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In this week’s HW Recap: It was an unsuccessful
week in the win column for the Habs making it a successful one in the ping-pong
ball standings.  The Bulldogs aren’t worried about a lottery but rather
coming back from a double digit point gap to earn a playoff berth, their play
this week helped their chances.  Obviously the Pierre Gauthier firing was
the headline news but my Final Thought looks at who this move may even hurt more
than the disposed GM.

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) Erik Cole: No hat trick this week
but he still managed to add to his career best totals.  He has a legitimate
shot at becoming Montreal’s first 35-goal scorer since the 2007-08 season. (Prev:
1  Avg: 4.08)

2) Tomas Plekanec: His offensive surge
these last few weeks (8 points in 13 games) is a good way to end the season on a
bit of a positive note.  Getting any sort of offence with his rotation of
wingers is impressive. (Prev: 6  Avg:
6.46)

3) Max Pacioretty: Yes, the goals aren’t
going in but he is still a dangerous threat every time he’s on the ice.  He
also is one of the few players who can consistently get shots on net, an area
the team has struggled with these last few weeks. (Prev:
8  Avg: 4.30)

4) P.K. Subban: He didn’t hit the
scoresheet, he’s here for his defensive play.  He was the only defenceman
to not record a minus rating in at least one of the three losses and he did so
logging the most minutes in each game. (Prev: 4
 Avg: 8.75)

5) Josh Gorges: He continues to log
heavy minutes and block shots with reckless abandon.  That’s what I want to
see more of from the veterans in this final week, lead positively by example. (Prev:
5  Avg: 8.54)

6) Peter Budaj: He more or less was
hung out to dry on both Washington goals and wasn’t the greatest in the
shootout.  But, he made several important saves and gave Montreal every
opportunity to win the game in regulation. (Prev: 13
 Avg: 9.42)

7) Frederic St. Denis: I was really
impressed with his play.  Yes, he is getting sheltered minutes 5-on-5 but
he looked good shorthanded and was okay on the PP too.  We don’t know who
will be deciding on his NHL fate next year but a week like his will really help
his cause. (Prev: 16  Avg:
15.29)

8) Louis Leblanc: Moving up with
Plekanec woke his game out of the slumber he had been in the past few weeks. 
Developing some chemistry with the Czech centre would help his case for a roster
spot next year. (Prev: 18  Avg:
14.85)

9) David Desharnais: Struggled at the
faceoff dot and looked overmatched on the road at times in the defensive end. 
Offensively he was fine but his deficiencies were certainly exposed. (Prev:
2  Avg: 6.42)

10) Lars Eller: I was happy that he
spoke up with his frustrations, it’s always good to see the youngsters not
getting complacent.  On the ice, his play was a little erratic with some
shining defensive moments offset by some head scratchers. (Prev:
7  Avg: 7.75)

11) Rene Bourque: It may have been a
meaningless goal but that seemed to awaken him a bit from the laziness of the
last month; his game in Washington was one of his better ones recently. (Prev:
20  Avg: 13.45)

12) Andrei Markov: He played well in
Washington but the other two games weren’t his best.  I thought his speed
would have been a little better after a few games, teams are starting to exploit
that. (Prev: 9  Avg:
10.50)

13) Carey Price: His game in New York
would qualify for one of his worst of the season.  He looked disinterested
at times, likely the frustration of a losing season although in his defence, he
wasn’t getting much support that game either. (Prev:
3
 Avg: 5.50)

14) Alexei Emelin: It appears he
finally has hit the rookie wall.  Seldom does he look to initiate contact
and is more content to play it safe.  Aggression is what makes his game and
he just appeared gassed on most shifts. (Prev: 12
 Avg: 11.36)

15) Michael Blunden: I’m still a
little concerned that he isn’t playing all that physically but his skating legs
looked to be back under him which helped his all-around game.  I’m still
stunned that he got some time shorthanded in Washington. (Prev:
21  Avg: 16.43)

16) Brad Staubitz: He didn’t fight and
I thought it still was his best week as a Hab.  He showed a bit of skill
handling the puck, made the right reads in his own end and for the most part,
actually looked like a player out there. (Prev: 17
 Avg: 18.40)

17) Chris Campoli: An undrafted, 25
year old rookie looks better than him in the defensive zone more often than he
does.  I don’t think more needs to be said about him this week. (Prev:
15  Avg: 18.23)

18) Blake Geoffrion: He played okay
but for someone who is trying to make a case not only for next year’s lineup but
also to stay in between now and the end of the year, he left something to be
desired. (Prev: N/A  Avg:
16.75)

19) Ryan White: Another game where he
seemed more interested in running around more anything.  It’s okay to
agitate but he needs to realize he still has to actually play the game a bit. (Prev:
14  Avg: 13.50)

20) Aaron Palushaj: The good vibes
surrounding his game didn’t take long to go away.  Like Geoffrion, he’s
fighting for his Hab future and he didn’t do too good a job this week. (Prev:
10  Avg: 17.64)

21) Petteri Nokelainen: I’ll give him
credit, he was better at the faceoff dot than he had been lately.  But the
little bit offence he was bringing to the table evaporated as have his chances
of returning next year. (Prev: 11  Avg:
18.28)

The Dog
Pound

Hamilton continues to stay in the mix as they
took two of three in the third week of this seemingly never-ending road trip
(which does mercifully end mid-way through this upcoming week).

Results:

March 28:

San Antonio 3, Hamilton 2

March 29:

Hamilton 4, Texas 2

March 31:

Hamilton 3, Houston 2 (OT)

StatPack:

The Bulldogs welcomed back some
familiar faces as they finally got some players back from the infirmary
including a couple who had been out long-term.

SKATERS


#

Player

GP

G

A

+/-

SH

PIMS
3 Robert Slaney 3 1 1 -1 3 0
5 Alex Henry 3 0 1 +3 2 0
6 Joe Stejskal 3 0 0 -2 3 0
10 Philip DeSimone 3 0 1 -3 2 0
11 Alain Berger 2 0 1 -2 4 0
13 Zack FitzGerald 3 0 0 +1 3 6
15 Phillipe Lefebvre 3 1 0 -1 6 0
16 Olivier Fortier 1 0 0 E 0 2
17 Mark Mitera 3 1 2 +1 14 2
18 Dany Masse 3 0 1 +2 3 0
21 Ian Schultz 1 0 0 E 2 0
22 Andreas Engqvist 3 0 2 +2 10 0
23 Joonas Nattinen 3 1 0 +1 5 0
24 Brian Willsie 3 2 1 +2 13 2
25 Jesse Todd 1 0 1 +1 1 0
26 Ryan Flanigan 1 0 1 E 1 0
27 Travis Novak 3 1 1 +1 9 2
40 Gabriel Dumont 3 1 0 -3 5 2
44 Olivier Dame-Malka 3 1 0 +1 13 2
53 T.J. Fast 3 0 0 -3 3 0
67 Alexander Avtsin 3 0 0 -2 8 2

GOALIES


#

Player

Record

SV%

GAA
29 Robert Mayer 2-1-0 .914 2.32

Active Leaders:

Goals: Andreas Engqvist (19)
Assists: Brian Willsie (24)
Points: Brian Willsie (40)
+/-: Alex Henry/Jesse Todd (+3)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (235)
Shots: Brian Willsie (224)

Schedule:

April 3: Hamilton vs Oklahoma City
April 7: Rochester vs Hamilton
April 8: Hamilton vs Toronto

Final
Thought

First off, for anyone wondering,
we will have two separate Writers Weigh In columns on the news of Thursday’s
firing of GM Pierre Gauthier, the first of which will appear Monday. 
Accordingly, I’ll save my thoughts on the merits of that decision until then and
will instead look at a different aspect here.

I don’t think anyone would
disagree that Randy Cunneyworth has been thrown under the bus this season with
the comments on his hiring after the initial backlash representing the bus
backing up and running him over…again and again.  As hard as it is to
imagine, Thursday’s move may very well have done that again unintentionally. 
I don’t think there’s anyone that believes he’ll be back next season but Geoff
Molson’s comments put him in a bit of a tough spot.  Allowing the new GM to
more or less seal his fate is going to slow him (and likely assistant Randy
Ladouceur) down in terms of finding employment elsewhere.  They can’t
resign to free themselves up to search, they would forfeit the remaining money
on their contracts.  On the flip side, teams likely won’t ask for
permission to speak to Cunneyworth for an assistant or AHL coaching role (and
I’m sure several teams would want him in that role) as it would represent a step
back and if Molson truly believes there’s a chance the new GM will keep him
around, he would deny any such request.  Once again, it appears as if he’s
in a no-win situation.  Over the next 7-10 days, I truly hope Molson steps
back and realizes that as long as there’s a mandate to hire a bilingual GM,
there almost assuredly will be one to hire a coach with that particular
characteristic.  Cunneyworth isn’t going to be that guy so I’m hoping for
an old fashioned mercy firing here, we all know it’s coming anyway once the new
GM is installed.  In fact, it may be the one good thing that the Habs do
for him after throwing him like a piece of meat to a pack of starved, rabid dogs
known as the media, politicians, and the fans. 

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