Injuries Open Door for Habs’ Rookies
Bournival (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
By Matthew Macaskill (@Habsology)
The Montreal Canadiens haven’t had much luck with injuries to start the 2013-14 NHL season. Seven regulars find themselves on the sidelines heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. Their combined salary cap hit is over $16 million dollars, which makes filling the holes difficult for GM Marc Bergevin, who is already working with little cap space.
The injury woes started during the preseason when defensemen Douglas Murray (upper-body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) were sidelined. They joined Alexei Emelin, who was already out with a knee injury suffered at the end of last season.
In the first game of the season, heavyweight George Parros was the knocked out of the lineup with a concussion. His injury was sustained during a fight with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Colton Orr as Parros was pulled down to the ice as mid-swing.
When Max Pacioretty was helped off the ice by his teammates in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, many feared the worst. Exaggerated guesses pegged the 24-year-old out for the season. So when the team announced that he’d only miss three weeks, fans in the Greater Montreal area let out a sigh of relief.
The infirmary welcomed two new additions in the midst of a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators last Saturday night. Daniel Briere suffered his third concussion in as many seasons when Gabriel Bourque collided with him. Then late in the game, versatile forward Brandon Prust hurt his right shoulder when he fell heavily into the boards.
(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
While Michael Bournival made the Montreal Canadiens’ roster out of training camp, he didn’t suit up for his first NHL game until the second game of the season. Bournival’s NHL debut against the Philadelphia Flyers was an opportunity afforded to him as a result of Parros’ injury in game one.
Bournival has dressed for five of eight games this season and scored his first NHL goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 5-3 victory. With four forwards currently out of the lineup, Bournival finds himself flanking veterans Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. Along with the promotion came the news that the 21-year-old was told to find an apartment in the city and is in Montreal to play for the season.
The rookie’s greatest asset is his speed, which he uses to play a sound defensive game. Playing with Plekanec, one of the best two-way centres in the league, will be excellent for Bournival’s development toward a similar role. Playing among the team’s top two lines will also reward him with a chance to increase his offensive production.
If Bournival can prove he can keep up with his new linemates and help them shutdown the opponent’s top lines, he will be well on his way to carving out a long and successful career in the NHL with the Habs.
Reinforcements: Holland Set to Play First NHL Game
With Briere out of the lineup, rookie Patrick Holland was called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Lethbridge, Alberta native will make his NHL debut against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night. Known as @PattySchways on Twitter, the 21-year-old is an amiable player in the dressing room and has history with Brendan Gallagher.
Holland will slot into the Canadiens’ right-wing position on the fourth line alongside Ryan White. Mike Blunden, who was also called up from Hamilton to fill Prust’s spot in the lineup, will play left-wing with them.
While it’s impossible to replace a soldier like Prust in the lineup, Blunden will do his best as an energy player. At 26-years old Blunden is still young enough to secure a role for himself in the NHL, but the window to do so is closing. He has the size at 6’4 and 214lbs, he finishes his checks, and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves. However, he’ll have to prove he can avoid taking costly penalties, especially playing alongside White who has been guilty of crossing the line in the past.
Leblanc, Pateryn Among Those Still Waiting
While some were surprised when Leblanc was cut earlier than expected at training camp, whether or not the former 2009 first round pick should have received a call up over Holland or Blunden is also debatable.
Leblanc has found himself playing on the fourth line in Hamilton, which has some questioning how Bulldogs’ head coach Sylvain Lefebvre and Bergevin have been treating the 22-year-old.
Through four games with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Leblanc has zero points, nine shots, and four penalty minutes. The recent call-ups have fared better: Holland has a goal and an assist; Blunden has two goals and an assist through three games.
Rookies Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu have received some playing time with the club this season. However, neither blueliner has yet to make a strong enough impression on Therrien to stick in the lineup. Tinordi has the edge in games played, but his time on ice has been decreasing steadily.
While the Canadiens rotate between Tinordi and Beaulieu, with Beaulieu bouncing back and forth between Hamilton and Montreal to save on cap space, defenseman Greg Pateryn is having a strong start for the Bulldogs. In four games, the 23-year-old has four points, including two goals and two assists.
Pateryn played a trio of games with the Canadiens last season and he was the best all-around defenseman at the Habs 2013 rookie camp in my opinion. He’s a physical presence in front of the net and possess a strong, accurate shot from the point that finds its way through traffic.
If the Therrien can’t settle on Tinordi or Beaulieu, it might be time to give Pateryn a shot. At the very least, it would allow Tinordi and Beaulieu an opportunity to play top-pairing minutes in Hamilton.