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A week after everything was looking up for the Habs, it all came crashing back down after a winless week that saw the team earn just one of six points. In Hamilton, it was a positive week for them as they picked up a pair of wins against some of the Western Conference's toughest teams. Peter Budaj has struggled so far this season, my Final Thought looks at whether or not he's taking too much heat from the fans.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Michel Therrien, for a couple of reasons. For one, I like how he handled the most recent Ryan White fiasco but I was also happy to see him show some patience with the lines and defence pairings during this losing streak. It's still relatively early and the players can benefit from some consistency, it certainly beats the shift-to-shift line juggling we've witnessed in recent years.
2) P.K. Subban, for playing a lot more controlled than he was last season while still being productive on the scoreboard. Yes, he still takes too many runs at players and can sometimes even confuse his own teammates out there but his 'system play' is considerably better than it was last year when he more or less did what he wanted out there.
3) Brendan Gallagher, for not backing down. He continues to drive the net hard and with a purpose and as we all saw Saturday, he didn't shy away from the rough stuff. For a skilled rookie just ten games into his NHL career, he is quickly making a name for himself.
1) Ryan White, and does anyone really not know why? White can be a very useful player but he can't keep taking these penalties. He was out of control last year at times as well but since the Habs were out of it by then, most people didn't notice or care.
2) The team in general for its defensive breakdowns in the 3rd period. Say whatever you want about White and Budaj's contributions to the Buffalo loss but they were solely responsible as the play in the defensive end in both that game and the Boston one was porous.
3) Last year's top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Erik Cole. They simply haven't been getting the job done for whatever reason. It's time to split that trio up and see if that can rekindle their games as this team needs them producing to succeed.
Goals: Tomas Plekanec (6)
Assists: Raphael Diaz (9)
Points: Markov/Plekanec (10)
+/-: Alex Galchenyuk (+6)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (67)
Shots: Tomas Plekanec (34)
February 12: Montreal vs Tampa Bay
February 14: Montreal vs Florida
February 16: Philadelphia vs Montreal
The Dog Pound
In terms of their opponents, this was a very tough week for Hamilton but to their credit, the 'Dogs managed to pick up a pair of wins in three games including knocking off the league leading Texas Stars.
News and Notes:
- The Bulldogs were hoping to have Aaron Palushaj back in their lineup after recovering from his shoulder injury but he was claimed by Colorado on waivers.
- The injury bug has struck as Steve Quailer, Michael Bournival, and Jarred Tinordi all missed Saturday's game with minor injuries, Tinordi's coming from a fight the night before. All are listed as day-to-day. Frederic St. Denis is also out with an unspecified injury.
- Approximate lines from the most recent game (they were often juggled with the injuries):
Tenute - Dumont - Blunden
Murovich - Holland - Leblanc
Leveille - Chaput - Avtsin
Hagel - Fortier - Stortini
Beaulieu - Pateryn
Stejskal - Ellis
Corbin - DeSantis
Goals: Gabriel Dumont (15)
Assists: Beaulieu/Dumont (12)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (27)
+/-: Joonas Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (152)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (117) (Active Leader: Nathan Beaulieu with 101)
Toronto vs Hamilton
February 15: Hershey vs Hamilton
February 16: Houston vs Hamilton
Last season, Peter Budaj quietly had one of the better seasons in his career putting up a career best in GAA and almost a career high in SV%. Despite this, many fans are throwing him under the bus after a pair of admittedly shaky starts. As frustrating as it may be, Budaj is going to need to play to get himself going - he has played all of three games since April 7th...and one of those was a two period scrimmage. He's simply not in 100% playing shape right now (and that's on him). That doesn't mean he can't be a useful part of the puzzle as the season wears on though.
Jeff Hackett, Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet, Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price. What do all these players have in common? They all are (or were at the time) above average goalies in the league and all spent time as Montreal's backup goalie in the past ten years. It's abnormal to have that many good #2 goalies in that short of a span and I think it's safe to say that we as a fan base have been spoiled as a result. I think fans are expecting above average goaltending from a backup goalie who simply isn't that - he's an average goalie (and there's nothing wrong with that as a backup).
Get used to this level of a backup goalie as with Carey Price locked up long term for big dollars, the Habs will have to go the cheap route for a #2 guy. It's not as if there's even a quality option in the system who could be a better player than a run-of-the-mill UFA option. If you look at some of the backups around the league, it's not an awe-inspiring collection. Budaj isn't the best among them by any stretch but he's far from the worst. Price can't play every minute of every game, the team will need to count on the Slovak as the season wears on. Using him in relief a few times when the game is out of hand is a good way to give Price a bit of rest and get Budaj some playing time. Regardless of however it comes though, it's incumbent upon him now to make sure he's 100% ready for his next game - I think he will be and will prove his worth.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.