The Habs are off to a fine start to the 2015-16 season as they reeled off three straight road wins in the opening week. St. John’s also got their campaign underway on the road and managed a win in one of their two games. With Zack Kassian gone indefinitely, many have suggested that the Prust-Kassian trade is now a steal for Vancouver; my Final Thought suggests why this still isn’t the case.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Mike Condon. He was thrown into a pretty tough situation, on the road against a division rival in their home opener to make his NHL debut. He didn’t wilt under the pressure and instead turned in a fine outing. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to build on that before too long instead of sitting for several weeks as Montreal backup goalies often do.
2) Responding after a rough first game. Though the Habs won the opener in Toronto, they weren’t at their best to put it nicely. That can’t be said for their other two contests. The team was much more alert and involved in the play. They’ve talked about being more than just Carey Price as a team. They weren’t the first night but very much were against Boston and Ottawa.
3) The new-look fourth line. At the beginning of last year, the fourth line made its mark with physicality to control the play (and did well doing so, might I add). This season, it’s a much more well-rounded unit. They’re certainly trustworthy in their own end and can take defensive zone shifts, there aren’t any poor skaters (since Devante Smith-Pelly is moving much better this year), they have some offensive skill, and there is still a bit of a physical component. I can get used to having this type of fourth line on a regular basis.
1) The lack of effort in the season opener in Toronto. I get that it’s the Leafs, a team they should beat and it’s nowhere near the rivalry it’s hyped up to be – many years of mediocrity has a tendency to do that to a rivalry. But it’s the first game of the year. There shouldn’t be questions about a lack of hustle on day one. Again, I liked their response the next two games but the fact that there needed to be one isn’t good.
2) Power play inconsistency. At the beginning of the last two games, there seems to be a concerted effort to work the puck through the forwards. That has coincided with the times that the PP looks decent. But partway through each game, they reverted back to last year’s unsuccessful strategy of work everything through P.K. Subban. Why? I get that improvements will be a work in progress but don’t shoot yourselves in the foot by doing something you know won’t work.
3) Those calling for Jarred Tinordi to play already. Let’s face facts, the reason he’s on the team has nothing whatsoever to do with merit. He’s an AHL quality blueliner stuck in waiver limbo (and he’s not the only around the league in that situation). His short-term playing future is going to be tied to NHL injuries and a willingness to accept a few AHL conditioning stints. When all are healthy, he’s rarely going to be in the lineup. It’s time to get used to the thought of him being in the press box, he’s going to be there a lot this season.
Goals: Tomas Plekanec (3)
Assists: P.K. Subban (4)
Points: Galchenyuk/Pacioretty/Subban (4)
+/-: Andrei Markov (+6) (Tied for league lead)
PIMS: Torrey Mitchell (16)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (13)
The IceCaps kicked off their 2015-16 season with a two-game road trip, splitting the two. Unfortunately, the week ended on a negative note after they allowed five unanswered goals in the third period in Bridgeport.
News and Notes:
– There are quite a few injuries to start the season. Up front, Tim Bozon, Mark MacMillan, and Brandon McNally are out while on the blueline, Ryan Johnston and Josiah Didier are injured.
– Forward Markus Eisenschmid was not with St. John’s on the trip as they left before he signed his one year contract.
– Zach Fucale dressed as the backup goalie for both games with Eddie Pasquale watching from the press box. It will be interesting to see how long they carry three goalies.
– The IceCaps have the youngest roster in the AHL with an average age of 22.26. Providence is 29th at 23.00 while Grand Rapids is the oldest at 24.97.
– Lines from the most recent game:
de la Rose – Hudon – Andrighetto
Scherbak – Dumont – Holloway (listed as the third but seemed to play more than the listed second line)
Carr – McCarron – Thomas
Crisp – Miceli – Gregoire
Barberio – Ellis
Hanley – Dietz
Bennett – Lernout
October 10: St. John’s 3, Hartford 1
October 11: Bridgeport 6, St. John’s 1
|20||Jacob de la Rose||2||0||1||-1||3||0|
Goals: 4 tied with (1)
Assists: 7 tied with (1)
Points: 11 tied with (1)
+/-: Holloway/Thomas (+1)
PIMS: Connor Crisp (10)
Shots: Bud Holloway (10)
October 17: Rochester vs St. John’s
October 18: Rochester vs St. John’s
The recent developments surrounding Zack Kassian has led to some people rethinking their position on the trade that saw him come to Montreal in exchange for Brandon Prust. With one playing now while the other will be gone for who knows how long, some now believe that this swap is now a big steal for Vancouver. I wouldn’t be so quick to make that statement though.
With the Habs, Prust brought three elements to the table – physicality, fighting, and whining. He did a lot of all three. There’s no doubt his physical play will be missed and his willingness to fight so that others didn’t have to will be missed in certain games as the season progresses. The whining won’t be missed though. His antics in the playoffs only buried him further down the popularity list with the officials and he was pretty low to begin with. Granted, Kassian has a similar negative reputation with the referees but if he does come back to play this year, he’ll bring a lot more to the table than Prust.
Even though right now the Habs aren’t getting much of anything on-ice from the deal (Paul Byron, though not included in the trade, was added as a result of Kassian’s return to the SABH program), there is still one significant benefit they’re receiving…cap space. With Kassian off the books during his absence, the team has an extra $1.6 million in cap space to play with (Prust’s $2.5 M cap hit less Byron’s $900k). As a result, they will be well-positioned to make in-season additions without having to clear as much money the other way while in the meantime, there is much less of a need to clear up the logjam on defence. Having that much depth is a luxury and the Habs can afford to have that luxury in part because of the money saved here.
Zack Kassian may never play a game for the Habs. Even if he doesn’t, they still get enough here that the Prust for Kassian trade simply cannot be thought of as an outright steal for the Canucks. Montreal isn’t doing as well from this trade as they’d like to have been (a contributing Kassian would have been better than the above) but they’re still making out reasonably well.