The drop in the standings continues for the Habs after another winless week against Western opponents. Things weren’t much better for the IceCaps who, after losing three of four, are also now starting to lose ground. Plus, everyone knows scoring help is needed but my Final Thought looks at another area that needs improvement in Montreal.
Cheers and Jeers
1) The top line, which, for at least a few games, has actually resembled a top line. The trio of Pacioretty-Plekanec-Gallagher combined for three goals, four assists, and 41 shots on goal in the three games. I’ll feel a lot more confident about them if they can carry this through for several consecutive weeks but it’s nice to see them generating some real pressure again.
2) P.K. Subban. Not only is his production starting to return but he has been a lot sharper in his own end the last few weeks as well. With some of the other blueliners struggling, he needs to pick up the slack and Subban has done just that. A confident P.K. is an effective P.K. and his recent play should inspire some confidence.
3) The effort level. Montreal played two great games against St. Louis and Chicago (the home one). They’re not showing signs of quitting on the coach or on each other. With the team slumping like this, it’s nice to see
that no one is mailing it in yet.
1) Daniel Carr’s demotion. When the team is struggling to score, why send down one of the higher scorers of recent weeks? Even in limited (4th line) minutes, Carr was still making a positive impact in games. I agree that a move needed to be made but it was to tell him to find an apartment in Montreal, not to send him back to St. John’s.
2) The limited ice time for Mark Barberio. He’s waiver exempt until his 10th NHL game played and he’s rapidly approaching that mark but is seeing lower and lower ice time in the process. Why waste the short-term exemption if all he’s going to get is Pateryn-like ice time? Either give him a bigger role or send him back; the Habs don’t need to put themselves into a situation where they don’t want to waive a defenceman that’s only averaging 12-13 minutes a night. They just went through that with less-than-ideal results.
3) Finding ways to lose. Montreal easily would have won the St. Louis game had it not been for avoidable mistakes. These mistakes, while not necessarily overly plentiful, have come back to bite them time and time again in recent weeks. I know many want the system opened up for more scoring but I think they need to get back to the fundamentals and shore those up first. Better defensive zone play will only help the offence, not to mention keeping a few more pucks out of the net.
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Goals: Max Pacioretty (19)
Assists: P.K. Subban (29)
Points: Max Pacioretty (36)
+/-: P.K. Subban (+11)
PIMS: Emelin/Subban (45)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (181)
On the plus side, the offence returned for the IceCaps as they scored 14 goals in four games this past week. Unfortunately, they still lost three of those as they failed to keep the puck out of their net; they managed to allow 18 in those contests.
News and Notes:
– Both Nikita Scherbak and Ryan Johnston returned from injuries. In Johnston’s case, he made his AHL debut on Saturday. Connor Crisp is now the lone injury for St. John’s. Jeremy Gregoire, who had played in every game this season, was scratched to make room for Scherbak’s return.
– Brandon McNally was assigned to Brampton of the ECHL while seldom-used enforcer Eric Neilson was released.
– Michael Bournival is struggling offensively. He has just one goal in 15 games so far this season.
– Lines from last game:
Carr – McCarron – Holloway
Andrighetto – Hudon – Scherbak
Bournival – Dumont – Friberg
Lessio – MacMillan – Eisenschmid
Ellis – Dietz
Hanley – Lernout
Johnston – Didier
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Goals: Michael McCarron (13)
Assists: Bud Holloway (24)
Points: Bud Holloway (35)
+/-: Morgan Ellis (+12)
PIMS: Stefan Fournier (65)
Shots: Bud Holloway (100)
January 20: St. John’s vs Bridgeport
January 22: St. John’s vs Albany
January 23: St. John’s vs Albany
Much has been made about Montreal’s lack of scoring and how the team is in dire need of help in that department. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. There is, however, another area that is lacking that has come to the forefront during this stretch – veteran leadership.
If you look back at the Habs’ roster in recent years, you’ll remember the likes of Weaver, Malhotra, Gonchar, Moen, and Gill. All of them were over 30 and although none of them made huge impacts on the ice, they all were lauded for their efforts off of it. They were never captains (Gill wore an ‘A’ for a bit) but they all took on a leadership role as supplementary leaders in the room. All had been through the trials and tribulations of slumps in the past and were helpful during the tough times.
Fast forward to this season. Where is that veteran leadership buffer to augment the likes of Pacioretty, Subban, Plekanec, and Markov, the veterans that are expected to lead? The other 30-something skaters in the organization are Torrey Mitchell, Tom Gilbert, Tomas Fleischmann, and yes, John Scott. Due respect to those players, but none of them have that clout and experience that can really make a difference during a time like this.
I’m not saying this is priority #1 here. This team needs scoring first and foremost. But if Marc Bergevin can find a way to add a quality veteran or two along the way – even if it’s a small move to add one in a depth role – it could go a long way towards helping get things back on track.