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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 a winning week for the Canadiens' organization as the Habs earned victories in all three of their games while the Bulldogs won a game for the first time in nearly three weeks. Andrei Markov and Montreal's top line highlight the cheers and jeers of the week while Lars Eller is the focus of my Final Thought; in particular, why there is now extra pressure on him to get his game going.
Cheers and Jeers
Instead of grades or player rankings this season, I'm going to change things up a bit. This new section will focus on the good and the not-so-good of the week, whether it involves specific player performances or team stats and trends.
1) Andrei Markov, for showing that he can still be a franchise defenceman. I'd say mostly everyone thought that this couldn't happen with all of the injuries he has had to battle through plus the fact he was seeing considerably less minutes in the KHL than he has in the early going in the NHL. Of course one injury could derail everything again but it's great to see him thrive early on.
2) The powerplay, which, unlike last season, actually looked like a powerplay this past week. Markov and Raphael Diaz have formed a quality top powerplay duo at the point that have allowed the Habs to do what has worked best in the past - get it to the point and let it fly. With a success rate of just over 29%, it's safe to say it's working so far.
3) The 'Gally's,' for removing any difficulty for the coaching staff to decide on their future with the team. In their brief stint so far, both demonstrated that they are capable of playing at the NHL level which made the decision to keep both of them around pretty much a no-brainer.
1) The top line, for still not being able to score a goal through four games. Last season, the trio of Pacioretty-Desharnais-Cole was the Habs' entire offence on a lot of nights but in the early going this year, they've been a little too quiet. Prior to his appendectomy, Pacioretty was rounding back into form while Cole has improved each game giving me hope that by next week, this zero goals stat will no longer exist.
2) The centres, who demonstrated that the season opening performance at the faceoff dot was a mirage. Last years' struggles have resurfaced and then some. In the three games, Montreal's top three centres hit the 50% mark just once (Desharnais in Washington). Combined, he, Plekanec, and Galchenyuk were a paltry 46/122 on draws, good for a success rate of just 37.7%.
3) Yannick Weber, for failing to take advantage of an opportunity handed to him on a silver platter with Tomas Kaberle not being quite 100% for the New Jersey game. I wasn't expecting him to dominate by any stretch but I had hoped he could have done better than getting benched by the end of the second period. In a short season like this, he won't get many chances. He needs to be better next time.
Goals: Andrei Markov (4)
Assists: Raphael Diaz (5)
Points: Diaz/Markov (5)
+/-: 5 tied with (+2)
PIMS: Ryan White (33)
Shots: Brian Gionta (15)
January 29: Winnipeg vs Montreal
January 30: Montreal vs Ottawa
February 2: Buffalo vs Montreal
February 3: Ottawa vs Montreal
The Dog Pound
Hamilton's victory on Saturday in Lake Erie was their first road win in six weeks. They're still a mile away from playoff contention but it's nice the losing streak is over.
News and Notes:
- Defenceman Mike Commodore was released from
his tryout contract following their early week loss in Rochester.
- Assistant Coach Ron Wilson was relieved of his duties also following that loss due to philosophical differences with Sylvain Lefebvre.
- Greg Pateryn (elbow) and Aaron Palushaj (shoulder) are both getting close to returning to the team; Palushaj of course would need to pass through NHL waivers before that can happen. The news on Joonas Nattinen's shoulder injury isn't as good, he is more than likely out for the season.
- Lines from the most recent game:
Bournival - Tenute - Leblanc
Blunden - Dumont - Holland
Quailer - Chaput - Murovich
Hagel - Fortier - Stortini
St. Denis - DeSantis
Beaulieu - Ellis
Tinordi - Stejskal
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Goals: Gabriel Dumont (13)
Assists: Beaulieu/Dumont (11)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (24)
+/-: Joonas Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (142)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (117) (Active Leader: Nathan Beaulieu with 90)
1: Grand Rapids vs Hamilton
February 2: Hamilton vs Toronto
While most fans were likely excited by the news early Monday morning that Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are staying with the big club, I suspect there is at least one player who is feeling more nervous as a result. (And I'm not talking about Petteri Nokelainen whose odds of actually playing once in a while when healthy may very well have gone down the drain.) I'm referring to Lars Eller as his hold on a spot in the lineup just became a lot more tenuous.
As you all know, Eller has already been sat down for playing with a lack of energy/aggression. We've all seen that Galchenyuk has played better at centre and that Eller looks out of place on the wing. This pretty much makes him the odd man out as his skill set isn't as a prototypical fourth liner while Desharnais, Plekanec, and Galchenyuk look to be entrenched as the top three pivots.
With Max Pacioretty out for a few weeks, Eller is going to get an extended look as a winger. Knowing that he is already in Michel Therrien's doghouse, he is going to need some consistent quality games to have a shot at keeping his spot in the lineup. Otherwise, there's a good chance he'll be on the outside looking in. Eller will be facing a level of pressure he's yet to see so far with the Habs as he has more or less been a regular since he joined the team. I'm certainly intrigued to see how he reacts.
Note: With the Habs playing this coming Sunday, the next HW Recap will be Monday, February 4th.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]