Home ice was friendly to both the Habs and
Bulldogs this past week as both the parent and farm teams won two of their three
games. For Montreal, they now sit back atop the Atlantic while Hamilton
once again is in a playoff spot. There have been questions all year as to
whether the Canadiens are ‘for real’; my Final Thought looks at why this
upcoming stretch of games may very well answer that question.
1) Max Pacioretty’s newfound playmaking skills.
He had more assists this past week than the previous month combined. While
many are focusing on Alex Galchenyuk’s play at C, Pacioretty’s performance away
from his usual centre (David Desharnais) is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
So far, so good.
2) Dustin Tokarski, for accepting the
conditioning stint to play in Hamilton for the weekend. The reason we
don’t see too many of these is that the player has to agree to it and more often
than not, they don’t. Tokarski needs to play and with the schedule being
spread out enough that Carey Price can start every game for a while, Hamilton
was the only option. Good on him for realizing it.
3) Jiri Sekac, who is really starting to assert
himself even though the numbers aren’t there to show for it. He already
looks a lot more comfortable and confident with the puck than he did just a
couple of months ago. If he keeps it up, the added production will come
1) Eric Tangradi, whose last few games have
really hurt his cause. He played well in his first week but since then, he
has become more of a liability. Given his situation, even playing
relatively well should be enough to stick as the reserve forward at the very
least but he hasn’t been able to do even that lately. Don’t be shocked if
Drayson Bowman gets another look as the extra forward before long.
2) Michel Therrien’s logic, or whatever it is
that keeps resulting in fourth line forwards being used in top six roles.
This week, it was Dale Weise who got put on the second line for no good reason.
It’s one thing to put a grinder on a line for a couple of shifts to send a
message, it’s another to start a player there with the expectation that
something good will come from it. Fourth liners are fourth liners for a
reason and should be used accordingly, that’s something that often isn’t
3) The negativity around veteran blueliner
Sergei Gonchar. Yes, he’s old, but old doesn’t equal useless.
However, that’s a correlation that is being brought up too often with him.
He hasn’t brought the powerplay back to life but he is giving the team steady
and for the most part, reliable minutes as a 4th/5th defenceman. That’s
more than most expected when Montreal acquired him so why the negativity when
he’s doing better than many thought he would?
Goals: Max Pacioretty (13)
Assists: David Desharnais (15)
Points: Max Pacioretty (27)
+/-: Max Pacioretty (+16)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (71)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (116)
The Bulldogs had a successful week, winning two
of three. They also picked up their second win of the year against a team
with a points percentage better than .500. (They still just have one
victory against a team with more wins than losses though.)
– Dalton Thrower was officially cleared to play
and was formally assigned to Hamilton. However, he was a healthy scratch
for each game. Meanwhile, Magnus Nygren is still
dealing with the mystery illness that has kept him out of the lineup since November 29th.
– It was a balanced attack for the Bulldogs
this past week. 10 of 11 forwards to play in all three games recorded at
least a point.
– Sunday’s game against Texas was good and bad
for Connor Crisp. He finally scored his first goal of the season but was
also assessed 27 minutes in penalties including a game misconduct for leaving
the bench to start a fight. If that isn’t rescinded by the league office,
a suspension will be forthcoming.
– With Jacob de la Rose off to the World
Juniors, Hamilton signed Wheeling forward Shane Bakker to a tryout deal to take
his place on the roster.
– Following the Texas game, Dustin Tokarski was
recalled back to Montreal.
– Lines from the most recent game:
Carr – Hudon – Dumont
Tangradi – Hensick – Bowman
Thomas – Macenauer – Sorkin
Nevins – Dowell – Crisp
Bennett – Pateryn
Tinordi – Drewiske
Finley – Dietz
Goals: Andrighetto/Hudon (9)
Assists: Charles Hudon (22)
Points: Charles Hudon (31)
+/-: Charles Hudon (+9)
PIMS: Connor Crisp (91)
Shots: Gabriel Dumont (85)
26: Hamilton vs Toronto
December 27: Adirondack vs Hamilton
For a large part of the season, one of the
discussion points has been, "Is this team for real?" No, this isn’t going
to be a comment about how certain stats are unsustainable and due for regression
but rather one about an old-fashioned way to answer that question, one that is
based on the schedule.
There is once again optimism about the team
after a strong home stretch that saw the team win four of five games. That
aligns well with their home success in general where they sit 13-4-1.
Unfortunately, the home stretch is over as the Habs are about to embark on a
five game road trip due to the World Juniors.
The road hasn’t been as kind to Montreal so far
this year as they’ve lost as many games as they’ve won (8-7-1). If they
muddle through this road trip, there’s a very good chance they’ll find
themselves in a wildcard spot when play at the Bell Centre resumes on January
6th. If, however, they have a strong trip, they’ll be in a good spot in
the standings with more home games than away remaining, a great situation to be
in nearing the midway point of the season.
Every year, the real contenders in the league
are ones that can get the job done away from home. Over this next stretch
of road games, we may very well see if the Canadiens are truly ‘for real’ or