Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Game Twenty-Five: Habs vs. Sabres

Thursday News 'n' Notes:

- HAPPY AMERICAN THANKSGIVING!! Pretty quiet on Habs front this morning - plenty of praise last night and extending into this morning for Andrei Markov, who played one of his best games in recent memory, adding three more points to binder. The Habs may very well end this season with its top two point leaders being defensemen. Has that ever happened in Habs history? In NHL history? Not sure - but it'll be a very rare acheivement.

Whether or not this closes the book on the argument whether Andrei must be resigned (I can't see how Bergevin can let him walk) is up for debate. Surely though, we're approaching resolution.

- Word out this morning that former Hab Guillaume Latendresse, who's been struggling with concussion injuries, may be on the cusp of retiring. ICYDK, Latendresse has been playing this season in Zurich.

More later as we receive updates.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Peter Budaj will start tomorrow night against the Caps. Did we mention that Washington has only 6 regulation wins in 25 games this season?? It's true because SCIENCE.

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Okay it's a slow day, but Desharnais announced after practice this afternoon that because of his recent reversal of fortunes, he will not be shaving off his Movember moustache until Christmas. That actually happened.

Montreal 3, Buffalo 1

Third Period:

- 2nd period Fenwick totals, closed 5-v-5 Habs percentage decreased to just under 60%. Still is easily their game to lose.

- Eller line getting just barely more than 10 minutes average. That's really, really low at this stage of the game.

- Doug Murray can't skate, can't shoot, but he sure can bleed.

- Anyone spot Brian Gionta tonight? I blinked.

- So about those Habs trade rumors, why is Pacioretty mentioned as trade bait when it's Gionta's contract that's about to expire?

- Lars Eller now has had the same amount of playing time tonight as Doug Murray. Because ... er ... ??

- Bleeder:

- 9 minutes left, not a lot of urgency in the Sabres game right now. Then again, the Habs don't seem to be particularly motivated to put this game away.

- Tyler Myers. The trainwreck continues. Undisciplined boarding penalty on Pacioretty behind his net gives the Habs a powerplay opportunity to put this one away.

- Sabres super paranoid about Markov/Subban combo at the point. Totally overplaying the line, leaving their slot practically unprotected.

- This game really should have been put away in the 2nd period. The Sabres still with a decent shot.  Perplexing.

- Habs in hang-on mode now. That's always asking for trouble.

- 3 minutes to go. And Tyler Ennis just got caught interfering Ryan White of all people. Why he was doing that, I've no idea. Now the Habs can REALLY close this out.

- As I was mentioning, the Sabres PK was totally overplaying Markov/Subban, and Gallagher was left alllllllll alone in the slot, one timer past Miller. Game over.

- To their credit, Sabres aren't giving up, Price with a nice desperation save to keep the game a 2 goal margin. 

- Relatively routine win tonight against a vastly inferior opponent. Habs streak extended to four, and they can really move themselves upwards in the East this weekend, with back to back games against the Caps and Leafs. A healthy roster, Desharnais producing, goaltending exceptionally strong, the Habs find themselves in a very, very good place. At the present.


Second Period:

- First period Fenwick closed just shade under 70% in favour of Habs. That's about right. 

- Murray has to keep that puck in at the line, only a desperation dive (and lucky check) kept the a sabres from gaining a clear break on Price.

- White doesn't get nearly enough credit for centring the 4th line - he and that line really do a nice job forechecking and creating momentum for the scoring lines.

- Subban with a careless and lazy puck handling deep in his zone generates two glorious scoring chances for Buffalo, Price with a brilliant save. P.K. owes him a steak dinner for that.

-Sabres with a much better 2nd so far, at least they're controlling the puck more effectively, but continue to struggle with zone setups. Making matters pretty straightforward for Habs defense.

- Emelin just said hello to Matt Moulson. Ouch.

- If Habs could get their transition game in gear it would easily be a two or three goal cushin by now.

- Galchenyuk has been credited with Habs first goal his 6th of the season.

- Habs strike on powerplay. So many good things to mention here. Terrific passing and puck control. Markov to Subban combo. And Desharnais parking himself in front of Miller for the screen and tip. 2-0.

- I guess it's safe to say that Desharnais has reestablished his place on the Habs roster. It goes without saying if he's producing the Habs become an exceptionally difficult team to beat.

- Assist to Sabres Tyler Myers for somehow not being able to move Desharnais away from the Buffalo crease. Myers is a defensive mess.

- Subban again too casual picking the puck up along the boards, blows a tire, turns the puck over and this time it costs the Habs on the scoreboard. Moulson. Sabres back in it.

First Period:

- So Price it is, vs. Miller. Canada vs USA's Olympic starters, I'd reckon.

- I suppose the Sabres uniforms are apt, given how ugly their season has been so far.

- Wow that's bad. Sabres have played 506 first period minutes this season, have scored 6 goals over that stretch.

- Eller with careless stick work, provides Sabres with 4 minute powerplay. Habs fortunate he didn't get 5 and a game.

- Sabres powerplay is simply dreadful. Price didn't have to break a sweat.

- We've been here before, Pacioretty with perfect pass to Desharnais on a 3-on-1, and David can't finish. 

- Speaking of perfect passes, Eller with a beaut to Markov, who finishes. 1-0 Habs. Sabres can at least take solace in that they didn't score first.

- Buffalo is hopeless. It's pretty much an NHL vs. AHL matchup tonight. No reason why the Habs shouldn't cruise to an easy win.


We got this. Not a problem. Piece of cake. The wind of a three game winning streak behind our backs, sailing towards a game against the worst team in the entire National Hockey League. We can just doze off for a few hours before collecting the two points. Right?

Well, it should be easy. The Buffalo Sabres, tonight's opponent, have just 5 wins in 25 games played this year, which puts on a pace for 36 points for the 82 game season. Yikes. Where to start? League worst offense - 1.64 goals per game (29th ranked Hurricanes are way ahead at 2.0), 26th ranked defense (3.16), 25th ranked powerplay, 22nd ranked penalty kill, 30th ranked 5-on-5 F/A ratio (0.52 ouch), and perhaps most fascinating (horrible?) of them all, the Sabres have not won a single game this year where they scored first. That's right. Their SC 1% is 0.00%.

So THERE YOU HAVE IT. Let the Sabres score first, game is won. Simple as that.

Over in Habsland, as noted, Doug Murray will start tonight, while Francis Bouillon will sit in the pressbox. Otherwise, same roster as Saturday night - although who's starting in net is still uncertain. Logically, the Habs would start backup Peter Budaj tonight, giving Carey Price extra rest to gear up for the back-to-back games this weekend. We'll see.

WHO'S HOT: MadMax Pacioretty has 5 goals in his last 3 games. Thomas Plekanec is coming off a pretty impressive performance against the Pens, helping to shut down Sydney Crosby while scoring a goal, and winning nearly 80% of his faceoffs. Andrei Markov has 3 assists his past 3 games, while the Habs collective defense continues to hold its own nicely, now 2nd ranked in the NHL with just a 2.04 GA average. Well done!

WHO'S NOT: The Buffalo Sabres. Okay, maybe specificity is in order. The Buffalo Sabres offense. 5 goals their past 4 games. I don't care how well Ryan Miller is playing, you're not going to win anything when your forwards are running at a 1.25 clip. 



I'M BACK. Did you miss me? Hey, this place actually generates more than a few thousand hits each month, so somebody's gotta be paying attention, right? Hello? Anyone there!?

No ... body ... there?

Oh well.

Then I guess it's back to one of my favoritist hobbies - talking aimlessly to myself. Or in this case, writing. HEY ... what the heck, the Habs have a winning streak? Didn't we mention this about a week ago? Why with the return of all those once damaged bodies to the lineup, resulting in the almost-permanent demotion of George Parros to the netherworld, and the significant reduction of playing nights for either/or Doug Murray and Frankie Bouillon, we've actually been icing a half-decent team! BIG wins this weekend over the Pens (didn't watch) and the Caps (only watched the first period), has the Habs climbing the eastern ladder. Only one point behind the Leafs! AWESOME.

Speaking of the Leafs, yours truly spent the past few days visiting the centre of the universe, Canada's wasteland, Dante's seventh circle, the Capital of Ontario, in hopes of gaining an audience with his Worship Rod Ford, because party!!! Sadly, my aspirations went unfulfilled, as Rob didn't return any of my calls. I guess he's too busy doing other things like BEING THE BEST DAMN MAYOR IN NORTH AMERICA. Actually, Toronto is REALLY terrible folks - even spending just a few days there reminds me of how lucky I am to be living .... anywhere else.

OKAY ... now it's on to ....

Habs News 'n' Notes

- We got some!! Lesseee ... for tonight's game in Buffalo (damn, I just realized if I stayed a bit longer I could have gone to this game) ... Doug Murray will start in place of Francis Bouillon. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

- Peter Budaj in net tonight? Don't be surprised if he's announced as the starter later this afternoon.

- WHAT THE H - E - DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS??? TSN was reporting last night that Max Pacioretty is on the trading black?  Not sure what that's about - is Max unhappy for some reason? We noted last week how ... well, unenthused were his reactions to his hat trick goals against the Minnesota Wild, but com'on ... Pacioretty is a huge part of this team's future. Can't understand where this is coming from, can't think of any reason for unhappiness ... except possibly, his contract? Otherwise, I got nothing. BUT DON'T DO IT MARC. Very slowly ... step away from that trading gun.

- WHAT THE H - E - DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS??! (PART DEUX): So Habs prospect Magnus Nygren packed his bags this morning and took off for Europe, thereby abandoning the Hamilton Bulldogs and any hopes of ever playing in the NHL. He wasn't a top-level prospect, mind you, but still - to come this far and to then just ... abandon everything, is a bizarre turn of events. Oh well. Good luck Magnus!!

- That media deal yesterday between the League and Rogers was the talk of the town yesterday. Not going to repeat what you already know except to say THIS DEAL IS TERRIBLE. It basically allocates hockey coverage to one media outlet, which is bad ... and it's Sportsnet, which if you've ever had to actually watch them cover an NHL game, you already know how TERRIBAD they are doing it.

Plus, Pierre Houde THE BEST DAMN PLAY-BY-PLAY GUY IN THE BUSINESS, he's going to be out of a job? Meanwhile, Don Cherry apparently will be around for another decade at least?!?!? I mean ... what the hell??!?

Bah. MORE LATER INCLUDING .... gameday game preview.

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