Saturday, October 18, 2008

Denis on a roll

Marc Denis has gotten off to a great start for the Hamilton Bulldogs, allowing only four goals while winning his first three starts. He has a save percentage of .958 on 95 shots through three games, and he shutout the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday night 2-0.

I'm not sure if he'll be getting the start tonight against his former team the Norfolk Admirals, but if the Bulldogs win it will be their best start to a season since they began playing in Hamilton.

For those of you who are saying that it's normal for Denis to be putting up numbers like this in the AHL, you should have a look at what he did last year in Norfolk. Denis played in 32 games and had only one shutout, a mark he's already matched this year. He also had an unspectacular .910 save percentage with a 2.91 GAA and an 11-17-2 record, though he was playing on the second-worst team in the league.

Why is this in any way important? Because if Denis can keep this up, it makes it far easier to trade Jaroslav Halak at some point this season. Denis has the ideal makeup of an NHL backup because he has experience, 348 games worth in the big league. The Canadiens would have to give him enough time in Hamilton to make sure he's found his game again, but if he has, Denis would be a great mentor for Carey Price in Montreal while Halak could be used to grab a final missing piece to the Habs championship puzzle.

I've already noted my belief the Habs could use another good defenceman to take a run at the Cup, and I still think Halak is a big enough chip to be able to do that. What he accomplished at the AHL level is nothing to sneeze at, because he was easily the best goalie in the league in each of the past two seasons.

Last year he was 15-10-2 with a .929 save percentage, a 2.10 GAA and two shutouts before being called up to the Habs following the Cristobal Huet trade. And that was with a non-playoff team. The year before, when Price was swooped in and led the Bulldogs to the Calder Cup while Halak played at the world championships for Slovakia, he had a 16-11-0 record with a .932 save percentage, 2.00 GAA and six shutouts in only 28 games. Halak also had a 3-0 shutout win against Norway at the worlds while losing a 5-4 decision to Canada, which is almost like a win playing for an overmatched Slovakian team.

Anyone who thinks teams around the league aren't salivating at the thought of adding Halak and his meagre $775,000 cap hit for this season and next simply doesn't understand the economics of today's game. You just don't get quality goaltending at that price, or at least it's very hard to find.

That combination of talent and value makes Halak a very hot commodity, one that could be used to shore up a team for whom a Cup run has a deadline attached because of all the contracts expiring at the end of this season.

In other news from Hamilton, Max Pacioretty has one assist through three games, while Ben Maxwell, David Desharnais, Greg Stewart and Ryan Russell each have three points to lead the team. That ties Maxwell and Desharnais for fourth in rookie scoring in the league. Yannick Weber has thrown a team-high 13 shots on goal, scoring once on the power play, while Kyle Chipchura was named the "Workhorse of the Game" in his season debut Friday night against Hartford.

Check back after tonight's game against Phoenix for post-game analysis. Enjoy the game everyone.

1 comment:

Arjun said...

I don't think Denis has anything to teach Price. He's not a mentor. He's mediocre. Price is a freak. He doesn't need a mentor. For real.