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Montreal vs. Nashville | December 21th, 2013 | 1900 EST
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Are the Habs becoming too reliant on special teams
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In this week's HW Recap: The infirmary grew larger but the Habs persevered on; the players that are still healthy are discussed in the weekly player rankings. On the farm, a lack of depth is really hurting the Bulldogs whose struggles continued. Plus, my Final Thought looks at the defence and how we shouldn't be so eager to see a trade when everyone gets healthy.
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) Carey Price: A pair of shutouts in three starts, that usually means he'll merit consideration for one of the NHL's 3 Stars of the Week. His shootout play is a little concerning but not allowing a goal means we can overlook it for a bit. (Prev: 4 Avg: 5.00)
2) Tomas Plekanec: He wasn't all that noticeable out there but at the end of the week, he had three straight two point games. If that's what he does when he's not really noticeable, I hope he stays that way. (Prev: 7 Avg: 3.83)
3) Erik Cole: We all know how his physical play and precise shot have been big components for the Habs. I think his speed has been just as important, he is deceptively fast for his size. (Prev: 10 Avg: 7.00)
4) Brian Gionta: He's slowly finding his scoring groove again and continues to score at important times. He's slowly finding chemistry with his current centre in Plekanec. (Prev: 5 Avg: 7.17)
5) Max Pacioretty: One of two Habs to record a point in every game, he and Cole have formed a power forward duo that fans have been coveting for a long time. (Prev: 1 Avg: 3.83)
6) P.K. Subban: He finally got the monkey off his back by scoring his first of the year. Since then, he has looked more confident out there although on the downside he does remain too predictable on the powerplay. (Prev: 6 Avg: 10.17)
7) Scott Gomez: He still can't buy a goal to save his life but he did the next best thing which was set some up. There's no denying that when he's on that he can still help this team. (Prev: 21 Avg: 14.75)
8) Josh Gorges: With more injuries on the blueline, he had to step up and play even more minutes. He is quickly showing the organization that his knee is fully recovered. (Prev: 2 Avg: 8.17)
9) Alexei Emelin: He had some real ups and downs as he has his best and likely his worst game of the year. However, his other games were also decent suggesting he's starting to get more comfortable out there.. (Prev: 20 Avg: 13.25)
10) David Desharnais: He had a quiet week point wise but he deserves some credit for the success of his linemates. His wingers' size also is helping to compensate for his lack of it. (Prev: 8 Avg: 9.00)
11) Mike Cammalleri: He had more than enough quality chances that either hit the post or were big saves by the goalie. Sooner or later you have to think more will start going in. (Prev: 13 Avg: 11.00)
12) Raphael Diaz: Finally snapped a lengthy pointless drought with a couple of helpers. Lost in all the talk of the now even more depleted defence corps is that he is now getting pretty much top-4 minutes. (Prev: 19 Avg: 12.83)
13) Yannick Weber: The Habs' PP had more success with him on the top unit this week but he struggled mightily just getting the puck to the net. Like Subban, he needs to learn that it's not necessary to try and shoot through the defender all the time. (Prev: 12 Avg: 12.00)
14) Lars Eller: Moving to the wing clearly set his game back. He looks fine when he has the puck but without it he's unsure of where he needs to be and when. With all the time he spent there last year, he shouldn't need too much of a learning curve to adapt. (Prev: 9 Avg: 6.83)
15) Frederic St. Denis: As much as a certain broadcaster may want it to happen, he hasn't shown enough to prove he can stick full time in the NHL. Fortunately, he has come in and been able to give the team decent (albeit sheltered) minutes in each game so far. (Prev: N/A Avg: 15.00)
16) Travis Moen: His offence is starting to dry up but he managed to pick up a goal on a 'goal scorer's bounce.' Rarely do those bounces go the way of a plugger like Moen but whatever works. (Prev: 11 Avg: 11.00)
17) Peter Budaj: He held the Habs in the Islanders game in the 3rd but the fact they were losing sat on him somewhat. He's an up-and-down goalie and this was one of his down games. (Prev: 3 Avg: 9.33)
18) Jaroslav Spacek: He only played part of a game but was playing relatively well against the Sabres before leaving with an injury no one really seems to know about still. (Prev: 17 Avg: 14.25)
19) Aaron Palushaj: He's not playing poorly but this is clearly not a role (4th line) that is for him. The Habs would be well advised to try someone at least more defensive minded to go along with what is by default considered as the 'checking line.' (Prev: 15 Avg: 18.00)
20) Petteri Nokelainen: He continues to simply be mediocre at the faceoff dot. As he was brought in to win some important draws, it would be nice to see that turn around soon...not to mention his point drought. (Prev: 18 Avg: 18.25)
21) Mathieu Darche: He's not playing poorly but he has done very little to be noticed lately. His job on this team still isn't a guarantee, he needs to bring more to the table soon. (Prev: 14 Avg: 15.33)
The Dog Pound
Unfortunately for Hamilton, the amount of injured players they have isn't much smaller than Montreal's. As a result, their team is outmatched talent wise nearly every game and it's starting to show.
One of the lone bright spots was a player who was one of the youngest in all of the AHL last season.
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Goals: Philip DeSimone (4)
Assists: Brian Willsie (9)
Points: Brian Willsie (11)
+/-: Michael Blunden (+1)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (65)
Shots: Brian Willsie (63)
November 23: Hamilton vs Grand Rapids
November 25: Hamilton vs Lake Erie
November 26: Hamilton vs Rochester
Before the call up of Frederic St. Denis, there were already fans suggesting that the Habs need to make a trade involving one of their defenceman once everyone gets healthy. Now that St. Denis has been decent, those seem to have intensified. At first, I thought it made sense to do so but now, not so much. Here's why:
1) With this team, injuries, especially on the blueline, seem inevitable. Although there could be a stretch where everyone actually is healthy, it may not last long. Defensive depth is always a commodity the Habs are looking to shore up midseason. If they move one out soon, they could easily find themselves scrambling to acquire another one when dealing from a position of weakness.
2) The Habs have options with how to internally break out the ice time. St. Denis, Diaz, and Emelin all are waiver exempt which right then and there would leave them with 7 D. If they're concerned about Emelin bolting, Yannick Weber has shown he can be decent on the wing while being a primary specialist which would allow them to more or less carry 8 defencemen without too many problems.
3) They may have extras soon but look ahead to next year and they likely won't. Josh Gorges, Chris Campoli, Hal Gill, and Jaroslav Spacek are all unrestricted free agents, as is St. Denis who will qualify for Group 6 status. Some of those will be kept around but obviously all won't. When the free agent dust settles, they'll be back to having 7 (8 at most) which is the ideal amount.
Obviously if the right move presents itself, it would be okay to deal out a defenceman, particularly if it's one of the ones not expected to return next year; those make the most sense from a future planning standpoint. But time and time again we've seen situations where this team can't ever have enough depth. Perhaps this time with this group will be the end to that trend.
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