Game 14: Oh Boyd! Habs face Canucks + Live Blog!
Before I go off on a tangent about the Canadiens and how much I hate Jacques Martin A.K.A. Dumbo with every fiber of my being, let me remind you all that tonight we will be hosting an extra special live blog at TCL!
Not only will we be covering what's sure to be a great game between the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks, but before the game, starting at 6:30PM, we will be holding a very special pre-game show as an companion to the live blog and the inaugural Habs Panel from this past weekend!
Iain Carnegie, Rosalyn Roy, Scott Schmidt and myself will be taking questions and discussing the Habs in this special event, so make sure to be there at 6:30 sharp for all the fun!
Click here for all the details and to set your reminders!
Tonight, the Montreal Canadiens will be facing the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Center. Losers of 3 of their last four, the Habs will be looking for a confidence boosting win against one of the stronger teams in the NHL' which have been rolling now, with six straight wins and a solid line-up from top to bottom.
The Sedins, including Hart Trophy-defending Henrik, are on pace for 100 points each. Henrik leads the team (and the league) in assists with 14, and goalscorer and winger Daniel is looking for his first 50 goal season, with 9 goals in 13 games so far. The role players have also been stepping up for the Canucks, just like the PhD line for the Canadiens, as Manny Malhotra is close behind the twins with 10 points and a team best +5. Raffi Torres is a revelation, with 7 goals and 9 points, and Raymond, Kesler and Samuelson following things up with 8 points each. Overall, the Canucks boast the league's best powerplay with a near 30% number, and 3.08 goals per game overall for 5th in the league.
The Canucks defense corps has been rock solid, with good performances, as usual, from the likes of Edler, Ehrhoff, Bieksa, and all the rest. Offseason acquisition Keith Ballard has struggled, however, missing five games with a concussion and going -3 in the four games he's been back. The other major acquisition for the Canucks, Dan Hamhuis, has been on the injured reserve since October 19th with a bruised foot, and is questionable for tonight's game, as is Ryan Parent, with is out with a groin injury. Hamhuis could be ready to go however, and if he is, Ballard will be sitting in the press box.
Despite these injury woes, the Canucks are still a team the Canadiens should fear heading into tonight's game. Vancouver is just ahead of the Canadiens with 2.31 goals against per game, and their penalty kill is a respectable 85.4%, thanks in large part to Cory Schneider, who has ridiculously only allowed 3 goals in 4 games. Schneider will be sitting in the stands, however, as local boy Roberto Luongo will look to continue the positive trend of Quebec goaltenders owning their hometown team. While Luongo hasn't exactly had the best stats this year (.909SVP 2.76GAA in 10 games), we all know what a game against the Habs can do for a Montreal goaltender.
ANGRY BLOG TIME
As for the Habs, the big news coming out of the Canadiens camp yesterday was that forward Dustin Boyd had been placed on waivers. Now, this generally wouldn't be big news, a bottom-line player who hadn't been producing much losing favor with the coach, it happens all the time in ever city. But the difference, of course, is that this is Montreal, and nothing is ever that simple in this town, with this team.
You see, it would actually be okay if there was a legitimate reason to this waiving of a seemingly useful player. If he had an extended period of time where he wasn't playing well, if he was a problem in the room, etc. But Dustin Boyd had only played 9 games this season before being waived, and really only had two bad games - last week in Columbus, and this past Saturday's game against the Sens, which was obviously the catalyst to his demise. In the last three games, Boyd is -4, and is pointless since the season opener in Toronto. He is minus 6 on the season with only six shots, but he hasn't even been averaging 10 minutes of ice time, and that number has certainly been lower in these last few games.
Sure, Dustin Boyd hasn't been the best player on this team, and he's had some pretty cruddy performances, especially lately. But that's what happens when a coach is somehow unable to manage his young talent. That's what happens when you play with a Tom Pyatt who has ZERO offensive upside on most nights, or a Maxim Lapierre who's too busy pouting about not getting a fair shot to play well. The ironic thing? Out of all the players Boyd's been paired up with, he's likely the only one who hasn't gotten a fair shot on the top line, yet he's the one who probably has the most scoring potential out of all of them. Pyatt's been on the top line on more than one occasion despite not doing a single thing to earn the spot, and despite being a HEALTHY SCRATCH a game before his first promotion, and coming off one of his worst performances of his career this weekend, Maxim Lapierre has been practicing with Scott Gomez since yesterday.
What is all this supposed to do to Dustin Boyd's confidence? He's been tossed around like a ragdoll from Calgary, to Nashville and now Montreal. At this point, all three teams have told him that they don't want him, and for what? Because they don't understand how to use him? How do you think it feels to be Dustin Boyd and see Tom Pyatt, Max Lapierre, Travis Moen, Matt Darche, and so many others take turns on the two minute tea cup ride that is the Scott Gomez line, while you're either sitting in the press box or at the end of the bench without any proper communication from your coach?
It's clear that Jacques Martin didn't like Boyd from the start... which raises the question... why did Pierre Gauthier even bother trading him, giving up Sergei Kostitsyn in the process?
And I don't even want to bring up the Jaroslav Halak / Lars Eller situation, which is turning out to be more and more of a fiasco, with Eller being a healthy scratch on the weekend, but why is Eller still here? He makes more money than Boyd, he's done less in the same situation as Boyd and he doesn't have to go through waivers. Don't keep him here because of pride, to justify a trade you clearly lost with Halak making the Blues look like cup contenders for the first time in years, maybe decades.
Either the coach and the GM are NOT on the same page, or they're equally incompetent in their sabotage of this team's future. For once, it was starting to look like the Canadiens had some young players, some prospects that they could tout. But in the span of 15 games, they've already managed to ruin two of them, and there are likely more on the way to the bottom of the gutter.
I hate to be negative this early in the season. The Canadiens have a good record, regardless of the excuses against them, easy schedule included, and enough points in the bank to be comfortable heading into a much tougher schedule in November and beyond. But the way this team is coached and managed is just incredibly frustrating. The Canadiens shouldn't have to struggle to play 60 minute games, they shouldn't have to struggle to score goals or get the powerplay going. They have all the pieces in place to put together a pretty good team, but something just isn't working.
The question is, how long will they continue to struggle before they realize that something needs to change? Moreover, how deep will their struggles have to be until someone takes notice? And what needs to happen for that change to take effect?
There are plenty of questions surrounding this team, and with a schedule that includes the Canucks tonight, the Bruins Thursday, Philadelphia (twice), Nashville, Los Angeles and Toronto all in the month of November, I would imagine that by the time we start seeing some snow on the streets of Montreal, a lot of those questions will start getting answers.
Until then, let's (try to) enjoy tonight's game, as it should be a good one.
Don't forget the live blog!