Monday, 24 October 2016

Game 6: Flyers vs Habs


- Habs and Flyers after 40 minutes of play. Habs CF dropping all the way down to 45.2%. 

- As we mentioned earlier, the Flyers defence is not fleet afoot. Surprised the Habs gameplan didn't take advantage of this by carrying the puck in more than their usual dump-and-chase strategy.

- As the period progresses, it appears more and more the Habs are attempting to play for at least a point. Taking few offensive chances, lots of icings, and defence is really playing positionally cautious.

- Flyers shot attempts first half of the period better than 4-to-1 ratio more than the Canadiens, which is all kinds of bad if you're Montreal. 

- Radulov, holy crap. What a blast. One time pass from Weber (irony!) to set up a cannon slap shot that Mason probably didn't even see. Habs powerplay connects, and Montreal leads 2-1 with 7 minutes left.

- Apparently, Gallagher deflected that Radulov shot in, which was all kinds of amazing.

- Carey Price time to shine. Flyers are seriously in tough. They'll need something like that Gallagher goal to salvage at least a point.

- We puzzled about it when the shift was made to start the 2nd period, but the Weber/Emelin combo has easily been the Habs best pairing tonight. 

- Habs really retreating hard to their own zone, shutting down Flyers ability to organize a half-decent shot attempts. Flyers are opening up now, Desharnais just missed a glorious chance in front of Mason.

- Carey Price as per usual, does the Carey Price thing, and tonight's big start, Radulov, puts it into the empty net. That's your difference as we anticipated. Any game up for grabs with Price in the net provides an inherent advantage. Habs keep the wins going. 


- A little news was mentioned this morning about the Habs making some tweaks to their powerplay, in which they'll switch out Markov to add another forward, specifically Radulov. The Habs did this last year, using Plekanec, to mostly unsuccessful results. It really doesn't matter who the Habs send out there, if their powerplay doesn't have their forward pushing the slot, they'll continue to get mediocre results.

- Both defences aren't exactly Speedy Gonzalez, which means guys like Byron and Galchenyuk might get their share of chances tonight.

- Oooh, Habs first new look powerplay. Here we go.

- Let's not be too harsh here, but safe to say Radulov stumbled out of the new look powerplay gate.

- Anyway, unless and until the Habs modify their approach, they'll still be bottom third in the League with the man advantage. This means being more efficient gaining the zone, not being so emphatic with perimeter passing, and not obsessing over point shots from Shea Weber, who struggles with accuracy.

- Wayne Simmonds with a clear check from behind on Markov, sending Andre head first into the boards. Once again, this is the crap the NHL must eliminate, and whose officials refuse to penalize. Anyway, where's Andrew Shaw? We might seem him have more than a word with Simmonds before this night is over.

- One explanation is one of the refs, Chris Schlenker, is officiating his first NHL game. Having been in the system, I can tell you that minor league officiating does a very poor job preparing officials for making tough, but necessary calls - like checking from behind. Focus is far too much on game management (not making calls), and far too less on protecting the safety of its players.

- Kirk Muller was just interviewed at the bench by RDS, said he didn't like what he saw from the first powerplay (well, that's not a stretch), and that he's wanting "more shots". That sounds rather simplistic to me, but then again, it was just a 20 second interview.

- Ho-hum period of hockey, both team offences weren't very organized, speciality units were pretty bad, both Price and Mason faced virtually nothing of difficulty. Mostly a period of attrition by two teams that have enjoyed an early season of favourable puck luck. When teams like that face each other, the net result is usually bad and boring hockey.


- Nobody would fault you for nodding off during that 1st period. Anyway, Habs had slight puck advantage, 5v5 CF was 56.6%

- Habs 3rd line, the Desharnais line, continues to be a pleasant early season surprise for the Canadiens. Perhaps, just perhaps, Desharnais is thriving more not having to deal with the assumed pressure of being a top-6 forward. He's shown good chemistry with Byron and Shaw.

- The 2nd period has been the Flyers period this season - 12 of the 19 goals they've scored has come during this frame.

- Blue line shakeup! Weber paired with ... Emelin? HRMMM.

- No idea what's happening with Habs defence, except that it appears that Beaulieu has possibly entered Michel Therrien's doghouse.

- Habs powerhouse line tonight has been their 4th line. Which is all you need to know about how good (or terrible) this game has been.

- Excellent hustle by Radulov to win the puck behind the Flyers net, feed the line to Weber for a one timer that changes directions, and beats a blind Mason. Habs puck luck continues to dazzle this season.

- Not sure what Radulov ate for breakfast, but he's been a monster this period. Flyers would be best to just step out of the way.

- Habs 2nd powerplay, again Radulov at the point, but Galchenyuk is yanked for Desharnais. Uhh ... kay?

- Flyers tie it up, Voracek deflectng a Giroux point shot, Habs Petry and Markov not doing a very good job defending the slot.

- At this point, I think Muller is just tossing out different player combinations with the man advantage - trying to find something of a spark. That's fine early in the season, the best time to experiment. Still, this team has to do better gaining the zone. Fundamentally, that's where the dysfunction originates from.

- A slightly less awful period of hockey, but still, full sympathies to anyone who paid to see this game live. Both teams struggling to generate anything resembling momentum - passing has been poor, translation game has been disorganized, and zone entries ... mainly dump and chase affairs. This game is pretty much up for grabs - probably favouring the Canadiens with Price in net, but that aside, whomever wins tonight, it won't be a stellar 2 points. 


Alright, first let's get the lineups taken care of. Here's the Flyers:



Steve Mason

And the Habbies, same as the lineup Saturday night against the Bruins:



Carey Price

Alright, bad news. No Dale Weise! In case you hadn't seen or heard, Weise is in the middle of serving a three game suspension for this:

Oh, Dale. We love ya, but you never were the sharpest tool in the hockey shed. Anyway, since Dale isn't playing, it freed up time for him to give interviews, including one to Montreal reporter Amanda Stein, when he was quoted saying this:

An interesting perspective, but nothing we didn't already suspect. In a season that was full of Habs management pointing fingers at everyone else but themselves, you know - all part of the "no excuses" culture, it follows that the likes of Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien would ostracize Subban to shade their own failings.

Anyway, tonight's game. The Flyers are coming off a win Saturday night against Carolina, which broke a 3 game losing streak for Philadelphia, who've struggled early out of the gate. But then, just look at that lineup. Sure, the Flyers have an excellent first line, a midling 2nd line, and studs like Gostisbehere on their blue line, but after that, things really go down a steep hill. The Flyers are putting up early numbers that indicate wins will be tough to find this season - ranked 24th in EV Corsi, a passive offence with a 26th ranked S/GP, and a weak PK, something the organization has been struggling with for the past few years, still ranked near the bottom of the League in effectiveness. If there is one saving grace for the Flyers it's been their PDO, 5th ranked at 103.1, largely because of the Flyers' ridiculous shooting percentage early in the season - 13.9% - by far the best in the NHL. If it wasn't for the Flyers knack for finding the net, they could easily be 0-5, instead of 2-2-1.

One interesting stat to take note of - the defensive zone starts. The Flyers have been excellent here - just 25% of their faceoffs have been in their zone this season - likely in part because Philadelphia likes to play an aggressive forecheck, in part because their defence does a pretty decent job initiating transition.

Over in Habsland, it's full steam ahead, with the Canadiens now the only NHL team that hasn't suffered a regulation loss. As we mentioned yesterday, the underlying numbers so far indicate the Habs have enjoyed the benefit of significant puck luck, in combination with very good goaltending. It's not a matter of if, but when, the Habs luck will regress to the norm. Likely sooner rather than later. Whether the Canadiens can still muster up victories without the bounces is a looming question.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.