The Habs didn’t have much success this past week but did enough to hold onto first in the Atlantic as we hit the home stretch on the season. Hamilton also struggled, losing both of their games and really hurting their playoff odds in the process. Special teams are quickly becoming a concern but my Final Thought looks at why it’s not the power play that fans should be worried about.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Carey Price’s record-tying win. To be fair, the presence of overtime and shootouts have given Price a better shot at the franchise single-season wins record but that still doesn’t diminish what he has accomplished this year. His season has been one of the best in franchise history and this marker will help it be remembered for years to come. The only question now is, can he beat it? Presumably, he’ll get one more chance, probably on Thursday against Detroit.
2) A pair of career milestones. Tomas Plekanec picked up his 200th career goal while Michel Therrien picked up his 200th career regular season victory behind Montreal’s bench. Both are over-hyped or under-appreciated depending on who you talk to but regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, this is something everyone can be happy about, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment.
3) Starting to rest players. Therrien’s decision to give Andrei Markov a night off was a wise one. This is the time of year to fully utilize the depth and give some veterans some rest. (Of course, Therrien gave extra minutes to P.K. Subban that game which wasn’t a great move but at least Markov got his rest either way.) Hopefully a few others will get a night off before the postseason starts.
1) Shootout struggles. After being one of the better teams in the gimmicky skills competition early on this year, the Habs have struggled in this area lately. Their two losses this past week extend their shootout losing streak to four games. With both the division and conference battles likely to come down to a point or two, these losses may wind up hurting them even more at the end of the year.
2) Jacob de la Rose’s reduced impact. The rookie played quite well early on but lately, his effectiveness has dropped considerably. Offensively, he has recorded a point in just one of his last 19 games (just three of 31 all year) and while he’s not supposed to be a big scorer, he should be putting up a few more points along the way. Physically, he isn’t hitting anywhere near as much as he was early on (he had 32 hits in his first ten games, just 33 in 21 games since). And, he has been burned a few times on the penalty kill lately (more on those woes later) as well. A game off would probably do him some good.
3) The willingness to let Tampa Bay play their style of game. We’ve seen that when the Habs match up against them and play a skill game, it doesn’t end well for Montreal. When the intensity picks up though, the Canadiens start to control the play. Why is it that they’re unwilling to play that style much earlier in games though? When you’re battling for top spot, the Habs shouldn’t be letting opponents play to their strengths as willingly as they do vs the Lightning.
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Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Max Pacioretty (37) – T-4th in NHL
Assists: P.K. Subban (43)
Points: Max Pacioretty (67)
+/-: Max Pacioretty (+38) – 1st in NHL
PIMS: Brandon Prust (132) – 6th in NHL
Shots: Max Pacioretty (302) – 2nd in NHL
The Dog Pound
As was the case for the Habs, it was not a good week for Hamilton. The Bulldogs lost both of their games and have seen their already-low playoff hopes take a dive. They’re still alive but they can’t afford many (if not any) more losses.
News and Notes:
– Joey MacDonald returned to the lineup so Franky Palazzese was returned to Wheeling.
– A pair of new blueliners have joined the Bulldogs. Josiah Didier inked a tryout deal while Brett Lernout (who technically is under contract this year) was re-assigned from his junior team. In turn, David Makowski was sent back down to the Nailers.
– Christian Thomas has just one AHL goal in 2015, a span of 19 games.
– Lines from the most recent game:
Carr – Hudon – Andrighetto
Tangradi – Dumont – Sorkin
Bowman – Hensick – Thomas
Fournier – Dowell – McNally
Allen – Ellis
Bennett – Dietz
Shea – Didier
Goals: Daniel Carr (22)
Assists: Charles Hudon (38)
Points: Hensick/Hudon (55)
+/-: Davis Drewiske (+15)
PIMS: Joe Finley (132)
Shots: T.J. Hensick (166)
April 7: Hamilton vs Utica
April 10: Hamilton vs Texas
April 11: Hamilton vs Texas
With the playoffs nearly upon us, it’s time to get a little worried about the status of the special teams. And no, I’m not even talking about the middling-to-lousy power play, I’m talking about the penalty kill. Montreal’s shorthanded play has been a strength for most of the season. Until now, that is. Over the last seven games, the Habs have allowed seven shorthanded goals and have a success rate of just 65%.
Even with the Canadiens’ power play woes, I haven’t been too concerned as the penalty kill has been able to more or less make special teams a wash; they’re not scoring but they’re not getting scored on either. These last few weeks, that hasn’t been the case. I don’t have much hope that their play with the man advantage will magically improve so it’s up to the penalty kill to get the job done. Come playoff time, that unit needs to be a whole lot better than it has been lately.