Forward lines and defense pairings
Byron – Drouin – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – De La Rose – Lehkonen
Scherbak – L. Shaw – Hudon
Deslauriers – McCarron – Carr
Benn – Petry
Alzner – Juulsen
Schlemko – Lernout
Mike Reilly, Byron Froese, Kerby Rychel
Ales Hemsky – concussion, Shea Weber – lower-body, Victor Mete – hand, Max Pacioretty – lower-body, Rinat Valiev – lower-body, Phillip Danault – upper body, Andrew Shaw – upper-body
This week it was announced that Antti Niemi would be the Masterton trophy nomineee for the Montreal Canadiens. I have said publicly for many years that the mainstream media has no business being involved in major player awards. And here is Exhibit ‘A’.
Now, understand, from their perspective, this would be the perfect fairytale story waiting to be written. In fact, the narrative is almost complete, they just need a Cinderella.
The story is well-known. Niemi had a dreadful start to the 2017-’18 season. His goaltending was beyond bad and he cycled through several teams.
Niemi arrived in Montreal off the waiver scrap heap, picked up by a team in need of a cheap, temporary solution for their backup goaltending position. Stephane Waite went to work bringing structure and confidence to Niemi’s game, two things completely absent at the start of the season.
Expectations were so low about his play that Niemi had zero pressure and benefited from the comfort of his former mentor. Niemi played well and was embraced by Canadiens fans desperate for an unsung hero in the midst of a terrible season.
And the media loved to write about this reclamation project, the wisdom of Marc Bergevin’s acquisition and the wizardry of Waite.
It was such a compelling narrative that Niemi’s poor starts were erased. His unconventional style and pure luck were ignored. These things were discarded as they didn’t fit the tale that was being spun.
Against the Penguins, once again, we saw poor positioning from Niemi leading to a boatload of rebounds. He has trouble sticking to the structure taught by his coach, reverting to a undisciplined display of scrambly play, which cannot be consistently effective. Think Dustin Tokarski.
But these are the kind of details that get in the way when writers want to engineer a preferred outcome. And for them, a Masterton win for Niemi would be the perfect story to end the season.
Has anyone considered that Niemi has just six of the Canadiens 28 wins? Six wins.
Was Niemi’s six wins more impactful in a hockey sense on the Montreal Canadiens season than, let’s say, Brendan Gallagher’s 30 goals, after his injury-filled seasons?
Apparently so, for some at least. So the logical next question is, when is Niemi’s appearance at the Fairview mall in Pointe-Claire?
▲ Noah Juulsen, Alex Galchenyuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Jacob De La Rose, Brendan Gallagher
▼ Antti Niemi, Charles Drouin, David Schlemko, Jonathan Drouin, Logan Shaw, Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Nicolas Deslauriers, penalty-kill