Thursday, 29 December 2011

Game Thirty-Eight: Habs v. Lightening

Lineup tonight almost exactly the same as Tuesday, with Leblanc reportedly getting a bit of a promotion from his good play to the Desharnais line, while Plekanec has been shifted to third line duty along side Kostitsyn and Moen. I wouldn't read too much into Plekanec's shift, as Cunneyworth has almost certainly designated that line to shadow Lecavalier/St.Louis/Stamkos.

Campoli once again is a healthy scratch, which will fuel the speculative fires that his performance since coming off the injury list has been so lackluster that he's played himself off the team.

Price gets the nod - Budaj might get a start against Florida on Saturday night. We'll see.

First Period:

- While the Habs record during the usual Florida swing hasn't been stellar over the years, one thing is guaranteed - there's always a huge turnout of support by expats and vacationers, making tonight's game virtually a home game for the Canadiens.

- I suppose only the hardcore faithful will be tuning in tonight, what with team Canada playing in 30 minutes at the World Juniors. But faithful we stay, 'till the bitter end.

- If there was ever an unstoppable shot, that was it. Stamkos with a brilliant deflection off a point shot, putting it right under the crossbar. Habs can only shrug that one off.

- Brett Clark takes a tripping call, and in case you're wondering, he's one of four ex-Habs in Tampa's lineup tonight.

- Desharnais with brilliant patience and awareness to set up Cammalleri for the PP marker. Game tied. Arena very noisy, unsurprisingly.

- Tampa's Gervais with a great block of a high percentage position shot by Desharnais, who's really motoring tonight.

- If there was a stat for players fanning on the puck from can't miss scoring positions, Matt Darche would have to be a League leader.

- Habs forwards with excellent traffic in front of Tampa's net, aided I'm sure by the chronically soft play of the Lightening defense.

- Ridiculous hold on Cole attempting to pursue the puck into the Lightening zone. Clark should have served another two in the box, but the officials were AFK.

- Clark's big knock during his stint in Montreal was his lack of speed (as illustrated by his grapple on Cole). But he makes up for it with some pretty consistent and sturdy defense. One of those projects too quickly dismissed by Habs management.

- Ooops, did I say 4 ex-Habs in the Lightening lineup? I forgot Garon. Make it 5.

- He was just terrible as a defenseman in Montreal, but Bergeron's slapper is as fearsome as any in the League.

Second Period:

- Not the most disciplined night for the Habs, Moen with an unnecessary uppercut to Downie's face, and the PK heads back out for the 4th time.

- Desharnais' fine night continues, this time aided by a nice screen by Cammalleri. That line is certainly clicking. 2-1 Habs.

- Price with save of the night off Lecavalier, as the Habs continue their usual pattern of caving defensively following a goal.

- RDS arguing that Cammalleri deflected Desharnais shot in, which would have been as remarkable as it would be fluky, since Cammy had his back to the shot as he screened Garon.

- Diaz has, very quietly, become a nice offensive asset on the line.

- Cammalleri, who by his own standards and admission, has not had a good season. But tonight, he's flying. Getting the feeling he's starting to turn the corner.

- Habs really picking up where they left off against Ottawa, taking advantage of some pretty slopping defense, Pactioretty spotting Cole wiiiiiide open in from of Garon, and it's 3-1.

- Gorges and Subban getting a workout tonight, combined 24+ minutes of icetime through the first 33 minutes of the game.

- Yup. Cammalleri is definitely feeling it. Probably his best game this season.

- Wyman with a shot that had no business getting past Price, but somehow it did. Fast official whistle, and he waved it off. But I think this should count.

- It does count. Correct call, imo. Wyman's NHL first. Price, well ... that just won't cut it.

- The worm can turn pretty quickly. Bolts with plenty of jump following that weak goal. Habs can look forward to the intermission, if they can get to it without any more damage.

- Well, managed to get to the buzzer. Tampa has just 4 wins in 24 games this year when they've scored 3 or fewer goals, so Habs are in a pretty good position.

Third Period:

- Eller sets up Pacioretty with a picture perfect pass in the slot, and the shot is right on Garon's numbers. Really should be 4-2.

- Ugh. Floater from the line by Bergeron somehow finds the back of the net. So flukey, but underscores Habs inherent inability to put away these games. Reviewing the goal to see if Stamkos or St.Louis tipped with a high stick. I think it's a good goal.

- Yup, it's good. This will be an interesting test to see how the Habs respond. Bend, but not break? Or the usual?

- Tampa's top lines really cranking up the speed, and Habs on their heals trying to slow the momentum.

- Emelin giving another example of why he deserves to be a permanent fixture on defense with a great open ice hit on St Louis.

- Habs have been terrible in the faceoff circle tonight, and it costs them dearly as Price serves up a juicy rebound and Lecavalier says thank you. 4-3 Botls.

- Price's SP for tonight's game currently stands at .800. That's not gonna do it.

- Ex-Habs coming back to haunt. Bergeron with the game tier, Moore with the assist on the go-ahed.

- Gervais with a two-handed slash on Eller that knocked his stick to the ice right in front of the official. No call made.

- If this game is a test of the Canadiens' collective backbone, so far the team is failing. Response has been meek and weak.

- Desharnais line pushing hard, just can't muster a good chance on Garon.

- Gorges took a shot off the foot in the second. He hasn't played in the third. Oh dear.

- Tampa takes a delay of game penalty with 93 seconds left in the third. Here we go.

- Habs lose crucial faceoff in Tampa zone with seconds left. Frantic final 10 seconds, and the PP just can't find a way.

- Hate to single out the netminding, but this was a game that simply should have been won. Even after the questionable goals were surrendered, the team had 10 minutes to respond, but couldn't get anything going until the final minute. Tough, tough loss.

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