Bulldogs Sing the BLUES; Captain Darche Called up for Bell Centre Tilt
After a disaster of a weekend and 2 days off, the Canadiens return to action tonight, as they host the St. Louis Blues for another rare Bell Centre tilt.
To say that this past weekends losses to the Senators (4-2) and to the Rangers (6-2!) were failures would be an understatement. As a result of falling to two teams that were essentially tied with the Canadiens, as well as the action in the NHL on Monday and Tuesday, the Canadiens dropped from a tie for 7th place to 12th place in the East. Somehow, despite having the last two days off, as well as four days off last week, 4 of the 5 teams immediately ahead of the Canadiens STILL have games in hand!
The only solace the Habs can take going into tonight's game is that their opponents, the St. Louis Blues, are one of the worst teams in the league, currently sitting in 13th place in the west despite being 4-1 in their last 5 games. Looking at their stats, with 126 GF and 136 GA, they don't even seem to be that much worse than the Canadiens. Still, it's a welcome break for the Habs, who face another tough weekend after tonight's game, going up against the Devils on Friday in Jersey, followed by a return home on Saturday to seek revenge against the Rangers.
Obviously, the games this week are must-wins, if the Canadiens hope to keep their playoff hopes alive. One would wonder if it's even worth it for the Canadiens to make the post-season at this point, as they may be doomed for a repeat of last year's embarrassing playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
But for now, the Habs will take each game one at a time, and the players and fans alike can only hope that they can turn this ship around.
The Canadiens have called up 33 year old Mathieu Darche, in hopes that his hard working, experienced winger could provide a spark for young, slumping talent such as D'Agostini and Pacioretty. These two and others have had their shots replacing Andrei Kostitsyn on the top trio completed by Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec, but no one has been able to fill the offensive void. And while Cammalleri and Plekanec continue to produce, they have been slowed by Kostitsyn's absence.
The Hamilton Bulldogs Captain will replace Matt D'agostini on that first trio tonight. Darche is basically a journeyman, having played for 4 NHL teams since 2000, accumulating 8 goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 101 games. He's also played for 6 AHL teams, most recently, of course, the Bulldogs, accumulating 16 goals (2 behind the team leader, Brock Trotter) and a total of 25 points (5th on the team), but he's done it in only 32 games. The Montreal native is a +7 in those 32 games.
The question remains, should he be in Montreal over other Hamilton players? Does he fit in with Plekanec and Cammalleri? That remains to be seen, and the judgement of Dogs coach Guy Boucher won't be questioned, but you have to wonder what the likes of Brock Trotter, David Desharnais and Ben Maxwell, who are younger and have led the Bulldogs on the scoresheet all season, are feeling at the moment.
Trotter has been with the Bulldogs for 3 years, but he's never gotten a chance to play in Montreal, despite being a prized free agent acquisition of the Canadiens coming out of his university career in Denver's NCAA team.
Desharnais, a native of Quebec City, played one game with the NHL team this season as basically an emergency call-up, but didn't really make an impact. Nevertheless, he's been a force in Hamilton this year, with 38 points in only 30 games, and 58 points in 77 games last year. Size is an issue with the Center, as Desharnais only stands 5'6'', and 177lbs, and those stats are usually exaggerated.
Last on the list of players Darche was chosen over is Ben Maxwell, who spent 7 point-less games with the Habs last season. In two years and 117 games with the Bulldogs, Maxwell has accumulated 89 points.
The one thing Darche certainly has over these three players is experience, not to mention size, as he stands at 6'1'' and 210 lbs. But if he doesn't work out in the next couple of games, expect him to be replaces with one of the three players mentioned above.
Carey Price is expected to get the start tonight after Jaroslav Halak let in 6 goals against the Rangers on Sunday. Before anyone gets all uppity, with back-to-back games again this weekend, Halak and Price will most likely split games again, barring something extraordinary.
Needless to say, one fo these two needs to step up in a big way in the coming games. Both have been average since the Canadiens returned from their road trip, and it isn't helping their case to become the number one goaltender for the team. Not to mention, also, that Halak has a starting job in Vancouver to worry about for Team Slovakia.
Tonight is the perfect opportunity for Price to shut the door and re-claim his position.
D'Agostini and Laraque sit tonight (despite the Blues having 2 fighters), as Darche comes in, along with the returning Ryan O'byrne. Jacques Martin dresses 8 defensemen.The fourth line is Metropolit, O'Byrne, and Bergeron. Should be fun of Metro gets kicked off a faceoff...
On a side note, how have the Habs not claimed Petr Sykora yet? He's Czech, like half the team, experienced, and not much of a risk as he's a UFA at the end of the year. DO IT BOB!
*Note: Injured players are omitted from stat leaders.
|Plus/Minus:||Cammalleri (+9)||Jackman /Winchester(+4)|
|Time on Ice:||Hamrlik/Markov (23:57 per game)||Jackman (22:46 per game)|
|GAA:||Halak (2.64)||Mason (2.52)|
|Record:||Halak (12-7-1 21GP)||Mason (15-14-6 35GP)|
|Injuries:||Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body, 6 weeks)|
Sergei Kostitsyn (lower body, DTD)
|DJ King (Right hand, DTD)|
Berglund (Illness, DTD)
|Last 10:||4-5-1, lost 2||4-4-2, lost 1|
|Standings:||23-23-4, T11th, 50Pts, 50GP||21-20-7, 13th, 49PTS, 48GP|
|GF/GA per game:||2.48GF, 28th/ 2.74GA, 12th||2.54GF, 26th/ 2.77GA, 15nd|
|PP/PK %:||24.5%, 2nd / 84.2%, 7th||16.2%, 25th / 86.0%, 4th|
WHAT THE STATS SAY:
The Habs' powerplay takes a dip to second place after this weekends games. Moreover, they face the 4th best PK in the league tonight, which doesn't bode well for them. Nevertheless, the Blues have trouble scoring, so expect a low one here.
Tonight is a game of statements, so Martin will likely try to play a shutdown game, if he can accomplish that with this group.
FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 2 - Blues 1
I've been predicting wins for the Habs over the last few games, and they're due to play a good game. The Blues are the right team to build their confidence against. Hopefully they can pull out a victory.
-Habs raise $160,000 for Haiti, $60,000 more than the league gave.
Enjoy the game!