MONTREAL – While the Canadiens’ second half of the season is already in full swing, the Bulldogs are just hitting the mid-year mark. So just how have the young pups been spending their time on the farm thus far?
After exploding out of the gate to start the campaign, the Bulldogs are on pace for a record season. Riding stellar goaltending and key young talent, Guy Boucher’s troops posted the second-best first-half in franchise history, going 26-9-3-3 and racking up 58 points.
Only the 2002-03 edition of the Bulldogs had a better start to a campaign, posting 63 points and a dominant 29-6-3-2 through the first half. That season, the strong start translated into an equally potent finish, with the boys from Steel Town finishing atop the AHL with 110 points overall. The postseason was just as solid for the Bulldogs that year, pushing the Houston Aeros to the limit in the Calder Cup final.
The key to any great team is depth – which the Bulldogs have at all three positions.
While the goaltending has been the story so far, Hamilton’s entire defensive corps has vaulted the Bulldogs into the AHL’s elite this year. In 40 games, the team has given up just 85 goals against – good enough for second in the league behind only the Hershey Bears.
Since November 28, netminder Cedrick Desjardins has suited up for 14 games, winning all but one of those starts. Enjoying a career year to date, Desjardins boasts a 17-5-1 record to go with his five shutouts and is second in the league with a stingy 1.62 goals-against average. Curtis Sanford’s time between the pipes in Hamilton has been almost as productive, posting a 2.26 GAA along with a sparkling .915 save percentage.
When it comes to keeping the puck out of their net, the Bulldogs’ netminders also have their stalwart defensive brigade to thank, with the blue-liners blocking 23.5% of the opposition’s shots every game. Their efforts in their own zone have earned the ‘Dogs an incredible plus-139 differential to date. On the back end, rookie rearguard P.K. Subban
has proven to be a one-man wrecking crew, earning a plus-22 differential and piling up nine goals and 18 assists in 40 games, good enough for third among AHL defensemen and fifth among all rookies.
When the Bulldogs hit the ice, though, they’re not about to trap their way to 1-0 wins. With 131 goals-for on the year, the team is the second-most productive in the AHL. The centers are at the top of the class in offense, with pivots Brock Trotter, David Desharnais
and Ben Maxwell occupying the first, second and third spots on the points leaderboard. With threats on three lines, the Bulldogs are giving opposing defenses all they can handle in the offensive zone.
With just over a half season already under their belts, the Bulldogs are already poised to transfer their explosive start into a long playoff run this spring. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.See alsoInauguration of a second outdoor community rink Scoring some smiles Habs this week – January 11, 2010