Habs Mailbag: Why do sticks keep breaking and why keep three goalies?

Stu Cowan answers some questions about Canadiens from Gazette readers.

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If you have a question you’d like us to ask for our weekly Habs Mailbag, you can email it to [email protected]

I watched three games last night. All three had situations where players had their sticks tapped with light stick checks that resulted in the puck-carrier’s stick breaking like a twig. Is it not time for either: 1. Hockey stick companies make stronger sticks — we’re paying over $200 each for these things 2. The NHL amend the rules to stick-break penalties. We teach stick-checks in hockey, but now these checks are causing penalties.

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Shane Oliver

Top-of-the line sticks now sell for about $400. With the high-end technology, they’re built more for performance than longevity. Since NHL teams pay for the sticks, the players don’t worry about the cost of them breaking. But it can be frustrating for players, especially when the sticks snap in half on a good scoring chance. It’s the price players pay for high-level performance.

I do think referees need to take into account how easy sticks can break when calling slashing penalties on the stick. What bothers me more is when penalties are called after a player drops his stick when an opponent stick-checks him. It’s often a case of the player simply not holding his stick strongly enough, which shouldn’t allow him to draw a penalty by dropping it.

Hi, wondered if you think there will be still three goalies after the trade deadline. Who will be traded?

Rick Hearn

Hi, Rick. That’s a very good question. I would expect Jake Allen to get traded before the March 8 NHL trade deadline and possibly as part of a package deal involving more players than just him leaving the Canadiens. Allen is 33 and has struggled this season, so I don’t think there would be much of a return from him in a one-for-one trade.

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The three-goalie situation isn’t good for any of the goalies or head coach Martin St. Louis, who is forced to give them all playing time. GM Kent Hughes said at his mid-season news conference that he’d like to trade a goalie before the deadline, but added it’s possible the three-goalie situation lasts until the end of the season. If that’s the case, I’m certain Hughes will rectify the situation during the off-season.

On the PK, the Canadiens appear to be very passive. They’re largely standing in-place and the more skilled teams generally have no problem passing around them until they hit an open man for a good scoring chance. Why don’t the Canadiens adopt a more aggressive strategy as, for example, the Hurricanes do?

John Sheppard

Another good question, John, and I’ve wondered that myself, which is why I asked St. Louis about it after a recent game. Here’s what he said:

“It’s a fine line. There’s moments I feel that we can be more aggressive and we’re still working on that. But if you just want to be aggressive you’re stretching yourself and you’re opening a lot of stuff on the inside, so you got to be careful. Everybody has a way to kill. I like the approach we’re taking right now. We’re still working on details and I know the way we’re killing right now, is that going to be the way we’re going to kill in a month? I don’t know. You always got to evolve. There’s so much video and pre-scout against you that they’re going to see holes and stuff and then you got to evolve with it a little bit. It’s a work in progress … it’s day-to-day stuff.”

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Do you think the Habs will play Lane Huston this season?

Paul Martin

I do. Hughes has already said he’d like to sign Hutson to an NHL entry-level contract after his sophomore season is done this year with Boston College. Hutson will want to burn off the first year of his entry-level deal by playing with the Canadiens this season and I expect that to happen. By playing some games, the Canadiens will get a better idea whether Hughes might be ready to make the jump to the NHL next season or whether he will need some time with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

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