Sunday potpourri

As you savor a big win and wait for football to start, a cool Carey Price video (found by Jarred Friedman) and a contributions from two of the more astute members of the Commentariat, JF and MathMan.

 

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An appreciation of Mathieu Darche from JF:

What a hard-working, gritty player Mathieu
Darche is, and what a dream he must be living right now.  Aside from his
season in Tampa two years ago, he’s played only a handful of NHL games
over the last decade, and now, after sitting out early on, he has a
regular spot in our line-up, and it’s difficult to imagine JM choosing
to leave him out.  He goes to the dirty areas of the ice, he finishes
his checks, he takes whatever punishment is handed out to hold his
position.  It was great to see him rewarded with a goal this afternoon.

Darche
also seems to be a leader and something of a teacher.  When the RDS
guys interviewed him, he said he talks to Eller a lot during the games,
praising him for good plays and maybe giving him tips from time to time.
In another interview a few days ago, he said he tries to keep things
simple and not force the play in ways that might be risky.  Seems like a
good role-model for a young player.

Gauthier deserves a lot of
credit for seeing Darche’s value and signing him.  I was happy with the
signing, but I thought Darche would be our extra forward, playing
sometimes, sitting a lot, and maybe shuttling back and forth between
Hamilton and Montreal.  I didn’t see him becoming a key player on our
third line (which was probably our second line today).  But he’s
developed great chemistry with Eller and Pouliot, as he had with
Halpern, and that line was certainly our best this afternoon.

Speaking
of Gauthier, I, like most on HIO, was disappointed when the Canadiens
appointed him to succeed Bob Gainey, but I have to say I think he’s done
a tremendous job so far.  The Dominic Moore trade last spring worked
out very well (even if the price was a bit steep), and his moves over
the summer are looking like genius.  Eller has really emerged over the
last few games, and will only get better.  Give him a couple of years
and he’ll be a dominant two-way centre.  Jeff Halpern has been a
valuable addition, excellent on faceoffs and the penalty kill.  And
whatever prompted the Senators to give up on Alexandre Picard?
Hardworking, unspectacular, reliable – didn’t they think their defence
could use those qualities? 

Kudos to Yannick Weber, who’s had two
solid games and looks twice the defenseman he did a year ago.  But I
think P.K. needs to get back into the lineup.  Perhaps if whatever is
bothering Gorges continues to do so, he could sit out a game, or one of
our older guys could have a rest against Ottawa.

I was glad to see
Mike Cammalleri play a strong defensive game and score a goal.  I hope
it lowers his frustration level a bit.  The RDS guys pointed out that he
was unselfish at the very end; instead of going for the empty net from
our blueline, which would have resulted in icing if he’d missed, he got
around the San Jose player before taking his shot.  I said the other day
I thought he was showing signs of selfishness, so I was happy to see
him putting his team first.

And from MathMan, taking me to task for dissing Gomez:

“Scott Gomez finished the game as possibly the first player in the
history of hockey to be making $8 million as a fourth-lin centre. The
coach though Gomez, max lapierre and Tom Pyatt generated positive
energy, but c’mon …”

How much is Kovalchuk making this year?

More
importantly, some things one wouldn’t necessarily notice while watching
the game, but Olivier (at En Attendant les Nordiques) does because he
pores over shift charts and counts scoring chances: Gomez’s line was
definitely not used like a fourth line.

“Positive energy” was only
a tiny part of the picture. Olivier’s observation is very keen: once
Gomez was put with the speedy defensive wingers, he was used against
Thornton systematically, in lieu of Plekanec. This is one thing Gomez
does very well (he can play against anyone, including Joe Thornton) and
not only did the line outchance the Sharks’ big line, it also freed up
Plekanec to play against lesser lights.

Gomez is the Habs’
unluckiest player, now that Eller isn’t anymore. That’s the story of his
game. There’s been entirely too much crap written about how badly he’s
been playing. The reality is, he’s not.

He really doesn’t mesh
well with Cammalleri and Moen though; but with the Habs only having 5
true top-6 forwards (though Pouliot and Eller look like they might
graduate soon) and three of them occupied on a top line Martin won’t
want to break, that really complicates Martin’s line-building.

If the Habs are to make a move, and a top-6 forward isn’t a priority, Gauthier is completely out to lunch.

“think Jacques Martin’s system is old-fashioned and doomed to failure”

The
notion that there’s much commonality between last year’s system and
this year’s is dubious at best. The team pressures a lot more this year
and actually plays modern hockey, which they did not last year. Najor,
major kudos to Martin for changing his stripes, something I did not for a
second believe he would be able to. That’s some tasty crow right there.

29 Comments

  1. Exit716 says:

    Donald Audette and Normand Dupont as part of the Habs legends? Really?

  2. Vid says:

    5) And are winning despite missing a legit top 6 winger and having an offensively underperforming 2nd line center.

  3. Cape Breton says:

    4) And are winning, too, by giving a mostly life-long minor-leaguer (Darche) a chance.

     

  4. Bouleau noir says:

    This is a poor translation of what Gosh Gorge had to say to La Presse about the Habs’s defensive game a week or so ago….      

    ” The active component of our defensive game is meant to force our opponents into vulnerable situations and places where we can initiate our transition game from a favorable position….. positioning is important but there is nothing passive about the approach nor the execution “.

     

    Jacques Martin warned us last season that it would take time for the players to play his system well (a system he had described to be somehow akin to what was played in Detroit and New Jersey) which he kepted repeating until the very end of last season even when winning… that ” the team was a process, was a work in progress yet with a long way to go  “.

     

    In the series the Habs took a step up and this season they are finally reaping the rewards brought by a process requiring time to be effective.

     

    When ask by La Presse about comparing this season’s system with last year, Lapierre said “no different, its exactly the same system….. only the players execution of it has improved “. 

     


     


     

  5. stephen says:

    Only because Ed Ronan and Craig Darby were unavailable, I suspect

  6. HardHabits says:

    I read a great comment on TSN last night. I wont quote it word for word by here’s the gist:

    The Habs are in the elite in the league even though they:

    1) were able to trade their play-off hero from last season,

    2) are winning without their #1 defenseman,

    3) and are winning even though they can sit their #1 prospect and star rookie by filling his spot with another prospect.

    This IMHHO is just the tip of the iceberg. Good times!!

  7. Exit716 says:

    I was hoping Les Kuntar would have been given one of the goalie spots.

  8. Danno says:

    Benoit Brunet?

     

    “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”

  9. Caper says:

    Good points.

  10. JF says:

    Our powerplay must be well over 20% since the beginning of November because the 17.9% includes the first few weeks of the season when we were an atrocious 3 for 47.  I think the improvement can be explained partly by the fact that we’re getting more traffic in front of the net and moving the puck more quickly.  Weber’s accurate point shot should also contribute.

  11. Ian Cobb says:

    Good numbers for sure Robert. Good job.!

  12. bwoar says:

    The conclusions will still be hotly contested, MM, but if I can come around, surely more will too.  It is a great blog.  Olivier does a tremendous job, and cheers to both of you guys for holding up an unpopular position – even when the numbers don’t always seem to match what happens on the ice.  More and more I see Gomez doing good things on the ice that don’t translate into points.  It’s more fun to see the glass half full than to see #11 and automatically gag, “Ah Gomez what a waste.”

    As I tell my friends (Leaf fans, Bruins fans, Sens fans mostly) – you can always earn your entire salary in the playoffs.  If Gomez does something even close to that, we’ll be back in the hunt this year.

  13. MathMan says:

    I feel bad now for quoting Olivier and not linking directly to his blog:

    http://enattendantlesnordiques.blogspot.com/

    Those observations on Gomez are his and I don’t deserve the credit for them. And if you read French, this is an excellent, excellent blog.

  14. DearyLeary says:

    Depends on how long they wait to replace him.  If they wait until the deadline it’s something absurd like 22.5 mil.

  15. habsfan0 says:

    Anybody know exactly how much cap space is available to the Habs now that Markov is on long term IR?

  16. SPATS says:

    AGREE 100% on Darche. I remember when we aquired Benny last year. He was hurt and was sent to the Dogs for rehab. Don’t know if it was his first game back after injury, but I was watching the Dogs feed that night (thanks to somebody here who posted the link) & if I remember correctly, Darche had a hat trick and Benny had at least one and a pair of assists… bottom line, they were on the same line and had instant chemistry. Very happy to see them reunited. Also very happy to see Darche getting his due. It will be difficult to sit him from here on, but I suspect he will do it with his head held high if asked.

    Large kudos to Price. We all knew his pedigree, but some of us questioned his character. I felt he needed to learn and earn. He did so – with a minor brain fart for 2 unsportsmanlikes in the playoffs – but even those now seem to make sense don’t they? Quiet confidence will get us back on St Catherine st in June. Price has it in spades. Haven’t had this much fun watching since I was a kid in the late 70’s. There will be no fluke cups with this bunch.

    On another matter, (just wishful thinking here) but how sweet would it be to bottle up Sid the kid and bring him back to earth next time we meet them? Too bad it’s not for a while. You know we’re in his kitchen, and we’re probably the only ones up in there… 

     

    OOH AAH – HABS ON THE WARPATH!

  17. Caper says:

    I was not a happy camper when Martin was appointed coach and later, when Gauthier was moved into the GM position. It took time for the team to gel and learn “the system”. As a fan , I haven’t felt this good since the 07-08 season.  Our play is carrying over from last years playoffs and of course that included playing without our best player Andre Markov. I am extremely surprised with the play of Alex Picard. While he is not physical, there is no panic in his play and he does not look the least bit out of place. This team is just that-a team. Carey has been excellent and it is so similar to the play of Jaro is last years playoffs. It’s the chicken and egg theory. Is play of the team in front to Carey indicitive of their confidence in him or vice-versa? It’s going to be real interesting through July 1/2011. I believe that there is going to be a major acquisition late January or early February. The only question is if it will be a centre or d-man. I am a huge Markov fan and believe he is our best player when healthy-but-if our play contineus as is, I’m not so sure anymore if I want the team to spend $5mm-6mm per year on him even if he comes back 100% healthy.

  18. Vid says:

    In my opinion the habs played way different last season including playoffs than they did this season.  I feel like it’s almost a 180 deg turn with little transition.  On the defensive side of things, the only aspect I see carried over from last season was excellent shot blocking and PK.  My goodness were habs outshot like nuts last season and I’m so thankful they’ve managed to keep shot totals at a reasonable number this season so far.  I can only conclude that some adjustments were made to the defensive system during the off season.

  19. Ian Cobb says:

    Here is this weeks report on where we place in this 30 team league and compare to last week.

    The 1st most important statistic is goals against, for it measures the total team play.

    The second of course is total team points in the standings. So here goes.

     

    Goals Against–53.   We are in   2nd place.   Last week we were in   2nd place.

    Total Points—-36.   We are in   4th place.    Last week we were in   4th place.

    Goals For——-71.   We are in 15th place.    Last week we were in  19th place.

     

    The
    total point stat is very solid this year, particularly in the era of 3
    point games as seen last night with Boston and Toronto.

    I did not
    mind Toronto beating Boston, as Boston is closer to us in the
    standings. But what bothers me is that Boston still gets a point for
    losing.

    So it is very difficult to gain much separation between teams in the standings with 3 point games in play now.

    But our record of winning in regulation time, preventing the opposition from acquiring a point is very good so far this year.

  20. SeriousFan09 says:

    It’s excellent this year Ian, last season MTL had given up 10 OT points to the opposition by this point, they’ve only allowed 3 OT situations this year and never once had to settle a game with a skills competition at the end.

    MTL is also 1st in the NHL for the PK at an astounding 90.1% efficiency thanks to Carey and the superlative work of guys like Pleks, Pyatt, Moen, Halpern, Gill, Gorges, Hamrlik and Spacek as well. The PP is at 17.9% efficiency and when they say a team is doing well with a 100% combined efficiency between PK and PP, MTL is doing very well under JM’s mantra of special teams and goaltending being the difference in games at a combined 108%, 110% is said to be the mark of an elite team.

     

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu. Habs and Hockey.

  21. Vid says:

    Gomez doesn’t mesh well with Cammy and Moen? I’ll agree that Moen doesn’t belong on the top two lines but I remember Gomez meshing very well with Cammy and Gionta last season with Plekanec having a rotating cast of wingers in the early goings of the season.  Then we traded for Pouliot who did well with Gomez and Gio while Cammy and Plekanec found good chemistry.

    Sure Gomez is a slow starter but last season he had 9 points at the end of october.  Right now that’s exactly as many points as he has this season only that it’s now the beginning of december.  Granted he has the same amount of goals (4) now as he did last season around this time.  I haven’t watched every game but it doesn’t seem to me that Gomez is unlucky at all.  He’s just doing bad offensively.  Defensively on the other hand he is fine but even if Gomez was making half his current salary, he wasn’t acquired to play with budding superstars MaxLap and T-Py.

    Last season Gomez really revved it up around Christmas time so we’ll see if he gets it going offensively this Christmas…

  22. MathMan says:

    Gionta was the straw that stirs the drink on 13-91-21. Gionta drives to the net and is of a like speed to Gomez. Cammy can’t quite keep up, but he is effective as the high man with that one-timer from hell, and he has the defensive awareness to be the first back-checking forward. Moen isn’t Gionta; he doesn’t have the speed or the hands and he tends to be less aggressive in the offensive zone (and without the footspeed, he has to).

  23. Wayne says:

    Good job you guys. I like these contributions by the soldiers here. Thanks for posting, Mike.

     

    Excellent observation and assesment on Darche. For me, as far as the team’s plumbers go, he’s been the biggest surprise. He’s demonstrated leadership that would have a C planted on his chest anywhere else. Two things I would’ve never have expected from Darche; 1) His play is racheted up and is nicely tuned to what Martin expects from him and, 2) He’s a valuable team mate, taking the time and effort to shore up a leadership role for the youngsters. Plus, it goes without saying for what he’s lent to Benny’s emergence as a now, very useful acquisition.

     

    Maybe saying “never expected from him” was a bit much. It’s just nice to see these extras.

     

    On Gomez – well, I won’t go on with a negative here ’cause there’s no use. I’ve taken this angle on him; Like most Hab fans, for the money, I was expecting big things from him – maybe 30-35 goals. After his stint with the Rangers, I was hoping for a resurgence. That’s what’s supposed to happen when anyone throws on a Habs jersey, right? They turn into Superhab. Well, the rose tinted glasses are off now and I’m well on my way to accepting he’s human. A human who is having a helluva time under a coach like Martin. But we’re winning right now so, who cares.

  24. Ian Cobb says:

    Good stuff JF.!

    One missing point is that Kirk Muller is having a much more of a say with Martin. They are both working well together putting people in places that will succeed. We will peak at the correct time of year. We are very much a contender now with some improvements to go.

  25. habaholic68NJ says:

    Excellent posts.  I too have noticed something different in JM’s system this year.  We are playing more in the neutral zone and are no longer giving up the blue line as easily and collapsing around the goalie.  We are also playing the wingers in our zone a little higher which is allowing for easier breakouts by preventing opposing D-men from pinching in as much.  

    My concern with JM though is all this line juggling.  On the one hand and because the team is winning, it allows him to prepare for situations later in the year with injuries or aggressive teams knowing which combinations work and which do not.   For me, here is what are the current best options.

    Ak46-Pleks-Cammi

    Gio-Gomer-?  (Bring up MaxPac or trade before the deadline)

    Pouliot-Eller-Darche

    Laps-Halpern-Moen-Pyatt  (press box for pyatt against physical teams, otherwise give Moen and Laps nights off as needed)

    As for the D, we need all seven D-men playiny.  I would go with PK and Gorges playing every game and a press box rotation for the three old guys, Picard and Weber)

  26. Vid says:

    Earlier this season Gomez and Gionta were together and that wasn’t generating much offense either.  Is it a coincidence that Gionta finally breaks out of his can’t score jinx when he’s moved to Plekanec’s line?

    Now that Gionta seems to be uncorked I wouldn’t be opposed to the reunification of Pouliot-Gomez-Gionta considering their past success last season.

  27. MathMan says:

    IMO, it was a coincidence, actually.

    Gomez and Gionta weren’t generating goals, but they WERE generating offense — tons and tons of scoring chances that just. wouldn’t. go. in.

    The pair of them was heavily snakebit, and our eyes popped at the fantastic chances Gionta (and Gomez and even Pyatt) wouldn’t score on. The line was working the way it always does except for the highlight reel saves at the end of their plays.

    Classic scoring slump, unusual only for its duration. Putting Gionta with Plekanec has worked really well, but with Montreal short a top-6 forward, that leaves precious few guys who can play with Gomez effectively; unfortunately he and Cammy don’t seem to mesh.

    Maybe going back to 13-14-46 and someone-11-21 would be a good idea, but with the way the Pleks line is playing, I wonder if that is such a good idea. Maybe the solution is to use Gomez as the top tough minutes-muncher, keep easier matchups for Pleks and his pals to go wild on, and keep Gomer in bad press while he fulfills a critical role…

  28. Stephan Lebeau says:

    Could you please expand on that?

    Essentially, waiting until the deadline rather than making  an acquisition right now gives them more money to play with?

     

    Would love for Mr. Stubbs to write an article regarding this topic (cap space available and how much in regards to the trade deadline…..also where this money would be best spent)


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