Saturday, 31 December 2011

Game Thirty-Nine: Habs v. Panthers

Is the road trip finished yet? It's been ... well, full of ups and downs, but mainly downs as this team continues to play some pretty dreadful third period hockey. Price will get the start on a game night largely overshadowed by the silly outdoor game in Philadelphia, the Canada/USA World Jr. matchup, and New Years Eve. Like Thursday night, Habs will face another ex netminder, Jose Theodore will start for Florida.

Cunneyworth continues to juggle the lines, with Moen returning to his early season combo along side Plekanec and Kostitsyn. The Habs offense has at least been playing with a bit more focus and organization since the holiday break, but poor defensive zone coverage and spotty netminding have conspired to make this road trip pretty miserable.

First Period:

- Well, moving Moen already pays dividends, and Kaberle picks up yet another point since joining the Habs.

- When Cammalleri protests a call, usually it's with merit. So it comes with little surprise that the tripping call was phantom.

- Yes, Moen gets PK time, but he's just awful when it comes to clearing the zone. Lost count of how many zone clearances he's blown this year either on the PK or even strength. It's a lot.

- Habs doing a nice job keeping the Panthers mainly in the perimeter in the Canadiens' zone, but we've seen this movie before the while year. Solid defensive coverage early, but it all starts to fall to pieces at the 40 minute mark.

- Tough as nails Emelin took one heck of a hit from Bradley from behind who definitely seemed to aim at his head with an elbow. League might take a look at that later.

- Theodore keeping Panthers in this with Habs storming late in the frame.

- Plekanec a bit too casual taking a rebound off the backboard. If he receives and shoots aggressively, Theodore probably has no chance.

- Theodore standing on his head, stopping Eller on a break. Lots of great chances missed in a period pretty much dominated by the Habs.

Second Period:

- An ugly note: It appears that the Panthers' Krys Barch was given a game misconduct at the end of the first for uttering a racial epitaph at Subban.

- Habs PK way too complacent baking into their zone on a Panthers rush and allow Fleischmann to take a shot from 20 feet, which is almost always a goal. It was in this case. Game tied.

- Theodore exits the game after contact in his crease. He looks fine but he took a good thwack to the head, so I'm guessing the trainers are taking precautionary tests to insure there was no concussion sustained. Habs now get a shot at a cold netminder. Clemensen in.

- Habs doing their best getting the puck on net, no luck yet.

- Subban very nearly broke through on an end to end rush. One of these days ...

- Habs offense going full throttle on Panthers, playing a bit risky with chancy pinches. Careful, guys.

- Panthers very aggressive tonight with borderline hits, this time Jovanovski with hit from behind on Cammalleri along the boards.

- Second time tonight Habs wipe out a PP by taking a silly penalty of their own. This time it's Pacioretty with a lazy hook.

- Oh my goodness, Emelin with yet another spectacular open ice hit, this time he sends Versteeg flying with a clean hip check. Emelin ... a highlight guy for all the right reasons.

- If the Habs bench isn't pumped after that hit, nothing will elevate this club.

- Game has evened up a bit, but Hans have still been the better team tonight. Problem is, they'll need to outplay their opposition in the third if they want a win.

Third Period:

- Like the Panthers' first goal, Subban plays the rush way too soft, this time Matthias the carrier, and he wrists a 45 foot shot that Price simply must stop.

- I certainly don't want netminding to become (another) issue with this team, but I'm beginning to wonder if Price simply isn't built to play a 70-game regular season. His play of late suggests the wear is taking a toll on his ability to maintain a consistent game for a team with so little margin for error.

- Cunneyworth shortening his bench and rotating shifts at a dizzying pace, obviously looking for a spark from *someone*. Desperate times.

- Habs third period woes continue. Panthers outshooting 11-5 with 9 min left.

- Habs offense just can't find a gear. Even the first gear. Too many trying to do this as individuals, rather than as a cohesive unit. Looking bleak.

- Plekanec with yet another boneheaded penalty in the offensive zone, his second tonight. This will drive any level headed coach insane.

- Habs pretty much riding just 4 defenseman tonight. Gill and Weber have had very little icetime, the latter with just over 4 minutes. My question is, if you're only using one of your D so sparingly, why even bother including him in the lineup?

- Plekanec with a golden point blank opportunity on Clemensen, and he muffed the shot. He looks beyond frustrated.

- 2 minutes left, down a goal, Habs still aren't playing desperate. What would it take to get them moving?

- Another 3rd period fold, another loss. Cunneyworth now 1-6. How to explain this? Are the players unconditioned? Are they not fit enough to compete in this League? At some point you have to wonder what the heck is going on.

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.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Game Thirty-Seven: Habs vs. Sens

I know this is rather cruel, but as we speak, Cam Ward is now leading Scott Gomez in the goal scoring race. Mr. Gomez, your move.

First Period:

- So Campoli gets the night off. Well that's a good start, considering how he'd played leading into the Christmas break (quite badly).

- A terrible start. Just terrible. Eller line just standing around, Emelin and Gill overwhelmed, Senators swarm and score. Just terrible.

- Plekanec gets caught up ice, takes a clunky tripping penalty.

- Price with some clumsy puck handling behind his net, really ought to have cost him a goal, but Sens fail to find the open net.

- Oh Eller, with a shot like that, why aren't you scoring 30 or 40 a year? The crowd goes wild. You'd never know this was an away game. Game tied.

- Well I guess that's a good sign that Pactioretty is back to full health as he picks a fight with Michalek, and does okay. Still, it's always a no-no to have one of your (arguably best) forward in a fist fight, given how razor thin this team's lineup and health is.

- He isn't quite as smooth a skater, isn't quite as dazzling handling the puck, but if there was one guy that reminds me a lot of Alex Kovalev, it's Erik Cole. He, like Kovalev (when he wanted to), seems to have a knack for making things happen.

- Breaks starting to turn in Habs favor, as Plekanec at right spot, right time, to deflect Diaz' point shot past Anderson for his 8th of the season. 2-1 Canadiens.

- I haven't seen them much this year, but Senators with some really soft zone coverage.  Makes you wonder how the heck they have as many as 39 points right now.

- Wow. Early bounces all Habs right now, and Cammelleri, who hasn't scored in forever, is thankful for that. Harmless shot by Leblanc off Anderson (shouldn't have been a rebound), off a defender's skate, and then right to Cammi for the easy put in. 3-1.

- With Habs up 5-1, Subban and Gorges get their positions all mixed up, and Spezza writs an easy one past Price. Leading by four, you can afford to "sit", which means stop making stupid or sloppy plays. Habs just made one.

- Really, a pretty even period, the Senators were just too soft and sloppy in their zone, Anderson probably let a couple in he shouldn't have, and the Habs profited from some pretty crazy bounces. We'll take it. I know Cunneyworth has got to be feeling pretty good right now.

Second Period:

More good breaks for Habs, broken sticks, and very iffy goaltending helps Leblanc score his NHL second. Anderson gets yanked, and the very familiar Auld comes in. 4-1 Habs.

- Habs man advantage looked fantastic, at least during a delayed penalty call. Held the puck for well over a minute mainly in the Sens own zone.

- Canadiens with a ferocious PP. The team looks pretty much more focused and determined than I've seen at any time in the last three weeks.

- Pretty strong period for Habs, one of the best in quite some time, coming off what was probably one of their worst games in franchise history in the last 20 years. Hockey is a funny game that way.

Third Period:

- Well here we go, one of the best scoring third period teams in the League (the Senators being number one), against one of the worst third period teams, period.

- Habs with a surprisingly aggressive period so far, doing what you'd usually expect in bottling up the neutral zone, but still maintaining a pretty steady offensive attack. If only this were the kind of period they played earlier in the season, the team might not be fighting to stay out of the cellar in the East.

- Habs starting to shell up now, and as a result, the Sens are getting a few more shots on Price. Nothing outwardly dangerous, mind you, but the crazy bounces can, and often do, break both ways.

- Icing on the cake as Cole cashing in on the 5-on-3. Pretty impressive performance by the powerplay tonight. Yeah, it's just Ottawa, but the puck movement was very crisp. Grats to Cunneyworth for finally picking up his first win. I'm sure it entered his mind that this day would never arrive.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Game Thirty-Six: Habs v. Jets

For your consumption, the news out today of a planned protest by groups that could only be charitably defined as xenophobic nutcases, is scheduled for January 7th, over the hiring of the english-only Cunneyworth.

The story can really break two ways. It'll either just fade away (hopefully via a nice winning streak), or it can build into an all-out crisis, which would threaten to irrevocably poison the organization's ability to move forward this season. Of greater concern is how this could rub off on the players, some of whom Gauthier (assuming he's still around) will have to sit down with next summer to hammer out long-term contracts. In case you haven't been keeping track, those players include Price, Gorges, Subban ... and if we can't convince those guys to stick around the circus, you might as well cancel out all hope of a parade within the next five years, or longer.

Anyway, Price tonight hoping for the same result as game two of the campaign. It'll be interesting - what with the Jets riding a mile high in it's love-fest with the local fans, against the Habs depleted, dejected and demoralized roster.

8:19 p.m. EST: gameday: Okay not sure about what's going on, but Weber is in, Emelin is out (again), Subban is out a scratch (hmmm) as well as ... Eller? Wow. I can probably muster up the rationale for the first two, but Eller??

That's ... baffling.

- Further to that update, it appears that Emelin will play tonight. But Subban and Eller definitely out.

All I can say is given those scratches, if Cunneyworth doesn't get a W tonight, the Montreal media might roast him alive.

First Period:

- Incredible save by Price on Tyler Glass a minute after puck is dropped. Habs defense MIA.

- Jets crowd chanting "Carrrey ... Carrreey ..." ... because that worked so well against Patrick Roy, you know.

- Gill our el supremeo penalty killer gets 4 minutes for a high stick, and accordingly, Wheeler and the Jets strike. 1-0.

- Can't get past this. Eller alluded to some satisfaction with Matin's firing because the first game of the Cunneyworth era he got nearly 20 minutes of ice. Three games later and he's sitting in the pressbox. I remain baffled.

- Habs offense almost completely invisible first 9 minutes.

- Desharnais line with first applied pressure on Jets defense.

- Maybe its his slowness, maybe it's his hands made of concrete, but Moen really struggles to clear the puck from his zone.

- Have we hit rock bottom yet? Campoli caught out of position, and Glass cashes in on a clean cross-slot pass. 2-0.

- Really, the Campoli-Kaberle combo was just begging for a breakdown. We may see more horrors as the game progresses.

- Jets working hard for more. Wouldn't be shocked if the soon get another.

- So ... yeah. Campoli plays, Subban sitting makes this team better? #notlettingthisgo

- That was pretty much 20 minutes substituting as a disaster. How deep is this ocean before we reach the bottom?

Second Period:

- Apparently there's a ways to go down yet. Campoli is moved, matched up with Gill, and seconds into their shift, Jets take 3-0 lead (in Gill's defense, on a shot that Price ought to have stopped).

- Is Cammalleri the new Gomez? I have never seen him so invisible and ineffective as he is playing right now.

- Price getting mocked by the crowd. In light of that third goal, can't really blame 'em.

- Jets really should be up by four, as they somehow can't put the puck past a flip-flopping Price. Plekanec line and defense in total chaos.

- Cammalleri has been demoted to the 4th line. I guess I wasn't the only one seeing it.

- Emelin nasty high stick to the mouth. I'm thinking that's a two tooth amputation. Habs get 4 minute PP.

- And fittingly, it's the Jets who get a sparkling chance, an unbelievable save by Price off a rebound keeps the Jets from their 4th.

- Virtually no good scoring chances during the four minutes. Seems about right.

- As a 36 year Habs fan, I'm actually embarrassed by what I've seen tonight. Nearly everyone going through the motions. I think only Emelin has bothered showing up tonight.

- Habs powerplay has reverted to its early season form. So not even that is going well.

- Habs 6 poweplays. Have they mustered 3 quality shots on goal out of them? Even just one?

- Habs got 16 shots in that period? Coulda fooled me. That was just awful.

Third Period:

- Not a whole lot to say. Habs are going through the motions, I suppose thinking about getting the hell out of Winnipeg and the getting back home for the holiday break. Jets are in return, just sitting back and watching the clock wind down.

- Having Subban and Eller in the lineup certainly wouldn't have hurt - not after watching tonight's display.

- 4-0 Jets, with Campoli made to look like a fool. Guess who'll be sitting next Tuesday night? I think we have a good idea.

- The holiday break at least comes at q good time for the Habs, but the loss tonight doesn't concern me in that they lost, but in the way they lost. The players, almost the entire roster, didn't show up. They didn't put out the required and expected effort from a professional hockey player. This is nearly as low as you can go.

Thing is, there are no near-term, quick fix solutions. The Quebec media will have a field day over Cunneyworth's disastrous tenure to date, but what can ownership do? Beg Martin to come back? Find someone else? Who in their right mind would want to be the next coach of the Canadiens, which one must assume, would have to be from Quebec or bilingual. Are there any qualified unemployed individuals that fit that description? And if there are, again, why would they want the job?

It's a mess. It's all unravelled very quickly, and it's probably not going to get any better any time soon.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Game Thirty-Five: Habs v. Hawks

So the Twitter world today sez that Budaj will get the starts against the Hawks tomorrow night.

Um ... gulp??

11:56 p.m. EST, Tuesday December 20: Here's a great post in response to banter that the Habs franchise could be well served by tanking for high picks. It's a philosophy full of folly, and an almost sure-fire path to ruin, with only great exception.

10:33 a.m. EST, game day: So Budaj is in, Weber and Emelin are healthy scratches (same lineup as against the Bruins).

First Period:

- A little housekeeping first, while this blog is but a little less than three months old, I'm getting some increasing traffic from - well, wherever it's coming from. To for those who have stopped and maybe made a return visit or two, thanks much! I hope my Habs insights have been ... well, insightful :)

- Jesus, what a national anthem. Hawks already off to a great start and we haven't even dropped the puck.

- The Hawks horsepower visibly 50 or more than ours. How can we reasonably hope to come out of this with a couple of points?

- Keeping an eye on Kostitsyn, coming off a pretty poor effort in Boston.

- Very fast pace so far, Hawks most of the chances so far but nothing spectacular.

- Budaj a little lucky, but pretty solid so far.

- Pretty decent first PP, much of it spent in Hawks' zone.

- Well, the boys held their own against the best team in the West. So that's good I suppose.

Second Period:

- Oh man, Budaj just robbed Kane point blank with a great save. He struggled in his last start while Habs were on the PK, so good test here.

- Unquestionably Cammalleri is one of the Habs' biggest disappointments this season and he's said he's trying to work on the basics, but his positioning is just ... way off. He never really seems to be where the puck is going, and struggles to generate high percentage chances.

- PP strikes again!! And it's Kostitsyn. Maybe should keep an eye on Cammelleri and see if that pans out :p

- Habs can't sit on this. They must maintain composure and game plan emphasizing cautious puck control and keeping turnovers limited (hopefully eliminated).

- Lame call on Blunden for the simple act of checking the puck handler. Official was looking for something that didn't exist.

- You just can't ever let your guard down. Subban a bit soft in front and Toews is allowed to penetrate the crease and tie it up.

- And just like that, in 21 seconds, the Hawks take the lead. This time Campoli flops too soon and Budaj double clutches on Sharp's wrister. Cunneyworth fuming.

- Pacioretty encapsulate the whole Habs season by shooting the puck 10 feet over a completely wide open net.

- Habs missing some glorious chances but I'll give 'em credit for not taking this laying down.

- Habs trailing, Hawks leading after 40. It's just one goal, but the odds are now pretty long because the Canadiens are quite simply one of the League's worst 3rd period teams.

Third Period:

- Budaj has been pretty good, certainly not the main reason why the Habs might lose tonight, but his puck handling abilities are pretty nerve-racking.

- Yes, a major part of Plekanec's responsibilities tonight has been in a checking roll, but he and his line have again been too invisible. Habs' hopes are basically left to the Desharnais line, and the Hawks know it.

- Still good chunk of time left, Habs must maintain guard over their net, commit no turnovers, and be patient (and take advantage of any rare opportunities).

- Nope. Soft zone coverage by Plekanec line and a stoppable shot by Stalberg eludes Budaj. Can't throw away these games by letting the opposition's fourth line score. Just can't.

- Again, he wasn't awful, but don't expect to see another start from Budaj anytime soon. I'm sure there will be plenty of criticism and second-guessing directed at Cunneyworth for not playing Price tonight and saving Budaj for the Jets tomorrow.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Game Thirty-Four: Habs v. Bruins

Well, heaven for fend that feathers are ruffled because the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club, a privately owned organization, has the audacity of going off half-cocked and hiring somebody who only speaks english to tell his english speaking players what to do. Heaven for fend.

Well, that's apparently the big deal in (mainly) Quebec circles today - the audacity of Habs management in appointing Cunneyworth as head coach. The separatist and language-obsessed neophytes are having a field day fueling fires of controversy (where none should exist) that has even gotten members of the Quebec government calling on ownership to change its mind about Cunneyworth.

It was nice to see (finally) a statement by ownership today defending its decision to move Martin out and Cunneyworth in, if only because it's their business, not anyone else's. If anything, the Habs would have been well served decades ago if it did not have this absurd informal bilingual policy in place. It may have prevented the organization from making terrible decision to hire individuals who were ill-suited in decision-making positions, such as Rejan Houle as General Manager, or Michel Therrien, Mario Tremblay, or Jean Perron, as disastrously inept head coaches.

Let us Habs fans hope that in the future, the franchise will choose the individuals best qualified to be their head coach first and foremost on their ability and suitability for the position, and not their language.

Anyway, here we go in Boston. What a heckova test coming off Saturday's debacle. Moen is reportedly back, Diaz is reportedly over the flu, but Subban is a game-time decision. Some "good" news for the Habs will be the absence of Milan Lucic, who was given a one game suspension by the League this afternoon for his hit on Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo.

Still, the Habs are just plain hurting across the board, literally and psychologically. How they are able to adapt and rebound tonight should give us a pretty keen glimpse into how the team will probably perform in the season's make-or-break three week period ahead.

First Period:

- Anyone else nervous about the Kaberle/Campoli pairing?

- Given how low key his season has been to date, I'm surprised that Subban still draws the boos and jeers.

- Not much to show for offense so far, but Habs defense and forwards doing good job in defensive zone, keeping Bruins chances to a minimum. Habs gameplan seems to be one emphasizing patience.

- Game might have a lot of icings which means faceoffs could be crucial.

- Good grief. As I hit enter, Bruins win faceoff following Habs icing and one pass later, take a 1-0 lead.

- Oooh nice work by the Plekanec line, with Cammalleri making a nice feed to Pleks who scores on Thomas using the only shot that'll apparently work on the Bruins' netminder - an unstoppable one.

- Nokelainen doing some fine work creating headaches for the Bruins in their zone.

- Oy, Kaberle and Campoli hanging on for dear life, Julien ain't no dummy, sending out his top guns to exploit the Habs biggest defensive weakness.

- Pierre Houde just mentioned to his surprise (and now mine) that there have been no penalties so far. It really has been a pretty tame contest. Go figure.

- Bruins goal was disappointing, but still a good period for Habs, protecting their zone fairly effectively, not taking any dumb penalties, and staying even on the scoreboard.

Second Period:

- A very lazy and ill-advised unforced turnover by Subban and within a second, two at the most, Krecji slips one past Price. It's the unnecessary stuff like that which drives coaches crazy. 2-1.

- Habs get the first PP of the game and it's the Bruins with all of the chances to score. Not a good sign.

- Boston really getting physical. Habs on their heels. Also not a good sign.

- Blunden attempting to agitate some Bruins forwards. At least somebody is willing to get their nose dirty.

- And Bluden's hard work creates a turnover and a shot that beats Thomas but not the post.

- Bruins are just too strong along the boards tonight, winning nearly every battle for the puck. The strength advantage is nearly impossible to overcome.

- Not sure if this is good or just sad, but the Nokelainen line has been the most consistently dangerous one for the Habs tonight.

- Noted difference between Cunneyworth and Martin's style is that the former is not hesitant in verbally expressing his displeasure about a call to the officials, while the later almost always did and said nothing.

- Habs speedy wingers are mainly being kept to the perimeter, thereby nullifying the team's greatest offensive asset. No wonder our best line tonight is the 4th, to win you simply must overcome this Bruins team via determined forechecking.

- 3 on 1 break and Plekanec elects to take a slap shot. Hate to second guess, but one good pass beats Thomas and ties the game.

- That first period discipline has left the building as Leblanc takes a 4 minute high sticking penalty.

- Basically this game is riding on whether the Habs can kill these penalties.

- Excellent PK to end the period. Hope that'll give the boys some mo' for the third.

Third Period:

- Stat of the night: Bruins have never lost a game in which Pouliot scores. Why couldn't that have been the same while he played here? Oh yeah that's right. He never scored.

- Pacioretty two hard, quality shots on Thomas. Unobstructed both of them, which means for Thomas they were both routine.

- Habs Plekanec line has had fits keeping Bruins top line at bay all night. Yeah, they scored the only Habs goal so far, but that goal has pretty much been it.

- Nokelainen line creates best chance to score so far in the third, just like they did in the second period.

- Really good looking powerplay for Habs, did pretty much everything right but score.

- I guess this is what makes teams like Boston elite, and the rest, like Montreal, so different. Their ability to protect a lead.

- Kostitsyn not one of his better nights, after a strong showing against New Jersey. Isn't this par for the course?

- Price superb the past couple of minutes, giving his team at the very least, a chance.

- Moen. Moen. Moen.

And goodnight.

- Cunneyworth puts Moen right back out there on his next shift, which I'm sure the players (and especially he) appreciates. Still, that game-killing turnover was just brutal.

- Cole gives Habs thin sliver of life with 74 seconds left.

- Campoli with a glorious chance with Thomas down and out. Can't find the net. And it's another loss.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Game Thirty-Three: Devils v. Habs

It just never gets dull around here, does it? For those who might still be rolling out of bed, Jacques Martin was summarily dismissed as head coach this morning, and Randy Cunneyworth has taken over as "intern" head coach.

I have to admit, I'm pretty surprised about the firing. While Martin was by no means on solid ground, considering how an amply talented Habs team has struggled to establish itself as an Eastern Conference contender, I didn't think the ground of tenure was quite that shaky. Nonetheless, Pierre Gauthier made the move, almost certainly because he (like I) was not satisfied with the team's progress (or lack thereof), and because he's probably getting strong signals from his bosses that's he's on the plank and will be the next body to be dismissed.

Myself, I wasn't particularly enamored with Martin - never really have been, but I certainly would never be counted amongst the coin-tossing mob that's been continually pounding the drum for Martin's (and Gauthier's) firing since last summer. Martin is/was a pretty good coach, but he was ultimately hampered by his own lack of flexibility. The tough love approach to young players, the steadfast determination to play the veterans (regardless of how poorly their performances were), and the unmoving devotion to his "system" which would never (and perhaps more accurately could) be modified. The primary focus on puck control, which has tremendous benefit to helping mediocre teams play competitive against good teams, never really played into the Habs core strengths over the past few years - which has been speed. Yes, game in, game out, we've been taking some of the League's best clubs - the Flyers, Bruins, Sharks - to the cusp of defeat, but because the Habs style was so conservative, we never really were able to clinch the winnable games. For that, I think Gauthier and Habs ownership probably took the view that Martin's style had run its course, and the team had nowhere to go but sideways or down as long as he remained behind the bench.

So yet another new era has dawned in Habs Land. It's Cunneyworth's baton to run with - at least for awhile. And who knows? He might turn out to be another Lindy Ruff or Barry Trotz - two guys who came from different directions, but had the hockey background and knowledge to become great NHL coaches. Maybe Cunneyworth is that guy. Or maybe not. He'll have 50 or so games to prove his worth, plus perhaps get some playoff games to boot. All we can do is hope.

7:17 EST update: I tweeted Les Perreaux, a reporter from the Globe and Mail and old alumni contact, whether Cunneywoth's hiring signals the continuing demise of separatism in Quebec. Ever the responsible journalist, Les tweeted back "if you could just float that with some other national newspaper on Monday I'd greatly appreciate it." Point taken!

First Period:

- As these things usually go with a new coach behind the bench, Habs storming out of the gate, while Brodeur and the Devils hold on and wait for the storm to pass.

- So much NHL inexperience standing behind that Habs bench right now, the Martin haters might end up not wanting what they long wished for. Time will tell.

- That PK unit is just unbeatable. And Darche does a nice job shot blocking.

- Take a shot, and you never know what happens. Such was the Devils' first goal by Sykora, which appears to have caught Price off guard. 1-0.

- Even though the Habs came out hard they register only thief first shot on Brodeur at the 10 minute mark.

- Desharnais line just delivered Habs best shift of the game. So far.

- First big benefactor from the Cunneyworh era is Kostitsyn, who is promoted to first line duty.

- While there is plenty of speculation that this will be Brodeur's final season, and while he's not quite as nimble as younger years, he's still pretty damn nimble.

- Nokelainen, 30 feet separated from everyone else on a breakaway, misses the net. Such is to be expected from a career 4th liner, I suppose.

- Cole could easily face supplementary discipline from the League following that hit on Larsson. Elbow made contact with head in what might be construed as intentional, although in Cole's defense, Larsson did move his head down before contact was made.

- A disappointing first for the Habs, inconsistent offense and a general lack of discipline.

Second Period:

- Subban connects on the PP, in what can only be described as a one more starting point in a long road to return to his form from last season. Game tied.

- Subban's first PP goal of the year by the way. Almost nobody would have believed it would have taken him until Dec 17th to do it.

- Cole gets called for interference, the wrong call as it was Parise who skated into him.

- And the Devils cash in. Really hate to see goals generated by blown calls.

- Campoli, of all players, with a cannon blast past Brodure for his first as a Hab. And Hall Gill with an assist? Wowserz.

- Oh what a pretty tic-tac-toe score, Eller finishes it off, and Gill another assist? Wowzerrrrrz.

- It might be presumptuous, but Habs offense seems a bit more free wheeling and relaxed tonight - certainly so in this second period.

- Weber not really helping his case to play on the PP unit with yet another bad pinch/misplay at the line.

- Oh dear. Habs make an absolutely wretched line change, Hal Gill very slow getting off the bench, and Devils the game on a goal by Clarkson that ought never be scored in the NHL.

Third Period:

My connection failed, but really, there wasn't much to say about the third period other than if this team hasn't reached bottom, it surely scraped the barrel. The team looked as lost as it did disinterested in front if Price. It very well may have been the worst period of hockey I've seen in 10 years.

The blame really goes all around. After the game the locker room was reportedly closed for an extended meeting, where one can only assume some frank assessments were made about the direction this team is going and the efforts (or lack of) by many of the players.

It really was that bad. So bad that it's conceivable that player moves are made in the forthcoming days.

Lars Eller made some pretty blunt statements tonight on Twitter about that third period. His words really do sum up just how far this team has fallen so fast.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Game Thirty-Two: Flyers v. Habs

So the red-hot, but banged up Flyers come to town. Late news out this afternoon that Chris Pronger is out indefinitely, if not for the rest of the year, with concussion. Add in former League scoring leader Claude Giroux (concussion) and d-man Brayden Schenn (concussion - noticing a pattern yet?), and the Flyers, while sitting atop the Conference, may be ripe for the picking.

'Course, it isn't all roses for the Habs on the injury list. Travis Moen is (probably) out with a foot injury, and with Gionta out with a shoulder injury (no details, of course provided by the Canadiens staff), the PK unit, while brilliant throughout the year, will be weakened.

Still, Carey Price has been very good in net the past three weeks, and the Flyers have not had a particularly good record on Bell Centre ice the past few seasons. So there's reason for optimism tonight. A win would send a pretty definitive message that the Habs ship continues to path its way towards straightening.

- Late afternoon announcement, Diaz will sit, Emelin will start (not entirely surprising, as one can reasonably expect the Flyers to be significantly more physical than the Islanders are (and were). Apparently Diaz has the case of the flu, but even if he hadn't, he probably would have gotten the scratch to make way for Emelin.

First Period:

- Defensive pairing: Campoli and Gill. That could be adventurous. Also Darche on the third line with Eller? Yikes.

- Flyers move the puck so effectively and seemingly effortlessly. Price will need to bring his A game if the Habs are to withstand much of a chance. Anywho, Canadiens get early and game's first PP.

- Flyers wingers super aggressive along the boards, give smaller Habs forwards fits. Makes setting up plays in opposing zone fairly difficult, but does create open ice down the middle.

- Brilliant feed Cammalleri to Plekanec for the breakaway, wasn't a Flyer within 40 feet. That's one of the weaknesses from wingers playing aggressive along the boards, it creates that open middle ice, generating breakaways.

- There is little margin for error, Gill goes chasing and Kostitsyn releases his check, and within 2 second Flyers deposit it past Price. Critical first goal. 1-0.

- Really good shift by Eller line, spent 40 seconds working on a perfect setup to Darche, who wiffed. Oh well.

- Chrissy Lee striketh again, calling Cole for goaltender interference and wiping a PP goal off the board.

- Flyers in deep penalty trouble. Gotta take advantage.

- Suban with that momentous windup makes him an easy shot block.

- Turn off the lights? Flyers have not lost a game this year leading after the first period.

Second Period:

- Wow. TSN is reporting that nobody on the Flyers team is aware that Pronger is out for the year, to keep them from "being in shock." Heck, I posted that Pronger was done two hours ago, how is it even possible in today's Twitter universe that none if the Flyers players are aware?

- Oh wow. What a goal by Desharnais, holding on to the puck for eternity and tucking the puck past a sprawled Bobrovski. Game tied.

- Oy. Seconds later Flyers go back in front, following very questionable contact on Price by Rinaldo. No call by Mr. lee who waved off Habs goal in the first.

- Even though they're overmatched, credit to the Habs for hanging tough in this one. Getting quality chances on Bobrovski.

- And Leblanc scores his NHL first!! Gets the standing O. How thrilled must he be right now?

- Please, no more post-goal let-downs. Please?

- Safe to say Habs have Flyers right where they want them? This game really is up for grabs.

- Tripping call on Cammalleri was abysmal. He made no contact on Timonen, who fell because he spun himself around too quickly and tripped over his own skates.

- Another goal by the Flyers (Simmonds), another incredulous glance by Price towards Chris Lee wondering what happened to goaltending interference. 3-2 Philly.

- Gorges double-clutches glorious scoring chance, then double-clutches glorious setup chance in front of Flyers net.

- And Cole ties it up on the PP with just 15 seconds on the clock! Crazy game.

Third Period:

- Price bails out Weber who makes a bad play attempting to keep the puck in Flyers zone, Kostitsyn fans in sure-fire position in front of Bobrovski. Fun

- If Flyers somehow lose this, the finger will be pointed straight at their discipline, or lack thereof.

- Price makes a very bad play passing the puck up the middle, and gets burned. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but this one comes at a particularly bad time. 4-3 Flyers.

- Flyers commit two golden giveaways in front of their net. Problem is, they were to Gill and then Campoli. No shots registered.

- Pre post-game post-mortem. Habs had the horses to give the Flyers a good run for their money, but defensive breakdowns and sloppy decision making took cost them the game.

- Three minutes left, might as well roll all the dice and send everyone forward. And now the Flyers get called for a hold. We have hope.

- Oh well. Disappointing loss against a tough team in a game that could have been won. Get 'em next time, I guess.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Game Thirty-One: Islanders v. Habs

There is a sense within the community of individuals who follow and analyze the Canadiens that the team is turning the proverbial corner. The recent acquisition of Kaberle from the Caines (at virtually no cost) and resultant immediate benefits to the powerplay, which has by far been the Habs most glaring deficiency this season, has given the faithful some reason for optimism.

And the team, despite recent reports that Andrei Markov's return has been delayed until late January, is getting one more broken body back into the lineup with the return of Chris Campoli, who was injured in the season opener against the Leafs.

And yet, through it all, the Habs are maintaining a competitive presence in their Division, now sitting just two points back from those Leafs, the team, if indeed on the verge of turning things around for the better, is poised to make a move up the Eastern Conference standings. Tonight it faces a team it should beat, and must beat, if it's to make a move upwards (although that all said, the Islanders are a young upstart team that's lost just one game in regulation over its past seven).

First Period:

- Eller takes yet another penalty in the offensive zone. This happens way too often, has it been driven into his head to play a bit smarter?

- Emelin gets the pressbox tonight to make way for Campoli, which makes sense because Diaz is more apt to check New York's fast, skilled forwards. This won't/shouldn't be a physical contest.

- No goal, but Habs PP continues to look miles more dangerous with Kaberle at the point. He was on for nearly the entire two minutes #shockingbuttrue

- Does Subban not know the folly of passing the puck up the middle from his own zone?? I think they teach that in Pee Wee. 1-0 Islanders.

- Welcome back Chris Campoli who picks up an assist on a marvelous goal by Kostitsyn, who basically one-manned a goal through sheer will, muscle and determination. Game tied.

- Habs really need to put someone on Matt Moulson, who's been tearing up the League lately.

- Speaking of tearing it up, Eric Cole is playing like a man possessed in the period. All over the ice generating great chances.

- Darche gets a gift goal on a shot that should never beat an NHL netminder. 2-1.

- FYI Kaberle did NOT get a point on the Darche goal, the first goal scored by Habs that he did not assist on since joining the club.

- Desharnais/Pacioretty/Cole line by far the best on the ice so far.

- Campoli's got a lot of rust on those wheels. Martin may want to scale back the minutes as the game advances.

Second Period:

- Oh fer two, but Habs PP definitely has some swagger going on. Quality chances being generated as opposed to previous versions that had almost nothing happening.

- Islanders with the Hab-esque too many men.

- Habs got seven shots on that powerplay, again coming close numerous times. Apart from not scoring, very pleased with the continuing improvements.

- Eller nearly with the goal of the year stickhandling through the Islanders defense, deaking the pants off Montoya, but somehow missing tucking the puck in the open net.

- Dunno what's gotten into Eller tonight but he's putting on quite a show with some nifty razzle dazzle puck handling.

- Dangerous/dirty hit by Martin on Subban, throwing him into the boards behind the net. PK is OK.

- Habs really dominating the game through two periods but have a lousy one goal lead to show for it. Sigh.

Third Period:

- Perfect execution, Subban to Desharnais to Cole. 3-1. Yup. The powerplay is back.

- Don't think Cole hasn't put the dregs of last season with Carolina behind him yet? He now has more goals on the man advantage at the 31 game mark this year as he did at the 82 mark last year.

- Don't think the Islanders are an up-and-coming team? Then you should watch Josh Bailey's 3rd goal of the season. 3-2

- Habs defense suddenly getting very sloppy at the worst possible time.

- The Bailey goal has created a spark as Islanders really cranking up the offense here, Habs are on their heels.

- Cole hauled down going wide on Staios, slides hard into goal post. Somehow call for tripping not made.

- Cole definitely irked, shoots puck into Islanders net after the whistle. Islanders defense responds with the expected gloves to the face.

- Habs making a push (at least) for an insurance goal, but one gets the feeling we're about to enter the "hold on for dear life" phase of the 3rd period.

- Yup. Sadly saw that coming. Islanders push and Habs break, Campoli gets caught behind his net and New York jams it past Price. Game tied #herewegoagain

- If Isles come away with a 'W' lots of questions will be sent Matrin's way about sending out the rusty Campoli with the defensively challenged Kaberle.

- The second-guessing may be rendered moot as Montoya gifts one more, this time to Nokelinen, 4-3 Habs.

- Kostitsyn has been really strong tonight, where has this been all year?

- Well, it's hang on for dear life time.

- Hall Gill!! With his first and possibly last goal of the season. We'll take it.

- A W is a W, I suppose, but Habs will need to get this third period funk figured out in a hurry, with the Flyers, Bruins and Hawks looming on the horizon.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Game Thirty: Habs v. Devils

Well, there's never a dull moment, is there? Still lots of talk about the acquisition of Kaberle from the 'Caines for Spacek, with the usual crowed calling for PG's head for making what is deemed a "desperate" deal.

I actually don't mind the deal. It actually makes a lot of sense. Sure, Kaberle has struggled badly the past year or so, but there really wasn't any spot left on the line for Spacek, what with the emergence of Diaz and Emelin as two pretty reliable guys. The only way Spacek could reasonably have found his way back is if he was deemed capable of revitalizing the Habs woeful powerplay, which as we all know, he couldn't. So enter Kaberle.

Both Spacek and Kaberle were earning roughly the same salary, so I don't quite understand the criticism that the Habs are taking on an extensive player whose contract, aside, can just as easily be buried if Kaberle does prove to be ineffective.

Anyway, it's a very low risk deal, with plenty of upside *if* Kaberle can get the powerplay going again. And it's the powerplay that's kept the Canadiens from competing for the Division - indeed it's been so bad that it's putting the entire season in jeopardy.

First Period:

- So here we go, the 29th ranked PP facing Martin and the number one rated PK in the NHL. Kaberle wearing #22, just finished an uneventful first shift.

- I know Price is a pretty confident guy, but the passes he makes behind is net to returning forwards in front of the net surrounded by opposing players, is downright frightening.

- Eek. Kaberle way out of position giving Devils 2-on-1 break, Clarkson set up perfectly, but whiffs on the puck. Shoulda been 1-0.

- Habs record their first shot 8 minutes into the game. Not good.

- Hoo boy. Kaberle again way out of position giving Devils golden scoring opportunity. Is it too early to pull the plug?

- Devils doing a nice job pass blocking in their zone, preventing the Habs from setting much of anything. Goals could be few and far between today.

- Don't wanna harp so much on this but Kaberle is playing way too soft in front of Price. In any case, Montreal about to go on PP. Let's see if the returns are immediate.

- Kaberle looked pretty good on the man advantage. Made some nice passes quarterbacking the line, helping to set up a couple of decent chances. Unit now 1 for past 37, but something's gotta give eventually.

- Habs just had an awesome PP to close the period, did everything *but* score, but it sure looks miles better with Kaberle as QB. This unit *will* score. Eventually.

Second Period:

- And there you have it, Habs PP strikes for the first goal, Kaberle an assist on Pacioretty goal.

- Devils awfully undisciplined today, Habs PP unit gets another try.

- Cammalleri snakebit today, has missed two sure-fire setups this period.

- Interesting. It appears that Martin is intent on double shifting Kaberle on the PP, perhaps to maximize his time on the unit, thereby limiting his 5-on-5 duties? I approve, if today's game is any indication of Kabele's PP strengths and even-strength weaknesses.

- Eller with a nice alert play handing his stick to Gorges on the PK. Also Emelin now being rewarded for his strong play being used on PK's first unit.

- Desharnais doing a nice Cammalleri impersonation today whiffing on an open net. Should be 2-0.

- Price really in a groove, square on shooters, making tough saves look easy. Golden opportunity to win today, just to create some separation by actually scoring.

Third Period:

- Ho hum. Will the Habs sit on another 3rd period lead? The answer so far is no, with Cole depositing the puck into an open net following a scramble. 2-0. Now will they sit? Better not, 'cause there's still 14 minutes left.

- Just about zero flow in this period, which suits the Habs just fine, but it's agonizing to watch. Zzzzzzz ...

- Kaberle releases his check, Palmieri, who flips one past Price top corner. Oy. Kaberle is soooo soft in front of his goal, I'm not sure how long I can stand it. 2-1, and Habs yet again in danger of letting a game that was largely in hand, slip away.

- In the span of 30 seconds Habs had a 3 on 1 and 2 on 1 break, didn't even come close to getting even a shot on Brodure. Now Diaz has taken a foolish slash. Oh boy.

- Dunno whether to laugh or cry. Moen blows easy opportunity to clear the zone and now Gorges called for putting glove on the puck in the crease giving Devils a penalty shot.

- Price with insane reaction of joy/relief after stopping Parise on the penalty shot. Wild finish here.

- Devils just jamming the goal looking for a greasy goal. Price holding on.

- They won? Wow. Am I breathing again? Not yet.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Game Twenty-Nine: Canucks v. Habs

Oh it's nice to be back in the land of reliable Internet coverage. Hopefully the past week will be the last prolonged period of absence away from posting for while!

I did watch the Columbus outing, and given how listless the club performed for most of the 65 minutes played, coming away with a point was much better than the deserved zero.

An interesting matchup tonight featuring two teams that have underperformed through much of the year. The Canucks share some interesting parallels with where the Habs were a couple of years ago. Vancouver is going through a huge rut of controversy over who's number 1 between the pipes, while two years ago Habs fans were fretting over who ought to get the lion's share of starts: Price or Huet (remember him)? Then there's the previous season to consider, the Canucks coming off a Stanley Cup appearance now seemingly a shell of their former selves, the Habs struggled mightily to make the playoffs the year following winning the Eastern Conference.

So the Habs for the Cup final in '14? I was kinda hoping for something sooner.

First Period:

- Weber gets the scratch, as the Habs eek closer to full health status. Hoping for fewer turnovers and more disciplined puck control by Habs blue line. They'll need it because this Canucks offense while struggling, is still explosive.

- Speaking of struggling, Cammalleri first good chance of the game. Where he goes, the Habs doth follow.

- Hey, that's nice to see. St-Denis his NHL first, and the Habs creating a mess of problems for Luongo in front of the net. More traffic please. 1-0.

- The St-Denis should really be the prototype goal for this team if it wants to compete for a Division title. Not pretty, born from hard work and willingness to create havoc in front of the opposition net.

- Canucks really work the puck around nicely with a variety of patterns. Habs' inexperienced defense is having trouble reacting to the set plays, which means Price could look forward to a busy night.

- So hard to believe Montreal had one of the most dangerous power plays in the League last year with most of the same players. It's perplexing. Was it really all Wisniewski?? It can't be that simple.

- Price with a showboat glove save. Impressive. He'll need every bit of that flash to deal with the Habs down two for 86 seconds.

- Gorges in the box (bad news), Gill doing his impersonation of a wall (good news).

- Opposing teams simply can't (or haven't) solved Gill's wall routine on the 5-on-3. He's mastered the art.

- Too bad Stanley Cups aren't awarded to the teams with the best PK. If they did, the Habs could book St. Catherines for next spring.

- Ya see?? Traffic in front makes good things happen. Diaz with a near carbon-copy goal as St-Denis, and it's 2-0. Rinse. Repeat. Win.

- First period SOG 13-7 Vancouver, but the Habs were the better team, and the PK once again came through with flying colours (7 of Vancouver's 13 shots came during that 86 second 5-on-3 stretch).

Second Period:

- Guys like Ryan Miller put the fear of frustration into me. Luango I'm just "meh". I suspect there are many 'nucks fans that share this sentiment.

- And there we go. Erik Cole with a beaut, although stoppable wrister, from the wing. 3-0.

- Fans are taunting Luongo. They ought to check out the clock before they jeer because there's plenty of time left for Vancouver to get back into this one.

- How close was that? Luongo looked behind following shot by Gionta on the 2-on-1. Luongo shaky.

- Might as refill my beer cup during the Habs PP, 'cause I'm petty sure nothing will happen.

- Oh dear. I missed a goal. Problem is, it was the Canucks who score on the Habs PP. The Plekanec point "strategy" strikes again.

- Vancouver lots of legs now following that shorthander. The jeerheads are pretty quiet.

- Remember how Moen had the soft hands of a goal scorer early in the season? That's long gone.

- Official took a long time raising his arm after Price was bodychecked behind the net.

- Suban shot from the line, lots of traffic in front of Luongo. No goal but the strat is commendable.

- Another solid period for the Habs despite the shorthanded blemish. If only the League allowed for penalties to be declined ...

Third Period:

- Habs way too passive while it was 4-on-4, letting the Canucks stroll in for a high percentage shot that was nearly unstoppable. Habs lack of killer instinct letting Vancouver back into this game. 3-2.

- We've heard this song before, against the Sharks, and now the band is playing the same sit-on-the lead tune against Vancouver. It's a ballad that almost never ends on an good note.

- Diaz unloads the hardest shot of the night. Ask Desharnais if you don't believe me.

- Habs doing their best to not hang on for the win, but Luongo now coming up with some key saves. Just need one more, really, but they just never seem to arrive in Habs Land.

- Gionta hurt and gone to dressing room. Probably shouldn't have written earlier about Habs coming close to getting healthy. Do'h.

- Price another great glove save to preserve the lead. 7 minutes left.

- Here we go. 5 on the clock and Eller takes an unnecessary cross check. This is where we close our eyes and hope the PK can deliver one final time.

- It's hard to criticize the PK given how well it's played, but two very good clearance chances were missed before Salo tied it up. And the band plays the same old song one more sad time.

- Lacking the killer instinct: no way you should lose a game at home up 3 in the second. But here we are.

- I half expected Eller to get the bench for that penalty, but Matin just gave him his regular shift.

- Wow. Officials putting away their whistles. Canucks got away with two clear-cut muggings in front of Luongo in the final minute. Not that having a man advantage means a lot.


- We're just 1/3 into the season and Habs may get their 7th OT loss tonight which is crazy high.

- Cautious start to OT. The Habs can't seriously be playing for the shootout, can they?

- All Vancouver in extra period.

- Pacioretty can't believe Luongo saved that/he didn't score. Neither can I.

- Price in goal against Vancouver and the Sedins in a shootout. Who you gonna put your money on?

- Price just awful in these things. No confidence whatsoever.

- And another two points slip away from the Habs grasp. The team can't keep playing to not lose, or they're just going to ... well ... keep losing.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Game Twenty-Seven: Habs v. Kings

Traveling out on the west coast, my main obstacle today may be finding an Internet connection beyond the iPhone, which is a horrible device for posting updated. Will try my best!

Late update today: PG said little while ago that Markov is to undergo "minor surgery" which will delay his return a few weeks. Ugh. The original guess that he sustained an injury to his injury, probably during practice, has born out. Now is the time for Habs Land to get worried.

First Period:

- Habs PK does very nice job keeping the Kings mainly on the perimeter. Opposing teams know the Habs specialty is shot blocking, so they don't even bother trying to shoot until the shooting position percentage is high.

Second Period:

- As I mentioned before my connectivity out here is pretty spotty at best. Habs playing a pretty solid defensive game so far, although the Kings haven't exactly been a well-oiled offensive machine. Price playing very solid, very aggressive - wondering if he's having one of those games where he'll be nearly impossible to beat. Nonetheless, good road effort so far.

- Eller can be a monster puck handling in offensive zone, but struggles to create scoring opportunities. This will hopefully improve as he develops.

- With internet issues this will be my sign-off post. Hoping for better luck next game.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Game Twenty-Six: Habs v. Sharks

Habs continue their west coast road trip in San Jose fresh off today's rampant speculation that Markov has somehow reinjured his leg, and the timeline for his return has been set back. Would be wretched news for Habs Land if there was basis to the speculation.

Otherwise, after a rather unimpressively listless loss to the Ducks, tonight's game registers high on the importance scale. The Habs must maintain shouting distance of 8th place while it sorts through injury and personnel challenges.

First Period:

- Flight was a bit delayed in its landing so I'm a bit behind on the posts. Rather conservative first half of first period with both team defenses bring very cautious around the slot.

- Excellent awareness by Subban as he spots a wide open Cammalleri in front of the Sharks net for a tip in. 1-0 Habs.

- Another let-down give up goal by Habs (happening way too often this year), with Gill chasing the puck carrier behind the net, and Weber caught completely flat-footed in front of Price. McGinn an easy one. Game tied.

- Emelin with a brilliant open ice hit on Pavelski. Quite possibly the hardest check thrown by anyone wearing a CH this season.

- Canadiens with a excellent PP, had the Sharks on the ropes, but simply couldn't find a finish. Heard that story enough?

Second Period:

- Gionta very slow to get up after blocking a shot near the faceoff circle to the left of Price.

- Habs really doing a fine job tonight (as they have much of the season) shot blocking. Gionta back on the ice.

- Desharnais finally hits the scoresheet again (seems like forever) off a pretty feed from Cole. Really, the supposed producers need to emerge if this team is to remain competitive in it's Division, or it'll be tough stay in the race.

- And here we go again, just as soon as this team scores, it suffers yet another defensive breakdown, this time Emelin leaving his position via a puck chase he ought not have taken, and Couture is left all alone to snap one past Price. Weber now -2.

- Price pretty much stole he Sharks 3rd goal, this time from Thornton. Canadiens defense really coming apart in the period.

- Gill/Diaz caught flat-footed, Marleau nearly putting Sharks ahead. I know Martin is trying to find effective combinations at the line, but the switcheroos with Gill are going nowhere.

- Full marks with Eller for effort tonight. Had the Sharks D chasing the wind on his last shift.

Third Period:

- Seems like it doesn't matter who he's paired with, when you're on a line with Erik Cole good things happen. Tonight's recipient is Desharnais, who makes a nice pass to Cole who, like any proven goal scorer, is in an excellent scoring position around the net. This time he flips it home and gives Habs the lead. But for how long will they hold it?

- Habs badly lacking that killer instinct this year. They really need to find it now to finish off a top flight team like San Jose.

- I strongly suggest Martin shorten Habs blue line to four for the last 6 minutes. At the very least, no Weber, please.

- Diaz came off the bench on a change way too early, the crowd howled for a call, none came.

- Sharks really pushing hard for the game tying goal. Habs basically hanging on here.

- Cole demolished by huge clean hit near centre ice. He looks dazed and confused on the bench.

- Two minutes left. Can they hold on?

- Nope. With 86 seconds left, Price gives up the juicy rebound on a relatively routine shot by Couture, Clowe cashes in, and the killer instinct fail burns the Habs yet again.

- Sharks relentless. Now looking for the win, applying lots of pressure. This is what we need, but clearly do not have. Simply lack depth on offense, what else is there to say?


- It appears my wish was granted. Weber hasn't sniffed a shift since past halfway mark of 3rd.

- Gorges getting double shifted. Martin playing a hunch?

- Price doing cartwheels in OT. I'm sure he's just as mad at himself as anyone for the game tying goal.

- Wow. Cole to Emelin of all players, and he launched an absolute missile that Niemi just barely got a piece of. So close.

- Habs were Keystone Cops last 30 seconds in their own zone. Extremely lucky to get to a shootout.

- Leblanc has played strong tonight for Habs. Let him take a shot!! I kid.

- Clowe trying to go 3 for 3 this year. And he ... fails. Oh well.

- Cammi square off the iron. Sigh.

- Havlet a beauty hesitation move paralyzed Price to set up Sharks lead. But Gionta keeps Habs alive.

- Safe to say the shootout isn't Price's thing?

- Wow. Gut check time. Now Desharnais keeps Habs alive.

- OMG. Moen in a shootout? No, no, no. Had the chance to win, and you go with Moen? Another point slips away. Double sigh.