Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Game Forty-Three: Habs vs. Pens

First Period:

Pretty good start for Habs, aggressive into the Pens zone, getting quality shots on net. Fleury giving up a couple of nice rebounds.

- Cooke gets suckered by Plekanec, Habs to the powerplay.

- Wonderful puck control on the man advantage, cut short as Gallagher gets nabbed for an undisciplined high stick.

- Sutter with a softie over Budaj's glove. And here we go again ...

- Habs getting outworked, and high shot eludes Budaj, and it's 2-0.

- Third straight game with a goaltending switch? Could happen.

- For every battle won by the Habs for the loose puck, two are lost. It's a mismatch right now. Should and could be 3 or 4 nothing soon.

- Habs finally showing some life here led by the Plekanec line. But Fleury looks to be on his game tonight. Sigh.

- Gallagher sacrificed his foot to block a shot. Block was made, but at what price? He's gone straight to the room. Oy.

- Pens shooting high on Budaj. Can't blame them.

- Iginla uncovered on the powerplay. 3-0. Price to start the 2nd? Wouldn't be surprised.

Second Period:

- Merry go round is on. Price starts the second. Third straight game Habs starter is pulled. Franchise first? Betcha it is.

- Weber first line pairing with Subban on the powerplay. Is Therrien scaling back Markov's time?

- Habs defense is quite simply a disaster right now. There's nothing else that can be said. 4-0.

- Wheels have completely fallen off this team. They are simply unable to execute the most basic fundamentals, from defence out. As I said on Twitter before the game, if the Habs perform tonight the way they did against the Flyers, game could be 8-0 or 9-0. We're on the way.

- It's a team game, but since Emelin went down, this team has simply stopped hitting their opponent. They look and are playing frail.

- At this point, Price must view this game as an opportunity to regain some confidence. Salvage something from this disaster.

- There's a good step. Prust with a nice feed to the goal-staved Gionta to get Habs on the board. Baby steps, but team must fight through this infectious slump. Building blocks, make plays, score here and there, and play soundly in your own zone. Winning tonight might be out of the question, but there's opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

- Gallagher takes another poor penalty, and Pens quickly strike against a Habs PK that looks just horrible. Add it to the list of how things have gone so far south so quickly.

- Galchenyuk. Baby steps. Baby steps.

- How long will it take for the Pens to reestablish their 4 goal lead?

- Brenden Gallagher is out of control. Therrien has got to bench him for the night.

- I dunno. Was that a good period? Pens with powerplay goals, Habs did respond a little, but the defence is just awful. Gorges looks utterly lost out there, Markov looks exhausted, Weber is doing his best but his very limited playing time this season, you can only expect so much. Subban can't do it all himself. It's just a huge mess and there's no ready solution at hand. Somehow the Habs must dig deep and fight their way though this wretched fog of undisciplined, uninspired, unfocused play, or this once promising season will be lost.

Third Period:

- 4 minute PK actually looked competent. Well, that's a good sign, no?

- Dumont scores his very first NHL goal, and Habs are within 2?? It can't be.

- Habs should we jest, playing with a spark here. The Dumont goal has boosted ... Oh ... never mind. Murray a soft shot redeflects twice past Price. Nothing going right, nothing staying out for the Canadiens. Just wow.

- What can ya do? Pick up the pieces and take it out on the Tampa Bay Lightening.

Gameday Game Preview:

So here we are. The Habs are currently going through their first bought of adversity this season, and it really couldn't come at a much worse time. Well, I suppose in the middle of a playoff series would be terrible. Still, the Habs head into Pittsburgh tonight to take on the Eastern Conference leaders, hobbled by injuries to key defensemen, and poor play, in particular by the team's blue line.
After a terrible Saturday start and a shaky "rebound" game against the Flyers, Michel Therrien is going with Peter Budaj. The Habs second-stringer will have his work cut out for him, although this time around, he won't have to deal with the likes of Sidney Crosby, who's still on the mend from a broken jaw. Also ailing is James Neal who's still in the process of recovering from concussion. So the Pens will be sans two very dangerous forwards tonight - that's the good news.

The bad news is, of course, is not knowing what's going to happen with the Candadiens' defense which, since the season-ending injury to Alexei Emelin, is but a shell of its former self. In response to this, Therrien has put Yannick Weber into the lineup as the 7th defensemen, perhaps to take some of the pressure of the shoulders of the still learning Nathan Beaulieu.

Other lineup changes: After getting a night off, Brandon Prust will return to action, while Michael Ryder, who got a therapy day yesterday, is again struggling with an undefined upper body injury, and will sit tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who stoned the Habs in his last start, gets the obvious call tonight for the Pens.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

Lineup Changes

Yannick Weber is going to get his chance tonight against the Pens. I suppose if you're going to throw the kid back into the pool, it might as well be the deep end.

Final lineups haven't been provided, but I'd reckon with White out, Therrien will be starting 7 defensemen tonight (the less likely alternative would be sitting the somewhat struggling Beaulieu).

Gameday preview shortly.

About Last Night

So can we panic now? Two thumpings on a magnificent scale in the span of 48 hours, and the City of Montreal is sent reeling into full-blown fear that the season which for so long held a promise of a possible championship, might be hurtling off a cliff towards a total bust.

I'm not sure where we can even start with how awful last night's game was, except to say this for certain - it was far worse than Saturday's loss to Toronto, where at least the loss was explained by poor netminding and lucky Toronto puck bounces.

But last night? Oy. For the first time in his career, Carey Price was pulled in the middle of a start for the second consecutive game. Fair enough - but Price's start wasn't nearly as shaky as Saturday, and the decision to remove him from the game was, I thought, Therrien getting one of his key players out of the firing line. It was a mercy decision, not a statement of dissatisfaction, at least about how Carey played.

The problem started and ended with the defense, which easily had its worst performance of the year. There's no doubt in my mind that this team is clearly the missing the presence of Alexei Emelin, whose physicality (once League hits leader) and positional awareness was a benefit that was overlooked and unappreciated. Emelin, we can now safely say, set a tone on the ice. Last night, the Habs could only muster a measly two hits through 40 minutes. That's horrible. After the game, Michel Therrien indicated that Emelin's absence has hit this team very hard. It's difficult to disagree with that assessment.

What to do? As I mentioned last night during the game, I think Therrien should go right back with Budaj to start tomorrow night against the Pens. It'll give Carey Price a little more time to clear his head, and to have him start on Thursday night against the woeful Lightening is as good an opportunity as ever to regain some badly needed confidence, with a victory, however it is against an inferior opponent. We thought it was the Flyers which would be the cure, but it'll have to be Tampa.

More later.

UPDATE: Just after my post-mortem was posted, Therrien announced that Budaj would be getting the start against the Pens. So, there you go.

RyanWhite's Last Moments as a Hab

He'll probably get five games for that, but it really doesn't matter, because White's days in Montreal are almost now certainly done.

Last night. Oh boy. Last night. More later about that.

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