced stats indicate otherwise?

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

Past Monday Musings 


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