Saturday, 26 October 2013

Game Eleven: Sharks vs. Habs

Third Period:

- 40 minute line, Sharks in command, 58.1% Corsi, 57.1 Fenwick. The second period wasn't as lopsided as the first, but it was still dominating.

- Oy. Gift goal for Couture as the puck takes a fluke redeflect off the glass to the front of the Habs net with Price behind his goal. Being down 1-0 to the Sharks in the third is bad enough, being down two - pretty much mission impossible.

- Oh well, if this one ends in defeat, it won't be as though the Habs lost to an inferior opponent. Losing to Edmonton last week sucked. Losing to San Jose tonight, what else were we expecting?

- Nothing to lose at this point, so Habs defense are going to be pinching hard to keep the puck in the Sharks zone. We'll probably see a few Sharks odd-man breaks coming up.

- Man. This Couture. Sure wish he was on my team.

- Sharks haven't been outshot this season. That won't change tonight. 31-17 with 10 minutes left.

- Ouch. Moen, who doesn't wear a visor. That's nasty. Puck in the face. Straight to the room.

- Usually the team controlling possession (as much as the Sharks have), tend to be outhit since they're the team being chased. That isn't the case tonight. 15-9 San Jose so far. 

- I think Niemi has had one genuinely tough save - the Eller slot shot in the 2nd period.

- When Gallagher stays down, you know he's hurt. I don't like the way Irwin finished that check - Gallahger was vulnerable and had his head slammed into the backboard. Gallagher had to be dragged off to the room for the concussion check.

- Gallagher is back. Moen most definitely is not, and won't be.

- Sharks are just so good and protecting their crease, it's an impenetrable fort. Habs have no chance tonight. Not even a whiff.

-Feel bad for the fans at the Bell Centre, who paid a pretty penny to watch their team get systematically suffocated by the opposition. The Sharks benefited from a fluky goal, but it really didn't matter. There was no way the Habs could have come away from this one with 2 points - the Sharks, especially defensively, were nearly perfect with defensive zone coverage, while the Habs

The better team won tonight. The much, much better team won.


Second Period:

- Sharks powerplays 3, Montreal 0. And counting.

- Inevitably, Sharks convert. Beauty pass by Thornton to Couture, Sharks lead 1-0.

- Sharks dominating zone possession against the Habs in this period. Their relentless forchecking style now starting to pay off.

- There are limitations, but Diaz is easily the Habs' weakest defensive link on their PK. The Couture goal began after an unforced Diaz error resulting in a turnover, and within seconds, the puck was behind Price.

- Stat line is looking ugly for the Habs. Sharks (close) Fenwick 63.6%, 63.3% Corsi. Easily could and should be more than just a 1-0 lead.

- Niemi just robbed Eller with his glove on a point blank slot wrister. These high percentages are going to be few and far between, so conversion is critical. So far the Habs have come up zeros.

- I think even Therrien is giving up the ghost. Desharnais 5:52 icetime so far. Only Blunden and Holland have less.

- Just as I post that previous comment, Desharnais gets a shift, and the Habs generate three excellent scoring chances, and more critically, momentum.

- Powerplays: Sharks 4, Habs 0. Another hold. Habs cant keep up with the speedier Sharks, and the officials are taking notice.

- Sharks are so much the superior team, it's simultaneously painful and wonderful to watch. It's still a mini-miracle that the Canadiens are one shot away from tying this up.

- Do my eyes deceive me? A Habs powerplay. Two minutes, plus the minute they had with the net empty. Desharnais somehow missed a wide open net off a juicy loose puck.

- Habs have been the far more dangerous team since that Desharnais shift. Momentum folks, never underestimate it.

- P.K Subban hath arrived at the game. Dominating near two-minute long shift.

- Price fancy glove flash on Stuart.

- 40 minutes complete. Bad news for Habs, the Sharks are a dominating opponent, and they've dominated this game. Good news, the score is just 1-0, and the Habs were really feeding off momentum the final six minutes of the period. Montreal has hope - perhaps not realistic hope, but nonetheless, hope. 

First Period:

- Did I forget to mention the Sharks starter? Oops. It'll be Antti Niemi.

- Habs just announced that Greg Pateryn has been sent back to Hamilton. So that's that.

- Plekes line starts it off for Les boys.

- Les Dive. Les Dive. Wretched tripping call on Markov, Freddie Hamilton with his embezzlement impersonation. Sharks go to the PP.

- Impressive kill. Sharks with that high rated man advantage had nothin' going.

- Sharks are relentless with zone forecheck. Habs struggling to win battles and clear their zone.

- Moen of all people, tried a fancy through the legs shot off a loose puck, nearly slipped it past Niemi.

- Tight checking game so far, both offenses struggling to find a rhytm. Habs' best hopes though, is to play boring.

- Plekanec knocking himself I think for not passing off to Gionta on a shorthanded 2-on-1. So far this Sharks powerplay unit has looked pretty meek.

- Not sure how long Holland will stick around with the big club, but he does a fine job on the Habs PK unit.

- Does Desharnais really think he can overpower a foot taller NHL defenseman by going around him along the boards?

- Sharks had possession edge, although a lot of that can be credited to receiving two powerplays. Very tight checking period, most of the shots were from perimeter locations, both netminders not surrendering much, rebound-wise, both teams doing a very good job protecting the area around the crease. The game is more of a chess match, strategically compelling, otherwise, it's been pretty dull.

But boring hockey wins, right?

Gameday Game Preview:

The Montreal Canadiens face what will probably be their toughest test of the young season as they host the powerhouse San Jose sharks tonight at the Bell Centre.

The Sharks have just one regulation loss in their first ten games, which just came following a tough last second loss to the Bruins on Friday night. Tonight's game in Montreal is the 3rd game of a 5-game eastern road swing for San Jose, so the Habs might be counting on the Sharks' legs being somewhat road-weary. Here's hoping anyway.

The Sharks line is pretty impressive. 3rd rated Corsi and Fenwick, so their high League standing is no fluke (unlike say, Colorado or Toronto, whose win/loss records do not reflect their statistical outputs). In addition to a high-rated advanced stats, the Sharks have the top rated offense, the 8th rated powerplay, and 4th rated penalty kill.

So .. ack. 2013-14, the Sharks have been a very good team.

Meanstwhile ... the Habs head into tonight's game coming off a pretty impressive 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, who were also off to an impressive season start. The Habs are being helped by the sudden offensive emergence of the Thomas Plekanec line, comprised of Pleks, Brian Gionta and Michael Bournival. While most of the attention this season has been poured on the Habs phenom Lars Eller, it's Plekance who leads the Habs in forward scoring with 9 points, one ahead of Eller. Brian Gionta, who really struggled out of the season gate, finally seems to be rounding into form, picking up four points the last four games.

So continued output by the Habs Plekanec line will not only punch up the Habs' offensive threat, it'll take some of the checking pressure off the Eller/Gallagher/Galchenyuk line - who've collectively cooled off at late, largely because most opposing teams have focused their checking line against them.

The Sharks are lead by two dangerous scoring lines, Joe Thornton/Freddie Hamilton and the rookie sensation Tomas Hertl. Second line features Logan Couture who centres team co-scoring leader Patrick Marleau and Tyler Kennedy. What's really given the Sharks an extra dimension of danger this season is the emergence of their so-called third line as a real scoring threat, led by Joe Pavelski (12 points), Tommy Wingels (6 points) and Matt Nieto (5 points).

The Sharks don't feature big-named stars on their defense, but who can argue with the result? With a team GAA of just 1.7, the Sharks have the NHL's 3rd rated defense.

From the Habs' perspective, tonight's test will be awfully tough. Carey Price will have to bring forward his A+ game. Anything less, and the Canadiens will stand little chance of knocking off this exceptionally talented San Jose roster.

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