Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Game Sixty-Five: Wild v Habs

Well ... we're getting close to the point that we can say with great confidence that the Habs are going all in - for a top 3 draft pick. Forget that, how does a top 2 pick sound? And with a little lottery luck, maybe even the top choice overall?

So it's not all doom and gloom, right? Right?

Last night ... decent start, mental mistakes, sluggish finish, uninspired play, loss ... etc., etc., we've seen this pater (literally) dozens of times this season. So, moving on ...

TALE OF TWO COACHES: With the loss last night, Randy Cunneyworth's coaching record dropped to 11-18-3. So that's 25 points in 32 games. Or at that pace translated into one season, that's 64 points. Ouch?

Meanwhile, last night the Carolina Hurricanes won (again), and Kirk Muller, who was brought in roughly the same time as Cunneyworth, improved his coaching record to 15-13-9.

Now, 15 wins in 37 games might not be considered Ken Hitchcock stellar, but the 'Canes are no St. Blues, at least with the talent (or lack of) that Muller has to work with. Also consider that after a 1-5 start under Muller, Carolina has since posted a 14-8-9 record, which is 37 points in 33 games. Translated into a season, that's 92 points - probably enough to earn a playoff spot.

So let's think about that. 37 points in 33 games ... versus 25 points in 32 games.

And who's got the better talented team - at least on paper? Carolina, or Montreal?

It's an interesting tale of two coaches, no?

ANDREI MARKOV RETURN TO ACTION UPDATE: March 6, 8 or 10th. Mark in on the calendar. Because those are the dates being bantered today for Markov's return from the agonizingly long injury reserve list.

GAME DAY LINEUP: It's game day! It'll be a barn burner for sure, featuring the Habs who won a grand total of 5 times in February against the Wild who have won 6 times since ... Halloween? When two terrible teams clash, only one survives. I'm pretty sure those are lyrics to an 80s song by Survivor. Whatever.

So the practice (and one deduces starting) lines ARrrreee:


So yeah .. it'll be great. 28th place in the standings on the line. Just TRY not to watch.

First Period:

- All eyes on number 57. The true test of his value and future will be determined next season.

- Lot of empty seats out there tonight, at least by Bell Centre's standard.

- Wild running into a mess of penalty problems, now down two men for 1:51.

- Subban gets the Habs on the board.

- And Eller makes it two. Again on the PP. Again, a pretty three way passing play.

- 8 minutes in shots are 9-0. Montreal.

- Wild march to the box continues, this time it's retaliation by Heatly against Subban for a clean open ice hit.

- Kaberle just awful on this powerplay. His passing is totally inept.

- 12 minutes into the period and still no shots by the Wild. Maybe this is an indicator of why they've barely won a game since New Year's? (Minnesota does have the 29th ranked offense).

- Wild a good chance of registering a shot as Plekanec takes an interference.

- At the end of the man advantage, Wild finally register a shot. Also dinged a crossbar. Otherwise, pretty easy to see why this club has nosedived. Their offense is, indeed, a mess.

- Terrible goal. Emelin couldn't do it all. Weber plays his man, Kassian, inexcusably soft, and the Wild winger deflects home the feed in front of Price to collect his first ever NHL goal. Weber's play continues to make Habs fans roll their eyes with exhasperation.

- I love Ryan White's feisty play, but sucker punching the opponent is not cool. Wild gets 3 minute PP.

- Trademark of this year's team in Montreal. No matter how badly their opponent is playing, the Habs still find ways of giving them ample opportunities for a win.

- With five minutes left in the period, shot totals were 9-0 Habs. End of the period, shot total is 9-7. Yup.

- Wild with a two man advantage for nearly two minutes to start the 2nd.

Second Period:

- Shorthanded Eller does all the work and sets Bourque up perfectly for an empty net tip in. Bourque misses.

- Once again Habs defy laws of logic and reason and threaten to score more on the PK than they do on the PP.

- Palushaj is done for the night with an eye injury.

- Habs just barely survive that shift by the Gomez line, which has only received three shifts tonight over the first 30 minutes.

- Pacioretty working the cycle perfectly generating three point blank shots, one of which hits the post.

- Bourque simply does not have the finishing ability to ever be a 25 goal scorer.

- Clutterbuck very lucky he only got 2 minutes for sticking his leg out to knee Bourque. Could have easily been a major. Bourque injured and gone to the dressing room.

- Pacioretty with a wicked snapshot to give Habs 3-1 lead, all goals so far on the PP. Last time Habs scored 3 PP goals in one game? Gotta look that up.

- Habs on PP, and official just called Kaberle for a ridiculous interference penalty as Clutterbuck, skating past, faked contact and fell to ground, soccer style. Officials made to look ridiculously incompetent.

- First time this year that Habs have scored 3 in a game in the man advantage. Still don't know the last time it happened (I assuming last year when this team had a competent specialty unit).

- Emelin delivers by far the hardest hit of the night sending his man flying in the air head over heels. Problem is, it's on Erik Cole.

- Plekanec clearly hooked/held by Falk on that breakaway, no call made. Officiating wildly inconsistent tonight.

- Gomez three shifts, 3:16 ice time through 40 minutes. So infrequently used he might as well be sitting in the press box.

Third Period:

- Not sure what I'm missing, but can't figure out why there's so much hate out there tonight. Officiating may have contributed to frustration, but these two teams meet once or twice a season. So there's no real history. Just one of those inexplicably chippy games.

- Pacioretty spectacular puck control and patience, threading the Wild defense, creating a rebound, and an easy goal for Desharnais. When Pacioretty produces, this team wins. It's that simple.

- Given how utterly lifeless their offense has performed tonight, combined with a systematic lack of discipline, I can't fathom how this Minnesota team was in first place in the Western Conference a relatively short time ago.

- Weber, I'm thinking, could be the guy looking from the outside in for the Habs defense next season.

- Kaberle/Campoli defensive wrecking crew making their usual appearance. Lead cut to two. Crowd getting slightly nervous. Rest of Habs nation wonders once again why either of those two still get ice time late in hockey games.

- Weber out with

- Giveaway at blue line, if not for a snazzy glove save by Price, lead would be one.

- Price with an unwise play of the puck (was he trying to score?) creating turnover, and very nearly a Wild goal.

- Nix that. Habs in total chaos in their zone, Heatly cashes in and the lead is one. Here we go ...

- Pacioretty with empty net is hauled down right in front of the official. No call. Seconds later, Wild score. Just ... wow. Just ... wow.

- The NHL officiating is a disgrace. There's no excuse for this.


- Habs pressing late, Desharnais with brilliant chances not shooting, Habs on the cusp of an all-time low for blowing leads. Even though the season is lost, this game has been a stunner.

- We win. What a silly game. Again, officiating was ridiculously poor.

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