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In this week's HW Recap: It was an unsuccessful week in the win column for the Habs making it a successful one in the ping-pong ball standings. The Bulldogs aren't worried about a lottery but rather coming back from a double digit point gap to earn a playoff berth, their play this week helped their chances. Obviously the Pierre Gauthier firing was the headline news but my Final Thought looks at who this move may even hurt more than the disposed GM.
Players are rated from 1 to however many players play on a weekly (non-cumulative) basis. Rankings will be tracked weekly and averages provided.
1) Erik Cole: No hat trick this week but he still managed to add to his career best totals. He has a legitimate shot at becoming Montreal's first 35-goal scorer since the 2007-08 season. (Prev: 1 Avg: 4.08)
2) Tomas Plekanec: His offensive surge these last few weeks (8 points in 13 games) is a good way to end the season on a bit of a positive note. Getting any sort of offence with his rotation of wingers is impressive. (Prev: 6 Avg: 6.46)
3) Max Pacioretty: Yes, the goals aren't going in but he is still a dangerous threat every time he's on the ice. He also is one of the few players who can consistently get shots on net, an area the team has struggled with these last few weeks. (Prev: 8 Avg: 4.30)
4) P.K. Subban: He didn't hit the scoresheet, he's here for his defensive play. He was the only defenceman to not record a minus rating in at least one of the three losses and he did so logging the most minutes in each game. (Prev: 4 Avg: 8.75)
5) Josh Gorges: He continues to log heavy minutes and block shots with reckless abandon. That's what I want to see more of from the veterans in this final week, lead positively by example. (Prev: 5 Avg: 8.54)
6) Peter Budaj: He more or less was hung out to dry on both Washington goals and wasn't the greatest in the shootout. But, he made several important saves and gave Montreal every opportunity to win the game in regulation. (Prev: 13 Avg: 9.42)
7) Frederic St. Denis: I was really impressed with his play. Yes, he is getting sheltered minutes 5-on-5 but he looked good shorthanded and was okay on the PP too. We don't know who will be deciding on his NHL fate next year but a week like his will really help his cause. (Prev: 16 Avg: 15.29)
8) Louis Leblanc: Moving up with Plekanec woke his game out of the slumber he had been in the past few weeks. Developing some chemistry with the Czech centre would help his case for a roster spot next year. (Prev: 18 Avg: 14.85)
9) David Desharnais: Struggled at the faceoff dot and looked overmatched on the road at times in the defensive end. Offensively he was fine but his deficiencies were certainly exposed. (Prev: 2 Avg: 6.42)
10) Lars Eller: I was happy that he spoke up with his frustrations, it's always good to see the youngsters not getting complacent. On the ice, his play was a little erratic with some shining defensive moments offset by some head scratchers. (Prev: 7 Avg: 7.75)
11) Rene Bourque: It may have been a meaningless goal but that seemed to awaken him a bit from the laziness of the last month; his game in Washington was one of his better ones recently. (Prev: 20 Avg: 13.45)
12) Andrei Markov: He played well in Washington but the other two games weren't his best. I thought his speed would have been a little better after a few games, teams are starting to exploit that. (Prev: 9 Avg: 10.50)
13) Carey Price: His game in New York would qualify for one of his worst of the season. He looked disinterested at times, likely the frustration of a losing season although in his defence, he wasn't getting much support that game either. (Prev: 3 Avg: 5.50)
14) Alexei Emelin: It appears he finally has hit the rookie wall. Seldom does he look to initiate contact and is more content to play it safe. Aggression is what makes his game and he just appeared gassed on most shifts. (Prev: 12 Avg: 11.36)
15) Michael Blunden: I'm still a little concerned that he isn't playing all that physically but his skating legs looked to be back under him which helped his all-around game. I'm still stunned that he got some time shorthanded in Washington. (Prev: 21 Avg: 16.43)
16) Brad Staubitz: He didn't fight and I thought it still was his best week as a Hab. He showed a bit of skill handling the puck, made the right reads in his own end and for the most part, actually looked like a player out there. (Prev: 17 Avg: 18.40)
17) Chris Campoli: An undrafted, 25 year old rookie looks better than him in the defensive zone more often than he does. I don't think more needs to be said about him this week. (Prev: 15 Avg: 18.23)
18) Blake Geoffrion: He played okay but for someone who is trying to make a case not only for next year's lineup but also to stay in between now and the end of the year, he left something to be desired. (Prev: N/A Avg: 16.75)
19) Ryan White: Another game where he seemed more interested in running around more anything. It's okay to agitate but he needs to realize he still has to actually play the game a bit. (Prev: 14 Avg: 13.50)
20) Aaron Palushaj: The good vibes surrounding his game didn't take long to go away. Like Geoffrion, he's fighting for his Hab future and he didn't do too good a job this week. (Prev: 10 Avg: 17.64)
21) Petteri Nokelainen: I'll give him credit, he was better at the faceoff dot than he had been lately. But the little bit offence he was bringing to the table evaporated as have his chances of returning next year. (Prev: 11 Avg: 18.28)
The Dog Pound
Hamilton continues to stay in the mix as they took two of three in the third week of this seemingly never-ending road trip (which does mercifully end mid-way through this upcoming week).
The Bulldogs welcomed back some familiar faces as they finally got some players back from the infirmary including a couple who had been out long-term.
Goals: Andreas Engqvist (19)
Assists: Brian Willsie (24)
Points: Brian Willsie (40)
+/-: Alex Henry/Jesse Todd (+3)
PIMS: Zack FitzGerald (235)
Shots: Brian Willsie (224)
April 3: Hamilton vs Oklahoma City
April 7: Rochester vs Hamilton
April 8: Hamilton vs Toronto
First off, for anyone wondering, we will have two separate Writers Weigh In columns on the news of Thursday's firing of GM Pierre Gauthier, the first of which will appear Monday. Accordingly, I'll save my thoughts on the merits of that decision until then and will instead look at a different aspect here.
I don't think anyone would disagree that Randy Cunneyworth has been thrown under the bus this season with the comments on his hiring after the initial backlash representing the bus backing up and running him over...again and again. As hard as it is to imagine, Thursday's move may very well have done that again unintentionally. I don't think there's anyone that believes he'll be back next season but Geoff Molson's comments put him in a bit of a tough spot. Allowing the new GM to more or less seal his fate is going to slow him (and likely assistant Randy Ladouceur) down in terms of finding employment elsewhere. They can't resign to free themselves up to search, they would forfeit the remaining money on their contracts. On the flip side, teams likely won't ask for permission to speak to Cunneyworth for an assistant or AHL coaching role (and I'm sure several teams would want him in that role) as it would represent a step back and if Molson truly believes there's a chance the new GM will keep him around, he would deny any such request. Once again, it appears as if he's in a no-win situation. Over the next 7-10 days, I truly hope Molson steps back and realizes that as long as there's a mandate to hire a bilingual GM, there almost assuredly will be one to hire a coach with that particular characteristic. Cunneyworth isn't going to be that guy so I'm hoping for an old fashioned mercy firing here, we all know it's coming anyway once the new GM is installed. In fact, it may be the one good thing that the Habs do for him after throwing him like a piece of meat to a pack of starved, rabid dogs known as the media, politicians, and the fans.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.