Game 16: Habs @ Bruins; O'Byrne Traded

BREAKING NEWS

In the midst of writing the pre-game blog, news has broken that Pierre Gauthier and the Montreal Canadiens have traded troubled defenseman Ryan O'Byrne to the Colorado Avalanche for 18-year-old forward Michael Bournival.

The native of Shawinigan, Quebec was drafted 71st overall in the 3rd round of this past year's draft by the Avs. In 104 games in his first two years with the Cataractes in his home town, Bournival has 35 goals and 84 points with a +14 rating. This year, Bournival has 11 goals and 24 points, so far, in 17 games. He isn't exactly the biggest forward, at 6'0" and 187lbs (according to Hockey DB) but at only 18 years-old that's bound to go up by the time he has a shot to make an NHL club.

Hockey's Future talent analysis states that Bournival "Possesses the ability to play in all three zones and a no-quit, win at any cost attitude. Bournival might not be the most talented player available, but his work ethic and dedication will help ensure that he becomes a viable NHL prospect.It's way too early to tell what Bournival becomes for the Canadiens, if anything, but for now, we can say the Canadiens at least got something for a player they had clearly lost their confidence in.

As for O'Byrne the twenty-six year-old had only played 3 games with the Canadiens this season, registering no points and an even +/- rating. He had fallen out of favor with coach Martin very early on, and after the Canadiens started getting healthy on the blueline and with Alex Picard playing well early, so the trade should not come as a surprise to anyone. O'Byrne gets a fresh start with a new team, and the Habs get a prospect.

No harm no foul, considering where this team was heading this season without O'Byrne. To lay the blame on someone for what happened to the Victoria, BC native would be unfair. Obviously Jacques Martin decided that he wasn't going to give any more chances to O'Byrne, but it's clear that he had some confidence issues playing in his own end. The rest of the D didn't really help him out very much when he was in, but it's clear that he wasn't going to get another shot with the team playing considerably well without him.

The clear winner in this deal is Ryan O'Byrne. With nearly half their line-out out to injuries, including top defensemen Adam Foote and Kyle Quincy, O'Byrne has a sure spot, for the moment, on the Avs top six. As stated, there really is no harm to the Canadiens losing an 8th defenseman, and they save nearly one million dollars in cap space.

Which begs the question... is another deal coming for GM Pierre Gauthier and the Habs, with a clear problem with this team's top six?

Stay tuned.

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THE BIG, BAD BRUINS

The Montreal Canadiens travel to Beantown tonight to renew their rivalry against the pesky Boston Bruins.

It has already proven to be an eventful week in Habland, with the Dustin Boyd situation early in the week, followed by a surprise shutout victory against the Vancouver Canucks (and now the trading of Ryan O'Byrne), and it's only bound to become even more eventful as the Canadiens prepare to face their biggest rivals in the first of six meetings.

The Bruins, to no one's real surprise, are right in the mix of things in the Eastern Conference, sitting in 5th place with 17 points, only two less than the Northeast Division leading Canadiens. What should make Habs fans nervous is that they have three games in hand, thanks to the Euro-trip they had to start the season. The Bruins have scored 4 more goals than the Habs, and again, to no one's surprise, they have a league-wide best goals against average of 1.92, so far better than last year's 2.33 GAA that was good for second place in the league.

It would be unfair to put the credit for this early success on one section of the team more than the other. The coaching of Claude Julien has been tremendous, as always, and a defense that includes Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, Matt Hunwick and Andrew Ference has been especially solid. Not to mention, of course, a defensively responsible and deep group of forwards. Add to that the VERY impressive fact that only one player (David Paille) is in the minus column, and only with a -1. But you might be able to chalk up the Bruins defense to one man:

Tim Thomas.

Wait, what? Really? Didn't this guy lose his starting job to Tuuka Rask last season? Well, apparently he didn't like that so much, and Rask decided to have sophomore slump this year, because Tim Thomas has been outright incredible. The 36-year-old late bloomer is UNDEFEATED in 8 games this year, with a 1.39GAA, a .959SVP and three shutouts in 9 total appearances this year. You read that right.

The Bruins starter for tonight, however, remains unconfirmed. Thomas played last night - and won - in Pittsburgh, in an uncharacteristic 7-4 game for the Bruins. Thomas allowed four goals, but he faced 46 shots and would probably be understandably today.But despite decent stats this year including a .921 SVP (1.42GAA and .958SVP in last two games), Tuuka Rask hasn't won a single game for the Bruins this year, which puts the Bruins in a difficult position heading into a very important divisional game. Do they start the goaltender that's been lights out so far this year, or do they rest him in favor of Rask, who has been good and will be itching for his first win?

Either way, two streaks could be broken tonight - Rask's winless streak, or Thomas's undefeated streak. Odds-makers would likely tell you to place your money on the former.

Up front, Nathan Horton leads the Bruins in scoring with 7 goals and 13 points in 12 games. Milan Lucic is bouncing back nicely from a bad year last season, with 6 goals and 11 points, as is Michael Ryder, with 4 goals and 10 points. David Krejci rounds off the list of double-digit point-getters for the Bruins with 2 goals and 8 assists, but he is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion. But the Bruins should have no problem on the depth chart without him, with Mark Recchi doing his best Ford Taurus impression with 8 points in his 21st NHL season, and Patrice Bergeron as solid as always.

Tyler Seguin has had some growing pains in his first season after being drafted second overall, but the Brampton native has 3 goals and 3 assists so far this year and he has been playing well. Many question whether he should be in the NHL or whether the Bruins should return him to junior, especially with the likes of Marc Savard poised to make a return sooner or later, but it seems as if he will be sticking with the team.

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AS FOR THE CANADIENS

Coming off a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, and breaking their six game win streak, there is definitely a lot of good to consider for the Habs heading into tonight's game. We all know they generally play better against tougher opponents, and the Bruins are definitely going to be a tough opponent. Moreover, while the top six as a whole has not been scoring goals, the offense has been spread around pretty decently. The 3rd line of Darche, Halpern, and Pouliot, dubbed the "PhD" line has had a couple of great games, and while they didn't score, Cammalleri and Plekanec were great in the 2-0 victory Tuesday night. Not to mention that both goals Tuesday came from the defense.

All that's left, really, is to get Scott Gomez going.

Easier said than done, of course. My solution still stands as a demotion and a snipping of his minutes, but with a coach like Martin that seems unlikely. Obviously with the news of the O'Byrne trade just breaking, there could be a trade in the works as well. All that we know is that the Canadiens can't go on very much longer without consistent production from their top two lines, and the "domino", so to speak that will untangle this entire mess is Scott Gomez.

And for the love of our dear Lord, fix the powerplay!

Only one thing is certain going into tonight's game. Carey Price will be the starter, and just like on Tuesday night where he got his second shutout of the season, a Canadiens win will rest largely on his shoulders.

Whatever happens, I predict a low scoring affair, possibly a 2-1 game in a shootout.

Enjoy the game, and don't forge to join us for our live blog of the game starting at 6:45PM!

See you tonight,

George Prax
www.twitter.com/GeorgePrax
prax@TheCheckingLine.com

4 Comments

Elias's picture

I hope O'byrne gets to play in Colorado. He wasn't my favorite defenseman, but I do think he should have played more than he actually did.

George Prax's picture

Oh he'll get to play, at least at first. Check out these injuries for the avs, just on defense:

Quincey (concussion)
Foote (Concussion)
Cuminsquey (concussion)
Wilson (leg)

They're down four regular defensemen. It's insane.

George Prax's picture

I said 2-1.. close enough. Way the game went might as well have been.