In this week’s HW Recap: Mike Cammalleri had a
"Gordie Howe Hat Trick" over the course of the week but was that enough to hold
on to top spot in the player rankings? The Habs haven’t got too many calls
lately, why might that be the case? Plus, as we approach the midway point
of the season, who is Montreal’s Unsung Hero?
Players are rated from 1 to however many
players play on a weekly (non-cumulative) basis. Rankings will be tracked
weekly and averages provided.
1) Scott Gomez: I don’t know whether
it was the two games off, the new linemates, or the light bulb just clicking on,
but whatever it was got him playing his best hockey of the season.
(Previous: 20 Average:
2) Max Pacioretty: He managed to continue his scoring pace that he had
with the Bulldogs. It may be early, but he’s certainly helped get that
line going again.
(Previous: N/A Average:
3) Mike Cammalleri: The production was there (1 goal, 2 assists) and he
gave the Habs a key momentum boost twice in the Boston game. Not much more
you can ask for.
(Previous: 1 Average:
4) Brian Gionta: I thought he was the quietest on his line but he still
managed 2 goals and a boatload of shots (14). If he can have those types
of quiet weeks moving forward, I think we’ll all be happy.
(Previous: 4 Average:
5) Carey Price: He wasn’t at his best but in his defence, a lot of the
goals were either deflections or odd man rushes (breakaways). He did make
some key saves in both games at least.
(Previous: 3 Average:
6) Tomas Plekanec: His line once again drew the shutdown role and that’s
where he flourished, especially in the Boston game. Managed to score as
well but was quieter than usual in the offensive zone.
(Previous: 6 Average:
7) Roman Hamrlik: You won’t find his name on the scoresheet but he
continued his solid defensive work as of late, including covering for some of
(Previous: 2 Average:
8) P.K. Subban: Those 2 costly bad passes aside, he was the most dominant
d-man the Habs had this week. He looked more confident out there which is
a positive sign.
(Previous: 21 Average:
9) Benoit Pouliot: He was bounced around a lot in the two games but
looked quite comfortable with Plekanec/Cammalleri. If Kostitsyn’s
struggles continues, perhaps he’d be a fit longer term with them.
(Previous: 8 Average:
10) Maxim Lapierre: Scored an important goal which gets him a top-10 spot
but does anyone else find it concerning that in a rivalry game against
Boston, he failed to get a single hit?
(Previous: 12 Average:
11) Jeff Halpern: A relatively quiet week for him (which isn’t a bad
thing in his defensive role) but he once again dominated the faceoff dot going
15/20 between the two games.
(Previous: 4 Average:
12) Josh Gorges: Another week, another set of new bruises from blocking
shots. Same old, same old for him though I think he still could benefit
from a few games off to heal his minor injuries.
(Previous: 11 Average:
13) Lars Eller: His offensive game wasn’t there but he did make a lot of
sound defensive reads. His faceoff work was pretty good too, going 9/16.
(Previous: 9 Average:
14) Hal Gill: The Habs allowed six 5-on-5 goals this week and he was on the
ice for half of them. PK work aside, that needs to be better.
(Previous: 7 Average:
15) Mathieu Darche: He was better than last week but that doesn’t
really say much. He’s not far away from being a rotating scratch like he
was earlier in the season.
(Previous: 19 Average:
16) Jaroslav Spacek: Those key giveaways aside, he had a decent week.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to overlook those mistakes which proved to be costly.
(Previous: 10 Average:
17) Andrei Kostitsyn: Something isn’t right with his game; I’m not sure
if it’s in his head or if he’s playing through an injury but he has been off the
last few weeks.
(Previous: 16 Average:
18) Travis Moen: No offence with next to no physical play. This is
the Moen we saw for most of last year, the type of player whose presence in the
lineup shouldn’t be required on a regular basis. Time to go back to the
Alexandre Picard: He needs to be with a more veteran d-man to insulate
his mistakes as right now, those errors are proving to be much too costly to
justify his presence in the lineup.
(Previous: 22 Average:
The Bulldogs headed West for their Texas road
trip and won the first half of it, going 2-0 on the road last week.
3 Stars: 1) Buck – HOU 2) Avtsin – HAM 3) Earl – HOU
3 Stars: 1) Sanford – HAM 2) Desharnais – HAM 3) Maxwell –
3 Stars: 1) Boyd – HAM 2) Bachman – TEX 3) Sanford –
Hamilton got some help from the infirmary (and
the Habs) which gives the team now two legitimate scoring lines to work with.
|32||Frederic St. Denis||3||0||1||+3||7||0|
Goals: Max Pacioretty (17)
Assists: David Desharnais (28)
Points: David Desharnais (36)
+/-: David Desharnais (+11)
PIMS: Jimmy Bonneau (84)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (132)
December 19: Hamilton vs San Antonio
December 21: Hamilton vs Houston
By now, most of us have seen the numbers when
it comes to powerplay opportunities vs penalty kills recently. If you
haven’t seen the stats, here’s a quick overview. Since December 1st (8
games), the Habs have had a total of 16 powerplays and have had more than 3 only
once in that stretch. Coincidentally, that was the the game after they had
0 against San Jose (that coming against Ottawa). In terms of the penalty kill, Montreal
has been shorthanded 27 times, roughly 1.4 more times each game. In fact,
Montreal has had more powerplays than their opponent only once over that
stretch, which also was the game against the Sens.
So why the discrepancies? To be fair, the biggest gap between PP’s to PK’s
in that span is -5, the game after the Habs were +4 vs Ottawa. After that,
the gaps have all been -1 or -2. Still, it’s somewhat of a noteworthy
stat. Though there is no deliberate bias (and I truly believe that having
taken a closer look at numbers dating back several years –
here for my piece written last year for the numbers dating back to 2000-01),
I think there are some reasons for this. Here are my speculative guesses:
1) Smurf perception – The fact of the matter is the Habs aren’t terribly small,
just most of their top players are. However, the perception, ill-informed
as it may be around the league is that the Habs are a small team. Small
players are easier to knock down than bigger/heavier ones, at least they should
be. So when the
Habs are knocked down, there’s at least a thought that, "Well if he was a bigger
player, he wouldn’t fall down so it’s not a penalty."
2) Diving perception – The Habs have been dinged for diving before, dating back
several years where more than one Hab was on the "diving list." Now this
wouldn’t apply to all of the refs, just some of the older ones. Couple
this with the easier to knock down theory, and there are more than just a couple
of ‘should be’ calls that are overlooked because of this.
3) Comeuppance – You may not want to hear it, but it isn’t just Mike Richards
and Don Cherry who think P.K. Subban needs to be knocked down a peg or two.
The "old boys" club also extends to referees who believe he needs to get smacked
around a bit. It’s bias and it is unfortunate, but it surely is plausible.
Add to that the fact that the same could be said about Maxim Lapierre who rarely
gets the benefit of the doubt either and you have over 10% of your skaters
(2/18) who will seldom get a call in their favour.
Of course, no one would ever readily admit those biases but those are my opinions as to
why there have been more PK’s than PP’s lately.
As we approach the halfway point of the year,
talk often shifts to midseason awards, who has been the Habs’ MVP, most
improved, etc? One of the fun ones to discuss is always the Unsung Hero
award. Players like Mathieu Darche, Jeff Halpern, and even Alexandre
Picard (when he was playing well at least, he logged some important minutes with
the injury to Andrei Markov) can all be part of the discussion but I feel
obligated to look in another direction.
Lost amongst the overhaul of 2009 was the non-renewal of former goalie coach
Roland Melanson’s contract and the hiring of Pierre Groulx, one that made nearly
everyone, myself included, go, "Who?!" He was more well known for his
video work than a goalie coach, which provided yet another question among many
others heading into last season.
So here we are basically a year and a half later and what has happened? We
first saw Jaroslav Halak emerge into a bonafide starter while being a key part
of last year’s playoff run. Some would argue Carey Price regressed but if
you just look at the numbers, his GAA was 6 points lower and SV% 7 points
higher, nothing worth writing home about but still improvements nonetheless.
Now this year, Price through the first 32 games of the season is not only a
legitimate Vezina candidate, but also a threat to win the Hart Trophy.
Heck, even Alex Auld’s numbers (albeit a really small sample size) are leaps and
bounds better than his career ones.
Now it would be naive of me to give Groulx all of the credit; the system the
Habs have employed as well as the maturation improvements of Price and even
Halak played key roles. But, I think it can be reasonably concluded that
Groulx has played a big role. More impressive still is that hardly any of
us have ever seen him or heard him talk even, the Habs have shielded him from
the media. Considering how the media in Montreal gets a hold of and
reports basically everything (which the fans do crave), this is even more
impressive to me, a success story outside of the media shadow. To me, that
certainly sounds like an unsung hero.
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Note: With the Habs off for two more Saturdays while playing the next
day, the HW Recap will continue to appear on Saturday nights until Sunday,