Sunday, 24 February 2013

Game Ninteen: Habs vs. Senators

First Period:

- Plekanec line picking up where it left off Saturday night. That's good news for Habs fans.

- Both teams with pretty sold zone coverage, shots on goal so far have been fairly routine.

- Pacioretty with a monster forecheck and wicked wrister that beats Bishop but not the goalpost. Habs must continue this strategy, the Sens defense sans Karlsson is not nearly as dynamic, and Bishop can't stop them all.

- Habs clearly outmuscling the Sens for the loose puck, aggressive hard work simply has to pay off eventually.

- Last half of the first all Habs, Sens have just one shot since 8 minute mark, Ottawa fans, what few are in attendance, now growing restless.

- Since the 8 minute mark, Habs outshot Ottawa 8-2. Except for not scoring, Habs must be pleased with how the period went. Sens, with all those injuries, look significantly overmatched.

Second Period:

- Habs were 11/16 in the faceoff circle in the first, Lars Eller 5/6. It's those numbers which will give Therrien little choice but to play Eller more each night.

- Another dominative shift by Plekanec line, Bishop excellent keeping game scoreless.

- Fine collective defensive effort by the Habs. When Ottawa is able to escape their zone, Canadiens' forwards hustling back to intercept any rushes. Ottawa with few places to go.

- Makes sense in a game this physically tame that the first penalty of the night would be for too many men.

- Habs PP looked like it was taking a page out of the Rangers' book, in that it went totally nowhere.

- Really hurts to dominate a game, and have the other team score first on a softie. Carey Price just let one of those in.

- Sens fans must be saying "Craig Anderson who?" Bishop having a tremendous game. Time to start crashing, boys.

- Bishop love tapped by Gallagher outside the crease. Went down as though he was shot. I guess the officials aren't willing to assess dives on goaltenders.

- Whatever is beating Bishop is hitting the goalpost. Got the feeling it's gonna be one of those kind of nights.

- Bishop is playing out of his mind. Impressive and simultaneously frustrating to watch.

- Now it's Diaz' turn. Clang! Crazy the number of goalposts hit by Habs tonight. Plekanec line collectively shaking their heads on the bench tonight.

- Chris Neil takes some of the stupidest penalties amongst active NHL knuckleheads. Nabbed giving Moen silly punch to the back of his head.

- Seems only fitting that Neil's moronic roughing leads to Markov's 5th of the season (all on the powerplay). With 3 seconds left in the frame, massively important goal for the Habs.

Third Period:

- Habs the aggressors so far in the 3rd, really forechecking hard in Ottawa zone. It's helping them generate significant pressure.

- Price overrun in his own crease by Chris Neil. The application of goaltending interference is a crapshoot. There's no consistency other than its inconsistently assessed by some NHL officials, ignored by others.

- He's a tremendous defenseman and player, but Andrei Markov has more than lost a step since he injuries. Struggles intensely to adjust to any puck carriers with above average speed.

- I still haven't quite figured out how the Sens seem to defy gravity and keep winning. It's got to be goaltending, specifically great goaltending. No other reasonable or ready explanation.

- Cant say this game was a snoozer. Pace and transitions have been very fast. With 5 minutes left, it's totally up for grabs, Habs seemingly with more legs right now.

- Note to NHL linesmen: drop the friggin' puck already.

- Wow. Methot with marginal interference hit on Cole with less than 2 minutes left. Stunning call.

- And now Subban called for a (deserved) trip which is very significant because it should give the Sens a minute of a 4-on-3 powerplay in overtime.

- Habs the much better team tonight, a season high 40 shots on goal, not counting the four that hit posts, but Bishop was excellent. Ottawa in good position to steal an extra point.


- Here comes the Sens 4-on-3. Ut oh.

- Holy moly, Habs gifted with silly hook on Diaz by Turris.

- Bishop career high 42 saves tonight. There ya go.

- Price again beaten from 50 feet. But the crossbar saves his hide.

- Bizarre game. Bishop having the game of his life. Price a little shaky at times. You know what this means for the shootout, right?


- Oy. Price on Silfverberg.

- Galchenyuk, nope.

- Alfredsson turned aside.

- Desharnais, yes!

- Turris, turned aside. And Gallagher to win this.

- So close.

- Price with a circus save there on Daugavins.

- Oh, Gionta. Ouch. Good luck on the next shootout, assuming you're ever used again.

- I do believe Price was just turned inside out by Regin. Plekanec misses, and Sens steal the extra point. Exceptional performance by Bishop. One of those nights.

Gameday Preview:

Alright, let's not mess around. There's no way the Senators should win tonight. No way. Here's a team totally and completely battered and bruised. Here's a team without their best forward in Jason Spezza. Here's a team without their best defenseman in Erik Karlsson. Here's a team without their number one starter in Craig Anderson. And yet, astonishingly, here's a team that's won their past four in a row.

It's crazy. How are these guys doing it?

Well, for starters, they're getting production from unexpected places. The Sens 2nd line - Zibanejad/Greening/Condra have been scoring - a lot. They dominated the Leafs on Saturday night, propelling Ottawa to a dramatic late game win over Toronto. They're also, like the Habs this season, a very, very good home. Just one regulation loss in 11 games.

So somehow, someway, even with all the catastrophic injuries, the Senators are finding ways of winning. I just hate playing teams like this.

The Habs, meanwhile, keep rolling along. Another win over the Rangers on Saturday, propelled by a great performance by the Plekanec line, who were greatly assisted by the dominating presence of Brandon Prust, who's making a pretty good case for being the best free agent signing of 2012. That line will reformate again tonight, you can't blame Therrien for sticking with whatever is working.

The Canadiens' defense continues to shine brightly. The Habs come into tonight having surrendered an average of 26.0 SPG, 3rd best in the League. The Habs have been downright brilliant in clearing the zone, and when shots are getting through, Carey Price, who's having a Vezina season, is getting a clear view, more often than not. Add it all up, and the Canadiens' are allowing  measly 2.11 GPG, 4th best in the NHL.

And yeah. You win in the playoffs with defense, you win championships with defense, and as the Habs seem to be resoundingly proving this season, you win regular season games with defense.

With Anderson out, Ben Bishop gets the start for Ottawa, while Carey Price starts for Montreal. Puck drops at 7:40 EST. ENJOY THE GAME!

Sunday Update:

Okay ... so let's review. For this, you don't get a penalty. Zip. Nada. Nothing.

For this, you get a League hearing, and a probable suspension:

Anything wrong with this picture?

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