Thursday, 18 April 2013

Game Forty-Four: Bolts vs. Habs

First Period:

- His first shift, Desharnais has gone to the dressing room with an apparent injury. No idea what or how it happened.

- Now gonna hex this with praise, so I'll go the other direction. Early on, Price looks terrible.

- Again I don't want to hex anything but Habs are being far more consciences and alert in their own zone in comparison to the previous three games. Not perfect, but better.

- Two posts rung by the Bolts so far, the first unstoppable, the second stoppable. Bounces have been on Carey's side so far, but that won't last forever.

- And it's three, this time the crossbar. Price was way, way, way too deep in his crease. Previous history, he's had a habit of retreating back there when he's not confident. Tampa would be wise to just shoot every opportunity. Eventually they'll go in.

- First goal here will go a long way towards determining the winner. Both teams are struggling with egg-fragile psyches.

- Superb point blank save by Price on Panik, a few "Carey!" chants go up in the Bell. Stay positive, stay positive.

- That was pretty good, wasn't it? Relatively evenly played period, Tampa with the better quality scoring chances overall. Price was helped out by posts, but otherwise looked pretty solid. Habs defence, while still too slow and still mired by poor positional play, seems nonetheless to be heading in a better organized direction. No goals surrendered in 20 minutes is unquestionably mission accomplished in the arduous process of rebuilding a team whose collective confidence has been run over by a bus. The second period will really tell the tale.

Second Period:

- More wretched defence by Gorges, another superb save by Price on St Louis to bail his team. That's more good signs (not the Gorges part, of course - I've no idea why he's played so poorly the past two weeks).

- Tampa defence doing a pretty good impersonation of the Habs defence the past week, Galchenyuk continues his hot play, and Habs score the critical first goal.

- Four posts now. Price's bad luck karma being paid back in full plus one hundred.

- Why is Bishop never this good when he's not playing in Montreal? Oy.

- Habs offence suddenly firing to life, overwhelming Tampa defence. Gionta makes it 2-0, and the Habs, dare we say, looking more and more like the Habs of old, as in, two weeks ago.

- Habs really need to stay out of the box if they want to bring this one home. No good reason to be taking unnecessary or lazy penalties.

- Fans singing. That hasn't happened since the Bruins game 12 days ago.

- And the Bolts score on the powerplay. Having Bouillon and Drewiske back there was playing with fire, especially the former.

- Habs defence back to their bad old ways after that Tampa goal. Price holding firm but you can just feel this slipping away. Second is nearly over, thankfully.

- Apart from the bumbling around the final three minutes, very good period for the Habs, especially the later half when the offence found its footing and overwhelmed Bishop. Can't estimate how big a victory would be tonight towards installing a feeling of normality on this team. 20 minutes away, if the defence rebuckles itself.

Third Period:

- Under normal circumstances, Therrien might have sat Subban for a few shifts in response to his undisciplined penalty resulting in Tampa's goal. But these are not normal circumstances.

- If Habs defence really insists on being sloppy, can they do that when Stamkos is NOT on the ice, please?

- This game feels like so many countless games from last season. Habs holding third period lead but you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

- Shoe drops. Where to start? Markov with the turnover, gets caught up ice, can't recover. Not helped by shoddy positional coverage by Bouillon, Bourque flailing away in the slot, Price left hung to dry. Game tied. How can you fix this kind of badness?

- Love the physicality Dumont has brought tonight, and it's producing quality scoring chances from him driving Bishop. Last one should have been buried by Plekanec, who's the latest among the badly snakebitten.

- Is it a bit too melodramatic to say that Andrei Markov is hurting this team more than he's helping? Because he is.

- If Habs lose this anyone who criticizes Price ought to have their head examined and IQ measured. He's been excellent.

- Phantom trip called on Gorges. Here we go.

- Habs PK has been beyond shaky. Closing eyes, can't bear to watch this.

- Survived. But still huge cloud of doom looms overhead. All the memories of last season, feels like the third shoe is about to fall.

- Tampa doing their best to give this to the Habs with all these terrible late 3rd period penalties, but Habs can't take advantage. 0-for-4 tonight.

- Markov with ANOTHER ill-advised pinch catches him up ice. Bolts nearly score shorthanded. Wow.

- Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Brian Gionta with what is probably the game winner. Weber with the huge assist. Genuinely good guys rewarded.

- Empty Tampa net, Mr. Snakebite Plekanec misses from three feet. If Tampa scores they'd better guard the Montreal bridge rails for jumpers.

- Breath. Breath it in. Victory. Enjoy that feeling. Let it linger. Carey Price was the difference tonight. Sense of normalcy returning, although that was as shaky and as sloppy a Habs victory as you'll ever see.

Game Preview

So here we are. Three straight losses, all of them of the "pretty bad" variety. The skies are bleak. There's little chance of redemption. There'll probably be no tomorrow. This is the end, my only friend. The end. The end.

Okay, now that we have that out of our system, a reality check. First, we're in the middle of a losing stream. It happens all the time - even to the best teams. Stuff happens. Bad goals bounce in. People have off nights, perhaps singularly, perhaps collectively as a team.

Last night the Habs had a horrible first period against the Pens, where they were out-worked, out-skated, out-checked, and ultimately, out-scored. Down 3-0 after 20 minutes, the game was essentially over. From that point forward, the Habs actually played a pretty competitive game, and setting aside some rather unnecessary penalties (mainly by Brendon Gallagher), the game ended on a relative high note. The Canadiens outscored the Pens 4-3 in the final 40 minutes - it's not a lot to be joyous about, but it's something.

In retrospect, starting Peter Budaj last night was a mistake. He didn't look particularly sharp in either the game against the Leafs or the Flyers, but Therrien, perhaps hoping that he could muster up a similar winning performance against Pittsburgh from earlier in the season, took a chance, and lost.

At this point, the Habs must go with Price from here until the end. He's the long-established number one goaltender in Montreal, this team will live or die by how well he does (or does not) perform.

Tonight, an opportunity to regain some momentum is at hand against the 13th place Tampa Bay Lightening, who are playing for next season. So yeah - there's always the prescient dangers involved in facing a "loose" team that's going nothing but pride to play for, but the Bolts are 13th for a reason - they're not a very good team.

Michael Ryder, thankfully, will start tonight, and Brandon Prust, thankfully, will get another night's rest - let's say it for the 24th time, the Habs simply must have Prust healthy for the playoffs.

Carey Price, also thankfully, will start.

Puck drops 7:40 EST.

Gameday Notes:

A few items to post before the preview.

- Nathan Beaulieu was reassigned to the Bulldogs this morning, meaning his NHL play for this year, including playoffs, is almost certainly done, unless the Habs run into significant injury trouble. Beaulieu demonstrated lots of potential, but at times seem overwhelmed by the speed of opposing forwards, and struggled to maintain proper position. He's got a future, but he's just not quite ready.

- Beaulieu's demotion probably means Yannick Weber will continue to earn starts, at least until Raphael Diaz is ready to return (whenever that happens). Weber, along with P.K. Subban, were the two lone bright spots amongst an otherwise dysfunctional and dispirited Habs defense.

- While the Habs did muster 4 goals against the Pens, it's clear that they miss the presence of Michael Ryder, who in addition to being a bonafide sniper, is also capable and willing to dish out of few hits. No word from the team about his status, but we're hoping he'll return tonight.

- Bolts announced that Ben Bishop will start tonight, which comes as no surprise. Bishop stoned and stole a game against the Habs earlier in the season.

Preview in a bit.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, even anonymously. All I ask is that you behave, and in support of good taste, avoid the use of course language, or express opinions that are just plain silly (racist, sexist, etc.)