Thursday, 17 October 2013

Game Seven: Blue Jackets vs. Habs

Francois Lacassee / Getty Images

Final Score: Montreal 5, Columbus 3:

Let's break it down:

Corsi (5v5): Columbus +3
Michael Bournival: 69.2%
Travis Moen: 64.3.%
Ryan White: 60.0%
Brendan Gallagher: 41.7%

Fenwick (5v5): Tied
Michael Bournival: 100%
Travis Moen: 87.5%
Ryan White: 77.8%
David Desharnais: 33.3%

Another, yes another, excellent night for the Habs fourth line. Ryan White's turnaround from the end of the last season is so stark, that he's become one of the more remarkable early-season stories for the Habs. The line tenacious forecheck has been outstanding - it's helped relieve a great deal of pressure off the rest of the offense, and worked as a very effective tourniquet against opposition momentum. In short, I don't think the Habs would be at 5-2 right now if it wasn't for the likes of White, Moen and as we saw tonight, an most excellent performance by Michael Bournival, who imho, was the game star.

Carey Price was solid - not quite as acrobatic as he was against Winnipeg and in particular  Vancouver, but he made some critical saves when his team needed it most, especially towards the end of the 3rd period.

On the downside, after looking really good on Monday night, Desharnais regressed back to his old ways - finding himself largely contained and irrelevant through much of the night. Therrien tried to jumpstart his line by giving Desharnais and Briere a couple of powerplay shifts - which were pretty much ineffective.

Nonetheless, the Habs grind out another win, and now creep closer towards a particularly challenging part of their schedule with Anaheim and San Jose coming to town next week.


Third Period:

- Habs +4 Corsi, +2 Fenwick through 40 minutes.

- Habs Boullion gets soft and sloppy forcing Price to make two huge saves. Columbus pressing here.

- Jackets getting lots of bodies in the slot, Habs defense unable to clear. Not sure how much longer Price can keep his team ahead.

- There we go, and guess what? It's Jenner again - picking up the rebound and muscling one past a sprawled out Price. The three goal lead now gone.

- Rough night for Tinordi, Therrien has reigned in his icetime significantly. Which means leaning on Markov more, which means the Habs defense isn't nearly as strong.

 - Bouillon/Tinordi pairing creating lots of opportunity for the bigger Jackets forwards to molest the crease without much trouble.

- Meek wrister by Briere on clear-cut 2-on-1. Easy save for Bobrovsky.

- What a PP shift for the Eller line - Bobrovsky making couple of huge saves. Why that line doesn't start EVERY Habs powerplay is beyond me.

- Habs have rebounded nicely since surrendering the tying goal - one problem though, Bobrovsky has suddenly decided to play the game - very, very well.

- Who wants to bet Jenner wins it for Columbus with a hat trick?

- So tonight was specialty team dream. 4 of 6 goals scored so far with those units.

- Subban for high sticking, he seems to take these penalties at the worst possible time.

- Columbus firing slappers from high slot at will. Habs lucky they didn't score.

- Bournival can do it on the PK as well. Excellent forechecking demonstration there. Really impressive night for him.

- Wowzers. Plekanec is the hero, first winning the draw deep in his zone, the streaking up ice to lead a 3-2 and then snapping one past Bovrovsky from 40 feet. Bobrovsky was way out of position, but we'll take it.

- Hold the phone. Gorges with a trip and Columbus with a very late PP. 42 seconds left.

- Plekanec with an empty netter after Price makes a sensational game saver. Diaz also with an outstanding block on Johansen to preserve the win. A sleeper game that got awfully fun the final 10 minutes. 

Second Period:

- Hate to hex this but Price approaching 99 saves on last 100 shots.

- Ridiculous elbowing call on Subban. No way a big league official should make such a poor call.

- Justice served. Fine forechecking by Ryan White creates a turnover and shot by Markov beats Bobrovsky. 3-0.

- Jenner scores his NHL first off a juicy Price rebound. So everything square now. 3-1.

- Desharnais and Briere continue to do the Habs PP no favours.

- Another disappointing night for the Plekanec/Gionta combination. Not giving the team much offensive momentum. Listless shift after listless shift.

- That Jenner kid is a pesky bugger, isn't he? The kind of pest that coaches love.

- Bournival really fitting in well on the White line, which itself is having an excellent season so far. Habs depth really a blessing during uncertain times with injuries to critical players.

- Critical mistakes here. Subban makes a poorly timed pinch and Eller, who drops back to cover the point, turns it over to Johansen who snaps it past Price on the resulting break. No way Subban should be taking that risk with a 2 goal lead. Sigh. 3-2 Habs.

- Difference between a 2 and 1 goal 40 minute lead is pretty significant. Habs have demonstrated a decent capacity for protecting these 3rd period leads, but Columbus is a far more dangerous team than anyone else Montreal has faced this season.

First Period:

- No announcement about Pacioretty until after the game, apparently it'll be announced by Bergevin. Beaulieu is a healthy scratch, meaning Bourque is playing.

- Both teams storming out of the gate. Did I say earlier today that it's going to be a low scoring game? Oops.

- Gallager gets ice sticked in the face right in front of the official. Not penalty worthy, it seems.

- Subban is putting on a show tonight. Got the feeling could be big night for him.

- Bouruqe!! If he keeps that up they'll make everyone catch that flu bug. Beautiful pass by the way, from Subban to create the breakaway. Powerplay goal gives Habs early lead.

- Habs with relentless pressure - Subban having an incredible period makes am sparkling move at the line to feed Markov who makes a perfect cross ice pass to Bournival who beats Bobrovsky with the one timer. A ridiculously beautiful highlight goal, Bournival's first in the NHL.

- Jackets seem to be targeting Gallagher tonight. Couple of nasty hits along the boards, in addition to the high stick that wasn't called. Habs sticking up for him and getting punished with a roughing penalty.

- When it's Briere and Tinordi leading the rush, you have a pretty good idea where that play is going to end.

- Habs 4th line doing fine job blocking Jackets shots. Canadiens also doing good job protecting their crease from any dangerous rebound surrendered by Price (there haven't been many so far).

- Not a completely one-sided period, Habs outshooting Columbus 14-11, Price was his usual solid self, while the Canadiens offense took advantage of their chances. Subban was a monster in that first frame - when he's in full gear, this team takes on another dimension that makes it difficult, if not impossible to beat.

Saddest Power Rankings Page Ever:

And go figure, it comes from the CBC's Kelly Hrudy (ooh boy) with a quintessentially lame "Behind the Mask" power rankings of the League's goaltenders. All 20 of them. There are no more. That's it. 20.

The worse part isn't that Hrudy couldn't be bothered to list all of the League's teams, it's that of the 20 teams mentioned, the mother corp uses 11 out-of-date logos, including the infamous Buffalo slug logo, the forever-90s old Tampa Bay Lightning logo, and for old time's sake, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim logo.

Thanks CBC for your old, meaningless and completely irrelevant content. I can only assume that Don Cherry approves.


Gameday Game Preview:

So ... lots of questions circulating around the Habs camp today, the biggest by far is today's pending announcement of Max Pacioretty's MRI results. Rumors have been circulating, mostly discredited, the Pacioretty could be done for the season with a Markov-like torn ACL. At this point, not even the insider insiders have a clue about Max's long-term fate.

The only thing we do know for certain is Pacioretty won't be playing tonight, and with Rene Bourque missing the team morning skate because of flu symptoms, Michel Therrien might be forced into a few awkward adjustments. From what we were able to deduce from Therrien's presser this morning, if Bourque is able to play tonight, he'll be assigned to his usual position beside Thomas Plekanec. If not, Therrien said he'll go with 7 defensemen, with Nathan Beaulieu as the extra man who would, when asked, play the occasional 4th line shift with Ryan White and Travis Moen.

So the Canadiens are smarting a little bit in preparation for their game tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In case you've spent the past few months on the moon, the Jackets were shifted from the Western to the Eastern Conference this summer, which means that instead of these two teams meeting once or twice during an average season, the Habs and Jackets will see each other three times this season.

The Jackets, who've been a long-standing League joke for their complete inability to build a playoff-competitive team, are no longer a laughing matter. This is a team that came agonizingly close to making the playoffs last spring, are feature plenty of young, energetic talent. The Jackets' main young feature these days is can't-miss blue chip prospect Ryan Murray, who was Columbus' first round pick in the 2012 draft (2nd overall) behind Nail Yakupov and ahead of Alex Galchenyuk.

Murray's main strengths are supposedly his mobility, game awareness, and an excellent ability to feed the puck to his forwards. Habs fans will have a great opportunity tonight to view a potential NHL star in the making in Murray.

Other key young guns to keep an eye out for include center Bruce Jenner, the pesky Jacket's 2nd round pick in 2011. At a bulky 200+ pounds, Jenner put up some impressive numbers in the OHL before cracking the NHL roster this fall.

The Jackets offense hasn't been off to a great start this season - currently ranked 23rd in the League. The Jacket's big off-season acquisition Nathan Horton, had shoulder surgery that will keep him out of the lineup until January, perhaps December at the earliest. With Horton out, the Jackets started the year experimenting on their top line with Brandon Dubinsky - Marion Gaborik and Jenner. Since then, Jenner has been bumped around as the Jackets continue to search for a spark on their first line.

On speciality teams, Columbus stacks up reasonably well - with the 9th ranked powerplay and 7th ranked PK. The Habs meanwhile, currently rank 7th and 9th accordingly.

Columbus' main strength, not surprisingly, is goal protection. A 10th ranked defense that features, in addition to Murrary, the popular ex-Hab James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson. Oh yeah - and one Sergei Bobrovsky, last year's Vezina Trophy winner, will start between the pipes tonight. Bobrovsky, who posted a 2.0 GAA and .932 SV% is putting up similar numbers so far this season,  a 2.48 GAA, .929 SV%.

So with full consideration to the Blue Jackets' defense, Bobrovsky, and the excellent outings so far by Carey Price, don't expect the red light to shine very many times tonight.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.


Gameday News 'n' Notes

Okay, Therrien just had a presser, and there's a bit to sift through.

- Everyone is on pins and needles about Pacioretty's MRI results, which won't be known until this afternoon. Max had the MRI last night.
- Update on George Parros: He's working out in the gym right now, according to Therrien, is following the strict routine required for anyone who's suffered a concussion. No idea when he'll be back, or even when he'll be skating. But Therrien said his recovery has so far, gone quite well.
- Update on Alexei Emelin. Therrien said his timetable for return has been accelerated slightly from sometime in December, to now sometime in late November. So good news there (hopefully).
- Therrien said if Bourque can't play tonight, he'll be using 7 defensemen.


- MRI results for Max Pacioretty are supposed to be released some time today. Then we'll know if Max's injury sustained in the first period in Winnipeg is short or long term (not that it needed mentioning, but Pacioretty will not be playing tonight).
- Rene Bourque also did not participate in the morning skate. He's down with the flu and will probably not play tonight. Not that his presence would have been noted, anyway.

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