A familiar face is on his way back to Montreal tonight. The Habs have traded away a fifth round pick for one-time Canadiens defenseman Paul Mara. Mara was caught up in a lineup game with Ducks coach Randy Carlyle and found himself lost in the shuffle. Mara had played in 30 games for the Ducks this year and wound up with a goal and an assist with 40 penalty minutes and a -1 plus/minus rating.
Mara plays a tougher, match-up defensive style of game and with Montreal dealing with injuries to Andrei Markov and Hal Gill, their defensive depth was being tested as they’ve been playing Alexander Picard and Yannick Weber in his place. While those guys are nice, young defensemen they’re not exactly what coach Jacques Martin is looking for defensively.
With Mara back in the fold in Montreal, they’ve got a guy who is familiar with the system and knows what they’re looking to do. Mara was with the Habs last season but had injury problems and didn’t get to play much winding up in just 42 games. He’s not a world beater by any means, but he’s a good, solid depth piece for Montreal and someone a bit more reliable defensively. With the Habs dedicating more of their strength to playing tough defense, it’s a move that makes sense for them.
Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens
First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.
It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.
You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.
As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.
(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)
That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:
This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.
That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.
Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.
By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Not sure what’s funnier, the Habs entering a rebuild a year after making a gigantic “win now” trade, or the fact that 32-year-old defenseman isn’t someone they’d move while rebuilding.
Now, any time you see people scrape blood off the ice, you get a reminder of how dangerous – and yeah, occasionally strange – hockey can be. That only becomes more disturbing when that blood is coming from a player as important as Alex Ovechkin:
Remarkably, Ovechkin is returning for the third period of the Capitals’ game against the Minnesota Wild.
This is a reminder that Ovechkin is tough, in case you foolishly think he isn’t because … his teams have lost in big games or something? Considering how recklessly he often throws his body around, and how infrequently he misses games due to to injury, you’d think that debate would have died a long time ago. Moments like this make it seem that much sillier.
Ovechkin must really want to help the struggling Capitals turn things around.
Maybe he wants to hang an L on his old boss Bruce Boudreau?
Anyway, PHT will keep an eye on these situations. Sometimes there are more answers the night of events, and sometimes it takes a little longer.
Right now, it’s reasonable for Capitals fans and Blackhawks fans to feel some relative, even if it’s only in the interim.
Update: The Capitals ended up winning 3-1, thanks in large part to Braden Holtby‘s strong night.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been up-and-down so far in 2017-18, but Corey Crawford has been brilliant almost every night he’s been in net. It’s to the point that he might be a little underrated, as people assume that Chicago will keep finding ways to win, possibly missing how big a part he’s playing in its successes.
Crawford’s been able to clean up a lot of messes, so Saturday brought a scare, as he seemed to take head contact from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.
You can see the contact in the video above. It seemed like quite a collision, as part of Malkin (thigh? middle-boy) seemed to connect with Crawford at a fairly high speed.
The penalty call drew at least some complaints from Penguins fans, but the important thing either way is that the Blackhawks took a look at Crawford before allowing him to return to the game.
Malkin played the puck AND Crawford was out of his crease. Absolute joke penalty. It happened 20 feet away from me. Joke ref.
Now, we’ve seen players return to action only to miss games in the future, so it’s still worth monitoring Crawford. Considering how important he is to the Blackhawks, they have to hope that it was one of those plays that looked more painful than it actually was.
Also, with some justifiable complaints about players not going through concussion protocol lately, a lot of people are pleased with Chicago for at least assessing Crawford. We’ll see if anything changes, but right now, this seems like a dodged bullet (but not a dodged Malkin).
Update: Not only did Crawford stick with it, he made a big difference in the Blackhawks beating the Penguins 2-1, including making this save:
Chicago sure seems to have an edge on Pittsburgh lately, by the way:
As of this writing, the Arizona Coyotes have the least standings points in the NHL (11) despite playing a league-leading 22 games.
Things could change for this young team, but for now, it’s about small victories, which makes actual wins that much bigger. Perhaps what they really needed was this road trip through Canada?
After losing to the Jets in Winnipeg 4-1 on Nov. 14 (no real shame, really, as everyone’s losing to the Jets lately … just ask the Devils), the Coyotes left Claude Julien and the Montreal Canadiens fuming by getting their first regulation win of 2017-18 by a score of 5-4.
Arizona couldn’t make it consecutive wins in regulation, but when Anthony Duclair completed a hat trick with the overtime game-winner, they did something rare: the Coyotes won back-to-back games. Yes, gang, those scrappy kids now have their very own winning streak after today’s 3-2 OT win against the Ottawa Senators.
They wrap up this run of Canadian games by facing the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday.
Just like any self-respecting sports team, the Coyotes get to participate in a ceremony after wins.
At 4-15-3, Arizona might already be in too big of a hole to make any waves. Even so, they can gain some respect, and show that they’re not as bad as their record indicates. Heck, a win in Toronto would give them an undeniably successful road trip, something that’s not always a layup even for established, contending teams.