Player of the Week - Tomas Plekanec –In four games 2 goals 2 assists and a ton ice time, including that monster Saturday against the Bruins when he put in a team-leading 21:45 included 7:10 of the 10:27 the Canadiens were on the power plus every second of the 2:33 the Canadiens spent killing penalties. Are the Canadiens risking overusing him? Good question. Last week’s four game total was 82-minutes
Defenseman of the Week – Jaroslav Spacek came off the injury list for the first game of the week, Monday against Florida. First game back he blocked just one shot. The next three games he was a
virtual ‘wall’ with totals of 5 vs. Philadelphia; 6 and then 7 vs the Bruins. He made Yannick Weber better and more importantly the confidence level of the entire defense seemed to be elevated by his presence.
Worth Every Dime - Eric Cole had two goals and an assist which is good. But more importantly, he finally started to impose his size and speed, the factors that made Pierre Gauthier offer him 18-million dollars over four years. His net-presence was remarkable, witness 22 shots and nine hits in the week’s four games.
Welcome Back Carey - The best way to describe Carey Price’s first seven starts this season was “adequate”. (3.13GAA – .878save%) But ‘adequate’ is not good enough on a team that depends on his game as much as it does. After Peter Budaj started Monday night, Price came back with three straight wins, stopping 107 of 111 shots – .950 save% – 1.33GAA He was named a ‘star’ in all three games and the NHL named him their “First Star of the Week” on Monday.
Shoot the Schedule Maker – The Canadiens played four games in six days last week followed by no games in six days this week. There was concern in some quarters that, with the week off they would lose momentum but. to a man, players said after Saturday night’s win they were glad to get a chance to heal up after what in fact was a total of seven games in eleven days.
Changing Times – On Tuesday morning it was a given in some sections of the media and 80 percent of the fan base that Jacques Martin deserved to be fired. Martin survived. Now it’s Claude Julien in Boston who’s under the microscope. People in Boston are saying that neither general manager Peter Charielli nor his assistant Cam Neeley particularly like Julien’s coaching style. It may be the only thing Charielli and Neeley actually agree upon.
Sacrificial Lamb – Perry Pearn was removed from the coaching staff in a move that caused more than a little head scratching. Pearn was charged with, among other things, replacing Kirk Muller as coach of special teams. After Monday’s game the power play ranked 29th in the league and the penalty killing was 20th. Pierre Gauthier and advisor Bob Gainey were still at their seats in the press box almost an hour after Monday night’s 2-1 loss to Florida. They probably made their decisions at that time. Nobody, including Gauthier and Gainey, questions Pearn’s coaching ability. But they addressed the team’s major early season failing. We’ll never know the real effect of dropping the news to the team sixty minutes before Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia but the Canadiens won 5-1. After scoring three power play goals the first eight games of the season, the Canadiens were 3-for-13 the next three and killed 12 of 13 penalties.
The Little Stuff - Fourth line players are what they are. But they still are asked to use up ten minutes of ice time per game. Gauthier traded Brock Trotter for Petteri Nokelainen and then shipped the placid Andreas Engqvist and smallish winger Aaron Palushaj to Hamilton and brought up big Mike Blunden. Both debuted last Monday. Nokelainen can win faceoffs, something Engqvist couldn’t (41.3%). In his four games he won 18 of 29 for 62%. And the 6’3″ Blunden used his size – 11 hits in four games. With Darche on left wing this has become a very tough line to play against.
Yo-Yo – Aaron Palushaj was sent back to the Hamilton Bulldogs Saturday morning. It’s the fifth time he’s had to pack his bags since the end of training camp. He was originally assigned to Hamilton the day
before the season opener, recalled five days later after Michael Cammalleri suffered that skate cut in Winnipeg; again sent to Hamilton Oct 22nd, recalled October 25th when there was some question about the
seriousness of Max Pacioretty’s wrist problem. Pacioretty played and Palushaj went back to Hamilton on October 29th. Along the way, Palushaj played a total of 22:30 in four Canadiens games with no points.
The Kid Checks In – Canadiens 2009 first round draft pick Louis Leblanc made his professional hockey debut with the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday. In order to take early pressure off him, the decision was to ease him in to the pro game by playing him on the Bulldogs fourth line with Andreas Engqvist and Andrew Conboy. The line was in on all three Hamilton goals with Leblanc getting the game winning goal and two assists. After being kept off the scoresheet Saturday in Albany, he added an assist in a home ice loss to Abbotsford Sunday. Three games played – 1 goal, 3 assists. Leblanc’s debut had been delayed by off-season shoulder surgery.
Remember Halak for Eller? – The fans anger started when Pierre Gauthier decided that Carey Price had a greater NHL future than playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and sent Halak to St. Louis. And the fans really lost it when Gauthier accepted a barely known Danish kid named Lars Eller in return. Well, sixteen months later, how do you like the deal? Halak is struggling with a 1-5-0 and a 3.58 goals-against average and an .843 save percentage with St. Louis. Sometimes you can blame it on the team, but Brian Elliott, who was brought in to be Halak’s backup is currently at 1.67 GAA with a .942 percentage and is 4-1-0. Eller? He’s already a solid force for the Canadiens and is going get much better. And we all know about Price. Is it possible that Canadiens often maligned scouting department actually knows what it’s doing?