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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 countdown to April continues as the Habs' struggles led to another pair of losses despite some strong individual player performances. In Hamilton, the playoff chase took a big hit with a pair of losses while my Final Thought looks at what should be done with Louis Leblanc the rest of the season.
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) David Desharnais: In a week where there was very little offence to go around, he had a hand in two-thirds of the goals plus the winner in the shootout against the Wild. This one was a no-brainer. (Prev: 1 Avg: 6.70)
2) Max Pacioretty: I had some concerns that he might start to fatigue around this point having not played a full NHL season yet coupled with last year's injury but he is quickly putting those thoughts to rest. (Prev: 2 Avg: 4.21)
3) Erik Cole: He's still finding ways to produce despite playing through a few nagging concerns. I'm not sure he'll last the rest of the season before it becomes too much to keep going but he's getting the job done in the meantime. (Prev: 3 Avg: 4.55)
4) Carey Price: He kept the Habs in both the games they lost while he played relatively well (aside from a 4 minute stretch) against the Wild. He even looked decent in the shootout which is an encouraging sign. (Prev: 10 Avg: 5.25)
5) P.K. Subban: Aside from the fact he's trying too hard to re-define the term 'back check' he seems to be a bit more comfortable in recent weeks as he brings a bit more aggression back to his game. (Prev: 5 Avg: 9.70)
6) Alexei Emelin: Right now, he's showing a better understanding of playing his opposite side. I know the popular thing is to rag on the coaches but perhaps easing him in instead of throwing him out there night after night when he wasn't ready was the right call after all. (Prev: 13 Avg: 11.39)
7) Lars Eller: Despite playing on what was more or less the second best line in terms of personnel, he had a quiet week aside from his first ever PPG. On the plus side, he played particularly well shorthanded. (Prev: 14 Avg: 7.55)
8) Tomas Kaberle: In trying to stay positive, I'll avoid discussing his defence. Offensively he was decent and played a big role in the PP's success against Minnesota. (Prev: 7 Avg: 11.08)
9) Tomas Plekanec: Although he didn't do anything offensively, it's not as if he had anything to work with. His wingers combined have a total of 0 NHL goals this year, the fact he even had some chances is something of an accomplishment. (Prev: 4 Avg: 6.95)
10) Josh Gorges: He had a really rough night against the Wild and is showing signs of wearing down. He is still making the right reads most of the time but just seems a half step too slow lately. (Prev: 9 Avg: 9.10)
11) Scott Gomez: I thought he was having a decent week before his eye injury which may prematurely end his season. For all the complaints he gets, the Habs' offensive game has an extra element to it when he's in that they will miss. (Prev: 8 Avg: 12.58)
12) Ryan White: He needs to be taken off of the Plekanec line as soon as possible. It is painfully evident that he has no offensive game to speak of at this level; he is being asked to do too much right now. (Prev: 6 Avg: 9.00)
13) Rene Bourque: When the Habs are shorthanded, he is at his best. The fact he's doing well there is great, however, he needs to shoulder a lot more of the 5-on-5 load with all the injuries. (Prev: 17 Avg: 11.86)
14) Blake Geoffrion: He had moments where he looked like he could be a decent NHL'er and others that displayed why he was in Milwaukee instead of Nashville when he was acquired. (Prev: N/A Avg: 14.00)
15) Brad Staubitz: He can fight. That doesn't mean the team needs to be giving him a contract right away though. He needs to show he can actually play a little with his feet and stick, not just his fists. (Prev: N/A Avg: 15.00)
16) Chris Campoli: His mistakes continue to be really costly, not exactly a characteristic any defenceman wants to have associated with him. (Prev: 16 Avg: 18.33)
17) Yannick Weber: He didn't help his cause to stay in the lineup once Diaz and/or Markov return, that alone made his week a big disappointment. (Prev: 20 Avg: 15.42)
18) Andreas Engqvist: He didn't play enough to really deserve to go high up in the rankings but he had a decent game against the Leafs. Hopefully he's back up soon, more on what I mean by that later. (Prev: N/A Avg: 20.00)
19) Louis Leblanc: He looked completely lost in the offensive zone but at least managed to compensate a bit for it by bringing a physical game to the table, something we haven't seen much of from him. (Prev: 19 Avg: 15.44)
20) Petteri Nokelainen: The 'faceoff specialist' returned to the lineup in a rather peculiar way...he failed to win a single draw all week. I think it's safe to say that's not exactly what the coaching staff had in mind. (Prev: N/A Avg: 18.79)
21) Aaron Palushaj: His eye injury isn't believed to be as severe as Gomez's, he needs to be given a shot somewhere beside the 4th line to see what he can do. (Prev: 21 Avg: 18.40)
22) Raphael Diaz: He didn't look 100% going in to Tampa Bay and it didn't take long for him to be pulled out of the game and shut down. (Prev: 12 Avg: 13.20)
The Dog Pound
If you think Montreal's lineup is depleted, you should take a close look at what the Bulldogs are dressing right now (the links below show the rosters for each game). Somehow, they're keeping themselves closer to the playoffs than the Habs but not by much.
Offence was hard to come by for Hamilton and it came from some unlikely sources along the way.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||3||0||0||-1||4||0|
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Goals: Andreas Engqvist (18)
Assists: Frederic St. Denis (22)
Points: Andreas Engqvist (34)
+/-: Alex Henry (+4)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (190)
Shots: Brian Willsie (185)
Toronto vs Hamilton
March 10: Hamilton vs Toronto (kicking off a 12 game, 25 day road trip)
Of the very few storylines between now and the end of the season, one of the more interesting ones is what to do with Louis Leblanc. He looked like he belonged in his first stint with the team but hasn't fared as well since then. With the Habs out of playoff contention and playing out the stretch, it's easy to make a case to keep developing him at the NHL level but I'm on the other side of the fence. Here is why Montreal should send him down and, barring more injuries, keep him down.
- Physical readiness - Leblanc isn't physically ready to play regularly in the NHL right now. He is too easy to knock off the puck and hasn't learned the best ways to shield it yet.
- Playing time - Regardless of whether you think the team should openly tank, the fact of the matter is they won't. As a result, the callups aren't going to play big minutes no matter how much fans want them to. In Hamilton, he would be on the top line playing heavy minutes and in a role he's more suited for.
- Age - Leblanc has waiver exemption left beyond this season. Players like Aaron Palushaj, Andreas Engqvist, and Blake Geoffrion don't. We know Leblanc is in the plans moving forward, we can't say the same for the others. They need the priority playing time to be evaluated as much as possible.
Now I can see the other side of the argument, if he's likely to play a bigger role with the Habs next year, why not get him acclimated quicker by keeping him up? There's certainly some legitimacy to that as well. However, given the above, I'd still like to see him spend the rest of the year in Hamilton. His day will come where he's a full time NHL'er and it's probably not too far away either. That time isn't now though and it's time to let the others who need the prolonged look get their chance.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]