Friday, 1 November 2013

Game Fourteen: Habs vs. Wild

UThird Period:

- Finally it happens - playing with fire you get burned, in this instance Bouillon/Murray duo. Niederreiter allowed to go totally unmolested to the crease for an easy redeflect past Price. Wretched zone defense there. Habs forth line, Parros included, now a collective -9 on the night. Ugh.

- Mr. "We're not sure if he's good enough for the Olympic team" Subban with a cannon. Harding had absoltely no chance. 3-2. 

- Leblanc and Bourque fighting, slapping, digging and pushing for the loose puck around Harding. Standing 15 feet away, just looking, is Desharnais.

- Boom. Markov to Gionta, game tied. Since Heatley took a holding call at the 7 minute mark, the game has been 100% Habs. 

- Canadiens have really emphasized the forecheck and crashing the Wild crease in the third. It's paid off huge and set the Wild reeling. Minnesota's third period woes apparently continue.

- Eller line has been rumbling tonight, Minnesota's defense are fit to be tied by their constant zone pressure and drive to Harding's face. This line's most impressive outing in at least two weeks.

- Pomminville. Bouillon in total la-la land. 4-3.

- So Emelin is back tomorrow night, right? #noMoreBouillon

- Some might argue that it was a lucky bounce for Minnesota that set Pomminville perfectly, but there's no way Bouillon can be that unaware of his surroundings or defensive obligations. His liability may have cost the Habs two valuable points.

- Habs fourth line and Bouillon now collective -11 tonight.

- Wild icing, and they already used up their timeout.

- That hurt. Habs had total control of the game, all the momentum, and Bouillon blows his check and the Wild pull out the win. Habs 4th line was total shambles tonight as well, Parros didn't look anything close to game shape, and Blunden is basically marking time until Moen returns. 

Disappointing loss because it very well should have been won.

Second Period:

First period line, Habs combined 62.5% Corsi, 57.1 Fenwick. As suspected, Habs had substantive possession advantage.

- Flat start to 2nd, Wild's more aggressive forechecking paying off, Price sturdy though.

- Wild generating chances here via more aggressive forechecking, Price holding stready.

- Bad turnover by White at the Wild blue line, Subban and especially Markov caught flat footed as Granlund makes a wonderful pass to Pomminville who slips it past Price on the break. 2-1. Price's greatest weakness continues to be handling breakaways. 

- Praising Desharnais, and then he goes and feeds a pass to the line after being sprung all alone in front of Harding. Can't explain that decision - except that he seems incapable of playing his position.

- Oooh bonus, Wild go to the box and it's Suter for hooking.

- How Harding stopped that Subban bullet, I'll never know. He's brought his A game tonight, bad news for the Habs.

- EGG line's aggressiveness tonight is unmatched. In the meantime,whatever Harding isn't stopping is hitting goalposts. Frustration, but Habs are still pushing the envelope.

- Good rebound period for the Wild, Habs started the period flat and that eventually led to Minnesota's second goal. Nonetheless, Habs have still been the better team tonight IMHO, and if the Wild continue their season pattern of weak third periods, I see no reason why the Habs still don't have a very good shot at winning this.

First Period:

- Fontaine tips home a Ballard point shot giving the Wild early 1-0 lead. Gorges and Diaz were playing fast and loose protecting the slot, making it an easy redeflect for Ballard.

- Excellent carry by Galchenyuk wide along the boards, shovelling to a driving Gallagher who tips it past Harding. Game is tied within seconds. Good news for the Habs if the slumping EGG line starts to produce again.

- Hard to say whether or for how long Leblanc will stay up with the big club, but his presence has given the Desharnais line a visible boost. They looked good Tuesday night, they're looking good again tonight, especially in the opposition zone.

- Really really wish Subban got Suter time - the later gets about 29 minutes a night. But Therrien has his own agenda.

- Another quality shift for the Desharnais line. They're gonna score, eventually. They just gotta.

- Wild had spurts of scoring chances, but that was a pretty one sided first in the Habs favour. They dominated possession pretty soundly against one of the best possessions teams in the League. Eller line looks back on track, Desharnais is improving, slowly but surely. Habs look in pretty good shape heading to the second.

Gameday Game Preview

The bodies are returning.

George Parros will make only his 2nd Habs game start tonight as the Canadiens take on the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul. Parros, in case you've been able to wipe it clear from your mind, is coming back from concussion after taking a frighteningly gruesome fall in an opening season fight against Colton Orr, when Parros lost his balance and fell face first onto the ice.

Coach Therrien also indicated today that Max Pacioretty, who won't play tonight, is a virtual certainty to start tomorrow night's game in Denver against the Avalanche. Sweet!!

So, tonight. The Wild. It's been an interesting start for Minnesota, a mediocre-ish 6-4-3 record even though, if you look at the stats line, they've played a very good game. With the League's 3rd rated Corsi and top-rated Fenwick percentage, they should by all rights, have a record near the top of the League standings. They've certainly been an excellent possession and shooting team. So what gives?

Well, mainly it's been their offense - or at least, timely offense, which has failed to score those "big" game goals in narrowly contested games. You can definitely see the issue when examining Minnesota's offensive production by period. The Wild have produced 12 first period goals (tied for 7th in the League), but then things start going south. 2nd period scoring, the Wild are tied for 15th overall (with 11), and 3rd period, tied for 24th overall, with just 7 goals scored this season.

The net result? Frustrating losses. Four losses by one goal margins, two losses by two goal margins.

Minnesota's has so far this season be led by, unsurprisingly, Zach Parise, Matt Cooke, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville. The guys who are paid for and expected to produce, have produced. Meanwhile the Wild's big-named defensive acquisition, Ryan Suter, is off to another strong start, 7 points to date, averaging crazy amounts of ice time. Nearly 30 minutes a *game* average over his last five starts, gives you an idea of just how significant his role is on this team.

So the bottom line is this: Minnesota is a very good team that's been producing very good big-picture numbers that would lend anyone to believe that over the course of an 82 game season, the Wild should finish in the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings. Which makes them a dangerous and difficult team to play on just about any given night.

Over on the Habs side, as mentioned, some injured bodies are now starting to return to the lineup, and not a moment too soon. To give you an idea of just how battered and bruised the Habs have been this year, so far 75 man games have been lost to injury over the first 13 games. Last season, over a 48 game schedule, that Habs lost 126 man games to injury.

So ... yikes.

Parros will fit in on the 4th line next to Ryan White and Mike Blunden. Otherwise, the linup will be the same as the past two weeks, the EGG line, Pleks/Gionta/Bournival, Desharnaid/Bourque/Leblanc.

Blue line - another night, another teeth-clenching endurance test with Doug Murray back in action. Will Therrien use in for the final minute of the 3rd period again?

Stay tuned. Puck drops at 8:10 EST.



Okay, here's a blog post that's been making the rounds this morning about the ridiculous discussion about whether or not P.K. Subban will make the Team Canada roster this winter.

You've heard my take on this previously - the premise that Subban, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, would not be part of the team, is a complete absurdity.

Anyway, here's Ted Bird's POV about the Subban "controversy".

Notes and gameday preview in a while.

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