Tag Archives: Hemsky

2018 Offseason Preview: Montréal Canadiens

Day 1 of our offseason preview series reaches a close with the third lottery-winning team, the Montréal Canadiens.

After finishing the season with a 29-40-13 record good enough for fourth-worst in the NHL, there’s little doubting the league’s most-storied franchise is in a bit of a funk right now. The offense was anemic (averaging a third-worst 2.52 goals per game), the defensive zone was equally as bad (allowing a seventh-worst 3.15 goals against per game) and the defense did little to make G Carey Price‘s life any easier (Montréal allowed a 12th-worst 32.3 shots against per game).

What can General Manager Marc Bergevin do to fix this mess?

2018 NHL Entry Draft

I’m of the firm belief that, barring select and rare circumstances, teams of any sport should always draft the best player available. Should Bergevin – as well as Buffalo and Carolina with their own selections – prescribe to that theory, I’d bank on Czech W Filip Zadina continuing to study his French after a season with QMJHL side Halifax.

Having played only one season with the Mooseheads, the 18-year-old was far and away the brightest rookie in his league. In 57 regular season games, Zadina posted wildly impressive 44-38-82 totals for 1.44 points per game, the fifth-best mark of any player in that league that played at least 51 games.

The tough predicament with Zadina is figuring out if he’ll join the Canadiens and begin his rookie season immediately, or if he’ll return to Halifax to develop another year in juniors. He certainly has the talent on his own, but the answer to that question has a better chance of being discovered after taking a look at how Montréal tackles free agency.

Pending free agents

The Habs have five forwards with NHL contracts that expired at the culmination of the regular season, but only RW Ales Hemsky is of the unrestricted variety. LW Daniel Carr, F Phillip Danault, F Jacob de la Rose and F Logan Shaw are all RFAs.

Turning 35-years-old before the 2018-19 season gets underway, there’s a chance Hemsky’s playing days could be behind him. In the last two seasons, he’s appeared in only 22 NHL games and hasn’t registered a point since his goal against the Devils on March 26, 2017. If anything, I’d expect the Oilers to offer him a one-day deal so he could retire with the team that drafted him 13th-overall in 2001.

Without a doubt, Carr and Danault should be seeing some of the Canadiens’ available $12 million slid their way, as the club’s struggles were far from a result of their play.

In the contract year of a $1.825 million, two-year deal, Danault posted decent 8-17-25 totals in 52 appearances (made only better in light of Montréal’s overall poor offense) for .48 points per game. At 25-years-old, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sign another two-year deal – this one worth at least $1.5 million per year.

In a similar strain, I’d also be just fine with seeing Carr sign for $1 million, even if it was only a one or two-year contract. Carr only played in 38 games this season, but he posted 6-10-16 totals to average .42 points per game. Carr may never develop into a top-six player, but most teams will gladly take that kind of production from a third-liner.

Back on the blue line, there’s exactly zero pending NHL free agents. That’s not exactly a good thing for Montréal considering its miserable defensive performance this season, so I would expect at least one of the Habs’ D-men to be on the move.

Even though he’ll turn 33-years-old this August, D Shea Weber is still the Canadiens’ best defenseman, but his attractiveness on the trade front is severely hampered by the eight remaining years on his $110 million contract (yes, your math is correct: Nashville signed Weber until he is 41-years-old).

Instead, D Jeff Petry might fetch a very nice return from a team lacking defense but wants to win now. He has three years remaining on his $5.5 million AAV contract and would likely fetch a similar, if not higher, price the Habs paid for him three years ago (a second and fourth-round pick).

Similar to the defensemen, Montréal has little to worry about in the goaltending department. This season is the first of Price’s eight-year, $84 million contract extension, and G Antti Niemi still has one year left on his sub-$1 million deal. Especially in light of Niemi posting a .929 save percentage in 19 appearances with the Canadiens last season, I doubt much will be changing here.

The only way this situation might be altered is if a team wants to trade for Niemi, but my guess is that sort of transaction is better suited for the trade deadline given his lackluster performances over the last few seasons.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 1 – Lehtonen leads Stars to 2-1 victory

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No, this is not the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.  Just because Ken Hitchcock, Brett Hull and Lindy Ruff are involved doesn’t mean we’re going to be concerned with skates in the crease.  That being said, that game from almost 17 years ago may have been in the back of Ruff’s mind, as he exacted revenge in a 2-1 victory.

There wasn’t much to talk about in the first period.  Only 20 shots were fired between the two teams and none of them found the back of the net, even though there were four minutes played of uneven hockey.

Antoine Roussel finally scored the first goal of the series at the 9:36 mark of the second period, as his slap shot was assisted by First Star of the Game Radek Faksa and John Klingberg (his third helper of the postseason).  It was a coast-to-coast play, beginning with Roussel advancing the puck through all three zones.  From the right face-off circle, he passed cross-ice to Klingberg, who immediately centered the puck for a Faksa wrister that was blocked by Second Star Brian Elliott.  Roussel collected the rebound and fired his slap shot over the diving Elliott to give Dallas a lead they would not yield through the remainder of the frame.

Kevin Shattenkirk and the Blues leveled with 8:28 remaining in regulation on a pure slap shot, assisted by Colton Parayko and Patrik Berglund.  3:44 later, Faksa earned his second point of the night with the game-winning goal, a wrister assisted by Ales Hemsky (his third helper of the playoffs) and Alex Goligoski.  Once again, it was another rebound off an Elliott block, as after Hemsky advanced the puck into the offensive zone, he passed to Goligoski who attempted a wrister that was stopped, but not covered by Elliott.  Faksa quickly advanced on the puck and slid it past Elliott’s left skate before he could seal the crease, giving the Stars their winner.

Dallas certainly deserved to win this one, as they led in shots (42-32; led by Colton Sceviour’s five shots) and blocks (22-11; led by Goligoski’s four blocks).  Additionally, they beat the Blues at their own game, as they threw six more hits to impose their will.

Third Star Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 31 of 32 shots faced (96.9%), while Elliott, who saved 40 of 42 (95.2%), takes the loss.

Game 2 will occur at 3 p.m. eastern on May Day, two days from now.  That contest may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

Minnesota at Dallas – Game 2 – Scandella’s power play goal can’t cover his rough defensive night, Stars take 2-0 series lead

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The best in the west are continuing their winning ways in the postseason, as they now have a two-game lead on Minnesota after winning 3-2.

Although both teams had over three minutes of power play action in the first period (we had a little bit of 4-on-4 action), they both went 0-for-2 with the advantage to end the frame scoreless.  That being said, the Stars were the clear offensive leaders, just like you’d expect, as their 14 first period shots doubled those of the Wild.

Period Two finally saw the first goal, as Ales Hemsky’s initial “shot” at the 3:54 mark was deflected into the back of the net by Third Star of the Game Antoine Roussel to give the Stars the lead.  Roussel brought the puck into the zone from the left boards, under pressure from Matt Dumba, forcing him to dump it behind the cage. Marco Scandella attempted to track it down, but his attempt to get it out of the zone was right on target… for Hemsky’s ankle.  The force sent the puck back behind Devan Dubnyk’s cage, which Hemsky somehow deflects over the net and into the crease.  Already beginning to crouch, the puck was actually above Dubnyk, but below the bar, allowing Roussel to get around the net to force the puck over Dubnyk’s back and into goal.

That was the only goal of the second period, even though Minnesota provided the Stars two power plays.

Dallas proved an important insurance goal, which proved to be the game winner, with 9:37 remaining in regulation when, thanks to an assist from Cody Eakin, Second Star Jamie Benn backhanded a breakaway goal past Dubnyk.  This one doesn’t fall as much on Scandella’s shoulders, as it was him who fired the shot at First Star Kari Lehtonen, but the deflection was corralled in the right corner of the zone by Eakin, who found a streaking Benn to create a one-on-one matchup with the goaltender that he almost always wins.

Thirty-six seconds later, Johnny Oduya was caught holding Charlie Coyle’s stick, which earned him a two-minute break.  Scandella and Minnesota finally capitalized on their fourth power play of the night when he fired a slap shot at the 12:42 mark, assisted by Dumba and Jason Zucker.  Any chances of completing the comeback were effectively nullified when Jason Pominville tripped Stephen Johns with 2:52 remaining in regulation, making them play almost the remainder of the contest a man down.

Lehtonen earns the victory after saving 25 of the 26 shots he faced (96.2%), while Dubnyk takes the loss, saving 26 of 28 (92.9%).

Minnesota will need to capitalize on home ice if they wish to get back in this series.  Their first shot at doing just that will be Monday at 8:30 p.m. eastern, and can be viewed on CNBC, SN or TVAS2.