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Habs roster battle: decision time approaches

Losing Ugly

The Canadiens didn’t look great last night against the Buffalo Sabres, a team that only landed in Montreal two hours before the game and still managed to outplay the Habs.

Alex Auld looked weak on a few goals, giving up five along the way. The Habs responded three times, including a rare goal by Ryan O’Byrne. Mathieu Darche and Tom Pyatt rounded out the scoring for the Canadiens.

Too many cooks?

Not only did the Habs keep a lot of players late into camp, some are starting to question the number of veterans they’ve signed.

Mathieu Darche deserved a one-way contract after his play last year, and he is the consummate team player. But was the Halpern contract necessary? The Canadiens lines are likely going to look something like this:

Pouliot – Gomez – Gionta

Kostitsyn – Plekanec – Cammalleri

Halpern – Eller – Lapierre

Moen – Boyd – Pyatt

Darche

This leaves Ryan White and Ben Maxwell on the outside looking in – not to mentioned the extremely talented David Desharnais, who has already been shuttled to Hamilton. For the first time in years the Canadiens have a bulk of talented young players who appear ready for the big time – but there is a logjam on the third and fourth lines.

Could we see a trade? Perhaps. I think it’s more likely that if White wins a spot – and I really think he has with his play – then one of Darche, Boyd or Halpern goes down. Boyd brings physicality and has looked solid in his training camp games, while presumably Halpern was brought in for his skill on faceoffs. Having Halpern and Boyd also creates the option of moving Lars Eller to the wing, a much easier place to break into the NHL than at centre.

The more I look at it, the more I think Mathieu Darche may be the odd man out. After the years he’s spent working his way to the NHL, should this be the case, it really is too bad. On the bright side, this is a good problem to have, and the additional depth bodes well as the Canadiens prepare for their first game next week. 

Goals against: a work in progress

The Habs are near the bottom defensively this pre-season, having given up a rash of goals, while the goaltenders have combined for a league-worst .852 SVP. Their special teams have been particularly bad, on display last night as the power play fizzled. This can be somewhat credited to the rotating lineup of youngsters and mainstays, as a plethora of games on successive nights resulted in a large number of bodies being kept in camp. As well, the absence of Andrei Markov looms large on the power play. We should get a better look at the state of the special teams Saturday night against the New York Islanders.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Montreal Canadiens, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: alex+auld, mathieu+darche, ryan+white, ryan+white

Comments

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So is Auldie not cutting it for the Habs? What about Price being the goaltender of the future? Any other goalies still kicking around that might be of use? Gerber was just released today…

Posted by Etterbeekers on 10/01/10 at 09:16 PM ET

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Montreal needs to do a better job of limiting shots against per game. They were one of the worst team in the league in that department last year, allowing opposing teams to register, on average, 32 shots per game against their goaltenders.

If Price and Auld are to shine, shots and scoring changes against need to be fewer than they were last year.

Posted by Briney on 10/02/10 at 04:26 PM ET

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Auld will cut it as the back-up, but he’s not an NHL starter - and I don’t think Gerber is much better. As for Price, I still believe he will come through, the fans just need to give him time…and the media too.

As for shots against/goals against, this is definitely a focus heading into the season. Jacques Martin was unhappy at times last year with the shots they were giving up, and I expect the coaching staff will be tweaking systems trying to cut down on scoring chances against.

That said, none of it will matter if they can’t score goals. It will be interesting to see, once they are set, how the third and fourth line come together chemistry wise. The Habs need more goals from the bottom six, and a strong start from Kostitsyn and Pouliot, to be competitive.

Thanks again for the comments and points, appreciate the feedback from readers. Enjoy the games this evening. Less than a week to real NHL action!

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 10/02/10 at 09:22 PM ET

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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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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