The Canadiens played three games over the last week, lost twice (to Columbus and Vancouver at home) and, thanks to the NHL’s loser-point, still came away with four of a possible six points. During the week they announced that it will be four to six weeks before we see Andrei Markov in the lineup, returned defenseman Frederic St. Denis to Hamilton and traded for Tomas Kaberle.
……So now the debate begins. Chris Campoli is returning to the Canadiens lineup sometime in the next week. A month from now we’ll finally be seeing Andrei Markov and the Canadiens will have nine defensemen. So, who goes? Last week, Jacques Martin stated bluntly that the rookies, Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz are number three and four behind Gorges and Subban. That was before the team traded for Tomas Kaberle. Hal Gill and Yannick Weber are the others. My guess? Campoli who, outside of Weber, has the least defensive upside among the group, will be moved elsewhere for a draft choice. That leaves the Weber situation to deal with. Is he a thirteenth forward/sport defenseman or further trade-bait? Those seem to be the only two options.
…….I think it’s safe to say Pierre Gauthier had his former assistant coach and now pro scout Perry Pearn paying close attention to the state of Tomas Kaberle’s game before he pulled the trigger on Friday’s deal with Carolina. Kaberle had a summer of Stanley Cup celebration and was out of shape when he came to training camp. Catching up physically can take weeks and that seemed to be the case with Kaberle. He started to produce just as the Hurricanes gave up on him. Five points his first 22 games has morphed into six points his last three games.
……The Canadiens scored 19 power play goals through the first 30 games last year (18.6%) and their penalty killers allowed 13. That’s a ratio of plus-6. This year it’s 14 powerplay goals scored (11.4%) vs. 13 against….plus-1. How much would those extra five goals have meant to the Canadiens position in the standings?
…….Pierre Gauthier will never escape being second guessed in this city. And the Kaberle deal really set the critics off. Best point Gauthier made in explaining the deal: the Canadiens are seventh in the league in five on five scoring, second in the league in penalty killing and 27th in power play. A ten year old could figure out what had to be addressed. Best part of the deal was the fact he didn’t have to give up a future asset in order to get him. The risk is Kaberle’s contract which has two more years to run at 4.25 million dollars per seaason.
…… Tomas Plekanec is in a slump and there’s strong reason to think Michael Cammalleri is the cause of it. Cammalleri’s game has been in dreadful shape for most of the season, and Jacques Martin apparently hoped that moving him onto the Plekanec line would get it kick started. Hasn’t happened. Cammalleri’s passive approach has not only dragged Plekanec’s game down but also that of Brian Gionta down. Twenty one games into the season Plekaned led the team with 21 points With Cammalleri on his left wing and not Travis Moen, Plekanec has two the last nine. Until he figures it out, Cammalleri needs time on the third line and Moen needs to be reunited with Plekanec who has assisted on four of Moen’s eight goals.
…….The Canadiens played their thirtieth game of the season in New Jersey Saturday. Their record is 12-11-7. 31 points. Seven points behind their 30 game pace of last year which was 18-10-2. The cold reality is the Canadiens record is 12 wins and 18 losses. They’re being saved by the NHL’s “loser’s point” in overtime..
… . The way the Eastern Conference is shaping up, the Canadiens much maligned start has not put them on the outer edge of the playoff picture. Going into the Sunday schedule, the difference between 6th place Toronto and 11th place Ottawa is three points. There are games in hand but they’re not significant in number. A two game winning streak can do wonders. For instance three points the last two games have elevated the Canadiens from 11th to an 8th place points-tie with Washington.
……Most coaches will tell you ‘shots-on-goal’ is a bad statistic. The now constantly refer to “scoring chances”. It takes all out effort to track scoring chances and Olivier Bouchard at enattendantlesnordiques.blogspot. does a great job for the rest of us. According to his stats the Canadiens have ‘outchanced’ the opponent only 13 of 30 games so far. Jacques Martin likes his team to keep opposition scoring chances to 14 or less. That’s only happened seven times and once in the last ten games.
..…It comes as no surprise that Erik Cole, since his eighth game as a member of the Canadiens, has averaged three scoring chances a game. By far, the most dominant offensive force on the team. Twice he has racked up eight chances in a single game. It is also no surprise that Max Pacioretty is second, averaging 2.3 chances. Cole has always had to work hard for his goals. Pacioretty is a natural goalscorer. To each his own. Pacioretty leads the team with eleven; Cole has ten.
…….Add yet another adjustment for Alexei Emelin, as if he hasn’t had enough of them what with the language barrier and getting used to the NHL’s quickness and ice size. With the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle and his lefthand shot,because of the numbers game Emelin was forced to move from left to right point. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with it. Just another thing for him to deal with in his rookie season. Emelin always seems to figure it out.