Thursday, 24 October 2013

Game Ten: Ducks vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Advanced stats virtually unchanged through 40. Combined Corsi 58.0%, 57.1% Fenwick, Habs.

- A stunning 120 foot tape to tape pass by Subban to Bourque for clear cut break. Bourque can't cash it.

- The Ducks, quite frankly, have been out-muscled tonight.

- Just as I post the previous post, Gorges with a poor turnover creates an odd man break for the Ducks, Maroon finishes a nice setup by Bonino. Price no chance.

- And here we go. Bouruqe with a lazy trip and the Ducks go back to the powerplay, with the wind now picking up their sails. 

- That huge save by Hiller on Eller in the 2nd looking a bit more important now, isn't it?

- Do I dare mention Chris Lee has called a good game tonight? 

- Bourque out of the box. Literally 5 seconds later, redemtion. Game. Set. Match. 

- Can we now enjoy these last few minutes of Saku? The only thing we're missing is a Koivu goal.

- Fans chanting Saku, wanting to see him one final shift.

- Here he is. And the applause.

- Thank you Saku, there'll never be another one like you.

Second Period

- First period combine, 59.1% Corsi, 57.1% Fenwick. Both Habs. So confirmation that the first 20 was a one-sided affair.

- Habits continue to die hard. Habs coming out flat and passive to start the 2nd period. Feh.

- The only thing stopping the Habs from giving this one away is terrible puck control by the Duck in Montreal's zone. Not able to muster very many quality chances.

- Anaheim losing most of the puck battles. It's slowly suffocating their offense.

- 5 on 3, big chance to "put them away" right here.

- Gionta. Finally, Habs capitalize.

- Props to Hiller for that piece of robbery on Eller. Down by three, some might not have the effort left in their bodies.

Bournival looks like he's been on the Habs powerplay all year. There's no way Thierrien can keep him out of the lineup if this continues. When the injuried bodies come back to play, who's going to be the odd guy out? (*cough* Bourque *cough*).

- Habs sitting back final three minutes of the second, but Price is sharp. 

- Not quite as dominating as the first, but the Habs held their own, took advantage of their 5 on 3, and for once, hold a comfortable lead with 20 minutes left. Impressive night for Montreal, uninspired night for Anaheim.

First Period:

- Ah, Chris Lee. Our arch-nemesis. We meet again.

- Ooh, early penalty to Ducks' Perreault. Let's see how bad their PK really is.

- Holy moly, Therrien starts the Eller line first!!

- No goals, but nice puck rotation by Habs to get two quality point shots on Hiller.

- Desharnais is just a simple defensive check for any loose puck in front of the opposing net. Just a simple push and he's flat on his butt. No chance, and more importantly, no realistic way that he could ever score a garbage goal.

- Eller does a magnificent job driving the goal coming off the wing, generating two quality shots. 

 - Wow. Great blind feed by Koivu to Cogliano, post hit. Classic Saku Koivu. 

- Desharnais with the semi break, did everything humanly possible to push the puck past the line, Hiller kept it out.

- Beaulieu has no business being on the powerplay, his shot is too weak. As I type that in, a Beaulieu shot is tipped in by Bournival, and Habs take deserved 1-0 lead.

- Eller nabbed for a hook, League's worst rated PP goes to work.

- Yeah. That's one big-time struggling specialty unit. Ducks completely disorganized.

- Another high quality shift by Bournival, who intercepts a horrible clearance pass by Getzlaf, makes a perfect cross-ice pass to Plekanec, who fires a bullet under the bar. 2-0. One goal and one assist for the kid.

- Impressive bounce-back period for the Habs, vastly outplaying the Ducks almost the entire frame. Shots 10-7 Habs, but it was much more lobsided, possession-wise. The Habs Achilles heel, the 2nd period, will tell the story.

Gameday Game Preview:

So much is overshadowing this game - well, it's one thing really; Saku Koivu, who is making quite possibly his final visit to play on Montreal ice. The atmosphere around the Bell Centre today, with scores of fans coming out to steal a peek and maybe pick up a precious autograph, is indicative of just how significant a mark Koivu made, and ultimately left in Montreal. He is, and will forever be, one of the most popular individuals to ever play for this franchise, and I fully expect the greeting he receives tonight from the crowd to be nothing short of overwhelming. It had better be. 

However. There is a game to be played. The Ducks are off to a pretty good start this year, with Bruce Bordreau settling in nicely behind the bench since taking over last season. With 7 wins in their first 9 games, Anaheim sits in 2nd place in the very tough Pacific Division. The Ducks' big-named players have been producing nicely this season, with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf leading the way in team scoring. Also producing is center Mathieu Perreault, and the always dangerous and speedy Jakov Silfverberg. And of course, the other Ducks' Finn sensation, Teemu Selanne. Anaheim has two very dangerous scoring lines, although Bordeau relies heavily on the Getzlaf line, which is averaging near or over 20 minutes ice time per game.

The Ducks' fast start is reflected by their possession and zone dominance stats. 6th overall League Corsi and Fenwick combined ratings. The one weak spot for the Ducks are their specialty teams - the powerplay is currently ranked worst at a paltry 8.3%, their PK isn't fairing much better, 24th overall at a less-than-mediocre 77% success rate.

Over on the Habs side, the hot topic continues to be injuries, and their impact on the starting lineup. It's expected that Therrien will post the same lineup tonight that he used on Tuesday against the Oilers. Players to watch include the Eller/Galchenyuk/Gallagher line, which (please please please) we hope will be utilized as the Habs first line powerplay unit. The usual underperforming suspects should also be observed - Rene Bourque, who's in one of his usual funks, and David Desharnais, who's off to what could fairly be described as a disastrous start to his 2013-14 season. One point in nine games isn't going to cut it, nor is it providing anything close to the offense the Habs require to compete over 60 minutes. The Eller line can only pull so much slack - something's gotta give.

Keys to watch are the production of Anaheim's first two lines (and the Habs ability to contain them), and specialty units - can the Habs exploit the Ducks' weakest link?

In the nets tonight are Carey Price for the Habs, and Jonas Hiller for the Ducks.

Puck drops 7:40 EST.

Thursday News and Notes:

- Saku is back! The second-worst move on the Bob Gainey era - that being, letting one of the finest centers and captains to ever wear le blue-blanc et rouge, simply walk away (I'll let you figure out Gainey's worst move), makes his return to the Bell Centre tonight! There were about 50 or so fans out at the Centre this morning looking for Saku and maybe an autograph or two. The presence of the Captain with the heart of a lion has never really left this city, so if you thought the applause at the Bell for Roman Hamrlik the other night was rousing, just wait for tonight. You ain't heard nothing yet.

- Morning skate: George Parros was there, which is a good thing. He seems awfully close to returning, and given how thin the roster has been getting, any warm hockey-able bodies are sorely welcome.

More later, including game preview!

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