Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Puck Daddy

While I have not left you, I have written a piece for Puck Daddy as part of their "Summer of disappointment series" I do hope you'll head over there and read it, and am thankful for the love shown to me by Greg Wyshynski and the Puck daddy staff.

"There’s entirely too much sunshine in the summer. So your friends at Puck Daddy are offering a month of thrown shade and perpetual gloom. Behold, our Summer of Disappointment series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to recall the biggest bummer moments, teams and players in franchise history! Please wade into their misery like a freezing resort pool, and add your own choices in the comments!"

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/puck-daddy-s-most-disappointing-summer-series--montreal-canadiens-045821442.html

Stay tuned in the coming days, as there is a new HABS-TOWN edition on the horizon, and training camp is fast approaching.
  

Saturday, 5 July 2014

2014 Draft - Who Habs got - Nikolas Koberstein



Nikolas Koberstein - D - 6'2/205 - Olds (AJHL)

The 205th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting








This season has been an eventful one for Koberstein as he committed to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, participated in the CJHL top prospects game, and was named to the AJHL's South Division All-Rookie Team.  

In total he posted 5 goals, 18 points and 153 penalty minutes in 51 regular season games. Koberstein added 2 assists while logging a ton of minutes along side fellow rookie Chaydan Lauber in 9 playoff games for Olds.





“Koberstein was a guy we went under the radar, we had our fingerprints all over. We spent some time with him after the season, and I think this guy has some good upside and long range projection. He's a great kid, tons of character but he's a good hockey player too. He'll come to our development camp next week and we'll go from there. He's a guy we call a five-year player. He'll go back to Olds, be the captain, be the leader, play there another year and then go to the NCAA. It's a five year potential commitment on him.” - Trevor Timmins (Montreal Canadiens, Director of Amateur Scouting)

"He's an exciting young player and would certainly benefit the Pats back end should he report." - Phil Andrews (Radio voice of Regina Pats) 

"Nikolas has come to our team and stepped right in to a top role for us, he works extremely hard everyday and loves to learn the game." - Brett Hopfe  (Head Coach, Olds Grizzlys)

"With Nik's skill set and work ethic I would not be surprised to see him playing at the professional level when his time with UAF is done."  - Brett Hopfe  (Head Coach, Olds Grizzlys)


Follow the latest Hab on Twitter @koberstein07

Saturday, 28 June 2014

2014 Draft - Who Habs got - Brett Lernout



Brett Lernout - D - 6'4/205 - Swift Current (WHL)

The 52nd ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting

The 92nd ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News







• Known for his steady defensive play and rugged style, Lernout played in all 72 games in 2013-14, posting 22 points (8-14—22) and a plus-7 rating in his first full seasons with the Swift Current.

• Lernout played 20 games over two seasons with the Saskatoon Blades before he was acquired by the Broncos in 2012-13. He notched his first career Western Hockey League goal in Swift Current’s 3-0 win over the Prince Albert Raiders on Feb. 9, 2013.

• Lernout grew up playing on a backyard rink built by his father. He names his dad as the most influential person in his hockey career and recalls scoring his first WHL goal with his dad in attendance as his most memorable hockey moment.

• In 2011-12, Lernout racked up 35 points (8-27—35) in 44 games for the Winnipeg Wild. He added five points (1-4—5) in the playoffs to help the team capture the Midget AAA title. Lernout guarded the Wild blueline in front of netminder Ty Edmonds, the No. 18-ranked North American goaltender.

• Lernout grew up idolizing Chris Pronger’s tough playing style.• In 2013-14, his first season in North America, Scherbak led all Western Hockey League rookies in scoring by 19 points with 28-50—78 in 65 games.





"He's a big kid, tough and nasty. He's hard to play against and a good physical presence. He just needs to keep his game simple and safe to be effective at this point. His puck movement is safe and adequate, and he's able to box out forwards well in front of his own goal.” - B.J. MacDonald (NHL Central Scouting)


Lernout has lots of tools at his disposal, and started to put them all together throughout the year. Lernout loves to use his frame and has developed a mean streak. He’s a hard hitter and will drop the gloves. He’s a solid skater for his size, especially in terms of straight-line speed. Also has a hard shot, which is where most of his offensive output comes from. Not a particularly good passer, and still has to improve his defensive play.” - Mitch Brown (Allaboutthehabs.ca)

"The Western League is known for toughness and for defense: Lernout brings both. A punishing, physical blueliner with great reach, Lernout will continue to develop on a great defense corps in Swift Current alongside Dillon Heatherington (Columbus), Bryce Martin and Julius Honka (both 2014 prospects as well). Lernout will be the muscle." - Ryan Kennedy (THN) 

"Brett showed good improvement through the course of the season. A toolsy player with great size, strength, and skating abilities. He’s still raw, but if given time to develop, he should become the type of physical defenseman that teams love to have and hate to play against." - Scott McDougal  (Hockey Prospect)

"Very large intimidating defender who projects as a 6 or 7 who takes advantage of his chances to play by arriving in a bad mood ready to punish the opposition with ever chance. Not just a bruiser. He will make it hard for you to play against him, but shows some patience and awareness when he is in possession for his team or in the neutral zone. Painfully clears the front. Closes out his man on the entrance, so the rusher remembers it. I am not sure if he is completely adjusted to his growing body, as he will look pretty smooth on his pins on the carry until HE gets jostled. He is not looking to be the offensive force in his pairing, but passes pretty well and has a good shot from the perimeter. There is room for him to get bigger and stronger, and with that his balance and feet may catch up."  - Bill Placzek (Draftsite.com)




For a more detailed look at Brett Lernout pease check out this excellent interview with him by Kelly Friesen  of Yahoo Sports. NHL Draft Tracker: Brett Lernout

Follow the latest Hab on Twitter @BrettLernout

2014 Draft - Who Habs got - NIKITA SCHERBAK



When Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins stepped up to the podium to make their first selection of the 2014 NHL draft, four of my top six favourite picks were still available for the pickings.

My number one for the Habs was Adrian Kempe out of Modo, he was eventually selected at 29th by the Kings.

The Habs brass selected Nikita Scherbak of the Saskatoon Blades who was not on my list. I am quite pleased indeed with this selection. The player, it should be noted, did not make my list as I did not believe he would be available at 26th over-all.

Scherbak acquitted himself very well in many interviews last night. Especially for a person who didn't speak a word of English less than a year ago. He came off as charming, funny, and grounded. After interviewing close to one hundred draft hopefuls this week, it's a fair bet that the Canadiens brass believes that Scherbak has the "character and compete" that they are looking for from all their players.

The "character" part was certainly on display last night.



Nikita Scherbak - RW - 6'0/172 - Saskatoon (WHL)

The 27th ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 16th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 15th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #35 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 21st by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 14th ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 18th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News
The 23rd ranked draft eligible player according to Sportsnet Magazine.


• In 2013-14, his first season in North America, Scherbak led all Western Hockey League rookies in scoring by 19 points with 28-50—78 in 65 games.

• Scherbak was named the Blades’ Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Plus/Minus Leader and 3-Star Award Winner. He earned the team’s Top Scorer Award after leading the Blades in goals, assists and points, becoming the first rookie to lead Saskatoon in scoring since Garett Bembridge in 1996-97.

• A vibrant personality who is known to talk a lot on road trips, Scherbak has been taking English classes and learning at an accelerated rate. Saskatoon head coach Dave Struch jokes: “On the five or six-hour bus trips he sits four seats behind us (coaches) and that’s all you can hear, him talking the whole way.”

• He lists Pavel Datsyuk as his childhood hockey idol and wears No. 27 in tribute to Russian superstar Alex Kovalev.




"Excellent scoring instincts and he arrives at the right times to take full advantage. Awareness of how to exploit opportunities is very good and is vigilant and alert in this regard. A versatile player who can play off strengths of others." - Craig Button (TSN)

"Great skill and smarts, he's played all three forward positions thisnyear but his strength is on the right wing being a left hand shot, because he loves to drive the net. He really uses his linemates well, he's an unselfish player and has really adapted well to the North American game." - Peter Sullivan (NHL Central Scouting)

The best thing about him is that he’s very coachable and teachable. Because he can skate he can get on the puck. But when he’s not on it right away he’s not afraid to make or take a hit. When you’ve got that part of a game from a Russian player it’s exciting.” - David Struch (Saskatoon Blades, head coach)

"Teams always ask Russians about commitment to the NHL over the KHL. Scherbak might land in round 2 after missing the combine due to visa issues." - Gare Joyce (Sportsnet)



For a more detailed look at Nikita Scherbak, please check out this excellent profile on him by Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers. Nikita Scherbak THW: Close Up

Follow the latest Hab on Twitter @neketos22

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

2014 Draft - Players to watch for Habs (Round 1)

Like I did in 2012 I did my draft research. Unlike 2012 however, I have compiled here a look at the first round of the 2014 draft. 

The Canadiens hold the 26th pick in the draft this season.

6 names stand out to me as possibilities for the Canadiens to draft in the first round in Philadelphia. I am profiling them below in my order of preference assuming all of them are on the board.

I am not a Scout. I have not personally seen any of these players play. Therefore any information you read below is coming from credible sources who do this for a living. What I have done is compile information about certain players that I believe Montreal could be looking at. For a complete list of players, and information on many other players that are not mentioned here, please click the links I have provided to the many fantastic sources.







Adrian Kempe - C/LW - 6'2/187 - Modo (SHL)

The 22nd ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 26th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 6th ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #10 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 28th by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 21st ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 29th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News
The 15th ranked draft eligible player according to Sportsnet Magazine.



• In 2013-14, Kempe posted 19 points (3-16—19) in 20 games and was an assistant captain with MODO’s under-20 team before joining the club’s senior team in the Swedish Hockey League where he posted 11 points (5-6—11) in 45 contests.

• His brother, Mario, was selected in the fifth round (122nd overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2007 NHL Draft. Mario has spent the past five seasons playing in Sweden, most recently alongside Adrian with MODO in Sweden’s top league.

• A member of Sweden’s gold-medal winning team at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Kempe averaged a goal per game (5-0—5) including a second-period tally in the team’s 7-5 win over Russia in the final.

• At the 2014 Under-18 World Championship, Kempe finished third on the team with seven points (1-6—7) in seven games as Sweden placed fourth, falling 3-1 to Canada in the bronze-medal game. He also tallied three points (2-1—3) in four games at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

• Kempe’s hometown is Ornskoldsvik, Sweden (approx. population 28,000). He plays for the same MODO hockey program that produced NHL stars Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Victor Hedman. 




"Excellent skater with speed and quickness and he uses it to get to openings and to back off defenders. Excellent sense for the game and what is necessary and with his multitude of talents, he can deliver. A team player through and through." - Craig Button (TSN)

"Missed 2015 eligibility by three days. Big power forward - a pro in the Swedish League. Plays a two-way game." - Jeff Marek (Sportsnet)

"Speedy and fearless, Kempe plays a physical game and can also help out with the offensive side of the game." - Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

“Adrian is a big strong winger who can also play in the middle. He’s got some power forward potential, as he can be quite physical and tenacious on the forecheck. He surprised a lot of people by earning a jersey with Modo’s SHL team this season. He didn’t log big minutes, but was occasionally used on the powerplay and exhibited some of the talent that will probably make him a first round pick next month. Still needs to grow into his body, can look cubbish at times.” - Uffe Bodin (hockeysverige.se)

“Kempe is a strong, bullish forward that has size, strength and a work ethic to match. He can be tenacious on the forecheck and never misses finishing a check. He has a heavy shot and isn’t shy to drive towards the net.” - Aaron Vickers  (Future Considerations)




For a more detailed look at Adrian Kempe, please check out this excellent profile on him by Shawn Reznik of The Hockey Writers. Adrian Kempe THW: Close Up



Connor Bleackley - C/RW - 6'1/196 - Red Deer (WHL)

The 26th ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 32nd ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 35th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #30 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 29th by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 22nd ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 30th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News


• Bleackley began the 2013-14 season, his second in the Western Hockey League, with eight goals and 19 points in his first 15 games, surpassing his 66-game point total from his first campaign with the Rebels (9-9—18). He finished the year tied for the team lead in goals (29) and paced the club with 68 points.

• He was named Red Deer’s captain in November 2013, and at age 17 is one of only three first-time draft-eligible players to wear the “C” in the Canadian Hockey League this season: also Aaron Ekblad (No. 2-ranked North American skater) of the Barrie Colts and Sam Reinhart (No. 3-ranked North American skater) of the Kootenay Ice.

• Bleackley recorded two points and was an assistant captain on Canada’s bronze-medal winning team at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship. He also wore a letter with Team Pacific at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, posting four points (3-1—4) in five games.

• His hometown of High River, Alta. was devastated by flooding in June 2013, forcing many families from their homes: “We had to be evacuated for two weeks. We had four feet of water in the basement and a lot of mud. But it could have been worse. The community really came together and the response was phenomenal.”

• Bleackley grew up on the same street as Calgary Flames forward Corban Knight (selected 135th overall by Florida in the 2009 NHL Draft). They often played shinny together on a pond by their house.

• He complied 89 points (45-44—89) in 62 games over two seasons with the Okotoks Oilers Bantam AAA team in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League. He also won a gold medal with Team Alberta at the 2011 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup (2-2—4 in four games).


"Determined, competitive player who doesn't take any shortcut. Smart and in right areas and is a catalyst for positive plays all over the ice. Doesn't allow himself to be denied or his team to be denied. Whole is greater than sum of parts!" - Craig Button (TSN)

"Hard-working pivot does the unglamorous jobs and knows how to put the puck in the net. Captain of his junior team." - Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

“Conner Bleackley is learning to use his size and speed this season to get in quickly on the forecheck and play a more physical game.  Bleackley has a very good wrist shot and a quick release.  He shows the ability to drive hard to the net, and has good balance and strength on his skates to fight through checks and battle in the dirty areas of the ice, in front of the net and in the corners.” - Ben Kerr (The Last Word on Sports)


For a more detailed look at Connor Bleackley, please check out this excellent profile on him by Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers. Connor Bleackley THW: Close Up



Travis Sanheim - D - 6'3/181 - Calgary (WHL)

The 30th ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 15th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 53rd ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked 8th overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 24th by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 16th ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 21st ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News


• Sanheim totaled 29 points (5-24—29) in his Western Hockey League rookie season in 2013-14. He was paired with Ben Thomas (No. 86-ranked North American Skater) for most of 2013-14, finishing with a plus-25 rating for the Central Division champion Hitmen.

• Sanheim posted six assists at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship, pacing all defenseman and sharing the team lead with Hitmen teammate Jake Virtanen (No. 6-ranked North American Skater) en route to a bronze-medal win with Team Canada. He was selected by opposing coaches as one of Canada’s three best players. He also played for Team West at the 2013 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.

• A native of Elkhorn, Man., Sanheim finished his minor hockey career with the Yellowhead Chiefs in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, compiling 74 points (27-47—74) over two seasons with the club.

• His twin brother, Taylor, also played two years with the Chiefs, finishing 2012-13 tied for eighth in the League with 52 points (27-25—52) in 39 games. Taylor played the 2013-14 season with the Dauphin Kings and Portage Terriers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League; the Brandon Wheat Kings hold his WHL rights.



"Progress has been exceptional. Nothing he can't do in the game. Skates, thinks incredibly well, has poise, makes plays offensively and defensively and is a player who recognizes opportunity in the game and takes advantage." - Craig Button (TSN)

"High-rising blueliner has a great frame and moves well for his size. Confidence with the puck continues to grow."  - Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

“He has the tools to potentially be a number 3 or 4 defenceman at the NHL level.  He has always been a solid defender but his ever improving offensive game has turned some heads in the second half of the season.  He is playing with a little more confidence, jumping into the play at the right times and putting up some points.” - Mitch Kasprick (Winnipeg Hockey Talk)


For a more detailed look at Travis Sanheim, please check out this excellent profile on him by Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers. Travis Sanheim THW: Close Up


Ryan Macinnis - C - 6'3/185 - Kitchener (OHL)

The 25th ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 34th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 20th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #37 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 34th by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 37th ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 44th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News

• A two-way center, MacInnis finished among the top ten rookie scorers in the Ontario Hockey League during the 2013-14 season with 37 points (16-21—37) in 54 games for Kitchener.

• He is the son of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis, a Stanley Cup champion and seven-time All-Star who spent 23 seasons in the NHL with St. Louis and Calgary. Al was a member of the Kitchener Rangers (1980-83) prior to his NHL career.

• Ryan was asked if his shot measures up to his father’s famous cannon. Al won the Hardest Shot a record seven times at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition: “No, not even close. We'll go outside a lot whenever I'm home in St. Louis and we'll shoot a lot. He'll just feed me one timers and he'll teach me about the art of shooting."

• MacInnis registered five points (2-3—5) in six games for the U.S. at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, including a goal and assist in a 4-3 win over Quebec in the bronze medal game. He was also a member of the U.S Under-17 team that finished first in the 2012 Four Nations Tournament.

• In his spare time, he enjoys fishing and hunting.



 

"Raw ability with the potential to be a very good center. Skates well, good hands, smart and he competes for positive results. With physical maturity, he will excel even more and is the proverbial diamond in the rough at this time." - Craig Button (TSN)

“MacInnis has a tall, lanky build but has some good potential to add strength. His speed currently lacks burst but his skating does have some upside. He’s an instinctual player who uses solid positioning to remain in the offensive play and has a heavy shot but needs to work on his release and accuracy." - Aaron Vickers  (Future Considerations)

“Tall lanky centre forward who, at this point, is a projected second or third rounder based on bloodlines and potential. He is Al Macinnis’ son. Displays all the tools to be a possible dominating player, but have shown little consistency in his efforts. His size and skill make his an intriguing option show could solidify his grade with better efforts.” - Bill Placzek (Draftsite.com)


For a more detailed look at Ryan Macinnis, please check out this excellent profile on him by Shawn Reznik of The Hockey Writers. Ryan Macinnis THW: Close Up





Vladislav Kamenev - LW - 6'2/176 - Magnitogorsk 2 (KHL)

The 29th ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 59th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 13th ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #12 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 43rd by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 35th ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 56th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News

• Kamenev split the 2013-14 season between Magnitogorsk in Russia’s junior league - scoring four goals and 10 points in 15 games - and Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Playing under former NHL coach Mike Keenan, Kamenev scored one goal in 16 games with the eventual KHL champions.

• He finished in the top five in tournament scoring at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge, posting seven points (1-6—7) in five games as Russia captured the silver medal.

• As captain of Team Russia at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship, Kamenev shared the team-lead with seven points (2-5—7) in five games.

• In 2012-13, Kamenev tallied 15 points (9-6—15) in 36 games during his rookie season with Magnitogorsk’s junior team that finished second in the Eastern Conference of Russia’s top junior league.

• He lists Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals as his favorite NHL players.







"Protypical centre who can play everywhere on the ice with skills, smarts and comeptitiveness. He reads the play exceptionally well and he has the ability to produce in the crucial moments. Contributes everywhere in game." - Craig Button(TSN)

“Kamenev is a talented forward with good sized who uses his physical gifts to protect the puck and win board battles. He sees the ice well, has good hands and a strong shot. Has to keep his emotions in check as he can get overzealous taking stupid penalties at times."  - Aaron Vickers  (Future Considerations)

“Big hard working three zone centre-forward a strong stride, size and very good puck skills. Positionally solid with excellent vision and playmaking abilities. Good in the face off circle. Shoots the puck quickly besides being a strong set-up man. Stood out a one of the better players on the ice in the World Junior A challenge. If the whispers that he is transferring to a CHL junior team are true he seems destined to being picked early. He is a pretty complete player already and is tough to move off the puck, and is excellent in the one on one battles all over the sheet. He may be fairly close to playing soon.” - Bill Placzek (Draftsite.com)



For a more detailed look at Vladislav Kamenev, please check out this excellent profile on him by Shawn Reznik of The Hockey Writers. Vladislav Kamenev THW: Close Up




Roland McKeown - D - 6'0/195 - Kingston (OHL)

The 23rd ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 36th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 27th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #51 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 25th by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 83rd ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 26th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News

• McKeown finished the 2013-14 season with 43 points (11-32—43) in 62 games and a team-high plus-38 rating for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.

• He is a two-time gold medalist internationally, winning with Team Canada at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship and the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.

• McKeown was the captain of the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA team in 2011-12 that featured Sam Bennett (No. 1-ranked North American skater), Joshua Ho-Sang (No. 22-ranked North American skater) and Connor McDavid (draft eligible in 2015). He registered 35 points in 28 games for the Marlboros, who fell to the Mississauga Rebels in the 2012 OHL Cup championship game.

• An OHL All-Rookie First Team selection in 2012-13, McKeown led all first year blueliners with 29 points (7-22—29) in 61 games.

• He trains in the off-season under the guidance of former player Gary Roberts, who also works with NHL players including Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) and James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins).



"Skating is the foundation of his game and he uses well to close off plays defensively, transition the puck and then jump into the play offensively. Very confident player who plays with evenness. In control, steady and poised." - Craig Button (TSN)

"Smooth-skating blueliner can contribute at both ends of the ice and has excellent character." - Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

“McKeown is a strong, do-it-all defensemen whose biggest asset is his ability to think the game and know his position. He makes strong, simple plays, has a good shot and distributes the puck effectively.” - Aaron Vickers  (Future Considerations)

Solid all-around defender with excellent balance, stride and quickness. Positionally solid, and already cool and collected in his game, with excellent vision and reliablity in all situations. Handles the puck well in his own zone, in transistion and on breakouts. displays a hard point shot. If he is able to grow a bit more edge, he will climb up the rankings. He was selected to the roster for the World Junior Under-18 Tournament in April, 2013." - Bill Placzek (Draftsite.com)




For a more detailed look at Roland McKeown, please check out this excellent profile on him by Shawn Reznik of The Hockey Writers. Roland McKeown THW: Close Up







Saturday, 17 May 2014

Welcome to Jungleland

The Eastern Conference final is upon us hockey fans. The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers meet in the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1996 with the winner off to the dance for Lord Stanley’s Cup.


Two original six rivals. Two multi-time Stanley Cup winners. Two teams that haven’t been to a cup final since either of them last won the prized chalice.


Scouring the web there are many previews of the series, but none quite like what you have before you. Two of your favourite hockey blogs are teaming up to tell you why their team will or won’t win. You can agree, you can disagree. In either case the games will be played on the ice, but the opinions of Rangers Unlimited’s Jared Sexton and The Breakdown’s Ian Hermelin are here for your perusal.





The Rangers have played a lot of hockey in a short amount of time. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final will be the Rangers 15th game in the last 30 days (Montreal has played 11 in that same time span). Fatigue is bound to settle in at some point.


If fatigue is a factor in the series, it will definitely be to the Canadiens' benefit. But it will be nothing like the workload discrepancy from the early games of the previous round against the Penguins. This series features two separate two day breaks in between games, something the Rangers haven't experienced since Game four of Round one.


The Habs have been over-relying on their powerplay. The Canadiens have gotten to the Conference Finals largely on the strength of their hot powerplay. Their powerplay has accounted for 28% of their goals in the playoffs.  Of the teams that have advanced beyond the first round, only Anaheim has relied on their powerplay more. That's all well and good if the Habs can continue to convert 26.3% of their powerplays, but can they? During the regular season, they converted 17.2% of their powerplay opportunities, good for 19th in the league.


The Habs Power play can be very dangerous. Subban and Markov at the point are likely the most dangerous back-end duo on any power play league wide. Up front, with Vanek & Pacioretty, the Canadiens have two of the top 35 goal-getters in the league this season. With 39, only Ovechkin, Perry and Pavelski had more than Pacioretty and yet Vanek is considered the Habs most dangerous weapon.


As for 5 on 5, the Canadiens are a very fast team, the capitalize on turnovers and send a 4-line attack in on goal. The relentless attack causes opposing defenses to eventually take said penalties.


The playoffs historically favor strong possession teams. I frequently reference Chris Boyle's great article exploring the relationship between aptitude at possessing the puck and playoff success. The Canadiens finished the regular season 22nd in the league in the Fenwick measure of puck possession (in score-close situations); the Rangers finished 6th. Teams in Montreal’s ballpark (>50%) have historically performed much worse than teams above that mark in the playoffs: only two have ever made the finals (both the Pittsburgh Penguins).


During the regular season, a glut of injuries forced the Canadiens to play on their heels a lot. They relied on a variation of the trap to win a lot of tight hockey games. Now, with the team at full strength we have seen the Habs go back to playing on their toes attacking the opponent relentlessly. This was something we saw last year all season long. Many point to the Habs pace last year as a reason for their collapse in the playoffs. They ran out of gas, this year it seems, they paced themselves (willingly or not).


The Canadiens didn't match up their D-Pairs as often as Boston did. The Habs top 4 matched up against the Bergeron & Krejci lines for the Boston series. Bergeron (2g,2a,+1) Krejci (2a, -2) Lucic (1g,2a, even) Iginla (3g, -2) didn't accomplish much. If the Habs do the same to the Rangers top end talent, I have no idea where New York will get it's goals from.


The Canadiens rely on their top 4 defense much more than the Rangers do. The Habs top 4 have all averaged over 23 minutes a game through 2 rounds, however as a group those 4 are -1. The bottom pair has seen Mike Weaver and a rotating cast of Characters. Weaver has averaged 15 minutes a game while leading the playoffs in +/- at +7. His rotating cast of Francis Bouillon, Nathan Beaulieu and Douglas Murray have mustered about 12:30 a game and a +3 rating. The Habs top 4 have also accounted for 4 goals and 17 assists (Granted 4+8 came from PK Subban) so they do chip in on the offense.


The Rangers spread the ice time much more evenly among their top 6 defensemen, with only the top 3 playing more than 20 minutes a game. The top 4 however as a group are +3 through two rounds. Offensively though, the Rangers D don't help out as much as Montreal's. The top 4 have managed 3 goals and 13 assists, and it is much more evenly distributed than Montreal's which relied heavily on the reigning Norris Trophy winner.


The Rangers are definitely lacking an impact offensive weapon from the back-end like the Habs have in Subban. That's been a weakness for them all season and beyond.


Mike Weaver's +/- will continue to look good as long as Carey Price continues to stop 96% of the shots on him with Weaver on the ice.


Your point on Weaver would be a good one, and statistically I'm not going to argue with you. Weaver however has earned every bit of his +/- ranking by limiting quality chances against and by blocking shots. With the top 4 logging heavy minutes, it's good to know that #5 can be counted on in a pinch.


The Habs will be facing McDonagh-Girardi and Staal-Stralman for three quarters of the time at even-strength. McDonagh and Girardi get the lion's share of the national fanfare, but the Rangers don't lose much with Staal and Stralman on the ice. The Rangers' top-4 managed to keep Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet in 5 of 7 second round games. The Canadiens have a balanced attack up front, so I think the Rangers match up better than the Bruins, whose second defense pairing was subordinate with Dennis Seidenberg out of the lineup.


Girardi and Mcdonough get attention, but they are a combined -10 in the playoffs. Staal & Stralman have been the better pair. Zdeno Chara was given the task of trying to shut down Vanek and Pacioretty - for the most part he was successful, until game 6 and 7.


McDonagh had been out of game action with a shoulder injury for two weeks and really struggled in the early stages of the playoffs. It wasn’t until the last three games of the Penguins series where he really started to look like himself again.


The Rangers can't score goals. Be it at even strength, on our the special teams. Through  playoff games, The Rangers have scored 34 goals (2.43 a game). The Canadiens meanwhile have scored 36 goals in 11 games (3.27 a game). If we compare the defenses, The Rangers have given up 2 goals a game in the playoffs, Montreal, slightly more at 2.15.


I don't believe the Rangers have forgotten how to score goals. They scored three more goals than the Canadiens in the regular season (six more goalie-in goals). I have to believe their offensive numbers would look a lot better if they had the privilege of throwing 118 shots on Anders Lindback! When some of Rick Nash's playoff-leading shot on goal total starts going in, the Rangers should get the spike they need.


Anders Lindback was fortunate for the Habs, especially since they have never fared well against Ben Bishop historically. That being said, the Tampa Bay Lightning, while quick, well coached and hard working were the weakest team in the playoffs this season. The regular season goal totals go out the window for me as they are not reflective of the current lineups either team sports. Thomas Vanek was not a part of the Canadiens roster and while he may or may not be lighting the lamp his mere presence in the lineup opens up room for multiple other players.


I also don't think the Rangers forgot how to score, but again I go back to depth. Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque are playing on the 3rd line for Montreal. Danny Briere - who is a far cry from the player he once was is playing on the fourth line. Those guys are lining up against much weaker opposition and thriving. This is why I question the Rangers depth up front. They don't have an answer for those Habs players.


Rene Bourque has 29 points in the past two seasons. The Rangers’ third line left wing--Pouliot or Hagelin, take your pick--surpassed that number this season. He’s the guy creating matchup problems for the Rangers?


Vanek is actually the guy that creates the Matchup problem. But Bourque is an interesting character study. After two consecutive 27-goal seasons, Rene Bourque has twice missed games in his career due to concussions.


When Michel Therrien was hired as the coach of the Canadiens, Rene Bourque was one of the players he pointed to as needing to have a better work ethic. He started out pretty well last season, before suffering his second concussion, and was never the same after returning. Multiple times this season he was in the Coach’s dog house. One of the beat guys covering the Canadiens surmised that this likely had more than a little to do with the concussion history.


After Alex Galchenyuk went down late in the season, Bourque was inserted back into the lineup. He played alright, but nothing to put any fear into anyone - then the playoffs hit and everything changed. Just before the playoffs the Habs Director of Player Personnel, Scott Mellanby had a chat with Bourque. No one was privy to the exact details of the conversation, however since Bourque has been a different player. He was far and away the best forward on either team during the Habs first round meeting with Tampa Bay. He has scored 4 goals in the playoffs. He could see himself dropped to the fourth line (or out of the lineup) with Alex Galchenyuk returning, which again causes a matchup issue for New York.


For the line-up you’ll likely see for game one, the Rangers are getting goals dispersed pretty evenly throughout.
Stepan Line - 3 goals
Richards Line - 11 goals
Brassard Line - 10 goals
Boyle Line - 4 goals


Obviously, the top line sticks out like a sore thumb, but Kreider’s only played 4 games and Nash, I’ve been talking about ad nauseum, but I believe is a situation waiting to correct itself.


Contrast that with The Canadiens lines that we’re likely to see in Game 1, looks pretty well dispersed as well.
Desharnais Line - 10 Goals
Plekanec Line - 7 Goals
Eller Line - 9 Goals
Briere Line - 5 Goals


I’d tend to agree that the Nash situation may correct itself, but he could see himself matched up with Plekanec. Plekanec doesn’t get talked about throughout the league as much as he should. To me, he’s the best defensive centreman in the league behind Pavel Datsyuk & Patrice Bergeron. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, David Krejci led the league in playoff scoring, against the Canadiens in round 1 he had 1 point. Plekanec.


Alex Galchenyuk has yet to play a playoff game this year. By all accounts he had an inconsistent, disappointing sophomore year in the NHL, mainly due to multiple stints on injured reserve. He still scored 13 goals (good enough for 7th on the team) in only 65 games (Which projects out to a 16 goal season). If he is healthy - with all due respect to the aforementioned Dale Weise, Brandon Prust, Rene Bourque, or whoever comes out of the lineup for him, he is an offensive upgrade.


Galchenyuk, a young player coming back from an injury, does seem like the type to light up the Rangers in the playoffs. The Rangers got their boost in the last round, when Chris Kreider returned from his wrist injury. Kreider's return gave them three balanced scoring lines which is key to their attack.





Raphael Diaz and Dale Weise were traded for each other earlier this season. Weise to Montreal, Diaz to Vancouver - however they are now both facing their former team in this Rangers/Canadiens series. While Ex-Pats LOVE to burn their former teams, only one of these two players might get the chance. Dale Weise has been a revelation for the Habs, adding speed and grit to their fourth line, but also chipping in with timely goals. (He has three in the playoffs thus far). Raphael Diaz meanwhile has played fewer games (2) in this playoffs than Weise has goals (3).


Benoit Pouliot meanwhile has been a revelation for the Rangers. He has cooled a touch with only 2 points in the series against Pittsburgh, but he has 8 points in 14 playoff games this season and scored 15 goals during the regular campaign being a part of the Rangers most consistent offensive line.


Brandon Prust has been hurt. No one from the Canadiens camp will confirm exactly what the injury is, but his play early on the playoffs led many to suspect a rib or shoulder issue. Having said that, game six against Boston was his best game of playoffs and it looks like he's nearing full health.


Dale Weise hasn't had this type of scoring surge since his stint playing in the Netherlands!


Raphael Diaz doesn't figure to draw in for the Rangers unless there's an injury.


Dale Weise is taking advantage of his opportunity. He works hard, and skates well, but that alone would necessarily account for goals, generally however a 4th line doesn't have a centreman with Danny Briere's skill set setting up plays. Playing with Briere against other fourth lines, and his own speed and size are what's leading to Weise's scoring surge.


I think you’ll find that the Rangers’ fourth line compares favorably to the Bruins’ Merlot line, which happens to not age too well, as it turns out


Henrik Lundqvist has never fared well VS Montreal. For his career, he is 13-11-2, 2.85 GAA .897 sv%. While those numbers are not otherwordly terrible they are significantly down from his career averages. Over his career, Lundqvist has won 54.7% of his starts vs other opponents (48.1% vs Habs) he has a 2.13 career GAA against every other opponent (2.85 vs Montreal) he has a .922 career save% against every other team (.897 vs Montreal). I'd hazard to guess those are by far his worst numbers against any opponent in the National Hockey League.


At Bell Centre, those numbers get even worse. Lundqvist is 4-5-2 Over his career at Bell Centre. 3.87 .876. In at least 10 starts, those ARE the worst numbers he has posted in any building as a visitor. The only arena that comes close is the old Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. The only other time he has a sv% below .900 is in buildings where he has started less than 5 times.


If this trend in goal continues, We'll be in for a short series. Lundqvist did not start in either game at Bell Centre this season, so this is a trend that the Rangers coaching staff is aware of.


Lundqvist has struggled against the Canadiens in the past - his save percentage against the Habs is lower than against any other Eastern Conference opponent. When you reduce data into smaller samples, patterns can appear to emerge. When I checked in March, the Rangers were twice as efficient in Saturday and Sunday games than Monday and Tuesday games.


When Lundqvist takes the ice in the Bell Centre, it will be in a crease the same size as any other and facing a regulation sized puck. If there is some disadvantage, it's solely in his head, but I have more confidence in his mental game than that.


Lundqvist has not Started in Montreal since January 2012, and hasn't won at the Bell Centre since 2009, so something tells me the building MUST be in his head, or Rangers brass of multiple generations thinks it is.
In big game situations, Price and Lundqvist have met once with the Habs netminder walking away with a gold medal.


Only because of Nash and St. Louis’ great work on the 4th line. :)




Final analysis.


I'm not taking the Rangers lightly, but If we fairly assume the defensive corps are a wash, I believe Montreal holds an advantage everywhere else.


Throwing out the crazy stats of Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price has been almost unbeatable since the Olympics. Over a seven game series, I can't see Lundqvist getting the better of Price 4 times.


The Top Line Talent of the Rangers (St.Louis, Richards, and Nash) definitely have the name value over the top end forwards of Montreal - but Nash has yet to score a goal in the playoffs (Pacioretty has 3, Vanek has 5) and Richards and St.Louis are on the wrong side of 30. The Canadiens have 4 lines that can score, the Rangers I would argue have two.


The offensive depth, and Goaltending of Montreal will be too much for the Rangers to handle.


My head says the Canadiens don't hold the advantage over the Rangers, but you'd be hard to find pressed to find a Ranger fan that isn't weary when the club faces off against the Habs.


Carey Price has been on point since the Olympic break (0.937 SV% - combined reg. season and playoffs), but so has Henrik Lundqvist (0.937 SV%). Both goaltenders are elite, but I'd have more faith in the Rangers winning the series if Price outplays Lundqvist than I do the Habs winning if the situation is reversed.


Habs in six.
Rangers in six.


A friendly wager amongst the readers of Rangers Unlimited and The Breakdown. Hab fans VS Ranger Fans. The winner - children somewhere.


Should the Rangers beat the Canadiens and advance to the Stanley Cup final, all funds raised will be donated to the "Garden of Dreams".


Should the Canadiens defeat the Rangers to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, all funds raised will be donated to the "Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation.


The Garden of Dreams Foundation is a non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of The Madison Square Garden Company including the Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, MSG Entertainment, MSG Networks and Fuse to make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles. All donations and fundraising efforts will help Garden of Dreams continue to help children by creating unique and unforgettable, on-going events and programs to brighten the lives of children and their families who battle everything from homelessness and extreme poverty, to illness, to foster care.

The Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation provides help and support to children in need. Since its inception in August 2000, the Foundation has donated upwards of $16 million to more than 500 charitable endeavors from across the province of Quebec who helps underprivileged children.
The Foundation is determined, more than ever, to help offer a brighter future and good health to underprivileged children and is committed to encourage and foster a healthy and active lifestyle among youth.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for donating. May the best team win!