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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: The penalty killers get some props for all the work they did in this set of the player rankings. In Hamilton, the Bulldogs continue to sputter but at least managed to pick up half of the points in their three contests. Meanwhile, my Final Thought examines something the Habs haven't had to deal with much of this year, what to do when players come back from injury.
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) Tomas Plekanec: Don't look now but after a sluggish start offensively, the two way centre now leads the team in points. Even more impressive were his three assists in New York despite logging over five minutes of penalty kill time. (Prev: 1 Avg: 3.50)
2) Andrei Kostitsyn: He's playing his best hockey in quite a while and was the only Hab to score in both games. Though I can't help but wonder if his pending UFA status is playing a role in this, it's still nice to see. (Prev: 10 Avg: 5.50)
3) Erik Cole: Although he had just the one goal (he certainly had enough chances), he still played an important role. For those who are interested in the physical department, he was the team leader in that area in both contests. (Prev: 3 Avg: 7.25)
4) Carey Price: I'm not going to criticize him much for the game in New York given all the penalties but the eventual winner was one he needed to have. In Ottawa, he played another strong game. (Prev: 2 Avg: 6.25)
5) Josh Gorges: He played over 10 minutes of PK time against the Rangers which is a telling sign about how important he has become while shorthanded. He has looked a lot better since being moved up with Subban. (Prev: 9 Avg: 9.75)
6) Max Pacioretty: I think he is a big believer of the "If you don't shoot, you can't score" theory. He has been very good at just getting pucks to the net; he is just two shots behind Marian Gaborik for second in the NHL in that category. (Prev: 6 Avg: 4.25)
7) Brian Gionta: I noted a couple of weeks ago that he was largely quiet except for when he stepped it up late in a game when the team was down. He did that once again in New York, though it would be nice to see him do that a little more regularly. (Prev: 13 Avg: 8.50)
8) Mike Cammalleri: I still think he's been too quiet out there most of the time but at the end of the night he's still on the scoresheet. It's hard to be too critical when he's still helping the team. (Prev: 14 Avg: 10.33)
9) Lars Eller: He may be at his best at centre but if he can't get the faceoff side of it down, he may very well be moved over when Scott Gomez returns. He's certainly generating chances at the very least. (Prev: 5 Avg: 4.50)
10) Hal Gill: This is the Gill that the Habs re-signed in the offseason. Log major minutes on the penalty kill, block several shots, and hope he doesn't mess up elsewhere. He did exactly what was expected of him. (Prev: 20 Avg: 16.00)
11) Jaroslav Spacek: As much as a lot of fans have scapegoated him, he has been a nice addition to the defence corps after his injury. He has really stabilized the D even though his game has been quiet for the most part. (Prev: 11 Avg: 11.00)
12) P.K. Subban: I don't want to be too hard on him as he's playing a role he clearly isn't ready for but it seems as if he's making a notable mistake at least once a game right now. Whenever Andrei Markov returns, it would not surprise me if Subban lands in the press box to let him recharge a little. (Prev: 12 Avg: 12.25)
13) David Desharnais: His disinterest in backchecking consistently really annoyed me this week...and was largely responsible for two of the five goals the Habs allowed. His inconsistency at the faceoff dot is also problematic although like Cammalleri, he is still producing somewhat well. (Prev: 4 Avg: 9.00)
14) Yannick Weber: After looking like he could handle larger minutes based on his play the last couple of weeks, he seemed a step slow for most of the two games while his shot was erratic. (Prev: 7 Avg: 11.75)
15) Travis Moen: He logged significant minutes and played well defensively but brought nothing to the table in the opponents' end. I know that's not his role but after doing that in previous weeks, I had some offensive expectations right now. (Prev: 16 Avg: 9.75)
16) Mathieu Darche: He gave the team some useful penalty kill minutes in New York but didn't bring much else to the table. For those concerned over his PP usage, he only played one minute with the man advantage in the two games combined. (Prev: 19 Avg: 14.25)
17) Raphael Diaz: Perhaps I jinxed him after proclaiming he wouldn't be Hamilton bound any time soon. He's playing a little too passively for my liking; he's at his best when he's playing an aggressive offensive game. (Prev: 15 Avg: 11.50)
18) Petteri Nokelainen: The New York game is a wash for him but he struggled a bit in Ottawa, particularly at the faceoff dot. As a specialist in that department, that really limits his overall effectiveness. (Prev: 17 Avg: 17.50)
19) Michael Blunden: It's hard to judge what you can't see. Unfortunately, even the stat sheets show that he wasn't quite as 'efficient' in limited ice time as he was last week. (Prev: 18 Avg: 18.50)
The Dog Pound
The Bulldogs got a couple of players back from injury but also lost a pair more to the infirmary. Not surprisingly, the frequent roster changes have hurt this team from getting much offensive momentum.
A pair of snipers finally got out of their respective scoring slumps to score their first goals of the season. Curiously enough, both players lead the team in points despite this.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||3||0||2||-2||3||0|
Goals: DeSimone/Fortier/Stafford (3)
Assists: Palushaj/Willsie (7)
Points: Palushaj/Willsie (8)
+/-: Alex Henry (+2)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (53)
Shots: Brian Willsie (40)
November 8: Chicago vs Hamilton
November 11: Grand Rapids vs Hamilton
November 13: Hamilton vs Binghamton
A lot of the talk this week has been along the lines of who will sit when so-and-so returns? Most often, the so-and-so's are Markov and Gomez as Ryan White is still out long-term. Before I give my thoughts on each situation, I'd like to mention how nice it is to discuss the prospect of actual healthy scratches (note the plural), something we as fans haven't had the luxury of discussing in quite some time.
With regards to Gomez, I'm not among the growing facet that says don't play him period. He still can play a useful role on this team, especially in the speed and faceoff department. He's going to be moved back to C and I think the play in the next 7-10 days will determine which of Eller/Desharnais moves over to the wing while Blunden likely goes back to Hamilton. (If he doesn't, I think Darche could see some time upstairs.) Eller's size would acquit him better to the wing but he is noticeably better at centre which means that if I had to guess right now, Desharnais would move to the wing to accommodate Gomez's return. I think that could work to his advantage too as he wouldn't have the puck quite as much; he'd be able to concentrate more on the little things away from the puck, an element that has been lacking at times in recent games.
As for the defence, that gets a little trickier. It's a cop-out answer but I think a rotation will be the short-term solution. Diaz and Weber both can be sat every so often while veterans like Gill and Spacek could both use the odd game off to keep them fresh. That type of rotation would also allow Alexei Emelin to get some playing time, something that he'll need sooner or later (I think he'll draw back in at some point this week.) The Habs have a decent amount of cap space at the moment so I don't think they'll hesitate to carry eight blueliners for a while.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]