Saturday, 31 March 2012

Game Seventy-Nine: Habs v Caps

Four to go. Nearly there. The finish line in sight and then we can take six months off and pretend none of this happened.

So we lost last night. Great!! The Oilers ... lost. Sheesh. Com'on Edmonton. This sucking is kind of hard to do. We might actually win one of the last four so WIN A GAME already.

Carey Price will start tonight. Or maybe not. It doesn't really matter.

First Period:

- Budaj actually gets the start.

- St-Denis having mobility issues, gets called for the trip.

- PK looked pretty solid, but then Campoli/St-Denis come on and leave Budaj high and dry. Caps strike early.

- I think it's fair game to reexamine Budaj's future in the off season. As a backup, he's performed alright. The question for debate is whether he fulfills the role of pushing Price in his performances - I think it fair to say that Budaj isn't and hasn't fulfilled that role.

- Habs offense has been as close to zero as humanly possible. Plekanec has been feisty this period, but is saddled with wingers utterly incapable of scoring.

- The old Ovechkin would have easily converted on those chances. Today's Ovechkin ... well ....

- It's a sure sign that something's gone terribly wrong when a 3-on-1 is surrendered and Pacioretty is the one guy back. Markov in dreamland. The collective quality of this team's play ... horrendous. Caps now lead by two. I sense a blowout on the way.

- Habs get a PP. Will they also get one scoring chance in the period?

- Plekanec with a reasonably challenging shot on goal. So that's one.

- Hah. How'd that get in? Cole with his 32nd. Habs play one of their worst periods all season and yet find themselves on the scoreboard and just a goal down.

Second Period:

- When Markov is QBing the PP this team is vastly more effective and efficient gaining the opposition zone. It's a skill that Kaberle was incapable of executing and Subban has yet to learn.

- Um ... uh oh? During the time out Markov stepped on the ice to do a few strides - definitely seemed to be favoring his leg.

- That noted, Habs management would be crazy to allow Markov to participate in the upcoming Worlds. They retain the right to forbid him from doing so.

- Desharnais hammering himself for not putting that puck in off Cole's shot. Game really should have been tied.

- The past four or five games the only Habs line that's produced scoring chances is the Desharnais/Cole/Pacioretty combo. Nothing else has been working.

- Habs with a good bounce-back period going. This game could have easily spun out of control into a blowout. But they've held tight, provided Budaj with some excellent protection, and given Neuvirth a few challenging tries.

- Eller very pretty setup to Geoffrion in front of Neuvirth, but he can't convert.

- Plekanec's feisty night finally pays off. Since Bourque and Blunden are totally incapable, Pleks does a solo rush and finishes with a tricky sharp angle shot that eludes Neuvirth. Tie game (deservedly).

- Haven't seen Markov since his little hurt skate. That ain't good.

- Really solid frame for Montreal, while Washington even with Backstrom's return, has looked really listless since taking a 2-0 lead. The Caps *have* to win tonight, which makes their disappearing act all the more mystifying. Sets up a compelling third period.

Third Period:

- Markov did have one more shift late in the second (during the Plekanec goal) a 40 second shift.

- Habs continue to push into the third. The Caps are really playing with fire. No way Montreal should even be competing for a win tonight.

- Ovechkin just watched Eller pass him by along the boards. Infuriating if you're a Caps fan.

- Pretty dismal PP for Washington, scattering of boos reigning down.

- Great save by Budaj on Ovechkin.

- Silly tripping call on Plekanec who was merely going through a motion of pulling the puck back from the drop.

- Caps PP tonight strongly resembling what ours has looked like all season - really bad.

- Fine effort by Cole draws a tripping call, and Habs go on the PP, oh-for-three so far.

- Pacioretty's wheelhouse slapper leaves much to be desired.

- How'd Bourque not get called for a slash? His stick breaking in two as he made a lazy slash check.

- Wow. Budaj in the wilderness close to the neutral zone than his own crease. Really got away with that one.

- Eller and Geoffrion with some nice chemistry tonight. Wonder if there's maybe some future potential there.

- Great block by St-Denis who has like his team, has bounced back nicely after a rough first period.

- Caps desperate to end this before regulation.

- Not to be. Habs earn a gritty point tonight, and depending on OT, possibly two.


This is the Habs' 22nd game this season where extra time was required. Crazy. Only 7 have resulted in gaining an extra point. There's your playoff spot right there.


- Campoli easily follows and then strips Ovechkin of the puck. That's how far he's fallen.

- What a great 125 foot pass from Markov right on the tape of a wide open Desharnais, who fails to do anything.

- Bourque with another open net missed to add to his large collection.

- Pacioretty looked like Gretzky there maneuvering around the Caps defense and setting up Eller who couldn't tip it home. So many great individual efforts wasted.

- And to shootout once more. 16th time this season. Caps desperately need this extra point to stay ahead of the


- Hendricks will shoot first. Will he try his funky fake? Now's a good a time as ever.

- Yup. He does. And Budaj is frozen solid.

- Ovechkin almost lost the puck on that attempt.

- This just in: Habs are terrible in the shootout.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Game Seventy-Seven: Panthers v Habs

What's to say? Habs can take a huge step towards securing that 29th spot (and a 19% chance of moving up to the number 1 spot) with a loss tonight.

Conversely, Habs can pull just behind the Leafs in the standings with a win.

Meh. I'm torn.

Carey Price will start.

First Period:

- Amazes me how they still pack 'em the arena for a season gone so terribly wrong.

- Panthers' transition already visibly better - which doesn't say much when you consider how badly ours performs on any given night.

- Plekanec buzzing around, but his linemates ... he's got nothing to work with.

- Price wearing that awesome mask tonight. I'd say he best throw the others away and just play with that one for the rest of his career.

- Sleep-inducing action so far. Puck very bouncy, ice conditions don't look very good.

- Price is an NHL goaltender. He's gotta stop that.

- Cole with his 31st - they won't come much easier than that.

- With that goal Cole sets a career high for goals in a season. Too bad it's been wasted on a losing team.

- Is there anyone in the NHL that moves faster laterally than Price? I think not.

- Forgettable period. As anticipated.

Second Period:

- Should be interesting to see if St-Denis and Weber fight it out this September for that 6-7 spot.

- Like the Sens game, I'm surprised by the opposition effort. The Panthers are fighting for a playoff spot, but I just don't see a lot of urgency in their play.

- Palushaj doesn't lack effort, but his approach is so bull-in-a-china-shop that he fails to convert opportunities into quality setups and shots. It's youth, I know, but it's his most glaring weakness. No top 6 future unless and until his decision making improves.

- Just 3 shots this period. Seems about right. Lineup is just so thin right now, it's a credit that the game is even tied.

- Maddening for the Panthers. St-Denis with a sweet pass to Leblanc who makes an outrageous move on Clemmensen, and the Habs take an undeserved lead.

Third Period:

- If I'm a Panthers fan I'm definitely miffed by the score and my team's effort, especially considering how precious and important a win is tonight against the 2nd worst team in the League.

- That said, will Florida storm the gates in this period?

- They're looking for deflections, but Panthers taking way too many 60 foot shots on Price.

- White lost his balance in that tilt, and Gudbranson could have easily delivered a KO punch, but held back. Credit to him.

- Low percentage tries on Price, Florida needs to do better than that - and fast.

- To the Habs credit they're really covering the zone nicely, basically surrendering Florida long range tries, but not much else.

- Very quiet, almost uninvolved night for Markov.

- Florida hasn't opened up much - a surprising strategy given that the Habs really only have one scoring line going right now.

- Opening up not required. A 60 footer by Samuelsson which Price either was screened by, or just plain missed high glove side. That's two tonight. Caps shaking their fists in spite.

- Panthers now gunning for the W.

- Yet another poor clearance by Habs resulting in a delay of game call.

- Should I be cheering for one more Florida goal? Another loss would get us really close to clamping down 29th.

- Oh well. We move to within 3 of the Leafs (at least).


- Wow. Florida has an even worse record than us. Just one win during the 5 minute period in 15 extras this year for the Panthers.

- One goalpost for Florida. So close.

- Subban and then Pacioretty with world-class rushes. Can't quite convert on Clemmensen.

- Panthers netminder coming up big and keeping them in this.

- Shootout. My least favorite part of hockey.

- Cunneyworth once again with questionable shootout choices (Leblanc?). Soooo ... yay we lose! (?)

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Game Seventy-Six: Habs v Flyers

Not a whole lot of pre-game stuff to cover - looks like Weber is out for awhile following last night's strange injury, so St-Denis will get his chance to demonstrate his fill-in capabilities.

Budaj the start. Not much riding on the game, really. Playing in Philadelphia has long been a losing proposition - so a win tonight we be just for satisfaction.

First Period:

- Relatively good start for the Habs - they're playing pretty loose and relaxed, Budaj has benefited from pretty good zone protection limiting Philadelphia from shots mainly from 40+ feet. Flyers also looking a bit sluggish. So far, so good.

- Hmm okay. That works? Hartnell makes an appeal to the official and only then is Plekanec penalized for a high stick (that I couldn't see).

- Accordingly, Flyers score off the draw.

- Correction. Plekanec called for a slash. Now White enters the box. If the Philly powerplay is on, this game could be over pretty quickly.

- Another empty net chance missed by Bourque. Losing count on season total.

- Just announced and showed Chris Pronger in the stands, crowd gives him loud and emotional standing ovation.

- First could have been worse - Habs giving it the college try, but can't see how the undermatched Flyers don't start to pull and put this one away next period.

Second Period:

- That was a beautiful move by Plekanec, but an even sweeter pass by Eller to spring him free.

- Flyers defense getting a little complacent here, Cole sprung for a break, can't beat Bryzgalov.

- Habs completely disorganized and overwhelmed by Flyers top line, Emelin finally takes a trip.

- Plekanec's second break in Bryzgalov not nearly as pretty. Flyers REALLY sloppy and very lucky they're not behind on the scoreboard.

- Bah. Funny that. They score the other way, another point shot eludes Budaj, Campoli (why is he on the PK?) way too soft as two Flyer forwards were behind him and in front of Budaj creating a screen.

- Still don't think the Flyers have the netminder required to go far in the playoffs, but that's a very old story.

- Flyers for too many men.

- Maybe it's just an instinctual reaction, but I've noticed Markov lifting and tucking his leg when opposing players wind up in front of him to take a shot. It must be just a protective reaction, but it also worries me that maybe he's not 100% down there.

- Flyers put three across the line on the PK, yet Plekanec tries to carry the zone. No, no.

- Totally listless PP there.

- Erik Cole's impeccable work ethic draws a Flyers penalty. Let's see if this one is any better (surely can't be worse).

- Giroux making Bourque look ridiculous with that backcheck. Bourque just plain didn't fight, didn't try to protect the puck.

- And the answer is yes, it could be worse.

- That's what a good transition can do. Bourque took his sweet time getting off the ice for a change, and Bryzgalov fed the open wing springing Briere who beats Budaj top corner. All three Flyers goals scored on the powerplay.

- I know I sound like a broken record singling out Bourque for all of his sloppy mistakes and generally half-hearted efforts, but it's just so glaringly apparent, not to mention totally unacceptable, that I can't help it. The guy is a basketcase and an anchor on this team. Most clubs wouldn't put up with this nonsense. The leash must be short next year.

- Classy Philadelphia. That goal was scored well after the period buzzer sounded AND clearly waived off by the ref, but the sound guy still couldn't resist blowing that annoying goal horn. This is why I hate losing to this city and this team.

- Coaching switches gone very, very right. RDS just put up a graphic, the Blues have lost just 13 regulation games in the 62 games since Hitchcock took over. Wow.

Third Period:

- Subban with a silly roughing penalty, totally undisciplined.

- Habs PK box all out of wack tonight - one big reason why the Flyers have feasted with the man advantage.

- Can't fault Budaj thought. No bad goals surrendered, he's also made some pretty tough saves, especially so far in this third.

-Simmonds called for a trip but I think the Habs have thrown that away with retaliation.

- Oh I see why. Simmonds delivered a slash after he got called. White came in to settle matters. Hans ought to get a PP from this.

- Yup. Simmonds with the extra two for the slash.

- Now Bryzgolav with a trip and Habs get two man advantage. Let's see what they can do with a pretty big opportunity.

- Cunneyworth should call time to keep his best out there. Instead the Flyers call for time.

- Subban really making bad decisions on this two-maner.

- Pretty much a disaster for Markov/Subban team there. Neither really took command of the situation, and Subban's shooting was atrocious. Even more than usual. Opportunity blown.

- Just can't beat Bryzgolav. Still don't think he'll get the Flyers far in the playoffs.

- I think this has been Budaj's best start of the year. He's deserving more than the L headed his way.

- Flyers fans with mock Ole cheers at the Habs' expense. I really truly dislike Philadelphia and thief fans. Really do.

- Cherry on top, White blows coverage, and Read tips a nice cross-crease pass in.

- Never had a chance. Not this year's team against the Flyers. So it's just a loss. Can't lose sleep over this. Drive for 29 still alive.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Game Seventy-Five: Sens v Habs

HAPPY FRIDAY. HAPPIER GAME DAY! So the Oilers managed to pick up a point last night, moving them ever-so-closer to 28th, and us to 29th. Life is good! Can't hardly wait for Partrick Roy, or Brisebois, or Mcguire, or any of the growing list of mainly unqualified (but french speaking!) candidates who are being pegged to be the club's next General Manager. Assuming of course, that Gauthier is fired, or steps down.

Patrick Roy ... General Manager. Can I just take the next three years off and cry while curled up in a ball in the corner of that white padded room?

But seriously, there really is only one prize in this year's draft, and it's Nail Yakupov. The dropoff between Yakupov and everyone else is pretty darned steep. So assuming that the Habs aren't so fortunate as to move up the ladder via the lottery, there really isn't going to be a whole lot gained from finishing 29th, or 28th, or 26th. There is no "big" number 2 this year. Either you win Yakupov, or you're getting somebody else.

Finishing ahead of the Leafs would be a pretty decent consolation prize, no? It can happen. It could be done!

ANYWAY ... tonight ... it's Friday! And the Habs are playing ... at home? On Friday? For only the 2nd time in some 40 years. It's true! Don't believe me? Well according to TEAM 990 ... that almost un-listenable assault on the ears that passes for a radio station, the Habs (this is actually from them) "host a rare Friday night regular season game tonight as they take on the Ottawa Senators. The last time that happened was December of 2004, the night of the teams centennial."

Thing is, the Habs didn't actually exist in 1904. But that's a fact! Sport talk stations don't deal in that FACT stuff, you know. Sheesh!

Carey Price will start tonight.

First Period:

- Barely time to tweet the blog and Cole beats Anderson with a weakish wrister glove side. Cole now just two away from 30.

- And Cole makes it 29 cleaning up a misplayed point shot. Anderson not looking very sharp. Habs on their way.

- Anderson gets the hook.

- Oh my god. Erik Cole.

- And barely 8 minutes in Nokelanien joins the parade. It's already a route. Senators simply terrible in the transition, and protecting their crease. You'd think they'd be motivated tonight.

- Cole was an eyelash away from scoring his 4th in the period.

- Bourque is constantly fed passes by his linemates in front of the net and he constantly fails to have his stick on the ice to receive or redirect the puck in.

- White tried to bank on off of Bishop's foot from behind the net. White is now claiming the puck crossed the line.

- Showing replay. White has a good argument. This may count.

- Nope. White chuckles sarcastically. I think Sens caught a break there.

- Classic example there of Weber's ongoing troubles with speedy forwards, as he takes down Spezza.

- Subban shaken up by rough play by Greening in the corner.

- Cole have a career period here. Ought to have five by now.

- Spezza gets the Sens in the board late, and the comeback is on.

- What is Neil's problem? He's going nuts trying to get at White? Leblanc?

Second Period:

- How big is that White goal waived off going to be? Looks like Alfredsson's deflection won't count but really ... could easily see this one slipping away.

- Heh. Cole maybe feeling it a bit too much, attempting to beat Anderson (back in goal) from behind the line. One in a thousand odds.

- Sens are kinda all over the Habs in the 2nd. Forechecking is more aggressive, winning battles for most pucks. They really only need one more before the end of this frame to get back into it. Heaven knows we won't be tallying much more against Anderson - not playing like this.

- Not sure what happened to Weber there. Just went down in a heap sans any sort of contact.

- Pretty sure now it's White that's caught the ire of the Sens. He seems to be the target with his every shift. Ottawa in danger of taking dumb penalties here.

- White gets sent to the box - for what violation is a mystery. However Habs do pick up a PP.

- Markov beautiful slap pass to Campoli, who is about the last guy you want out there to finish that kind of play.

- Pacioretty with some blazing speed down the wing. Cole again coming within a eyelash of getting his 4th.

- Rough shift for the linesman - feet broke up a Habs rush and then missed an icing call.

- Staubitz with how NOT to carry a 3-on-2 break.

- Cunneyworth was just begging to get burned sending Staubitz out there with a little more than a minute left in the frame against the Spezza line.

- Pretty lopsided period for the Sens - Habs extremely fortunate to have not allowed a goal. Largely due to Price (as usual).

Third Period:

- Sens picking up where they left off - almost all the play so far in the Canadiens' zone.

- Not sure how the heck Eller shot that in from such a terrible angle, but he did. Habs can breath easy now.

- Sens have visibly downshifted since the Eller goal. They know the jig is up.

- I know Neil is the Sens' tough guy, but he sure plays a dumb enforcement game. The reactionary stuff keeps setting the Sens back.

- And Neil gets the boot. Not that it really matters at this stage. The point being Neil goes off his rocker in response to clean hard checks, this time by Blunden. This won't help Ottawa much in a playoff game situation.

- Sens going off the rails. They're probably just as mad at themselves for blowing off a great chance for two easy points.

- I think it's fair to speculate that if it wasn't for his terrible shot, Subban could easily be a 20 goal scoring defenseman.

- Safe to say the hopes for 29th are virtually now extinct. Fine then. Let's at least finish ahead of the Leafs.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Game Seventy-Four: Habs v Sabres

So let's make this fast. LEAFS ARE TERRIBLE. But we already knew that. Still, so much fun to watch 'em self destruct towards a ninth straight year with naught a playoff game in sight.

So yay that! What's the other big thing ... something about Patrick Roy being our next coach or GM or Executive Vice President of Player Personnel something or the other ... or maybe all three. Whatever. That's a recipe for disaster. I can't believe that the Canadiens' brass would even entertain giving a loose cannon so much firm control over what we think is still the most esteemed franchise in hockey history.

Don't do it Mr. Molson. Step away from the crazy machine, and don't push that button.

TONIGHT it's our boys against the Sabres. It's a big game for Buffalo - a win tonight will move them into a tie for 8th place in the East. It's even bigger for us. A win tonight will move us into ... a ... tie ... for .. uh ... 14th place. Woot?

Actually a win will move us to within a point of leapfrogging the Leafs for (maybe last?) place! LET'S DO THIS.

First Period:

- Not surprisingly the Sabres come out fast - they want this one bad.

- Staubitz does basically all he's capable of - picks a fight his first shift against McCormick, and will probably sit on a bench the rest of the night. And so it goes.

- Is it too much to dream that Bourque might actually be showing up for this game? Decent first shift there.

- Palushaj looked bad/slow there, and Price surrenders a rare wrap-around goal to Hodgson. Sabres score first.

- If the knock on Desharnais is that he passes too much, the knock on Bourque (among others) must surely be he shoots too much. But then passing was never one of his strengths (among others).

- Heckova check by Desharnais there - not a hook, just stick on stick.

- Habs in tough tonight. Sabres are hell bent on getting to 8th spot.

Second Period:

- Sloppy defensive coverage, Campoli wanders far away from the crease, and Weber way too soft as the Sabres swarm the crease. 2-0. This could get really ugly.

- Making the mission even more unpossible, Miller is on his game tonight. Eeek.

- Habs just totally outgunned. Offense incapable of getting anything moving. I'll be shocked if one gets past Miller tonight.

- Good penalty to take there by Roy there with a hook on Campoli. Probably saved a goal.

- Remember how I noted that Bourque had a strong first shift? Well, that was it. Show up, skate hard for a minute, rest for the night, collect your check the next day. Pretty sweet deal.

- Lackluster period, Sabres more or less on cruise control at this point. Habs no real threat to score. Might as well file this in the L slot.

Third Period:

- For the bazillionth time Lars Eller takes an undisciplined hooking call in the offensive zone, right in front of the official. Eller's next big step is a hockey IQ improvement. Don't matter how good your skating and skills might be - if you play dumb you'll never improve.

- Price being the consummate professional here holding the Sabres at bay. Would be very easy (and forgivable) to just toss the towel in.

- Really don't see the point of playing Staubitz at this stage of the game, and yet there he is, taking a very bad interference penalty.

- Price one of the few who showed up tonight for the Habs. He had no chance tonight. Not behind this team.

- Sabres score to salt this away. Funny how the stupidest penalties seem to lead to a goal for the other guys.

- Habs record since the coaching change drops to 15-21-6. That pace works out to a 71 point season ("good" or bad enough to be positioned for the 2nd draft pick). Habs still have a good shot - just 3 points ahead of Edmonton, the Oilers have a game in hand.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Game Seventy-Three: Islanders v Habs

So it's the same injury-plagued lineup tonight as last night (as much of the season, I suppose). Among the wounded and scratched are Markov, Kaberle, Diaz (there's your defense), Moen is still out, Gomez is out and may never return, ditto for Darche, and of course Gionta. So that's a third of your starting lineup right there.

For the Islanders, Staois is out. That's it. One guy. If only we could be that fortunate. Oh yeah ... and DiPietro is out but ... you know ... DiPietro.

Budaj will start for the boys, giving Price a well-earned night off.

YOU KNOW IT'S GETTING REALLY BAD DEPARTMENT: How bad is bad? Bad is when your somewhat clueless coach is finally starting to realize how terri-bad your game is. It comes as somewhat of a mild surprise to see Randy Cunneyworth tear a strip over malcontent enigma Rene Bourque for his ridiculously bad play since ... forever? But that's what happened over the weekend.

I suppose we should offer Cunneyworth a measure of congratulations for pointing out the blatantly obvious?

ANYWAY THE BATTLE FOR 15TH IS ONNNN TONIGHT. Can you feel the excitement?

First Period:

- Markov is in!!

- Thanks to Montoya for failing to cover the post and giving Palushaj his NHL first goal. Habs take early lead.

- Campoli and Weber team up to play the puck instead of its carrier. Formula for disaster as Bailey gets a break but cant beat Budaj. Habs fans may want to leave the room when those two defensemen are on the ice.

- More argument why Staubitz shouldn't be in the lineup. Ryan White can fight just about anybody, and he also plays a pretty good game.

- Same old story. Habs PP with whole lotta passing but no shots on goal. Subban as the trigger man simply doesn't work because his shot is so inaccurate.

- Islanders taking some really clunky offensive zone penalties.

- Can't believe how many passes this PP unit takes and then finally after 30 seconds of tossing it around, make a shot attempt from a low percentage location. SHOOT THE PUCK.

- Not exactly an enthralling period of hockey. In other words, about what you'd expect when the 14th place team takes on the 15th place team.

Second Period:

- Budaj saving Gorges' bacon there after a pretty clumsy turnover.

- Leblanc another bad holding penalty. Seems to me he takes far too many of these unnecessary calls.

- Wow Streit. A pick by Moulson on White (not called) created a huge gap through the middle. Subban and Gorges needed to be a bit more alert closing the gap. Still, that goal really shouldn't have happened. Game tied.

- Bourque really needs to just look around. A simple pass to his right would have sprung Eller to a clear breakaway. Instead his shoots a weak one off a defender's leg. And so it goes.

- Sleep-inducing action here. Neither team's offense able to do much more than toss the puck at opposing goals.

- A fine shot by Neilsen, but Budaj solidifying his backup credentials with that one. Can't let those past you. 2-1 New York.

- Montoya with terrible decision to rush out for the puck giving Leblanc wide open net. Martin slides across to save a goal.

- Wretched period of hockey. Very sloppy, uninspired, utterly forgettable. Habs just 20 minutes away from a ticket to the basement.

Third Period:

- Great rush and perfect dish by Subban, excellent backhander by Leblanc. Game tied.

- How 'bout that? Even Campoli can make a fine defensive play on a 2-on-1.

- Bad old Habs from the Martin era. Too many men.

- Habs PK with some uncharacteristic puck chasing, nearly gives the Islanders the lead.

- If I'm crossing my fingers every time Budaj is faced with a shot, imagine how his teammates feel?

- Really? Tavares with a two handed high stick to the back of Leblanc's head off the faceoff. How can that be missed?

- How mediocre is the East this year? Division-leading Sens getting shut out by the Leafs right now, Ottawa scoring but two goals in regulation their past three games. What could have been ...

- Leblanc has really been playing well, working hard tonight, has a goal, yet has barely half the icetime of Bourque. Yeah ... it's a mystery.

- Not sure if the shot clock guy has an itchy trigger finger tonight, but can't fathom how the Islanders have 36 shots so far.

- Bourque getting lots of boos from that weak attempt to receive a pass from Plekanec, and even weaker attempt to retrieve the puck. Unacceptable effort.

- Markov nailing Neilsen in front of the Islanders bench. New York enraged - they thought the hit was high.

- The hockey gods giveth and taketh away. Streit with a delay of game. Opportunity to win it here.

- If Habs don't score in regulation they'll have a bit of 4 on 3 time in OT.

- More of the all passing, no shooting. Enough already.

- Figures that it would go to an OT. String the torture of watching really bad hockey out even longer.


- 43 seconds with the man advantage. Will they register a shot on goal?

- The answer, shockingly, is no.

- Well, unlike the last two games which also went to an OT, at least the boys are pushing for a winner here.

- Montoya with an equipment "problem".

- My goodness we are terrible tonight for simply getting the puck on Montoya. Too many blown 2-on-1s to count.

- Seems only fitting that Bourque would muck up another two-on-one, this time at the very end of OT. /headslap


- What strange selection will Cunneyworth make tonight? Stay tuned.

- Desharnais, Plekanec and Pacioretty. How 'bout that? Not bad.

- And Desharnais makes a sweet move.

- Neilsen replies. Budaj ... uh ...

- Pleks misses. Badly.

- Tavares misses on the backhand.

- Pacioretty ... nope.

- Parentrau ... nope.

- Bourque??? He scores!

- Moulson ... eek ... Budaj ... ugh.

- Eller a little too fancy there.

- Okposo ... nope.

- Where is Cole?? Markov now. That was ... terrible??

- And Bailey finishes it off. Where was Cole? Whatever. Sigh.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Game Seventy-Two: Habs v Senators

So ... Andrei Markov will not play tonight because of an injury. This time it's reportedly upper body.

Still ... /curledupinaballcrying.

Happy ... Friday?

First Period:

- So with an opportunity to move into a tie with the Bruins for first place in the Division, Ottawa had what could only be called a lackluster game against the Habs two nights ago. Tonight they have an opportunity to move ahead of Boston. I'm expecting a vastly different effort tonight (against the usual depleted Habs lineup).

- Is that the Maytag repairman singing the national anthem? I crack myself up.

- Another bad Habs omen. The dreaded Chris Lee is officiating tonight.

- Ben "rebound" Bishop givin' 'em up to start the game. Let's see if we can bury a couple of those tonight.

- Subban drops the gloves with Greening just as Habs had a glorious scoring chance. Do'h. Greening gets instigator.

- St Denis iirc has very limited PP experience. It showed on that shift.

- Canadiens very tight in their zone ... so far.

- Chris Lee with the usual borderline call. Could be in for a long night.

- Gorges got away with one two handing and shattering Alfredsson's stick in front of Price.

- I realize it's Campoli we're talking about, but he needs to react much faster to those shot-ins.

- Plekanec with a gem rush zone to zone and a smart shot that beats Bishop glove side. Another shorthanded goal for the Habs. Sens fans might be saying "ut-oh" to that one.

- Subban bad giveaway deep, bailed out by yet again by a Gorges' block.

- Price by his own merits has been serving up some big rebounds as well. Lucky the Sens are still on zero.

- Habs continue to throw bodies in front of shots. It's making a significant difference.

- Ridiculously foolish unforced pass by Campoili from the corner right up the middle of the ice, it's intercepted but Price is saved by the crossbar off an O'Brien backhander.

- Habs PK has been excellent so far, as the officials continue to call everything in sight.

- It's Chrissy Lee making the call but Subban has to be smarter than that. Sens will have 87 seconds to score on the 5-on-3 to start the Second.

Second Period:

- Critical juncture here, will the Sens take advantage?

- Gorges is a shot block master. I've said it before. Emelin down after taking a very hard slap shot in the ribs. I have the feeling he won't be returning from that.

- Gotta say that was a pretty lame 5-on-3 attempt, even considering those blocked shots. Habs survive.

- Wow. Just wow. Chris Lee you fell for that?? Sens back to the PP courtesy some wretched officiating.

- Just noticed that Price is wearing that AWESOME mask tonight.

- Dunno if the Habs PK has been great or the Sens PP has been that terrible tonight. Combination of the two? Sens now oh-for-five.

- Sens winning more races to the pucks so far in this period. Bodes poorly for Habs.

- Lee calls one on the Sens. Habs fans in attendance cheer sarcastically.

- Campoli a turnover machine tonight.

- Both teams putting on a clinic on how not to execute a powerplay.

- Mr. Greening, meet Mr. Subban.

- Sens pushing here. Price holding the fort.

- Bad ice by Plekanec. Line is exhausted. Cunneyworth should have called for time.

- Bullet dodged. Habs have been doing quite a bit of that tonight. It's gonna bite them ... eventually.

- Very dangerous hit from behind on Subban there. He's really gotten the Sens' goat.

- Habs really struggling to just get their shots on goal. Only one this period with 6 minutes left.

- Phillips probably saved a goal with that hook on Eller. Hans PP has been pretty abysmal, so it's a very smart play from Ottawa's perspective.

- Habs looking like the bad old Habs from earlier in the year. Can't score with the man advantage, desperately clinging to a lead. Guess who's not in the lineup tonight?

- What could be worse than bad? 'Cause that's what this PP has been.

- For the umpteenth time, Eller takes a lazy hooking penalty.

- Bourque with a semi-break shorthanded, and an absolutely terrible shot attempt. And so it goes.

- The entire roster owes Price a steak dinner if we pull this one out tonight.

- Chris Lee .. I'm speechless.

- I think that's the third crossbar hit by the Senators tonight.

- Chris Lee with some ... interesting ... officiating. Almost all Ottawa in that period, aided by three powerplays. Price has been pretty much spectacular. Can this team possibly hang on for a two point robbery?

Third Period:

- Talk about shortening your bench. Staubitz, Blunden and Leblanc all under 4 minutes as we enter the third.

- I hate to keep beating this horse, but Bourque is killing us by not clearing the puck out. I've list count how many times he's blown that tonight.

- Price taking some liberties there coming 40 feet out.

- Oh, why not. Desharnais gets delay of game. Ottawa their eight powerplay.

- How many has Gorges blocked tonight? He's been insane.

- Carey making his best brick wall impersonation tonight. A brick wall that doesn't bounce pucks back. I'm sure Ottawa is thinking what do we have to do to score on this guy?

- Chris Campoli. You just knew it was gonna have him involved. The Campoli/St Denis pairing was always playing with fire. Game tied.

- 8 blocks by Gorges (so far).

- Price hurt by a very high shot seemingly just under that (awesome) mask. Looks like he's okay.

- Sens really pouring it on here. Habs reeling, having trouble moving their skates. That shortened bench might be catching up, too many tired bodies out there.

- Since the half mark of the first period, Habs have had 6 shots. Yup. Six.

- If Carey is owed a steak dinner, Gorges is owed free reign at the buffet. Another great block on the Sens rush.

- Shots are 32-13 Ottawa. Seems about right.

- Habs basically holding on for life here. Ottawa owning one side of the ice - ours.

- Bad old Habs tonight. Five minutes left. Can they hold on?

- St Denis/Campoli pairing out there. White called for delay. Oy. Sens go to their 9th powerplay.

- 10 blocks for Gorges tonight. Crazy.

- Ottawa with 18 minutes with one (and sometimes two) extra guys on the ice tonight. Couldn't score a goal. Crazy.

- Can we give Gorges first star? Co-firsts with Price? Without them Sens win this easily 4 or 5 to 1.

- Wouldnt put Campoli out there right now ...

- 45 seconds to a miracle tie.

- I wonder still if Emelin is playing with broken ribs. A warrior. He's also been outstanding.

- Getting one point in the standings tonight is astonishing enough. Two? Unbelievable.


- I question: Blunden out there in OT? Why?

- And Blunden turns it over in front of Price and nearly the game. Right there.

- Bad old Habs get their just desserts. St Denis with a terrible decision to rush the puck carrier, game over.

I mean, in a five minute overtime, you play your best. No weak links. No Campoli's. No St Denis'. No 4th line guys.

Cunneyworth. I dunno.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Game Seventy-One: Senators v Habs

It's game day! Let's get the afternoon off to a horrible start, shall we?

Here's branding gone, horribly, horribly wrong. If you're a short-term, long-term, old, young, tall, short, fat, thin, bright or dim Canadiens fan, you have been forewarned: The following link may cause your stomach to hurl.

Click here to view the abomination.

Just ... really? Who could have possibly approved that ... THING?!

Anyway ... with that nonsense over with, tonight it's Price with the start. Scott Gomez, in case you hadn't heard, is out with a concussion following that ridiculous illegal hit from behind by Tyler Myers on Monday night, a check so ridiculously dangerous that even the NHL couldn't look the other way. Myers got three games. Although he was assessed a 5 minute penalty during the game, he didn't get the boot (and scored the overtime winner - so HELLO NHL Rules Committee? Seems to me if you get 5 you ought to get the game - automatically. Bah).

Not sure how severe the concussion is, but Gomez might be done for the season, and ergo ... maybe done forever?

A win tonight, the Habs have a chance to nearly pull even with the Leafs in the standings. Yeah, I know. We're blowing a high pick by doing this winning stuff, but finishing ahead of the Leafs - there's so much intrinsic satisfaction to be gained ... I'm a peace with that scenario.

First Period:

- Markov gets a nice applause as he carries the puck for the first time in his own end. It's the first game he's played in this building in 16 months.

- Nice pass by Pacioretty to Desharnais on the 2-on-1 but Bishop makes a spectacular save.

- Pretty uptempo start to this game, Habs defiantly have more jump in their legs than they did against the Sabres.

- St Denis gets a start tonight, he filled in admirably earlier in the season after Campoli went down. More opportunity for him to impress.

- Cunneyworth has Markov paired with Weber and you can see already the positive effect on the later. Weber visibly more relaxed and efficient in his own zone. It's amazing.

- Cole scores off his own rebound streaking down the wing and high fives the ref. How great was that?

- Tsk. Price left twisting in the wind by everyone, and Greening tucks it home just 26 seconds after the Cole goal.

- I just noticed Bourque on the ice. I guess that's an improvement?

- Bishop is such a big netminder I'm amazed he has to move at all to stop a shot.

- How did Turris not get that wraparound past Price? Either he blew the chance or Price made an incredible save.

- Gorges really struggling with protecting his crease this period. Very un-Gorges like.

- See the replay. Price did make a great save on that Turris wraparound.

- Staubitz got clipped by a high stick but no call made.

- Pretty even period - good pace and tempo. Sens playing for first, we're playing for pride.

Second Period:

- Pacioretty gets called for interference in the offensive zone - terrible time a place for that kind of thing.

- Routine kill. Senators really struggled to get anything organized in the Habs end.

- Refs suckered by that "slash" by Cole. Officials at the professional level really shouldn't be fooled by that nonsense.

- Chris Neil runs into Price, and argues that Price dived. Whatever. Now 4-on-4.

- Desharnais can really do some special stuff with the puck.

- Markov called for goaltender interference with Bishop some 10 feet out of his crease. Really questionable calls in this period.

- Gorges is a shot-blocking God. No other way to describe him.

- This Markov/Weber thing has been working really well tonight.

- I fear this won't be the last time I observe this but Bourque is an offensive mess right now. His play awareness is terrible, and his passes are all over the place.

- Markov with a puck to the face and he went down in a heap. Gets up quickly but immediately goes to the dressing room.

- Habs really pressing with 3 minutes left in the frame. Glorious near misses and a couple of posts hit.

- The lineup is relatively depleted, at least on offense, but Habs holding their own through 40 minutes. I suspect the next goal will be the game winner.

Third Period:

- That'll help. Subban with the shot and Desharnais, who's been great tonight, with the redirect. Habs take the lead.

- Somewhat surprised by the lack of urgency in Ottawa's play. They have a chance to catch Boston tonight, which should be plenty of motivation. They have 18 minutes to make a statement.

- I've been hearing many whispers lately about Plekanec's lack of production this year, but for goodness sake look at the wingers he often has to work with.

- Yeah ... Markov still has a ways to go to get back to his former speed. Opposing wingers are beating him for these puck chases.

- Karlsson with a wrister that I'm pretty sure Price would like a second chance at. Game tied.

- Campoli trying out his best Larry Robinson impersonation with that end to end rush. Nearly made it all the way.

- Bishop is surrendering some pretty tasty rebounds, just not able to cash one in.

- Habs definite edge of play with 4 minutes left in the 3rd.

- Cole hit from behind head first into the boards by Michalek as period expires. No call. Can't see how that was a legal play.


- Are we gonna actually win one of these things?

- Plekanec dings one off the crossbar.

- Campoli. I've asked this countless times, but what is he doing out there in an overtime period? It ain't rocket science. Staple your weakest links to the bench.

- Sigh. Shootout it is.

- Pacioretty. Doh.

- What a poke by Price.

- Desharnais!!

- Price!! On Spezza.

- Markov?? Yeah, me too.

- Price!!! Outstanding!! Habs 5 out of 6 points since Andrei's return. Sense a pattern here?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Game Seventy: Habs v Sabres

Happy Monday! Happy game day! Still feeling the afterglow from Saturday night's glorious win over the headed-for-an-early-playoff-exit Canucks? Me too! Or are you one of those half-glass empty types bemoaning the suddenly diminishing hopes of having a top 3 draft pick? Well boo on you. A win, especially this season, is like a fine wine - an experience to be cherished and embraced. Or something like that. Whatever. We gladly take W's wherever and whenever they come.

So tonight! It looks like Peter Budaj will get the start, and there's even speculation that Desharnais will get clearance to play. We'll see. I'm just looking forward to another game with Andrei Markov in the lineup - he (and by consequence the team as a whole) looked pretty good 48 hours ago. Tonight we face the victory-desperate Buffalo Sabres, who are treading just barely above water in their faint hopes for that 8th and final playoff spot. This could actually be a good game!

And congratulations SAKU KOIVU, who will play in his 1,000 regular season NHL game tonight! The heart of a lion, one of the finest centres to proudly wear the C and H. We continue to mourn your departure Saku, but we celebrate your achievement.

First Period:

- The Desharnais effect is immediate. Cole with a sneaky shot that catches Miller by surprise. Nice start.

- Budaj looking pretty good. It's the basics that sometimes elude him leading to the iffy goals. Needs to limit that as much as possible.

- Markov is clearly gun shy about taking any hits in the corner. Can't say I blame him.

- Myers with a strange injury after colliding with Eller. Looks like something gave (Eller did nothing wrong).

- Staubitz with Cole? That's an odd pairing.

- Budaj's got the horseshoes working OT so far.

- 11 SOG for the Sabres through 14 minutes. Budaj holdin' 'em in.

- Paciotretty streaking down the wing clangs one off the post. Miller again in la-la land.

- Markov getting dialed back tonight? Just three shifts, around 4 minutes for the period.

- Habs tightening up zone coverage significantly, Sabres' chances not nearly as frequent or dangerous as first 10 minutes of the period.

- Sabres very Habs-esque in the first - creating many good scoring chances, but failing to capitalize. Habs playing classic rope-a-dope road game.

Second Period:

- Ouch Pacioretty taking a shot off the inside of his right skate. Gone to the dressing room. That ain't good.

- Eller came about two inches from scoring - in his own net.

- Geoffrion taking Pacioretty's spot on the Desharnais line.

- Second string Budaj with a first string glove save on Roy. That was a beaut.

- Markov scared the heck out of me as he collapses in front of Budaj. But it was a Roy high stick.

- Kaberle set up perfectly by Plekanec. If it's Markov receiving, Habs lead 2-0.

- Hah. Plekanec sets up Markov perfectly ... and he fans on the puck. Guess I'll shuddup now.

- Credit where credit is due - Weber with two nice shot blocks.

- Eek. Some rust remains. Andrei just got his clock cleaned courtesy some dazzling moves by Ennis. Game tied.

- Miller hasn't been tested since Habs PP very early in the period. That's how dry it's been for the offense.

- Sabres really struggling with the finish tonight. If it were on, might be a blowout already.

- Excellent transition game by Subban tonight. He gives us a fighting chance.

- Sad sack frame for the Habs - Sabres really controlled much of the tempo, not to mention puck possession. We're extremely lucky to be tied with 20 minutes left.

Third Period:

- Pacaioretty back on the bench. Exhale.

- Eek. Eek. Really bad pinch by Markov creates odd-man break for the Sabres Emelin redirects cross-ice pass past Budaj and Sabres take the lead.

- Habs really struggling to keep their legs moving, Sabres all over looking for the insurance goal.

- Habs really slowing down here - maybe it's a side effect from that western road trip, maybe it's symptomatic of a larger issue of conditioning that's dogged this team all season long. Sabres third goal looking like a matter of time.

- Ooch. Cole won't get many better chances than that. Mike Weber saved a goal there.

- Myers with a nasty blindside hit on Gomez. Habs get a PP chance.

- Well that lasted 14 seconds. Pretty marginal hooking call on Pacioretty. Eager beaver officiating there.

- Markov pinches to get a quality try on Miller, which is cool. But then Weber rushes up leaving Plekanec the only guy back, which is very bad. Sabres nearly salt it away.

- Habs can't string two consecutive passes together here, making it rather difficult to generate some offense.

- Bourque was particularly invisible tonight. Even more so than his usual invisible self. #whentradesgohorriblywrong

- Markov with a fabulous play to keep the Sabres from scoring into the empty net, and he generates a great scoring chance. Welcome back.

- AND DESHARNAIS SCORES with 3 left!! How big is that Markov play now?? Fantastic!!


- Weber pinches to take a shot, I think he actually hit the post, but as a result gets caught up ice. Myers scores and the Sabres grab that precious extra point. Still, to get that one point is another indicator that this team is entirely different with Markov in the lineup.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Game Sixty-Nine: Habs v Canucks

- OMG. Markov to play tonight?? For realz??! That's the word this afternoon. Confirmation later.

UPDATE: Markov has been given the official green light. His start is almost certain. Yay!

- Carey Price will apparently play with yea another new mask tonight, and it's awesome ... check it out.

First Period:

- Habs going with 7 D tonight.

- Markov now on the ice with Emelin. The Russian duo.

- An uneventful first shift for Markov. Here's hoping that continues for the rest of his career.

- Subban/Gorges, Makov/Emelin. That's a pretty, no - very good top NHL blue line four-set. Can't wait for the next season.

- Nice little push by Gomez to redeflect a pass and forcing Luongo to make a tough save. The first shot of the night.

- Poor shift by Palushaj with poor giveaway at centre giving Canucks a rush and then takes a holding penalty under pressure.

- Habs with some pretty hard hits, Subban and Leblanc. You have to do that to slow down a team like Vancouver.

- Weber and Campoli are going to get matched heavily if Cunneyworth plays them regularly. Both struggle with speed, a major weapon in the Canucks' arsenal.

- Markov on pace for about a 12 minute game. About what was expected.

- Play is relatively even, except on the shot clock, where it's 12-1 Vancouver. Really says Habs forwards are struggling to get their shots on Luongo. Price excellent so far.

- Campoli and Palushaj with killer d-zone giveaways that will eventually bite us. A bit lucky so far, Price really focused.

- Markov with a beautiful pass up through the middle to White. That's the kind of play and player we've been desperately missing for more than a full season.

- Markov on the PP. Wouldn't that be something if ...

- Subban a great hit on Kessler (his second this period) but the reaction ... poor judgement.

- Not a bad period. Habs playing like a dangerous nothing to lose team. Vancouver better be careful.

Second Period:

- Kessler having a rough night, getting rubbed out again, this time by White.

- Staubitz vs. Kassian. Two heavyweights, split decision to Staubitz.

- Continuing with the boxing analogy, Canucks controlling the tempo - basically circling the Habs in the ring, landing a lot of jabs, but no scores yet. But you know it's just a matter of time before the Habs finally hit the canvas.

- Game opening up a bit, Habs offense actually generating some good chances. Not sure if the Habs have the depth to match the 'nucks in that kind of game.

- Gomez making some pretty awful giveaways in his own zone last two shifts. Giving Vancouver's dangerous forwards plenty of extra and unnecessary chances.

- I gotta say when you consider how long it's been since he played an actual game, Markov looks like he hasn't missed a beat.

- Kessler gets his revenge as Markov gets caught up ice. Perhaps I shouldn't have made the last post. 1-0 'nucks.

- Have to say this is one of the more physical games Habs have played this year. A lot of thunderous checks, lots of feisty checking, lots of bear-poking. Really enjoying this.

- Habs pushing. Easily their best zero-goal game played this year. Giving themselves a fighting chance against a team they ought not be competing with.

- The kids strike!! Great work by Leblanc along thr boards to set up Geoffrion with his very first as a Canadien. One of many more (we hope).

- Great pace to this game. Crowd totally getting their money's worth. Third period setting up to be a humdinger. A Habs win would be extremely satisfactory.

Third Period:

- Cole! Off his own rebound 13 seconds in, and Habs take the lead. Wow.

- Markov more than 11 minutes played and still a good 20 minutes left. Cunneyworth not holding him back.

- Subban's been a monster tonight, driving Canucks forwards crazy and protecting his goal with great efficiency.

- Officials have been letting both teams play. So who's gonna take the next first bad penalty?

- Well there we go. Delay of game call against Vancouver. Big opportunity here.

- Woah. Another delay of game call on the Canucks. Habs go to the 5 on 3.

- Subban!!! From Markov!!

- It's just one game, but the Habs PP is clearly another animal with Markov out there.

- Rene Bourque. Too many plays exercising poor judgement.

- Pacioretty got mugged on a break. Officials really are lettin' 'em play.

- World-class shot block by Gorges on Kessler. Probably saved a goal.

- Unlike all of the seemingly countless games blown or lost in the 3rd period this season, Habs continuing to press for more, and checking aggressively. Really fun to watch.

- Cole salts it away. What a game for the Canadiens. It's been a joy to watch, and maybe a hint of a pretty bright future just around the corner.

- Not to take away from what's been an excellent night for Montreal, but Canucks fans ought to have plenty to be concerned about the playoff readiness of this Vancouver team. It starts (and may end) with their goaltending.

- Habs defense and forecheckers really doing a fine job limiting the Canucks' chances here. If only we'd seen more of this from games 1-68, who knows where we'd be in the standings?

- Markov now just a bit over 15 minutes. Rust is still there, but not nearly as much as to be expected.

- Canucks can't get anything going. They're being blanketed all over the place.

- Markov final time: 16:12. First game back and the impact is immediate.

- Great game by the Canadiens. Probably the best of the season. Really will be interesting to see how many of the remaining 13 games will be won with Markov in the lineup. I'm thinking perhaps quite a few, which will probably end hopes for a top 3 pick.

The Canucks got beat soundly tonight, so there's much joy in Habs land. On to Buffalo Monday to play a desperate Sabres team whose season is dangling by a thread.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Game Sixty-Eight: Habs v Oilers

Happy Game Day! Anything happening? Pretty quiet this morning. Let's check the twitter feed. OH GOD. Markov absent at team practice. NOoooooooooooo ....

Actually, he's out with the flu. Reportedly. Hopefully. He'd better be.

TONIGHT: Will Price start? I'm thinking .... no? We'll see.

More later(s).

UPDATE: As suspected, Price will rest, and Budaj will start. The race for 29th is ON tonight!

First Period:

- Good first two shifts for Pacioretty.

- Gomez a whisker away from scoring a hat trick - for the entire season.

- Yup. The game so far very much looks like the 28th vs 29th ranked team. Zzzzzzz ...

- Maybe the officials are trying to generate some action, but that was a pretty marginal roughing call on Subban.

- And Edmonton capitalizes, Horcoff with a nice little deflection off a point shot. Advantage Edmonton (another small step towards 29th!)

- Canadiens defense must be the worst in the League for finishing great scoring chances. Campoli and then Kaberle two minutes later unable to bury the routine.

- Another very marginal penalty call, this time Campoli for "tripping".

- As usual, quite a few Habs fans taking in the game in Edmonton, starting to get vocal and antsy with the officials.

- Subban with a blast from the line that Khabibulin really ought to have stopped with 16 seconds left in the frame. Rare PP goal to boot. And the game is tied.

- To understate, the quality of hockey played in the 1st was pretty low - both teams' offenses looking more AHL than NHL capable. Oilers are a bit of a mystery - so loaded with young capable talent, yet for the fifth consecutive season, still terrible.

Second Period:

- Dammit Gomez. Now you start playing like an NHL centre??! Pacioretty now just one away from 30. Drive for 29th takes a big hit.

- I ain't saying that the Oilers are sitting back here, but the Oilers sure look like they're sitting back here.

- Kaberle is what ... nearly 35 years old and he still doesn't know not to toss the puck blindly up the middle deep in his zone? Oy. Game tied.

- What the heck did Gomez eat for breakfast? Sheesh.

- Cole given two minutes for bodychecking ... sorry, "tripping". The zebra crew has made some interesting calls tonight.

- Gomez on fire, at the worst possible time. I think he may have just scored to give Habs a 3-2 lead. Under review.

- The puck was ON the line, nobody around, and still, somehow, Bourque still could put it in. The guy is a piece of work. Wow.

- For those keeping track, Bourque is -13 since coming over from Calgary. Not quite ready to call the trade a disaster ... yet ...

- Another sloppy period by both teams. One of the worst games I've seen in quite awhile. Whomever wins tonight will have done so by playing terribly.

Third Period:

- Desharnais is gone for the night with an injury. Add 'em to the never-ending injury list.

- Kaberle trying to make amens with a wrister past Khabibulin, and Habs take very big step backwards in their fight for 29th. 3-2 Montreal.

- Eller putting nail in the Habs coffin. We can't win for losing.

- Hall giving us some hope. Oilers just one down.

- Weber's skated barely deflect a cross-ice pass that would have tied the game.

- 60 seconds left. Will Edmonton pull this one out?

- Pacioretty scores his 30th into the empty net, and Habs win. /sad

- One year since his incredible injury that nearly took his life, Pacioretty's two goals tonight giving him 30 on the year is a wonderful story.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Game Sixty-Seven: Habs v Flames


Happy Monday! Are we all still feeling bummed out over losing to the Leafs? Are we feeling manic that Toronto finally seems to have a knowledgeable, competent guy behind the bench ... while we have ... I don't know - what exactly do we have behind our bench?

Out of curiosity, I checked out the backgrounds of The Two Randys (insert silly BBC allusion here), they being of course, Carlyle and Cunneyworth. I found, much to my surprise, that both have lived almost the same lives and have traveled the same paths. Interesting!!

Both were born and raised in southern Ontario. Both played roughly 16 years in the NHL, both played roughly the same number of games (Carlyle 1,055, Cunneyworth 866), Cunneyworth scored more goals (189), but Carlyle, who was always more of a playmaker, had more points (647).

Coaching-wise, both took the prototypical process required to reach the NHL. Cunneyworth cut his coaching teeth mainly with Rochester as coach/assistant in the AHL for 8 years, while Carlyle spent 7 years as coach/assistant with the Manitoba Moose of the IHL/AHL. Carlyle got into coaching four years before Cunneyworth, which is logical given that Carlyle is four years older.

Carlyle's minor-league record as a head coach was 222-159 (.583 winning percentage) for the Moose, while Cunneyworth went 350-271-48 (.564%) for Rochester/Hamilton. Neither won a championship in the minors, or for that matter, had stellar playoff records. Of the 15 combined years coaching in the minors, Carlyle only saw the third round once in 2005 (and was soon offered the head coaching job with Anaheim), while Cunneyworth, similarly, only saw the third round once for Rochester in 2004.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that the two Randys are pretty similar guys, similar backgrounds, similar playing careers, similar coaching careers. Their paths of their lives have been extraordinary the same.

There was one big event where the lives of these two men took a sudden diversion. That was, of course, the Stanley Cup that Carlyle behind the bench with Anaheim. Today, he finds himself in the centre of the hockey universe with a tidy little contract that will take him through 2016. Cunneyworth, meanwhile ... finds his coaching career more or less in limbo, his future in doubt, playing out the string with a (very) losing record in a lost season, with no assurance of any employment beyond the spring.

I suppose the lesson here is even if the lives of two men are incredibly similar over the same period of time, the paths can suddenly and irreconcilably diverge in an instant. After coaching the Moose to a 44-26 season, Carlyle got his break with Anaheim just as that organization was peaking. 

Cunneyworth, who paid his coaching dues just as much as Carlyle, got his "break" by taking a promotion to the top job in Montreal squat in the middle of a lost season in a city more obsessed with the language, rather than the actual qualifications of who's standing behind the bench.

For that, Cunneyworth's story has become a bit of a career tragedy. He was brought into a chaotic situation to manage a deflated and dysfunctional roster, his team has looked terrible, and because of this, his reputation as an able guy has been greatly harmed - perhaps irreparably so.

It's likely that Cunneyworth won't retain his current position beyond this season. Perhaps he'll be able to find an opportunity with another NHL club. Perhaps he'll return to the minors. Maybe he'll just get out of coaching altogether - I hope he won't.

Ultimately, I hope that one day Cunneyworth is given a chance with a stable team to prove his coaching mettle. Carlyle has been given another chance in Toronto, I think Cunneyworth certainly deserves the same.

ANDREI MARKOV IS CLOSE UPDATE: Contact practice this morning! I'm thinking Edmonton on Thursday???! We'll see!!

PLAYERS COMING BACK TO HAUNT US UPDATE: Well at least we know it won't be Cammalleri. John Lu reports he's out for tomorrow night's game with an upper body injury.

Also ... Cunneyworth said this afternoon that Markov will be traveling with the team and will be participating in team practices with contact, but no return date is yet set. He indicated that the team intends on Andrei playing before the season's end. So perhaps my prediction (hope) for a return against Edmonton was a bit premature.

First Period:

- Little late to the action, but Flames go up 2-0 after Weber makes a sloppy pinch at his blue line, giving Iginla room to wheel (and he does) past Plekanec, sweeping around Price, and voila, they're on their way.

- Habs just ... awful. Sloppy, slow, undisciplined. Flames are simply eating them alive on both ends of the ice. Don't know who to praise for the Habs - no one is worthy.

- You know, Weber looked so promising at the start of the year - but his play the past two weeks has just been ... so ... terrible. Have no idea how or why he's tipped into an abyss.

- Habs really one one decent scoring chance, and they actually score on it at the very end of the period on the powerplay with Plekanec slipping in a rebound. Still the game totally lopsided, Flames outshooting the Habs 18-9. Eeek.

Second Period:

- Really, the Flames ought to destroy us tonight, they're still within striking distance of a playoff spot. And this is in a city starved for post-season play.

- Habs actually looking a bit more organized first five minutes of the period. Still unable to work the puck into an open spot for a quality chance, nonetheless there is semblance of coherence that was completely void over the first 20 minutes.

- Mini break here as Flames' Bouwmeester flips the puck over the glass under pressure from Bourque. See? Good things happen when you use the body.

- Pretty uneventful man advantage. Usual assortment of good passes, but no high quality shots.

- Wow. What a weird game this is turning out to be. Pactioretty with a gift goal from a harmless shot near the boards that somehow Kiprusoff muffs up. Game tied.

- How did Bourque manage to miss that totally wide open net? How many times has he done that since joining the Habs? I've lost count.

- Just can't compete. Blown coverage all over the place, defense and forwards, and Giordano blasts one past Price from 35 feet. I'm not sure how you can teach the basics to NHL players such as "cover your man", but that Flames goal, the basics were all but forgotten. 3-2 Calgary.

- Eller takes a bad penalty. Again.

- Oh wow. Did Iginla ever make Gorges look bad. Brilliant goal, but Gorges simply turned inside out. Price failing to cover the post properly didn't help much. Now 4-2.

- This might be Gorges worst game of the year.

- Better period than the first, but still Habs being outclassed. Price struggling, and his teammates, especially the forwards, are having great difficulty with positioning (perhaps indicative of the younger guys getting a chance). Flames are going to win this easily.

Third Period:

- So how come none of our guys ever seem to haunt their old teams? Bourque has had a couple of chances, but he's been mostly invisible. Meh.

- Oh Carey. Oh Carey ...

- The play by Price probably sums up how everybody on the Habs roster feels right now.

- Eller , try try, and try again, you never know what'll happen. Another weak one surrendered by Kiprusoff. Habs on life support, but still a chance. Sutter calls for time.

- Yup. This is a crazy game. Mad scramble in front of Kiprusoff, and the puck deflects off Desharnais' skate (I think?) and in. Reviewing the play now.

- This will count. Puck went in off Kibrusoff's stick. And it's 5-4. Pacrioretty with *another* goal. He's going to break 30 this year easily.

- The Flames will never live this down if they blow this game. A chance to nearly climb back to 8th now being given away. Will they hang on?

- Campoli with a great rush around and behind the Flames net, and a pass back to the line to ... no one.

- Habs have only won one game this year trailing after two periods. I can't fathom them coming back from three down with less than 10 minutes left in the 3rd.

- Is Price hurt? He made a very awkward save and appeared to twist his left leg awkwardly.

- Iginla looking fierce for the hat trick.

- Price really slow to get up after making a save on a 2-on-1 Flames break. Really slow.

- Three minutes left. Habs will need to push the peddle right now.

- Kaberle ... Just. Keep. It. In. The. Zone.

- Don't quite understand putting Campoli out there with Price pulled.

- Tanguay with a mistake icing.

- Wow. Did Cunneyworth actually use a time out? Miracles never cease!

- Nice try, but as usual, not quite enough. Still nice to see some life in the last half of the period. Something to build on for Thursday, perhaps?

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Game Sixty-Six: Leafs v Habs

So let's get this straight: Brian Burke fired Ron Wilson because of the way he and the Leafs were being taunted by their fans during their recent loss to Florida? Really!? That's all that's required - a few jeers from the mob? Wow.

Obviously Habs fans are far too passive. While Randy Cunneyworth plays out the string awaiting his inevitable dismissal at season's end, the Leafs took matters into hand and got a pretty experienced guy behind their bench who's actually won a championship. WHY can't we do the same - like ... ever? Why couldn't we have hired Carlyle instead?

Instead, we'll repeat the same pattern, bringing in an unqualified francophone ex-player, who'll either have a ridiculous temperament, or a general lack of coaching experience. And he'll be terrible. And the team will suffer.

Guys. Hire the best available candidate, regardless of their ability to speak french?

Bah. Who am I kidding. It's not gonna happen.

Tonight: with Gomez and Diaz out with injuries, the kids will get their chance to shine against the tailspinning Leafs.

Let's drive the final nail into Toronto, boys. Let's salvage some measure of satisfaction out of a lost season.

First Period:

- With the Habs having a losing season, game tickets are plentiful. Lots of Leafs fans in the crowd tonight.

- Spirited start, plenty of hitting, pace is pretty fast. Not bad for two of the East's bottom-feeding teams.

- Gustavsson looking very shaky handling the puck behind his net.

- And with the Leafs netminder caught out of position, Cole buries his 23rd of the year, and reacts with unusual emotion.

- Leafs zone coverage pretty chaotic right now.

- Wow. Not sure if Staibitz has much of a future with the big club, but his fights alone are nearly worth the price of admission. Big tilt there with Brown (split decision).

- Lots of emotion out there tonight. Two frustrated teams in lost seasons taking it out on each other. Great fun to watch.

- End to end action. Can't believe they can sustain this pace for 60 minutes.

- I totally dig the mask Price is wearing tonight - easily the best of his collection.

- Geoffrion making the team play attempting to feed the puck from behind the Leafs' cage to Eller who was tied up by both Toronto defenders. It wasn't the correct play. He could have easily carried the puck in front for a high percentage chance. These are the plays where you hope they learn, and improve.

- Very good first - quite intense, lots of emotion, likely due to the great atmosphere in the Bell Centre. Can't wait for the next 40 minutes.

Second Period:

- Carey Price can't afford to take naps with the faceoff directly to his left. Campoli also in la-la land. Matt Frattin says thank you. Game tied.

- Phil Kessel tests Price to see if Carey is awake with a quick snapper glove said. Price is indeed, alert.

- Gustavsson really seems to like converting the routine into an adventure. No wonder Burke's hair is so white.

- Habs offense grinding to a halt in the 2nd. Betcha the Leafs end up with a lead headed to the 3rd.

- Bourque plays the puck in the neutral zone with his head down, and pays the price.

- Cunneyworth sent out his most defensively challenged line and defense at the same time. Playing with fire.

- With the kids out there, even though it's Toronto, Habs forwards are pretty overmatched. Don't see this ending well.

- Good pressure by Pacioretty draws a trip, and Habs get a chance here on the man advantage, recently ranked as low as 30th, now at 26th against the NHL's 29th ranked PK.

- Wayyyyyyy too much passing. Leafs are giving it away, and we're not taking.

- Gustavsson got lucky laying flat on his back he failed to cover the puck, but Bourque couldn't flip it over and in.

- Superb looking leg save by Gustavsson on a rocket from Subban. Shot probably would have gone wide.

- Leblanc with an insanely stupid and totally unnecessary hold at the Toronto line with only seconds left in the period. Terrible.

- Toronto was the much better team in the 2nd, slightly better team through 40. It's up for grabs, but Toronto needs this game much more badly than the Habs, so expect them to come out storming in the 3rd.

Third Period:

- Routine kill there, thankfully.

- Unusually juicy rebound surrendered by Price from a routine shot.

- All Leafs so far in the 3rd. Here we go (again).

- Nearly at the 6 minute mark, Pacioretty got the Habs their first shot on goal.

- Dave Jackson with a questionable goaltending interference call on Pacioretty.

- Leafs blue line really struggles with what should be routine passing and puck control. It's killing their powerplay opportunities.

- Shots are 32-19 Leafs. Are we gonna steal this?

- The answer is, by the way, almost certainly no unless we can actually generate scoring chances against Gustavsson (we haven't had one this period).

- Weber takes a unwise icing, Habs should call for time.

- They don't, we make a terrible line change trying to get everyone off, and the Leafs take the lead as Grabovski ends his 11 game scoring drought. That one started with Weber, and ended with Cunneyworth.

- We really are the team that cures all that ails the opposition, no? Leafs have won only three times this year trailing after the first (about to make that four), and Grabovski scores his first in a month.

- Komisarek rubs out Campoli along the boards (ought have been called interference). Campoli got his revenge 10 seconds later with a devastating (and legal) open ice hit on Komisarek.

- Subban came within a foot of sending Grabovski back to last Tuesday. If full contact had been made I'm pretty sure he'd still be down.

- Habs still playing like this game is tied. No real sense of urgency.

- Plekanec line turning up the heat. Gustavsson makes a great save off a rebound.

- Cole a silly slash to end any hopes. Leafs were the better team, so the win is deserved.

- Dead carp thrown on the ice. Symbolic sentiment about this year's team in Montreal.

- Why not. Shoddy play by Weber, Grabovski one more. Little salt in the wound. Now it's off to Alberta.