Saturday, 4 May 2013

Game Three: EC Quarterfinals: Habs vs. Sens

First Period:

- Pacioretty AND Gionta are in for the Habs. How much will this change the gameplay? Do Habs play Thursday style game, or Friday style game??

- Gionta streaking down the wing around Sens dedense for quality chance on Anderson. Showing no ill effects of  any injury.

- Pacioretty with an undisciplined penalty.  Habs need to stay out of the box whenever pissible. You just know the Sens powerplay will eventually strike.

- And strike it does, Karlsson point shot hits backboards, Alfredsson slips rebound past Price.  Semi lucky bounce there.

- Sens hitting hard tonight. Trying to out Hab the Habs Friday game.

- If it wasnt for Price this game could easily be 3-00
- Brutish game out there, you couldnt pay me enough to step into that minezone of flying bodies and punches.

- Good grief. We haven't played a period and there are nearly as many hits so far as there was for the entire Friday night game.

- Bourque on the powerplay to tie it up, Anderson continues to look mortal.

- Sens taking bad penalties here. Their physical enthusiam a bit out of control.

- Its gonna take all night for Subban to count the bruises. He's been the Sens main target.

- One of the hardest hitting 20 minutes of Playoff hockey I've seen in awhile.  Price did an excellent job handling the early Ottawa barrage, and the Habs were, as the period progressed,  able to handle their own. Habs should have a greater edge as the game settles down.

Second Period:

- Subban and Markov go for a Sunday stroll, Pageau says thanks, and gives Sens the lead. Even worse, Subban gets a high stick after the goal.

- Habs PK hanging on for dear life here.

- Price keeping his team in this game.

- Hits and noise might be getting to P.K. That was an unwise trip, in fairness started by a terrible pass by Markov. Sens back to the man advantage. Last time they looked very dangerous.

- Sens PP passing around at will. You have to figure they'll score soon enough.

- Price making himself big for these point blasts. Not surrendering the rebounds. That's been key.

- Good news for Habs is the game has settled down. Bad news the Sens are still pretty much dominating.

- Markov looks pretty much spent out there. Looks like the tank is almost on E, will Therrien start scaling his icetime?

- Galchenyuk line totally exhausted pinned in their zone, Habs were extremely lucky to escape without any further damage.

- All Sens second. They came to play, they hit the Habs brutally hard for much of the first, and the Habs look desperate just trying to keep up. They have 15 minutes to rest and reflect, but this team will have to muster together the period of the season if they hope to pull this one out.

Third Period:

- Ryan White left for team dressing room late in the second fuelling speculation that he was hurt. He did, however, return to the bench before period's end.

- Pageau. Weak. Price overplayed the angle.

- That big hill to climb just became a mountain.

- Sens going for blood now. Can't blame 'em with the two goal lead.

- Tripping call on Bourque. Who knows? Terrible, terrible call.

- If I'm given my pick for breakaway carrier, Gionta would be pretty much automatically at the bottom of my list.

- Lights. Out.

- Diaz, no idea what he was thinking there.

- Game decided, the bloodbath is on. Four fights at once now.

- Habs taken to the woodshed tonight. Just accept that, and don't do anything stupid that might result in injuries.

- More Diaz folly off the draw. Sens would be wise not to run up the score. But run up the score, they are.

- Both teams down to two lines. Literally.

- Sens playing this smart, not really gunning hard for a 6th. No point in giving Habs something to feed off of for game 4.

- Partisan fingers will be pointed both ways after tonight's debacle, but one thing is pretty clear - both teams have embarrassed themselves.

- Habs out of defenseman. Plekanec now playing the blue line.

- Accordingly Ottawa adds one more.

- Looking forward to the post-game comments. Actually I'm hoping it'll be a post-game explanation for this inexcusable demonstration.

- Paul MacLean calls a timeout, looking to score more. Habs will remember that.

- Habs' wonderful effort Friday night earned them the opportunity to take back home ice tonight. That was frittered away - badly. Ottawa came out hard from the first second of the first, and the Habs almost looked like they were going through the motions through much of the game. Now the Habs must regroup and must win on Tuesday night, or this series is over.

Game 3 Pregame Preview:

So there's still no word out about the game status for both Pacioretty and Gionta - if the decision really does come down to the last minute, it's a very good bet that not both will play. If one of them do play, likely Gabriel Dumont will sit. Dumont played admirably in Game Two, but given his age and inexperience, he was largely overmatched for most of the game.

If both Patches and the captain can't go, then it'll be the same lineup as Friday (Dumont included), which means the same gameplan - hit the Senators, hit them hard with each and every opportunity, play a strong forechecking game, and be patient for created opportunities.

There are several keys to Game Three for the Habs. First, Carey Price must continue to play the same as he did on Friday. When he's on, the Canadiens are arguably unbeatable. Secondly, the Habs, with the first change, must be conscious and aware of Paul MacLean's matchups - which means there will be added defensive pressures on both Subban and Markov. Third, the Habs must continue to get strong performances from its character group - Prust, White, Armstrong and Bourque must continue their good play. Travis Moen, who's struggled a bit to find a groove the first two games, must elevate himself. If he can't produce offense, he must use the body.

The Canadiens must also help that Craig Anderson turns in an "average" performance, such as he did for Game Two. We got a pretty good idea that when Anderson isn't superman, the Sens are pretty vulnerable group.

Keep an eye out for the continually struggling David Desharnais. While he had a strong game to close out the season against the Leafs, he's been an invisible producer for at least a month. Desharnais is getting pushed around like a rag doll along the boards, he must find a way of staying on his feet.

Lots of variables, a few things that can go wrong, but from a bigger perspective, there are more things that can go right for the Habs tonight.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Game 2 Reflections:

So we got ourselves quite a series, eh? Not that we weren't expecting this one to be closely fought, but after posting a pretty disappointing loss to open the series, the Habs played an exceptionally well-balanced and hard hitting game Friday night to even the series up.

Now let's stick the neck out a bit.  After a couple of days and night's sleep to ponder, the series, while on the surface looks like a nail biter, has been in my opinion, one sided. Very one sided for the Canadiens.

The obvious retort to such a proclamation would be "if it's so one-sided, why isn't the series 2-0 Habs?".  That's an easy one - the Habs loss on Thursday night was half-stolen by Craig Anderson's insane performance, half given away by Carey Price's mediocre start. I mean, 27 shots in the second period by the Canadien - that's an all-time NHL playoff record. If a mere mortal is between the pipes for the Sens, the Habs win that game by two or three goals.

Friday night it was little different - the Habs dominated the Sens again, albeit in a different manner. Instead of pounding their opposition into the ground with possession and shots, the Habs focused their efforts on using the body to pound Ottawa into submission. The Habs out-hit the Sens 37-26, most of that physical contact coming the first 40 minutes. By the time the 3rd rolled around, Ottawa was pretty much out of gas, affording the Habs the glorious luxury of cruising home with the two goal lead.

Another benefit from playing the body is the net effect it had on creating turnovers. Opponents become more wary of the body, and abnormal plays and mistakes are made - an example none better than Karlsson's 2nd period flub in his own zone to set up Ryan White for the game's first goal. The Sens' start defenseman was a big target for hits the entire night, his error was almost certainly a result of the continuous pounding he took. After the final siren, the Habs managed to tally 6 takeaways. The Sens? Absolutely none.

Drilling down a bit, the Habs possession dominance took a step back on Friday, but that's to be expected. The team's gameplan was to surrender the Senators with greater puck control, which would allow the Habs better quality opportunities to use the body. Known grinders like Ryan White, Brandon Prust, and Colby Anderson thrived immediately, collectively posting 15 hits, while Jarred Tinordi, who's been an inconspicuous rock on the Habs defense, tallied four more. Rene Bourque, who thankfully doesn't appear to be hurt after colliding with Colby Armstrong, put together 3 hits, 2 of them of the thundering variety. I can't possibly state how highly I've thought of Bourque's class-A effort he's' brought to the playoffs. He's emerging as quite possibly the best move made by Pierre Gauthier during his brief tenure as General Manager.

I've been pretty harsh on the Habs Gorges/Diaz pairing - both had, by their standards, an awful outing Game One, where their collective Corsi was a wretched -22. That improved significantly on Friday night, the number moving up to -14, much of the improvement made by Gorges (-3). However, Diaz is still struggling, and if I'm Therrien, I'd like to see Tinordi promoted up to play along side Josh, and Diaz demoted next to Bouillon for 3rd line duty.

That said, out of a degree of fairness, Therrien was doing lots of line matching the first two games, seemingly focused on putting Subban/Markov out against the Sens' slower 3rd and 4th lines. Ergo, we saw plenty of open ice for P.K. to put together some flash-and-dash rushes from his own zone. With the series now shifting back to Ottawa, Therrien no longer has the luxury of line matching after the whistle, so expect MacLean to match more of his 1st and 2nd lines against the Subban/Markov pairing, which in turn, will probably artificially bolster Gorges and Diaz' Corsi numbers.

Otherwise, from a Habs perspective, game two went a long way to settling fears that the series might spiral out of control towards a four-game Sens sweep. The reality is, the Canadiens were the better of the two teams not just Friday, but Thursday night as well. If the Habs continue to receive the goaltending that Carey Price is imminently capable of delivering, then I think Ottawa is in tough from here on out.

Injuries Update:

Therrien Update: The coach says Gionta AND Pacioretty are game-time decisions, which confirms one early report as false (including made by Kevin Weeks on HNIC last night), that Gionta's injury isn't season-ending, and therefore, probably doesn't involve his bicep.

Plenty of eyes on the Habs' morning skate today, and in light of reports yesterday that Pacioretty's upper body injury was day-to-day while Gionta's was season ending, a curveball was thrown this morning when Gionta skated while Pacioretty was no where to be seen.

Rene Bourque is also out there as I type, which lend more relieving evidence that he's okay after that huge collision with Colby Armstrong on Friday night.

Game 2 reflections and game 3 preview coming up shortly.

Quick Snip Saturday:

Will be posting some game 2 analysis later today, but some good news this morning, both Pacioretty and Gionta were on practice ice this morning for Black Aces. Hoping there's a team update with respect to their game status.

More later.

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