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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.
It was not a fun week for the Montreal Canadiens organization; not only did the Habs lose their season opener to Toronto but the Hamilton Bulldogs also failed to secure a victory in three tries although they at least were able to pick up a couple of points via shootout losses. The P.K. Subban saga is dominating the headlines in Montreal right now, my Final Thought discusses why Marc Bergevin needs to stay the course with his negotiating strategy.
Season Opener Reflections
Rather than do a full player evaluation on just one game, here are some general thoughts from the Habs' 2-1 loss to Toronto.
- Faceoffs: This was a significant problem for
Montreal last season but their effort at the dot was much improved in the opener
(62% success rate as a team). Of the six players to take faceoffs, no one
was below 50% and four of the six players were 57% or better.
- Fourth line: On Saturday night, the fourth trio actually looked like a group capable of doing something positive, a far cry from the expectations for the better part of last season (hope they don't make any mistakes while they're out there). Their ability to grind and cycle will be helpful as the season wears on.
- Goaltending: With the team sleepwalking through the first two periods, Carey Price did well to keep the Habs in the game. In doing so, he hopefully put to rest any concerns about his groin soreness from the scrimmage.
- Discipline: Three of the five
powerplays that the Maple Leafs had came from stick or clutching infractions.
For a team that is going to be expected to play more of a physical game, these
types of 'lazier' penalties need to be reduced or else they risk spending even
more time shorthanded than last year.
- Transition game: The defence struggled with the outlet passes and many of the forwards (particularly inside the top six) had difficulties controlling the puck and making quick passes through the neutral zone. This was a big factor in their lack of chances in the first two periods but I expect this will improve as everyone gets into game shape.
- Special teams: Although the powerplay managed to get a goal, the Habs generated very little with the man advantage. The penalty kill played better than their 3/5 success rating would indicate but there were times where the penalty killers were over-committing leading to Toronto chances. Both need to improve.
The Dog Pound
Although two points in three games won't help in the standings, I'm almost inclined to call this past week a success for Hamilton. The lineup they dressed in Abbotsford was quite possibly the worst I've ever seen the Bulldogs go with and they fought hard against conference-leading Toronto. Two points is more than I thought they'd get in these games.
News and Notes:
- For the games in Abbotsford, Ian Schultz was
recalled while the team signed F Riley Armstrong and D Mark Isherwood to PTO's;
all of whom were with Utah of the ECHL. Following the road trip, Schultz
was sent back down and the others were released.
- As all of Hamilton's alternate captains were at Montreal's training camp, Joey Tenute, Kyle Hagel, and Zack Stortini wore the 'A' in Abbotsford.
- With three straight losses, Cedrick Desjardins' winless streak is now eleven consecutive games.
- Lines from the most recent game:
Bournival - Tenute - Dumont
Quailer - Holland - Leblanc
Lefebvre - Chaput - Fortier
Hagel - Leveille - Stortini
St. Denis - DeSantis
Tinordi - Commodore
Beaulieu - Ellis
Michael Bournival's goal vs the Marlies was his first in over a month and only his second since late October.
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Goals: Gabriel Dumont (12)
Assists: Beaulieu/Dumont (11)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (23)
+/-: Gabriel Dumont (+7)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (130)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (117) (Active Leader: Nathan Beaulieu with 88)
January 21: Hamilton vs Rochester
January 26: Hamilton vs Lake Erie
To bridge or not to bridge, that is the question that GM Marc Bergevin faces when it comes to the P.K. Subban contract situation. As you all surely know by now, the Habs are offering a short-term 'bridge contract' believed to be two years in length while the blueliner is seeking a long-term pact similar to the ones signed by Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle, among others. Regardless of whether or not I believe the bridge is the best way to go, I'm hopeful Bergevin sticks to his guns and doesn't give in here.
This is the first real high profile negotiation that the new GM has gotten into so far. The six year deal for Carey Price was done quickly and quietly while Max Pacioretty's six year extension came completely out of nowhere with no hint whatsoever that the sides were talking (I really prefer when contracts are done this way). This is much more of a public negotiation and other GM's and agents are certainly keeping an eye on how Bergevin handles it. Standing his ground would help serve notice that he won't be taken advantage of while moving off the bridge demand to Subban's side could be considered a sign of weakness for potential future negotiations.
Now, I'm not saying that there aren't any circumstances where the Habs shouldn't consider changing their position on a long-term deal for Subban. If the team really struggles out of the gate or injuries rear their ugly head once again, they may have to bite the bullet. But in those instances at least, Bergevin's hand would be forced; it wouldn't be perceived as merely caving to public pressure. We all want to see Subban back in the lineup and sooner rather than later and the club knows that as well, we don't need any more public proclamations of that. But Bergevin has to do what he feels is best for the organization, regardless of what we want to see happen. We're seeing a prime example of an attempt of short-term pain for long-term gain, let's hope it works out that way in the end.
Note: With the Habs playing this coming Sunday, the next HW Recap will be Monday, January 28th.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]