Un-Cammy Resemblance - Cammalleri Ejected As Habs Trounce Isles
The Canadiens defeated the New York Islanders 7-2 last night at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City.
But that wasn't the big news out of last night's very one-sided affair. It wasn't Tomas Plekanec's continuing pre-season domination of the scoresheet. It wasn't the fact that Benoit Pouliot FINALLY had an impact on a game, or Price's 20 saves, or even Ryan O'Byrne's continuing struggles on the blueline. Nor that, give or take a few NHLers and a top prospect or two, the New York Islanders that took the ice in Quebec City last night were more like the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.
No, all of that kind of fell by the wayside after last night's game, as everyone was talking about the incident that involved prospect Nino Niederreiter and Habs' sniper Michael Cammalleri. Late in the second period, Cammalleri got involved with Niederreiter along the boards in what, at first glance, seemed like an innocent little altercation, like the ones we see nearly every night in the NHL. But it soon got ugly. Cammalleri tried to jab Niederreiter with his stick, following-up with a cross-check, a swing towards his heading and ending with a slash right on the back of his legs.
In most videogames, that would have gotten Cammalleri a nice combo bonus. But in the NHL, that's a 5 minute major for slashing and an ejection from the game. Niederreiter went down, and he went down hard, leaving the game as well with what the team described as a "bruised calf".
You can view the full incident below:
One interesting omission from the video above was what caused Cammalleri to flip out and attack Niederreiter; a cheap, blindside hit to the head, which was only made available later through highlights:
“I think Cammy was reacting to being blindsided on the play before that,” said coach Jacques Martin after the game. “I’m sure when the league reviews the incident, they’ll look at that part.”
Cammalleri made himself unavailable to the media following the game, so we're still awaiting the angry blog from The Gazette's Dave Stubbs.
There are definitely two sides to this story, but the fact of the matter is that Cammalleri was waiving his stick around like an idiot in retaliation to a questionable hit, and could have done a lot more damage to Niederreiter than just a "bruised calf". Plain and simple, it was a revenge attack, an attempt to injure the 5th overall pick from this past year's draft, and just a dumb move on Cammalleri's part. Whatever lack in judgement Niederreiter showed in hitting Cammalleri in the head was completely overshadowed by the retaliatory actions of Cammalleri. A near 10-year pro, he should have known better than to do what he did, and should have been the bigger and better man and kept his stick to himself. Heat of the moment or not, it was foolish, selfish, and it could very well end up hurting the team if the league decides to make an example of Cammalleri.
And odds are, they will. Stick swinging incidents in the NHL are nothing to take likely. Yes, Niederreiter is much bigger than Cammalleri, but that's no reason to use a stick as an "equalizer". Cammalleri should be suspended for at least a game or two. The Niederreiter hit should also be looked at, but the culprit here is definitely Cammalleri.
What do you think? Will Cammalleri be suspended? Will Niederreiter? For how many games? Let us know in the comments below.
In the "lighter" side of the physical encounters from last night, Jaroslav Spacek tried to fight AHL heavyweight fighting legend Jeremy Yablonski. Yup, THAT Jaroslav Spacek tried to fight THAT Jeremy Yablonski. Needless to say, hilarity ensued when Spacek tripped over himself before they could even lock horns:
While Spacek is obviously not a fighter, he hasn't been a stranger to confrontation in his NHL career, but that was just a funny way to summarize a fairly odd game. "After we scored our fifth goal, they sent out all their tough guys and I just jumped in and tried to tie up (Yablonski),” Spacek said after the game, but he was the only one "tied up" at the end of that encounter.
Moving along from the "physical" confrontations of the night, there was still a hockey game to report on last night. Some continued to impress, while others continued to disappoint, and a few even decided to finally come out of their shells in this, the 7th and final game of the preseason. And while the Canadiens have five days to make their final roster cuts in preparation for their first game of the regular season in Toronto, the final line-up is starting to look pretty obvious.
Max Pacioretty was sent packing to Hamilton late in the week, due to a combination of injury and a relatively quiet camp. I had high hopes for "MaxPac" heading into this preseason. The 21-year-old is big, strong, and has untapped scoring potential that could have greatly benefited this team. Obviously, he wasn't ready to flaunt all these positive attributes just yet, but I stand by my opinion that you will be seeing Pacioretty play for the Canadiens before the season is over. It's finally time for him to break out and dominate the AHL.
With Pacioretty gone, that leaves 15 healthy forwards on the Canadiens' training camp roster. With the likelihood that Jacques Martin will go into the season with an extra defenseman or two, there could be some disappointment on its way for Canadiens fans early next week. Ben Maxwell is as good as cut, and while the Canadiens could decide to keep an extra two forwards on their 23-man roster, especially if Cammalleri ends up with a suspension, there could be another cut between Lars Eller, Ryan White, Mathieu Darche, and possibly Tom Pyatt.
While Darche was basically signed to sit in the pressbox and be the team's "13th forward", Eller and White have made strong cases for themselves this pre-season, in their own ways, which could make Darche the "easy cut" for Jacques Martin. Eller has had an up-and-down camp, but broke out last night with a goal and an assist. Some fans feel that Eller needs to make the team in order to justify the Jaroslav Halak trade, but I stand by my opinion that this shouldn't be the case, and that he should start the year in Hamilton. With Pouliot and Kostitsyn pretty much locking up the 5 and 6 spots in the Canadiens top six, there simply no room for him in an offensive role, and I don't think we would be as useful on a line with Travis Moen and Maxim Lapierre.
White, on the other hand, has been both consistent and exciting with his own, hard-nosed style, and provides exactly what the Canadiens need heading into the season - grit and size. He can fill in on pretty much any line if needed, but would start on the 4th line and provide hitting, energy, fighting, and secondary scoring for the Canadiens. He won't put up a many points as is expected of Lars Eller, but that wouldn't be his role. Ryan White NEEDS to make this team.
As for Tom Pyatt, he's had kind of a quiet camp, albeit a good one. He more or less won a spot on the team after his performance in last year's playoffs, but his spot is by no means safe. What he provides - defensive hockey and penalty-killing - can also be provided by several other forwards on the team, including off-season acquisitions Jeff Halpern and Dustin Boyd. He doesn't hit, and he won't score that many goals, so one has to wonder whether Pyatt might be the sacrificial lamb for Jacques Martin here, at least for the time being.
On defense, the status of defenseman Roman Hamrlik is still unknown, but it's looking more and more likely that the veteran Czech won't be in the line-up on Thursday night. With him and Markov out, there will likely be a spot for an extra d-man this week. Two of Alexandre Picard, Ryan O'Byrne, Yannick Weber and Alex Henry will be playing on Thursday night. The only question is quick of the four? Picard seems to be a lock, as he's been playing big minutes in pre-season and comes both cheap and with NHL experience. Ryan O'Byrne has had a very disappointing camp, but there is still a lot of potential in the 26-year-old, and he'd have to go through waivers if cut, so it's possible that the team will keep him around. Alex Henry has had a good camp, but is nothing more than a career AHLer. And Yennick Weber, well, who knows.
While three goaltenders remain on the camp roster, Curtis Sanford won't survive the next round of cuts.
With all of that said, the Canadiens have to reduce a 27-man camp roster to a 23-man opening night roster.
Who would you cut? Which of the "fringe" players will make the team? While only time will tell, leave your thoughts in the comments below!