Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Game 27: Devils vs. Habs

Montreal 5, New Jersey 2

FIRST PERIOD:

- Wow, Greg Pateryn sustained a broken ankle the *2nd* period of the Blues game, meaning he played the 3rd with a broken leg. Habs announce he's out for 8 weeks, and needless to say, out for tonight's game, which means for certain that Zach Redmond will make his debut.

- Danault is also in - so at least the Habs will be playing with something resembling a lineup.

- Lehkonen's game continues to round into form as this season progresses. He got off to a sluggish start and then the injury which took him out of the lineup for 9 games. That time off might have been a blessing in disguise, in part because it's given him a reset, and given that the Swedish League's season schedule pales in comparison to the rigours of an NHL season, that time off could pay off down the road into next year.

- Halfway through the period, not a bad start for the Habs - Mitchell line and in particular, Gallagher, look pretty energized. Brendan well overdue for a scoring outbreak - it looks like he's getting close.

- Welcome back, Nathan Beaulieu, who scores a wrister with a lot of traffic in front of Schneider. Devils think there's interference, but it looks like Lehkonen and Danault did a nice job screening him.

- Silly challenge by the Devils here claiming goaltender interference, which was very marginal at best, and now the Devils lose their timeout, which could be important later.

- Danault gets credit, which ends another scoring drought of another Habs player. So Brendan, its your turn next.

- Jersey scores, but Price definitely pushed into the net by Henrique. I don't think this will count.

- Maybe it will count. Puck was unquestionably going in before Price was bumped off his feet. It may still count after all.

- Yup, there it is. Determined that puck was going in, and the bump on Price had no affect on whether the puck was kept out. So tie game.

- Habs catch a break with Mitchell taking a shot where the rebound hits Lappin, and goes in. Very quickly Habs retake lead. So far the Mitchell/Danault make-do situation is working out. Early days, though.

- Woah, Carey Price just goes ballistic on Palmeri, who crashes the net. Kind of stuck his left leg into Price while falling, and Carey just plows him with the blocker.

- Well, that was an interesting period, taking nearly an hour to play. Habs had slight edge in play, Devils more or less played a decent road period. Danault and Mitchell filled in nicely up the middle, while Plekanec looked a little lost. Price going nuts is the highlight, though. Good on him for standing up for himself and his physical well-being.


SECOND PERIOD:

- First period corsi, Habs a slight SA edge (5v5) of 52.8%:


- We have a feisty game going on, the turning point being the Price scrummage. Maybe even the goal that was scored on him, where Price was pushed into the net. Anyway, lots of post-whistle fisticuffs.

- Both officials trying to gain control of the game by bringing the hammer down on everything, including a phantom tripping call against Redmond.

- Here's something very interesting just tweeted during the 1st intermission:

Kind of paints a different picture about the captains lack of production during the month, doesn't it?

- This might be Torrey Mitchell's best game so far this season. He's definitely embracing the new responsibilities.

- Lehkonen, who we praised in the 1st period, and also noted the Devils were foolish to blow their challenge on a marginal call, scores, with Schneider getting bumped a little. We warned ya Jersey, but you didn't listen.

- Devils forwards seem to be keying in on Price's blocker side - they've beat him there twice this period, but not the goalposts.

- Devante Smith-Pelly looks his usual disinterested and uninvolved. Doing a pretty good impersonation of his stint as a Hab last season, it would appear.

- Habs powerplay has gone south the past 10 days or so, and with Galchenyuk gone, the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, plus Andrew Shaw on the first unit is killing the advantage.

- Andy Greene is just so good. Always seems to be where the puck is, or is headed, while defending his zone.

- Very solid 2nd period for the Habs, who are in control of a game that's largely calmed down quite a bit, credit to the officials for sending the message out, and the players listened. The reconstructed lineup are holding their own, with Mitchell, Lehkonen and Danault having a strong outing. Even Zach Redmond looks pretty decent in his debut.


THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs kind of dominate tonight, 62.0% SA CF (5v5) through 40 minutes, scoring chances also favouring Montreal 15-5:


- Pretty awful night for the Devils, especially defender Kyle Quincey who makes a very bad turnover right in front of his own net, Pacioretty beats Schneider between the pads, and it's 4-1.

- So I guess there was something to the pregame analysis of the Devils defence being not very good? Apart from Greene, there's a pretty steep decline on their blue line. This team is most definitely not competing for a playoff spot.

- Devils powerplay, Price kicks out a big rebound off a point shot, Henrique with a nifty backhand pass off the rebound on the tape of Taylor Hall, who  has 24 square feet of empty hockey net to choose from. 4-2.

- Ain't no better combo for the Habs right now than Radulov and Pacioretty. I mean, it's not even close. These to have the potential of being a premier offensive duo in the Eastern Conference. That's how good they've been together.

- Not much happening - after then Devils powerplay goal, game flow seized up considerably, as the Canadiens appear set on trying to suffocate the game clock. Devils really haven't provided much of a response so far.

- Habs are going to set a season mark for shots tonight, 44 registered so far with 5 minutes left in the 3rd. Possession stats are also pretty lopsided. 63% game total right now.

- It wasn't Gallagher, but he did most of the hard work winning the puck and feeding Torrey Mitchell, who makes it 5-2. Both he and Gallagher have been excellent tonight, especially in the Devils zone.

- Pretty easy win tonight for the Habs - registering season high 49 shots, the Devils looked beaten from the 2nd period forward, at the very least, disinterested. Always nice to have one of those routine victories here and there - gives the team the closest thing to having a night off while playing - with very good support by players who've been called on to elevate their game - including Mitchell and Danault. Carr and Gallagher also were strong tonight, Pacioretty is still finding the back of the net - so for the moment, even with all the bad injury news, spirits are a bit higher in Habsland.

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GAMEDAY PREVIEW: WHERE HAVE ALL THE CENTERS GONE?

- Hey, remember how yesterday we put up a tweet from 91.9 Sport in Montreal, and the stellar reporting of George Laraque? Let's put that baby up one more time:

Mmm yeah, that's the stuff: EXCLUSIF!!!!! Well, quite literally a couple of hours after George delivered his EXCLUSIF!!!!!, the Habs quietly tweeted this:


EXCLUSIF!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, that's midling bad news for the Habs. Not good, but not terrible. Given that we heard some EXCLUSIF!!!!! reports that Galchenyuk could be out 3-4 months, 1-2 months ain't great, but it's survivable.

Maybe a little more problematic is Desharnais' status, the same as Galchenyuk, because while losing AK27 into January hurts, the Habs probably could have made do with existing assets, which included Desharnais providing top 6 duties. Now down two centers, matters get a little trickier for the Habs. They'll be leaning hard on Tomas Plekanec and ... well ... who else? Torrey Mitchell? Phillip Danault?

Oh wait, about Danault ...

Hmm, another forward that can also play center? Great. Well, I guess we could still dress 7 defensemen ... sorry, what's that?
Ahhh, well ... I give up. Now what?

The suddenly sick and injured Habs hobble back to home base tonight to host the New Jersey Devils. The Canadiens might actually literally find themselves unable to put together a full lineup tonight because with Desharnais injured, and Danault possibly out from sickness, and with the Habs demoting both Mark Barberio and Charles Hudon yesterday, there aren't enough players to go around, with perhaps both Greg Pateryn and Danault unable to play tonight. At the very least Sven Andrighetto was called up, but even his addition might still not be enough to ice a full lineup.

The Devils, meanwhile, enter the game masters of extra time this season. Of the 8 games just played, 6 have either gone to overtime. Which I suppose is one way of saying the Devils like to play it close. But then it's always been that way for New Jersey. Paltry offence, grinding defence. It never changes.

Or is their defence good? Maybe not. If you look through this fine post on the Devils blog site All About the Jersey, the once always-reliable blue line has been rather inconsistent this season. Specifically, the performance decline by the Devils' top defensive pairing of Andy Greene and Damon Severson, whose offensive numbers, once deemed pretty reliable, have taken a hit this season, which has in turn, added pressure on a somewhat thin offence (as per the Devils' tradition) to produce more than they're capable of.

Meanwhile, New Jersey's top defensive defenseman pairing of Beau Bennett and Kyle Quincey haven't been particular defensive the past while, with their SA numbers markedly increasing.

Which is to say, the Devils' defensive challenges right now might be just enough to give the Habs injury riddled offence a fighting chance tonight.

The question is, are the Montreal Canadiens capable of actually scoring enough to win with the likes of Plekanec and Andrew Shaw being at the controls?

We'll find out in a few hours, with the puck dropping at 7:40 EST.

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WEDNESDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

Well, we've got ourselves quite a mixed bag of Habs news today.

This is totally unverified, but troubling just to even think about:
Again, the source, which would appear to be the utterly unreliable Georges Laraque, ought be considered. The 3-4 month timeline, however, would align with a suspected torn ACL injury.


- David Desharnais - also out indefinitely? Last night Desharnais appeared to awkwardly hit is knee while awkwardly attempting to deliver an awkward bodycheck to the Blues' Jay Bouwmeester:


I've been critical about Desharnais' uncanny ability to shoot when he should pass, while passing when he should should - but bodychecking? Just, no, no, no. Desharnais is 5'9", 160 pounds, Bouwmeester is 6'4, 220 pounds. Who's going to win that collision?

Quite a road trip, eh? Habs come out of it down their 1 and 3C. Now what? Com'on Michel, just try Radulov up the middle. Just try, at least.

- Demotion news! Mark Barberio has been sent back to the rock, likely making way for the return of Nathan Beaulieu Thursday night. I mused last night the Habs might consider using Zach Redmond against the Devils, sitting Pateryn. Boy, did I get that one wrong.

- Carey Price was named Molson Cup winner for the month of November. The award, which is nothing other than a popularity contest dressed up as an ugly trophy, ought to have gone to the Habs actual MVP, Alex Radulov, but I digress.

- Habs made another demotion this afternoon, and it's Charles Hudon:

Hmm, shame that. That's a pretty fast recovery from what seemed to have been a bad injury sustained in practice. Instead of giving him more opportunity to establish himself, management has opted to send him back.

More in a bit.