Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 10/25/10 at 10:15 AM ET
The Canadiens got the job done Saturday night, beating Ottawa 3-0 and securing Carey Price’s first shutout in almost two years (the last, for those wondering, was November 11th, 2008, against those same Senators). This was a good night for Montreal fans, a true team effort highlighted by two goals from Andrei Kostitsyn and, finally, a goal for the hard-working Benoit Pouliot.
Let’s take a look at Montreal’s efforts thus far in the faceoff circle, which currently have them a disappointing 19th league wide. Jeff Halpern has been a pillar of consistency, as expected, and is currently sporting a 60% faceoff win percentage. However, after that, things get dim. Tomas Plekanec checks in at a mediocre 48%, Scott Gomez is just behind him at 47%, and the recently scratched Dustin Boyd is down the ranks at 40%. Occasional centre Max Lapierre checks in at a reasonable 44%.
The Habs have been weak on faceoffs for years, and it was hoped that the additions of Halpern and Boyd would shore things up. They’ve helped, but the coaching staff needs to work with their other centremen to try and get better. Perhaps Montreal fans were spoiled by Yanic “No Panic” Perreault in the early 2000s, but ever since it has felt as if the Canadiens have a problem down the middle. Without question, the team has lacked consistency in the faceoff circle and it continues this year. Let’s see if Plekanec can get above 50% and make it a significant part of his game. He went on the record in the summer as saying he needed to improve his faceoff technique. Despite a few solid games in the faceoff circle, it appears his approach still needs work.
Notables from the weekend
Benoit Pouliot looked like a completely different player after scoring on Saturday, driving hard to the net and trying dipsy-doodle tricks that we haven;’ seen from him since early last season (not to mention that he now has 21 hits on the year). Will he be moved from the third line and back to Scott Gomez’s wing? Jaroslav Spacek also looked much better Saturday, and that was partly due to the fact he was on the ice much less than in previous games. PK Subban picked up some of Spacek’s shifts and was a ball of energy against the Sens, so much so that it appeared at one point as if Ottawa defenceman Chris Campoli deliberately fired the puck at Subban. He certainly seems to get under the skin of the opposition. Let’s see what he does against the Coyotes.
It’s interesting to note that the Canadiens rank 1st in penalty killing at 92.6%, yet 30th on the power play at 4.2%. Luckily, a certain defenceman’s return should boost that power play number shortly.
What’s on tap
With four games this week, will Alex Auld finally make his first start as a Hab? Keep an eye out for the return of Andrei Markov, who Jacques Martin again has stated will play in October. There’s only six days left until November, so the money is on Markov getting into a game very shortly. For the record, the Team 990’s Tony Marinaro stated via Twitter on Sunday afternoon that his sources told him Markov still wasn’t 100% healthy.
Can the Habs tame the Coyotoes? The puck drops at 7:30 on RDS and TSN.
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