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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 wasn't a week to remember for the Habs who managed all of three goals in three games but managed to pick up three points despite their struggles. In Hamilton, the Bulldogs' struggles continued as they won just one of three important divisional games to trail their division by three points. Raphael Diaz's contract talks have generated a lot of discussion lately, my Final Thought looks at the reported asking price of three million and whether or not it's a fair one.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Carey Price. The two games (both losses) were some of the best games we've seen from him in a Montreal uniform. It's quite a difficult feat to have a GAA below 1.00 for the week and still somehow manage to lose two games but unfortunately, that's the case here.
2) Tomas Plekanec, which given his offensive struggles of late may come as a surprise. It's important for the top penalty killer to stay out of the box and Plekanec has done exactly that, collecting just two minor penalties in his last 20 games.
3) Daniel Briere, who is playing his best hockey of the season since returning from a concussion. That may not say much, but it's still a positive. It's quite surprising that as a reward for better play, he got demoted to the fourth line.
1) The continued deployment of Francis Bouillon on the powerplay. I don't think he deserves as much criticism as he has received for his overall play but to see him on pretty much every man advantage remains bewildering. In over 33 minutes of PP time, he has one assist. That's terrible, even if it is better than his ratio last year (0 points in 74 PP minutes). It's time to try someone else.
2) Speaking of the powerplay, how about some more creativity? We all know P.K. Subban has a terrific, albeit not-so-accurate at times slapshot. The problem is, so does every other team. Instead of making him the focal point constantly, it's time for the coaches to draw up a few plays that get the other players getting chances. Not only will that throw the opponents for a bit of a loop but it will also open up better shooting lanes for Subban. It's win-win.
3) Brandon Prust, who never seems to shy away from a chance to fight. Despite having issues with both shoulders recently, he has fought five times already in 13 games (including the preseason). That's not a sustainable pace if he wants to stay healthy. Perhaps it's time for him to be a bit more selective in choosing when to go for the sake of self-preservation.
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Goals: Brendan Gallagher (8)
Assists: P.K. Subban (14)
Points: P.K. Subban (17)
+/-: Andrei Markov (+7)
PIMS: George Parros (32)
Shots: P.K. Subban (72)
November 19: Minnesota vs Montreal
November 22: Montreal vs Washington
November 23: Pittsburgh vs Montreal
The Dog Pound
The Bulldogs managed to snap their losing streak but still lost a pair of important divisional games. Like the Habs, offence is quickly becoming a challenge to come by for Hamilton.
News and Notes:
- Akim Aliu, who had some clutch goals for Hamilton early in the year, was released from his tryout contract. Three players remain on 25-game tryouts, Erik Nystrom, Maxime Macenauer, and Nathan McIver.
- Nathan Beaulieu's goal vs Lake Erie was the first by a Hamilton blueliner this month.
- Lines from the most recent game:
Nystrom - St. Pierre - Thomas
Courtnall - Dumont - Blunden
Tarnasky - Macenauer - Leblanc
Quailer - Duffy - Nattinen
Tinordi - Pateryn
Beaulieu - Ellis
McIver - Nygren
|93||Martin St. Pierre||3||0||2||-4||3||2|
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
|93||Martin St. Pierre||0/1|
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Goals: Sven Andrighetto (7)
Assists: Nygren/St. Pierre (7)
Points: Sven Andrighetto (11)
+/-: Sven Andrighetto (+4)
PIMS: Nathan McIver (25)
Shots: Magnus Nygren (47)
Texas vs Hamilton
November 22: Syracuse vs Hamilton (in Montreal)
November 23: Hamilton vs Syracuse
The report that the Habs have begun preliminary contract talks with Raphael Diaz irked a lot of fans this past week. No matter what their intentions are long-term, they'd be wise to explore the extension cost for any and all pending free agents, that's just good business. That would allow Marc Bergevin to get a greater sense of the market while learning if certain players are insistent on testing the market. If the team struggles down the stretch, those are the ones to trade. You have to do the homework in advance though.
What has irked fans even more is the report that he's seeking a deal somewhere in the $3 million range. To many, that seems to be really high. I'm not of the same mindset. Here are a few quick reasons why:
1) Points - Offensive d-men get paid, it's a reality of the marketplace. Diaz isn't a top point producer but he played at a 40-point pace last year and is in the 25-30 point range this season if you project out his current numbers (and it could be suggested he's having a down year so far).
2) Ice time - Diaz averaged over 20 minutes per game last year and has done so again this season. That's equivalent to a second pairing blueliner. The list of top-4 UFA defencemen who have signed for less than $3 million per season in recent years is pretty small.
3) Age/Upside - At 28 years old, Diaz will be one of the younger defencemen to hit the market...if he makes it there. Couple that with his relative inexperience (he'll have roughly 150 NHL games under his belt at the end of the year) and there will be a few teams thinking there's still some upside in terms of development.
You can make a case that extending with the Habs long-term may not be the right course of action for Bergevin and the Canadiens to take with the Swiss rearguard. However, if he does extend in the range of $3 million per year, it won't be a bad deal value-wise. Diaz should be able to easily get that in July if current trends continue, especially with the cap expected to climb considerably. I know he's not the most popular player on the team but he's worth more than many think.