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In this week’s HW Recap: The countdown to April
continues as the Habs’ struggles led to another pair of losses despite some
strong individual player performances.  In Hamilton, the playoff chase took
a big hit with a pair of losses while my Final Thought looks at what should be
done with Louis Leblanc the rest of the season.

Player
Rankings

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) David Desharnais: In a week where
there was very little offence to go around, he had a hand in two-thirds of the
goals plus the winner in the shootout against the Wild.  This one was a
no-brainer. (Prev: 1  Avg:
6.70)

2) Max Pacioretty: I had some concerns
that he might start to fatigue around this point having not played a full NHL
season yet coupled with last year’s injury but he is quickly putting those
thoughts to rest. (Prev: 2  Avg:
4.21)

3) Erik Cole: He’s still finding ways
to produce despite playing through a few nagging concerns.  I’m not sure
he’ll last the rest of the season before it becomes too much to keep going but
he’s getting the job done in the meantime. (Prev: 3
 Avg:
4.55)

4) Carey Price: He kept the Habs in both
the games they lost while he played relatively well (aside from a 4 minute
stretch) against the Wild.  He even looked decent in the shootout which is
an encouraging sign. (Prev: 10  Avg:
5.25)

5) P.K. Subban: Aside from the fact
he’s trying too hard to re-define the term ‘back check’ he seems to be a bit
more comfortable in recent weeks as he brings a bit more aggression back to his
game. (Prev: 5  Avg:
9.70)

6) Alexei Emelin: Right now, he’s
showing a better understanding of playing his opposite side.  I know the
popular thing is to rag on the coaches but perhaps easing him in instead of
throwing him out there night after night when he wasn’t ready was the right call
after all. (Prev: 13  Avg:
11.39)

7) Lars Eller: Despite playing on what
was more or less the second best line in terms of personnel, he had a quiet week
aside from his first ever PPG.  On the plus side, he played particularly
well shorthanded. (Prev: 14  Avg:
7.55)

8) Tomas Kaberle: In trying to stay
positive, I’ll avoid discussing his defence.  Offensively he was decent and
played a big role in the PP’s success against Minnesota. (Prev:
7  Avg: 11.08)

9) Tomas Plekanec: Although he didn’t do
anything offensively, it’s not as if he had anything to work with.  His
wingers combined have a total of 0 NHL goals this year, the fact he even had
some chances is something of an accomplishment. (Prev:
4
 Avg: 6.95)

10) Josh Gorges: He had a really rough
night against the Wild and is showing signs of wearing down.  He is still
making the right reads most of the time but just seems a half step too slow
lately. (Prev: 9  Avg:
9.10)

11) Scott Gomez: I thought he was
having a decent week before his eye injury which may prematurely end his season. 
For all the complaints he gets, the Habs’ offensive game has an extra element to
it when he’s in that they will miss. (Prev: 8
 Avg: 12.58)

12) Ryan White: He needs to be taken
off of the Plekanec line as soon as possible.  It is painfully evident that
he has no offensive game to speak of at this level; he is being asked to do too
much right now. (Prev: 6  Avg:
9.00)

13) Rene Bourque: When the Habs are
shorthanded, he is at his best.  The fact he’s doing well there is great,
however, he needs to shoulder a lot more of the 5-on-5 load with all the
injuries. (Prev: 17  Avg:
11.86)

14) Blake Geoffrion: He had moments
where he looked like he could be a decent NHL’er and others that displayed why
he was in Milwaukee instead of Nashville when he was acquired. (Prev:
N/A  Avg:
14.00
)

15) Brad Staubitz: He can fight. 
That doesn’t mean the team needs to be giving him a contract right away though. 
He needs to show he can actually play a little with his feet and stick, not just
his fists. (Prev: N/A  Avg:
15.00)

16) Chris Campoli: His mistakes
continue to be really costly, not exactly a characteristic any defenceman wants
to have associated with him. (Prev: 16  Avg:
18.33)

17) Yannick Weber: He didn’t help his
cause to stay in the lineup once Diaz and/or Markov return, that alone made his
week a big disappointment. (Prev: 20  Avg:
15.42)

18) Andreas Engqvist: He didn’t play
enough to really deserve to go high up in the rankings but he had a decent game
against the Leafs.  Hopefully he’s back up soon, more on what I mean by
that later. (Prev: N/A  Avg:
20.00)

19) Louis Leblanc: He looked
completely lost in the offensive zone but at least managed to compensate a bit
for it by bringing a physical game to the table, something we haven’t seen much
of from him. (Prev: 19  Avg:
15.44)

20) Petteri Nokelainen: The ‘faceoff
specialist’ returned to the lineup in a rather peculiar way…he failed to win a
single draw all week.  I think it’s safe to say that’s not exactly what the
coaching staff had in mind. (Prev: N/A  Avg:
18.79)

21) Aaron Palushaj: His eye injury
isn’t believed to be as severe as Gomez’s, he needs to be given a shot somewhere
beside the 4th line to see what he can do. (Prev: 21
 Avg: 18.40)

22) Raphael Diaz: He didn’t look 100%
going in to Tampa Bay and it didn’t take long for him to be pulled out of the
game and shut down. (Prev: 12  Avg:
13.20)

The Dog
Pound

If you think Montreal’s lineup is depleted, you
should take a close look at what the Bulldogs are dressing right now (the links
below show the rosters for each game).  Somehow, they’re keeping themselves
closer to the playoffs than the Habs but not by much.

Results:

February 29:

Toronto 4, Hamilton 2

March 2:


Lake Erie 2, Hamilton 1 (SO)

March 4:

Hamilton 1, Grand Rapids 0

StatPack:

Offence was hard to come by for
Hamilton and it came from some unlikely sources along the way.

SKATERS


#

Player

GP

G

A

+/-

SH

PIMS
3 Robert Slaney 3 0 0 E 6 0
5 Alex Henry 1 0 0 E 0 0
6 Joe Stejskal 3 0 1 E 4 2
7 Joe Callahan 2 0 0 E 5 0
10 Philip DeSimone 3 1 0 -2 9 0
11 Alain Berger 3 0 0 E 4 0
13 Zack FitzGerald 3 0 0 -1 4 2
15 Phillipe Lefebvre 3 0 1 +1 2 0
17 Mark Mitera 3 0 0 E 5 2
20 Louis Leblanc 2 0 2 E 7 8
21 Ian Schultz 3 0 0 -1 6 7
22 Andreas Engqvist 3 2 1 E 9 2
23 Joonas Nattinen 3 0 1 -1 1 0
24 Brian Willsie 3 0 1 -2 11 2
26 Eric Lampe 3 1 0 +1 4 0
27 Joey Haddad 2 0 0 E 2 0
28 Aaron Palushaj 1 0 3 +1 3 0
32 Frederic St. Denis 3 0 0 -1 4 0
40 Gabriel Dumont 1 0 0 E 3 0
53 T.J. Fast 3 0 0 -2 1 2
55 Garrett Stafford 1 0 0 E 1 0
67 Alexander Avtsin 3 0 0 -2 4 4

GOALIES


#

Player

Record

SV%

GAA
29 Robert Mayer 0-1-0 .903 3.05
52 Nathan Lawson 1-0-1 .980 0.48

SHOOTOUT
– SKATERS

# Player G/ATT
10 Philip DeSimone 0/1
20 Louis Leblanc 0/1
21 Ian Schultz 0/1
22 Andreas Engqvist 0/1
24 Brian Willsie 0/1

SHOOTOUT
– GOALIES

# Player SVS/ATT
52 Nathan Lawson 4/5

Active Leaders:

Goals: Andreas Engqvist (18)
Assists: Frederic St. Denis (22)
Points: Andreas Engqvist (34)
+/-: Alex Henry (+4)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (190)
Shots: Brian Willsie (185)

Schedule:

March 9:
Toronto vs Hamilton
March 10: Hamilton vs Toronto (kicking off a 12 game, 25 day road trip)

Final
Thought

Of the very few storylines between now and the
end of the season, one of the more interesting ones is what to do with Louis
Leblanc.  He looked like he belonged in his first stint with the team but
hasn’t fared as well since then.  With the Habs out of playoff contention
and playing out the stretch, it’s easy to make a case to keep developing him at
the NHL level but I’m on the other side of the fence.  Here is why Montreal
should send him down and, barring more injuries, keep him down.

- Physical readiness – Leblanc isn’t physically
ready to play regularly in the NHL right now.  He is too easy to knock off
the puck and hasn’t learned the best ways to shield it yet.

- Playing time – Regardless of whether you
think the team should openly tank, the fact of the matter is they won’t. 
As a result, the callups aren’t going to play big minutes no matter how much
fans want them to.  In Hamilton, he would be on the top line playing heavy
minutes and in a role he’s more suited for. 

- Age – Leblanc has waiver exemption left
beyond this season.  Players like Aaron Palushaj, Andreas Engqvist, and
Blake Geoffrion don’t.  We know Leblanc is in the plans moving forward, we
can’t say the same for the others.  They need the priority playing time to
be evaluated as much as possible.

Now I can see the other side of the argument,
if he’s likely to play a bigger role with the Habs next year, why not get him
acclimated quicker by keeping him up?  There’s certainly some legitimacy to
that as well.  However, given the above, I’d still like to see him spend
the rest of the year in Hamilton.  His day will come where he’s a full time
NHL’er and it’s probably not too far away either.  That time isn’t now
though and it’s time to let the others who need the prolonged look get their
chance.

If you have any questions/comments, please feel
free to drop me a line at [email protected]