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Although there was a small blip along the way the Habs continued their strong play, spending much of the week atop the Eastern Conference. The Bulldogs meanwhile, still are in the exact opposite situation, sitting dead last in the AHL West. The Habs' powerplay hasn't been as strong in recent games as it was earlier in the season, my Final Thought examines some tweaks that could improve their play with the man advantage.
Cheers and Jeers
1) The (mostly) improved faceoff play by the Habs. For the week, the team was actually slightly above 50% (121/240) which is a lot better than they have been in recent weeks. Let's hope that continues.
2) Ryan White, for playing a steady and reliable game without getting into any trouble. That's the type of play that can be useful to the Habs more than running around like he did last year and early on this season. He did what he needed to in order to start to work out of Michel Therrien's doghouse.
3) Speaking of doghouses, Lars Eller, for bursting right out of it. He was used in a variety of roles and produced well regardless of what position he was playing and who he was playing with. He began to earn some extra ice time and appears to have earned Therrien's trust once again.
1) Tomas Plekanec, for taking penalties at the most inopportune times. His last four penalties, including two this past week, have been in the third period, the last three of which have been with one goal leads. As the teams' most important penalty killer, staying out of the box is always important but putting the team in a late shorthanded situation isn't going to cut it.
2) Brian Gionta, who has really tailed off offensively. He had a pointless week and has hit the scoresheet just four times in the past 15 games. As someone who is regularly seeing top-six and PP time, more production is needed. That said, I'm not advocating scratching him, that would open up an unnecessary can of worms.
3) I hate to say it, but Andrei Markov, whose game has really tailed off in recent weeks. Not only is he on an eight game pointless streak, he looks much more hesitant in the offensive zone while he appears to be slowing down considerably. He still is helping the team but lately his play has been more like a third pairing player than a number one blueliner.
Goals: Tomas Plekanec (8)
Assists: Raphael Diaz (11)
Points: Pacioretty/Plekanec (13)
+/-: Alex Galchenyuk (+9)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (76) (League leader)
Shots: Tomas Plekanec (55)
February 25: Montreal vs Ottawa
February 27: Montreal vs Toronto
March 2: Pittsburgh vs Montreal
March 3: Montreal vs Boston
The Dog Pound
After some surprisingly strong games, the Bulldogs' lack of offensive talent appears to have caught up with them again. They were competitive in every game but it's hard to win when the team doesn't score.
News and Notes:
- It was announced that Robert Mayer will not return to Hamilton next season. He has signed a two year deal in the Swiss league. The Habs, if they so desire, can still extend him a qualifying offer and retain his rights.
- Steve Quailer returned from his lower body injury but two more forwards are now out as both Alexander Avtsin (upper body) and Olivier Fortier (lower body) both suffered injuries last week and have yet to return to game action. Both are listed as day-to-day.
- Nathan Beaulieu's plus/minus rating on the season (-14) is the second worst in the AHL among rookie defencemen.
- Approximate lines from the most recent game:
Bournival - Dumont - Blunden
Quailer - Tenute - Holland
Leblanc - Chaput - Stortini
Hagel - Leveille - Murovich
Beaulieu - Pateryn
Ellis - DeSantis
Tinordi - Stejskal
Goals: Gabriel Dumont (15)
Assists: Gabriel Dumont (15)
Points: Gabriel Dumont (30)
+/-: Joonas Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (180)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (117) (Active Leader: Gabriel Dumont with 115)
St. John's vs Hamilton
March 1: Binghamton vs Hamilton
March 2: Hamilton vs Lake Erie
Early on, the Habs were getting significant contributions from the powerplay but lately, it has been scuffling despite notching a goal in each of the past two games. With the season one-third of the way through, it's time to start making some tweaks and adjustments. Here are my proposed changes:
1) No more flipping Subban and Diaz on the top pairing. It feels like each powerplay, they rotate with Markov. Let Diaz stay with Markov and have the latter run the one unit while Subban quarterbacks the other. Some consistency, given Markov's recent struggles, would certainly be a good thing.
2) Swap Emelin for Bouillon on the second unit. We all know Bouillon can't provide much in the way of offence and although Emelin hasn't either in his brief NHL career, he has been decent offensively in his recent international stints. His shot is underrated and might catch a few teams off guard.
3) More size in front of the net. Presently, it appears that the right winger is responsible for getting in front of the goalie. The problem with that is Brendan Gallagher is the tallest of the two right wingers who predominantly play with the man advantage and that's not a good thing. Tweaking the setup to allow players like Bourque and Cole to be the ones to get in front would be beneficial.
With the Habs playing this upcoming Sunday, the next HW Recap will be Monday, March 4th. If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.