The Captain’s Return – Domino Effect

It’s been a while. As a matter of fact, it’s been too long. Fans missed him. Coaches missed him. But none missed him as much as Carey Price and while others have stepped up their game in his long absence, they simply can’t replace him. He’s big and strong. He defends. He hits. He shoots the puck… hard, very hard. He quarterbacks the powerplay. He is key on the penalty kill. He plays against the opponents’ top lines. He eats up minutes in a game, quality minutes. And he’s the undisputed leader. For the first time since the start of last season where he broke his foot in game one… he’s healthy and ready to go!

It will be an emotional day for Shea Weber when he sports his number jersey number six and that, for a couple of reasons. Yes, he will find the letter ‘C’ on his upper left chest, something that he is truly honored to do. But mostly, it will be his first NHL game since December 16th of last year, when he was shut down for the season. A few surgeries and a long rehab later, his hard work to come back playing seems to be finally over. And everyone is happy about it… expect his opponents and a few P.K. Subban fans in the Canadiens’ fanbase. 

Jeff Petry has done well, very well during his absence, but he’s no Shea Weber. While the team has performed admirably well so far this season, well beyond what “experts” predicted for the first quarter of the season, the Habs’ struggles on defense have cost them some important points. “Dad”‘s return will push everyone down one notch in the depth chart and that’s a good thing. While he won’t be in game shape and will likely show signs of rust for the first week or two, until he catches up to the rest of the league, Weber will bring some stability at the backend in front of Carey Price and Antti Niemi. Further, he will bring a much needed joult to a powerplay in dire need of something… anything.

Making room on the roster

Victor Mete

With Weber back, Petry will slide to the second pairing and, at the same time, it will provide Claude Julien‘s group with another much needed right-handed defenseman, something lacking since the facial injury to youngster Noah Juulsen. At the time of writing this, there has been no decisions made about who will be sacrificed, either by trade, waivers or simply sent down to Laval. If Marc Bergevin can’t find a taker for one of his veteran defensemen prior to Weber’s anticipated return, Victor Mete could very well be sent down for the simple reason that he doesn’t have to clear waivers. This would obviously be a temporary solution until the Canadiens’ GM finds a trading partner.

While nothing has been decided quite yet, the defense pairing could look something like this:

Kulak – Weber

Reilly – Petry

Schlemko – Benn

(Alzner – Ouellet)

(Juulsen IR)

Okay, this group won’t instate fear of God into any opponent and it won’t compare to Nashville, Calgary or Minnesota’s group, but the addition of Weber will make opponents fear the front of the net and the boards a bit more, and it will make opposing goaltenders and penalty killers aware that there’s a canon of a shot coming at them. It’s a step in the right direction, although if the Canadiens are serious about making a push for a playoffs’ run, they will need to find a way to use some of their available cap space to land a good puck-moving left-handed defenseman. Go Habs Go! 

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One Down, Six To Go: Kotkaniemi Scores!

KotkaniemiPreSeason

Pre-season is upon us and the Montreal Canadiens got things going against the New Jersey Devils last night, in a game that won’t be remembered passed then next game… except for Habs’ prospect and league’s third overall pick at the last NHL Draft, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who got a feel for what it’s like to score goals at the Bell Centre. And judging from his smile, it’s something he quite enjoyed and could get used to.

After the Devils, who were then leading 1-0 in the third period, got a goal called back – which should have counted by the way – the Canadiens took over the game with three goals in just over a minute and that was enough to bring hope to fans in dire need of something positive after a very disappointing season last year. Antti Niemi and Charlie Lindgren split the duty in net while Charles Hudon, Victor Mete – on a nice feed by Michael Chaput – and Kotkaniemi found the back of the net for the Habs. Unfortunately for the Canadiens however, rugged winger Nicolas Deslauriers left the game and was taken to hospital for precautionary measures after taking a solid right in a fight that he eventually won.

Mission accomplished

A few players stood out from the crowd in this game:

Charles Hudon was all over the puck and had a few solid scoring chances before eventually scoring from a tough angle.

The pairing of Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen was solid, picking up where they left off last season. Mete could have scored another goal but was robbed in the slot earlier in the game.

Michael Chaput is proving to be a very versatile player by winning puck battles, killing penalties and setting up Mete on a beautiful feed, all of that while playing a physical game.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi is gaining in confidence. Prior to scoring his goal, he set up Hudon with a nifty backhand pass. While far from dominant (yet), he was also solid in his zone and showed flashes of what he can do.

It will now be time for group B to show what they can do when the Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers on Thursday night also at the Bell Centre. Game starts at 7:30 PM and it is televised on RDS and TSN2. Go Habs Go!