The Habs got back to their winning ways this past week with Carey Price back between the pipes while the IceCaps continued their strong play at home As a result, both teams are sitting in a playoff spot at the one quarter mark of the season. With Alexei Emelin believed to be ready to return, my Final Thought looks at what should Montreal do with their blueliners moving forward.
Cheers and Jeers
1) The David Desharnais line, the best third line that really is a second line in the league. Through the first quarter of the season, they are the third highest scoring trio in the league, scoring 15 goals as a trio (when all three players are on the ice together). Not bad for secondary scoring. (Worth noting, Tomas Plekanec’s line is tied for first.)
2) Tom Gilbert, who has held his own on the left side. There are already challenges in terms of playing with someone who has sat almost the entire season but to do so on a side he has seldom played before is asking a lot…especially of someone who is already prone to mistakes. Gilbert has done well with the switch and has been part of a surprisingly effective third pairing with Greg Pateryn.
3) Carey Price’s return. Mike Condon struggled at the end but all in all did a solid job in Price’s absence. But even with that in mind, don’t you just feel that much more confident with the reigning MVP back between the pipes? Price looked a lot sharper in his second game which is a good sign moving forward.
1) Playing P.K. Subban the full two minutes on the power play. Can he do it? Sure, anyone can in theory. That doesn’t mean he should. Subban struggles when his minutes get too high – we saw that last season – and playing him that much with the man advantage will have him approaching 30 minutes a game with regularity which is way too much. Nathan Beaulieu can handle some time with the second unit, it’s better to have him finish the power play and have Subban ready to play back at full strength earlier than to have Subban play a full two minutes or more and then have to miss two 5-on-5 shifts.
2) The injury bug. Last week, Alexei Emelin was the only skater with an injury. Now Brendan Gallagher, Torrey Mitchell, and Devante Smith-Pelly all have or will miss time. That’s enough to deal with for a while. (And if you believe in jinxes, feel free to give me jeers for pointing out Montreal’s lack of injuries last week…)
3) The schedule makers who matched up the Canadiens and Islanders three times in less than three weeks this month. They don’t play again the rest of this season. I know the schedule is largely computerized based on arena availability dates but to cram an entire season worth of matchups versus an opponent in to that short of a time span isn’t right.
Goals: Max Pacioretty (11)
Assists: P.K. Subban (18)
Points: Pacioretty/Plekanec (20)
+/-: Tom Gilbert (+10)
PIMS: Nathan Beaulieu (23)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (83)
For the second straight week, the IceCaps picked up three of a possible four points against a division rival. Also for the second straight week, they won the opening game and lost the second one.
News and Notes:
– Perhaps the IceCaps should start marketing home games as ‘guaranteed 3-on-3 nights’. Five straight games at Mile One Centre have gone to overtime.
– With Bud Holloway and Sven Andrighetto both getting recalled to Montreal, the IceCaps have just eleven healthy forwards on the roster (and Tim Bozon is their lone signed player in Brampton).
– The injury news does not appear to be good for forwards Nikita Scherbak and Markus Eisenschmid. When asked early in the week about their situations, coach Sylvain Lefebvre noted both will likely be out for quite some time.
– After posting 44 saves in the win over Syracuse, goalie Eddie Pasquale was sent back to Brampton.
– Lines from the most recent game:
Carr – McCarron – Thomas
Hudon – Dumont – Holloway
Fournier – MacMillan – Gregoire
McNally – Miceli
Barberio – Ellis
Bennett – Dietz
Hanley – Lernout
Goals: Michael McCarron (8)
Assists: Bud Holloway (15)
Points: Bud Holloway (20)
+/-: Morgan Ellis (+9)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (31)
Shots: Bud Holloway (49)
November 27: St. John’s vs Rochester
November 28: St. John’s vs Toronto
November 29: St. John’s vs Toronto
Alexei Emelin’s injury allowed Greg Pateryn to get into the lineup and the youngster has made the most of it while Tom Gilbert hasn’t hurt his stock either. So what should Michel Therrien do with Emelin ready (or close to ready) to return to game action?
Thus far, Therrien has been hesitant to make changes, especially when the team is winning. That’s going to need to change. Pateryn has proven to be good enough that they can’t turn around and sit him for a month again. They can’t do that with Emelin or Gilbert either. It’s going to be time to start rotating players in and out with some regularity. It doesn’t have to be every game but frequently enough that no one sits for too long.
Once Emelin is back to full strength, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to give Andrei Markov a night off either. The team should be comfortable turning to Gilbert on his wrong side with Pateryn for a game here or there while Beaulieu has shown recently that he can handle a bigger workload at least on a short-term basis. Even giving Beaulieu a game off wouldn’t be the craziest idea in the world when the goal is to keep everyone fresh.
It’s hard to mess with a winning lineup but the third pairing shouldn’t greatly change Montreal’s fortunes in any given game anyway so it’s worthwhile to rotate until injuries strike again. The Habs are lucky to have some quality depth on the blueline. It’s time for Therrien and the team to take advantage of that.