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Just like last season, the Habs are limping into the holiday break, winning just 1 of 4 games and not looking particularly sharp in any of them. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs managed to pick up 3 of 4 points, but still remain the 2nd lowest scoring team in the AHL. Our quick hitters this week look at a pair of seemingly forgotten prospects, while the Final Thought looks at my take on what this team needs most heading into the 2nd half. All this and more, in the Recap.
8.5 - 10: Player has exceeded expectations for the week, very strong contributions.
6.5 - 8: Player has met expectations for the week, play has helped or at worse, not hurt the lineup.
5 - 6: Player has performed below expectations for the week, play has at best not hurt the team, but likely has had a negative affect.
Under 4.5: Player has had a week to forget, questions should soon be arising about his future with the organization.
#39 - Cristobal Huet: 8.0
Saturday's shootout notwithstanding, he looked strong in both appearances, a
nice way to come back from injury. (Season Average:
#31 - Carey Price: 6.5 Did not look sharp in either of the games, although in his defense, the team scored a combined 3 goals in his starts. (Season Average: 7.73)
#79 - Andrei Markov: 8.0
Anytime you get 3 goals from a defenceman, it's something to be pleased with,
the defensive play though was a bit off again. (Season Average:
#44 - Roman Hamrlik: 7.5 If you overlook the awful giveaway vs Dallas, he was pretty much the top d-man for the Habs this week. (Season Average: 7.42)
#51 - Francis Bouillon: 7.0 His ice time has gone up lately, and he's made the best of it with his improved play. (Season Average: 6.82)
#26 - Josh Gorges: 7.0 Although his play certainly hasn't been bad, he's not exactly making a case to stay in the lineup permanently either. (Season Average: 6.80)
#3 - Ryan O'Byrne: 7.0 Nice to see him cut down on the penalties, and he kept his game simple, critical for a young defender to do. (Season Average: 6.67)
#8 - Mike Komisarek: 6.5 Found himself in the wrong areas more often than normal this week, that hurt his rating. (Season Average: 7.50)
#74 - Sergei Kostitsyn: 8.5
His play may be quiet at times, but you can't argue with the point production;
he's starting to look more comfortable out there now. (Season Average:
#28 - Kyle Chipchura: 7.0 His offensive play caught my eye this week, he's much more comfortable with the puck now than at the start of the year. (Season Average: 7.30)
#21 - Chris Higgins: 7.0 Needs to start burying his chances more frequently and consistently, getting them can only get you so far. (Season Average: 7.79)
#27 - Alexei Kovalev: 7.0 Not his best week, the giveaways are slowly starting to increase each game; fortunately, they haven't caused too many issues...yet. (Season Average: 7.67)
#14 - Tomas Plekanec: 7.0 A quiet week for him, didn't generate much at either end, but didn't hurt the team by any stretch either. (Season Average: 7.55)
#40 - Maxim Lapierre: 7.0 5 on 5, his play is still lacking, but I was extremely impressed with his job on the PK this week. (Season Average: 6.33)
#32 - Mark Streit: 7.0 Had a hard time hitting the net with a map on the point this week, he's much better suited up front. (Season Average: 6.96)
#84 - Guillaume Latendresse: 7.0 Glad to see him pot a couple, but his lack of hockey IQ drove me nuts all week long. (Season Average: 6.58)
#11 - Saku Koivu: 6.5 His penalties always seem to come at the worst possible times; of all the players, one would think he'd realize this eventually. (Season Average: 7.42)
#25 - Mathieu Dandenault: 6.5 When the highlight of your week is an assist, it wasn't much of a week. (Season Average: 7.08)
#6 - Tom Kostopoulos: 6.5 As much as his job doesn't involve point producing, he needs to get a couple soon, or he's liable to be in the press box soon. (Season Average: 6.83)
#73 - Michael Ryder: 6.0 What's left to say? He's a goal scorer who can't buy a goal, or a break, nothing more to it. (Season Average: 6.67)
#46 - Andrei Kostitsyn: 6.0 You cannot mess up on so many golden opportunities in the NHL, especially when you're one of the team's "snipers." (Season Average: 7.00)
The Dog Pound
Hamilton had a solid back-to-back series with division rival Manitoba, as Jaroslav Halak made his return to the lineup.
Games 26-27 of the season.
3 Stars: 1) Degon - HAM 2) Genoway - MTB 3) Rypien - MTB
3 Stars: 1) McIver - MTB 2) Milroy - HAM 3) FitzGerald - MTB
Some help came from the outside this week, Dan Corso off AHL re-entry waivers, and Mathieu Biron off IR.
Goals: Ferland (8)
Assists: Kostitsyn (16) (Active roster leader: Locke - 14)
Points: Kostitsyn (22) (Active roster leader: Locke - 21)
+/-: Milroy/ (+6)
PIMS: Lapierre (63) (Active roster leader: Stewart - 59)
December 27: Manitoba vs
December 28: Hamilton vs Rochester
December 29: Toronto vs Hamilton
P.K. Subban isn't the only Montreal prospect to
be representing Canada over the holidays. Former Bulldogs defenceman Andre
Benoit, who opted to continue his development in Finland rather than back in
Hamilton (but remains property of the organization), was named to Canada's
Spengler Cup roster. That tournament begins December 26th in Davos,
With the addition of Daniel Corso to the Bulldogs, Cory Urquhart has once again be re-assigned to Cincinnati of the East Coast League. Although it's tempting to call him a bust of a second rounder, I think this move was not a pure demotion. Considering players like Mathieu Aubin, Ryan Russell, and Jimmy Bonneau remain on the roster, I think this was to continue to give him lots of ice time more than anything else.
When I sit back and think about this team and
what it needs most, it's not more offence or better defence, although the Habs
certainly could use the help there. I think it needs better coaching more
than anything at the moment. Note that I didn't say new coaching,
as a short-gap solution has been tried and failed numerous times before. I
think this team can one day succeed with its current head coach, but let's face
it, he needs some help.
Early in the season, I remember Coach Carbonneau saying he had learned from his mistakes as one of the keys to the team's success. Here we sit nearly halfway through the season, and it seems the exact opposite is happening. He continues to roll 4 lines, despite the fact that the lower lines aren't capable of being consistent scorers, likes to start with the 4th line home and away more often than not (allowing the opponent to start with a scoring line at almost all times), and has had more line combinations than the team has scored goals this season. These are all criticisms that we've had of him before, and I know they remain the same for me now, and I haven't even mentioned (until now) the team's "system," which plays enough of a defensive game not to score often, but allows opponents to enjoy a shooting gallery on a game-by-game basis.
As I said earlier though, merely changing the head coach isn't going to make a whole lot of difference (as there aren't many quality, experienced guys sitting around on the market.) What Carbonneau needs most right now is a veteran voice, someone who can calm him down when required, or tell him that his newest set of lines is worse than his old ones. The current staff doesn't exactly have the clout to be that person - Jarvis is too quiet, while Muller has even less coaching experience than Carbo does. Bob Gainey in the past has said that he would like to stay away from getting involved in the way this team is coached on the ice and let his chosen pupil develop by himself. Unfortunately, he is exactly the veteran voice the team needs to get better. I'm not advocating taking him over as a full-time coach, but having him working more closely with the on-ice product would be a step in the right direction heading forward.
That is my New Year's wish for the team, what's yours? In next week's article, we'll be noting some of the other wishes heading into 2008, and we'd love to hear from you on what yours may be. Note that with the Habs once again playing on a Sunday this coming week, the Recap will once again be appearing on Monday. On behalf of everyone at HabsWorld, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.