Monday, February 27, 2012

A Great Weekend for Tanking

To paraphrase R&B sensation Rihanna about the Montreal Canadiens weekend:

"Cheers - to the tankin' weekend.
Habs tanked that, yeah yeah.
Oh, let reality sink in.
Habs tankin' it, yeah yeah.
Don't let their losses get ya down,
They'll turn it 'round in the first round,
Draft party Montreal - Grigs or Galch - I'd tank for that.
I'd tank for thaaaaaat."

Let's start with Friday. A Habs loss was important, both for dropping their own standing and also for helping the Washington Capitals to pass the Leafs. The out-of-town scoreboard featured 2 key upsets, with the East's 13th place New York Islanders picking up 2 points against the first place New York Rangers, and the 12th place Buffalo Sabres defeating the 2nd place Boston Bruins, allowing those teams to gain ground on Montreal.

The Habs may have been off Saturday, but the Leafs lost a huge one to the Caps - a result worthy of a fist pump. The Jets - also fighting for a playoff spot ahead of Toronto - nabbed a point against St. Louis, as did the Sabres against the Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes against the Florida Panthers. The 2 points for Florida also helps them to stay ahead of the Leafs should they lose their division lead to Winnipeg or Washington.

Finally, another Hab loss on Sunday has left them squarely in 15th place in the East, with the game also meaning a 2-point gain for the Panthers to give them a division lead cushion. Also Sunday, 11th place Tampa Bay beat 6th place New Jersey to earn them some more points before more of their players are expected to be sold off today.

Painful to watch the Habs blow another 2-0 lead yesterday? Maybe in the short term. But in the grand scheme of things, the weekend was a huge step towards adding a big, star center like Mikhail Grigorenko or Alex Galchenyuk to the line-up.

And the NHL results weren't the only thing to make Habs fans smile about the future over the weekend. Though recently hot Hab prospect and Hamilton Bulldog winger Blake Geoffrion was quieter with no points and just a shootout goal in 2 games, those at the junior level picked up the slack.

Let's start with Patrick Holland, the prospect acquired from Calgary in the Mike Cammalleri trade. Incredibly, he has scored FOUR points in EACH of his last FOUR games! He has 3 goals and 13 assists during that span, and totals 26-points over an active 10-game point scoring streak. Holland is far from a bluechipper, but there will be something there to watch as he transitions to the pro game in the AHL next season. Despite his current streak, Holland remains just 3rd in team scoring with 96 points in 62 games... but still good enough for 6th in overall league scoring (and first in assists)!

Sticking with the WHL, everyone's favourite little-big man Brendan Gallagher snapped a 2-game pointless streak by totaling 3 goals over a pair of contests this weekend. Gallagher is now up to 38 goals in 46 games, ranking 8th in the WHL, with all of those ahead of him having played 11 or more games more than he has.

Over in the QMJHL, Michael Bournival added 2 goals and 2 helpers to his stat line in Saturday and Sunday match-ups. Bournival has fallen off the goal-per-game track he had going, but still totals 27 goals and 51 points through 35 games. He is one goal away from his last season's total in 21 fewer games.

Also in the Q, Montreal's most recent first round selection, Nathan Beaulieu, scored his 9th goal of the season on Sunday. With 44 points in 46 games, he is only 1 point off his last season's total in 19 fewer games. He is 8th in the QMJHL for points amongst d-men, with all above him (including 6th ranked Morgan Ellis who had a quiet weekend) having played between 4 and 14 additional games.

Not known for his offensive touch, Jarred Tinordi set a new career high for goals in the OHL by scoring his... second... of the season. The London Knights captain has 16 points in 42 games after scoring 14 in 63 during his rookie campaign. He has continued his steady, physical play that should make him a force to be reckoned with at the NHL level. While playing on the CHL's top squad doesn't hurt, his impressive +39 rating ranks first in the Ontario League, +3 ahead of his nearest competitor (and +10 above his nearest teammate).

After scoring a goal and an assist Friday night, North Dakota forward Danny Kristo reached an important milestone on Saturday. With 1 assist, he reached the 100-point plateau for his college career, and that in just 108 games. This is his first year above the 1.00 point-per-game average thus far, as he has tied his carrer highs for both goals (15) and points (36) in 33 games, 8 fewer than he hit those numbers in during his rookie season. I am hopeful Kristo will be signed and should join the Hamilton Bulldogs next season along with all the other prospects listed above, creating an exciting incoming class.

So that's the weekend for you. But we've got a couple months to talk more about prospects and the draft. Today's focus is squarely on the Trade Deadline, with just hours remaining for General Managers to make their final moves of the season. What will happen? We'll be bringing you live coverage and analysis of moves from around the league both right here and on Twitter all day long. Stay tuned!

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