PENTICTON, BC. — It has been a while since I used this format so without further due, here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ and the NHL over the past few weeks: Habs injuries, Andrei Markov, Eric Cole, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Raphael Diaz and more. Feel free to post your comments as they are always welcomed.
1- Much has been said and written about Erik Cole and his slow start this season. In my opinion (and I could be wrong), there are three possible factors contributing to it:
a) He is a notorious slow starter, even last year, and it’s not unusual for big guys to start slow.
b) He is playing through injuries. Only he knows that and Habs’ management might know as well.
c) Gary Bettman’s last lockout ripped the heart out of Cole. He didn’t want a lockout, he didn’t feel that it was necessary. He was one of the forces behind the “Puck Bettman” hats. Those who underestimate his talks of retirement have no idea of what kind of person Erik Cole is: a good player yes, but an even better man with solid convictions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him retire after this year but rest assured, he will turn things around this year.
2- Another one who had a disappointing start to his season is diminutive center David Desharnais and it didn’t take long for fans to forget what he did last year and to get on his case, especially when comparing him to Lars Eller, as I wrote about in an article earlier this week. But since the trip to Florida, Desharnais has turned it up one notch, even against the bigger Flyers. Let’s never forget that he has made it a career to prove people wrong and writing him off after so few games is very much premature.
3- Speaking of writing off a player, many were ready to do so about often injured Andrei Markov. Boy is he proving his doubters wrong! His four goals and six assists in 14 games are good enough for third in team points, and place him fifth in the NHL amongst defensemen, even with… Erik Karlsson with the same number of games played! The powerplay with or without Markov just isn’t the same.
4- We can’t talk about surprises without mentioning second year defenseman Raphael Diaz, who is tied with Markov in points with ten. At 27 years of age, Diaz is not your typical second year player as he has tons of pro experience in his home land, Switzerland. More impressive than the points (most of them obtained on the powerplay) is his ice time. Coach Therrien has played him over 20 minutes a game and in all situations, including shorthanded. He is the sole reason why fellow countryman Yannick Weber doesn’t see any action.
5- As few had Diaz in their hockey pool, how many had rookie Brendan Gallagher? Second to Plekanec on the team with five goals (tied with Rene Bourque), he sits fifth in points on the team. Watching him play makes us forget that he was selected in the fifth round in 2010 and that just last year, he was playing for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL. Watching him reminds me so much of a young Brian Gionta, who is the perfect mentor for him.
6- Unfortunately for Gallagher and for the Canadiens, he suffered a concussion when hit from behind by former Maple Leafs Luke Schenn in the game against the Flyers. This is apparently Gallagher’s second concussion as he was diagnosed with one while playing junior. Here is hoping that he is back in the line-up sooner rather than later.
7- Speaking of injuries, Max Pacioretty suffered a cut by the rib cage when falling on a skate against the Flyers. Pacioretty, who has earned the nickname on social medias of “Wolverine”, came back early from his well-documented broken neck and concussion suffered and the hands of Zdeno Chara. Earlier this year, he had his appendix removed and he didn’t miss a beat. The guy heals like no one else so don’t expect him to miss too much time (if any at all) with this new set-back.
8- Rookie Alex Galchenyuk is developing as anticipated and coach Therrien is making sure to put him in situations which will allow him to build his confidence and to succeed. Chuckie, as he was nicknamed by his teammates, leads the team in plus/minus at plus -7. He has eight points in 14 games while averaging just under 12 minutes of ice time. Watching him play is a delight and I can’t help but to be excited about watching him play when he fills-in a bit and starts being a bit more physical, like he was in junior. The kid will be good folks, he’s the real deal.
9- We can’t talk about good starts to the season without touching on Tomas Plekanec. While he was one of the few who were comfortable playing under Jacques Martin, he has bounced back nicely after a tougher season last year. While a lot of it likely has to do with being able to play with two consistent wingers, he is made for measure to take advantage of the more aggressive forecheck implemented by Michel Therrien, creating and taking advantage of turnovers and stretch passes.
10- Things aren’t going as well for Plekanec’s fellow countryman Tomas Kaberle, who has been the one sitting in the pressbox since the return of P.K. Subban. While Kaberle is saying the right things by stating that he will not be requesting a trade, he is a competitor and there is no doubt that he’s finding himself in a situation that he doesn’t like. And how long will the Canadiens want to keep $4.25 million sitting in the stands? Having said all of that, he is an excellent insurance policy in the event of injuries.
11- Whether you were in favour or not of having Michel Therrien returning as the Habs’ head coach, most would admit that he’s doing an excellent job so far. His system is using the team’s speed very efficiently and his bigger players are playing a very physical game. His mandate was to make it harder on teams to play in Montreal and so far, it’s mission accomplished. What I also notice is that unlike his predecessor, he’s not afraid to use his young players, sometimes in key situations. In my humble opinion, he is an early candidate for the Jack Adams Trophy, along with Bruce Boudreau and Joel Quenneville.
12- The 6-0 shellacking suffered against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 9 generated a lot of talk within the fan base, and likely within the organization. Not only did the Canadiens lose badly on the scoreboard, but they were manhandled by the Leafs physically. Seeing Brandon Prust having to go with much bigger opposition raised the question if the Habs should or not try to get a heavyweight enforcer to help out when the going gets tough. Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to it but only if the guy can skate and be reliable defensively. In that aspect, I miss Brad Staubitz who, while never mistaken for a Selke candidate, could skate and get the puck out of his zone.
BONUS- Much has been said about Michel Therrien banning the triple low-five between P.K. Subban and Carey Price, the coach preferring a more “professional approach” with the team celebrating together at center ice. Price was out with the flu against the Flyers and P.K. Subban missed practice the next day with the same symptoms. This raises the question: have Subban and Price shared the triple low-flu?
The Canadiens are up to a good start to this season and if they can stay somewhat healthy, they should find themselves back into a playoffs’ position. For a team that finished 28th overall last year, it would be a substantial step in the right direction. Go Habs Go!
About the Author (Author Profile)Habsterix is a fictional character created for the sole purpose of the internet. Based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule, his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement.
Sites That Link to this Post
- GameDay: Canes vs Habs Lineups, Gallagher, Skinner, Budaj | All Habs Hockey Magazine | February 20, 2013
- GameDay: Habs vs Rangers Lineups, Lundqvist, Therrien, Pacioretty, Price | All Habs Hockey Magazine | February 20, 2013
- GameDay: Islanders vs Habs Lineups, Prust, Defence, Moulson | All Habs Hockey Magazine | February 21, 2013
- GameDay: Rangers vs Habs Lineups, Gallagher, White, Faceoffs | All Habs Hockey Magazine | February 23, 2013