CFN – It does seem that the Ottawa Senators have Montreal’s number as they defeated them 4-1 in our Nation’s Capital, or at least nearby.
Montreal jumped out to a lead which Carey Price immediately killed by giving up a soft goal less than one minute after the Habs scored.
Montreal played some inspiring hockey before Mr. Price let the air out of the Habs tires.
Ottawa on the other hand survived a second period onslaught by the Habs and scored two more goals sealing the fate of the game.
Bobby Ryan scored his 6th followed by D men Marc Methot and newcomer Mark Borowiecki.
Kyle Turris iced the cake late in the 3rd period. Sens goalie Robin Lehner kept his team in the game as the Habs out shot the Sens 34-24. Ottawa won the battles in the face off circle though and many of the man on man plays.
Montreal had David Desharnais back in the lineup; but to no avail. Besides not putting up a point Mr. Desharnais was 2-8 on face offs.
I have long been an advocate of team goal differential as a key goal and indicator of success. It’s not rocket science or fancy stats. It’s that if you score more than you’re scored on you usually will win the day.
Looking at the season so far it seems to be showing some insights.
Eastern Conference Diff Leaders
1) Tampa Bay +14
2) Boston +13
3) Toronto +12
4) Pittsburgh +11
5) Washington +9
6) Montreal +6
7) Ottawa +1
8) Detroit -2
Eastern Conference Leaders
1) Tampa Bay 22 points
2) Pittsburgh 22 points
3) Detroit 21 points
4) Toronto 20 points
5) Boston 19 points
6) Washington 18 points
7) Montreal 17 points
8) NY Rangers 16 points (-8)
Now some teams are more efficient in racking up the wins and some are less. Smaller samplings can also play tricks; but this is near the quarter mark of the season.
Some teams are scoring lots of goals, but giving up just as many such as Ottawa and the Islanders.
Eastern Conference Diff (-) Leaders
1) Florida -25
2) Buffalo -24
3) Philadelphia -20
4) Carolina -15
5) New Jersey -13
6) Rangers -8
7) Columbus -8
8) Islanders -4
In the Western Conference the 5 teams over +10 are all showing gaudy win records as well. Playing defense is critical to success, but you still have to score to win.
Who is off to a great start near the first quarter mark? I don’t mean just scoring points, but having an impact.
Tampa Bay – Of course Stamkos and & St. Louis keep rolling, but did anyone really expect Valterri Fiippula to fill Vinny Lecavlier’s skates as well as he has? 12 points in 15 games and 54.6 from the face off circle and a solid +3?
One of my faves plays for Tampa. Radko Gudas is really developing. The bruiser is also starting to put up points with 1 goal and 6 assists to go with his 57 PIMS and 53 hits. The 6′ 204 pound Czech is carving himself out a reputation as a tough hard hitting d man.
Ben Bishop has also played well for Tampa sporting a .928 sv % and 2.14 GAA which is pretty darn good for such an offensive minded team.
Boston – It’s hard to say that a team is struggling when they have the record the B’s do, but it does feel that the team is searching for something? Milan Lucic is earning his pay this year with 13 points in 15 games. Torey Krug is so far showing he’s the real deal. Jarome Iginla is leading the forwards with +10, but Zdeno Chara might just be starting to show his age. The minute eater is -1 averaging 24 minutes per game.
The issue seems to be the performance of the bottom six forwards on the Bruins and just not putting up enough points. Patrice Bergeron only has 6 points in 15 matches with Brad Marchand not doing much better.
The Bruins though will probably even out. Tukka Rask has to be an early front runner for Vezina honours with his 1.68 GAA and .942 sv%.
Toronto – The Leafs are off to a great start. Phil Kessel is earning his extension and leading the team with 18 points in 15 games. Until recent losses of Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak the Leafs were healthy. David Clarkson has not had a strong impact yet after returning from suspension.
Mason Raymond has shined. The speedster has put up 11 points in 15 games and added a threat to help open some ice for the other forwards. A great pick up.
What the Leafs are missing is a bit of star power on Defense. Phaneuf and Franson are putting up points, and it’s great to see Paul Ranger back; but there’s something missing from the mix.
Goal tending is no issue in Toronto as Jonathan Bernier has grabbed the 1A slot with a 2.31 .933 performance. James Reimer has come on strong and now has comparable numbers at 2.36 and .942.
Pittsburgh – Othere than the James Neal injury Pittsburgh is humming along. The one standout is Marc Andre Fleury returning to form. He’s carrying the work load and 2.07 GAA and .920 SV percentage career year numbers for him.
Washington – The Caps are Ovie’s team. Even when he was out for 2 games it was still Ovie’s team. Mikhail Grabovski has shined with 14 points in 16 games giving the Caps great value. Joel Ward has shined too with 6 goals, 10 points this season too.
Like many other teams the supporting cast though hasn’t been carrying the load as well as they should and could. Rookie Tom Wilson gets a lot of press for a player that is never destined to score a lot of points. He’s also leading the Caps with 42 PIMS.
Braden Holtby is seeing lots of action and holding up with a .925 sv percentage.
Montreal – I’ve never been the biggest fan of Andrei Markov, but he’s having a heck of a year; especially since being put together with PK Subban. His numbers are ordinary, 10 points in 17 games, but he is two years from his career threatening knee surgeries. He’s logging way too many minutes though.
PK Subban is having a career year even while under a cloud of media silliness and a coach that surely will be fired soon and is not a long term solution. Some think that the handling of PK is an attempt to massage negotiations for his upcoming lottery win contract. PK is a franchise player. Would you rather have PK Subban or Dion Phaneuf? His value in US marketplaces or even Toronto would be huge. Montreal has to really decide to either fully embrace and love this player or trade him and capitalize on his potential return which right now would never be higher. For example I bet Philly would give just about anyone on their roster right now to grab PK.
Brendan Gallagher may be small; but he’s not showing any sophomore jinx and leads the team with 7 goals. Lars Eller is playing big too with 9 points in 17 games and winning 52% of his face offs.
Michael Bournival has come from nowhere and put up 8 points in 14 games and is +6.
All this with Daniel Briere in sick bay along with Alexei Emeilin and Brandon Prust. The Habs may have an awesome second half of the season if those three have any impact upon their return.
They have to put Centre David Desharnais on waivers and send him down to the Farm. Even if they lose him there really is no place on this team for him. Marc Bergevin can simply chalk it up to making his first big mistake as a GM and the players and agents can still realize that he was simply trying to show loyalty to home grown talent.
There are a lot of bits and pieces that Montreal has to figure out how to maximize by either using them or moving them. They are a true bubble team and still are not built for the play offs.
While overall Carey Price has good numbers his won loss record of 6-7-1 truly paint the picture. He needs to steal games. Wins count; not gaudy save percentage and GAA. What is more important; the Olympics or Lord Stanley’s Cup. With Montreal leading the league in blocked shots clearly there is an issue with Price’s play in Montreal even though he’s got all the tools and talent to be one of the great goalies in this league. Could the pressure of playing in La belle Province be wearing on him?
This writer still feels the time is right to trade Price; especially out west to the Canucks or Oilers even if it means grabbing someone like Ilya Bryzgalov in the short term.
Ottawa – Bobby Ryan is on pace for a career year as is Erik Karlsson. Jason Spezza and Kyle Turris are playing point a game hockey. Ottawa is one strong D man away from being a real cup threat. Patrick Wiercoch is not the replacement for Sergei Gonchar and pressure needs to be taken off Karlsson who still is just back from his tendon injury of last season.
Since Mika Zibanejad’s return the bottom half of the forward squad has improved too. There are some gaudy +/- numbers, but not from the D; not even Karlsson who is only a +2. Help is needed. Ottawa has scored the 2nd most goals in the Eastern Conference with 50. Unlike Tampa Bay though they have given up an uncharacteristic 49. They simply are giving up too many shots on goal.
Robin Lehner now has time to shine with Craig Anderson injured and probably shell shocked. Anderson’s .912 sv% isn’t that bad, but the total amount of rubber he’s seeing has pushed his GAA to 3.14. Lehner playing about half as many minutes has a 2.15 GAA. Once Anderson is back he could be the ticket to landing some defensive help.
So hockey fans who has surprised you so far this year in the Eastern Conference? Who’s disappointed you? You can post your comments below.