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Although the opponents based on the standings
were supposed to be easy, the past week was anything but for the Habs who
managed just one win in three games against non-playoff teams.  In
Hamilton, the Bulldogs were able to pick up a win against one of the top AHL
teams thanks to some terrific goaltending.  Jeff Halpern was picked up off
waivers by Montreal and although he’ll only be a fourth liner, my Final Thought
looks at why this was a smart claim.

Cheers
and Jeers

Cheers to…

1) P.K. Subban, for responding the best way
possible after being criticized by Michel Therrien for a costly penalty taken
against Buffalo that turned into the game winning powerplay goal in overtime. 
The next game, he goes and scores a pair of goals.  That’s one way to get
rid of any negativity.

2) Andrei Markov, who this month has been a
positive model of consistency on the scoresheet.  In February, he had a
nine game pointless stretch but this month, he has an assist in eight of the
last nine games.  It’s no coincidence that the powerplay has looked better
as of late as well.

3) Tomas Plekanec, for finally giving the Habs
one regular centre (who plays better than fourth line minutes) with a faceoff
percentage better than 50%.  He has been better than that mark in four of
his last five contests.

Jeers to…

1) The surprising over-usage of Colby Armstrong
since his promotion to the third line.  It’s one thing to give a player a
few more shifts after being promoted due to injury, it’s another to give him a
six minute bump.  I think he’s playing better than many are giving him
credit for but that’s way too much ice time for him.

2) Ryan White, who has completely vanished in
recent weeks.  Instead of toning down the after the whistle stuff that got
him in trouble before, he has more or less removed all aggression from his game. 
Consider this: Many bemoan the lack of hitting from Travis Moen but the
difference in hits per game between the two is 0.11 (or one hit per nine games). 
The difference is, Moen can bring something else to the table.  If White
wants to stay in the lineup, he is going to have to shape up quickly. 

3) This past weeks’ record: Although the Habs
on the whole didn’t play too poorly, earning only three of six points on the
week against non-playoff teams is a disappointment.  In order to keep pace
with the top teams, they need to take advantage when they’re facing weaker
opponents.  This was dubbed by some as a potential ‘trap week’ for the team
and, at least to a degree, Montreal got caught.

StatPack:

SKATERS


#

Player

GP
G A +/- PIM SH TOI
11 Brendan Gallagher 3 1 1 E 0 9 46:58
14 Tomas Plekanec 3 0 2 -1 0 11 60:35
20 Colby Armstrong 3 1 0 E 0 3 48:53
21 Brian Gionta 3 1 0 E 0 8 55:07
26 Josh Gorges 3 0 0 -1 0 1 67:42
27 Alex Galchenyuk 3 0 1 E 0 10 40:08
32 Travis Moen 3 0 0 E 2 1 26:15
37 Gabriel Dumont 3 0 1 E 6 3 25:48
42 Jarred Tinordi 3 0 0 E 2 4 34:03
45 Michael Blunden 1 0 0 E 2 1 5:57
51 David Desharnais 3 0 2 +1 0 2 46:24
53 Ryan White 2 0 0 E 0 1 15:04
55 Francis Bouillon 3 0 0 E 0 2 46:48
67 Max Pacioretty 3 1 2 E 2 13 50:47
73 Michael Ryder 3 0 0 E 0 10 52:26
74 Alexei Emelin 3 0 0 -1 5 2 63:38
76 P.K. Subban 3 2 0 +1 6 9 75:19
79 Andrei Markov 3 0 3 +1 0 6 76:38
81 Lars Eller 3 0 1 E 0 6 51:38

GOALIES


#

Player

Record

SV%

GAA
31 Carey Price 1-1-1 .894 2.32

Scoring
Leaders:

Goals: Tomas Plekanec (12)
Assists: Max Pacioretty (16)
Points: Pacioretty/Ryder (25)
+/-: Brandon Prust (+13)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (81)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (100)

Schedule:

March 26: Montreal
vs Pittsburgh
March 27: Montreal vs Boston
March 30: NY Rangers vs Montreal

The Dog
Pound

The highlight of the week for Hamilton was
their 1-0 victory over the then-league leading Syracuse Crunch.  Dustin
Tokarski, who started the season with Syracuse, had arguably his best
performance in a Bulldogs uniform.

News and
Notes:

– Alexander Avtsin was assigned to Wheeling of
the ECHL while Daultan Leveille and Antoine Corbin, both on AHL deals with the
team, were sent to San Francisco (ECHL).  Olivier Fortier was re-assigned
to Orlando, the team he began the season with.

– Brady Vail and Matt Grassi both signed ATO’s
while Alex Belzile and Dean Ouellet, who had been playing in the ECHL this
season, signed PTO’s.

– Patrick Holland missed both games with an
upper body injury.  He is listed as day-to-day.

– Approximate lines from the most recent game:

Forwards:

Bournival – Tenute – Belzile
Chaput – Nokelainen – Leblanc
Quailer – Vail – Lefebvre
Hagel – Ouellet – Stortini

Defence:

Beaulieu – Pateryn
St. Denis – Stejskal
Merth – Ellis

Results:

March 22:
Hamilton
1 Syracuse 0

March 23:
Binghamton
4, Hamilton 2

StatPack:

SKATERS


#

Player

GP

G

A

+/-

SH

PIMS
2 Greg Pateryn 2 1 0 -1 2 0
6 Joe Stejskal 2 0 1 +2 5 0
7 Peter Merth 2 0 0 -2 0 2
8 Nathan Beaulieu 2 0 1 -1 3 2
10 Stefan Chaput 2 0 0 -1 0 0
11 Joey Tenute 2 0 1 E 4 2
12 Zack Stortini 2 0 0 E 1 12
13 Steve Quailer 2 0 0 -1 6 7
15 Kyle Hagel 2 0 0 E 2 5
18 Michael Bournival 2 0 1 E 3 0
20 Louis Leblanc 2 0 0 E 7 2
24 Dean Ouellet 2 0 0 E 2 2
26 Petteri Nokelainen 2 0 0 -1 4 6
32 Frederic St. Denis 2 1 0 +2 2 0
44 Morgan Ellis 2 0 0 -2 6 0
47 Alex Belzile 2 1 2 E 5 2
49 Phillipe Lefebvre 2 0 0 E 2 0
54 Brady Vail 2 0 0 -1 0 0

GOALIES


#

Player

Record

SV%

GAA
34 Dustin Tokarski 1-1-0 .952 1.51

Scoring
Leaders:

Goals: Gabriel Dumont (15)
(Active Leader: Louis Leblanc with 9)

Assists: Bournival/Beaulieu (17)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (30) (Active Leader: Michael Bournival with 24)
+/-: Joonas Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (215)
Shots: Louis Leblanc (132)

Schedule:

March 27:
Abbotsford vs Hamilton
March 29: Abbotsford vs Hamilton
March 30: Rochester vs Hamilton

Final
Thought

When Jeff Halpern was waived by the Rangers on
Friday afternoon, I thought the Habs might put in a claim for the veteran
centre.  I also figured a few other teams would as well so I was pleasantly
surprised to learn that no team behind the Canadiens in the standings claimed
him.  Although he’s not the hitter and fighter many fans seem to covet for
the fourth line, he brings some useful elements to this team.

His faceoff prowess is what has made him
coveted around the league throughout his career while he can still log some
minutes shorthanded.  These are two of Montreal’s bigger weaknesses at the
moment; he alone won’t make these areas perfect but he should be able to help
the cause.  Adding another veteran to the room is also a positive,
especially one who has a rapport with quite a few of the players already. 
This should ensure that his transition to the team is seamless.

This also doesn’t preclude the acquisition of
another physical energy player either.  Although the Habs are up against
the roster maximum right now, they have a few players who can be sent down to
keep them under the 23 player roster limit, one that will no longer be in effect
after the trade deadline.  All of the options that were out there before
remain available today.  Halpern isn’t the type of addition that is going
to be the ‘final piece of the puzzle’ but he does fill a need and the price to
acquire him ($3,375 US – the waiver price for someone with more than nine years
experience), was a bargain.  It’s a small move but it should be an
effective one.

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