Friday, 3 May 2013

Game Two: EC Quarterfinals: Sens vs. Habs

First Period:

Confirmation from our earlier lineup report early today, TSN's John Lu all over this, so hat tip for first out with official Habs lineup:

Bourque - Plekanec - Ryder
Prust - Galchenyuk - Gallagher
Moen - Desharnais - Dumont
White - Halpern - Armstrong

- Fascinating to see that even in light of all the injuries, that Desharnais still managed to essentially get himself demoted. Prust boosted to the 2nd line, which means plenty of icetime for him tonight. It's very, very clear that Therrien wants this team to come at the Sens hard. Really hard. Only the fearless bother apply to play tonight.

- Refs Pollock and McCauley know the story leading into this game. Look for them to crack down when there's an opportunity.

- More linesmen folly. Blown icing call. Com'on guys get it right.

- Ryder continues his soft play, he's doing his best to not present a case for resigning this summer.

- Officials really struggling here - Sens snuck players off after an icing.

- Goodness, Habs Prust line full body force shift there. Messages being sent.

- Diaz ... Diaz ... Diaz. Almost redemption, awesome feed by Markov.

- Habs with exceptional start, very physical, Sens holding on. It'll be impossible though, for the Habs to sustain this tempo.

- Rene Bourque joins the hitting crew. He's getting close to his early season form - that's very good news for Habs fans.

- Wow. The call on Prust for interference on Anderson totally ridiculous. Never touched him. Anderson should have been called for embellishment.

- Marov sent flying by a trip. Looks hurt. Hoo boy.

- Okay the Moen call - explanation please, that one baffled me.

- Fine, the refs want to crack down to make sure the game doesn't spiral out of control, but the calls must be accurate. So far they've been off the mark.

- Habs have plenty of gusto tonight, but their exuberance is resulting in too many penalties. The PK can't hold the Sens off forever.

- Habs PK has been stellar so far.

- With consideration to the Sens powerplays, very strong opening 20 minutes for the Habs outshooting their opponent, but more importantly, greatly outfitting Ottawa, even though puck possession was roughly even. Actually feeling better tonight after 20 minutes than I was last night after the conclusion of the first period.

Second Period:

- Here's the paradox. Habs missing the net far too many times from high percentage areas, having little difficulty from far out. Tells me that Anderson is getting in the heads of Habs forwards.

- Dumont with an ill-advises cross ice pass in the neutral zone is easily picked off resulting in good scoring chance for Sens on the transition. Habs can't afford to make these mistakes.

- Oh wow. Speaking of mistakes, Karlsson??? Who woulda thunk?? And of all the guys to get the Habs on the board it's Ryan White!!

- And Gallagher!!! After a sensational save by Price, Habs score on the transition. 2-0!!!

- Tinordi with a skate to Price's face, who's sent reeling. Price has had three hard hits to the head this game alone.

- Report is Price lost teeth from the Timordi skate bash. Ouch. Bravado performance by Price.

- On a penalty delay call, Prust is stripped of his stick by Latendresse, and Sens score on the 6-on-5. It was pretty much a 6-on-4.

- Since making that poor pass which nearly resulted in a goal, Dumont hasn't seen a shift.

- Bourque levelling Alfredsson, he's been a significant impact player for Habs tonight.

- David Copperfield would have a hard time competing with Ryder and Desharnais' disappearing act in this series.

- Unbelievable call on Prust, who was clearly shoved head forward into the boards. Habs bench is furious at Pollock for not calling boarding.

- Ryan White demonstrating Karlsson CAN be hit.

- Four absolutely superb saves by Price on that Ottawa powerplay.

- If Habs win this game, and indeed this series, we may look back at their revived PK as a major reason.

- Ryder emerges from the darkness!! And it all started from hard work by Bourque. To have those two produce is HUGE for this team. 3-1.

- Excellent result for the Habs in that period - their hard hitting ways is clearly having the desired effect. Also, Anderson not having the same stellar game as he did last night, while Carey Price, at least through 40 minutes, has risen to the challenge.

Third Period:

- Critical that the Habs not play to lose in this period.

- Not a good shift for Plekanec line, too tentative, Habs got pinned into their zone.

- Galchenyuk can light up a game in a moment's notice unlike few others on the ice tonight.

- This might be Bourque's best game of the year. It's up there, that's for sure.

- Prust is fearless, putting his body in front of any and every slapshot.

- Do my eyes deceive me? An actual penalty call against Ottawa??

- Dismal powerplay but then a tremendous shift by the forth line where four thundering hits were delivered by the Habs White and company. Great stuff.

- Ryan White is on a big road to redemption if he keeps this play up.

- Armstrong and Bourque with a huge accidental mid-ice collision, Bourque, who was out for so long with concussion, got the worst of it. Hoo boy.

- Dumont thundering hit on Karlsson. That's the formula boys. Keep it up.

- Habs sitting a bit. Don't do it guys, keep pressing, or it'll soon be a one goal game.

- Bourque has gone to the room. That's not a good sign.

- Anderson, it should be noted, has struggled with rebound control tonight, more so than usual.

- Bourque back on the bench. Sigh of relief breathed.

- 184 monumentally long seconds left. This game still doesn't quite feel safe.

- 76 seconds left. I think it's safe to start some singing.

- Carey. Freakin. Price. You have heeded the call. A wonderful, emotional, gutsy effort by this Canadiens team. They beat the Sens at their own game, and much of that effort came by some outstanding work by Prust, Bourque, White, Armstrong, et al.

And now it's 90 minutes down the road for game number three.

Gryba Suspension Video:

It's interesting to note that the League goes out of its way to point out that Diaz' pass to Eller was irrelevant - the contact made by Gryba was reckless, illegal, and thus, he has been suspended.

So Mr. MacLean can stick that in his pipe. Speaking of which:

Lineup Update:

It appears that Therrien will indeed be going with Dumont, Armstrong and Halpern as replacements for Eller, Pacioretty and Gionta. Official confirmation in two hours.

Crazy Traffic

I guess it's testament to the intense interest in the Habs, but traffic is heavy here today, as many visits the past 24 hours as we had for the entire month of March!  Thanks to all who have stopped by, we'll do our best to keep on top of all things Habs as this series unfolds.

Gryba Suspended

Wowzers. NHL with (surprising?) suspension of Gryba for two games. Will post Shanahan video as soon as it's available.

Game Two Pregame Game Preview

What a crazy day it has been in Habsland. With Prust's comments, Therrien's presser, and the annoucement of Gryba's two game suspension, it's almost as though game 2 has become an afterthought.

Everybody who pays attention to hockey has either heard about, or seen the Eller hit. It's been the talk of hockey for the past 18 hours, and it's propelled this series in a totally different and very dark direction. There is a sinister atmosphere looming over the Bell Centre tonight in anticipation of a battle royale, where scores will be settled, and bodies sacrificed.

The Habs, for all the bemoaning enveloping the city of Montreal today, played a pretty good game last night, but were let down in three significant ways that made a huge difference in the outcome. First, Carey Price was not able to match the stellar performance exhibited by Craig Anderson (not nearly), the Habs failed to take advantage of huge opportunities in the 2nd period, including a near two minute long 5-on-3 advantage, and the Habs second line defenders Josh Gorges and Raphael Diaz struggled badly, on the ice for 3 of the Sens 4 goals.

Even worse for the Habs, news came this morning of injuries sustained to Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta - bad enough to keep them out of the lineup tonight. It was a stunning announcement by the club, if only because both Pacioretty and Gionta played right through the 3rd period. Not a single person covering the Canadiens had any idea that either was injured until this morning.

So from a Habs perspective, the situation looks pretty dire. Missing not only Eller, but also your other two top forwards - it's difficult, if not impossible to overcome that scenario. But overcome the Habs must, for if they are to lose the first two games at home to start this series, recovery will be almost impossible.

With those key forwards out tonight, I fully expect Therrien to call on Colby Armstrong and Jeff Halpern to fill the gaps, although how his line combinations will eventually pan out will be interesting to see. In light of all that happened in game one, Therrien will probably try to match some of the Sens physicality - in other words, beat them at their own game. It's a huge gamble, but with all these injuries, I cannot see any other path to victory.

Also key for tonight's hopes is Carey Price. If there was ever a time when Price needed to bring his A-1 game, this is it. Craig Anderson provided a wonderful example of how a goaltender can steal a game in a playoff series, and now it will be up to Price to match. If he cannot deliver, then the Habs have almost no chance of competing.

And that's that. It will be a fascinating 60 minutes. How the Canadiens react will be a testament to their inner fortitude. They must come out strong, they must be physical, and they must send a message to the Ottawa Senators that they won't be pushed around.  This game will be rough, and it could be nasty. Very, very nasty.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST. Hold on to your hats.

About Brandon Prust (Full Audio):

Key transcript snips:

“It’s a dirty hit. I’ve watched it over and over. He has the choice to hit him on his front shoulder but he chooses to go to his far shoulder. If you’re going to go across the body like that, because you don’t want that full contact, then you’re going to hit him right in the face.

“Look at all the blood all over the ice. It’s a dirty hit. He’s got a broken face, so, it’s a dirty hit.”

And then Prust with the quote to end all quotes about Paul MacLean:

“Yeah, he already showed enough disrespect over there. So we don’t really care about what that bug-eyed fat walrus has to say.”

Injury Woes Update:

Word just out that Pacioretty's injury is shoulder related, while Gionta's injury relates to his bicep - the same one that underwent season-ending surgery last year.

If true, then one could rule Pacioretty as day-to-day. Gionta, however ... that's most definitely NOT good news.

Bad News Just Gets Worse

Here's a stunner. Therrien just announced that Paciretty and Gionta are out tonight because of upper body injuries. We knew the Senators were going to bring physicality to this series, but this is ridiculous. Absolutely disastrous news for the Habs.

- Lars Eller was released from hospital this morning, and is back home recovering. I guess that's good news, but there's word on his possible return. Likely not for quite awhile.

- Brandon Prust on Sens' Paul MacLean's "blame the passer" response to the Eller hit: "We don't really care about what that big eyed fat walrus has to say." Well played, Mr. Prust. Well played.

- Prust doubled-down this morning, saying that he hoped the League didn't suspend Gryba for his hit. You can easily read between the lines what Prust will be (hoping) to do later tonight.

- Michel Therrien just now speaking to the scribes, is also furious at MacLean: "No respect for player on the ice, bleeding. No respect to Eller and his family in stands."

- Therrien again on Eller: "It hurts. It hurts so much. He is a good kid and he worked so hard."

Gut-wrenching. And sad. 


Keep it Classy, Ottawa Sun

Good grief. People actually subscribe to this publication? We hate to paint with broad strokes over stuff like this, but what in heaven's earth were the folks from the Ottawa Citizen thinking when they green lighted this cover? Is this their idea of victorious bravado? Do they think this will inspire their hockey team to even greater heights of gore? Do they believe that the hit and its grotesque aftermath will create an atmosphere of intimidation within the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room?

We like to think the answer to those questions are all firmly "no", and that Sun's cover represents nothing other than a cynical attempt to sell copy. But even that as an explanation goes well beyond the pale. It's a complete disgrace, and if there's any justice in the world, the players wearing the C and H will use that cover as motivation to propel their team to victory.

That's a just response in a just world. However, we all know the world and life isn't fair. The Canadiens find themselves down a game in the series in part because of the Eller hit, and the Canadiens' reaction to it. In part because the Senators specialty teams were better than the Habs in game one, and in large part because Craig Anderson played out of his mind last night, while his counterpart Carey Price muddled his way to another disappointing post-season loss.

Since fairness is the theme for this post-game analysis, let's be as fair as we are honest about Price's performance in game one. It was by "fair" standards not an awful performance. It was a routine performance, four goals scored, two unstoppable, one borderline, one that he most certainly should have blocked. Not great, but not disasterous.

The big problem for Price is one of contrast. Anderson, on the other end of the sheet, had elevated his game, as one must do for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Anderson wasn't just his usual good - he was ridiculously good, keeping his team in the game while the Canadiens posted a mind-boggling 27 shots in the 2nd period alone, an NHL playoff record.

Price was just ... well ... Price. He showed up, but he did not elevate, and as a result, the Senators overtook the Habs down the stretch. Michel Therrien's post-game comments were about as close to finger pointing a single player as you'll get. He voiced happiness with his team's efforts, which is entirely fair - the Habs dominated the Sens offensively - when you fire 51 shots on the opposition, you're almost certainly going to win that game. Assuming, of course, that your goaltender is doing his job, which Price wasn't. When asked directly about what he thought of Price's performance, Therrien responded "I thought Anderson was better than he was."

That eight word response was unquestionably Therrien's very kind and gentle manner of calling out his goaltender to elevate. I'm sure the message was received by Price, and the eyes of his coach, and every other fan of the Canadiens, will be on Price tonight to see if he's able to take that next step. If Price can't, then the Habs lose. It might not be fair, but that's the reality.

Number Crunching

Your friendly Habs blogger was voicing a lot of frustration last night at the Gorges/Diaz pairing, and the numbers today don't paint a pretty picture. There's no other way of describing it - both were *awful*.

Let the Corsi give you the full picture of just how bad it was:

Galchenyuk: 16
Eller: 13
Gallagher: 11
Moen: 8
Bouillon: 7
Tinordi: 6
Prust: 6
Markov: 6
Subban: 5

Okay, those guys get the pass - you can see just how important Eller and his line was to the Habs offense.  Up to that injury, Eller had been playing spectacularly for the Canadiens - he'd finally emerged as the player that so many were hoping for after his acquisition from St. Louis.  You cannot replace someone who's playing that well. It is not possible.

Now for borderline results:

Desharnais: -1
White: -3
Pacioretty: -6
Bourque: -6

Any Corsi around or near the 0 mark is acceptable. So while there's room for improvement here, the Desharnais line isn't hurting the team more than it's helping.

But now to the bad stuff:

Diaz: -10
Gionta: -10
Ryder: -11
Gorges: -12
Plekanec: -14

What to say? The supposed number one line was a collective -35, which is horrendous. As mentioned, the Gorges/Diaz pairing were visibly wretched, the -22 Corsi merely confirms the observations.

Therrien voiced displeasure towards Ryder, which was totally fair considering how Ryder was largely uninvolved as a point producer. I also saw more than a few instances of him bagging it back to his own zone during Ottawa transitions (most glaringly the Karlsson goal). Not acceptable. Especially in the playoffs.

Diaz and Gorges? I thought Diaz, even though he had a slightly better Corsi, played far worse than Gorges. His passing was meek and ill-advised (he fed Eller the "suicide" pass), and there were three instances where he let the puck go through his legs at the line during Habs' powerplays, which killed zone possession, and conversely, might have cost his team a speciality unit goal. Not acceptable.

Adjustments? I'd move Diaz to third line duties and icetime, limit his specialty unit time, and promote Tinordi to play beside either Markov or Subban. 

Game preview later today.


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