It's "put up or shut up" time for Habs' Benoit Pouliot

benoitpouliot1.jpgWhen Benoit Pouliot was traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Montreal Canadiens for Guillaume Latendresse, it was viewed as a deal that sent team headaches going in each direction. For a while afterward, it looked like it was a great deal for both teams as the issues each player had in their old cities disappeared and they realized their potential.

For Benoit Pouliot, the hot start he had in Montreal disappeared and the final few weeks of the season and the playoffs looked like his old ways from Minnesota as an inconsistent performer returned. Despite all that, Pouliot got a raise from the Habs but as The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey discusses, this could be Pouliot’s definitive season to show he can be an NHL star.

“It’s one year and you have to show what you have so you can get a longer deal,” Pouliot noted. “One year is not a lot but, on the other hand, it could be good for me. If I have a great year and we go far in the playoffs, it could pay off.”

Gionta said there’s no reason Pouliot shouldn’t develop into a solid top-six forward.

“You can see that he has the talent, it’s just a matter of confidence,” Gionta said. “So much of this game is mental.”

But Martin has made it clear he wants to see more from Pouliot. When he was asked where the Canadiens might have openings this season, he mentioned the left side and he wasn’t talking about Michael Cammalleri.

The Habs have more than a few players that can be plugged into coach Jacques Martin’s system if Pouliot doesn’t get his game together and play consistently better. Getting to play alongside Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta last season was a good way to get Pouliot to make better use of his size at forward rather than continuing to pretend that he’s simply a smooth-skating forward.

Somewhere along the way last season, that smart use of his size and ability to attack the net went away. Tapping into that mindset once again could help Pouliot be the guy that helps get guys like Gomez and Gionta room on the ice to create the offense the Habs are looking for and allow Pouliot to get to the net to wreak havoc.

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    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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    Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

    They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

    Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

    Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

    You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

    Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

    Read about that blowout here.

    Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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    Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

    Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

    It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

    The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

    This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

    Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

    On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

    We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

    Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

    Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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    After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

    Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

    The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

    Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

    Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

    Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

    Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

    Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

    Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

    Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

    After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

    Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

    Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

    The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.