In this week’s HW Recap: A first-timer rises to
the top of the Habs’ player rankings, plus the weekly Bulldogs’ StatPack in a
week where they struggled significantly. Also, a closer look at which
prospects may be representing their respective countries in the upcoming World
Juniors, while the Final Thought discusses the conundrum Pierre Gauthier has –
go after a forward, or a defenceman?
Players are rated from 1 to however many
players play on a weekly (non-cumulative) basis. Rankings will be tracked
weekly and averages provided.
1) Roman Hamrlik: A month ago, if
you’d have said I’d have him as the player of the week now, I’d have called you
crazy. Now, he has become the go-to defender on defence, while leading the
team in points this week. A terrific turnaround for sure.
(Previous: 5 Average:
2) Carey Price: Though he wasn’t terrific against the Oilers, he
certainly didn’t play poorly either. He was the 1st star (well deserved)
on Saturday and played another strong game in New Jersey. Same old, same
(Previous: 2 Average:
3) Mathieu Darche: This one can also be filed under the "In no way did I
see this coming" file. He’s still playing basically 4th line minutes but
put up front line production. All that and only for the league minimum.
(Previous: 19 Average:
4) Lars Eller: Perhaps easing his way into things was the best way to go
with him, as this week he showed signs that he was putting it all together.
He still has a ways to go, but there’s lots to be encouraged about.
(Previous: 7 Average:
5) Tomas Plekanec: This rating isn’t for his offensive play as that was
quiet this week. What he did do though was successfully hold the other
teams’ top lines down and every so often, he needs to get credit for that aspect
of his game.
(Previous: 4 Average:
6) Benoit Pouliot: He doesn’t get a lot of credit for the success of
his line (with Eller/Darche) but he too played quite well. In fact, he
quietly picked a point in each game.
(Previous: 12 Average:
7) Jaroslav Spacek: The ugly mistakes go away and look, now he’s a very
competent shutdown defender. If only he could hit the net now and then
with his shot though…
(Previous: 8 Average:
8) Scott Gomez: There were certainly a lot more better moments than there
have been recently and he did pot a couple of goals. If he can put up a
couple of goals per week (big if, mind you), I don’t think fans will be complaining much longer.
(Previous: 18 Average:
9) Brian Gionta: It was a quieter week for him compared to last but he
did generate quite a few scoring chances. Some weeks they’ll go in, others
(Previous: 1 Average:
10) Tom Pyatt: On his line (Halpern/Lapierre), he was arguably the
biggest scoring threat of the 3. This time though, he actually capitalized
on one of his chances, while still providing strong work on the PK.
(Previous: 13 Average:
11) Mike Cammalleri: Let’s not sugarcoat it, he struggled badly this
week. At the very least, he still averaged a point per game, if you can do
that while struggling, it could be much, much worse.
(Previous: 9 Average:
12) Andrei Kostitsyn: This was a quiet week for him but like Gionta, some
weeks they go in, others not so much. Given the players his line kept
quiet though, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here.
(Previous: 3 Average:
13) Hal Gill: With his partner playing a little banged up, he had to step
up his game and he did. Nothing flashy but he did make several strong
plays on the PK throughout the week.
(Previous: 20 Average:
14) Josh Gorges: I’ll give him full credit for playing through injury and
playing relatively well. But with the team getting a bit of a cushion
point wise and the D playing well, it may be time to give him a week or so off
to help heal what he’s playing through.
(Previous: 8 Average:
15) Yannick Weber: I wasn’t as impressed as some were with his play but
he did look much more comfortable playing his natural position. I’m not
convinced he’s ready to be an everyday player though.
(Previous: 21 Average:
16) Jeff Halpern: The offensive game wasn’t there but in his defence, his
linemates aren’t exactly the second coming of Gionta and Cammalleri either.
(Previous: 15 Average:
17) Alexandre Picard: I thought there were a couple of holes in his game
that weren’t there in recent weeks (particularly defensive zone coverage) but he
is still providing useful minutes.
(Previous: 17 Average:
18) P.K. Subban: His struggles in the Edmonton game gave the Habs the
perfect opportunity to sit him down, which was based on a variety of factors
(shift length, yapping, in-zone coverage, practice skirmishes, etc). I
agree with the decision but I also feel that he needs to be back in the lineup
for the next game, despite the win Saturday. The message was sent, they better not wait too long to
see the response.
(Previous: 11 Average:
19) Travis Moen: I think we all know he can’t produce enough to merit
being a second liner. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the coaching staff sees
it that way.
(Previous: 16 Average:
20) Maxim Lapierre: At this point, I’m not sure what exactly he brings to
the lineup other than the odd hit behind the play. Instead of saving his
energy for the playoffs, he needs to play now…otherwise, there may not be a
playoffs for him.
(Previous: 10 Average:
Hamilton finally got to play some home games
this week after a 2+ week long road trip but home cooking didn’t do the team any
good as they dropped their final two contests.
3 Stars: 1) Pacioretty – HAM 2) Desharnais – HAM 3)
Carpentier – ABB
3 Stars: 1) Mink – PEO 2) Allen – PEO 3) Engqvist – HAM
3 Stars: 1) Mannino – CHI 2) Pacioretty – HAM 3) Machacek
Offence wise, it was basically a one line
wrecking crew for the Bulldogs who are showing they really miss Ryan White
(knee, mid-January) and Ben Maxwell (upper body, indefinite).
|32||Frederic St. Denis||3||0||1||+1||3||2|
Goals: Max Pacioretty (14)
Assists: David Desharnais (21)
Points: Pacioretty/Desharnais (28)
+/-: David Desharnais (+10)
PIMS: Jimmy Bonneau (60)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (114)
December 8: Hamilton vs Rochester
December 10: Hamilton vs Rochester
December 12: Toronto vs Hamilton
With the World Juniors starting later this
month, it’s time to look at who realistically has a shot at making their
respective teams. In no particular order, here’s who I think has at least
an outside shot:
Canada: Louis Leblanc, Michael Bournival, Brendan Gallagher – This comes
as no surprise as all 3 were invited to training camp. Leblanc nearly made
the team last season and has done nothing this year to suggest he’ll be cut a
second time, so I’ll give him a 95% chance. Bournival, acquired last
month, is a player on the rise in Canada’s system and plays well at both ends,
while Gallagher could make it simply based on his scoring abilities.
However, since both have another year of eligibility, I’ll peg their odds at 30%
and 15% respectively.
USA: Jarred Tinordi, Mac Bennett – Tinordi has had an okay rookie
campaign in London and is slowly getting more ice time (similar to what the Habs
are doing with Lars Eller). However, he was cut from their offseason camp
and the States have had a tendency to give preference to players playing on
their home soil. I only give him a 20% chance of getting an invite to camp
this week and even less on making the team unfortunately. As for Bennett,
although he’s eligible, I’d be shocked if he made it to camp, there are just too
many d-men ahead of him, including Tinordi.
Finland: Joonas Nattinen – Of all the prospects, this is the biggest
no-brainer. Nattinen played a big role last year and will play an even
bigger one this season, PP, PK, and possibly being a front liner. Barring
injury, I guarantee he’ll be named to the team.
Russia: Alexander Avtsin – I quite frankly was more than a little shocked
to not see him named to the preliminary list, though that was for training camp,
which Avtsin obviously couldn’t attend. However, also working against him
are the Bulldogs’ injuries, they only have one forward prospect with their ECHL
affiliate in Wheeling. Even if Russia asks, the Habs may feel he’s best
suited sticking with Hamilton so I can’t give him more than a 50/50 chance.
What to do with the potential LTIR credits for
Andrei Markov? This is the question that everyone has been asking
themselves for about 3 weeks, myself included. And after 3 weeks of
pondering, I honestly have not settled on a definitive answer. Is their
biggest glaring hole on defence or is the crew (sans Picard) that played the
last half of the playoffs good enough to do so again? Will someone step up
and finally replace Moen on a scoring line to give the team 2 legitimate scoring
If I had to pick right now, I would be more inclined to go after a defenceman as
I feel more confident in saying that one of Pouliot/Eller will be able to pick
up the scoring slack on a scoring line than I am in saying that the defence will
continue to hold up. I’m not convinced Hamrlik and Spacek won’t return to
early season form and that Gorges’ injury (upper body) will miraculously heal
itself. Frankly, the prospect of potentially having a quartet of Subban,
Picard, Weber, and Mathieu Carle (if there’s an injury, he’d the the call up) on
the roster scares me.
That said, I wouldn’t make a move quite yet. The team is doing well and I
do subscribe to the theory that "if it ain’t broke, don’t break it." Let
the cap space (roughly $5,800 daily) continue to add up which will give the team
flexibility (such as using LTIR without actually having to go over the cap at
year’s end by waiting long enough and using the previous savings to offset the
increase in salary). In fact, doing so would make me more confident that
they will make a move later in the year.
With this being the holiday season, I equate this to a holiday shopping list.
The Habs know who they’re buying for (themselves), now it’s time to make a
shopping list of options (to take place over the next several weeks). Then
it’ll be time to go price shopping (another few weeks). Only then can they
buy themselves the "gift" they truly need.
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