Saturday, 2 November 2013

Game Fifteen: Habs vs. Avalanche

News n Notes:

- Afternoon Update: Mid-day presser with the coach. According to Therrien, Daniel Briere is "symptom-free" from his concussion injury. No timetable on a return.

- Therrien on P.K. Subban. Read into this as you will: "We work really closely with him. We believe in his talent. We made a lot of progress. There's a level that we want to bring in his game. He knows and he wants to reach the same challenge as us."

- Therrien on Desharnais (paraphrase): We've tried everything possible to get him to produce, we've done video review, we've given him extra ice time, and he hasn't produced. So we had to make a decision, and that was demotion to the 4th line.

- Morning update: Alex Galchenyuk will be centering the Habs 3rd (1st?!?!) line Tuesday night against the Blues, thereby officially pushing the EGG line off the wall. Sigh.

- Desharnais has apparently been demoted to the Habs 4th line, playing wing for Ryan White. At this point, I'm finding it difficult to see how he can salvage himself from an official demotion to Hamilton. His near-term future is now playing 7 or 8 minutes a night, with virtually zero chance of scoring any points.

- Habs lines at practice:

1st: Gallagher-Galchenyuk-Pacioretty (separating Eller and Gallagher??)
2nd: Bournival-Plekanec-Gionta
3rd: Leblanc-Eller-Bourque (no idea why)
4th: Parros-White-Desharnais.

Just stick 'em in a blender, hope for the best.

At this point, the Blues must be salivating with anticipation.

Jack Todd ...


Sigh. Happy Monday ... blah ...

Well that was a craptacular weekend. Getting outcoached in Minnesota. Getting thumped in Denver. Is anyone else starting to get ancy over the Michel Therrien sideshow yet? I think I feel a rant building up that might need release later this week about how this organization isn't nearly delivering on its promise - and a lot of its current negative issues can be pinpointed towards the main in the suit standing behind the Habs bench.

I'll give it another game or two.

Meanwhile, some Monday notes.

- Danie Breire started skating today, which if you compare that progress with George Parros, means he's some two or three weeks away from a return. We guess, simply because concussions are virtually impossible to predict as far as recovery is concerned. Meanwhile, Brandon Prust also started skating, his injury being more defined, he's probably 10-14 days away from a return.

Also it's been reported that Travis Moen will practice with the team later this afternoon. That's really good news, because since his injury, the Habs 4th line has been nothing short of disaster.

- So the reason for David Desharnais not returning from the second period forward on Saturday night? Turns out it wasn't an injury, but a benching. Desharnais' time to get his game in order, fair to assume with Moen practicing and Briere and Prust skating again, is nearly out ... 

Colorado 4, Montreal 1:

Third Period:

- Through 40 minutes Habs heros unquestionably are the Eller line, Rene Bourque has had his mojo going tonight, Subban, Markov and Georges have been very good. So too, Budaj. Zeros are the usual suspects. Murray, Bouillon, Habs 4th line again.

- Isn't that interesting? Galchenyuk is playing center.

- Habs PP, Gallagher off the rebound from from the point shot by P.K. Subban. Because, of course. Tie game.

- Habs have a more than decent chance of handing the Avs just their second loss of the season. Last 15 minutes will be very compelling.

- How did Benoit not score on that wraparound empty net? Wow, what a break.

- Desharnais is apparently done for the night. Why, I'm not certain. But he's gone. Ergo, Galchenyuk at center, I'd reckon.

- And Alex Tanguey is also reportedly done for the night. Huh.

- Avs have been kept in pretty strong check in this period. Habs definitely the edge in play and chances.

- If there was only some way that the Eller line could play 60 minutes a night, we'd have the game figured out.

- Good grief. What a way of giving up the ghost. Budaj with a huge juice rebound off a routine wrister, right to MacKinnon, and the Avs lead 2-1 with 11 minutes left. Budaj doing his career backup impersonation with that goal. Blech.

- Gonna see lots of the Plekanec and Eller line from hereon out - at least if/until the Habs can score to tie this up.

- Halfway done the third. This period, Bouillon 3 shifts, Murray 2, White 2, Leblanc 2, Parros 0.

- Ugh. Patches hits the crossbar on a blind shot just flung at the net.

- That said, Patches has looked in pretty good form, considering he's not played in nearly 3 weeks.

- Nail, coffin. Subban the turnover deep in his zone to O'Reily, and Budaj on his knees couldn't adjust.  Oh well, we hung tough for 50 minutes, so that counts for something, right?

 Second Period:

- Two futile powerplays for the Habs, again mainly because the Avs so effectively bottle up the shooting lanes.

- That Budaj, who gets maybe on start every 12 days, looks so game sharp, it's almost difficult to believe. He's really giving his team a quality opportunity of winning this.

- Murray. Terrible. Landeskog over Budaj's shoulder from the circle. Probably should have been stopped but then again, Murray fumbling and bumbling at his own blue line created the opportunity. 1-0.

- Candiens essentially no longer icing a 4th line anymore. Therrien mixing his bottom lines over, sending Parros out with Leblanc and Desharnais. George draws a terrible holding call, and the Avs go to the powerplay.

- Petty nifty PK there, Avs seem to be cruising a bit, so maybe an opportunity here for the Habs' offense to make some noise.

- Nice little push by the Habs to cap the period, so we have lots of life. But Giguere has been awfully sharp, so much so that the Habs might have to work for some garbage to pull some points from this one.

First Period:

- Big question of the night. Will Therrien be outcoached tonight by Patrick Roy as he was last night against Mike Yeo?

- Fast start for the Avs, Budaj couple of good saves.

- Habs' legs are very slow, Colorado skating circles around them so far.

- White vs. McLeod. White got a few good ones in, making getting some of last night's frustration out.

- Hoo boy, Habs can barely escape their zone. This could be a very ugly game.

- EGG line wakes the team up, Gallagher simply will not be stopped if there's a loose puck around the goal.

- Johnson goes west to east, aided by two incompetent checks by Desharnais and Markov.

- Colorado number one in the League on the PK. They allow permiter passing but clogg the shooting lanes like crazy. Pretty impressive.

- Habs games have been pretty ho hum the past 10 games. Tonight were getting some fun hockey again.

- Landeskog ain't no dummy. He saw Bouillon and Murray paired on the ice. Waltzed right through them for a break on Budaj. Wretched defense there.

- Gallagher is a one man demolition crew. He's gonna hit the scoresheet I tells ya, sooner than later.

- Habs 4th line got 2 shifts for the whole period. Heh ... what is the point?

- Avs started really strong but Habs Eller line doing exceptional job changing the momentum in the Habs favor, they look really strong tonight. Anyway, Habs holding their own so far.

Gameday Game Preview

Are we over last night? Man, that hurt. The Canadiens had the Wild on the ropes, I tellsya, and then Franky Bouillon decides that 15 minutes of icetime is quite enough for the night, thank you very much, and takes a nice little nap mid-shift. Bam. 4-3. Game over.

The Habs 4th line. Oh boy. That 4th line. They had seven shifts last night. Minnesota scored 3 of their goals during those shifts, all of them 5 on 5 situations. So to anyone who questions the value or importance of Travis Moen, just rewind that game tape and witness the horror that was George Parros, Mike Blunden and Ryan White.

Tonight, if the NHL standings are any reliable indication, the test gets even more difficult, as the Habs take on Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche, who lead the League with 22 points, 11 wins in their first 12 games. The big reason for the Avs' great start can be focused on the incredible performance of their goaltenders, who have surrendered just 1.5 goals per game. First stringer Semyon Varlamov has won 8 of his first 9 starts, with 1.78 GAA and .944 SV%. Backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere in his three starts, has a sparkling .67 GAA, .981 SV%.

So the Avs, in case you hadn't noticed, have been a tough team to score on.

However, problems have arisen. Varlamov was charged earlier this week with assault, and has been removed from the lineup until (we believe?) his legal matters are resolved. So the burden is now shifted to Giguere, at least for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Avs have seen excellent production from their two top centers, Matt Duchene who's racked up 14 points (9 goals), and Paul Stastny, who has 10 points. Former Hab Alex Tanguay has rediscovered his scoring touch, with 9 points collected so far - being next to Duchene certainly helps.

The Habs. Well, what to say. They'll need a far, far better performance tonight out of their 4th line, which as noted, was a statistical disaster zone last night. George Parros struggled significantly in almost all of his shifts, while Ryan White was making some costly turnovers.

Meanwhile, David Desharnais' rollercoaster season of blight returned to the depths of darkness last night - he had lots of puck possession in the Minnesota zone, but still somehow managed to not secure a single shot on net. For Desharnais, time is running out, with the previously injured bodies now slowly returning to the lineup. Desharnais will get a boost tonight, as Max Pacioretty returns to action after missing a couple of weeks with an injured hamstring. If Pacioretty can't get Desharnais producing, then Hamilton might be in his future if/when Danie Briere is healthy enough to play. When Briere comes back, and with Michael Bournival earning a spot on the roster, there won't be any place left to insert Desharnais. And that will be it.

Peter Budaj, who like Giguere, has had an excellent season as backup, will start for the Habs. Puck drops at 10:15 EST or thereabouts ... a bit later since it's Adam Foote jersey retirement night in Denver, so they'll have a little jersey raising ceremony.

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