Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Case Anyone Hadn't Heard...

I'll no longer be writing on this site, as I've been asked to join the Montreal Canadiens SB Nation blog, Habs Eyes on the Prize. I've written my first piece there already and it's been featured on 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

All I Have To Say.

Rule 69 - Interference on the Goalkeeper
69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.
For purposes of this rule, “contact,” whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body.
The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
69.2 Penalty - In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty (minor or major, as the Referee deems appropriate). In all cases where the infraction being imposed is to the attacking player for hindering the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely in his goal crease, the penalty to be assessed is for goalkeeper interference.
In exercising his judgment, the Referee should give more significant consideration to the degree and nature of the contact with the goalkeeper than to the exact location of the goalkeeper at the time of the contact.
69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease - If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with an attacking player who is in the goal crease, and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
If, after any contact by a goalkeeper who is attempting to establish position in his goal crease, the attacking player does not immediately vacate his current position in the goal crease (i.e. give ground to the goalkeeper), and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. In all such cases, whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a minor penalty for goalkeeper interference.
If an attacking player establishes a significant position within the goal crease, so as to obstruct the goalkeeper’s vision and impair his ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
For this purpose, a player “establishes a significant position within the crease” when, in the Referee’s judgment, his body, or a substantial portion thereof, is within the goal crease for more than an instantaneous period of time.
69.4 Contact Outside the Goal Crease - If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.
When a goalkeeper has played the puck outside of his crease and is then prevented from returning to his crease area due to the deliberate actions of an attacking player, such player may be penalized for goalkeeper interference. Similarly, the goalkeeper may be penalized, if by his actions outside of his crease he deliberately interferes with an attacking player who is attempting to play the puck or an opponent.

Friday, April 16, 2010

PJ Stock: Canadiens Didn't Deserve to Win...

     According to PJ Stock, our Habs didn't deserve to win last night. I've never really understood this idea of a team not deserving a win, as long as the game doesn't go to a shootout or isn't decided by officiating, the win is clearly deserved based on one team outscoring the other, but let's examine some common ideas from last night about how the game should have turned out.

     The Canadiens were undoubtedly dominated in the first period. Washington came out strong and barraged Jaroslav Halak with shots. He was up to the task in a big way and stoned the Caps on some good scoring chances, however what wasn't talked about very much on CBC or TSN last night was the fact that Montreal limited Washington's scoring chances very well, even in the first period, and most shots Halak had clear line of sight. Two horrid giveaways in the first set up golden chances for the Capitals, but after that the defense settled in and they played spectacular. Being outplayed offensively in one period however, isn't enough for most people to say a team deserves a loss.

     Another point that was brought up often was that the Capitals outshot the Canadiens in total after the game, firing a whopping 47 shots on Jaroslav Halak through nearly 4 periods. However many failed to mention that Montreal sent a fairly impressive 38 shots the other way on Jose Theodore. In fact, after the first period, Montreal outshot Washington over the next 53 minutes 31-28. Again I'm failing to see how Montreal didn't deserve the win. Clearly Halak bailed out the Habs in the first period, but after that Theodore did the same thing for the Capitals, as the Canadiens had much better quality scoring chances for the rest of the game.

     Another thing I'd like to look at is the goals themselves. For this I'll let you watch the highlights of the game first:

     Looking at the two goals by the Capitals, both were off very weird and unfortunate bounces. On the first goal by the Capitals, the puck takes a ridiculous bounce off the boards as Spacek tried to chip it past a Washington player, and the puck goes all the way out to a Capitals player on the blueline. A very lucky, awkward bounce. The second goal, Capitals goal started with a weak clearing attempt by Pouliot, and after a Capitals player keeps the puck in with a chip, the puck takes another ridiculous bounce, this time like it has backspin on it, and Gill can't react quick enough as the puck goes right onto Knuble's stick. To be fair to the Capitals, we also got a lucky bounce after Halak whiffed on a high shot that in turn bounced backwards off the goal line and away from the net, Ovechkin even celebrated.

     By contrast to both Capitals goals, all our goals were caused by outworking a Capitals defense that just wasn't committed to be good enough to win this game. Great puck movement by the powerplay unit led to Cammalleri's goal. Gomez's end to end rush through the Capitals' best players was a work of artistry, and a great display of skill by that line. Plekanec's goal, or should I say Tomas Jagr's goal, was taking advantage of a lazy line change by Ovechkin, and the hesitance of Joe Corvo.

     I expect the Capitals to be much better on Saturday, but make no mistake in listening to pundits who are paid to tell you what happened with a certain bias, the Canadiens earned this win. They earned it with fantastic team defense, opportunistic offense and great goaltending.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Get Pumped For The Playoffs!

     In order to get us really pumped up for the playoffs, I decided I would spend some time going through highlights and game summaries, to recollect this season in it's entirety. Although we've had some big ups and downs, there were a lot of memorable games, and a lot of very entertaining games. From the 82 games the Montreal Canadiens have played this season, I bring you the top 10, according to me.


     This may seem like an odd choice, with 39 wins the 10th best game of the season was a shootout loss? Well this one started and ended on a sour note, but it needs to be remembered that half the team, and our entire second line was injured in this game. After a brutal shift by Georges Laraque put the Canadiens on the PK for 9 straight minutes in the first period, the team was tired and at the mercy of one of the best teams in the NHL. After some brilliant goaltending by Carey Price, Jacques Martin united the Cammalleri-Plekanec-A.Kostitsyn line, and the Canadiens rallied from 2 goals down in the third period to force overtime and a shootout. Although we didn't win the skills competition, this game showed me what our team was made of, and that we could battle back from nearly anything.


     Coming out of the Olympic break, the Canadiens were playing their best hockey of the season, however the previous game against San Jose had ended on a sour note with Maxim Lapierre getting suspended and the Habs blowing a 2-1 lead in the third period after a phenomenal performance by Carey Price. The next game against LA didn't look to be any easier, but Montreal played a perfect road game, helped by a very solid performance by Jaroslav Halak. With goals in the first minute of periods one and three, the game never really seemed in doubt. The Canadiens had struggled mightily against Western Conference teams to date, but Halak was leading the charge to change that.


     Beating the reigning Cup champions is always a good feeling, and up until this game they'd really made the Canadiens look bad over 3 games. This game is a prime example of having to be lucky to be good, and good to be lucky. The game was back and forth until 9:30 into the second period, when Halak made a huge save that rebounded to Hamrlik, who in turn set up Gionta for a breakaway. Gionta let loose a great backhand that got by Fleury. We were also given our first real glance at both David Desharnais and Brock Trotter in this game, and both were very impressive along with Ryan White.


     The game started ugly. The team was absolutely flat after a big win the night before, and Price wasn't as sharp as he was against San Jose earlier in the week, after one period we were down 3-0. For the first and only time in the season however, Jacques Martin made a goalie change when the game was still in reach. Halak rewarded Martin's move by saving all the shots Anaheim would fire at him, and the team would mount a comeback that began with Plekanec, and was carried on by Gionta and Markov. The shootout was a stunner for the hometown fans, as Gionta kept the Habs alive by shooting into Hiller's pads, and Hiller knocked the puck into his own net. Plekanec then finished what he started by sniping one past Hiller to win the game.


     This game saw two players who'd been slumping offensively for the entire season finally get on the board, as Pacioretty opened the scoring and Andrei Kostitsyn tied it up later on. Montreal dominated the first 40 minutes in a way they rarely had to this point in the season, but they just couldn't finish on their chances. Some excellent goaltending by Michael Leighton (who left with an injury) and Manny Legace exacerbated the problem. Two defensive breakdowns by the Habs had us down 2-1 before Andrei Kostitsyn scored just his second of the year. But the real reason this game is memorable, is the overtime and shootout. Carey Price made seven brilliant saves in overtime while Montreal killed a penalty, and followed that by putting on one of the best shootout performances I've ever seen, and I'm sure many agree. With a little luck on Carolina's last attempt, he secured the win after Maxim Lapierre had scored a beauty on Manny Legace.


      Montreal Canadiens fans had waited a long time to see one of their goaltenders record a shutout this season, and finally Halak managed to break the lack of shutouts with an unspeakably brilliant 40 save shutout of the New York Islanders, robbing Matt Moulson blind 4 times, every  one of which was memorable. This was also the first game back for Andrei Markov, and there's likely no coincidence that this happened the same we got our first shutout. Markov stormed back into the NHL with the first two goals of the game, a smart pinch to bat in a loose puck, and a double-clutched slapshot from the slot. Montreal punished the Islanders with a powerplay that went 3/4 on the night.


There's just something I absolutely love about lighting up the Rangers. I think it reminds me of "The Comeback" from that fated day, a day after my birthday in February of 2008. Maybe its the incredibly pissed off body language of Henrik Lundqvist when he gets frustrated and pucks go by him like its going out of style. This game was one that had so much to love. Halak got a well earned shutout, and he was in the heads of the Rangers players as they missed the net 15 times, many of which were good opportunities. The look on Lapierre's face after he broke a long scoring streak was also priceless. Cammalleri had his second 4 point game against the Rangers in 3 tries, and O'Byrne beat up Voros, what's not to like about this game? It was awesome!


       A week before, the Canadiens had squandered a perfect road game against the Sabres. Blowing a lead in the last couple minutes, and losing in a shootout.  They wasted one of the best goaltending performances of the season, and they were determined not to do the same on this night. Halak had done it all himself the night before, holding a 1-0 lead for a whole game against Philadelphia, and he was just as good against the Sabres, but wasn't needed as much. The Canadiens played perhaps the best game they played all season, and a trio of unheralded players scored to take the 3-0 win. The expression of O'Byrne after his first goal in 100 games is worth watching this one alone.


     After jumping out to a great start, some shoddy defensive play and sub-par goaltending got the Canadiens into a hole after one period, but the Canadiens weren't going to lose this game, not if Mike Cammalleri had anything to say about it. In what Montreal Canadiens fans have come to expect from Halak on his off nights, he started off shaky, but made huge saves when it matters most. Several big stops in the second period had the team fire up, and cued by a rush by Lapierre and D'agostini, a comeback was on. Cammalleri had scored the first goal of the game, and after Gaborik erased the progress made by Lapierre and D'agostini, he set up a Bergeron one timer that ripped past Lundqvist. With time running out in the second, Plekanec feathered a pass to a rushing Cammalleri in the slot, which he wristed past Lundqvist with ease. A back and forth third period led to overtime, where Cammalleri scored what can only be described as the goal of the year by a Canadiens player. Dangling from the Habs' blueline, Cammalleri dekes his way through nearly the whole Rangers roster and into the slot, where he fires a bullet past Henrik Lundqvist to win it in OT.


     I don't think I need to say too much about this one. I also think everyone knew this one would be number one. It's the centennial game, and it came after the most amazing ceremony, perhaps in hockey history.  Cammalleri got a hat trick, Metropolit scored against his former team, and Price put on one of the best performances in goal we would see all year. Most Habs fans I knew had goosebumps from the moment Patrick Roy took the ice in full equipment, to the last second of the game when the Canadiens celebrated a 5-1 victory over their hated rivals. You know what? I still get goosebumps, say what you want about the Canadiens management and marketing department, but this was brilliance:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Unique Situation

     The Montreal Canadiens find themselves in a very unique situation this summer, and it happens to be one that the media can't stop talking about, and many other teams likely envy. As the Canadiens close in on clinching a playoff spot, the talk is uniformly about which goaltender should be resigned or traded in the summer, or in fact if it would be more beneficial to keep them both for at least another year. Since the calendar changed over to 2010, and to some even before then, it is beyond clear that Jaroslav Halak is the man in goal this season. Price hasn't played terrible, he hasn't even been bad, in fact his save percentage would put him into the starting job on most NHL teams, but a combination of not being able to win games for a litany of reasons and Halak playing unbelievably brilliant has relegated him to the backup role for awhile at least.

     The idea of trading one of the two goaltenders has been bandied about all season, but I tend to agree with JT over on The H Does Not Stand For Habs, as she writes that even with the expected salary increase for Jaroslav Halak, the cap hit for Price may actually go down with an increase to his base salary, but no more rookie bonuses. She estimates his cap hit next season to be approximately $1-1.5 million, likely on a 1 or 2 year deal, similar to Tuukka Rask. It remains to be seen if Price's agent is a bit more savvy than Rask's but if that's what we can get Price for, trading either goalie at this point is absolute insanity. The going rate for a veteran backup in the NHL is around $1 million per season, so adding in another 500,000 in cap hit to have another year to look at these two goalies and solidify the future of the organization is one of the best deals in sports. Although I disagree with JT that we could keep both of them for 2-3 more year, 1 year more would be very doable and very beneficial.

     The question I have for everyone reading this however, is whether the media is correct in focusing our attention entirely on the goalies. Are they really our more pressing issue going into the off season? Personally, I don't think so. I've heard many people say that Halak should be the organization's #1 priority as soon as the season is over, and Price after him, followed by Plekanec. I find this to be a completely wrong way to look at things. Certainly the first thing Pierre Gauthier should  do is tender qualifying offers to all RFAs, including the goalies, but as far as priorities go among signing players I would rank both goalies behind Plekanec, Pouliot, and even Sergei Kostitsyn. My reasoning for this is that for all three of Plekanec, Pouliot and Sergei, we don't have a player in the organization who can step up and do their jobs. However with both goalies, although annoying and unadvisable, it would not be catastrophic to the team if either one left as long as the other was kept. Say for example that Price is signed to an offer sheet that isn't matched, the result is that we now will go into the season with an inferior backup, and we're stuck with a top end goaltending prospect in Halak, instead of two. Halak likely starts 65 instead of 55 games next year, and unless the unthinkable happens and he somehow turns into Jose Theodore, we're still solid.

     On the other hand, we certainly don't have another top 2 center in the organization to take the pressure off of Gomez, and the free agent market is barren. Keeping in mind that Plekanec is also an unrestricted free agent come July 1st, and he should absolutely be our #1 priority. Plekanec is also the player who will be taking up the most salary of all of our (hopefully) returning players, so signing him first to see where the club is at financially is paramount. Benoit Pouliot is also, at this point, irreplaceable within the organization. His size and scoring touch are both fairly unique among the Canadiens roster, and there is no one in Hamilton who is ready to take on his role. The only other player who may be ready to play a top 6 role on the team is another priority, and that's Sergei Kostitsyn. With his talent, tenacity, vision and defensive skill set, there's no better prospect in the Montreal system than Sergei Kostitsyn. Although he started out the season in Jacques Martin's doghouse, and still has trouble getting time on the powerplay, Sergei has become a defensive specialist playing on the third line with Moore and Moen. He plays a ton on the penalty kill and regularly lines up against the opposition's best players at even strength. Tom Pyatt may be able to adequately replace Sergei on the defensive side next season, but offensively he's not even close. Having a player or two with the ability to score on your third line as made the Canadiens much more difficult to play against in the second half.

     I don't want anyone to think that I don't value the goalies, because I do believe that of any one player on a hockey team the one who has the most control of the outcome is always the goalie, this is likely why the Vezina Trophy and Jack Adams Trophy are routinely handed out to personnel on the same team. All I'm saying is that even if we get screwed in the offseason in regards to one of our goaltenders, we happen to have another young goalie who has the ability to be a top 10 goaltender in this league. Clearly it is preferable to keep them both, but it's just more important to make sure we have the irreplaceable pieces signed before we worry too much about the tenders.

Images courtesy of Gazette