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HW Recap: An Up-and-Down Season Continues
HW Recap: An Up-and-Down Season Continues(2011-11-27 20:32 posted by B. La Rose)

In this week's HW Recap: Sorting the good from the bad in a largely losing week in the weekly player rankings.  In Hamilton, literally half their team is now missing and their results certainly reflected that as they were winless on their road trip.  Plus, my Final Thought looks at trying to make sense of Lars Eller's slow development strategy.

Player Rankings

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: It's hard to pin the losses on him.  Against Boston, he allowed just the one goal, he was basically the lone player who showed up against Philly, while we all know the controversy from the Pittsburgh game.  He did his job night in, night out. (Prev: 1  Avg: 4.43)

2) Erik Cole: Size and speed are a hard combo to slow down for very long.  The chances weren't going in early in the week (and he was one of the few getting them consistently) before playing a very strong game against Pittsburgh. (Prev: 3  Avg: 6.29)

3) Lars Eller: After going quiet the last couple of weeks, he had a series of strong games to break out of his funk.  Even better was the fact he picked up a couple of points, something that had proven to be elusive lately. (Prev: 14  Avg: 6.29)

4) Travis Moen: With a pair of goals this week, he surpassed his total from last season already.  Something tells me his agent is taking note in advance of him becoming unrestricted in July. (Prev: 16  Avg: 10.00)

5) Josh Gorges: He's doing everything he was expected to do (strong positional play while blocking lots of shots...he leads the league in that category).  With two more assists this week, he's now tied for the team lead in points by a defenceman.  Maybe he should get some PP time? (Prev: 8  Avg: 7.71)

6) Max Pacioretty: His motto appears to be when in doubt, shoot; he sits fourth in the NHL in shots on goal.  It's working well for him as he became the first Hab to hit double digits in goals this week. (Prev: 5  Avg: 4.14)

7) Alexei Emelin: I'm putting him here for the physical factor (21 hits in 4 games, the 21 is second highest among all NHL'ers in the last week) but he even looked a bit more comfortable in his own zone.  Baby steps but positive ones for sure. (Prev: 9  Avg: 12.00)

8) P.K. Subban: The unfortunate (and unnecessary) diving aside, he had a decent week defensively.  The offence will come in time as he's given more room to freelance as the D gets healthy so I can stomach the slow scoring numbers. (Prev: 6  Avg: 9.86)

9) Tomas Plekanec: Just as talk of a point-per-game player began, he goes 0 for the week point wise.  However, he's the lone player being at least defensively responsible on the top line which counts for something. (Prev: 2  Avg: 4.57)

10) Hal Gill: Although the penalty kill did fine without him, it's a better unit with him.  Yes, he was soft on the Pittsburgh OT winner but beyond that, he had a very solid week defensively. (Prev: N/A  Avg: 15.00)

11) David Desharnais: He played well against Pittsburgh which gives me some hope that he has awoken from a slump that saw him do absolutely nothing else the rest of the week. (Prev: 10  Avg: 9.29)

12) Andrei Kostitsyn: As he only played in just the one game, it's hard to rate him high on the list this week.  That said, he had some good moments with Eller and Moen. (Prev: N/A  Avg: 6.80)

13) Petteri Nokelainen: He showed some signs of life we hadn't seen aside from the first couple of games after he was acquired.  His faceoff play is still concerning but at least he finally hit the scoresheet. (Prev: 20  Avg: 17.20)

14) Mike Cammalleri: Yes, he was absolutely horrible against Pittsburgh and not much better against Philly.  But against Boston and Carolina, he was more of the Cammalleri the Habs are paying $6 million for. (Prev: 11  Avg: 11.50)

15) Yannick Weber: When he doesn't try to overextend himself, he is a decent defenceman.  When he thinks he can make things happen, he's right...the problem is, what happens is generally a scoring chance for the opposition. (Prev: 13  Avg: 12.43)

16) Brian Gionta: I'm not even going to try to spin the -9 into a positive, it can't be done.  He was, however, responsible for the lone win the Habs had as his shootout goal was the difference in Carolina. (Prev: 4  Avg: 8.43)

17) Scott Gomez: He was decent against Boston but it all came crashing down against the 'Canes.  Getting injured certainly doesn't help the cause either. (Prev: 7  Avg: 15.20)

18) Raphael Diaz: This week showed why size for a blueliner is important.  Diaz is efficient against teams with weaker forward groups but against the likes of Philly, Pittsburgh, and Boston, he hasn't figured out yet how to compensate. (Prev: 12  Avg: 13.57)

19) Mathieu Darche: The best case scenario with him when he's out there is to hope he does nothing wrong.  Though that's not terrible for a fourth liner, it's reasonable to expect more from a player who scored 12 goals in just 59 games last year. (Prev: 21  Avg: 15.86)

20) Frederic St. Denis: It's hard to get into a groove playing sparingly at different positions.  He wasn't noticeable at all which, given the circumstances, might not be the worst thing in the world. (Prev: 15  Avg: 17.50)

21) Aaron Palushaj: A fourth liner he is simply not.  He needs to go back to Hamilton and work on his offensive game; among the rare few left with the 'Dogs who are actually healthy, surely someone can fill that role better than he can. (Prev: 19  Avg: 18.60)

The Dog Pound

The Bulldogs couldn't muster much in the way of anything this week but they have a pretty good reason for their struggles.  Here is the half team that missed at least one game this week:

Injured:  Alain Berger, Hunter Bishop, Andrew Conboy, Gabriel Dumont, Olivier Fortier, Nathan Lawson (not 100% but dressing as the backup), Brendon Nash, Ian Schultz, Garrett Stafford.

Called up: Andreas Engqvist, Aaron Palushaj, Frederic St. Denis (and possibly Raphael Diaz who most felt would start in Hamilton).

Results:

November 23: Grand Rapids 5, Hamilton 2
November 25:
Lake Erie 5, Hamilton 1
November 26: Rochester 5, Hamilton 3

StatPack:

One line is doing most of the scoring right now and it just so happens to be the youngest line on the team.  Sadly, that trio is also on for the most goals allowed.

SKATERS

# Player GP G A +/- SH PIMS
5 Alex Henry 3 1 0 +1 4 4
6 Joe Stejskal 3 0 1 -2 6 4
7 Joe Callahan 3 1 1 -3 6 2
10 Philip DeSimone 3 1 2 -4 2 12
11 Alain Berger 2 0 0 E 0 2
13 Zack FitzGerald 3 0 0 -2 3 26
14 Michael Blunden 3 0 1 -3 10 6
15 Phillipe Lefebvre 3 0 0 -1 4 2
17 Mark Mitera 3 0 0 -3 2 12
18 Dany Masse 3 1 1 E 4 4
20 Louis Leblanc 3 1 2 -4 11 0
23 Joonas Nattinen 3 0 2 E 4 0
24 Brian Willsie 3 1 0 -2 10 2
44 Olivier Dame-Malka 3 0 0 -5 3 2
51 Mitch Wahl 3 0 0 -2 5 0
53 T.J. Fast 3 0 0 -4 2 0
67 Alexander Avtsin 3 0 1 -6 5 6

GOALIES

# Player Record SV% GAA
29 Robert Mayer 0-2-0 .878 4.73

Leaders:

Goals: Philip DeSimone (5)
Assists: Brian Willsie (9)
Points: Brian Willsie (12)
+/-: Ian Schultz (-1)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (91) (League leader)
Shots: Brian Willsie (73)

Schedule:

December 2: St. John's vs Hamilton
December 3:
Rochester vs Hamilton

Final Thought

Of the many criticisms levied against Montreal head coach Jacques Martin, one of the more prominent ones has been the usage of second year centre Lars Eller.  More specifically, the lack of usage.  Though I too would like to see him play a little more, I'm not sure the fuss is completely warranted.

This year, Eller is averaging 14:38 per game which is a full 3:30 more than his rookie campaign.  His powerplay time has more than doubled (which doesn't say much as he's getting 36 seconds per game) while his PK time is up from 5 seconds to 1:05.  So it's not entirely true that he's not playing enough; in fact, he's averaging mere seconds less than everyone's favourite whipping boy, Scott Gomez.

A lot of concerns have stemmed from the wingers Eller gets to play with as he rarely sees top-6 time.  That decision (to keep him in the bottom 6) I agree with.  Last year, Eller came to the team with the reputation of being a good offensive player but erratic defensively.  Martin made Eller work on his defensive game and it has improved significantly.  Now, he's getting more time to hone his offensive skills but after essentially being deployed as a checker for a year, the coaches are easing him into playing more offensive by shielding him from opponents' top checkers.

Obviously, it's not the most popular policy but it's one that for the most part makes sense.  (I think he could handle another minute or two of powerplay time but based on his TOI progression dating back to last year, that should come in the second half of the season.)  It's all about baby steps with Eller and as we're seeing, there are some glimpses of things to come with his offensive game.  He's getting 14:38 of ice time now, that should and almost assuredly will go up as the season goes along, probably closer to the 17 minute mark by year's end which would bring his average to around 16. 

A quick glance at last year's TOI numbers for '2nd line' centres puts the TOI range from about 15:30-18:00.  Eller may either just fall short or be at the bottom end of that range by the end of the season.  As many are hoping Eller can become the #2 guy behind Tomas Plekanec, he looks as if he's well on his way to achieving that.  It's just going at a slower pace but one that is more manageable.  As the saying goes, "good things come to those who wait."  The waiting should be worthwhile soon enough.

If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at b.larose@habsworld.net. 



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