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Last season, playing at home did not provide any sort of advantage for the Habs but the same can't be said early on this year after a perfect 3-0 week on home ice. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, winning anywhere is becoming quite the chore as they once again were winless. Depth is something that Montreal hasn't had much of lately, my Final Thought looks at why fans shouldn't be so eager to trade some of it away.
Cheers and Jeers
1) The Habs' third line of Prust-Galchenyuk-Gallagher, for providing an element that the team has lacked for quite some time - a third line that consistently is capable of providing offensive pressure. Secondary scoring is always important and this unit so far has provided it.
2) Carey Price, who has quickly eliminated any fears that he might not be in game shape after not playing during the lockout. He currently is in the top-5 in GAA and SV% among starters and is a huge reason why the team has allowed the third fewest goals in the league.
3) Alexei Emelin, for taking his defensive game to another level so far this season. Yes, he still hits (he is the league leader at the time of writing) but he is a lot smarter about when to go for the hit and when to make the simple play while his positioning in his own end has greatly improved. Playing with Andrei Markov will make just about anyone look good but Emelin is certainly earning his extra ice time.
1) Travis Moen, the veteran who seems to be overlooked when it comes to bringing up veterans struggling to start the year (a list that seems for many to start and end with Erik Cole). Moen seems to have lost a step, he isn't playing as physical as we know he can, and, as usual, was unable to contribute in a scoring role. It's early and I'm sure he'll get better but he may be a prime candidate to have a night off soon.
2) The hype and discussion surrounding everything about P.K. Subban. How about, instead of trying to read into every little thing that he does or doesn't do (or can/can't do) off the ice, we simply focus on how he performs on the ice, like we do with every other player? There are many who complain he gets too much attention but it's a self-inflicted wound. Let his play do the talking and I think everyone will be better for it.
3) Ryan White, for taking two unnecessary penalties that significantly impacted the game in the 5-1 loss to Ottawa. When the score is tied in the second period, taking a needless penalty is never good but then making a point to argue with the official to take another one is idiocy. He certainly earned his two game benching.
Goals: Markov/Plekanec (4)
Assists: Raphael Diaz (8)
Points: Diaz/Markov (8)
+/-: Brendan Gallagher (+6)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (46)
Shots: Brian Gionta (25)
February 6: Boston vs Montreal
February 7: Montreal vs Buffalo
February 9: Toronto vs Montreal
The Dog Pound
The hole to climb to make the playoffs just got deeper as the Bulldogs lost both of their games. They now sit 17 points out of the final playoff spot with two games in hand.
News and Notes:
- Forward Joey Tenute was released from his PTO to sign a regular contract for the remainder of the season. Since joining the team, he has been a regular on the top two lines.
- Kyle Hagel was suspended for the loss against Toronto after being assessed an instigator penalty with under five minutes to play against Grand Rapids.
- Lines from the most recent game:
Bournival - Dumont - Leblanc
Quailer - Tenute - Blunden
Leveille - Holland - Murovich
Hagel - Fortier - Stortini
St. Denis - DeSantis
Beaulieu - Ellis
Tinordi - Pateryn
Goals: Gabriel Dumont (14)
Assists: Beaulieu/Dumont (11)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (25)
+/-: Joonas Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (152)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (117) (Active Leader: Nathan Beaulieu with 92)
February 6: Hamilton
February 8: Chicago vs Hamilton
February 9: Texas vs Hamilton
P.K. Subban's returns to the lineup has shuffled Tomas Kaberle down to #7 on the depth chart and Yannick Weber to #8. Almost immediately, talk has shifted to finding a way to trade one if not both of them. I think this is jumping the gun just a little bit. For starters, defencemen are going down to injury very quickly this year and it is bound to happen to the Canadiens at some point or another. Having Kaberle ready to insert into the lineup is a handy luxury to have and one the Habs can afford this particular season as they are comfortably under the salary cap.
Now it should be noted that because of the short season and the early blueline injuries that trade value for both players may be boosted a little bit. Unfortunately, that doesn't say a whole lot - most would assume that Kaberle is a few months away from a buyout (and thus wouldn't give up much of anything) while Weber isn't going to be the centrepiece of a trade unless the return is a similarly underachieving player or a draft pick. If that's the best they can get for Weber while assuming Kaberle's days will be numbered in the offseason, keeping him around is probably a better option even if he rarely suits up.
If the team stays healthy, a roster move will have to be made when Petteri Nokelainen returns from a back injury that has ailed him since before the lockout as the team is currently carrying the maximum of 23 healthy skaters. However, that doesn't appear to be happening any time soon (I don't think I've ever seen an injured Hab get less coverage than he has) so there's no rush. Depth is never a bad thing to have, especially on the blueline, so there's little need to quickly get rid of it. Knowing the Habs' luck with injuries in recent seasons, it probably won't be long before one of these two is a regular anyways.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.