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To put things lightly for this week, it will not be one that will forever be spoken of when discussing the best of the Montreal Canadiens.  To make things even worse, the same can be said for the Hamilton Bulldogs.  This week, we’ll recap the struggles of these 2 teams, analyze the playoff hunt, and take a closer look at CBC’s “apology” for not covering the Bernie Geoffrion retirement ceremony; how accurate was it?

Canadiens Recap:

As tempting as it is to say “I’m a Habs fan and I don’t wanna think about this last week,” I must resist and actually take a look back.  Tuesday’s affair in Tampa was an ugly one, for several reasons.  Both of Tampa’s goals were scored on errors by G Cristobal Huet, and it took the team more than 55 minutes to score a goal on a team whose goaltending has been abysmal to put it lightly.  And just to bring back more bad memories, the 2-1 loss sent the Habs back to 8th in the conference.  Thursday saw the Habs fall apart in the 3rd period, spoiling what was a solid debut for David Aebischer in a 5-1 loss.  Then there was Saturday, a game in which the offence finally clicked, and the goaltending simply didn’t, a 5-4 loss that could be a real killer come mid-April.

The Good:
Francis Bouillon’s shift vs Pittsburgh, first he leveled Niklas Nordgren in his own zone, took the puck, undressed Crosby on his way up the ice, and fed a beauty pass to Bulis for the first goal.  Could very well be the shift of the year.

The Bad:  Generally, one looks at Pittsburgh on the schedule and thinks “easy game.”  Too bad it’s not reality either, in 3 games vs the Pens this season, the Habs are a paltry 0-2-1.

The Ugly:  Despite David Aebischer’s struggles, his stats in his first 2 games are BETTER than the departed Jose Theodore’s in his last 2.  Aebi’s GAA as a Hab: 5.04.  Theodore’s GAA in his last 2 as a Hab: 5.58.  Even better for Aebischer, he played the whole game in both of his appearances, Theodore can’t even say that.

The Curious:  Garth Murray scored his 2nd goal of the season Saturday in the first period.  What was his reward?  He got the rest of the game off as he was benched.

Bulldogs Recap:

If the Hamilton Bulldogs had any playoff hopes before, they’re gone now, after earning just 1 point out of a possible six, and falling 6 games behind Toronto for the final playoff spot.  Monday saw them fall 5-4 to Iowa in a shootout, while Toronto dumped them Wednesday by a 5-2 count.  Finally, Rochester took care of the Dogs, beating them 5-1 on Saturday.

The Good:
Jaroslav Halak has been very impressive through his first 8 games in the AHL, compiling a 5-3 record with a 1.72 GAA and a .944 SV%.  Even more impressive is the fact that he has as many shutouts as losses, 3.

The Bad:  2 key division games that would either keep them alive in the playoff chase, or take them out and they score just 3 goals in the pair while allowing 10.  Wrong statement to make boys.

The Ugly:  How has Andre Benoit rewarded the Canadiens organization for signing him?  He has 1 assist since then in 16 games.

The Curious:  I wonder what Bob Gainey is envisioning as the Canadiens future through the Bulldogs.  Certainly, they’re not scoring, so what are these guys going to be good for?  Well, if there’s one thing they do well, it’s take penalties.  They have taken the highest number of penalty minutes in the conference with 1743, an average of 24.9 per game.  Something tells me that’s not what the organization is looking for.

Schedule Study:

With the battle for the final playoff spots already underway, we’ll be taking a look at how the schedule shapes up for the teams that the Habs are trying to catch, as well as those they’re trying to stay ahead of.

Weekly Schedule:

Before we look at the standings, let’s see who’s playing who this week.

Team Matchups (date)
New Jersey 21 @ Philadelphia, 23 @ Atlanta, 24 vs Boston, 26 vs Toronto
Tampa Bay 20 @ Florida, 23 vs Washington, 25 vs NY Rangers
Montreal 20 @ Washington, 21 @ NY Islanders, 23 & 25 vs Toronto, 26 vs Pittsburgh
Atlanta 20 vs Buffalo, 21 @ Boston, 23 vs New Jersey, 25 @ NY Islanders
Islanders 21 vs Montreal, 24 @ Pittsburgh, 25 vs Atlanta
Toronto 20 vs Carolina, 23 & 25 @ Montreal, 26 @ New Jersey
Florida 20 vs Tampa Bay, 22 vs Washington, 24 vs NY Rangers
Boston 20 @ NY Rangers, 21 vs Atlanta, 25 vs Buffalo

Montreal (5) has the most games this week, while 4 teams are tied for the fewest with 3.


Now, let’s look at the standings.  For clarity sake, we only have total points and games remaining listed in the table.

6. New Jersey 16 76
7. Tampa Bay 15 74
8. Montreal 16 71
9. Atlanta 15 70
T10. NY Islanders 16 66
T10. Toronto 16 66
T12. Florida 15 65
T12. Boston 14 65

Standings as of games played through Saturday, March 18.

Around the rinks:

Infirmary update:

Francis Bouillon’s leg injury is not as bad as originally feared.  He is out day-to-day with a left leg contusion.  As for Andrei Markov, he remains day-to-day with a back injury.

Former prospect passes away:

Former Canadiens prospect Jonathan Delisle was killed this week in a car crash at the age of 28.  The Canadiens held a moment of silence in his honour on Thursday’s game.

Theodore sentenced:

Colorado G Jose Theodore was handed a 2 year ban from international competition after testing positive for Propecia, a banned substance by the IOC.  Also important to note here: Theodore is no longer eligible to receive funding from the Canadian government.

Referees agree to extension:

On Friday, the NHL and NHLOA agreed to a 4 year extension on their collective agreement.  Referees will earn between $130,000 and $290,000, while linesmen will make between $85,000 and $190,000.

Final Thought:

Anyone catch Ron MacLean’s on air apology for failing to show the Bernie Geoffrion press conference?  I have to take issue with one part, where he said that there weren’t enough cameras available, what with the Paralympic and Commonwealth Games, plus their normal coverage.  First of all, I didn’t see any live coverage or highlights of the Paralympic Games, so I don’t see that as a legit excuse.  As for the Commonwealth’s, they started this past Wednesday, 3 days AFTER the ceremony!  And, didn’t they know about this since October when the date of the ceremony was announced, during a Habs-Leafs game on CBC?  Finally, what was stopping them from picking up the RDS feed?  If the CBC really wanted to show the ceremony, they could have, easily.  Save the excuses, we’re not buying them.  (I am not attacking Ron MacLean personally for this, he was just the messenger.)

Some other general notes from the week:

– Sticking with HNIC, I thought Don Cherry looked nice in a Canadiens hat, wish he’d stick with it, although I know he’s rooting for the Canadiens and all Canadian teams to make the playoffs.

– Still with Cherry, kudos to him for exposing Dick Pound’s allegations on air on Saturday night.  Pound frequently stumbled through explanations, and eventually started blaming others elsewhere. 

– One key note in the new refs agreement: All refs must wear helmets next season, meaning we won’t have the (dis)pleasure of seeing Kerry Fraser’s full head of hair.

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