Sunday, 12 February 2012

Game Fifty-Seven: 'Canes v Habs

WELCOME BACK Jaro Spacek. You didn't think you could get away from the Montreal media vermin that easily, did you?

Jaro has it right though. Whether Cunneyworth stays or goes, this franchise needs to just get past the french requirement, and focus on hiring the most qualified, best available person for the position.

If Lindy Ruff comes on the market (and he very well might) after season's end, this club would be CrAzY to not at *least* knock on his door. But ya know what? Ownership probably won't bother trying because they don't want to deal with the nationalistic headaches. Besides, they didn't even return Larry Robinson's call two years ago before (the now departed) Jacques Martin was hired, and Larry does speak french. Maybe his last name was too anglo sounding. Who knows.

SO TOMORROW NIGHT. Big opportunity to cut even further into that playoff deficit. The Caps lost today (good!), and with the Leafs now headed somewhere south of nowhere, the impossible might become possible.

But we gotta keep winning. 17-8-2 from this point forward to even have a chance.

GOAL OF THE YEAR UPDATE: I think we have our winner. It's from Minnesota high school hockey, of all things.


GAME DAY UPDATES: John Lu updates that Moen's injury is more serious than first thought, and he won't be back tonight (ergo yesterday's call ups), and that Markov is nearly up to 60 minutes a day on the ice (it was 20 minutes two weeks ago), but there's no projection about when he'll be back (I'm thinking March-ish? - I suppose it depends on where this team is sitting in the standings, if we're actually battling for a playoff spot, then Markov would be played as early as possible - but if we're definitely out, then I could envision him being shelved until the fall).

POWER RANKINGS ARE SILLY: Basically invented to fill copy space, but for what it's worth, LeBrun has us at 24th, which isn't ... horrible? Meh. Who cares.

WE THINK WE HAVE IT BAD FOR COACHING? Wow. This one is ... I dunno. What the heck is going on with the Caps? First they fire off Bruce Boudreau (which is fine, Boudreau came off as more-or-a-less a loudmouthed buffoon without a strategic bone in his body in the HBO 24/7 series), but their replacement Dale Hunter ... well ... read this. But yeah ... to manage the bench based on +/- (the most simplistic hockey stat devised) is just plain absurd. You'd have to believe that the players are rolling their eyes behind the scenes. I see this club headed no other direction other than straight off a cliff.

MORNING PRACTICE INTERVIEW VIDEO GOODNESS. Ryan White talks about his return tonight. And Cole! Enjoy.

AVAILABLE COACHES UPDATE: So while there have been murmurs for weeks that the Sabers' head coach Lindy Ruff might not be coming back next year, there is plenty of conversation right now that Chicago's Joel Quenneville's neck is about to hit the chopping block. The media release from Hawks G.M. Stan Bowman this afternoon barely qualifies as a luke-warm defense of Quenneville, so the Habs could have two very qualified, very successful, and above all, very good coaches available for hire.

And no, Quenneville doesn't speak french.

HAWT GM SIGHTING UPDATE: Pierre Gauthier spotted!! He's not in Montreal tonight to watch his team try to narrow the playoff deficit to 5 points. No, he's in Washington to take in the Sharks/Caps game.

This will only add fuel to the speculative fire that Gauthier is churning the trade gears - but what are the possibilities here? He's certainly not going to make a deal with the Caps - they're one of the teams the Habs are trying to catch for a final playoff spot. So that leaves us with the chronically underperforming Sharks, who are desperately looking to make a move for somebody to get their slumping offense into gear.

What do the Habs have to offer that might perk San Jose's interest? Kostitsyn? Would they be so crazy as to take a flight on Gomez (the Sharks have lots of cap space). Too be honest, I can't think of anybody beyond Andrei, and even he doesn't seem like the right fit to spark the Sharks into some kind of turnaround.

The most likely scenario is that Gauthier will watch the game, kick a few tires, and nothing will come of it.

First Period:

- Surprise! Ryan White is a scratch. So maybe Boston on Wednesday??

- Bourque steaming down the wing two quality shots on Ward followed by a thunderous hit on Staal. Great first shift.

- Canadiens with terrific energy to start. The team looks pretty motivated getting back into the playoff race.

- Bad break there, good break for the 'Canes. Shot from Allan a harmless shot seemingly deflected over Price by a body in front. Not much you can do about those.

- Gorges doing what Gorges does, checking his man, saving a goal.

- Carolina the faster team but by far Habs more physical so far. Canadiens hoping this will pay dividend as the game progresses and the 'Canes tire from the hits.

- Careless high stick by Bourque. Could be 4 minutes. Hopefully just 2.

- Just 2 minutes. No blood was drawn.

- Habs PK just so tough with Price in the nets. Carolina doing everything right moving the puck into position, but Carey just locks it down.

- OH Gomez so nearly got his 2nd off a perfect feed from Cole. Ward with a great save.

- Change on the scoresheet. 'Canes first goal awarded to Tlusty with the previously suspected tip-in.

- Ward stealing one from Cole. Ward making some incredibly tough saves here.

- 'Canes faster, more opportunistic in the period. Plus Ward was exceptional handling some really good chances. Looks like it's gonna be a tough 2 points.

Second Period:

- Habs get a PP, from the faceoff Subban makes a clunky attempt to keep the puck in, creating a 'Canes break, and finishes by taking a hold. PP over before it had a chance to begin. Cunneyworth not looking happy.

- Subban with his head in the clouds.

- Canadiens utterly disorganized with the play 4 on 4. Passing totally all over the place, countless giveaways, and finally a penalty is drawn. Now 4 on 3 'Canes.

- Spacek finishes a beauty tic-tac-toe scoring play. Funny how those old players who never scored while they played for you, score for the other guys. Good on him, though.

- Spacek with a bad pinch creates a 2 on 1 for the Habs, Plekanec defers to Bourque and snaps one past Ward. Habs finally on the board.

- Habs not getting the calls tonight.

- Stewert just missed wide open net for 'Canes off a 3-on-1 break. Whew.

- Habs finally get a call.

- Cole!!! Brilliant shot!! Game tied!!

- To put into perspective how big that goal was, Habs have trailed going into the 3rd period 20 times this season. They have won only once.

- Habs ALL over Carolina right now. 'Canes go to the box again.

- Where HAS this Habs PP been all year???!!! 3-2!!!!!

- Better late than never I guess, but the PP is officially on fire.

- Admittedly the 'Canes were being awfully aggressive pursuing the puck while on the PK, perhaps too aggressive. Nonetheless, the Habs passing and puck control was superb.

- Outstanding comeback. This team could have easily thrown the towel in (as it has before) after the Spacek goal, but the team kept pushing, and maybe that physical 1st period started to pay off, as the 'Canes could not keep pace. Habs just 20 minutes away from moving to within distinct distance from 8th place.

Third Period:

- So about that powerplay. Kaberle looked like he was about 45 years old as Staal easily zoomed around him to pot a shorthander. Grr.

- Has anyone seen Andrei Kostitsyn lately?

- Kostitsyn just got his first shift of the period.

- And the lead is blown. Gorges without a stick creating a mini 5 on 3 for Carolina, and they take full advantage.

- A few of the usual suspects costing the Habs dearly. First Kaberle with the pylon play, then Campoli with the bad penalty leadinng to the 'Canes 4th goal.

- Bell Centre really quiet. The crowd has heard this song way too many times this season, and sense of resignation starting to settle in, even with plenty of time left.

- 'Canes looking for the kill.

- Habs defense simply awful right now. Price hung out to dry, but keeping team in it.

- Carolina backchecking really hard. Habs having tough time constructing anything resembling a rush.

- Canadiens offense going nowhere. Will have to start taking chances very soon.

- Pacioretty draws a trip on the rush. Can the Habs PP bail them out? Stay tuned.

- Plekanec/Gomez/Bourque start.

- Jesus. Desharnais. Shoot the damn puck.

- Canadiens coming incredibly close. Pushing hard to the net. Eller couldn't quite bury the puck side of the net.

- Staal fittingly with the empty netter. He was fantastic tonight. Huge opportunity goes by the board for the Habs.

- Under Cunneyworth, Habs have held the lead 13 times heading to the 3rd. They have blown that lead 4 times. That is a poor conversion percentage.

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