Monday, 30 January 2012

Game Fifty: Sabres v Habs

WOOT. It's 50! I totally can't believe I've made it this far. Sure, I'm about 30 pounds heavier than I was at game 25, even though I ran a marathon in-between, and yeah, I'm starting to now wonder what the whole purpose of this season is with the few 30-some remaining games left ... maybe a few extra more if I'm lucky. But still, the big 5-Oh. Wow. Time flies when you're really not having a whole lot of fun.

Anyway, it's the story that just won't go away. Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli has had to endure the indignant chore of ONCE AND FOR ALL denying that he's gonna trade away Tim Thomas' wacky butt to some other team that's dying for a messy distraction in their dressing room, by issuing a classic non-denial denial:

"Not trading him ... I have not talked to anyone and I don't plan to."

Well thank goodness that's all cleared up. Now we know for sure Thomas isn't going anyyyyywheee ... woooah hold on ... you don't "plan to" talk to anyone? But plans change, don't they? And what if someone talks to you? That would change things a bit, no?

Anyway, deconstructing that little statement, Chiarelli is unquestionably leaving the door just a little bit open, as any proper and well-thinking NHL General Manager would do. I'd be pretty shocked if the Bruins did trade away Thomas before the deadline, since they're hoping to ride him to a Championship defense (who wouldn't? ... would the Habs have rightfully traded away Roy in 1994? NO!!! They waited a few months longer to make that awful deal, so SEE ... it just doesn't happen .. right away!!).

But yeah ... if, say, a Western Conference team made a pretty aggressive offer to Chiarelli for Thomas, he'd be crazy to not consider. Almost as crazy as any team wanting to trade for the Thomas baggage.

MEANWHILE, oh gawd ... more Tim Thomas nonsense. the Montreal Gazette really knows how to muff it up, don't they? Other than running the entirely useless Hockey Inside Out (I refuse to link to it because of its uselessness), they dunn gawn run a pretty silly column by freelancer Jack Todd, who (with zero substantiation) informed readers that Thomas' big problem is that he kinda hates black people of which that President Obama guy just happens to be one of, which is why he really didn't want to go to the White House. See? It's all quite explainable!

Once this absurd column hit the fan, the Gazette scrambled to take down Todd's article, and replaced it with this toned-down piece which scrubbed all reference to Thomas' apparent disfavour to people of colour, including Obama.

Really guys?!? Wow. Anyway, Todd is now feeling the heat, and might never be published again in Montreal. The REAL blame, however, rests with Editor Stu Cowen. He's the guy who green-lighted and published the piece, and he's the guy who ultimately must take the fall.

HABS-RELATED STUFF: So the practice lines this morning were Bourque-Plekanec-Gomez, Blunden-Eller-Kostitsyn, Darche-White-Weber, Cole-Desharnais-Pacioretty. Yay. Ryan White is back? Or is he? The team announced late this afternoon that Andreas Engqvist has been called up from Hamilton, leading me to suspect that White isn't *quite* ready to return.

Is it also safe to assume that Petteri Nokelainen won't ever play another game in a Habs uniform? If White comes back, and they're calling up Engqvist, I'm thinking it is.

CHEAP TIX: Wow. $50 to see a Habs game IN Montreal? Yup. It's true. The seat ain't great, but still, the price is great.

GAMEDAY OMG ANDREI MARKOV IS SKATING UPDATE: This morning, he was out on the ice practicing for 15 minutes! The season is saved!!! Oh wait. What did Cunneyworth just say? "He's still a ways away." Oh. Hm. Nevermind.

$60 A TICKET! Yup, you can buy a bunch of 'em for tonight's game. These things are so much more affordable when your team is terrible. Now, be prepared to bring along a pair of binoculars, but still ... $60!!

Here's Gorges, Eller and Gill talking about tonight's BIG game against a team that's behind us in the standings. Wait, what?!? Somebody is actually behind us in the standings??

So the NHL set a ratings record for that All-Star game on the weekend! Hockey is back!! Oh ... that record was just for Canada? They really didn't cover the game in the United States? Oh. Hm. Nevermind.

TIM THOMAS NEWS: Ahhh ... we have some!! So Mr. "defense of freedom and liberty" guy or whatever he likes to call himself (but whatever, he's great!!) so yeah .. here's the thing. He doesn't really do that "voting" thing, you see? Well, for the past eight years, at least.

TIM, you're a freedom-lovin' guy! Why aren't your raising your voice by participating in the democratic process? A lot of people kinda sorta died defending that most precious rights of rights, ya know? What gives, Timmy?

THIS IS GREAT: We Canadians are constantly patting ourselves on the back for all the strain and sacrifice we endure making an backyard skating rink. Well guys (and girls), have you tried making that outdoor rink in the freakin' desert?! This AWESOME family in Arizona has done just that. Now that's impressive! Canada, you just got served.

First Period:

- Plex/Bourque/Gomez combo, just like Monday's practice.

- That's the benefit of playing aggressively at the line, Pacioretty with a nice poke to spring a break. 1-0.

- Pominville unlucky. Price overplayed the angle leaving half the net gaping and open. Pominville rings it off the inside of the post. Game ought to be tied.

- Cunneyworth keeping the ice splits pretty even so far.

- Cole is so strong on his feet. If he isn't being allowed to drive to the net it's probably because he's been hauled down.

- Habs (again) spent a fair amount of time working on the PP during Monday's practice. Let's see if there's an improvement.

- Nope. Bad as ever.

- Gorges called for a hook, which the reply would disagree with. Oh well.

- Pretty even period, Habs played a pretty disciplined game in their zone keeping the Sabres chances to a minimum. Not exactly a blazing fast pace, to be expected since it's been a week since most everyone has played.

Second Period:

- Habs a bit sluggish getting back into their zone creating a Sabres 3 on 2, finished by Leino. 30 seconds earlier the crowd was howling for a whistle after a Sabres shot from the line appeared to deflect into the mesh and back onto the ice. Hmmm.

- Emelin just made one heck of a block on a Pominville shot destined for the back of the net. Seconds earlier he unloaded a thunderous check on the Sabres captain behind the net. Emelin has the capacity to change games. He can be that good.

- Cole with a ringer off the crossbar.

- Plekanec line has been pretty quiet tonight, it's a new line combo that hasn't really clicked yet.

- Apart from Cole's crossbar, Habs have had pretty much nothing this period. Sabres dominating possession and tempo.

- Cole with an incredible burst of speed blowing past the Buffalo D that nearly results in a spectacular goal. Somebody should check to see if he's got a jet pack hidden in his gear. That was pretty special.

- Cole having a frustrating period of near misses. This time a point blank backhander that Miller is able to turn back.

- Feeling more and more like the next goal will inevitably go to the Sabres.

- Price doing his level best keeping this game tied.

- Habs totally muffed that 3 on 1 with just a few seconds left.

- Sabres won that period hands down, very much deserve the lone goal. Outshooting Habs 29-15, Buffalo really does deserves a win. Habs just too sluggish to compete.

Third Period:

- Engqvist gets a tripping call. The call up is currently desperately hoping the Sabres don't capitalize.

- Very early in the season the Sabres were totally outplayed and outshot at the Bell Centre but Miller stole two points. Is Price about to return the favor? Buffalo outshooting 33-15.

- Battle for the puck along the boards, three red shirts and two white. The guys in white won the puck. That's all you need to know about tonight's game.

- It's the Carey Price show right now. But will it have a happy ending?

- Bah. Doesn't look like it. Gill all turned around and played his crease soft allowing Gaustad a free pass to the net. Sabres score that aforementioned inevitable goal, and the Habs inept offense will have to cook up a response or this one is done.

- Sabres are going to have 40+ shots tonight, Habs might not reach 20.

- Dismally disorganized, Canadiens having trouble coordinating a simple pass.

- That All-Star break really came at a rotten time didn't it? Hard to believe this is the same team that totally thumped the Wings just six nights ago.

- Not sure how Pacioretty missed that wide open net, but he just did.

- Nice end to end action here. Looks like maybe an exciting finish?

- Sabres winning puck battles along the boards, Habs offense having trouble generating sustained pressure.

- Habs have narrowed the shot differential the past six minutes or so, but apart from Pacioretty's open net chance, Miller hasn't had to be spectacular.

- Habs lose, but this time it's deserved. Sabres the far better team from just about every angle.

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