Monday, 14 October 2013

Game Six: Habs vs. Jets

News and Notes:

- Habs defenseman Drew Drewiskie had shoulder surgery today, and will be out for probably the rest of the season (estimated recovery March/April, 2014).
- Habs ticket buyers, including yours truly, love to complain about how damn expensive it is just to see one measly game at the Bell Centre, but according to Forbes Magazine, at an average pricetag of $257.06, fans in Montreal only have to fork out the 7th highest dollar to see their team in the flesh. So who's the most expensive hockey ticket? The centre of the hockey universe in Toronto of course, where the average price (reminder, this is just the average price to see one game) is a mind-boggling $368.60. Sheesh. Actually, it sucks to be a Canadian in this department, other canuck-based teams rate pretty high on the list with Winnipeg #3 (really?), Edmonton #4 (I'd be miffed), Vancouver #5, Calgary #6, and Ottawa a more "reasonable" 15th overall. The Hawks at #2, are the most expensive American-based team to see at $313.18 - but unlike Toronto, they have a pretty reasonable excuse for charging sky-high ticket prices: they're the Stanley Cup champions.

Cheapest NHL ticket? The endlessly bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes, the average stub price a measly $76.65.

See the full list here.

- Finally, Max Lapierre. Don't get me started about this human waste of a hockey player. By now you've heard about his dirty hit on Dan Boyle last night, which sent the Sharks defenseman to the hospital. Not embedding or posting a link to the hit - just take it from me, it was horrible. Anyway, Max will probably get 10 games for this latest incident of misbehavior - he's fast developed a reputation for being one of the worst people alive that also happens to play in the National Hockey League.

Lapierre has one career highlight:

That's it. That's all he has to show for his nothing career. Godspeed Max, we're all looking forward to the day when you won't be coming back to the rink again.

Montreal 3, Winnipeg 0. Stathead Stuff:

Okay, here it is:

Corsi: Winnipeg +28 (yeah, Price really was that good)
White: 56.3%
Prust: 56.0%
Desharnais: 52.2%
Plekanec: 24.1%

Fenwick: Winnipeg +8
White: 72.7%
Moen: 69.2%
Desharnais: 68.8%
Galchenyuk: 24.1%

Not entirely surprising numbers considering how the game was your basic grind-'em-out type victory not befitting the speed and elegance of the EGG line. Ryan White - for that matter, the Habs' 4th line continues to impress, doing an excellent job in swarming opposing forwards, generating decent zone opportunities, and setting the table up nicely for the Habs' top producing lines. If White continues this play, it'll be nearly impossible for Therrien to scratch him if/when Parros makes his return.

The Habs defense didn't have a particularly impressive outing, which anyone might find surprising since the Jets were shut out. But that's largely because of Carey Price's stellar performance. Nathan Beaulieu, still in learning mode, struggles with puck possession confidence. He's apt to shooting the puck away, either forced or unforced, for fear of creating a turnover. It's typical behavior for any defender trying to break into the NHL - but it's hurting the Habs transition. Beaulieu also doesn't do his defensive partner any favors by repositioning himself in a clear passing lane. In short, Beaulieu needs to really work on puck possession, mobility and effectively moving the puck up ice to a teammate. 

Anyway, largely nit-picky stuff. The trip was quite successful, and now the team can enjoy an extended home stand.

Third Period:

- Kane gets nailed yet again for a hook. That'll drive the coach up the wall.

- Desharnais and the Subban with clunky turnovers giving Jets 2-on-1 break, Price another excellent save.

- Desharnais having a decent night, except when he's put out on the man advantage. Then everything seems to go south.

- Subban with two consecutive terrible defensive shifts. Price bailing him and his team out.

- Not sure how much longer Price can keep 'em out.

- Another disappointing night for Gionta. Just not involved, very slow on the play. 

- Price's Sp% the past two games is now a nifty .986. 

- Price just zoned. Jets will have to fire it through him to score.

- Prust hurt last shift, now Plekanec is smarting. It's been a very physical game tonight. 

- Habs committing far too many turnovers in their zone, but Price just soaks anything up that comes his way.

- Jets swarming, can the Habs hold the fort for much longer? Desharnais line a real defensive liability in the 3rd period.

- Habs just hanging on right now. Dumping any puck in sight.

- Really can't understand putting Briere out right now, and he gets nailed for a hook. Oy.

- All Price needed to bring to the rink tonight was his glove. At least half his saves have been with the mitt.

- Habs kill the Briere penalty but Jets are still pressing hard.

- Winnipeg has some ridiculously awful ice tonight. Puck bouncing all over the place.

- There's your dagger. Jets get nailed for a crosscheck (Little). Habs can just kill the clock with barely two minutes left.

- Briere his first as a Canadien. Empty net, I guess he'll take it. Now Price for the shutout.

- 6 out of possible 8 points on the west swing, an excellent result. Tonight, Carey Freakin' Price. Haters are gonna have to hate something else because Price looks totally on focus this season. 

 Second Period:

- Pacioretty is officially done for the night, left leg injury. Max off a terrible start this year, luck-wise. 

- Gorges playing so much more effectively and efficiently than he was at very start of the season
- Diaz with a big red target on his body tonight. Not moving his feet fast enough along the boards and he's getting hammered like crazy by Jets forwards.

- Kane has been pushing the envelope all night, finally called for a hook.

- Habs chance to bury here.

- Prust injured?? In the dresssing room.

- Game getting pretty chippy. Price continues to play solid, if unspectacular perfect goaltending.

- Prust reportedly has equipment issue (skate).

- Jets have gone out moe aggressively in the 2nd to combat the Habs aggressive forecheck, but they haven't yet been able to generate much offensive momentum.

- Corsi and Femwick virtually tied right now, indicating decent rebound period for Winnipeg. 

- Winnipeg now generating serious zone pressure and quality shots on Price. Habs definitely on their heels right now.

- Okay at this point I'll gladly take a 2-0 40 minute lead. Growing concerned that the Jets might strongarm their way back into this.

- Price with a ridiculous save. Jets efforts not being rewarded.

- Habs lucky to maintain their two goal lead because Carey Price. Habs with a big let down period. Winnipeg has a decent shot if they play that well and the Habs that indifferently in the 3rd period.

First Period:

- There's that fast start and weak goal surrendered by Pavelec, Prust with the easy rebounder. 1-0 before most everyone has arrived at their seat.

- Maybe Habs fans hope that Prust is the cure that ails Desharnais?.

- White continues to be in fine form - making his removal from any starting lineup a difficult decision. 

- Galchenyuk to wide open Gallagher crashing the Jets net. 9/10 he puts that puck in the net.

- No goals, but pretty decent looking Habs man advantage there.

- Jets leaving passing lanes wide open, which allows the Habs to set Subban up for a cannon drive. Pavelec simply cannot adjust and it's 2-0 Habs.

- Reeling Jets burn their TO. 

- Price picking up exactly where he left off Saturday night. That's bad news for Jets fans.

- Desharnais seems to have found his legs tonight. Now we have to find Bourque's.

- Eller correctly assessed penalty for embellishment. He's gotten away with a couple over this road trip and the officials are starting to key in on it.

- Save the third period against the Canucks, easily the Habs' best played period of this road trip.

- Habs +10 Corsi, +7 Fenwick. Pretty one-sided 20 minutes, maybe most one sided Habs have had this young season

Gameday Game Preview:

The western stretch has finally arrived. The Canadiens wrap up their four game trip tonight, as they take on the Winnipeg Jets for the first and only time this season. Which is a shame if you're a Habs fan, since the Canadiens have amassed a pretty impressive winning record over the Jets lately. Since moving from Atlanta to Manibota's capital city, the Habs have posted an 8-4 record overall, a 3-2 record at the MTS Centre.

Anyway, those stats really don't matter. The season is new, the slate is clean, and both clubs are hoping to finish strong in their respective Divisions, although entering the season, the Habs were strong contenders for a high finish, while the Jets are presumed to be in tough to qualify in a very tough Western Conference.

The stats line, albeit early for the season, depicts a distinct Habs advantage. The Habs have the 7th ranked powerplay, the Jets 20th. Habs PK is a decently rated 11th, the Jets are 16th. The Habs have the 8th ranked offense, the Jets 16th. The Habs defense is rated 5th best, the Jets 16th. In other words, Winnipeg is a decidedly mediocre team on paper - at least, so far.

For you eggheads, Habs Corsi is rated 10th overall, Jets are 26th. Fenwick, Habs are 8th, Jets 27th (eek), and just for fun, the Habs PDO clocks in at 22nd overall, Jets are 11th (the lower your PDO, ranking the better).

So the stats really don't stack up well for Winnipeg - that much we can agree upon.

The Jets offense is anchored by one of the best wingers in the game in Evander Kane. Expect Michel Therrien to assign his best checking forwards (read: Thomas Plekanec) to shadow Kane through the night. Meanwhile on the blue line, the Jets rely heavily on the mobile Dustin Byfuglien, who's been off to a strong start this season, collecting 6 points in 6 games. Otherwise, the Jets aren't a particularly deep team, but they're well coached, so they have the ability to patch together a relatively effective and balanced attack. That said, if Kane is nullified, the Jets' ability to muster together victories becomes significantly limited.

Even though they have a .500 record, Winnipeg has also been hampered by inconsistent goaltending this season - their starter tonight, Ondrej Pavelec, was bombed out of the building on Friday night, as the Jets were manhandled by the Dallas Stars, 4-1. Pavelec let in a couple of questionable goals in the first period, putting his team in a deep enough hole that they couldn't recover.

On the Habs side of the ledger, Brian Gionta returns to the lineup tonight after missing two games relating to a family illness. With Gionta back, one can probably expect the so-called "EGG" line to return (Eller/Gallagher/Galchenyuk), while Daniel Briere and Max Pacioretty will probably be centred by David Deshairnas again.

Carey Price will start for the Habs. Puck drops around 8:10 EST.

Monday Update:

HAPPY MONDAY!! It's especially happy for we Canadians because 1) it's a no-work day (for most of us) and 2) it's Thanksgiving!! Actually yours truly just had his fill of Turkey, and Ham, and stuffing, and cabbage rolls, and mashed potatoes, and gravy, and pumpkin pie, and I think I'm 8 pounds fatter. Disgusting.

Seriously, I'm very thankful for the weekend, and that my life has been pretty fortunate, surrounded by family and friends. Not everyone is so lucky.

Know what else I'm thankful for? That in 2012, the Montreal Canadiens finished with the 3rd, rather than the 1st overall pick - when back at that time, NHL Central Scouting had rated Nail Yakupov as the next big can't miss hockey offensive sensation. Instead, we got "stuck" drafting present-day scoring sensation Alex Galchenyuk (dear CBC, he's still not Russian), while the Edmonton Oilers, unable to resist temptation even though their blue line was desperate for talent, used their pick on Yakupov.

So today, there's this in the Edmonton Journal:

"I really don’t like skating all the time, and forechecking, and hitting somebody every shift. I don’t think it’s my game.” - Nail Yakupov.

From everyone here in Habsland we say - thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU Edmonton! 

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