Thursday, 10 October 2013

Game Four: Habs vs. Oilers

Habs 4, Oilers 1

Alright, let's break it down.

Fenwick (5v5):
Bournival: 80.0%
Moen: 76.9
Prust: 72.7
Pacioretty: 52.9
Gionta: 31.3%
Galchenyuk: 29.4

As noted during the game, Bournival had a pretty impressive night, seemed to anticipate the play, was pretty involved in his (mainly) containment role. Prust with a nice bounce-back game after playing rather poorly against Calgary (by his standards), while Moen continues to make valued contributions to the 4th line.

Desharnais, same story. But what about Brian Gionta? His struggles seem to only deepen - unlike Bournival, he's having a lot of trouble keeping pace with game flow, and for the life of me, I can't explain why. Gionta has come off of two very debilitating muscle tear injuries within two years - so I'm left wondering if the seriousness of those injuries has simply been too much for Gionta's body to handle. From what I've seen the first four games, he's a shell of his former self.

Defensive notes: Bouillon game in at just 25%, and mercy me, Therrien kept him pretty stapled to the bench, with Frankie punching in under 13 minutes. More of this reduced ice time PLEASE COACH.

Corsi (5v5):
Bournival: 81.3%
Prust: 72.
Moen: 71.4
Pacioretty: 65.4
Briere: 62.5
Desharnais: 29.6%
Gionta: 25.0

Again, disappointing numbers for the captain. Plekanec, who admittedly was playing mainly a checking role tonight, also continues to struggle. Just one point so far this year, Plekanec now has the lowest overall Fenwick among Habs starting blue liners. Habs fans have every right to be worried about Plekanec's lack of production because sooner or later, the Eller line will cool down, and when that happens, it'll be up to guys like Plekanec, Gionta and Desharnais to pick up the slack. So far, we haven't had much evidence they're capable of doing that.

Third Period:

- As suspected, both Corsi and Fenwick totals are pretty much a dead heat after 40 minutes.

- Eller fabulous on the puck first 6 minutes of this period. 

- Action has been too wide open for Habs' tastes. Really asking for trouble when you open the barn doors against a team like Edmonton.

- Oilers not really turning on the jets here, still seem to be settling back a bit perhaps looking for a Habs mistake,

- And it's the oilers who make the mistake getting caught up ice, and boy oh boy was that one heckova sweet connection Gallagher to Galchenyuk. 3-1.

- Oy. Brutal board by Eller on Hall, pushing him blind head first into the boards. The League will almost certainly review that play to see if futher discipline is required.

- This game really has been a startling contrast between Galchenyuk and Yakupov, hasn't it?  If I was an Oilers fan I'd be growing increasingly angry about how Edmonton handled that draft.

- Said it before, I'll say it again. Budaj has been extremely impressive tonight. Galchenyuk has stolen the show, but Budaj came up with some really solid saves while the Habs were trailing 1-0.

- Patches with the cherry.

Impressive win tonight, Habs youth really showed up the Oilers' youth - Gallagher, Eller and especially Galchenyuk stealing the show. It will be interesting to see if any further action is taken against Eller for that hit on Hall, but regardless, the Habs can breath a sigh of relief in actually winning a game on one these western Canadian road swings.

Game stats breakdown in a few. There are some bright spots, and a couple of very concerning numbers from two very struggling Habs. Their names by the way, aren't Desharnais or Briere.

Second Period:

- Habs +3 Fenwick, +7 Corsi in the first.

- Habs called for too many men. Specifically, two too many men.

- At least he's being utilized on the PK, but Subban on 2nd line duty.

- Oilers finally strike as Markov for whatever reason, abandons his position, thereby opening a huge passing lane for Hall which goes in off Smyth's skate. Markov makes a significant mistake that you shouldn't see from someone with that many years in the League.

- Bournival, what little icetime he's given, has looked very, very good. Dare say none of the Habs better playing forwards tonight.

- Habs offense for the most part has gone AWOL in the 2nd. Budaj, however, playing very solid, giving his team a chance.
- Loose puck in Oilers crease, Briere is there but is simply not big or strong enough to push it past Dubnyk. Habs go to the powerplay, though.

- Galchenyuk looked like he's been playing in the NHL for 10 years holding holding holding and then feeding a perfect pass to Gallagher for an easy tap in. What a great goal. Game tied.

- Habs 4th line doing a fantastic job keeping puck in oilers zone - Prust cashing in a garbage goal as Dubnyk can't find the handle. 2-1 Habs.

- Really rough night again for Desharnais, and he's finally starting to see a significant reduction in shifts. Not even at 7 minute mark yet. 

- With fairness to equal time, Plekanec is a mess tonight - easily the Habs worst playing forward. No idea what's up, but I don't recall ever seeing him this listless and uninvolved.

- Budaj really coming up with some first-string netminding here.

- Habs are playing far too deferential in their zone, and Oilers are pelting Budaj with some pretty high percentage shots. Inevitable they'll tie this up if serious adjustments aren't made quickly.

- Oilers pushed hard last two minutes but Habs held on. Habs got a few lucky bounces in the period, did a pretty good job with puck control in the a Oilers when possession was established, but on the whole, it's still been a pretty evenly matched game. Oilers had a few problems - Eberle hasn't looked very good, and It looks like Yakupov was benched in the 2nd?

We'll see what the Fenwick line totals are, but I'm already thinking they'll be close to split. Budaj on track for first star if somehow this thing holds.

First period:

- So Tinordi is a healthy scratch, Beaulieu is in. So is Gorges. Also White sits, Bournival is in. 

- Nugent-Hopkins with a pretty clear dive on that little tap given by Bourque. Oilers to the early powerplay.

- As per usual, whole lotta Habs fans in the Edmonton stands tonight. It's an incredibly hard ticket to get because there are an awful lot of Habs fans in western Canada.

- And that's two dives, two tripping penalties against the Habs. Refs are getting suckered here.

- For the most part the Oilers pp has looked pretty disorganized. Habs off the hook.

- Nail gets nailed for an undisciplined cross. Let's see if that good looking Habs PP continues.

- Habs working the line, two hard shots by Subban, one by Markov.

- Gorges absolutely leveled in the corner by scubmeister Gazdic, Prust drops the gloves and will probably pick up an extra two minutes.

- No instigator handed out so it's even strength.

- That was a pretty hard hit absorbed by Gorges. If his health was iffy last night, you have to wonder how it is right now.

- Why goaltenders are insane. Hall's 15 foot slapper rips the mask off Budaj. Couldn't pay me enough to face that firing line.

- Habs fairing better in battles for lose pucks but they're still playing sloppy in their zone. Oilers will eat you alive for that.

- Oilers though, much more physical team so far. Their aim seems to be to wear the Habs down slowly but surely.

- Dubnyk beaten like an old rug by that Bourque wrister. Didn't look good. 

- Plekanec continues to make poor decisions. No way that pass could have connected with Galchenyuk on that 2-on-1.

- Uninspired but fairly evenly played period. At the very least Habs looked better in this frame tonight than they did last night. Habs outshooting the Oilers, Edmonton outhitting Montreal.

Game Day Preview:

Less than 24 hours after coming off a smarting loss to the Calgary Flames, the Habs will seek to get their western road trip on track tonight as they take on the (can we still call them young?) Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers, for anyone who's been paying attention the past few seasons, enjoyed a boon of exceptionally high-level draft picks for five consecutive years, which helped the organization to develop one of the most potentially talented offenses in the National Hockey League.  I emphasize potentially because after so many years spent in the hockey wilderness, and after having so many top tier draft picks such as Sam Gagne, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, the Oil haven't been able to muster a post-season appearance since 2006. So much talent on paper, but so many mediocre results on ice.

This year once again, expectations are high that finally, finally - the Oilers will arrive as a team to be reckoned with. However, the Oilers continue to fight old ghosts - specifically, the organization's cultural focus on offense, which critics have pointed out has left the team with plenty of firepower, but little on the backend to protect its own zone. Case in point: the 2013 entry draft, out of their 10 draft picks, the Oilers front office chose 8 forwards, and just two were spent on defensemen. Granted, the Oilers did use their number one pick (7th overall) on Greyhound blueliner Darnell Nurse, but apart form expending their 9th pick on Ben Betker, the Oilers again spent all their chips on forwards.

To underscore the point, of the 6 starting blue liners tonight, only one (Jeff Petry) was drafted by the organization - and he was picked way back in 2006.

So this year as last year as the year before and the year before that, the Oilers' most glaring weaknesses are on defense, which won't make Edmonton's task tonight particularly easy against the (supposedly) balanced Habs attack.

That's not to say it's a bed of roses in Habsland. Coach Michel Therrien is coming under increased scrutiny for his bench management the first three games of the season. Lars Eller, by far the Habs best forward in the early season, got less icetime against the Flames then he did measured against the somewhat struggling Thomas Plekanec, and perhaps more glaringly, the underachieving David Deshairnais, who like last season, is struggling to find his scoring touch that earned him a 4 year contact extension.

On the blue line, there are other concerns. The Habs backend, much like game one against the Leafs, played slow and sloppy Wednesday night. Bench management was again called into question, as #6 D-man Francis Boullion got 5 more minutes of icetime than did Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. For what ever reason, coach Therrien has been keeping Subban on a pretty tight leash resulting in icetime limitations which have unquestionably hurt his team.

The other big question surrounding the team's defense is on the solid and dependable Josh Gorges, who sat on the bench for pretty much the entire 3rd period last night, apparently suffering from an injury. The Habs have been extremely hush-hush about Gorges' status since then, saying that they wouldn't provide any lineup details until 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Peter Budaj will get his first start of the regular season. Devan Dubnyk, who hasn't got very good career numbers playing against the Canadiens, will start for Edmonton.

Puck drops at 9:40 p.m., est.

Joe Thornton Has Entered the Room.

Avert your eyes. Avert your eyes.

My Message-of-the-Day to Adam Oates:

Hi Adam [waves]. Just a quick word or two and then I'll let you get on with your day:

Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHHHHUT UP Shutup SHUT UP shuddup SHUTUP shaddup SHUT THE FRONT DOOR UP YOU ARE MAKING A FOOL OUT OF YOURSELF.

And for good measure ...

Oh yeah. How many were complaining about this last season? Adam Oates included? Yeah. I didn't think so.


Gameday Game Notes:

- Habs announce Peter Budaj will start tonight. That's all I got. No player updates (Gorges). Nothin'. Nada. Zip. Zeeee-row.

- Check that. Habs are practicing right now. But it's a closed session. Sigh.

About Last Night ...

Okay, we're so done with Calgary. Goodbye and good riddance. Any night when you lose to a rebuilding team, regardless of how young their roster or inspired they might be playing, is a  disappointing result. The Habs didn't bomb out - they controlled much of the game possession and tempo, but critical and careless errors by the likes of Travis Moen, P.K Subban (for the Flames' first goal), Jarred Tinordi and Brandon Prust (for the Flames' second goal), and Francis Boullion, who was largely over-utilized all night, gave the Flames high quality scoring opportunities, which they converted.

On the other side of the ledger, the Habs were also generating quality chances, but they were either unable to convert, predominately because Flames netminder Joey McDonald was making some pretty impressive saves. What can ya do?

- No word out yet about Josh Gorges, who played a shift early in the 3rd, and then sat out the rest of the game. Therrien was later quoted as saying that Gorges "wasn't 100%", which given Gorges reputation for his willingness to play through any level of pain, is pretty concerning. Video that I've reviewed doesn't reveal any singular play indicating possible injury, so at this time, I'm perplexed. The only unsubstantiated conclusions I've been able to arrive at is Gorges was somehow injured taking a hit that most defensemen can expect to regularly receive, along the boards.  Anyway, it's worrying because any games without Gorges in the lineup really stretches the Habs' capacity to properly defend their zone.

More later.

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