About last night …

Leblanc
With the point they gained against Florida, your Montreal Canadiens have ascended to 28th place in the NHL standings.
They are tied at 72 points with Minnesota, but the Wild have a game in hand.
Still within reach – and sinking like a stone, with the expectations of a playoff-starved public weighing them down – are the 26th-place Leafs.
So you know that high lottery pick we’ve all been looking forward to since about Feb. 1?
Well, don’t count your Yakupovs until the Canadiens have nailed down a bottom five seeding.

Wouldn’t a draft cock-up be the perfect way to cap this frustrating season?

The Canadiens go on a winning streak and inch their way up the standings and out of contention for the top-rated junior prospects.

It could happen … although the team we saw losing 3-2 to Florida will be hard-pressed to beat the Rangers and Washington in a back-to-back on the road this weekend.

As usual, there was one functioning forward line.

Max Pacioretty had nine of the Canadiens’ 29 shots. And the rare moments of uplift for the 21,273 fans – a goodly number of whom were dressed as empty seats – were provided by Erik Cole’s rushes down the wing and David Desharnais’ playmaking wizardry.

It should be noted, however, that DD had a rough night in the faceoff circle, losing 14 of 20 draws. Tomas Plekanec (more about that poor sod in a moment) lost 15 of  22. The only centre with a positive faceoff effort against Florida was Lars Eller, who won five of seven.

Ya gotta feel for Pleks. My pressbox neighbour pointed to a play in the first period that he felt exemplified Plekanec’s season.

“He dekes a guy and makes a great play to keep the puck in the slot. What’s he going to do with it? He’s got Frédéric St. Denis at the point and a rookie (Louis Leblanc) on one wing. He could pass to Bourque in front of the net, but that  (expletive deleted) wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

Rene Bourque actually made the scoresheet against Florida. He had three hits, two blocked shots and a shot on goal.

But Bourque extended to nine the number of games he’s gone without registering a point – futility he’s achieved in 27 of the 33 games he’s played in the uniform of the Montreal Canadiens. Ah well, only four more years on his contract

The shootout ended with Scott Clemmensen stopping Leblanc. But LL played a solid game, cashing that sweet head-man pass from St. Denis and racking up four shots on goal to go with his four hits.

In his postgame remarks, Randy Cunneyworth praised Leblanc’s speed, vision and fearlessness. The coach said the Canadiens’ first-round draft choice in 2009 has to get stronger, and Leblanc might be more advanced physically had he stayed at Harvard and focused on off-ice training, as opposed to leaving after one year to ride buses in the QMJHL.

LL is going to be a good player. As we survey the damage in this train-wreck of a season, Leblanc is one of the reasons for fan optimism going forward – the more so now that Cunneyworth has promoted the kid to the Plekanec line, where Leblanc got 17:20 of ice time.

I thought Eller played a decent game. Neither of his wingers, Ryan White and Michael Blunden, can score; but White proved his courage, if not his good sense, by losing another fight to Erik Gudbranson; and Blunden impresses me with his speed and willingness to play the body.

The Canadiens have a surfeit of fourth-liners: White, Blunden, Aaron Palushaj, Brad Staubitz, Travis Moen (when he’s healthy and if the Canadiens re-sign him) and Petteri Nokelainen.

The challenge is filling out the Top Nine. And finding a physical defenceman.

Cunneyworth praised the play of St. Denis, whom he described as “not the biggest or the strongest” but blessed with smarts and the ability to read situations.

Of course, this description fits Raphael Diaz, too. Will they both be on the team next season? What about Yannick Weber?

Andrei Markov and his D partner, Alexei Emelin, were on for both of the goals Florida scored. Their matching minus-2s are deceptive, however, because neither could be faulted for long-range shots that somehow eluded Carey Price.

The Panthers play like their coach, Kevin Dineen. In scoring a first-ever season sweep of the Canadiens, Florida played doggedly determined and desprate hockey. The Panthers create havoc down low with their forechecking, and the puck kept popping out for point shots the Canadiens’ scheme never bothered covering.

The game’s oddest statstic was hits: 42 for the Canadiens (Emelin had five, Staubitz, white, Leblanc and Cole four each), Florida only 17.

Yet at no point did it seem the Canadiens were manhandling the Panthers. If a small team gets 40-plus hits, does the death-by-a-thousand-cuts factor eventually wear the opponent down? It didn’t happen in this game.

One more stat to chew on: Your Montreal Canadiens have emerged on the short end of the final score 25 times at the Bell Centre this season.

No one, not even Columbus, has lost more often on home ice.

Oh, and your rock ‘em/sock ‘em Habs have had fights in seven straight games.

If you can’t beat ‘em on the ice …

23 Comments

  1. dhenry1234 says:

    “Andrei Markov and his D partner, Alexei Emelin, were on for both of the goals Florida scored. Their matching minus-2s are deceptive, however, because neither could be faulted for long-range shots that somehow eluded Carey Price.”

    Sorry Boone but that first goal was all markov’s fault. Bad pinch leading to a 2 on 1 which lead to a goal.

  2. habs-hampton says:

    I imagine Bruce Boudreau is steaming today. The other night, LA has a goal on Boston disallowed after review becuase of goalie interference. Last night, the B’s score in the 3rd on TB where it was obvious goalie interference, but no review and good goal.
    Same team, different rules. Typical…

  3. Mavid says:

    Dressed as empty seats? I have seen more than that at a sens playoff game. It’s to be expected.

  4. smiler2729 says:

    April 8th, a clean slate in the front office… ahhh.

    __________________________________
    Jack Edwards is a clam, Bruins are pukes.

  5. Cal says:

    Booooooone, this group of hacks on a winning streak? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

  6. nickster13 says:

    Oh man those were 3 brutal goals given up by Gustavsson. The Monster? As someone has said before, his nickname should be “the monstrosity” . Brutal!

    “I don’t wanna see Maurice tonight, I want the rocket!”

  7. Jim Edson says:

    Boone,

    Claude Giroux – The one who got away.

    or more to the point

    Claude Giroux – The one who was ignored and walked away.

    For David Fischer of the ECHL!

    ———————————————————————-
    What does the Commissioner of the NHL do?

    In short, a league commissioner is the action man for the Board of Governors.

    They tell him what they want done and he works to make it happen through his subordinates while making sure that individual franchises play by the rules.

    ******** Translated if you haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 40 years your NHL team is becoming irrelevant in a sports mad city long behind MLB, NFL and NBA teams, you just tell the commissioner(who you gave a new contract at 7 plus million per) to make it happen and the rules are bent sufficiently to action the command.

  8. HabsinLA says:

    Since we’re all talking about best case offseason scenarios, what we really need to do is draft Malkin’s clone and then trade Goligoski’s clone for James Neal’s clone. Sadly it seems we’ve been the team giving up James Neals…

    Honestly, I agree with the fact that we need to trade away something to get something in return. Trade away Eller, Leblanc, Gallagher, Beaulieu to get an established NHL star? I would do that. (I wouldn’t trade our first for anything though) But I don’t agree that Price is expendable and tradable. If we still had premier backup (like Halak, Bernier, Crawford) sure, but now, who would take Price’s spot? 82 games of Budaj? Our goalie pipeline is dry, and it’s not like we can just go out there an sign a goalie that’s better than Price. As average as we make out Price to be, 75% of the teams in the league would kill to have Price. I bet Vancouver fans would trade Luongo or Schneider for Price in a heartbeat. I consider Price to be a younger Fleury, his career is not going to be one for the record books but it’s going to be very good regardless.

    Put it another way, who would you rather see in net instead of Price? Halak, Rinne, Lunqvist, Thomas (who’s 38), Miller, Quick? Of those teams what kind of D plays in front of them? Would you trade our top 2 for their top 2? (Doughty, Suter, Weber, Chara) Do you see those teams shopping said goalies? I don’t want to be like Toronto who’s always searching for the next goalie with a SV% above .900 or Philly, Chicago, Washington looking for the biggest piece of the puzzle or Ottawa and Colorado trading 1st and 2nd rounders for the next franchise goalie candidate (and failing). Leave Price in Montreal, at least until the next Price comes along…

  9. VancouverHab says:

    JM was indeed a good coach — a VERY good coach — and replacing him with Cunnyworth is like replacing Einstein with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

    Problem was the JM is also a good GM, and Gauthier figured it would be very easy for the Molson’s to can him and replace him with JM, which explains the otherwise inexplicable firing….

    • Jim Edson says:

      A very good coach would have better people skills especially dealing with young players.

      An “X’s” and “O’s” only coach who was so conservative it was stifling.

      The problem was exposed when Muller, JM’s communicator departed and the roof fell in.

      The man had no connection with his players.

      ———————————————————————-
      What does the Commissioner of the NHL do?

      In short, a league commissioner is the action man for the Board of Governors.

      They tell him what they want done and he works to make it happen through his subordinates while making sure that individual franchises play by the rules.

      ******** Translated if you haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 40 years your NHL team is becoming irrelevant in a sports mad city long behind MLB, NFL and NBA teams, you just tell the commissioner(who you gave a new contract at 7 plus million per) to make it happen and the rules are bent sufficiently to action the command.

    • SPATS says:

      Agree with you there, and since he’s still on the payroll, Molson should bring JM back as GM, and while he’s at it, (and since he’s also on the payroll) bring back Carbo as coach.
      PG and BG must walk the plank together (and while they’re on the way out, take their biggest gaffes…Gomer, Bourque and Kaberle with them) Seriously, could it be any worse? At least Molson will save a couple of mil and the language loons will be forced to back off. Roy can go to Quebec. It makes me sick that they retired his jersey after his egomaniacal tantrum at the forum

      OOH AAH – HABS ON THE WARPATH!

    • showey47 says:

      I’ll always miss the way JM gave guys like SK and dagostini 4 minutes a game giving PG no trade leverage just to watch them turn into 20 goal/50 point producers somewhere else.Ah.the good ole days.

    • bobinsask says:

      Hahahahaha…. JM a good a coach and a good GM. Nothing in his resume suggest that either of those comments are remotely true. Cunneyworth may not be the answer and he won’t get a chance in Montreal to prove that one way or the other but Martin’s long history has definitely proven he is a non-winner when the chips are down.

      Just be thankful we didn’t go for Carlyle as his replacement.

      • VancouverHab says:

        Agree about Carlyle!

        But he had this team plaing winning hockey, with all its injuries.

        And can’t see him signing off on the Cammi-Bourque trade….

  10. Clay says:

    One thing this season has shown me is that Martin was a very good coach. I was never a big fan of his style of hockey, and was indifferent about his personality and his firing, but he made this crap team competitive almost every night. He deserves to get another NHL gig.
    Draft, here we come!!

    __________________________
    ☞ Wow, that’s a nice lookin’ pair of Crocs!” Said no one ever.☜

  11. Un Canadien errant says:

    In our plummet to the bottom, we have reached our floor, in that we can go no lower than 29th, Columbus having clinched the last/first spot in preparation for the draft lottery. Our team worries me though, since we have some pieces that can prevent some losses, or at least outright losses, losses in regulation that solidify our draft position. We have a goalie, we have hungry rookies who are trying to impress whoever will be calling the shots next training camp, we have a #1 line that is still playing hard, like it matters, and like they enjoy playing with each other instead of being all glum and comatose.

    This loss is a familiar story for our team this season: play hard, work hard, grab a lead, cough it up in the third, settle for a regulation tie, and lose it in the shootout. And I can’t think of another, original way to state it, so I’ll grab my violin and pluck out the old dirge that this ‘loser’ point is killing our chances for a killer draft, and that the deadly Leafs are on the prowl, wielding their familiar weapons: dreadful, beer-league quality goaltending and a crestfallen team whose morale is being obliterated by a tyrannical coach. Those guys are dangerous, they have been there before, they know how to get the job done. You can see it in their eyes, they have the killer attitude.

    Our team is not as bad as the Leafs. We have a lot of gaping holes in the roster, but there is a strong foundation to build on. At forward we have five or six NHL-worthy players, and now must find six more to fill out our corps. We can do so with one or three judicious free agent signings, maybe by trading a prospect for a player ready for the NHL, and hopefully by infilling from our system, maybe one more summer of development will yield dividends with some of our farmhands and current bottom-liners. We can hope that our first-round draft pick will be ready to fill one of these holes at forward. On defence, we have four very solid players, and then a plethora of question marks. Solid reinforcements are tantalizingly close, maybe in time for the 2013 training camp. We are set and more at goaltender.

    Louis Leblanc is showing us something, even though he has been affected by injuries the last couple of years, and his development could have stalled. We kind of wish that he’d spent the entire season in Hamilton being the #1 centre and being the horse, but he’s making the best of his limited minutes, and tonight kind of showed up René Bourque. Again, next season it would be nice if we could let him mature in Hamilton, but we may not have that luxury since we don’t have enough NHL players, and he may force the team’s hand with his play anyway.

    Frédéric St-Denis is another player who is making it hard for us to ignore him. I’ve discounted his effective play so far this season, believing he didn’t bring a skillset to the team that we needed, in that we already have smaller, mobile defencemen on the roster, yet again tonight he was effective, always well-positioned, used his stick to compensate for his lack of physical strength, and gathered an assist when he sent Louis Leblanc off on his 3-on-0 goal. I may be slow on the uptake, but tonight was the first time I began to question whether he might do significantly better than Yannick Weber or Tomas Kaberle or Chris Campoli.

    I’m a little worried by Ryan White. He hasn’t scored a goal yet, isn’t creating any chances through diligent forechecking like he was last season, and may be overcompensating by fighting too often. He went up against Erik Gudbranson even though he gave up a significant size advantage. Ryan wasn’t a mere fighter when he was drafted out of the WHL, he was seen as a hard-working centre and was ranked ahead of Ben Maxwell and Milan Lucic by NHL Central Scouting his draft year. Another detail which I noted was that his hair was dry as he went to the penalty box, as if he hadn’t had the icetime to work up a good sweat beforehand. I know he’s trying to contribute any way he can, but I don’t want him to marginalize himself into a Rick Rypien-type middleweight who takes on all comers and does not much else. It might mean a short career for him.

    ———————————
    How about it NHL? No fighting, just hockey?

    http://relentlessineptitude.blogspot.com/

    • Cal says:

      White’s loss of most of this season has affected his play. With a more normal summer, he can get back to being Ryan White again; a plugger who can get 5 to 10 per season if the stars align.

  12. Josh says:

    Palushaj is not a 4th liner.


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