Just as the Montreal Canadiens were getting ready for the return of Rene Bourque, who skated on a regular line in practice today and is expected to draw into the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Capitals, the Habs have learned that top-4 blueliner Alexei Emelin is done for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee. The minute-munching Russian, who has spent his season to Andrei Markov's right, ranked third on the team in EV TOI/G and 2nd among D in CF%, with greater on-ice numbers than off-ice numbers. Emelin was really coming into his own this season and his absence will put pressure throughout the lineup, likely giving Davis Drewiskie and Francis Bouillon more responsibility. Also, the importance of Raphael Diaz, who by scoring chances performed at a top-4 clip earlier in the year, has grown with this news. The right-handed Swiss defender is still not practicing with the team, but Michel Therrien notes that Diaz is looking better now than he has in previous weeks. Overall, Emelin's injury is pretty disappointing and we wish him the best in his recovery. If you're bummed like I am, here are some links that will hopefully cheer you up.
Habs News and Analysis
- The Habs have three games this week, a match against the surging Capitals on Tuesday, a meeting with the pitiful Sabres on Wednesday, and a game in Toronto on Saturday. Expect the aforementioned Rene Bourque and the recently recalled Nathan Beaulieu to be back in the lineup against Washington.
- Dave Stubbs has a recap on Saturday's game against the Bruins that I really enjoyed. Stubbs notes the various excuses Boston players gave for their poor last-minute powerplay as well as a breakdown of Zdeno Chara's dive in the third period. With regards to embellishment, Stubbs has this gem:
If, say, Habs defenceman P.K. Subban had hit the deck à la Chara on a similar jersey-tug Saturday, Bruins fans would have spontaneously combusted."
General News and Analysis
- On the opposite end of the injury news spectrum, there is some fantastic news for Ottawa Senators' fans. A mere seven and a half weeks after his left Achilles tendon was sliced by Matt Cook's skate blade, reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson has resumed skating individually.
- With a win over the Nashville Predators last night, the Chicago Blackhawks are the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season.
- HockeyAnalysis.com's David Johnson gives us some tips on how to take full advantage of advanced stats when doing player analysis. He notes that shooting percentages can represent genuine "finishing ability", not just luck and therefore should be given weight in analysis. He concludes his piece by noting that WOWY (with or without you) is his favourite tool for "advanced player evaluation."
- It seems as if the deed to the Phoenix Coyotes was in the "Money in the Bank" briefcase at last night's Wrestlemania XXIX. Whether this can be considered a prize, like the Intercontinental Championship, or a burden, like having to face the Big Show at SummerSlam, is up for debate. The wonderful PGI of Lighthouse Hockey has the scoop.
- Gary Bettman brings a different perspective to the Phoenix Coyotes situation. The commissioner is hopeful that the Coyotes will be able to stay in Arizona. Bettman notes that the league "hasn't been exploring alternatives" due to the "considerable interest" the Coyotes have generated. This interest includes a bid submitted by "Canadian businessmen George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc", as well as a proposal by "N.Y. businessman Darin Pastor" and his Buffalo-based group.
- The Winter Classic is back on with Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium on January 1, 2014. Toronto's inclusion will mark the first time that a Canadian team has participated in a Winter Classic.
- Alexander Ovechkin has moved into a tie with Steven Stamkos for the Rocket Richard lead. The Great Eight has scored 15 goals in the last 12 games, bringing him to 25 total on the season.
- The final four is set in the World Women's Hockey Championship. Team Finland will take on Team USA and Canada will take on Alexei Yashin's Russian team for spots in the gold medal match. You can catch Canada's semifinal match at 7:30 ET tonight on TSN.
Archive Material and EOTP News
- Chris and Andrew deserve special recognition for their work last week. Andrew's April Fool's joke, which he worked on with Chris and the fine folks over at PPP, and Chris' Fenwick research were two of the biggest posts of the year. Over the last seven days, those two pieces did nine times the traffic compared to the third ranked article in the same time period! They are truly the P.K. Subbans of the blog. It's a fantastic accomplishment worthy of some love.