Last time I did this report, I speculated that the 8 points in 10 games we garnered then may have helped us to purge some bad habits. Clearly I was very very wrong. If those were 10 games we regretted, these 10 had us all wishing for a return to Games 41 to 50.
Strange things happened over these ten games, stranger than in a while. Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak refused to stop pucks at the outset (Jaro's resolved to try to earn his salary now); the players went bowling; Mike Komisarek played himself off 15 GMs wishlists; Kovalev was benched, denounced by most if not all and then welcomed back with loving arms; we actually scraped 7 points from this atrocity in the end (demonstrating how even the Islanders get points).
I'm not sure what the tabulation of players will show, but the best players in the worst stretches are sometimes the ones with the greatest value of all – the ones who never slip to Sub-NHL levels...
Our top team over 10 games (Season dome)
Forward 1: Saku Koivu
6 domes and 2 game pucks. Through the first 5 games of this difficult stretch, he was consistently the brightest forward on the team. He played a big role in 2 of the team's 3 wins over this span. This is the thing with Koivu – his standard in the regular season is consistent, with few sputters and few flashes of dominance. It's worth wondering how Koivu and the Canadiens might have done over this losing period had he had a decent scorer on his line at all times (Kostitsyn, for example)
Forward 2: Christopher Higgins
5 domes and a game puck. Since returning from injury, Chris has found his form and energy from 2007 and before. His anticipation and manoeuvering along the boards is a pleasure to watch and can only pay dividends if he keeps it up while others awake from their hibernation.
Forward 3: Tomas Plekanec
4 domes and a game puck. It is not surprising to see Tomas here, even though he missed 2 games. If you get over the fact he might not score every game, you will surely notice that he rarely plays a bad bad game (unlike many teammates). He is dependable and driven, something that has allowed him to refind his mojo and mock the slower defences of the league.
Honourable mention (forwards): Kovalev (4 domes, 1 game puck). Kovy also missed 2 games and returned reinvigorated. but it must be said that the short memory crowd were extremely unforgiving about his form. Not only is it false to suggest he has been terrible since the all-star game (he played well in Tampa, for instance); it was unfair to single him out in all those games where Price and Halak sabotaged any momentum and chance to win we ever had – as he was among the top of the group a few times.
Defenceman 1: Roman Hamrlik
6 dome appearances and 2 game pucks for Hammer. After a pretty sub-par 10 game stretch last time by his standards, he rebounded with form. Unfortunately for him, it was spoilt by inept goaltending and then a partnership merry-go-round. The highlight for Hamrlik were a couple of beautifully timed pinches and goals – which we would probably get to see more of if he were paired with a reliable foil.
Defenceman 2: Andrei Markov
7 domes and a game puck. He risked missing this list for the first time this season as he trailed Josh Gorges after 5 games. His closing 5 games, though, have been a return to mastery of the blueline. That he has both eased Schneider's induction and learned his new partner in no-time flat shows the talent and intelligence of the general.
Honourable mention (defenceman): Mathieu Schneider. With 2 domes in 3 games and an instant impact on the PP, he has made a mark on the team. The pick-up by Bob Gainey is shown to be even more valuable when you listen to the man speak after games. Instead of having to listen to Komisarek's honest and since, but painfully repetitive, mantras; Matt's succinct and accurate analysis offer fresh air. He should bring fresh air to the dressing room too.
Goaltender: Jaroslav Halak
7 domes and one game puck. I have been hard on Price, and rightfully so, I think. But Halak was not providing much of an alternative over this ten games either. Halak gets 4 of his domes from the bench, and lost one himself to Price on the bench. I could have written empty net or bench for this section with 5 domes going to anyone who didn't play. Halak looks to have at least found a way to battle for a win and has 2 in his last 3 starts now (to add to a decent performance while abandoned in Vancouver). Next time, though, I hope that one of these 2 guys will give me some stats to rave about (other than domes from the bench...).
En Route Pour La Coupe Power Rankings
This should be an entertaining list from Fred this time. I am curious to see if being injured will be beneficial for player rankings this time around. Can Latendresse, Lang and Tanguay climb? I'll update the post with the link when it comes out. Until then, here is the link to the last edition.
Three star selectors
Ten games, 8 star selections. Ouch. To have no stars at all, 4 times, hurts. The selectors weren't wrong either – hurts even more. The small sample again doesn't say a lot. But the names that come up at least show some players can elevate themselves from the depths if called upon. Halak is the only multiple honouree – Price conspicuous by his absence. Should be a funny Molson Cup presentation this month – a first star for anyone from here on should clinch it...
Based on 5 points for first star, 3 for second and 1 for third. here's their dome:
Forward 1: Andrei Kostitsyn (1, 0, 0)
Forward 2: Alexei Kovalev (1, 0, 0)
Forward 3: Tomas Plekanec(0, 1, 0)
Defenceman 1: Andrei Markov (1, 0, 0)
Defenceman 2: Roman Hamrlik (1, 0, 0)
Goaltender: Jaroslav Halak (0, 2, 0)