It was moments after the game had ended following a late winning goal when I was taken back in time. Kirk Muller and J.J. Daigneault were behind the bench exchanging congratulatory handshakes, but not your normal post game handshakes. This was a very 90s looking fist in fist blood brothers kind of grasp. The RDS camera stayed with the happy assistant coaches as they walked (and talked) across the ice together and I couldn’t help but think of the giddy spring of 1993 when both played huge roles in leading the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup. As they walked out of camera sight it hit me. Don’t let Kirk Muller leave again.

THE GOOD

  • Shea Weber. Surely the most talked about blast of a goal of the young season. But all many of us could think about was Travis Hamonic whose life surely flashed before him – but not quite at the speed of Weber’s shot. Second straight win for the Habs via the power play. That’s seven points in the last 4 games for Weber while increasing his league leading Plus/Minus figure to +12. He led his team with 4 blocked shots and 3 hits. All in an economical 24:30.

  • Brendan Gallagher. Very fitting that it was Gallagher who drew the late slashing penalty by heading to the net. It was the only Montrteal power play opportunity of the game. Suddenly the Habs PP has moved to the middle of the puck at just a shade under 20%.  Gallagher was the best player on the ice, not just because of his game high 7 shots on goal.
  • Paul Byron. It was Byron’s neat little feed that freed up Gallagher and forced Nick Leddy into taking the late game changing penalty. Byron opened the scoring by cashing in a Gallagher rebound. Only two Montreal forwards have more points.
  • Andrew Shaw. Looked more like the effective energy player he had been prior to his meeting with NHL Director of Player Safety Stephane Quintal. Missed a couple of breakaways. Might be watching too many Tomas Plekanec videos.
  • David Desharnais. Must have done something right even without firing a single puck at the Islanders net. His line mates – new and old – stood out for the right reasons. The three of them were rewarded by being on the ice when the game winning goal was scored. And yet –

 

  • Michel Therrien. Byron was playing alongside Gallagher because of the terribly listless first period by the Habs. Replacing the captain on the top line certainly had its desired effect as Montreal buzzed the Islanders for much of the second period only to be stymied time and again by Greiss.
  • Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu. Both looked like seasoned vets. Maybe Beaulieu is the Lars Eller of Habs defensmen.

  • Torrey Mitchell-Brian Flynn-Phillip Danault. Just like the start of last season the Habs continue to get scoring out of their 4th line while the team waits for the big guns to start firing.
  • Alexei Emelin. Other than an unfortunate blip, Weber’s new partner continues to impress. So when was the last time Emelin had the second highest minutes played in a game?
  • Jeff Petry. Perfect feed to Weber for the game winner. Another smooth night. And, frankly, it’s not easy right now hanging out with Andrei Markov.
  • Al Montoya. Allowed goals only via a bad giveaway and through a screen.

THE BAD

  • Emelin on the Islanders first goal by John Tavares. In control of the puck until he decided to embellish in an effort to draw an Andrew Ladd penalty. Ladd’s stick was up but it didn’t force Emelin to snap his head back. While he took his eye off the puck Tavares pounced on it to give the Islanders some much needed life.
  • Max Pacioretty. Clearly needed a wake up call and was much better once he received it. And to his credit, he was on the ice and helped get the puck back to Petry at the point on the late third period power play.
  • Alex Galchenyuk. On the one hand, Galchenyuk set up Gallagher with two Grade A scoring chances. On the other hand, he had a lousy third period. I wouldn’t be worried about him.
  • Tomas Plekanec. There they were in the second period – another terrific set up by Alexander Radulov that Plekanec couldn’t quite bury. At least he got the puck on the net this time. The Habs are 6-0-1 while getting just one goal out of their top two centermen.

THE UGLY

  • As I put it to TSN’s Scott Cullen “Is there really a serious player in the analytics community who thinks that Shea Weber is not a really good defenseman?” Full conversation here. Scott is one of the good guys. But following the conversation I was reminded that the Habs had fired their previous analytics consultant – Matt Pfeffer – presumably over his strong objection to acquiring Weber. As he told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News in July “He’s (Weber) good, he’s serviceable…there’s nothing wrong with being average in the NHL. An average NHLer is worth a heck of a lot and that’s what Shea Weber is.” Pfeffer openly expressed what so many members of the analytics community think. And believe, no matter what. The dreaded eyes tests done in real time? Damn them all. Well clearly, to borrow a line from “Cool Hand Luke” –  What we have here is failure to communicate. We give the second to last word on this to Gord Miller who says of Corsi “Maybe Corsi isn’t the measure of an individual player…accepting it as a stated fact when it hasn’t been proven….I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff that has come from analytics but until you can show me an analytic that makes Sidney Crosby the best player in the league or one of the best players in the league…he’s not in the top 25 in Corsi from last year. From last year’s Penguins team Sidney Crosby had the 6th best Corsi rating…the problem with analytics – if you listen to them all the time – you wind up with a team full of Jakub Kindl and Tom Gilbert. And one other thing, with due respect to a lot of people in the analytics community…they would do their side a lot of good if so many of them weren’t so absolutely one sided and arrogant….there are some – not all – in the analytics community who would tell you the numbers don’t lie. They do.” Final word?

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10 Responses

  1. Alex Nesrallah

    You should host a dinner and invite some analytics experts; hire the best chefs in town. Everyone would be served a fabulous meal except for the analytics guys. You would just give them the recipes.

  2. Steve Chan

    Thanks Mitch for staying up late to get this out. Since last season, I’ve been following your post-game write-ups and have read them all word for word. Great work and keep it up from Singapore.

    Just one question, watching the heart-breaking decline of Tomas Plekanec, is there a trade market for him?

  3. Rick L

    A great rundown of the game, Mitch … I would have liked to see that exchange between Muller and Daigneault … the ’93 Cup run is still a great trigger (as is Jacques Lemaire firing a shot over Tony Esposito’s shoulder from just outside the blue line to start the ’71 game-7 comeback, but I digress) … I’m one of those guys who hated ‘The Trade’, but I have zero to complain about with this start … having said that, Shea Weber continues to earn the respect of his teammates, coaches and fans … Al Montoya has been going over and above the call of duty … good on Michel Therrien for altering the lines last night … it worked out very well … probably Nathan Beaulieu’s best game in a while and I always appreciated what Greg Pateryn brings to the table … one other name that I seem to hear a lot of every game is Brendan Gallagher … I only found your blog at the beginning of this season, Mitch … glad I did … thanks.

  4. dra58

    Mitch I love your blog and take on things but cannot give ‘GOOD’ to M/T because even though we won he was back to his blender ways again and put Patch with DD which seems to be his default move. I am not a DD hater but rather a hater of M/T use of him. He is a great plug and play 3rd line center with proper line mates and use but the coach seems to always forget that. M/T continues to prove that he can’t really adjust in game but he can get players up for big games. He should leave the in game adjustments to those who can do it like Captain Kirk.

    • Mitch Melnick

      The captain was sleepwalking to start the game. He wasn’t alone. Therrien woke him up. And the rest of the team as well. Why do you care so much that Pacioretty was back with Desharnais for the last two periods? Therrien adjusted in-game. It worked. Geez, I really don’t get “fans” like you. Thanks for reading.

      • Rick L

        To be fair to Max Pacioretty, there are only a handful of players in the league who possess the leadership qualities Shea Weber has … signing Kirk Muller hasn’t hurt the club either, mind you …

    • Yanick

      It’s not like the Habs have a great alternative at C,including Chucky. You make do with what you have. It’s on Bergevin to get that C.

  5. Joshua Lemish

    Mitch I am one of those haters of the coach and his choices especially with #51.
    Why? Several reasons.
    1)Even if DD plays bad or ok, if the Habs win he uses it as justification for his choice.
    2)It doesn’t allow time for development, not just in this case but in general, he is so quick to fall back on his favorite pet instead of working/coaching/experimenting so he falls back on “safe” rather then exploring other options. IE why put DD on the power play instead of Radulov? MT doesn’t have an answer, it worked this time, it might fail more often then not but he wont try Radulov unless forced.
    3)MT uses his “feelings” like some hockey jedi coach. His feelings have proven to stink, #27 was only used cause of the late injury to Desharnais. The coaches feelings felt that most of the year and after a game and a half with Max last year that Alex wasn’t ready. His revisionist bullshit claimed he put them together at the end cause he felt Alex developed but MT doesn’t develop anyone on this team.

    These are the reasons people don’t like MT, he wants safe/secure/no pizzaz or sparkle but he stagnates. We want someone responsible to be sure but also someone who is smart enough to pick the moments to improve/assess/develop towards the future and MT doesn’t want that because mistakes are a threat to his employment.

  6. Mark Paterson

    I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one experiencing a happy moment of nostalgia when the cameras caught Muller and Daigneault’s post-game exchange last night. Here’s hoping that this team can build on – and this management can add to – what they’ve got going now and create some new championship-variety nostalgia in the near future. It’s become fun in recent years during on-ice Stanley Cup celebrations to speculate about, and then watch, who the winning captain passes the Cup to first. Which grizzled veteran, injury-prone battler, or persevering survivor will get the honour? It will be a scene right out of a David Cronenberg film, the heads exploding all over Montreal when Pacioretty hands the Cup to Desharnais.

  7. Ian London

    I know a lot of people are still on the fence about Andrew Shaw but I for one love the way this guy plays. Not the fanciest player in the NHL but he definitely is not one to shy away from anything whether it’s a puck coming at him trying to screen the goalie or standing up for a teammate. As the season goes on we are really going to see what these three moves (Shea, Rads and Shaw) were all about. We seem to have more depth on the team and as soon as Max and Chucky get it going and hopefully Pleks as well we will be taken seriously if we actually care what the NHL Network says about us. Until then boys: one shift, one period and one game at a time. let’s not look beyond the immediate future or should I say present.

    One final word: can everyone now stop talking about the trade? It’s done. It’s over. It’s in the past. And in the present, from my vantage point, Mr. Weber seems to be a pretty good hockey player. And the chemistry on this team hasn’t looked like this in a long time. Then again winning will do that for a team.