Sunday, 14 April 2013

Game Forty-Two: Flyers vs. Habs

First Period:

- Bounces don't seem to going Habs way lately, do they? Beaulieu with a rookie mistake facing his goaltender on the rebound, not sure if Simmonds was trying to bank the puck it, but whatever works, I guess. 1-0.

- All eyes on Price to see how he responds to that unfortunate early goal.

- Hoo boy. Price fighting the puck, and it's 2-0. Bell Centre crowd stunned.

- Price's SP over his last 9 shots is .410. Uhhh ... kay.

- White fighting for every start, and now he gets tossed for the game. Prospects of post-season play now rapidly diminishing to near zero.

- Some of the fickle faithless now ribbing Price for routine saves. Getting ugly.

- Price handling that puck as though it were a grenade. Very nervous times.

- Habs playing very tentatively, being overly defensive, I suspect in reaction to that soft 2nd Flyers go. Philadelphia controlling the pace and the puck here.

- Beaulieu with one of his less memorable periods. Therrien may give him the powerplay yank sooner than Diaz' return, whenever that happens.

- This period strongly resembling last week's Habs/Sabres game, the Canadiens tonight playing Buffalo's role.

- Gallagher doing with Gallagher does best, being an unbearable pest around the opposition's net, and drawing penalties by overreacting defenders. Habs back on the powerplay.

- Subban with more sloppy Habs play. Fighting the puck is infectious.

- Price, dare we say, is settling down a bit. But will it hold?

- Doctor's orders, Pacioretty scores (see my pregame preview) off a pretty intentional redirect from Plekanec. Habs back in it.

- Flyers losing it here, march to the box continues.

- Habs got it going late in the period with those powerplays, but the Flyers were still easily the dominate team. Habs fortunate to come away down by just a goal.

Second Period:

- Given how one-sided this game has been, seems preposterous that this game is tied, but Habs specialty units bailing them out.

- And Josh Gorges immediately gives it back. Habs' defence inexcusably sloppy with the puck tonight. 3-2 Flyers.

- Pacioretty with two points so far. Early to say the corner's been turned, but we're hopeful.

- Flyers determined to give the Habs hope tonight taking series of stupid penalties. Can Habs PP do it one more time?

- Beaulieu is killing this powerplay. Michel, this must end.

- Oh my. How'd Bourque manage to not score on that picture perfect setup? With a fickle stick that shatters on the follow through. Should be 3-3.

- Not a softy but not unstoppable. Hartnell puts the Flyers back up two, and the city of Montreal gears up for the goaltending crisis.

- Bryzgalov gives up a ridiculous rebound, Galchenyuk makes it a one goal game. Difficulties keeping pace here.

- We could be looking at one of those 6-7, 8-7 type final scores. Heck, we're nearly there already.

- Habs just totally abandoning their zone. It's 5-3. Timeout needed.

- This is almost certainly the worst collective performance by the Habs defence this season. Worse than the 6-0 Leafs drubbing.

- If the Habs do lose tonight, a lot of the simplistic vile will be targeted at Price, but the real villain tonight was the Habs defense. Inexcusably sloppy and undisciplined.

- Disastrous period for the Canadiens - possibly the worst of the whole year. Price ought to be fuming because his team totally abandoned him for the wolves.

Third Period:

- Although I'm sure it was a mercy move, Price has been pulled for the second straight game. Pretty sure that's never happened in his life.

- Gonna be LOTTA talk about who starts Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, but Therrien's gotta go with Budaj, who's won one there earlier this season. Have Price start on Thursday against Tampa.

- Who knew Emelin was such a key part of this team's success? I think we're getting an idea now, because this team hasn't been the same since.

- Don't let the 3rd period stats fool you that the Habs responded to the 3 goal deficit. Flyers have been coasting this one home.

- And they score. Guess what. More sloppy defence begot by lazy turnover. 7-3.

- And here we thought Sunday morning was intolerable. The media is going to have a field day over this crushing home loss to an Eastern Conference bottom feeder. The city is about to melt down, and we're still technically in first place.

But there are many ugly issues emerging. Goaltending is officially a concern. So too is the porous defence which was, to be honest, simply horrible tonight. Clearly, very clearly, this team is missing Emelin's physical presence, but there are, unfortunately, no short-term solutions that readily come to mind. This is the team we have, there's no where else to go.

Therrien's post-game comments should be very interesting and telling.

Today's Events:

I'm a marathon runner by hobby. So what's happened today is particularly awful on a personal level. The world is a messed-up place.

We'll still be posting live tonight, but yeah ... this sucks.

Gameday Game Preview:

Okay, I've had a day or two to mope around. But we're SO done with that now. On to bigger and better things. Like the Flyers. They are, as usual, bigger. But they aren't better. Not this year, that's for sure.

It's sad, but I just can't get that hate on for Philadelphia any more. They're just so pathetic. Near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Flyers have been plagued by inconsistent play much of this year, especially in their own zone. The defense; a mess - 25th rated in the League, a ranking almost unheard of from a team that's long prided itself for keeping its own house in order.

Goaltending, a position that has hobbled the organization for well over two decades, is in total shambles. It is all but certain now that the enigmatic Ilya Bryzgalov's contract will be bought out at the end of the season. With only the 2nd-string quality Steve Mason on the roster, few if any first-string summer free agent options to choose from, and relatively little coming down the prospect pipe, Philadelphia's goaltending problem could be even worse in the years ahead.

The Flyers' specialty units are actually pretty good this year - arguably the best overall in the League.  They have the 3rd rated powerplay and 6th rated penalty kill. It's beyond odd man scenarios that the abyss is encountered. Their 5-on-5 F/A ratio is a horrid .75, which puts Philly barely ahead of the god-awful Calgary Flames.

That alone is why I think the Habs should have a relatively straightforward time handling the Flyers tonight. The Canadiens enter the game with the 4th rated F/A ratio of 1.3, which is wayyyyy ahead of Philadelphia. The more the game is played 5-on-5, the greater the advantage for the Habs.

Of course, it won't be a cakewalk. Winning never is in today's NHL. It remains critical that the Habs continue to win, to secure a high playoff seeding, and to create that critical winning momentum entering the post-season. Conversely, the Canadiens must also be wary of protecting key elements of their team, which means either significantly reducing, or resting players who've struggled with injuries. Brandon Prust and Rene Bourque are the two obvious candidates for rest or reduced time, but then you have to also consider other critical players who've had touchy short-term injuries. Thomas Plekanec had that groin injury that kept him out of the lineup for a game - there's no point in taking any significant chance of having him reaggravate that ailment.

Other issues of concern: Max Pacioretty has had a feast but mostly famine season. Right now he's starved for goal production, just 3 goals in his past 19 games (yeah, that's bad). So now's the time for Max to start turning the ship towards a more productive direction - we need him scoring in the post-season, because without him, advancing beyond the first round will be particularly difficult.

Carey Price. Oh, Carey. What to say? He's played well this season, he's had a few starts where he's been the key difference between victory and defeat. But lately, he's struggled - not so much with mechanics, but with a tendency of giving up soft goals at inopportune times, which is a pretty strong indicator that he's struggling with confidence. That shaky confidence display was none more glaringly obvious than the first 10 minutes of Saturday's game, where beach ball sized pucks would have probably still found the back of the net.

Michel Therrien, I think very wisely, gave Price a vote of reassurance this weekend, and aptly, will be starting him tonight, looking for a rebound performance. Price has a pretty solid history of playing well after bombing a start, and given the relative weakness of the opponent tonight, a strong performance could go a long way towards building up Carey's confidence levels.

Puck drops 7:40 EST at the very friendly confines of Bell Centre. We'll be there with live blogging updates.

About Saturday Night

Shaddup. Go away. Leave me alone. I don't wanna talk about it.

God, I hate the Leafs.

Has the Sun risen yet?

More later. I guess. Blah.

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