Montreal Canadiens mid-season report

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With a little more than half of the season played for the Montreal Canadiens and in the middle of a four-day hiatus, it is a good time to look back at the first half of the 2009-2010 season.

Below you will find each player’s individual grade for the first half.

Forwards:
Tomas Plekanec, A+
46 points (10G, 36A) in 47 games and is +6
Tomas Plekanec has simply been the Canadiens most consistent forward all season long. He also ranks among the league top scorers as he is currently tied for 12th overall with Patrick Marleau and Zach Parise – Plekanec has been used in every situation – power play, penalty kill, even strength, to defend a lead late in a game, etc. He is truly hitting his stride and will be an excellent addition to the Czech national team at the Olympics. Bob Gainey really needs to lock him long term before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

Mike Cammalleri, A
37 points (20G, 17A) in 47 games and is +11
With 20 goals in 47 games, Cammalleri is on pace to notch 35 goals this season. Cammy has shown us that he can be quite effective even without perennial all-star Jarome Iginla. Cammalleri has been a force at even strength with 17 goals ESG compared to only three PPG. He has been red hot at home with 14 goals compared to only six goals away from Bell Centre. That aside, The Richmond Hill, Ontario, native has been an outstanding player for the Habs, especially after being reunited with Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn. Cammy has fully enjoyed the spotlights and the media attention of Montreal, and he should be considered as the next captain of the Habs, if they even name one…

Glen Metropolit, A
20 points (10G, 10A) in 41 games and is -2
What a surprise! Aside from Plekanec, Metropolit has been the Canadiens’ biggest surprise so far this season. Picked-up off of waivers last year before Steve Begin’s departure for Dallas, Metro has come in and pushed Maxim Lapierre out of the 3rd line center role. Playing on a solid third line with Travis Moen and Max Pacioretty, he has contributed to the Habs’ 2nd PP unit, with six PPG already this season. Metropolit is currently on pace to score 20 goals this season.

Andrei Kostitsyn, B
25 points (12G, 13A) in 40 games and is +3
After scoring only five points (1G, 4A) over his first 20 games and being used more often than not on a 4th line, Andrei got the message from his coach and woke up. Since then, he has scored 20 points (11G, 9A) over his next 20 games. Andrei took advantage of Brian Gionta’s injury to cement his place on the Canadiens’ 1st line. Unfortunately for the older Kostitsyn brother, he sustained a knee injury on New Year’s Eve when he was checked by Keith Ballard. Andrei underwent surgery to repair ligament damage in his left knee on January 8th. He will likely miss six weeks because of the injury and will likely miss the Vancouver Olympics as a result. He should be back in early March, ready for the last stretch of the calendar.

Brian Gionta, B
18 points (10G, 8A) in 26 games and is +4
Despite being injured for 27 games so far, Gionta has been another excellent off-season addition by Bob Gainey. He has clicked instantaneously with former teammate Scott Gomez. He is currently on pace to score 20 goals despite missing so many games this season. Gionta, along with Cammy, has been a leader on and off the ice, and he is another leading candidate for the vacant captaincy position. The newly-formed line of Gomez, Gionta and Benoit Pouliot has been the best line for the past games for Montreal.

Travis Moen, B-
10 points (7G, 3A) in 47 games and is -3
Moen has been a solid, consistent contributor all season, especially on as a penalty killer with Tomas Plekanec. He is an excellent grinding, gritty player: he hits, he fights, he scores the occasional important goal, he kills penalties and crashes the opposing net driving the defensemen crazy. The problem is that as a defensive player, we would expect a better +/- differential than -3 at this stage of the season.

Scott Gomez, C+
30 points (6G, 24A) in 43 games and is +1
When Bob Gainey traded Chris Higgins, Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko to the NY Rangers back in June 2009 in return for Gomez and Tom Pyatt (Taylor Pyatt’s younger brother), a lot of people were upset. Upset because of his ridiculous $8M salary per season and that Gainey gave up too much by adding prospect Ryan McDonagh to the mix. When the season started, Gomez looked pretty good playing with his friend Brian Gionta and you could see the obvious chemistry between them. However, when Gionta suffered a broken foot two months ago, Gomez disappeared from the face of the Earth. He was completely invisible over 25 games and unable to contribute at all. The fact that he played with underachievers such as Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt D’Agostini and Maxim Lapierre didn’t help at all. But that changed when Gionta came back from his injury as Gomez quickly started putting points up on the board. Gomez has notched two goals and 14 assists in the past 12 games making that newly formed line a legitimate second line. Gomez needs to show up every night just like he did in the last month rather than his November performance where he only recorded two points in eight games.

Max Pacioretty, C
14 points (3G, 11A) in 46 games and is -4
Maxim Pacioretty is currently on pace to score 25 points this season. Quite disappointing from a first-round pick who was supposed to become a power forward in the NHL. While this may still prove to be true, MaxPac hasn’t showed more than a few flashes so far this year. He has not been to take advantage of his chances on the first and second lines, and seemed outmatched and outplayed by bigger defenders at time. Pacioretty needs to bulk up and use his size more efficiently to create scoring chances in the crease. Also, he still has not shown enough consistency and poise to be considered a top-six forward in the NHL. However, he is still young and maturing and he will likely improve his all-around game a little more each year.

Maxim Lapierre, D
8 points (2G, 6A) in 47 games and is -10
The 2008-2009 NHL season saw Maxim Lapierre become a solide 3rd-line NHL player. He beat out Kyle Chipchura (traded to Anaheim earlier this year) as the Habs’ 3rd line center and he became an excellent player in all three zones. This season, however, Max has taken a big step back in his development. Expected to provide offensive depth with Guillaume Latendresse (traded to Minnesota earlier this year) and Moen, Lapierre hit a wall this season. His -10 rating is telltale sign of his miserable season. Watching him on the ice is watching the epitome of tentativeness. Watch how often he pulls up on a hit rather than finishing his check. Lapierre looks lost out there on the ice and is no longer helping the team in any way. Don’t be surprised if he is dealt later this season as Tom Pyatt is ready to play Lapierre’s role as a fourth liner.

Matt D’Agostini, D-
4 points (2G, 2A) in 31 games and is -8
Speaking of players who are having a miserable, Matt D’Agostini is another disappointment for the Habs. He looks like he doesn’t know what do to with the puck. He is constantly taking bad decisions; when he should shoot he passes the puck, when he has to get the puck out of the zone he is unable to get it done. He has been tried on the Habs four lines and he has not clicked with anyone yet. Granted, D’Agostini suffered a concussion on a severe hit by the Hawks’ Andrew Ladd earlier this year and missed significant time because of this injury. But even before that, you could see that the effort was there but that the results are just not coming. Don’t be surprised if he is sent back to the AHL when Andrei Kostitsyn comes back from his knee injury if he doesn’t improve his game in the meantime.

Sergei Kostitsyn, D-
4 points (1G, 3A) in 19 games and is -4
After being down to the AHL for an extensive period to get his game together and think about his off-ice behavior, Sergei was eventually recalled after putting his head down and working his butt in Hamilton. Since being called up, you can see that the younger Kostitsyn has checked his ego at the door and has not made any waves on or off the ice. The problem is that he is not producing or contributing at all to this team. He used to be a gritty and aggressive player with an offensive touch. Now he looks like a soft perimeter player. He had been demoted on the 4th line before getting injured during a pre-game warm-up in Florida. He is currently day-to-day and he is likely to get moved by the trade deadline, if Gainey finds a suitor for his services.

Georges Laraque, F
2 points (0G, 2A) in 25 games and is -6
Georges Laraque has been useless so far this season. He is a fighter who never wants to fight. He refuses to intimidate the opposition, to uses his reputation to change the course of a game. He has not instigated anything this season. This presumed heavy weight always needs a written invitation to beat someone up. He adds nothing to this team and takes away 1.5 million dollars of cap space. The Canadiens should put him on waivers instead of having him and his negative attitude around the team.

Benoit Pouliot, B+ since his acquisition
4 points (4G, 0A) in 9 games and is EVEN
Too early to tell, but from what we have seen with Gomez and Gionta, Pouliot has shown flashes of brilliance so far this season. Pouliot has a high level of raw talent, great skating abilities and very good wrist shot that he is trying to perfect. It remains to be seen whether Jacques Martin can mold him into an elite player or not, but keep in mind that he was drafted 4th overall by the Wild.

Tom Pyatt and Ryan White haven’t had any major impacts for far this season to justify a mid-season report.

Defencemen:
Andrei Markov, A+
13 points (3G, 10A) in 12 games and is +3
Markov is one of the best defensemen in the league. His prolonged absence out of the lineup hurt the Canadiens a lot, especially on the power play and the penalty kill as Markov is a great special units player. Having Markov back has reminded us all just how good a player he is. Markov is the franchise player of this team and maybe the next captain. Whether is it his great 1st pass, his jumping in offensively, blocking shots, cutting off passes or quarterbacking the power play, Markov does it all and excels at all aspects of his game. Markov is in his prime and he will likely be a Norris candidate next season if he can avoid any lengthy injuries.

Roman Hamrlik, A
16 points (5G, 11A) in 40 games and is -3
No other player on this team took more on his shoulders when Markov went down with an injury in the 1st game of the season than Hamrlik. Playing more than 20 minutes, and often more than 25 minutes per game at even strength, on the PK and on the PP, Hammer has played well above his physical age and has done an excellent job of anchoring an injury-riddled defensive squad. Hamrlik and his good friend Spacek have been pivotal to the Habs’ success so far this season.

Jaroslav Spacek, B
12 points (3G, 9A) in 45 games and is +6
Signed to a three-year contract in the off-season by Bob Gainey, Spacek has proven his worth to his organization during Andrei Markov’s absence. Like Hamrlik, Spacek logged a ton of ice time, especially on the PP and at even strength. He has been very reliable in his defensive zone making great first passes and reducing his turnovers lately.

Josh Gorges, B+
8 points (3G, 5A) in 47 games and is +2
Josh is as consistent as any player on the Habs and has been for years now. He does all the little things well on the ice; he gets the puck out of the zone, make a good first pass, efficiently kills penalties, mans the second power play unit if needed and doesn’t make many mistakes. He is a great team player.

Marc-Andre Bergeron, B
23 points (10G, 13A) in 40 games and is -6
Along with Metropolit and Plekanec, Bergeron has been a pleasant surprise for the Habs and a much-needed weapon on the league’s best power play. His booming slap shot from the point has helped Bergeron lead the NHL with 10 goals tied with Stephane Robidas and Mike Green. While there is no question that Bergeron has many weaknesses on the defensive side of the puck, his offensive prowesses and his 750K salary make him a great addition to this team. Recently, he has been used primarily on the fourth line as a forward and on the PP as a rearguard, which is a role that also occupied Mark Streit a few years ago.

Ryan O’Byrne, C
1 points (0G, 1A) in 24 games and is -2
Up and down season for O’Byrne. He had a strong training camp and looked to be filling the void left by Komisarek’s departure until he went down with an injury in the 2nd game of the season. When he returned from his injury, he looked strong and confident, but since then, he has been average at best. At points, he has had problems getting out the puck of the zone and making a good outlet pass, at other times he has used his hulking 6′5″ frame around with great efficiency. You never want to quit on a young defenseman as it takes much long for D-man to learn the NHL game than forwards.

Hal Gill, C-
3 points (2G, 1A) in 33 games and is -5
Hal Gill is very slow, he makes a ton of turnovers, but he is steady penalty killer. He is also an incredible shot-blocker, especially when it comes to blocking the cross-crease passing lane. He is also known as an excellent team player. So far this season, Hal has performed up to the top of his capabilities which are, unfortunately, severely limited by his excessively slow foot speed. Gill is perfectly suited up for the Habs’ third defensive pairing and penalty killing duties. However, Martin cannot rely on him for more than 15 minutes of play per game; otherwise, Gill is known to make too many mistakes when his playing time increases.

Paul Mara, D
7 points (0G, 7A) in 37 games and is -13
Mara has shown much courage this season by playing through injury, putting it all out there on ever shift, sticking up for teammates, but Paul just doesn’t seem to be a very good defensive defenseman and his -13 rating ranks him 6th worst among the league’s defensemen. Not very good. Mara, is another player who could potentially be traded at the deadline since his one-year contract is affordable. Mara will not return next season as the Canadiens will likely make room for young defenseman such as PK Subban or Yannick Weber).

Goalies:
Carey Price, B+
28GP, 10W, 18L, 2.67 GAA, .920 SV%, 0 shutout
Pegged as the unconditional number one goalie by the organization at the start of the season, Price has slowly lost playing time to Jaroslav Halak. Since the beginning of December, Price has started eight games, going 3-4-1 with a respectable 2.25 GAA and a marvellous .926 save %. Price has been more confident in goal despite allowing bad goals now and then. Price has essentially been the victim of a lack offensive support, getting only 17 goals in the eight games he played compared to 31 goals in the nine games Halak played since the beginning of December. Jacques Martin will continue to ride his hottest goalie, and if Price continues his strong play, he will likely regain his number one role before the trade deadline, which could force Bob Gainey to trade Halak to another team.

Jaroslav Halak, A+
19GP, 12W, 7L, 2.46 GAA, .930 SV%, 2 shutouts
Right now, the Canadiens are doing pretty well in net and sitting even prettier on the trade market as Halak’s value continues to rise. Halak is the perfect example of a goalie that needs seasoning before showing he can be a true #1 goalie in the NHL. Halak faced 35 shots or more eight times this season going 7-1. The more shots he receives the more focused he is. Halak has improved his rebound control a lot this season, his biggest deficiency last season, to a point where he rarely gets beat on a rebound. Halak definitely represents Montreal’s Habs best trading asset this year, as Halak is a budding goaltender with an affordable salary.

If you want a complete comparison of Price and Halak’s performance in December, check this great article = http://www.habseyesontheprize.com/2010/1/10/1233023/price-halak-the-stat...

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