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.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Non All-Star Game All-Star Game Post

Okay, I hate the All-Star game. But that's hardly an original sentiment. Most real hockey fans look to this weekend with chagrin, knowing that someone we must all get through four straight days where any games that actually matter, aren't played.

The All-Star game is a meaningless enterprise, except for the bank accounts of the League, which make millions off (mainly) locals for where the game is played. This year the victims are mainly from southern Ontario and Quebec, although one could argue their victim hood since they are willingly forking out hundreds if not thousands of dollars on game tickets and abhorrently ugly All-Star paraphernalia (the jersey is a design disgrace - I mean, what the hell are those squiggly line things on the forearms of the sweaters?). And don't get me started about last night's incredibly awkward and boring game draft, a process that really ought be little more than tossing sticks in the middle, but which TSN managed to string out for an agonizing 90 minutes.

Anyway, let the fools spend their money, while the rest of patiently await for this silly weekend to expire so we can get back to the business of watching real hockey.

So no more about the Sunday game. In Habs-related stuff, we had this little gem come across our desk arguing that Scott Gomez is the League's must overpaid underrated player. Yeah. I know. Heh. It's an interesting read that postulates Gomez' value based on the team's record with and without him in the lineup, and the impact he's had on the club's overall puck possession using the Fenwick Rate (with a brief halo to Corsi rankings, which I think is a better metric when tabulating possession).

Anyway, here's the stat that needs reminding. Over the past three years with Andrei Markov in the lineup, the club's record is 29-16-9. Without him, it's 63-68-19 - so it seems to me that if you want to look a win/loss impact on a team's fortunes, you begin and end with just one guy, and that's Markov.
I'll continue to post stuff over the weekend (NON ALL-STAR GAME RELATED) if it's worthy of consideration.

- The argument to resign Kostitsyn:  Provided the reports are accurate that he indicated a willingness to give the organization a discounted rate, the Habs would be crazy to not pursue an extension. After so many seasons of maddening inconsistency, in this writer's opinion Andrei has made significant progress establishing a more cohesive game and multi-dimensional winger. He's been more aggressive driving to the net, he's been quite good in winning battles along the boards, and he's certainly reduced turnovers, especially in the attacking zone. He's also developed into an effective playmaker this year, which goes beyond what was thought to be his core strength as a sniper with a tremendous wrist shot.

So if he *could* be had for less than what he's currently paid, the franchise would be making a signficant mistake if they were to either let him walk, or deal him off for a pick (which probably wouldn't be a first rounder, and even at that, I'd hesitate on pulling the trigger).

-  It's kind of hard to argue with his decision to not go to Ottawa this weekend, huh?

- Five actual reasons to watch the game on Sunday. Wow. There's that many??!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Game Forty-Nine: Wings v Habs

Ohmygod, nothing is happening today. Nothing important anyway. Well, there's this gem from the G&M today about how the Habs can't win for winning because they went gone and started playing decent hockey just when hockey is about to stop for a ridiculous week to play a game this weekend that no hockey fan in their sane mind would give two figs about but the League insists on playing anyway because it's sponsored by a donut chain catering to people who have no idea what real coffee is supposed to taste like and it makes a lot of money off the people who are too stupid to know the difference between real hockey and fake hockey.

Bah. I hate Monday.

GNASH YOUR TEETH UPDATE: So the Bruins were honored at the White House today for beating the Habs in seven games Winning the Stanley Cup, and one current Hab got a pretty nice spot right behind Obama at the podium.

Really?? They ship guys off for uttering the words "losing mentality", but it's okay to the day off to celebrate championships with the most hated of the hateful opposition?

Yeah, none of what I wrote was reasonable. But man, I really, really hate Mondays.

HAR HAR UPDATE: So Tim Thomas, as was already reported in advance, refused to go to the White House event. Well *somebody* finally took notice of this (rude? obnoxious? crazy?) no-show, and now Thomas is preparing to put out a statement via his Facebook page (more traffic for Tim!! Buy his merchandise!!).

Com'on Thomas. You might not like the President, but refusing to go to an event most players would give their front teeth to experience makes you look like a dick of the highest order.

CRAZY TEA PARTY BAGGER UPDATE: Puck Daddy confirms what we already knew. Thomas didn't go because Obama is a Muslim-loving socialist pinko NASCAR-hating university-educated elite apple-pie killer leftist. And he was totally born in Kenya, you know? Anyway, Wyshynski says it's totally fine that Thomas thumbed his nose at the President 'cause, you know, he can! And besides, that awful Sean Avery went and stood up in support of gay marriage, so it's important that Thomas' voice be heard!! Fight the power, Tim!

So yeah. Here I had actually swallowed that bitter pill that represented the Bruins' championship win because I thought Thomas was a pretty decent guy. Now that taste in my mouth is all bitter.

STATEMENT FROM CRAZYVILLE UPDATE: So Thomas has posted (on his Facebook go there now and also stop by to pick up some fab Thomas merchandise, cheap!) his rationale for not going to the White House tonight. And it's just as kooky as you might have thought:

"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"

Attaboy Tim. You show them who's boss.

DAY AFTER THUMBING YOUR NOSE AT THE PRESIDENT UPDATE: Here's a pretty thoughtful article by Joe Haggerty about Thomas' beliefs and ultimate decision not to go to the White House yesterday. Aside from outlining Thomas' ideology, which is pretty wacked out, it also drops a few subtle hints that all is not well behind the scenes with respect to cohesion and comradery within the Bruins' dressing room, where Thomas' relationship with his teammates seems pretty disconnected. His decision to upstage what should have been a great day for the Bruins hockey club, in large part to his own selfishness and stubbornness - well, that's not exactly the tone you like to set as you near the playoffs, eh?

ACTUAL HABS-RELATED STUFF UPDATE: Ryan White practiced with the club this morning, thereby giving him an iron-grip lead in the "who will return first?" sweepstakes over Andrei Markov. Anyway, he (White) has been missed, all due respect to Pettri Nokelainen, who's filled in ... admirably I guess, but not sufficiently. White brings a lot more skill and physicality to the table, and so I would expect the team as a whole to improve a bit once he returns (maybe next week?).

Also, the team spent an inordinate amount of time with shootout drills - which given our horrid record this season, is probably as sad as it is necessary.

STUNNINGLY BAD GAME-DAY STAT OF THE DAY UPDATE: In case you hadn't noticed, the Habs are on pace to win 15 games at home this season. Yup. That's it. 15. Are we all happy now?

JUICY TIDBIT UPDATE OF THE DAY UPDATE BECAUSE I JUST COULDN'T RESIST UPDATE: Tim Thomas on the way out? That's what the Boston Globe is reporting this morning, or at least seriously hinting that Bruins ownership ain't very happy with what's going on this week, and in the Bruins dressing room. Sweet!!

ACTUAL GAME-DAY UPDATE: Nick Lidstrom is apparently out with the flu, and won't play tonight. So there's hope!!

First Period:

- The big question is, are the Wings as good as, or better than the very impressive Blues? Either way a small-scale miracle is in order if Habs want 2 points tonight.

- Refs pretty much "lettin' 'em play", possible calls not being called.

- Oh that was a *great* rush by Gomez, and Bourque with a picture perfect drive to the net to put it home! But most credit has to go to Gomez for that one. 1-0 Habs.

- Eller with ANOTHER unnecessary offensive zone minor. When will this madness cease?

- Habs cannot afford to be undisciplined against the Wings. We will be punished. The Wings specialty team puck control is outstanding.

- Habs excellent kill, allowed Detroit to maintain possession, but kept it mainly to the perimeter. One bullet dodged.

- Wow. Is this happening? Kostitsyn does the hard work, Emelin with a bullet for his very first as a Canadien, and the Habs lead 2-0??!

- Another bad penalty, this time to Gill for a trip. Guys, don't blow this before the second period has even begun.

- With Emelin's goal, the only 4 Canadiens to not score this season are Engqvist, Price, Budaj and ... guess the last one. Go ahead. Just guess.

- Again Habs very good on PK, giving the Wings plenty of puck control, but not allowing shots to come from high percentage areas.

- Oh man, just about anyone other than Emelin would have probably scored from that position. Wings surprisingly sloppy, if not a big sluggish tonight. Maybe the Blues took a lot out of them Monday? Dunno. It's still very early.

- Oh P.K. Really? Right in front of the official with an elbow? You gotta think out there. You aren't.

- Stunned. Desharnais on a totally complacent Wings defense, the puck slowly drifts between the legs of Howard, and Habs lead 3-0??? Just. Stunned.

- Did the Wings come in thinking this was already in the bag? They've been soundly outplayed.

- Kostitsyn just beat three Wings in prancing to the Detroit net, nobody even tried checking him. What is going on?

- The route is own. Howard gives up a juicy rebound to Plekanec. I'm having trouble keeping up.

- Good grief. Gill came from within 2 inches of giving us a 5-0 lead with seconds left. I can't believe how good we look. I really can't believe how awful Detroit looks.

Second Period:

- Pacioretty now making it embarrassing. 5-0.

- The question now is, will Jimmy Howard inform Wings ownership he'll never play in Detroit again? #raiseyourhandifyougetthatjoke

- That last joke makes no sense, since Howard was pulled before the Habs could score 9 on him.

- Desharnais. Six. Nothing.

- Wings almost certainly figured they could go through the motions and still get a win tonight. By the time the cuts were made, the bleeding was too much to stop. Serves 'em right.

- If Gomez wants to finally score, tonight is as good a night as any. Should have stretched that takeaway for a breakaway, but (I guess) was out of gas at the end of a shift.

- Stupid All-Star game. Just as it started to figure out this winning games thing, the last thing this team needs is a week off.

- Safe to assume Subban has been benched? Hasn't had a shift since that terrible elbow minor.

- Wings (at least those who aren't going to Ottawa) are clearly thinking about the free weekend coming up. Pretty anemic PP attempt there.

- Taking bets on if Subban will get another shift tonight?

- Habs just standing, dumping, working the clock down. It's not going to be a lot of thrills and chills from this point out.

- Bourque set up Gomez perfectly in front of the net, but his stick was lifted and the last possible moment. And so it continues.

- Gomez scoring tonight would be terrible, because who knows how long it'll take for him to do it again. Let's save that goal for a game that's not already decided.

- The Subban watch continues. I say he gets a shift in the 3rd.

- The game is done, but Habs been a bit too lax now in coasting to the finish. Pick it up a bit, guys.

- There we go. First bit of pressure since Desharnais' goal.

- Zero shifts for Subban in the period. Habs six goals on 17 shots. Detroit probably playing their worst game of the season. Timing is great!

Third Period:

- I'm not gonna slag a certain Habs live blog which barely qualifies as a live Habs blog, but I just couldn't resist this:

- Subban starts the third ... on the bench. #subbanwatch

- There goes the shutout. Gomez with a lazy whiff of a check on Hudler. Hrmmm.

- Habs getting really lazy in their own zone, and Wings are kinda taking opportunity here.

- To scattered cheers (jeers?) from the crowd, Subban is sent on the ice. Yay. I got one right.

- Like I said, passive coverage is costing the Habs. Wings score their second. Wake up guys, it ain't over till that big clock reads 0.

- Dany Heatley, Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Brad Richards, Ryan Kesler. Pretty good group there. What do they share in common? They all have been outscored by Erik Cole this season. HT: Robert Rice @seriousfan09

- Cole deservedly gets a goal, just to rub in a little salt.

- Habs totally dominated the number one team in the League tonight. Granted the Wings came in going through the motions, it was still a pretty impressive team victory. Let's just hope the good play continues into the next week, and maybe then we might start thinking playoffs.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Game Forty-Eight: Habs v Leafs

So Subban was hit with a modest little fine today as a result of a slew foot trip on Chris Kunitz last mighty, an offense I must confess I missed while blogging the game. Oh well, at least I was totally missing the boat by, say, choosing to use Gomez as one of my three shootout picks.

Anyway, in a season gone so wrong, a sound thumping of Toronto would go a long way toward regaining some measure of satisfaction. Would it be too much to ask, Ye Gods? Just one thrashing? Please?

First Period:

- Not a whole lot to say so far. Very close checking by both sides, really no scoring chances either end thorough 7 minutes.

- Really marginal roughing call on

- Yet another shorthanded breakaway for Habs, this time Eller with a relatively harmless shot thats turned away by Gufstavvson. But these breakaways have happened so many times this year, surely it's beyond freakish chance or circumstance. Gotta be an explanation.

- The only explanation is Habs PK forwards play extraordinarily aggressive on the line - one could hardly argue the strategy, with Montreal maintaining a firm and enduring grasp as the number 2 PK in the League.

- The only team in the NHL that's had a more disappointing season are the Tampa Bay Lightening. Steve Yzerman is in attendance (scouting?) at the ACC.

- If Desharnais makes a pass to Pacioretty on that 2-0 break, it's probably 1-0.

- Pkekanec does not get enough credit or recognition for his two-way play.

- Bourque scores his first as a Hab, courtesy a juicy/crazy rebound off a Plekanec shot.

- Well that lead didn't last long. Huge defensive breakdown by Subban/Gorges allowing Lombardi a free pass to Price, who looked very awkward getting beat blocker side. Like every shootout he's been in this year, I suppose. Game tied.

Second Period:

- For whatever strange reason, many predictions in the Twitter universe tonight that Gomez will score a goal tonight. He's got 40 minutes left to fulfill the dreams of all those crazy people who have access to a keyboard.

- Emelin led all Habs D with icetime in the first. His roller coaster role on this club hits a peak.

- Cunneyworth has Gomez on the wing matched with Bourque and Plekanec, the two guys responsible for Habs goal. That's how desperately he wants Scott to score (since last night's shootout experiment ended in complete failure).

- Plekanec line sent right back out, and Gomez proceeds to almost immediately blow his coverage, very nearly resulting in Leafs second goal.

- I say Cunneyworth should just send Gomez out for every shift until he scores a goal, and then call it a season. He's very nearly doing that right now. #greatmomentsincoaching

- Habs draw a powerplay. Just decline them, guys. Just decline them.

- Habs building sustained pressure with the advantage. Just goes to show what I know.

- Excellent shift by the Eller line. Habs building significant momentum in the period, but now need to be rewarded with a goal.

- It's fishing season. Elemin just crunched a little Crabb.

- Kostitsyn hacked to the ice by Komisarek, right in front of the zone official who does nothing. The back official then has to come in to make the call. Sheesh.

- Habs had zero going on that PP.

- Two periods, the game's been pretty uptempo, quite even. Two more points up for grabs. How will the boys blow it again tonight? Stay tuned.

Third Period:

- OHMYGOSH Gomez has just 20 minutes left to score or, you know, he'll have to try again on Wednesday.

- Only Cole has played more tonight than the big G. That's how desperate Cunneyworth has become. I guess he figures that Scott holds the key for turning the season around. Who's to argue? (don't answer that).

- Has Cole had a single shift this year where he wasn't putting out 100%? Be danged if I can think of one.

- Bourque had a wide open net, puck bounced over his blade as he took the shot. These are your 2011-12 Montreal Canadiens.

- When the glass went out in Pittsburgh, it took them 4 minutes to fix it. When it goes out at the ACC, it takes them the length of an Wagner opera.

- Diaz with a seeing eye bullet! Gomez with the nice assist. We'll take it!

- There is 16 minutes left in the period. We have been here before. More times than I care to remember. #dontsitonalead

- If tonight's Bourque is the real Bourque, then I'm satisfied with the trade.

- The boys are, ever so slightly, sitting on this lead. Please. Not again.

- Price feelin' it. Can he shut the door for an entire 13 minutes?

- I'll stick the neck out. If Habs can score just one more, this one is done.

- And Gill takes a "tripping" penalty.

- Pleks came very close to breaking another one for a shorthanded break.

- Kessel's been very quiet tonight. Just got stoned twice by Price on this Leafs PP.

- Leafs fans really thought Darche put that out of play by himself? Are they that blind?

- And now Diaz .. I think, will go to the box for that offense. Nope. He escapes. Officials didn't see it.

- There's 10 freaking minutes left. It feels like this period has gone on forever.

- Lars Eller. I think I love you. There's that 3rd goal!

- Excellent (and correct) goaltending interference call. Fans don't like it, but that's Toronto for you.

- Habs in complete shut-down mode, except this time, they're doing it well.

- If Leafs do pull their net, be assured Gomez will be on the ice.

- Price with a great save in a huge goal mouth scramble. Ain't no way he was going to be beat tonight.

- Gomez *not* on for the empty net. Sorry crazy people. Maybe another day.

- A great game, a great victory. Habs win!! Leafs lose!! In what has otherwise been a pretty bleak season, things just got a whole lot brighter in Habs land. Savor this. Breath it in. Enjoy.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Game Forty-Seven: Habs v Pens

Well, here we go ... into the "do-or-die" weekender featuring back-to-back games versus opponents the Habs are desperately trying to track down for that final playoff berth.

As of this afternoon, it appears that Budaj will get the start tonight, a not altogether surprise in light of Price's so-so game against the Caps.

Budaj lost the only game he every played in Pittsburgh while he played for Colorado (4-1 ... two were empty netters).

First Period:

- Never hurts to get off to a fast start, with a little luck thrown in. 1-0.

- Pacioretty in a fight. Did well, but he does have a previously injured hand. Not exactly a smart move.

- Comedy of errors ties the game. First Plekanec falls on his behind (perhaps slightly interfered?), Campoli forgets to cover his goal, and Budaj badly misplays a rather harmless backhander by Letang.

- And right after Letang's goal, following a turnover in the neutral zone, Cole cashes in a easy one past Fleury off a rebound. Pens D is *really* soft. 2-1

- PP goes to work. Let's see if they're just as bad as Washington.

- Yup. Just as bad. Pens could have killed that blindfolded.

- That said, Pens' offense has really stumbled out of the gate. Almost no scoring chances, save the gift goal provided earlier.

- Plekanec *another* shorthanded break, outstanding play by Letang who dives at the last moment to knock the puck away.

- Budaj ain't exactly brimming with confidence tonight, really fighting to find the puck around his crease.

- Subban poor puck control at the line gives Pens a 3-on-1, Budaj a sparkling glove save on Adams. Didn't I just post he was fighting the puck? #wrongagain

- I could be wrong, but this Pens team looks nothing like the Pens that dominated the Habs 4-1 earlier this season. Offense not nearly as coordinated, defense seemingly soft as a Teddy bear. But there's plenty of hockey left to play.

- Plexiglass slab just fell out, nearly on top of the ref. Cue 10 minute delay.

- Desperate times. Plekanec now playing blue line on the powerplay again. Hey, if it didn't work before surely it'll suddenly start working now, right?

- Pens outshot Habs 10-6, but that total not nearly representing the balance of play.

Second Period:

- Even though he scored the game's first goal, Eller just 4 shifts, barely 2 1/2 minutes of time in the first. For whatever reason, welcome to the doghouse Lars.

- Wow. Did the Habs just score a powerplay goal?

- Pacioretty just went to he dressing room. So is it his hand?

- Patches back on the bench. Doesn't exactly look comfortable.

- Yet more evidence that Habs would just do best to decline the penalty. Subban with an unconsciously lazy turnover via a unnecessary blind pass in his own zone and the Pens score shorthanded. /headslap

- If I'm Cunneyworth, I staple Subban to the bench for that play alone.

- Subban getting reamed out by Ladouceur on the bench. That's appropriate - making players accountable for making mistakes that ought never be made at the NHL level.

- Pens offense shifting to a higher gear since that shorthanded goal, Budaj getting pelted. Just. Decline. The. Penalty.

- Darche saves a goal with a tremendous back check on Jeffrey one way, Cole sets up Pacioretty for a pretty goal the other. Hockey is funny that way. 4-2 Habs.

- Habs obviously trying to follow the Caps model for victory. Four goals on just 8 shots so far.

- Somebody's listening. Subban no shifts so far since that gaffe.

- Subban just sent on the ice.

- Kostitsyn a pretty/determined pass to Cole who had Fleury dead to rights, but misses the gaping net with a backhander. Visibly reacts "how the heck did I miss that?"

- Kostitsyn/Cole clicking tonight, tossup for who's played a stronger game. They've both been very good, very aggressive on the puck.

- Pens turn over, Moen a beautiful pass to Plekanec who deflects it off the crossbar. Three goal lead headed to the 3rd woulda been nice.

- Plekanec workhorse 14 minutes through 40 minutes, Eller just 6.

Third Period:

- See, that's why you want that three goal lead. Campoli with a half-hearted clearance attempt that's easily intercepted, and Jeffrey with a wrister that Budaj probably should have stopped. 4-3.

- Habs in trap mode. But there's still 10 minutes left. #thiswonthold

- 8 minutes left. No way they can ride this out. Nonetheless, here we go.

- Cole takes arguable interference call. Here we go.

- Pens blow it. Kunitz with a terribly dumb penalty, hitting Gorges late along the boards. Gorges slow to get up.

- Neal another long distance wrist shot that Budaj just barely saves. 5 agonizingly long minutes left.

- This game is bringing back memories of the Habs fabled run to the Eastern Finals. Just. Barely. Hanging. On.

- And there it is. Sigh.

- Not going to rub it in and say that saw that coming a mile away, but really, you can't go into prevent mode with 10 minutes left. It is just not going to work.

- So yeah. That was an interesting little experiment, but Carey Price tomorrow night.

- 14-6 SOG in that period. It looked more like 34-6.


- The Canadiens' nemesis this year, among many. Playing extra time.

- Since the Pens are a team the Habs are attempting to catch, giving up that late goal also automatically surrendered a point in the standings, no matter what.

- Emelin with a clinic on how to correctly play against the 2-on-1. Hans have nothing going offensively so far.

- Eller, who's had the benefit of barely playing tongiht, figures 'I might as well do this all by myself'. And nearly does. Pens call time.

- Neal doesn't forget. Tried a wrist shot on Budaj from 30 feet. Fortunately blocked.

- Shootout. Oh well. At least it isn't Price in goal. #grabbingatstraws.

- I just can't look. Dread filling my body.

- Scott Gomez is one of the three?? Really?

- Budaj really looked good first shot.

- Malkin shows us how it's done.

- Kostitsyn breaks his stick on his shot. Oh man.

- Gomez to keep them in it. Oh man.

- And Gomez, why he was chosen I'll never know, can't score. And the Habs drop to 1-7 in shootouts. Wow. Just wow.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Game Forty-Six: Caps v. Habs

No Habs-related post today, but I couldn't resist posting a link to what might be the silliest contest EVER. My bet's on 149,999. Thanks to the Jeff Skinner/Carolina Hurricane promotions brain trust for cooking that one up.

ACTUAL HABS-RELATED UPDATE: With a game date with the Caps just around the corner, Washington announced today that defenseman Mike Green is gone a month to six weeks following abdominal surgery.

SILLY CONTEST UPDATE: The correct answer was 253. So I was missed by just 149,746. This is why I stay away from Vegas.

CAREY PRICE LONG-TERM CONTRACT UPDATE: Winds of speculation are swirling that Price has turned down a $49/7 offer, wanting more years. $7 million per is a pretty reasonable offer, especially in light of precedent contracts that either turned into albatrosses (Roberto Luongo's trade value is severely hampered by his $64m contract, the Canucks are basically saddled with him until 2016), or the all-time long term folly Rick DiPietro, whose $67m, 15 year deal is now looked upon as one of the worst contracts in sporting history.

The point here being, Price is without question a very good goaltender, and he represents a very important part of the Canadien's future. But the organization should be very cautious about committing itself beyond a seven year period if only because history has taught us that there's substantial benefit in locking up a star player, but there's considerable risk involved if, for whatever reason, Price is unable to live up to long-term expectations.

The Habs most certainly do not want to willingly place themselves in the same conundrum as Vancouver or Long Island. So unless Price is willing to ease back a bit on his annum compensation for the sake of a longer deal, then the Canadiens would be advised to pause for consideration.

MORE NON-GAME DAY MUSINGS: Old Habs news front, it looks like Mike Komisarek, who's been hampered by a series of injuries, will be a healthy scratch tonight in the Leafs' game against the Senators. The question is raised if he's that far down the pecking line, will the Leafs keep him and his $4.5m cap hit salary beyond this season, or may they take more draconian action and bury his contract this summer?

First Period:

- Well that didn't take long. Mere seconds into the game, the Caps' tough guy Hendricks drops the gloves to settle the score on Bourque, and Bourque promptly thumps Hendricks to the ice. #revengefail

- Price didn't appear to see that coming. At the very least he was positioned way too deep in the net for Perreault's wrister. 1-0 Caps.

- Bourque just had an uneventful second shift.

- Ut-oh. Another iffy puck gets past Price, this time it's the 6'2" 205 lbs Johansson who completely outmuscled the 6'1" 214 lbs Kostitsyn for the puck. 2-zip.

- Caps really clamping down hard around the crease. Habs are feeding pucks and bodies there but having a hard time making anything out of it.

- I might be wrong but I don't think Kaberle has scored a point on the powerplay in some 13 straight games? #needsafactchecker

- Dunno if it's because he's out of his League or a matter of luck, but Gomez is snakebit. We're less than three weeks away from "celebrating" the one year anniversary since his last goal.

- Wideman takes an incredibly rare illegal equipment penalty by inadvertently playing the puck with half a stick.

- Habs powerplay might actually be worse now than it was at the start of the season. Totally lacking organization or flow.

- Linesman just totally blew an offside call on a promising rush led by Desharnais. #cantcatchabreak

- Habs keep anemic Caps to 5 piddly shots on goal. Problem is, 2 went in.

- Caps got a couple of questionable goals, while the Habs man advantage sunk to a new low. The hole has been dug.

Second Period:

- Major malfunction by Gill and Weber who failed to pick up Semin who waltzes past for a breakaway.

- Habs 30th ranked powerplay looking like it should be ranked 40th. Tres terrible.

- Bourque makes a nice takeaway, makes an even better move to gain a breakaway, and clanks the shot off the crossbar.

- Darche, who almost certainly won't be in a Habs uniform next season, with a very careless high stick on Johansson that probably will draw 4 minutes.

- Caps 8 shots. 3 goals. That's all you need to know.

- So in light of the unconfirmed speculation that Price turned down a $50 million contract and tonight's game, I suppose we're about due for the annual Montreal goaltending controversy.

- If there was ever a time when the Habs need to start playing desperate, this would pretty much be it.

- So where's the Habs team that came to the rink on Sunday night against the Rangers? #MIA

- Caps are much like the Blues were last week. Lots of shot blocking, and choking zone coverage. Neuvirth well on his way to a routine shutout.

- Period over, team is booed off the ice. Seems about right.

Third Period:

- Erskine draws three minors in the span of 10 seconds. How rare is that? Big opportunity for Habs.

- Weber with an ill-advised cross ice pass creates a two on one shorthanded break for Caps, Pacioretty given a bogus interference call. 6 minute powerplay ruined.

- Last year's Habs with last year's powerplay would have had this game well in hand. Amazing what a difference a year makes.

- Kaberle with an ill-advised cross ice pass creates a two on one break for the Caps. The game is nearly torturous to watch.

- Dunno if this explains the root of the problem, but the Habs defense has to be the worst for getting their shots actually on net than anyone else in the League. Seems like almost every one taken tonight was either blocked or wide.

- Ovechkin puts the puck over the glass, but protests vigorously that he ought not be penalized. Ovie. Chill. Not a big deal. Look at who you're playing against.

- The Caps with nine, count 'em, nine minors tonight.

- Habs with nearly a period's worth of powerplay time. Caps may not register 15 shots tonight. Yet Washington are cruising to victory. It's a funny game.

- Decibel records may be set tonight for the volume of boos that the team will roundly receive when the clock hits zero.

- If the powerplay has degenerated this far, what's the point of Kaberle anymore?

- We may not have quite arrived, but we are getting very close to the plug being pulled on the season, which means some big decisions will need to be made about aging players and others with tenuous contracts (Gill, Campoli, Gomez, Kostitsyn, Moen). There's more than a few draft picks to be realized from that list, although Gomez will probably be simply buried.

- Johansson just got buried by a questionable trip/knee given by Gorges. League might take a look at that later.

- Forget the game-ending boos prediction. There's hardly a body left in the stands. The Caps held to an astounding 15 shots, but win easily. Copy writers will have a field day with this one.

- Cunneyworth drops to 4-9-1. Looked terrible heading off the bench. I'd be sick too.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Game Forty Five: Rangers v Habs

- Budaj will get the start tonight, as will Bourque in his first game as a Hab, apparently will play along side Plekanec and Gomez. Habs looking to get back into the win column, in other words, the usual.

- Campoli and Nokelainen are healthy scratches.

First Period:

- Here's a pretty good indicator of how the season has gone. There were tickets available for the game. $65 got you in the arena, which by Montreal standards, is unheard of. Consider it heard.

- Bourque a little partial breakaway along the wing, speed was impressive.

- Rangers really, really sloppy and disorganized in their own zone facing the rush, and Pacioretty deposits the puck over a sprawling Lundqvist, Habs take the early lead.

- Bourque playing his size, nailing Hagelin along the boards. These are your new Habs.

- Moen vs. Bikel in a tussle, Moen simply didn't have the reach to do much damage, but nonetheless, these are your new Habs.

- Canadiens' forwards distinctly more physical tonight. Rangers have taken a mini-thumping so far.

- Budaj pretty solid so far, he's benefited from having unobstructed views of most of the Rangers' tries so far.

- Habs really can't afford to take vacations in their zone against a team like the Rangers, this time Eller with a lazy check allowing Mitchell to easily backhand a juicy rebound in front of Budaj. Game tied.

- Rangers really cycle the puck nicely, very patient setting up their plays. Habs are vastly overmatched.

- Habs with a strong start out of the gate, but the Rangers slowly took control as the period progressed - they're just too deep to keep pace with. Trend is pointing all New York for the second period and beyond.

Second Period:

- Great start for the Habs, as a point shot by Cole is deflected in by Pacioretty. The whole series began because of Cole's using his body to create a turnover in the Rangers zone. Size working in Montreal's favor (that time). Habs lead again.

- Oh my goodness. If Scott Gomez can do more of that for the rest of the year, I won't make a peep about how much he's paid. Habs lead 3-1 courtesy some dazzling moves and a perfect setup by Gomez to Blunden.

- Borque having just an awful shift, totally lost on the ice, the Rangers had kept Habs pinned in their zone for more than 2 minutes, Gill with a desperation dive to clear the zone, but Habs can't change their line. Finally Budaj covers the puck. Rangers with amazing puck control.

- It's way to early to harp about this, but aside from his first shift, Bourque has been pretty invisible, which was/is big knock in Calgary.

- Habs making it look easy. Cole to Pacioretty with a perfect spin pass from the corner to streaking Desharnais all alone in front. Beautiful goal. Habs, and I'm rubbing my eyes to make sure I'm not dreaming, lead the Rangers 4-1.

- Desharnais/Pacioretty/Cole combination have 9 combined points so far tonight. Coach, just keep these guys together.

- Kostitsyn can't be in the dog house, can he? Just under 6 minutes played and 2nd period nearly over.

- Plekanec line against pinned in their own zone. Something clearly ain't right, and I'm looking over at Plek's wing.

- It's been nearly a calendar year since Gomez last scored a goal, and he came agonizingly close, all alone in front of Lindqvist.

- Pacioretty double-shifted with Gomez. Cunneyworth, I'd reckon, wants Scott to just score ...

- Budaj providing a very Carey Price-like performance (in a good way). Very square to the shots, excellent rebound control.

- Cunneyworth putting out Gomez/Darche/Blunden for defensive purposes to protect the lead heading for the third period, and they promptly surrender a breakaway to Prust who rings one off the post. Yeesh.

- An excellent period, everything just seemed to click, and the chances that have seemingly stayed out all season are going in tonight. How will this team respond for the final 20 holding a three goal lead?

Third Period:

- RDS put up the stat - Plekanec is an excellent 75% in the faceoff circle tonight.

- Habs come out storming in the third. Nice.

- Yikes. Darche taking a slap shot to the throat. He skated off immediately and went immediately to the dressing room in significant distress.

- First three minutes, ALL Habs swarming the Rangers zone.

- I sense the Rangers have the unfortunate luck in they played a team tonight hell-bent on winning. Habs fierce so far in this period.

- Good news. Darche back out there.

- Budaj hasn't had much to face in the period, but the main reason he enjoys a three goal cushion was all the solid saves he made in the first and second period. Very impressive tonight.

- Habs passing the puck with a lot of mustard and confidence tonight. Maybe the best they've done that all year.

- One big key to victory tonight (assuming it happens). No powerplays.

- Plekanec line *again* hemmed in their own zone. Weird.

- Budaj with a little flair makes a nice glove save off an Anisomov wrister.

- Aside from the Moen/Bikel tussle, just one minor penalty tonight. It's been pretty quiet (but still an enjoyable game).

- I can't tell you how much I enjoy these cruise-to-victory type games. We've really only had two or three all season.

- Not to take away from what's been a great night for the Habs, but you get the feeling the Rangers might have taken the Canadiens a bit too lightly, given how we've played lately, and with Budaj starting. They got owned tonight.

- Well you can't keep a good thing going forever. Rangers get an interference penalty and we get a powerplay.

- The unit tried their damnedest to feed Pacioretty for a hat trick.

- The boys made it look so easy tonight. If only they played like this in October, and November, and December, we'd be cruising to a playoff spot.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Game Forty-Four: Sens v Habs

Let me off the crazy train, 'cause I think I'm going insane. Has this not been the weirdest year in recent memory for this hockey team and its fans? It certainly took a turn towards the surreal last night with Cammalleri's trade right in the middle of a hockey game (I cannot recall that ever happening in the history of this hockey club, or for that matter, in the history of the NHL - at least for a premier player).

Post-trade analysis on the air and around the internet is fairly mixed. From a Canadiens' perspective, those who approve (or tolerate) the deal like the size and toughness that Borque brings, and aren't particularly offended by the tradeoff in futures, while those from the cringe-community have voiced concern about how the trade went down (it clearly was rushed), the returns (which are questionable for someone of Cammalleri's pedigree) and whether the club traded one inconsistent winger for another even more inconsistent winger.

I was very unimpressed with Gauthier's post-trade comments where he said that the trade was definitely not rushed (which few of us bought, and has since emerged as a bald-faced lie as Calgary G.M. Jay Feaster said this morning that talks between he and Gauthier had broken off following Borque's recent 5-game suspension, but he got a call Wednesday night to go ahead with the deal), and had been in the works for a month (possibly true, but irrelevant).

The timing of the trade was inexcusable. The Habs were battling hard against an undermatched elite Bruins team, trailing by just one goal heading to the third - the one time when you want to have all offensive weapons at your disposal. But for whatever inexplicable reason, the deal was sealed mid-game, Cammalleri was yanked, and the team was down a pretty important forward for the final 20 minutes.

I know I write it too often, but there's never a dull moment in Habs Land. Well, could we have a little quiet - just for awhile? The drama on and off the ice is giving myself, and I'm sure many loyal team followers a bad case of sensory overload.

And are you ready for even more bad news? It's been announced that Gionta is done for the season with a muscle tear. I guess there's room for Scott Gomez after all.

So what's going to happen next? I don't think I want to know. Let me off the train.

GAME DAY UPDATE: Gomez will indeed start tonight.

First Period:

- Emelin is healthy scratch. Dunno. I don't call the shots, and I certainly don't try to figure out the rationale for these decisions.

- Gill paired with Campoli. Wonder which Sens line will be sent out when those two hit the ice?

- Gomez just about scored on his very first shift. How wild would that have been?

- Very, very quiet Bell Centre. A polite audience, but not particularly enthused.

- Habs put one in the net, but it's disallowed for goaltender interference, and Habs end up with no goal and a penalty to show for their efforts. Somewhat debatable call - Kostitsyn did interfere with Anderson's ability to cover the shot, but was Andre unable to move because the Senators defense was pushing him into the goal mouth? You could argue both sides.

- Plekanec yet another shorthanded breakaway, yet another stop by opposition goalie.

- Senators PK this season has been nearly as bad as the Habs PP.

- Weber *again* unable to maintain simple puck position at the line. Is quickly removed from the PP for Subban.

- Sens get called again just as their penalty expires, which would normally be a bad thing, but not against tonight's opponent.

- And Weber with a careless high stick that draws 4 minutes. Meanwhile, Emelin sits in the press box above the ice and watches [shrugs].

- Pretty listless, low temp period, both team's power plays were largely ineffective, one of those games where you hate forking out $150 for a seat. Not much entertainment value.

Second Period:

- Habs nice puck possession and passing on their first PP of the frame, Gomez, dare I say, looking involved and really pushing hard in front of Anderson.

- Would it be sacrilegious if I said that Gomez is probably our best playing forward tonight?

- Much like its game against the Blues, Canadiens really struggling to get shoots on goal. Lot of blocks and missed attempts tonight.

- Fans starting to boo, I suppose it's the powerplay they're venting over, or maybe that they'll never get their money back from having to endure this yawner.

- Anderson save of the game on Kostitsyn, who's also put out a decent effort for the Habs.

- Seven minutes left in the second. Total game shots for Alfredsson, Spezza and Michalek: Zero.

- It's somewhat heartening to see someone else's powerplay that looks worse than ours.

- Outplaying and outshooting the opposition. But the story remains the same - Habs unable to bury their chances or even hold a lead.

- Habs zone coverage really has been strong tonight, maybe there's method to the seven defense madness, but on the flipside, the offense has not able to generate much rhythm.

- Sens' Daugavins just blew a 65 footer past Price, but nailed the crossbar. It was a rocket, but no way anyone should be scoring that far out in this League.

- Phantom tripping call on Pacioretty.

- Habs controlled the second, but didn't dominate. They really should be in the lead, but as we've seen all year, the forwards were unable to score in the clutch.

Third Period:

- Plekanec 15:27 of time through 40 minutes, only Subban has more.

- And Plekanec scores ... heaven for fend, short handed on a breakaway?? The sheer volume dictated that it had to happen eventually. 1-0 Habs.

- Habs holding a lead for the first time in seven days, or four games.

- Note to Habs forwards with wide open shots - Anderson simply cannot be beat on his glove hand.

- Weber with some nice hustle to prevent a Sens breakaway.

- Habs now sitting on this lead a bit, and the Sens are generating some quality chances.

- And just like that, Gonchar's shot from the line is deflected past Price by Turris for only his second of the season. Game tied.

- After all they've been through this year, did the Habs really think they could hold a 1-0 lead for 16 minutes? How many times must this lesson be taught?

- Sens offense dictating play now. Their second goal is seemingly inevitable.

- I really ought just keep it to myself. The moment I posted how well Gomez was playing, he's since gone invisible.

- Habs doing a lot of running around in their own zone, Price doing his best to keep them in this, but it's not looking good.

- Anderson has, very quietly, played brilliantly tonight, just now stealing one from Pacioretty courtesy a perfect setup by Cole.

- Habs outhitting, out-chancing, out-blocking, winning more face-offs, outshooting, but not outscoring. A loss tonight would be exceptionally frustrating.

- Oh dear. Plekanec with a very ill-timed high stick, quite accidental but definitely careless, and it draws four minutes. Now thee PK must save the game.

- Spezza with a bomb from the line, another deflection past Price (pretty sure it was). Sens score than second goal, take the lead. And it's a tomb in the Bell Centre.

- Wow. They come through. Campoli with the shot from the line, and finally, finally, somebody is there to bury the rebound chance. This time it's Pacioretty. With 39 second left. Game tied.

- Ho boy. You can't make this stuff up. Gorges, totally unforced, for some reason, shoots the puck from his zone over the glass and into the 15th row, and the Habs will go into OT one man short.


- Normally Gorges would be out there trying to kill this penalty. It's Plekanec, Subban and Gill who will have to do it.

- Subban blows a clearance by shooting into the Habs bench. He's down on one knee almost certainly thinking "why the heck did I just do that?"

- Habs survive, thanks in large part to the great work by Plekanec, Subban and Gill.

- Would it also be sacrilege to also point out that Campoli has been pretty good tonight?

- The dreaded shutout. How I've not missed watching you. But here we go.

- Both Anderson and Price have not been stellar in the shootout this season, but Price's work is decidedly worse. Just 8 saves on 17 shots.

- Kaberle?? Huh? Yeah, me either.

- Habs tries in shootout have been pretty dismal. Still trying to figure out the choice of Kaberle.

- Alfredsson wins it. And yeah ... one more time. Kaberle??

- It's been pointed out to me that Kaberle was 5 for 12 in career shootout attempts, but still, that's not the guy you pick among your first 3 in a shootout. Meh.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Game Forty-Three: Habs v Bruins

A few pre-pre-day-game notes from stuff happening this morning:

- After a pretty sub-par performance last night, P.K. Subban has been officially removed from the first line PP unit. Cunneyworth has indicated that Weber and Kaberle will be the first unit point guys. For a unit that's again slipped back to being pretty ... well .. terrible, shaking things up can't hurt.

- Cunneyworth also gave his first strong signal this morning that he's growing dissatisfied with the play of Plekanec and Cammalleri. I do think Plekanec is owed some credit considering that he's often utilized as a shadow for opposition first line forwards (and he does that job well), but Cammalleri is another story. After showing some glimmers of production against Tampa last week, Mike's game has gone pretty flat. He's usually pretty dependable for effort, but last night against the Blues he simply didn't show up. From a coaches' perspective, producers are required to produce, but they're not reasonably expected to score every night. They are as professionals, however, expected to come to play, so half-hearted efforts, even one game or one period, will be flagged. So at this time - and with the trading deadline looming, these two are on the coach's watch list.

- Brian Gionta, as we feared last night, is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. He will not travel with the team to Boston, and he will not play this weekend, which is a pretty strong indicator that this isn't a bump or bruise. Blunden has been promoted to take his spot on the "top" line.

- Price will start tomorrow against the Bruins, but will likely not start against the Sens on Saturday.

UPDATE: Arpon Basu has just posted a story about the Cammalleri situation, where the forward is ever-so-slightly hinting that he's fine with the crowd boos on Tuesday, but not with his icetime under Cunneyworth.

GAME DAY UPDATE: It's less than 9 hours before the music is faced in Boston, but right now Cammalleri's are dominating the airwaves and internet musings about the direction of this hockey club. My position on Mike's post-game comments on Tuesday night are pretty simple - he's right. The team does prepare and play like a loser. This morning I posted a comment on the Habs usenet in response to criticism that Cammalleri crossed the line, and I've reposted (most) of my comment below:

[Let's] look at the actual quote in full context:

"I can't accept that we will display a losing attitude as we're doing this year. We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose."

So ... where exactly is he wrong? Yeah - I know, players aren't supposed to go and say things that actually might be the truth, with or without the sanctity of diplomacy. But what he did say (in full context) is quite accurate. This season, this team has prepared and played most of its games not with the aim or attitude of winning, but with an expectation of losing.

I think the timing of his comment is entirely appropriate following the loss against St. Louis. The Blues, on paper, are really no deeper or talented than we are - arguably they have less talent. But man - do they come to play. Their forwards play with a high level of intensity and enthusiasm, they forechecked us to death, and they hustled back to cover their zone, and by doing so, we were limited to about four good scoring chances - for the game.

Their defense, also not wildly talented, but exceptionally disciplined. They keep opposing forwards pinned to the perimeter, they win most of the battles for pucks, and they eliminate crease traffic. It isn't ingenious or innovative - it's basic stuff, but they do it *so* well. The Blues, imho, are Stanley Cup contenders *this* year. They really are playing that well.

Why? Why are the Blues such a good team? Well, they weren't very good team to start the year, but they brought in a coach that had plenty of experience and knowledge, and little tolerance for belligerence. Since Hitchcock took over, they've lost 4 of 29 in regulation.

Funny thing is, even if he were available, and even if he was interested, Hitchcock could never coach in Montreal, because of the crazy language thing. That's a tragedy - the organization simply cannot progress because of a self-imposed restriction limiting the team's abilities to get the most qualified person behind the bench.

And this has a lot to do with Cammalleri's comments - the team requires an attitude adjustment - it needs a no-nonsense guy like Hitchcock to come in and set the tone that failure to play hard each and every shift is not acceptable, and that anyone who isn't meeting such reasonable expectations won't play a meaningful role on the team. It seems that Martin was unable to enforce these standards, and Cunneyworth hasn't done any better (if anything, matters have gotten worse).

The criticism levied against Cammalleri (La Presse's coverage is a bloody disgrace) strikes me as absurdly misguided. It may not have been diplomatic, but he got it exactly right. The losing attitude permeates every corner of this roster. Too many players are going through the motions. The loser attitude has even ventured out to (some) of the fans who idiotically cheer for the team to lose every game so that it gets a high draft pick. That's a self-destructive, dead-end loser perspective, and until there's a pretty stark attitude change, nothing *will* change in Montreal. This talent-rich team will
just keep on losing.

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Cammalleri sought to calm the storm of an overwrought story this morning, the NHL has posted a story with "clarifying" comments.

First Period:

- Ye Gods have abandoned the Habs. Simple shoot in takes a crazy deflection while rounding the boards and straight to Caron with Price behind his net. What can you say?

- Habs need to shrug that off for what it was - a freak goal and a tremendous break for the Bruins.

- For the most part, the team is so far responding, certainly holding their own against Boston.

- Two near misses. Cole streaking down the left wing, and Thomas stoning Blunden with a terrific pad save. The Habs' offense *is* generating chances.

- Weber's looked pretty solid so far, the few shifts he's had.

- Oy. Thomas highway robbery. First Pacioretty, who retrieved the rebound to make a perfect pass to Cole for an even better save. The key is to maintain pressure and not give in to frustration. Thomas can't stop them all. I think.

- Habs are going to outshoot the Bruins in the period. Canadiens have been the faster team, harder working team, believe it or not.

- Eller called for a hold. Be dammed if I could see one in the reply.

- Take it for what it's worth, Cammalleri's icetime in the first was 4:22, the least amongst top three line forwards.

- Habs really played a solid first, the Bruins goal an unfortunate fluke. If they can put together 40 more minutes of this, I'm cautiously optimistic they might come out of this with a win.

Second Period:

- Subban's demotion from, and Weber's promotion to, the first line PP ain't working for me.

- Emelin with a very unforced, and very bad turnover in front of Price that fortunately the Bruins did not capitalize on. But he and the rest of the Habs defense cannot make any more of these mistakes against an elite Bruin team. They *will* make us pay, and any hopes for a win will flutter out the window.

- It looks like Cammalleri is going to register about 15 minutes of icetime tonight, which is about what he was wanting, no?

- Wow, how'd Bergeron miss that? Really should be 2-0.

- Habs defense gradually losing more races to pucks and battles along the boards. That's a bad sign.

- Defense-dominated second period so far, which suits the Bruins just fine.

- From watching tonight's game, you'd never know that both teams hate each other's guts. Where's the passion?

- 8 total shots in the period, with but 4 minutes left.

- Bruins penalty. Sure would be nice to have this thing tied up heading to the third #isthattoomuchtoask?

- Uhhh, what? Moen was the one called, for goaltender interference, even though he was directed into Thomas. Very lame.

- Relatively routine kill. Whew.

- If you'd offered Cunneyworth a 1-0 deficit through two periods before the game, I think he'd have taken it.

Third Period:

- Considering that a week ago this Boston team destroyed Calgary 9-0, things are working out as a can't-lose for the Habs, in a strange kind of way. Even if they don't come out of this with a W, they still played a very competitive game against the best team in the Conference, which is at least something to build on.

- Why does it feel like forever since the Habs scored their last goal? I guess forever is five days.

- Emelin gives Lucic a little rub with his elbow after the whistle. I like this - show some emotion, make it look like you give a damn.

- There's the backbreaker. Gorges fumbles, and Plekanec really ought to have been able to clear that away from danger.

- Cammalleri 7 shifts in the first, 5 shifts in the second, 0 shifts 8 minutes into the third. He won't get 15 minutes. He might not even get 12.

- Well, that PK sure has looked good tonight. But we've heard that before.

- Habs forwards gripping sticks too hard, failing to convert slam-dunk scoring opportunities, the lack of offense is in everyone's head. It must be awful to sit on that bench or be in that dressing room.

- Speaking of dressing room, that's where Cammalleri is right now. Injury? Who knows. But he's done for the night, total time 8:59.

- Subban rocks Krejci with a pounding hit that would have been perfectly clean if he hadn't followed through with an arm to Krejci's face. Habs actually come away with a man advantage following the retaliation.

- Weber!! Did I mention how I didn't like him on the first line PP? Oops. Habs have a shot!!

- Report is that Cammalleri was told by management to go to the dressing room. Things just got very, very complicated.

- Sending a player to the room in he middle of a period is pretty draconian. Were words exchanged? The media will have a field day over this.

- Never a dull moment in Habs land.

- Oh yeah. There's a game happening. Habs just came agonizingly close to scoring shorthanded.

- Only other explanation for what's happened is that Cammalleri was traded during the period, and accordingly, had to be taken out of the game.

- Kudos to Price, who just made the save of the game on Krecji. Hope stays alive.

- Really??!? Plekanec gets penalized in a one goal game with just over a minute left over a marginal hold? Wow.

- Heckova effort tonight, but it's all been overshadowed by Cammalleri.

- Apparently Cammalleri has been traded. Oh boy.

- Interesting. He's been sent to Calgary. No word yet on what's coming back.

- And it's for Rene Borque. Not a joke. So it looks like a rushed trade motivated by irreconcilable differences, because a good deal would have been, well, better.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Game Forty-Two: Blues v. Habs

Yeah, I know. The game is tomorrow. But I thought that since we've arrived at the halfway mark that I'd take a look back on the whole game blog experience. I've found that doing a blog on a game-by-game basis draws some interesting parallels with training to run a marathon, of which I did last year (and successfully ran in December). It requires a certain level of dedication of focus - a willingness to post on days you'd much rather not bother, just like doing a training run.

Blogging also requires a certain amount of dexterous concentration. Because I post while the game is being played, I have to be cautions about nailing down the details of my observations (making sure I get the players right), and at the same time, typing and uploading meaningful observations (not easy) in a somewhat grammatically correct fashion while keeping an eye on the game (even more difficult). I'm getting a little better at this cognitive juggling act - I'm still pretty green, but I think I've made some pretty good strides in comparison to the earliest part of the season.

Like anyone, I have good nights and bad, good observations and some that were clearly out in left field. These wacky observations are occasionally offset by the occasional insight that in retrospect, were actually pretty insightful. A satisfactory intrinsic bonus, I suppose.

Another little perk that keeps me chugging along (I ain't doing this for money, you know) is a marked uptick in traffic. At the very beginning, I had ... well, let's be honest, nobody watching. But over time, I've seen a pretty decent increase of traffic to the page - from a slow trickle of interest to what is now a pretty good following, at least for a blog this new. It's now not unusual now to see over a 100 viewers to the blog (usually on game nights), which is pretty satisfying. At least somebody cares :)

So on I go. Don't know where this is going, don't know how long I'll keep it up, but so far, so good. I hope anyone dropping in finds the blog of value, thanks for coming in, and I hope you'll keep coming back in the future.

UPDATE: Cunneyworth has gifted the analysts by announcing Price as the starter tomorrow, thereby fulfilling the dream matchup versus Halak. Yay for that. Scott Gomez was doing line practice this morning, feeding the speculative best that his return is imminent. TSN is reporting that Cunneyworth told the assembled scrum that he wants Gomez to fulfill a top 6 spot, but that he won't get it unless/until he earns it (which seems unlikely - could Gomez really supplant one of Plekanec/Gionta/Cammalleri/Pactioretty/Cole/Desharnais?).

GAMEDAY UPDATE: Unconfirmed, Weber and perhaps more interestingly, Nokelainen are reportedly healthy scratches, leading one to believe that Scott Gomez will return to the lineup tonight.

LATER UPDATE: Still no confirmation about Gomez playing, but here's a few stats to mull over. Since making a coaching switch in November, the Blues have lost just 5 of their past 28 games in regulation, but of those 5, three were on the road (4-3-3 record). So St. Louis basically lives to play on its own turf. Jaro Halak, meanwhile, has only won one game on the road this season, which would normally make him an unlikely candidate to start tonight, but I guess Hitchcock is hoping that Halak will be motivated to stick his old club with a big L (sorry Jaro, even if you shut us out tonight, we still kept the right guy).

STILL LATER UPDATE: Apparently Gomez is a no-go for tonight, or for that matter, Thursday's game in Boston. Pacioretty, who missed practice yesterday because of the flu, is reportedly in tonight.

First Period:

- 2008 Halak picks up where he left off stoning Plekanec on a clear-cut breakaway.

- Blues forwards shadowing Eller very closely so far. I guess somebody was watching some video.

- Blues taking shots from the line and attempting to create traffic in front of Price. Which is usually the way you score on him. Blues have done their homework.

- Gionta with a terrible pass to Plekanec. Still some rust with the captain's play.

- Price with a few nice saves from a scramble. Got the feeling the goals might be few and far between tonight.

- St. Louis this year much more physical than I remember them in past years. They're certainly not afraid to throw the body around.

- Price outstanding save on D'Agostini following a very bad Habs defensive breakdown. He's "on" ... so far.

- Ack. These ex-Hab players are more hassle than they're worth. D'Agostini giving the defense fits.

- Blues forwards are fast - and they work hard. Habs defenders have to pick it up a bit more, certainly need to be more aggressive.

- Three minutes left, except for Plekanec's break, Habs really haven't generated a good opportunity to score on Halak.

- Through 20, Blues definitely the better team. Skating harder, hitting harder, and backchecking harder.

Second Period:

- Subban with a killer (clean) hit on Jackman, who got to his feet and took exception. But it was clean!

- Darche getting his stick up on Crombeen, who went down like he was shot. Stick contact looked relatively mild. Blues get their second PP.

- Eller with some determined forechecking draws Oshie into an interference penalty.

- Goaltending on both sides has been solid but the defense (on both sides) has been suffocatingly good. Will a goal even be scored tonight?

- With few exceptions, most of the play has been kept to the parameter. It's a chess game out there.

- There's the break. Kaberle caught way up ice, leaving Subban out to dry, and Arnott beats a sprawling Price. It takes only one undisciplined play to make the difference for a game to be lost. Now the Habs must solve Halak, but only when they solve this Blues defense.

- PP at least generating some scoring chances, but giving Halak clear view of every shot. He simply won't be beat that way.

- Subban is being outworked and outskated by Blues forwards. Can't afford to surrender pucks that ought never be lost.

- Turnovers are killers. This time it's Price with an unwise poke check that sends the puck straight into the slot, and Backes takes full advantage. Offensively challenged Habs are really deep in the hole now.

- Naw. Halak won't be beat tonight, unless the Habs get some crazy bounces in their favour.

- PP chance. Being one down heading into the 3rd is a world of difference being down two. Gotta take advantage here.

- If Kaberle can't make easy passes to open wingers leading a rush out of his zone on the PP, what use is he? He isn't here for his defensive abilities.

- Clunky passing and ineffective shots from the point is killing the powerplay. Team looks collectively incapable of mustering anything tonight.

- Boos from the Bell Centre paying customers. Habs failed to get on the scoresheet before 40 minutes, and now have little reasonable chance of getting back into this.

Third Period:

- First big step for scoring on Halak. Actually gets shots on net. Habs have been terribly inaccurate tonight. Two 20 foot slot shots during a Desharnais shift, both of them wide.

- How much different would this game be had Plekanec scored on his breakaway back in the first?

- Halak down and completely out, and Darche somehow can't flip it over the netminder for an easy goal. But that *is* Darche.

- Gionta has seemingly re-aggravated his injury. His disappointing and frustrating season may have taken an even worse turn.

- Cunneyworth jumbling the lines, trying to capture some lightening in a bottle. Something. Anything. It isn't happening.

- I don't know if this is an average night for St. Louis, but from what I've seen tonight, this Blues team is very impressive. They blanket their goal, and take advantage of their chances. Really, really disciplined (does a coaching change make *that* much of a difference?) In the East, they'd be Conference contenders, imho.

- Emelin with a pretty awful turnover, Stewart puts the nail in the coffin. That's what the very good teams do. They make you pay for your silly mistakes. It's an important characteristic missing from this years' Habs.

- Cammelleri the subject of quite a few boos. Interesting that he's being singled out - he's only one small part of a pretty sad effort.

- Scoresheet might not tell the tale, but it was no contest tonight. The Habs got owned and boned just about every aspect of the game. And now they have to go to Boston on Thursday. Habs fans might want to find the nearest bomb shelter and not come out 'till Friday.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Game Forty-One: Lightening v. Habs

Oh wow, is it the halfway mark already? Seems like only recently that dreams were had by many in Habs Land of our beloved Canadiens challenging the Bruins for a Division title.

So yeah ... 9-0 last night. Is there any point in playing the other 41 games? Just print the Bruins their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final, and be done with it.


First Period:

- Eller and Kostitsyn picking up where they left off, the former setting the later up nicely in front of the Bolts' net.

- Old Habs (granted there are so many on Tampa) come back to haunt as Moore shoots from an impossible angle and it somehow squeaks past Price (deflected?). 1-0.

- Just a horrible turnover by Kaberle passing it up the middle from behind his net. Very fortunate that Tampa failed to convert.

- Now it's Subban's turn to make a careless turnover, this time to Stamkos. Gorges with some big hustle to check the puck away.

- Cammalleri strong period, skating well, creating chances. What few we've seen from the Habs this period.

- Eller/Kostitsyn/Moen line continues to click, a sweet tic-tac-toe passing play, Moen deflecting a great pass from Kostitsyn off the post.

- Cammalleri denied a near certain scoring chance via a hold. Habs head to the PP.

- Habs offense showing signs of life last 5 minutes of the first, but Tampa the better team.

Second Period:

- Eller is flying. Generates a fine chance shorthanded carrying from his own zone.

- 4th line scoring! Gill a shot from the line and Blunden cashes in the rebound for his first of the year. Game tied.

- Price with a spectacular save on St Louis, and moments later Pacioretty snaps one past Garon to end a month long scoring drought, to give the Habs the lead. Tampa calls time.

- Emelin tossing St Louis into the corner, rag doll style, with a hit. He's made so many great strides since the start of the year, including his physical game.

- Canadiens outhitting, outchecking, outhustling and covertly, outscoring the Bolts in the 2nd.

Third Period:

- Oh my gosh, Kostitsyn with the puck on a sting with some dazzling moves and nearly scoring goal of the year. What's gotten into him lately? He's looked like Pavel Bure the past two games.

- They haven't hit the scoresheet yet but the Eller line causing all kinds of headaches for Tampa's defense.

- Habs continuing to work hard into the third, a stark difference from most of this year where the tendency has been to shell up and hope for the best.

- Wonder if Campoli/Gill will get a shift in the final 10 minutes of the period?

- Another strong shift for the Eller line. That's about 14 in a row for them.

- Habs continuing to force the play. Let's see how the one goal lead in the third plays out? I'm of the mind this is the kind of hockey the team ought to have been playing all those games earlier this year where the lead was surrendered late. 12 minutes left, but Habs are very much in control.

- Don't want to do the broken record thing, but Emelin is a hitting monster. Habs best D tonight.

- If Tampa loses it won't be because of Garon, who's kept his outworked team in this.

- Pyatt misses on a great opportunity all alone in front of Price. Some things never change!

- Gill/Campoli indeed get a shift with less than 8 minutes left.

- Don't think Cunneyworth is matching his lines, just rotating top three in order, 4th has virtually zero time this period.

- 5 minutes left, like before Habs still have this under control, even with the one goal lead.

- Cammalleri nearly took Gionta's face off with a shot in.

- Cunneyworth now double shifting Eller line, who've again been the best tonight (even without scoring).

- Less than two minutes left, Diaz/Emelin sent out.

- 1:26 left, Tampa has no time out as they burned it attempting to curb Habs onslaught in the second.

- Gorges/Subban out to finish, no surprise.

- Eek, and Gorges makes a mistake by icing the puck.

- Tampa coaches making a desperate attempt to send out instructions, don't think the players heard.

- Pacioretty hauled down trying to shoot into the empty net. That should do it.

- Yup. That's it. Desharnais seals it with a nice backhander, Cole mops up.

- Now THAT is how you win a close game. Do you think this team is finally "getting" it? Impressive win tonight.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Game Forty: Jets v. Habs

Ahhh ... home sweet home. It seems like it's been forever, but now that the semi-disastrous longest road trip of the season is passed, there's nowhere to look but up, right? Right?

Anyway, what's news. Oh yeah ... Josh Gorges reward for stellar play, a big-time six year contract, working out to $3.9M per season. I think this is a wonderful signing - sealed on the first day possible - January 1st, which will keep Josh a Hab right through his very best years as a player. The price tag is a bit higher than it could have been, had this deal been done last summer, but it's still an excellent move, and it sets the table nicely for the future, with Markov, Subban, Gorges, Elemin, Diaz, and Kaberle (I guess?). Weber - we'll see.

So tonight. Lineups aren't set yet as I write this, but it's a good question whether Price will get another start, in light of what I think are issues regarding the usual wear and tear on any goaltender who's designated to start 9 out of every 10 games. Will post as soon as it's announced, assuming I get the chance.

3:25 p.m. EST: Still no releases for tonight's rosters, but here's a story that might warm the frustrated hearts of Habs fans wondering when Markov will ever return. Seems as though Rick DePietro somehow managed to get injured yesterday while he was on injury reserve. Takes some pretty heady talent to pull that off.

- And Price will get the start.

First Period:

-Eeek. Not sure what happened there, but on a Jets shoot in, Diaz took a tumble (tripped?) and a wide open Stapleton slides one past Price (another squeaker that somehow finds its way through between his legs). 1-0 Jets.

- Desharnais is a keeper, but he tends to hesitate in the offensive zone - maybe overthinking, more likely because of his lacking NHL experience. Once he becomes a bit more confident, a bit more commanding with the puck, he'll easily be a 50-60 point producer. But not now.

- Jets aren't talent deep, but they certainly are plucky. Hate playing teams like this because you expect to win, but they don't come easy.

- Habs offense doing it right, working the puck in front, but just can't find the handle to knock it home.

- Eller and Kostitsyn getting extra shifts early. Eller really coming out of the gate hard.

- Shots from the point never hurt - and the $24 million man puts one through the screen. Game tied.

- Habs have changed their goal song. I guess whatever it takes to change directions!

- Eller's strong start tonight pays off early. Jets cough up the puck near the point, and Eller with another of his impressive wristers that Pavelec can't pick up. Habs lead 2-1.

- Cammalleri's season summed up by that play. All alone in the high slot his first shot is blocked, and his second shot is muffed. He looked great last week against Tampa, but has done a revert since the 2nd period of that game. Hard to figure out.

- Emelin receives a sucker punch to the face courtesy of Andrew Ladd, who gets caught by the official. Habs go on PP.

- Cole with a beautiful move around the Jets defense to set up Plekanec perfectly for a slam dunk score. Plecks misses the net.

- Shaky start, but pretty solid first period all around. More or less like what we've seen the whole season. Once again we'll have to see how this team can handle holding a lead.

Second Period:

- Moen does all the good work, Kaberle with the finish for his first as a Montreal Canadien. Habs take big positive step forward padding their lead. 3-1.

- For the most part, Habs playing pretty sound defensively in the period, keeping Jets forwards confined to the perimeter. Price getting clear views of most of the shots. So far, so good.

- Jets score on the powerplay on a shot from the line by Bogosian, deflected neatly by red-hot Wheeler. Price had no chance. Nobody at fault, just one of those goals. 3-2 Habs.

- Jets offense really coming on strong, Diaz gets nabbed for interference. It's unraveling quickly.

- We've been here before, seemingly countless times. Habs hold slender lead heading to the 3rd period, and then the nightmare begins.

Third Period:

- Gill really getting reeled back for icetime. Barely 7 minutes through two periods.

- Cole and Desharnais have been giving the Jets' defense fits all night long, Pavelec doing his best to keep Winnipeg in this thing.

- Oh that was a thing of beauty. Eller, from Moen from Kostitsyn, tic-tac-toe, Jets defense not knowing up from down, and Pavelec left hung to dry. Huge goal. 4-2 Habs.

- Plekanec joins the fun seconds later taking a blind feed from Cammalleri, Jets in total chaos. Habs pulling away 5-2.

- Holy cow. Seconds after Plekanec, Jets just all over the place. Kostitsyn with some highlight stickhandling, and Eller gets a hat trick! Goal of the night. Habs blowing 'em away. 6-2.

- Eller getting a huge standing ovation from an incredibly noisy Bell Centre. He came out hard tonight, and he's earned every single one of his three goals. Just terrific.

- Eller awarded a penalty shot! A chance to score 4!!

- Oh wow. What a move!! What a goal!!! What an incredible night for Lars Eller. Spectacular!

- Night to remember. Gauthier looking like a genius. Halak who?

- Ladd puts a damper on what is turning into a big party in the Bell Centre. 7-3 Habs.

- What if Eller scores 5? When was the last time any Canadiens player did that?

- And here's your answer. The last Habs player to score 5 in a game was Bobby Rousseau, on February 1, 1964.

- Correction: It was Yvan Cournoyer on February 15, 1975. In other words, a long time ago.

- Gill in a rare fight, he's probably got the energy to do it since he's only played 12 minutes tonight.

- Canadiens get late 3rd period powerplay. Will Eller get a shot for 5? He's on the bench.

- Cunneyworth keeps him on the bench, but it doesn't matter. A resounding win for the Habs tonight. Their most impressive this season.