Saturday, 16 March 2013

Game Twenty-Eight: Habs vs. Devils

First Period:

- Oh yes, Chris Lee will ref tonight's game. Oh, joy. First Habs game Lee's worked this season. I assume he's been saving up his usual menu of terrible calls for this game.

- Let's hope the last 57 minutes aren't as dreadful as the first 3 have been. Zzzzz ...

- Devils' offense so far really working hard to feed the point for long shots at Price, looking for redeflects and rebounds, I'd reckon.

- May fall asleep soon if something resembling exciting doesn't happen soon. Both team defenses are dominating so far.

- Thank goodness. Colby Armstrong finally gets his name on the goal scorers column. Habs score that critical first goal. Congrats to Colby. It's already a big night.

- Pretty goal actually by Armstrong. Great forecheck created a giveaway followed by a great wrister up under the bar. Hedberg didn't have much of a chance.

- Even though I think the Habs would have little difficulty, please, oh please, I hope these two teams don't meet in the post-season. I don't think I could handle two weeks of this.

- Hedberg dropped his stick and while trying to pick it up off the ice, Gorges took a shot from the point, the puck grazing the post. Devils very fortunate there.

- Habs strong in the circle so far, leading 14-7.

- 15-7 now. That observance underscoring the Devils' biggest roster weakness, a lack of depth at centre.

- Pacioretty looking dangerous tonight. Watch for that.

- Good puck movement by Habs on their first powerplay.

- PP doing its best to set Subban up for the cannon, but he's done a mini-wiff on his two tries.

- Good road period for the Habs, basically controlled much of the tempo, Devils with 7 shots on Price, none of them particularly dangerous.

Second Period:

- Chris Lee show begins, terrible call on White for holding the stick.

- It only figures that the Devils strike on the powerplay. Eller flagrantly tripped right in front of the official trying to shoot the puck out of Habs zone. No call made. Three seconds later, goal. Bad officiating more often than not has a direct impact on the final score.

- Just wow. With the puck at his feet, Moen called by Lee for smothering the puck. And on it goes.

- Subban out for every second of Habs 3rd powerplay.

- Plekanec furious, believe he was hit in the face by a high stick. If so, it was, of course, missed.

- Following that penalty, it now appears that White has more or less been relegated to bench duty.

- Good push-back period for New Jersey, the Habs once again have a 2nd period mini let-down. I'm at a loss to explain this phenomenon and why it's happen so frequently this season, but it's robbing the Habs of "cruise" games against clearly inferior opponents. Tonight is a classic example.

Third Period:

- Devils' Harrold, with visor, takes a puck off the nose courtesy a Markov shot deflected by Pacioretty. Ouch.

- Devils have picked up right where the 2nd period stopped, and that's bad news for the Habs.

- Got the feeling Price will have to deliver a few game savers before this one is done. He struggled with that his past half dozen starts.

- Yowza! Wretched clearance by Devils Zidlicky up the middle, Tinordi intercepts and wastes no time firing at Hedberg, Plekanec the deflection to give outplayed Habs 2-1 lead. Tinordi, who's been very solid tonight, might have just earned himself a few more starts.

- Feeding off that goal, Habs turning on the jets, Devils pinned in their zone.

- Therrien recognizing and rewarding. Tinordi now getting more shifts.

- Subban at 20 feet, 100 mph. Not sure if Hedberg is brave or insane for coming out hard to block that shot.

- Devils just don't have the horses on forward. How they're in 6th at this point is fascinating.

- Kinda hoping for one more. Just to make sure about this thing.

- Habs D holding steady here. Devils' chances have been mostly limited and contained.

- Icing waved off for some reason, Devils nearly score, Price with a nice save. 1:24 left. Critical faceoff here deep in Habs zone.

- Price with those big game saves the final minute. And so we return to normality.

- Excellent road win for the Habs, their 5th in a row, and they vault back into first in the East. Habs defense particularly good, providing Price with clear vision for most of the New Jersey attempts, making most of them harmless. Canadiens get two days of rest before facing cellar-dweller Sabres.

Pregame Preview

Oh dear, we're no longer in first.

The Habs aren't getting a whole lot of help in their attempts to create some distance in the race for first place. The Bruins won again today, 4-1 over the hapless Caps. The Sens won today, 4-3 in OT over the even more hapless Sabres. The Pens won today, their (gulp!) eight straight, 3-0 over the pathetically hapless Rangers. Remember how just about everyone had New York as their pre-season Stanley Cup winner? Pretty sure almost nobody who picked the Rangers then is still riding that train now.

Then again, who picked the Habs for first? Don't bother googling. Nobody did. Not even yours truly. We (well, mostly I) got burned big-time last year by thinking the Habs were going to be very competitive. Well that's all in the past. We live for the present, and right now, the only thing we have be concerned about is our playoff spot.

Oh yeah. And injuries.

We've got another one, sad to say. Mike Ryder is out tonight with a lower body injury. I guess that confirms speculation during the Sens game that something was wrong. Hopefully, he won't be out long, because for the most part, Ryder has been a terrific acquisition.

The usual injury suspects include Bourque (out who knows when), and Diaz. Bourque, in case you missed it, has been practicing with the team, but there's no timetable for return.

SO ... tonight! Habs are taking on the Devils, sans Martin Brodeur (whew), who's reportedly close to return from his back injury, but not close enough to start tonight. Johan Hedberg will probably get the start, although I wouldn't be shocked in the Devils go with their backup backup Jeff Frazee.

Habs are hot, hot, hot - not Pittsburgh hot mind you, but still, they're gunning for their 5th straight win. Devils, after their fast start to the season, have come back to the pack a bit, sitting 6th in the East with 32 points. That's not too shabby given the general consensuses among the experts was that the Devils would be sitting somewhere near the bottom, mainly because their offense was deemed far too thin to compete.

Some considerations. Habs powerplay is ranked 8th in the League with 9th ranked offense overall, Devils 19th on the man advantage, 14th ranked offense overall. Penalty kill is mediocre both sides, Montreal 17th, New Jersey 19th overall. One stat to keep an eye out for, first goal winning percentages. When Habs score first, their winning percentage is ranked 12th, while Jersey is ranked 6th. When opponent scores first, Habs winning percentage is ranked 4th (nice!), but Jersey is ranked wayyy down in 23rd place. So New Jersey does not play well when trailing. In other words, in case I haven't over explained this enough, the first goal between these two teams looks pretty important.

Carey Price will start for the Habs tonight. Of course.

Puck drops 7:10 EST. For FIRST PLACE AGAIN!

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