Authors Posts by Sean Lloyd

Sean Lloyd

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Quick Out of the Gate

Despite a minor bump in the road on their recent west coast trip, the Montreal Canadiens have been enjoying an incredibly successful start to their season posting a 10-2 record.

The Canadiens have gotten off to such a quick start due to many reasons. Here they are, in alphabetical order no less.

Adjusting

The Canadiens have learned to adjust. Their style of play has adjusted to their roster. The Habs are shooting more and in doing so, they’re scoring more. They are playing for the next goal, aside from sitting back on a 3-0 lead against the Oilers which lead to an embarrassing last minute 4-3 loss, the Canadiens for the most part have continued to push for their next goal all season long. The first 20 minutes of heir game against St.Louis saw the Blues dominating the Canadiens. The Habs managed to adjust their game in the following two frames in order to earn themselves a 3-0 win.

Breakouts

Having Jeff Petry, a talented puck moving defenseman, for the entire season is huge for the Canadiens. The full time addition of Petry alongside veteran Andrei Markov, superstar P.K. Subban and up and comer Nathan Beaulieu, makes for a quick transition game. The Habs are out of their end much faster and on the attack.

Consistency

While there have certainly been games in which the team has found themselves outplayed, for the most part the Habs have been consistent in their play. Their 4-1 win over Detroit and their 5-1 loss to Vancouver have been the only times the Canadiens were not the first team to score. That same loss to Vancouver was the only game in which they failed to score more than three goals.

David Desharnais

That’s right, I said it. Sure, he was weak on the the Oilers game winning goal. I’m not saying he’s perfect but unless you dislike him enough to be blinded by his play this year you can’t help but see how he’s helping the team. By taking a role on the team’s third line, he has less  pressure to be the team’s first line centre, which he could never be. Now playing alongside Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, Desharnais has put up  two goals and added seven helpers for nine points in 12 games.

Even Strength

The Habs lead the league with 24 even strength goals and are second in the league with an even strength goal differential of +10.

Four lines 

The difference in the average ice time between the top and bottom lines is roughly six minutes. Michel Therrien is giving each lime ample opportunity to produce and they are responding. The first through fourth lines have put up 43, 17 (Semin and Byron both included), 24 and 15 points respectively. On any given night, any line can be dangerous which makes the Canadiens very tough to play against.

Goaltending

Mike Condon has been solid in his three outings posting a 3-0 record with a GAA of 1.67 and a .944 sv%. Carey Price? well, he’s been…. Carey Price.

H…

I’m not going to say it as many readers are superstitious, but it rhymes with wealth. Max Pacioretty came back from an off season injury in time to don the C and wear it with pride and determination posting seven goals and four assists for 11 points through his first 12 games.

Individual play

The team has been playing great but stand out performances by a handful of individuals are helping make this team so hard to beat.

  • Markov and Subban are playing out of this world, each posting 1-10-11pts including a five point night in Buffalo for Markov.
  • Price….well again, he’s Carey Price.
  • Tomas Plekanec is clearly enjoying playing with talented wingers on a nighty basis as he is leading the team in scoring with 12 points.
  • Devante Smith-Pelly seem much more comfortable playing in Montreal this season and is playing like he cares.

There are three more players who have really stood out, we’ll get to them soon enough.

Juggling lines

No more! The players know who they will be playing with each night and the lines are building more chemistry with each game. The line of Semin, Galchnyuk and Eller has been altered recently as Semin was replaced with Paul Byron but one change in 12 games for Therrien? That’s progress.

Killing Penalties

The Canadiens are fifth in the NHL while down a man with a success rate of 88.1%.

Leadership

The “C” fits Pacioretty perfectly and the team seems to be following his lead. Pacioretty is putting in 100% each night earning himself 11 points on the season so far. With Markov, Subban, Price, Plekanec and even Gallagher to help carry the weight, there is no lack of leadership on this team.

Mitchell, Torrey

What a season the Greenfield Park native is having. Mitchell is first amongst Habs forwards with 10 blocked shots and fifth in hits with 13. He has played a big role in shutting down the opposition’s top lines and has even notched eight points. Torrey Mitchell is centring what could be the leagues best fourth fourth lines alongside Brian Flynn and Devante Smith-Pelly.

No Brakes

The Canadiens are playing a more aggressive style of hockey and are constantly pushing for the next goal. They are not the type to sit back on leads anymore and have scored at least three goals in each of their games other than their 5-1 loss to the Canucks. No team has scored more than the Canadiens 45.

Opportunity 

Players are taking advantage of their opportunities. Galchenyuk is playing well at the Center position with eight points, Condon is proving to be a solid back up goalie after taking over for Dustin Tokarski and most recently, Paul Byron is taking advantage of being put into Alexander Semin’s spot posting two points in as many games, both against the Calgary Flames who had placed him on waivers,

Pacioretty, Max

Pacioretty’s 11 points in 12 games is second on the team. His 7 seven goals are second in the league. The offence that he and the first line are providing are the cause behind Desharnais being able to play with less pressure and therefore helping him produce more. The surge in offence has helped the Canadiens become more than just a team that relies on the world’s best goalie.

Quickness

After the Blues 3-0 to the Canadiens, Ken Hitchcock commented on how quick the Canadiens were. He said they were so quick even without the puck and they pressured his team’s puck carriers. The Habs speed forces quick decisions and many times mistakes by their opposition. Add that to their quick transition game and their speedy offence and it doesn’t take long for teams to find themselves trailing when playing the Habs.

Rafael Diaz

Diaz for Weise. Boom.

Scoring

It took the Canadiens to score less than three goals in a game. They’ve scoredat least three in every other one including seven against Buffalo and six against Calgary. Their 45 goals are nine more than the next team.

Therrien, Michel

As hated as he may be by many in Montreal, his team is 10-2 and it can no longer be said that it is solely due to his goalie. He is getting the best out of his players and has his team in first place, He’s got to be doing something right.

Upper Management

Therrien isn’t the only one off the ice who is contributing to the team’s success. Marc Bergevin has been putting this team together for years and they are finally starting to look like a legit contender. Bergevin’s decision to bring in DSP and re-sign Flynn and Mitchell has given the Canadiens one of the, if not the best fourth lines in the league. He managed to sign Petry to a long term deal before he hit the open market and while the verdict is still out on Semin, $1 million is well worth the gamble.

Van Morrison

Ok…. Van Morrison has done nothing to help the Habs, but I had nothing for V and his music is fantastic.

Weise, Dale

Weise is not being asked to be a top line winger anymore. The lowered expectations have been doing him some goos as he has eight points so far. His hat trick against the Flames puts him at six goals which is currently second most on the team in between Pacioretty and Plekanec,

Extra Man

A bit of a cop out going with “extra” for the letter X but xylophones have done nothing to help the Habs so just go with it. The Canadiens still have a lot of work to do with their power play but their recent success has shot them up to ninth in the NHL with a success rate of 22.8%.

(Y)Emelin, Alexei

Really reaching as I reach the end here by adding the Y back to Emelin, I know. I was going to go with youth but figured I would go another route since Jared Tinordi and Greg Pateryn have yet to see any ice time. Besides, Emelin has been playing some of his best hockey this year. He still has his critics and he won’t be up for the Norris Trophy but he has been making a lot of smart plays this season and been delivering a lot of big hits so I’m giving him some recognition for his early season play.

Zebras

The referees are exactly top notch in the NHL but they’ve done the Habs at least some good so far. That Gallagher goal against Detroit? Come on, that shouldn’t have counted. That no goal call when the puck went in off the stanchion? Sure, it as the right call but would you have expected them to get it right?

There are a lot of games left to be played and a lot can happen in a season but if the Canadiens continue to play the way they have been and manage to work out the few kinks that are in their play, this team can find themselves playing for their 25th cup in June.

Habs Off to Record Breaking Start

After Saturday night’s 4-1 win, the Montreal Canadiens have extended their franchise best start to the season to 6-0. While the record itself is an impressive feat, there is more than just six out of a possible six wins that Habs fans have to be happy about.

It’s not that the Habs have won six straight, it’s how they’ve won.

This team looks nothing like the squad from the 2014-15 season. This team looks like one who is always hungry for the game’s next goal. Marc-Antoine Godin of La Presse pointed out early into the 2015-16 season that it took the Canadiens 18 games to finish the first period with a lead during the previous season. The Habs managed to finish ahead after the first frame in each of their first four games.

Not only that, but it took six games before they found themselves trailing after Dylan Larkin put the Red Wings ahead in the Canadiens’ most recent win. The Wings win lasted all of 2:57 minutes before Brendan Gallagher tied things up with his first marker of the season.

Jeff Petry, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Flynn each added goals in the third period. A period in which the Canadiens fired 20 shots on Wings’ goaltender, Petr Mrazek. Three goals in the final period is impressive enough (albeit Flynn’s was an empty netter), but 20 shots? This is a team that has made a habit of sitting back the second they would find themselves with a lead. This is a team that was better known for finishing a game with 20 shots for an entire game, let alone reaching that amount in a single period, let alone in the third period.

The Canadiens currently sit second in the league in shots per game, with an average of 34.

Reasons behind the Habs early season success:

Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec’s 5 goals has him tied for the league lead

Four Lines Rolling

  • Through six games, the Canadiens have averaged 3.33 goals per game, mainly with the help of their top line. Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and newly appointed captain Max Pacioretty have combined for 10 of the team’s 20 goals.
  • Though Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Alex Semin have only tallied three goals as a unit, the trio shows lots of promise. They combined for a total of seven points in the 4-2 win over the Bruins and Galchenyuk has not looked at all out of place playing up the middle.
  • David Desharnais is hardly the most popular player with Habs’ fans. His role as the team’s top centre and his constant power play time without any execution had many in the city trying to drive him out. All that aside, he has thrived in his role as the team’s third line centre between Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weiss. DD must feel the pressure is off him to produce offensively and, in turn, has started the season with a goal and four helpers. Fleischmann has fit right in, notching two goals of his own along with one assist and Weiss has earned 1 and 1 as well.
  • The fourth line, while only producing two goals, has quite possibly the best chemistry on the team. Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn and Devante Smith-Pelly have proven tough to play against, have created quality scoring chances, and will likely cash in on plenty of them if their play continues. Smith-Pelly is playing more like the player he was expected to be when brought to the team and is not expected to be the same type of player as Jiri Sekac, who was shipped to Anaheim in the trade.

In short, aside from the season opening 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens haven’t had to lean on Carey Price. Instead, they’ve outplayed every team they’ve faced and taken advantage of their chances.

Goaltending

carey_price_molsoncup
Carey Price earned the NHL’s first star of the week posting a 3-0-0 record, 1 GAA, .936 sv% and 1 shut out

Sure, they haven’t had to rely on Price, but he has shown that when called upon he is still more than capable of making highlight reel saves, including a jaw dropping beauty on none other than Sidney Crosby.

One game is not enough to get a real feel for Mike Condon, but he looked calm and poised in a solid start against the Ottawa Senators, leading the Canadiens to a 3-1 win. Again, it’s still early, but he seems to be a solid upgrade from Dustin Tokarski.

 

5 on 5

Okay, so not everything about their game is perfect. Their power play is still struggling (only 4 goals in 26 opportunities), but breaking that down is a whole other article in itself.

What is working is their even strength play. The Habs have the best even strength goals ratio with 16 scored and only 4 against. As long as their 5 on 5 play keeps up, their lack of production with the extra man won’t hurt them as much as during the 2014-15 campaign.

The 2015-16 Canadiens seem to be a hungrier group, their more aggressive approach has found them early season success and they get a chance to extend their record breaking start tonight against the St. Louis Blues who sit second in the league behind the high flying Habs.

 

(Photo credit Canadiens.nhl.com, Featured image: PAUL CHIASSON / The Canadian Press)

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Sochi-Canada

When I was asked by Montreal Hockey Talk to choose which country I thought would bring home the Gold medal in the upcoming Olympics, Canada jumped to mind without hesitation.

While I am Canadian, this is in no way a prediction based solely on where my heart lies. The reason why Canada is known for hockey, and why not winning gold in any tournament we play in is unacceptable is simply because it is in our blood.

Hockey is Canadian culture. It’s no surprise that our country boasts the most talent when it comes to the game we hold so dear. That is not meant to disrespect any other country. This gold medal is in no way a guarantee. With the skill of Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin to name a few in Russia, the men between the pipes for Finland in Tuuka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Niklas Backstrom and the NHL stacked team the Americans will bring to Sochi, this will be no cake walk.

What Canada has that fuels my confidence however, is depth. With that said, here is the roster that wold be headed to Sochi, Russia in 2014 to compete for the gold medal if I were in charge of Team Canada.

Goaltending

Carey Price– Corey Crawford– Cam Ward

Price may not have backstopped his way into the “elite goaltender” category yet, but his outstanding play on a team that’s been less than mediocre for the majority of his career makes you wonder what he’s capable of on a star studded roster.

Ward has also done well on a basement team, and in 2006 he proved he can go all the way when his Conn Smyth winning performance lead his Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship.

Crawford is less experienced than Price and Ward and already has shown his ability to win by backstopping the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.

Defense

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook

Shea Weber – P.K. Subban

Drew Doughty – Kris Letang

Alex Pietrangelo

Keith and Seabrook have two Stanley Cups together and an Olympic gold medal so they’re an ideal pairing. The absence of a player like Chris Pronger will definately be felt. Doughty and Weber can both play physical. Subban will chip in as well. With players like Letang, Keith, Subban and Doughty patrolling the blue line, it’s hard to imagine any other team coming close to providing as much scoring from the point as Canada will.

Forwards

Rick Nash- Sidney Crosby- Patrice Bergeron

Claude Giroux- Steven Stamkos- Martin St. Louis

John Tavares- Jonathan Toews- Patrick Sharp

Mike Richards- Ryan Getzlaf- Corey Perry

Jordan Eberle

Having Crosby, the world’s best player, on your roster is not a bad way to start. These lines would provide each trio with elite snipers who can put the puck in the net at any given moment. Bergeron and Toews are two of the best two way players in the game. Mike Richards plays a hard nosed style that will make the line of him sniper/pest Corey Perry and big bodied Getzlaf tough to play against.

No other country can match the depth Canada has in every position. The goaltending, while young, is stacked with three net minders who play focused hockey and have come up big in their careers for either their country or their NHL club.

Canada’s back end will be mostly made up up of offensive minded rearguards but the amount of talented two way forwards will make up for their lack of shut down defensemen.

Up front is any and every opposing goalitender’s nightmare. Having to face a team that will have multiple scoring threats on the ice shift after shift.

Canada has something to prove at Sochi. This country is proud to be heralded as the best in the world at hockey. That reputation is not something we take lightly and not something these players want to risk by coming home with anything other than gold.

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