Crazy Two Weeks for the Habs

My last blog was 2 weeks ago! It’s been a crazy two weeks for me, with one more crazy one ahead. I still wanted to take a breather and check in with a blog this morning.

Deadline

The Habs finished trade deadline as most teams did, mostly disappointing. The additions of Steve Ott was easily the most puzzling. Martinsen and Davidson weren’t expected to do much as they were mostly the return in a addition by subtraction situation, while I thought the Benn and King pick-ups were intriguing. Boy have I been wrong in this small sample size. Benn has been an excellent acquisition, making me wonder if Nathan Beaulieu could be Vegas bound this off-season. Honestly, if I were Bergevin, I’d trade Beaulieu before that time as he really needs Vegas to take one of Emelin or Plekanec off his hands. King has been the most disappointing of the five acquired. Slow and soft do not make this a good mix with this group despite his advantageous size. Davidson has only played two games but found himself playing next to Petry last night as Emelin continues to look completely lost since the arrival of Claude Julien. It’s clear that Davidson can’t be anointed as a top-4 D after only 10 minutes of play, but he did play well in that spot last night to end the game. Martinsen has been used sparingly, and though he is as slow as King, he is at least much more physical. Ott can be used to win some face-offs but doesn’t do much else with the puck. His presence has been felt as evidenced with the J.T. Miller incident. It is nice to have a player that can take a semi-regular shift that can go over to an opposition player being stupid and tell the guy that he’ll take his head off even if it means getting suspended for 15 games and to have the opposition player believe it. Not to mention Mitchell was very effective on the third line… More than Plekanec has been anyways.

Claude Julien

The Julien effect has been a mixed bag. Clearly the team is playing a much more organized system, which has kept them into games even when they have off nights. The spectacle of the game has taken a hit because of this, but it’s the type of hockey that will allow a team like the Canadiens to have a chance in the spring, so I have no issue there. The new coach has taken a few weeks to get to know his players, and we’re starting to see some pairings that make sense across the roster. The forward lines last are a great example of this as the top three units threatened Corey Crawford all night long. Now if they could just hit the net! It will be interesting to see how the coach who seems to give his vets some serious rope deals with the fact that Davidson, for the two games he has played, has outplayed Beaulieu, who in turn has outplayed Emelin. One thing I don’t like since the change is that the defensive system tends to also keep the opposition in the games. They’ve played down to lesser opposition, games against the Devils and Canucks come immediately to mind. Yet they’ve played amazing games against the Rangers and Blackhawks (last night).

Individuals

Julien and Muller need to make Galchenyuk understand that he is a shooter in this league, not a play maker. Far too often, Galchenyuk looks for the extra pass instead of letting it rip. If the young center can look to Jeff Carter as a reference point, Radulov would have two elite snipers to find all over the ice. This is why this line has the potential to be one of the best in the entire league.

The second line sets itself apart with its dedication. Kudos to Danault, Shaw and Lehkonen for being relentless in spite of the numerous missed chances last night. If Lehkonen can find a bit of a quicker release, this line could be quite effective also.

Plekanec continues to be an offensive black hole and it seems to be affecting his defensive play too. Mitchell was a better fit with Byron and Gallagher as the third unit, but I highly doubt Julien will cast aside his defensive vet, so let’s hope Byron and Gallagher can continue to create offensively by themselves.

Markov can be a short-term answer next to Weber but we’re already starting to see that it’s too much ice-time for him. The last two games have included some terrible give-aways. Let’s hope Julien gets him some rest before the playoffs.

Petry needs a more defensive guy to cover his high-risk style of play, at this point, Benn or Davidson need to be given a look there because it’s become more than obvious that neither Beaulieu or Emelin have the intelligence to be there.

Look ahead

The Canadiens appear to be in full stride here as even last night’s loss was a well-played game by Julien’s squad. Too bad Emelin decided he was going to be a pylon and/or the Blackhawks MVP. They’ll need that type of effort constantly down the stretch by everyone else, none more important than the 3 games against the Ottawa Senators in the next week. It’s the 3 games that are most likely to decide the division and they should be fantastic to watch as both teams are playing excellent hockey. I will certainly be back on Saturday night/Sunday morning but I’m likely off for the next week after that.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin Léveillé

Follow me on Twitter: @Kev86