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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
In this week's HW Recap: Find out who supplanted Carey Price atop the Player Rankings plus which Bulldogs helped lead Hamilton to a series win in Round 1. Plus, what changes need to be made prior to Tuesday's Game 6 and why the Habs are making the right decision to shut down Louis Leblanc instead of sending him to join the Bulldogs.
Players are rated from 1 to however many players play on a weekly (non-cumulative) basis. Rankings will be tracked weekly and averages provided.
1) Mike Cammalleri: He may not be
leading in the goals scored category but he's right up there in terms of points.
A 5 point week tends to do that in the playoffs.
(Previous: 4 Playoffs:
2) Andrei Kostitsyn: Either his injury from Game 1 wasn't too significant or he's doing quite the job playing through it. He scored in both games at home while leading all players on either team in hits in the double OT loss. A pretty well-rounded effort from a player who seems to be shaking his playoff demons. (Previous: 12 Playoffs: 7.00 Season: 10.46)
3) Carey Price: Some fans unfairly jumped on him after a pair of average games at home (this after allowing 1 goal in 2 games in Boston, that was forgotten in a hurry) but he played arguably his best game of the series in Game 5, albeit in a losing cause. (Previous: 1 Playoffs: 2.00 Season: 2.73)
4) P.K. Subban: He scored a crucial goal in Game 4 and logged a lot of minutes. I do think he needs to change things a little as Boston seems to be forcing him to turn it over in the neutral zone. It might be worth trying to pass the puck ahead a little more often if they're overplaying to try and force a Subban turnover. (Previous: 2 Playoffs: 3.00 Season: 7.46)
5) Jeff Halpern: It's times like these that you can't understate the value of a tried and tested veteran. A timely goal, some strong defensive play, and an excellent success rate in the faceoff dot, something no one else on the Habs can claim. (Previous: N/A Playoffs: 5.00 Season: 12.08)
6) Tomas Plekanec: No problems whatsoever with his defensive play, which was steady as usual. Offensively, he wasn't terrible either, picking up a point in 2 of the 3 games. It'd be nice to see him produce a little more but he has helped the cause more than last season. (Previous: 5 Playoffs: 5.50 Season: 6.04)
7) David Desharnais: He got better with each game even though the offensive production wasn't really there (aside from a second assist). When he was moved with Gomez and Gionta, that line started to take control. We'll see soon enough if he'll be able to play in Game 6 after being injured (knee) on Saturday. (Previous: 19 Playoffs: 13.00 Season: 10.08)
8) Lars Eller: Like Desharnais, he just seems to be getting better every time he hits the ice and has found chemistry with Darche and Halpern, a combination that rarely played together during the year. (Previous: 10 Playoffs: 9.00 Season: 13.60)
9) Hal Gill: He wasn't as flashy as Subban, but he was nearly as effective, especially on the penalty kill. He is logging major minutes for the second straight playoffs and is making the most of the extra time. (Previous: 15 Playoffs: 12.00 Season: 14.92)
10) Brian Gionta: He got burned on a couple of the goals but the rest of the time played pretty well. However, quiet games aren't what the Habs need from their captain right now. (Previous: 3 Playoffs: 6.50 Season: 6.38)
11) Ryan White: Getting lots of hits in limited ice time is probably what his NHL ceiling is going to be and to his credit, he is getting better and better in this role. (Previous: 7 Playoffs: 9.00 Season: 15.70)
12) Scott Gomez: Like Gionta, his play wasn't that bad most of the time, but when he made a mistake, the Habs paid for it. I'd like to see him taking less faceoffs, that has been a negative for him all series. (Previous: 6 Playoffs: 9.00 Season: 10.27)
13) James Wisniewski: I'll say this much, he isn't helping his next payday with his performance so far. I give him credit for coming back in the overtime and playing relatively well; he even shot the puck a few times which is encouraging. (Previous: 13 Playoffs: 13.00 Season: 6.86)
14) Mathieu Darche: He is playing well with Eller and Halpern but he needs to drive the net more. He has the size to create at least a little havoc in front of Tim Thomas. As the goals seem to get scored in the slot, this would go a long way toward helping the cause. (Previous: 14 Playoffs: 14.00 Season: 12.95)
15) Brent Sopel: On the whole, he isn't playing too badly. But he continues to contribute to his own demise with some bad passes that are causing a lot of problems in the defensive zone. (Previous: 11 Playoffs: 13.00 Season: 16.33)
16) Tom Pyatt: Defensively, he was strong as usual. In the playoffs though, it's hard to have more than one uni-dimensional player (White and his physical play is playing a more prominent role); his lack of offence is holding the attack back. (Previous: 8 Playoffs: 12.00 Season: 16.84)
17) Roman Hamrlik: Defensive positioning was one of his strengths during the regular season but lately, it has been his downfall. On the plus side, he has done well in Boston's zone, often making the right calls on when and when not to pinch. (Previous: 16 Playoffs: 16.50 Season: 8.76)
18) Travis Moen: When he's sat down late in games despite being someone who was brought in to be a playoff presence, that says a lot about his play. If he's going to play in a scoring role, he needs to at least be adequate out there. (Previous: 17 Playoffs: 17.50 Season: 14.92)
19) Jaroslav Spacek: I said after Games 2, 3, and 4 that he needed to sit for Mara. Not surprisingly, I feel the same after Game 5. He's not protecting the crease area well so it's time to try Mara, whose size and strength should help just that...though not playing in 2 weeks may work against him. Maybe that's why Spacek has been staying in the lineup. (Previous: 18 Playoffs: 18.50 Season: 13.11)
20) Benoit Pouliot: Though Jack Edwards may have gone over the top with the insults for Pouliot, he wasn't entirely wrong either. He has a lot of talent but clearly lacks the hockey sense or the desire to succeed on a regular basis. As much as he has the potential to contribute offensively, it's almost becoming too risky to play him with the discipline concerns. (Previous: 20 Playoffs: 20.00 Season: 12.38)
The Dog Pound
The week didn't get off to a good start for the Bulldogs as they blew their 2-0 series lead by losing the first 2 games in Oklahoma City. However, they salvaged 1 win on the road and took the series at home on Sunday afternoon.
The top scorers for Hamilton were quiet to start the week but ended with a bang, contributing most of the offence that ultimately gave the Bulldogs the series win.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||4||1||0||+2||7||2|
Goals: Nigel Dawes (5)
Assists: Dustin Boyd/Aaron Palushaj (5)
Points: Nigel Dawes (8)
+/-: Engqvist/St. Denis/Wyman (+2)
PIMS: Alex Henry (14)
Shots: Nigel Dawes (23)
At this time, we don't know too much about the
schedule for the second round, mainly because we still don't know the opponent
(and won't until Tuesday night). However, the first two games are set.
April 28: Game 1 in Hamilton, 7:30 pm EST start
May 1: Game 2 in Hamilton, 4:00 pm EST start
Although the Habs are now facing elimination,
there probably shouldn't be a sense of panic in the room or among the fans.
Unlike in the first two rounds last season, the Habs have been at the very worst
competitive in every game, while being dominant for points as well. Every
game has been close regardless of who wins. They've got a pretty good
chance, especially coming home for Game 6 to try to swing the momentum in their
favour. With Game 6 in mind, here are some tweaks I'd like to see made:
- More faceoffs for Halpern: As discussed earlier in the Player Rankings, Halpern is on fire on the draw while Gomez continues to scuffle. Years ago, we saw Yanic Perreault jump on the ice for faceoffs then immediately head to the bench, something similar could be done here. I'd like to see Halpern take most of the draws in place of Gomez who would line up as the LW. After the draw, Halpern could change for the winger on that line (which may be Moen once again). This shores up one of the primary deficiencies plaguing the team in the series while keeping 2 centres on the ice, nearly a must given the ridiculously excessive rate that linesmen are removing players from the faceoff dot (and don't even get me started on the inconsistency there).
- Lineup changes: As discussed earlier,
I'd still swap out Spacek for Mara. Up front, as much as I like Pyatt, he
really isn't being used enough shorthanded to justify dressing as a defensive
specialist. With the struggling PP, inserting Weber as a forward/PP
specialist makes some sense here, particularly with his playoff success against
Boston (see the Did You Know stat on the main page).
- Force the perimeter: Montreal's success against Washington and Pittsburgh last year came in large part to the defence keeping Halak's crease free of opponents and most shots from the outside. In the first 2 games of the series, the same was the case for the defence playing in front of Price. Boston made the adjustment to get more traffic, it's time for the Habs to counter-adjust and get the Bruins shooting from the perimeter once more.
The Habs had 3 players left in the CHL playoffs
when the 2nd round started. In the end, all 4 were eliminated. No,
that's not a typo either with the Habs signing Alain Berger earlier this month.
Berger, along with Phillipe Lefebvre and Louis Leblanc are all Hamilton bound
next season, yet none have been sent down. Most can understand Berger and
Lefebvre not being sent down, they'd be buried well down the depth chart (I
think the Habs quietly wish now they never signed Lefebvre in the first place)
but Leblanc is a different story. I must admit, I was disappointed with
their decision at first to not send him down (especially since I follow the
Bulldogs quite closely) but the more I think about it, the more I like it.
For starters, Leblanc clearly isn't 100% (there are some reports he may need shoulder surgery). As much as he says he wants to join the team (RDS had that earlier in the week), how effective is he going to be, especially in a checking/grinding role? Also, he played just 31 games last season at Harvard but this year, factoring in the World Juniors and the preseason, nearly 75. Couple that increase with the pressure of representing his country and being the face of a fairly new QMJHL franchise trying to establish itself and there probably is a pretty good mental drain on top of the physical one.
The Bulldogs are also trying to do some evaluating of their own. Alexander Avtsin, a regular for most of the year, is now a frequent scratch to allow Hamilton's (and Montreal's) brass to get a closer look at Paul Zanette to see if he merits an entry-level contract for next season. Leblanc, if he were to be assigned, likely would take that spot making Zanette's assessment nearly impossible. Yes, it would be nice to see Leblanc, one of Montreal's top prospects, have a chance to continue his season, especially since junior prospects (such as Price, Chipchura, and Dumont last year) have played some key roles with Hamilton in the postseason in years past. But in this case, erring on the side of caution and letting Leblanc heal up is the right decision, even if it's not the popular one.
If you have any questions regarding this article, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]