Habs’ Struggles Come At a Price

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It wasn’t pretty. As a matter of fact, it was pretty ugly. Losing a game 7-1, no matter the opponent, the schedule or the injuries, is never a good thing. Yet, the Montreal Canadiens see this loss as a rallying point, as an opportunity to improve and to consolidate what everyone around the organisation already knew: you win as a team and you lose as a team. And that’s what makes winners.

Much was said by fans and media members on Twitter during the game against the Minnesota Wild when Carey Price wasn’t pulled, particularly when he came back to his net after the second intermission. As usual, much of the blame was placed on head coach Michel Therrien, the scapegoat of more than a few, for making that decision but once again, the criticism was without knowing the inside scoop as to what occurred in between periods.

The truth however did come out after the game when it was revealed that the decision was none other than Carey Price’s, who insisted in staying in for the entire game, and that Therrien and the coaching staff wanted to relieve him in favour of Al Montoya.

Price was thinking of Montoya, who was left in a game earlier this season, taking the full blow in a 10-0 beating at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He felt it was only fair that he sees this game through. Yet another sign of a great leader, one who respects his teammates.

“We discussed it, but during the second intermission, he stressed that he wanted to stay in the game. I respect his decision, and I appreciate the fact that he wanted to stay in a tough situation to be alongside his teammates. [Carey’s play] is the least of my worries.” – Michel Therrien

Concerns about Price

I will spare you the stats, they have been published all over the place but in spite of Therrien’s lack of worry, it’s a fact that since the injury to Alex Galchenyuk, the team’s back bone has not performed like he can. You see, through his own play, his own performances, Price has not only raised the bar for himself, but for all goaltenders and any slump will raise concerns, particularly throughout the fan base.

Fans from other teams are rejoicing at the All-Star’s struggles and they are voicing it loud and clear on Twitter during and after games. That hurts the Habs’ fans ego, mine included. But why? Why do we refuse to see that this is normal in a season? Why can’t we simply sit back and acknowledge that this is a very tough part of the NHL schedule for the Canadiens? The team just finished a tough seven game road trip in which, in spite of Price not being at his best, their record was 4-1-2, gathering 10 out of a possible 14 points.

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Carey Price

Because of the bye week granted to the NHLPA to allow rest in exchange for the 3 on 3 at the All-Star Game, teams have to cram more games in an already tight schedule, resulting in risk of injuries, fatigue and lack of practice time. The Canadiens are playing four games this week and next week will be the same. Practice time is exactly what this team needs, particularly when your goalie is struggling a bit, but they simply don’t have time.

Price would want nothing more than to get on the ice with Stéphane Waite and work on a few things in order to get his game back not only where we all know it should be, but where he, himself, wants it to be. The guy is not only a hard worker, he’s a competitor who demands nothing less than perfection from himself. And he will get there folks, don’t you worry. The team will be getting a two day break the following week, then a 4 day break soon after. No Stanley Cup has ever been awarded in January.

Getting players back

With the news of Nikita Scherbak and Bobby Farnham being sent back to the St. John’s Ice Caps, we can read that some healthy bodies will be back on time for Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers. While nothing has been confirmed at the time of writing this, we know that Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov and Andrew Shaw have been skating for a while and a couple of them might be ready, and this is great news for a tired team in need of a shot in the arm.

Top players and role players alike have all stepped up during the time the injury bug has been hitting, but they can only do it for so long. This team had to go pedal to the metal while those key players were out, and getting back into more familiar roles will do a world of wonder to those who have stepped up their game. As we have seen though, it did serve as a great gauge for fans, but mostly for the organisation to see who had what to offer.

Phillip Danault is ready to take on more responsibilities with a bigger role. Michael McCarron has proven that he does belong to the NHL now. Other young players called up have gained in maturity and are closer to earning a role on the big club. Scherbak has had a taste of the NHL, even scoring his first goal, and while he was sent back down, he knows where he is in his development and what he needs to perfect in order to earn a spot permanently.

On display

Let’s get something clear: this is not a rumour, but only speculations on my part. There are a couple of players being showcased right now on the Canadiens’ roster. Nick Kypreos stated that Tomas Plekanec is on the market, news confirmed by Elliott Friedman in his “30 thoughts” on Sportsnet. If that’s the case, Plekanec is doing the Habs a favour, having scored a goal in three consecutive games.

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Tomas Plekanec

It is also my belief that Nathan Beaulieu is being dangled as trade bait. I do believe that the organisation has given up on him and that GM Marc Bergevin is trying to get the most out of him while he still has some good value. He has been playing anywhere between 22 to 28 minutes per game since late December and while it’s true that Markov has been injured, there is little doubt that something is up.

On the Sportsnet broadcast for the game against the Winnipeg Jets this week, they showed Marc Bergevin in conversation with Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff before the game in one of the suites. Two or three times after that, they showed Bergevin on his phone and one time, he was turned sideways, covering his face (and his mouth) to prevent cameras from snooping on what he could be talking about.

Bergevin is working on something and he wants it now. He wants a top-6 impact player and a Top-4 defenseman. Don’t be surprised if he pulls not one, but a couple of trades before the end of the month. He doesn’t like waiting to the deadline, unless he can get a deal like he did for Thomas Vanek or Jeff Petry. Stay tuned…

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