It was a week of severe ups and downs for the Montreal Canadiens, starting with a high-scoring victory, ending with a high-scoring victory, and a big dud smack dab in the middle. Meanwhile, it’s status quo in Hamilton, as the revamped Bulldogs find themselves playing right where they left off last season, contending for dead last in the division. All of this, plus our weekly NHL report, and some new features, in the inaugural edition of the 2006-07 HW Recap.
Weekly Player Grades
Rather than doing a basic recap of each game, we thought this year we’d try something a little different for the recap, grading the players’ performances on a week-to-week basis.
David Aebischer: B- Although he allowed 5 goals on Saturday, he played half decent, and certainly gave the team a chance in the loss to Chicago.
Cristobal Huet: D+ He did win his game this week, but unlike Aebischer who looked okay in his high-scoring game, Huet looked very shaky at best, and appears to be off to a slow start for the second straight season.
Sheldon Souray: A- Offensively, an A+, defensively, a C, a trend Guy Carbonneau would like to see improve (on one end at least).
Mike Komisarek: B+ Wasn’t as strong as the week progressed, but remained steady regardless. He has been the one truly consistent defenceman at this point in the season.
Andrei Markov: B- Only average offensively despite a 3-assist game Saturday, and has been surprisingly suspect in his own end. Better days are expected of him.
Craig Rivet: B- Beauty goal Saturday, and didn’t have as many gaffes defensively as last week, which is nice to see. Best goal celebration of the early season.
Janne Niinimaa: C+ Lazy penalties have hurt, but otherwise, no serious complaints yet. Given his mobility, it wouldn’t hurt if he joined the rush a little more frequently.
Mark Streit: C An average week from an average defenceman, and coming from your #6 defenceman, that’s not half bad.
Chris Higgins: A I certainly didn’t foresee him starting out as strong as he has this year, reliable on both ends of the rink, so nice to see.
Radek Bonk: A- Where did that come from? It’s as if he remembered how to play offence, finally. If he can keep this up, within reason, this could be a huge shot in the arm for the offence.
Mike Johnson: A- He’s had a lot to do with Bonk’s successes at this early junction, and is better than I anticipated at the defensive end.
Saku Koivu: B+ Model of consistency thus far, no complaints here. Very impressed with his rapid improvement in the faceoff dot.
Michael Ryder: B+ His extra speed is getting him in the right place more often than last season, if only he’d shoot just a little more often, one of the best on the team in that regard.
Alexei Kovalev: B He scored a pair of important goals this week, but was otherwise mostly ineffective. Needs to develop chemistry with someone soon.
Alexander Perezhogin: B The offensive numbers weren’t there, but he was pretty strong overall this week. Needs to bulge the twine soon, before memories of last year’s multi-month goal drought kick in.
Sergei Samsonov: C+ Better than last week, scored a nice goal Saturday, seems to be a little more comfortable out there. Still, far more is expected given his salary.
Tomas Plekanec: C Not making the most of his extra time, and isn’t as effective on the PK either. Hopefully this is a slight aberration, or this could be trouble soon.
Guillaume Latendresse: C Still not where I thought he’d be, given the highly successful preseason, but he is asserting himself physically, and filling a role, so it could be far worse.
Garth Murray: C Like Streit, nothing special, but isn’t hurting the team either.
Steve Begin: C- Yes, he’s still hitting, but something’s missing out of him, and it shows. I can’t remember him generating any significant offensive chances this week like he could every so often last season. Still, is certainly not hurting the team by any means.
Aaron Downey: N/A Did that hurt, or what? I love the enthusiasm he’s showing in recent interviews, looks like he’ll be fine, which is nice to see.
A (0-2) record this week has the Bulldogs reeling at the bottom of the division, yet again.
Friday, October 20, 2006 – Toronto 5, Hamilton 4
Hamilton Goals: Roy (2), Locke 2 (2/3), Lapierre (2)
PP: 2/9 PK: 6/7
Friday, October 20, 2006 – Peoria 4, Hamilton 2
Hamilton Goals: Lambert (2), Lapierre (3)
Shots: 33-30 Hamilton
PP: 0/8 PK: 2/5
3 Key Questions:
1) How has Patrick Traverse worked his way onto the bottom defence pairing already? And for that matter, why is he even in the organization?
2) Where is Andrei Kostitsyn? One of the few players on the team who can score, and he’s not even close to fulfilling expectations so far.
3) How long before the goalie situation changes? Yann Danis is struggling like he was at the end of last season. Will Jaroslav Halak be taking over sooner than later now?
Around the Rinks
By: Normand Szcyrek
Tough Love for Isles Youngster:
Second year Islanders forward Sean Bergenheim turned down a 2-way, $730K salary, then a 1-way $500K contract, instead looking to squeeze 25% more money out of the Islanders. Unable to agree with New York, he went to Russia to play as a bargaining ploy, but left his Russian team before the NHL opener, so as to not subject himself to waivers when/if he returns to the NHL this season. Islander GM, Garth Snow, announced a team policy, handed down by hands-on owner Charles Wang, that all players must report to the first day of camp or else they will not be eligible to play. Bergenheim’s spot was later taken by veteran depth speedster Richard Park. Bergenheim has until December 1 to sign with the Islanders, or else he’ll be ineligible to play in the NHL this season. A trade to another organization is still a possibility, but Snow appears to be standing tough on the company line. Time to look for a new agent there Sean!
Natural Hat Tricks League Record:
On Oct. 12, San Jose Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo scored himself a natural hat trick (3 successive goals). Not to be outdone by the feat, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth scored a natural hat trick in a span of 2 minutes & 1 second. This event happened to break the Edmonton team record of 2:18 set by Wayne Gretzky. It was only the second time in NHL history that opposing players have scored natural hat tricks in the same game; the first time this occurred was on January 16, 1919 in Ottawa. Montreal’s Didier Pitre and Ottawa’s Jack Darragh each had the natural 3 goal games in Montreal’s 10-6 victory.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Rob DiMaio, also was the recipient on a controversial hit by Habs rookie Guillaume Latendresse in a preseason game September 26. DiMaio is still suffering from a serious concussion, and still has significant headaches. He has started to doubt whether he will return to play in the NHL this season, and at age 38, it could be a career ending injury. Fortunately, concussions suffered by Canadiens W Aaron Downey and Hurricanes F Trevor Letowski are not expected to end their respective times in the NHL.
Is anyone else as frustrated as I am, when you come to realize that Calgary and Colorado, who played in Montreal this past week, may not return until at least 2009, and possibly as late as 2010? Even worse, the league is piling these out-of conference games on early in the schedule, so that by Christmas, fans will be subjected to the same matchups over and over again for months on end. Well, I for one, am sick of it (and it’s only 2 weeks into the season, and there’s still a few of these matchups left.) The NHL claims they’re doing this “for the fans.” For what fans? The fans in Montreal and Toronto who sell out every game regardless of the opponent? Or for the fans in places like Columbus or Atlanta, who are relatively new to the hockey market and would get a kick out of seeing different teams every so often? As much as Canadiens fans enjoy a good Habs-Leafs matchup, personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a team like San Jose, a entertaining young team, but yet the two don’t even meet up this season at all. It’s really a shame, the NHL claims they’re trying to “sell the league,” but really what they’re doing is pretty much the opposite, selling the same teams over and over again, denying themselves the opportunity to do the exact thing they allege they’re trying to do. Perhaps the NHL will get its act together, and rid themselves of this scheduling inequity for next season, they’ve only had 2 years to realize the exact thing you just read in the last sentence. Fans, let your voices be heard.
Speaking of letting your voices be heard, here’s another chance. Over the coming weeks, we will be experimenting with different features in the HW Recap, and we’d love to hear your feedback on what you’d like.