Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 11/21/10 at 06:49 PM ET
With a rematch of last week’s physical affair on the docket for tomorrow night in Philadelphia, the Montreal Canadiens are no doubt enjoying some rest today after a hard fought 2-0 victory over the Maple Leafs in Montreal. The Pat Burns tribute was wonderful – the Canadiens do these things so well. And the win was a great way to cap off what had been an emotional two days in Montreal.
With the win, Carey Price now has 4 shutouts in 19 starts – the same number he had in his career coming into this season. He is ranked 1st amongst goaltenders with 12 wins in 19 games, and 1st in minutes played with 1,142. Price has stunned even his most fervent supporters, making highlight-reel saves with a focus we’ve never seen from the young Montreal goaltender.
Meanwhile, Tomas Plekanec leads the offensive charge, with 20 points in 19 games. The Habs top scorer is also arguably their best PKer, as the Habs penalty-kill leads the league with a success rate of 91%. Mike Cammalleri has been hot of late, and now has 14 points in 19 games. Young defenceman PK Subban continues to draw attention, not always completely complimentary, but attention nonetheless, as he has 8 points in 20 games and has been a pillar of strength on the blue line.
Yes, the Montreal Canadiens, at the quarter pole, sit 3rd in the NHL in points. Quite the achievement for a team that many experts considered an afterthought.
But anyone who knows anything about Pierre Gauthier knows that he is looking to improve on weaknesses. What better time than when succeeding to try and augment parts of your roster that need a change? This gives the Canadiens strength in negotiating with other teams, as they don’t necessarily need to do anything.
What might they be looking to change? If I’m in Gauthier’s shoes, I’m looking for speed on defence, to help offset the absence of Andrei Markov and the snail’s pace that is the skating of Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek. I’m trying to acquire another big forward with soft hands for the 2nd line. Lastly, I’m looking to add a big shot for the power play.
The names have been bandied about, here and otherwise. Kevin Bieksa. Bill Guerin. Tomas Kaberle. At this point, fearful of disrupting chemistry, I expect a small move, of the Dominic Moore variety. That addition proved to be extremely fortuitous last year, as Moore solidified the PK, added third line offence and scored key goals during the playoffs.
Would the signing of Ryan Johnson make sense? A proven shot blocker and hard worker, he remains without a contract. Would a trade for a big winger such as Blake Wheeler make sense? The Bruins are soon going to be forced to move salary, but I can’t see them dealing within the division. A big forward with soft hands (and a big contract) is Dustin Penner, and the Oilers have often been rumoured to want to shed his salary. With Markov out long term, the Canadiens could add such a contract and fit it under the cap. Would Penner make sense as a second line scoring option with size?
Pierre Gauthier doesn’t have the easiest job on earth, scrutinized for every minute move he makes (I haven’t seen a waiver move make more news in recent years than the placement of Dustin Boyd on waivers – and he wasn’t even grabbed) but he must enjoy the situation he’s in now. He’s dealing from a position of strength, his team has depth, it’s fast, it’s young and it’s hungry. A loss or two this week will have fans and the media calling for changing, as is always the case in Montreal. Carey Price looks like the thoroughbred Bob Gainey used to describe him as. He appears ready to take the team higher, perhaps higher than his predecessor Jaroslav Halak did. On everyone’s mind now: how is the supporting cast going to change?
For anyone who was a fan of Pat Burns, a very moving and personal article from the Montreal Gazette’s Red Fisher, one of the best in the business.
XM this Tuesday
A sidenote: I will be appearing on XM Satellite Radio this Tuesday on NHL Ice’s Warm Room as a guest to talk all things Habs and NHL. You can catch the show from 11 to noon, EST.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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