Thursday, 14 February 2013

Game Thirteen: Habs vs. Panthers

Oh Ottawa. Poor, poor Ottawa. Now you know today how it felt to be us three years ago. Above is a picture of Andrei Markov moments after getting hit by Matt Cooke along the boards. That was the hit that ended Markov's season, and which supposedly sunk our playoff hopes, but somehow, Les Boys managed to eek out an incredible 7 game series win over Mr. Cooke at the Penguins.

So take heart guys, we managed to do it without Markov - you can do it without Karlsson.

Naw. I'm kidding. Ottawa is pretty much sunk. TOO BAD SO SAD.  So Senators out of the way, just Boston stands between us and first place. Sweet!

So tonight - it's the Habs and Panthers from Miami. The Habs are coming off a shootout victory that ought never have happened in the first place, while the Panthers are doing pretty much what everyone figured they'd do, lose more than win. Just 4 wins in 12 games. Yeah. That seems about right.

Who's hot for Florida? Well it sure isn't their offense, 6th worst in the NHL. Tomas Fleischmann leads the Panthers with 10 points, Jonathan Huberdeau leads in goals with 5. That's about it. Florida's powerplay sits at a respectable 26.9%, 12th overall in the League, their PK though, 72.9%, 5th worst overall. Not good.

So ... expect the Habs to focus on speed and aggressive puck control to draw some penalties, and then convert powerplay chances into goals. We'll see.

Jose Theodore, who was the greatest goaltender on earth between January and April, 2002, will start for Florida. Carey Price for Montreal because, well ... we want to actually win this thing.

Oooh yeah. Speaking of goaltending, the Habs pulled off a nifty little under-the-radar trade earlier today surrendering minor league flop Cedrick Desjardins for Dustin Tokarski who might ... just might, be good enough to be Price's backup next year. We'll see, because the cupboard is pretty bare with regards to netminding in the Habs system. WE APPROVE OF THIS TRADE.

Puck drops 7:30 est, and due to other obligations, my updates will be sporadic, at least through the first two periods.

Enjoy the game!

First Period:

- Habs using some of their speed and forechecking to generate an early PP. Gameplan is on.

- Erik Cole really humming out there - but his shot remains oddly ineffective.

- Another PP, but Panthers PK keeps puck on the perimeter, and any shots that do get through are routine for Theodore.

- More or less evenly played period, pretty unintensive action, no stellar chances generated for either side. From a Habs' perspective, pretty decent road period.

Second Period:

- Panthers really doing a good job blocking shots, and d zone coverage. Habs simply haven't been able to set up for a quality shot so far.

- Habs playing classic close checking road game, but so too are the Panthers. Beginning to wonder if the first goal, if there's any, will be dirty or flukey.

- Pretty solid powerplay for Habs, Subban ringing one off the post. One hopes this will give them enough momentum where they can finally put a puck behind Theodore, who should be noted, had played solid, unspectacular goaltending.

- Glad I'm not a paying customer for this game, the thrills have been few and far between.

- Shots are 21-13 through 40 in favour of the Habs who have held the edge of play, but are struggling to convert against a very protectionist Panthers defense. This game is totally up for grabs, the big question is whether anyone will actually score before the clock hits zero.

Third Period:

- Gianta with the first great scoring chance of the night for either team, turn aside point blank by the very steady Theodore.

- 11 minutes left, game finally opening up, Panthers with a flurry but Price shuts the door. Thinking goal should come shortly, but who will score?

- Hardly surprising that the game ends regulation 0-0. Habs will get at least 3 out of 4 points on the Florida swing, which is nothing other than an unqualified success.


- Galchenyuk does some great determined work getting past two Florida defenders and placing the puck on Theodore, Bourque is there to cash in a dirty rebound, and the Habs sweep in Florida. Brilliant gritty determination by Galchenyuk.

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