Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Game Sixteen: Blues vs. Habs


Afternoon News 'n' Notes:

- Travis Moen is a confirmed go for tomorrow night's game in Ottawa.
- Speculation flying all over the place this afternoon that Nail Yakupov will be demoted to the AHL. All I can say to that is, Alex Galchenyuk.
- TSN: shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up SHUT THE FRONT DOOR UP. Thank you.
- "I can't hate someone who's better than me." Erik Karlsson on P.K. Subban, November 6, 2013. Have I mentioned that TSN SHOULD SHUT UP?

Morning News 'n' Notes:

- Louis Leblanc and Martin St-Pierre were shipped back to Hamilton this morning. It must be a rough day for both players; St-Pierre had to wait nearly 4 years between NHL starts, and for Leblanc, his chances of solidifying a starting spot on the big club are now nearly out. After having less-than-stellar pre-season, Leblanc was sent back to Hamilton, where he played well enough to give himself another shot after the injuries started piling up in Montreal. For the most part, Leblanc performed at an acceptable level - granted Therrien didn't put him out very often. But unlike Bournival, Louis simply didn't make a marked impression.

So will Leblanc get one final shot? Hard to say - it largely depends on the health of the Canadiens' forwards over the next few months. If the Habs go through another rash of injuries, then he stands a chance. If not, then I fear that Leblanc is destined for the "good-but-not-quite-good-enough" list of professional hockey fatalities.

Starting practice lines this morning at Brossard:

1st: Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher (relieved to see this trio reunited).
2nd: Bournival-Plekanec-Gionta
3rd: Pacioretty-Desharnais-Bourque (with Leblanc and St-Pierre assigned, Desharnais will start tomorrow night)
4th: Moen-White-Parros (yeah, Travis is back. Not a moment too soon).

Also this morning, Prust and Briere are reportedly close to getting a green light for return, so Desharnais' reinstated status might be very brief.

St. Louis 3, Montreal 2 (SO)


- Well, it only took 16 games to get one of these, but we'll take it.

- Dismal OT for Habs so far. Not a single chance on Halak.

- TSN pointing out that by rule, Plekanec had to take that penalty shot, he was the last Habs player to touch the puck.

- Shootout, Price vs. Halak, pretty hard not to put the money on Jaro. 

- I guess this is the ultimate duel.

- Yeah Halak is good at these. Price, not so much. 

- Gallagher. Weak. 

- Last chance. Pacioretty.

- Blah. 37 blocked shots for one measly point.


Third Period:

- If the Habs manage to win this game, looking back at that 2nd period save by Price on Stewart is a significant turning point.

- Has Leblanc been benched?

- And there we have it, Gord Miller talks about the glut of Habs defense not signed past this season. Memo to TSN: there is only one player of any significane who will be a UFA: Markov. Please update your note cards.

- Pretty tight 3rd, both teams being very cautuos, the Blues appear to be passively waiting for the Habs to make a mistake.

- Blues now turning on the jets, the game opening up. Hitchcock matching the Steen line looking to catch Therrien sleeping at the switch, which is always a looming possibility.

- Nights like these that you begin to realize Price's elite upside. Must be frustrating to be on the Blues' side of the ice.

- Bah. Lucky redeflects elude Price, Hitchcock finally nailed Therrien who deployed his 4th line and got burned.

- I guess we're not going to see that Habs powerplay tonight.

- Check that. Subban boarded by Reaves, Habs to the powerplay.

- Diaz with the entire shooting alley, missed by 25 feet. Worst accuracy in the game? He's up there.

- The Habs just set an NHL record for shots blocked in a game. 36. Wow.

- Absolutely correct call for delay of game. Habs with a huge opportunity here.

- See, did it have to be Plekanec?? He's easily the Habs weakest penalty shot man. Ah well.

- Therrien could have selected Pacioretty to take that penalty shot. He chose Plekanec. Because, stupidity.

Second Period:

- First period combine: 73.7% Corsi, 72.7% Fenwick, Blues.

- Pacioretty seems to be fitting in well along side Eller and Gallagher. 

- That Price glove save on Stewart was so good it's almost as good as scoring a goal.

- Bouque off a rebound, the goal wouldn't have happened if it hasn't been for the Markov drive. 

- Halak shaken up after the Bourque goal, just about made a horrible mistake goal passing the puck to Gallagher 20 feet away from the goalmouth. 

- Carey Price circus save, Subban took a rocket shot off his right arm, going to dressing room in significant pain. Habs season now flashing before our eyes.

- Subban back on the bench. And I'm breathing again.

- Halak and Price have a nice little duel going right now, don't they?

- Hockey gods if you've any mercy, please don't allow Lapiere to score tonight, m'kay?

- I can't be down on Bouillon all the time. That was a class A bodycheck on Leopold.

- Gionta creates the turnover, and Bournival with his 4th, a complete bullet past Halak. The Habs take a gritty 2-1 lead.

- And Bouillon makes a terrific defensive play to break up a Blues 2-on-1 break. The world's gone all crazy.

- Blues living up to their stingy penalty reputation. Will the Habs get a powerplay tonight?

- That's a terribly strict too many men call against the Habs. Galchenyuk touched the ice for about a quarter of a second.

- Another penalty kill. Gritty period for the Habs who blocked Blues shots like crazy, the dividends being a 40 minute lead. Habs in a pretty strong position to actually win this thing. Go figure.

First Period:

- Subban and Markov off to sloppy start, very soft around Price, Blues pick up a couple of good quality shots.

- Doug Murray. Oh boy.

- Briere, Parros, Murray - the big summer signings. That's all I'll say.

- Got the feeling we're looking at one of those 4 or 5 goal losses tonight. We'll see, but the Blues are toying with the Habs so far.

- Countdown to Gord Miller talking about the Habs not signing their defense beyond this season in 3 ... 2 ...

- Seeing Diaz on the first line PK .. drives. Me. Up. The. Wall. No wait, seeing Diaz AND Murray together on the PK drives me over the cliff.

- Well, Pacioretty's legs are moving in pretty rapid succession tonight. So that's something.

- Can't afford to take unnecessary penalties to a team like the Blues. We're gonna get burned ... eventually.

- Parros with the decision over Reaves. Don't know the issue, the hit by Reaves on Murray along the boards was perfectly fine. Anyway, Habs had control of the puck in the Blues zone and were setting up a good scoring chance when the gloves were dropped. Parros can't do anything right.

- Bourque was particularly invisible over the weekend, but came within a whisker of tying the game off a rare Halak rebound.

- Price doesn't clear that puck over the glass if Diaz can do the simple task of keeping the puck in the Blues' zone.

- Habs PK unit was totally exhausted, fortunately bailed out as puck drifts to Price, and he covers up. Blues are almost certainly going to strike if they keep getting these powerplays.

- Habs pretty much totally outplayed in the period, the penalties will make the possession stats look particularly bad. At least it's just 1-0. It could be a lot worse.

Gameday Game Preview:

OH ... what's the point??

Jaro Halak returns, and all those in Habsland welcome him back. Also returning is Max Lapierre, but nobody cares. You ain't welcome, Max. Can't say we ever missed you, either.

Blues have better players and more importantly, much, much better coaching. We have good players, and coaching that ... well. Uh. Did I mention that we have good players?

Tonight, the Blues are gonna win, and do it easily.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. We'll be blogging it all live, for what it's worth.

Desharnais Demotion:

Did I mention early this morning that it's quiet on gameday? Foolish scribble - it's never a dull day in Habsland. When will I ever learn?

The Desharnais demotion/scratch ... however you want to define it, is a real head scratcher for yours truly.  Yes, there is no argument that Desharnais' output this season has fallen way short of expectations, even by his slumping standards. One point in 14 games for any player that was pegged as a top-6 forward will get you a seat in the press box on just about any NHL team.

However ...

These are not normal circumstances in Montreal. The rash of early season injuries which knocked out Parros (first), then Pacioretty, then Prust, then Briere, then Moen - has ravaged the Habs' offense. Even with Parros and Pacioretty back in the lineup, the Canadiens are still struggling to cobble together well-balanced lineup, with particular effect on the team's forth line, which came out very strong early in the year when it featured Ryan White centering Moen and Prust. Since the latter two have gone down, the Habs have struggled to effectively forecheck their opponent towards creating consist waves of offensive pressure. The last two games have been particularly dismal, with the Habs 4th line posting an atrocious -9 against Minnesota on Friday night.  Saturday night, that line pretty much watched from the bench, with Therrien choosing to play just 8 forwards the last half of the game. Little surprise then, as the Habs collapsed in the 3rd period.

So that all said, it strikes me as baffling that Therrien feels the team would be suited to shelve Desharnais tonight, while electing to keep Parros in the lineup. On Saturday night, Parros received 3:57 seconds of ice time - which included just one, that's right, one 57 second shift in the 3rd period.

So there you have it - Parros has been so utterly useless since his return that his main function has literally devolved as a bench warmer.

So yes, Desharnais continues to be a magnificent disappointment and spectacular failure seemingly since the moment he signed that big contract extension, but you'll never make me believe for a split second that having him sit out tonight for a hired goon, against the 3rd least penalized team in the League, makes even the slightest shred of sense.

But then again, we're talking about Michel Therrien, the same guy who wants his best player, point leader, and all-around superstar defenseman, to do more.

News 'n' Notes:

We'll post stuff as it comes in, although it's usually pretty quiet on gameday. So at the very least, preview later.

In the meantime, in addition to the whole Therrien vs. Subban controversy, more feathers have been ruffled by this video which was posted yesterday of a hit Subban delivered on Brenden Gallagher during practice. It's a hard thump along the boards, and the folk are wondering if that kind of contact is "allowed" during team practices (hint: yes, they are).

Still, the muckackers are mucking their muck over this clip.

The drama never ends.

UPDATE: Wow. We figured it would happen, but this quickly? Marin St-Pierre has been called up and will play tonight on the 4th line along side Ryan White and George Parros.

David Desharnais is a scratch.

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