Monday, 6 May 2013

Game Four: EC Quarterfinals: Habs vs. Sens

First Period:

Here's the Habs lines:

Line 1: Bourque/Plekanec/Ryder
Line 2: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
Line 3: Galchenyuk/Halpern/Prust
Line 4: Moen/Dumont/Armstrong

So Therrien puts Gallagher next to the mightily struggling Desharnais and Plekanec. I understand the rationale - Desharnais is seemingly incapable of winning pucks, so let Gallager do the dirty work. Who knows? Desharnais might actually register a shot tonight.


Same as usual there.

- And there it is. First shift, and Desharnais registers his first shot of the series. Gallagher doing the hard-nosed work.

- Gorges with desperation dive to intercept a cross ice pass that would have probably ended with a Sens goal. Good play.

- Lots of early energy by the Habs to start this. 144 seconds, 5 shots registered by the Canadiens.

- Halpren chokes on the empty net rebound. Habs blitzing.

- And Desharnais muffs up all that tempo and takes a lazy hook. Oy.

- Calm cool collected PK there. Zero shots. Now let's see if the Habs can reclaim that mo'.

- Atmosphere seems not nearly as intense in Ottawa tonight as it was Sunday. Dunno. Just my read the crowd is tentative, nervous even.

- Wonder if Habs will break the record for faceoff tossings in a series, assuming such a thing is tracked.

- Half done the first period. If this is how the rest of the game is played, the Habs will be pleased and greatly favoured.

- Plekanec with worst 3-on-1 pass ever.

- Gallagher speared and hurt in front of the official. No call.

- Good energy shift by Habs 4th line. See if that leads to something.

- If P.K. insist on delivering those mammoth hits, he'd better make sure, because when he misses it usually results in defensive zone chaos. Prust ends up taking a penalty as the Habs were totally on their heels.

- Habs 2/2 on excellently executed PKs tonight.

- Habs were firing all cylinders the first 8 minutes, killed by Desharnais' dumb hook. After that, Sens more or less controlled the game, although Habs did fine job protecting Price, and an even better job shorthanded. The period was a wash, which if you offered to the Habs in advance, they'd readily take in front of a hostile crowd. Second period has been a bit of an issue for the Sens, so the Canadiens will hope to strike the board.

Second Period:

- P.K. Subban welcome to the scoresheet. Brilliant shot, but Plekanec an equally brilliant pass out of great awareness. Habs score that critical first goal.

- And Galchenyuk! Outstanding determined work by Halpern to fight for that puck to set up the rookie. 2-0.

- Habs' charged start to the second period much like the start to the first, except this period pucks are entering the net.

- Habs are dominating, even with body. Sens losing all the puck battles, Habs nearly made it 3-0. Keep the foot on the peddle, boys.

- Armstong must be more diligent in clearing the zone. These sloppy turnovers are killers.

- Sens pressing here, fierce forechecking.

- Habs forwards getting way too tentative in their zone, Ottawa realizing they simply must score the next goal or it's over, so the Sens are throwing everything they've got. Canadiens need to slow this thing down right now.

- Ice conditions look really terrible. That makes goal scoring extra difficult (for both sides).

- I hate making comments about the goaltending because it invariably hexes, but Price looks very calm tonight.

- By the way, that Craig Anderson looks unbeatable. I'll bet nothing gets past him the rest of the night.

- Second period pattern not unlike the first - Habs storm out of the gate, Sens push back last half. Ottawa really needs a goal before this period expires.

- Lost count the number of times Habs forwards have aimed high on Anderson tonight. Subban's already beat him there once.

- If Price sees it, he's gonna stop it tonight. Just my feeling.

- Wow, that's a rough? Weak.

- Subban. Where to start? Sens PK was totally spent, Subban with a terrible turnover to kill the game-killer opportunity, and then takes an interference on the skate back. Therrien totally indignant on the bench.

- Nonetheless, excellent period result for the Habs, finally cashing in on their hard work. The Sens are going to come out in the third unbelievably hard, so the Habs better rest up for the gathering storm that's about to hit their shores.

Third Period:

- However temping it might be, Habs can't afford to play not to lose. The Sens will overtake them down the stretch.

- Tonordi's ultra-long reach back probably saved a goal. He's been as usual, silently solid.

- Sens as expected starting out really strong. If the Habs can just ride out the next three or four minutes ...

- Brandon Prust. How does he take these insane body beatings and still be able to stand up?

- Habs really laying back on the Sens transition. This isn't playing with fire, it's jumping into the pit and rolling around.

- Bullets being dodged here. Having hard time not averting eyes.

- That might have been Ryder's best shift in a month.

- Refs calling nothing. Interferences, holdings, high stickings. Nothing.

- Can we have a little pushback please? Just something?

- Oh man. Here we go. Sit back, and you pay the price. Time to hide.

- Two goals. The most dangerous lead. Habs being outshot 8-1 in the third.

- Finally the pushback. Habs needed to do this 5 minutes ago.

- Longest 5 minutes of the season now underway.

- An heroic shift by Prust and Moen. 1:48 left.

- Anderson out. Hold on to your hats.

- OMG. No way that should have been called icing. Are you serious?

- Wow. Just. Wow. What was Diaz doing??

- That goal came as a result of an absolutely ridiculous icing call against the Canadiens with but a few seconds left. Toss in the kicking motion 1st goal, and you have lots of fodder for controversy.


I'm not going to pile on, but given how much he's struggled this series, why oh why oh why did Therrien play Diaz that last critical minute? His chase behind the net was a critical error that led to the goal. Not counting the blown calls by the linesmen, that is.

- Price injured. Budaj in net. Oh, boy.

- Prust to the dressing room. Nightmare continues.

- And the nightmare is complete. Goodnight Gracie.

The Troglodytes Are Out in Full Force Tonight

Oy. Vey.

Lineup Update:

Habs just announcing that Jeff Halpern and Garbriel Dumont will suit up for the Habs, replacing Gionta and White.

Game Four Preview:

So here we go again. Here we are facing a must-win situation versus an Ottawa Senators opponent that went from being badly outplayed over the first 120 minutes of this series, to finding a place firmly planted in the heads of the Montreal Canadiens the past 60 minutes.

From a Habs perspective, the future does not look promising. The bad is currently outweighing the good, and there's little reason to believe that after having their behinds firmly paddled in Game Three, that the team will somehow flip the direction of their sinking ship towards a winning port.

There's a lot of mediocre-running-into-bad to mull over. Much of it can be found on the team's forward lines, where David Desharnais, Max Patioretty and Michael Ryder have posted three consecutive games where their names have been difficult to spot on the ice - Desharnais probably being the greatest invisible culprit. David has been a total non-factor, struggling to win a single battle for the puck along the boards, struggling to make passes, and struggling to create offense. Through 180 series minutes, Desharnais, who was at one time this team's unquestioned #2 centreman, has registered zero shots on goal.

At the other end of the ice, Carey Price continues to struggle to find his game. His Game Three 3rd period performance, albeit with a totally defeated and dispirited team in front of him, resembled that of the infamous 3 goals on 4 shots game against the Leafs a few weeks ago. Surrendering 4 goals on just 9 shots, the real back-breaker was Price's whiff on Jean-Gabriel Pageau's soft shot from the circle that gave the Sens an unassailable 4-1 lead. You could just see the Habs give up the collective ghost following Pageau's second goal of the night.

The formula is simple - the Habs must find a way of repeating themselves from Friday night. They must dig down deep and come out hard, being fully prepared to send the Senators a message that they aren't giving up, and they won't be pushed around. This means the Habs must be physical, and they must be ferocious on the forecheck. It also means that Price must find a way to regain his game. Time is just about up for Price, whose form has been riding an up-and-down rollercoaster since early April.

So once again, keep the eyes out for the non-producers like Desharnais, Pacioretty, and Ryder. One, or all of them must start contributing in some fashion. Their passenger status simply cannot be tolerated a minute longer.

Also keep eyes out on Raphael Diaz, who's really struggled throughout much of the series, ranging from problems handling the puck, making effective passes to his forwards, getting into correct zone position, and handling slot traffic.

The Sens smell blood. They'll be looking for the kill. The winner of this game will largely be determined by how the tone is set in the first period. That first goal, it should be emphasized, has suddenly become a crucial factor. Drawing first blood has, indeed, been a key to victory so far in this series.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

That, my friends, was a thing of beauty. And so is this.

Lineup Update:

- Brian Gionta and Ryan White will not play tonight. Reasons for the scratches unstated, although one suspects it's due to nagging injuries for the former. White's scratch is a little more interesting, I don't think it's health-related - more likely, Therrien wants his team to play a very disciplined game tonight, and he considers White too much of a risk to do something foolish, especially in light of Gryba's return.

UPDATE: Therrien just said White was "unavailable" for play, which strongly suggests he's been injured.

LATER UPDATE: Yup, White is out with an "upper body injury". I'd guess it was sustained during the 3rd period goon melee. No indication of return.

- Pacioretty and Bourque are expected to play tonight. I'd also expect Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern to come in off the healthy scratch list.

Gameday Notes:

Happy Game Day!! We'll have a little game preview in a bit, but first a few scraps of Habs-related news this morning:

- Optional practice is happening as I type - everyone on the ice for the Canadiens except for Pacioretty, Gionta, Bourque and White. Make of that as you will.

- Not actually Habs news, but MacLean says Gryba will start tonight. He's probably hoping that the Canadiens will go after the Sens 3rd line defenseman. But there's no way the Habs are that stupid, right? Uh, right??

- Brian Gionta just joined the morning skate. Still no Patches, Bourque or White.

Therrien Presser

Just wrapped up a few minutes ago:

- Asked whether he'll put Budaj in tomorrow night, Therrien replied without hesitation: "are you serious? Carey Price is playing."  Good on him. That's about exactly right.

- Attempting to maybe gain an edge (?), Therrien is saying that the Sens have been targeting Subban and Gallagher ... i.e. the Condra crosscheck.

- Carey Price, unlike game one, spoke to the media after the optional practice. He owned up that he played poorly on Sunday night. So can he have another response game like Friday night?

About Last Night ...

Putting together this Game Three respective is akin to slowly tearing off a three foot bandage wrapped around my hairy leg, but we gotta do what we gotta do. So here goes.

There's plenty of talk today about last night's goon festival. The chatter is basically divided into two camps. In camp one, we have the life-long Habs haters, who've been very busy wringing their hands with indignant falsetto. "Habs are an embarrassment!" they've cried out. "Anyone who's a fan of THAT team ought to be ashamed of themselves!!". "Here's hoping the League suspends [insert Habs player name here] for the rest of the playoffs!!". Oh Ms. Scarlet, I do declare!

In the other camp, we have the faithful, most of who are heeding the hated taunts, reeling into their own little dark abyss in shame, engaged in shock and disbelief that their beloved Habs could be responsible for such reprehensible behavior.

Okay, whatever. The haters are leaping on the bandwagon of opportunity to spew their vitriol. Meanwhile, Habs fans cower in their corner in shame. They're natural, if not expected reactions to such an unusual event.

Here's the deal. Last night's ridiculous sideshow of a hockey goonery was, like any ballistic argument, requisite of two parties. The fisticuffs, the slashing, the elbowing, the high sticking, and for all we know, the gouging was being perpetrated by both teams. Yeah, you heard me right. The Senators were just as guilty as the Canadiens for the debacle.

As we mentioned on our Twitter feed, a mere 19 seconds into the game, the Sens Erik Condra delivered a brutal crosscheck to the head of P.K. Subban. The officials, for reasons only they could possibly explain, looked the other way. That dirty play, unpunished, set the tone for the rest of the game. With that one blown call, the delegation of justice was taken away from the hands of the officials, and placed firmly in the hands of the players. It was only a matter of time for the game to completely spiral out of control.

That Condra crosscheck infuriated the Habs bench, but it also seemed to energize the Sens, who a mere 12 minutes into the first period, were outhitting the Habs 25-12. That's about two recorded hits per minute. That's insane.

The Habs never really recovered. Trying to find some ground, they started taking bad penalties, eventually digging themselves into a 5-on-3 shorthanded hole, where Daniel Alfredsson opened the scoring. While the Habs did tie the game after a terrific shot by Rene Bourque (one of only a handful of Habs players who can legitimately claim he's shown up for every game of this series), it was too late. The Senators still held onto firm control of the game's tempo and mode. They're a team built on hitting their opponent into submission, and the Habs foolishly got lured into trying to outhit the hitters.

The second period was all Ottawa. They continued to pound the Habs, continued to force the play in their favor, continued to foil any semblance of a Habs attack. When Jean-Gabriel Pageau, whom the Habs very nearly drafted in 2011, split the sleepy Habs defense and beat Carey Price over his glove, there was no looking back.

Price, after sparkling Friday night, reverted to mediocre form. A second much weaker goal surrendered to Pageau early in the third put the game on ice, and at that point, the Habs simply lost all control, taking a series of penalties, which generated more Ottawa scoring, which generated fury, which eventually led to the climatic full-ice brawl in the faceoff after the Sens' 5th goal - also a powerplay marker.

The Habs simply went mental. They collectively lost their cool derived from massive frustration, towards their opponent but also just as much, towards themselves for playing so terribly in a critical game. There are no excuses for such bad behavior, but there was a rationale. The Sens got away with questionable hits and hacks early in the game, and suckered the Habs into retaliation. When the Habs started hacking back, the officials, who were desperately trying to get the game back under control, were calling everything -  and the vengeful Habs were getting the bulk of the penalties. Punished, suckered and then punished once again. It was a nightmare evening for anyone wearing a C and an H.

The little incident at the end of the game was classic Paul MacLean head gamesmanship. His timeout, with just 14 seconds left on the clock, was nothing other than a twist of the knife. Michel Therrien immediately identified the timeout for what it was, and had his own little meltdown with the officials by fruitlessly complaining about the tactic. Afterward, MacLean indignantly explained the timeout as a measure designed to protect his players. Bullocks. It was a passive-aggressive tactic to drive the Habs crazy. He knows it, and anyone with two cents worth of brain knows it.

So to the haters and the faithful, stop with the hand-wringing. The Habs ended up taking the brunt of the blame for what happened because they were losing so badly on the scoreboard. The conventional perception was that the Habs were merely seeking some kind of revenge for the thrashing, and therefore, were the ones to blame.

The reality is, it takes two to dance just as much as it takes two to fight. Sunday night in the nation's capital, there were no innocent parties.

More later.


Game Three Fallout:

The League just announced that there will be no investigation/suspensions from the numerous brawls, crosschecks, slashes and who-know-what-else happened on Sunday night.

Fair enough. There was plenty of nonsense and generally embarrassing behavior (on BOTH sides), but I didn't see anything that caught my eye as suspension worthy. So ... play on.

The Day After the Night Before the Morning of Great Regrets


Okay, never mind.

Actually, it is a happy Monday for Brendon Gallagher, who's not only celebrating his 21st birthday, but as well was announced this morning as a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Grats Brendon!!

Okay. Last night. Hoo boy. Last night.

Still collecting thoughts about this one. Will be posting shortly.


  1. You are a complete moron if you think that one "missed" penalty decided the entire game. Plain and simple the Habs lost because they tried to be bigger than they are. Did you even watch game 2? P.K got the same treatment in Ottawa that Erik Karlsson did in Montreal, it's called finishing checks - if you are not familiar with the term. The difference is Karlsson made mistakes and moved the puck too early, P.K had a tantrum. P.K. meet Sidney, two of the best examples of entitled young hockey players who think the game revolves around them. Don't dish it out if you can't take it. Let's hope that both teams concentrate on actually playing a game, and with White out, that might be even possible.

  2. My point had nothing to do with Subban directly, nor that what happened decided the game, but that it set the tone for the rest of the game. Officiating, especially at the elite level, goes beyond just calling trips and holds. It's centred on game management. When the officials blew the Condra crosscheck, which was clearly illegal, they lost control.

    It only takes one misstep, especially during an intensely physical game (even more so a playoff game), for a game to slip into chaos. The officials did attempt to regain control throughout the first period by calling just about everything, but because the Habs were retaliating from the uncalled crosscheck to Subban, the Canadiens were getting the bulk of the calls, which only served to antagonize the Habs bench even more. By the time the 3rd period rolled around, it all came out.

    This isn't excusing the bad behavior, but only providing some context for the bad behavior. Sure, you could argue that the Habs were behaving badder than their opponents, but both parties, as I wrote after the game, share blame for the debacle. I stand by that assessment.

    Thanks for you feedback. Looking forward to Game 4. It should be fascinating.


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.)