MONTREAL – It’s often said good defense leads to offense. Anyone still skeptical of that need to look no further than the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau preaches it to his charges on a regular basis. Down on the farm, Don Lever is doing the exact same and it’s paying off.
Heading into Wednesday’s tilt against division-rival Manitoba, the Bulldogs had plenty of positives on his roster. Of the 29 players (goalies excluded) to have suited up for at least one game this season, all but three find themselves on the plus side of a plus-minus differential and no rating was lower than a minus-2. As a whole, the team has combined for a plus-140 rating, to sit third in the entire AHL.
Their solid play in their own end has spurred an extremely balanced offensive corps that boasts 10 players with at least 20 points, and several others knocking at the door. Add to that seven others with double-digit totals and you have a Hamilton squad that continues to sit second in the league in goals-for.
After appearing in just 25 contests last year, Ryan Russell has had a stellar 2008-09 campaign so far. The 21-year-old has five points in his last six games and has proven to be a stable force in his own end as well, leading all Bulldogs with a plus-17 differential.
Ben Maxwell got his first taste of the NHL, appearing in seven games with the Habs in December. Returned to Hamilton just in time for the new year, the fresh-faced centerman has continued where he left off before arriving in Montreal. Maxwell has scored nine points this month and brought a seven-game points streak into Wednesday’s matchup with the Moose.
Fellow new recruit David Desharnais
has also been having a solid debut to 2009. Currently third in team scoring, the Quebec City native has put up 30 points in 42 appearances so far. After starting the month with nine points in six games, though, his production has tailed off slightly of late; Desharnais has been held off the scoresheet in his last three contests.
After squaring off with the Manitoba Moose on Wednesday, the Bulldogs host their Calder Cup successors, the Chicago Wolves, on Friday and will wrap up their pre-All-Star schedule with a visit to the Binghamton Senators.