Monday, 18 November 2013

Game Twenty-Two: Wild vs. Habs

Thursday News 'n' Notes:

- Habs practice this morning, nothing extraordinary to report. Rene Bourque however, was absent, not unlike his game days. AMIRIGHT?

More later. If there's anything.

UPDATE: The Candiens have given an update on Bourque's status, saying that he missed practice because of a lower body injury. No word on its seriousness, or whether Bourque would not be playing Friday night in Washington.

LATER UPDATE: Therrien announced that Peter Budaj will be starting tomorrow night's game in Washington.

Fashion Police: This Man Must Be Stopped

Brandon Prust, wandering the streets of Montreal this morning. Brandon, what in heaven's name are you wearing, and did you ask your gramma for permission before borrowing it?

Wednesday News 'n' Notes:

- Pretty quiet morning in the wake of the thrashing delivered by the Habs last night. Optional practice at Brossard this morning which was barely attended. Most of the players are taking in a blood donor clinic at the Bell Centre today. So Montreal-area residents, head on down and give a little! You might get to meet a few players, including Mr. Fashion Guru himself, Brandon Prust (see above).

- Ah, Mikhail Grigorenko. The drama continues. As noted here a couple of days ago, the Sabres sent Grigorenko down the Rochester for what they called a "conditioning" stint - the reality being, Grigorenko hasn't improved his play enough to earn a regular spot on the already-awful Buffalo Sabres roster.

One snag, though. The League ruled the demotion as illegal, and forced the Sabres to bring Grigorenko back to Buffalo.

Read the whole thing here - it's a pretty sad story about player mismanagement.


Montreal 6, Minnesota 2

Third Period:

 - Briere. It's been quite the night for the guys who've been on recently, or season-long slumps.

- Fans happy at the Bell, five goals scored, and its free wings for the paying customers.

- Welp, there goes the shutout. Price couldn't find the loose puck. WILD COMEBACK STARTS HERE.

- Another recently slumping Hab joins the scoring gang, this time it's Galchenyuk. 6-1.

- Habs aren't this good. Wild have been horribly slow and complacent in their zone, giving Habs pretty much free reign. Can't figure out why they've simply not come to play - entirely different effort compared to two weeks ago.

- Not much to really follow in the 3rd, just to see if anyone else who's been having trouble scoring could get on the board. Galchenyuk did, which is good to see. Pretty one-sided game, fans are happy, but the next game in Washington will represent a solid test for the Habs. They'll need to continue scoring from all sides if they want to give the Caps a run for their money.


Second Period

- Subban with 8:25 time in the first. Suter 9:17. Bournival barely cracked 3.

- Snakes are gone, and are no longer biting. Pacioretty via Desharnais. Finally they produce. 1-0.

- Pacioretty and his mates are buzzing. Just about made it 2-0.

- Holy crap. Desharnais. What a pass to Pacioretty, and it's NOW 2-0.

- So okay, this Desharnais-Pacioretty thing appears to have some chemistry.

- Habs have played the Wild twice and remain the only team to score two or more regulation goals on Harding in a game this season. Yeah. Harding's been that good.

- Habs are completely swarming the Wild, and Bournival draws Stoner into interference.

- Pacioretty with a pretty grim demeanor on the ice tonight. What's up with that?

- When it rains it pours. Pacioretty with the hat trick on Habs powerplay.  3-0. Harding is yanked. Hard to believe, really.

- Habs continue to buzz all around the Minnesota net. The Habs side of the ice has barely been used in this period.

- Holy moly. Canadiens their own express train this period. Bournival climbs on board. 4-0.

- Habs really doing quite a job forechecking Minnesota to death - when Therrien plays a safe gameplan, this team struggles. When he turns them loose, things click. He's gotta see and understand this.

- Pomminville with the first quality shot on Price this period by the Wild, comes with 1:30 left in the period.

- Habs got sleepy sloppy the last 30 seconds, and the Wild came very, very close to putting one up on the board. Shot differential was only 3 in the period in favor of Montreal, but save the last little bit, practically all the play was on the Wild's half of the ice. Habs completely and utterly dominated the middle frame. Cruising right now to an impressive win.

First Period

- Little game delay here, they're recognizing the Montreal Fire Department in a pre-game ceremony.

- Sort of insane to see Price's line - .946 SV%, and a sub-.500 record.

- I dunno, I stand to be ridiculed for this, but the Habs' 4th line is so much more effective at transitioning the puck when Ryan White is centering it.

- Habs continuing to struggle getting shots on net even with wide open shooting lanes.

- Pacioretty on a break, was brought down hard from behind with a hook. That could easily have been ruled a penalty shot.

- So is Therrien gonna play Bouillon on the powerplay? Just a reminder - he's 130 minutes of PP icetime, one assist to show for it.

- One more time, they Wild aren't the least bit afraid of playing their best defenseman an average of 30 minutes a game. Oh yeah, they haven't lost in regulation the past 8.

- Markov another wide open lane, another shot nowhere near the net.

- And Therrien sends Bouillon on the ice. Of course.

- Gotta say the Desharnais/Gallagher/Pacioretty line is at least applying something resembling zone pressure first half of this period.

- Prust drops 'em, does well. Draws quite a bit of his opponent's blood. I guess this means he's 100%.

- Konopka bleeding quite a bit, begs the officials off after they tell him he has to get repairs. Stomps off to the dressing room.

- Wild have struggled to gain any significant puck control in the Habs zone. Canadiens doing a pretty good job keeping them in check.

- Great setup by Pacioretty to wide open Desharnais streaking towards the Wild net. Can't get a shot on Harding.

- Briere's got the same fundamental challenge as does Desharnias - simply not strong enough to finish off scoring places with loose crease pucks.

- They're reviewing this, but Harding reached back to swipe a puck away at the last possible moment to keep Pacioretty from putting the Habs ahead 1-0. Max is totally snakebit.

- Price had a pretty routine period, at least in comparison to what he's had to handle the past few matches. Habs were able to generate sporadic, although not a whole lot of consistent pressure, Harding coming up with a couple of very impressive saves, including the goal line swipe. Minnesota will be more than happy to get out of this period on even terms.

Gameday Game Preview

No reprise for the weary - in this case, the offense-starved Montreal Canadiens, who are faced with the challenging task of taking on one of the hottest teams in the League, the Minnesota Wild, who haven't lost in regulation the past 8 games.

That offense. Woe that offense. We seemingly have none, other than one line and one defenseman. Michel Therrien seems to be taking an ingenious approach towards generating goals and it goes something like this - put the names of his fowards in a hat and start picking out the lines.

So what happens? Why, you break up the only line that's actually producing, of course - by yanking out Brendon Gallagher and sticking him next to the guy who was supposed to be your number one centre, who's only scored two goals since March 3, 2013.  GENIUS.

What else do you do? Well, you take the rookie who's been a brilliant surprise from the line where he was actually producing, and you bury him on the 4th line. Welcome to oblivion, Michael Bournival. GENIUS.

Still not good enough? Hmmm ... well let's see. You take the guy who was your "big" free agent signing during the off-season, but has yet to even come close to meeting scoring expectations, BUT who actually seemed to be doing will after he was put back at his natural position, and you also stick him down on the 4th line. Hello Danie Briere! GENIUS.

Look, I don't present myself as coaching qualified material, but it seems to me the last thing you want to do with a team that's having trouble putting pucks in the net, is to dismantle the line that's actually, you know, putting pucks in the net. It also makes no sense that you shuffle chairs on a deck, thereby diluting your line balance, while guys like Max Pacioretty, Brian Gionta, and Rene Bourque struggle to produce.

Whatever. This team, as we noted earlier today, is playing very poorly at even strength. This means it is overly dependent on specialty team success and stellar goaltending. It has certainly (and fortunately) received the later, but if the Habs can't muster any powerplay goals, their winning percentages basically drop through the floor.

The Wild's penalty kill is hovering just under 80%, which isn't very good. So if the Habs are to have reasonable expectations of victory tonight, they'll have to score with the man advantage.

Or, hope that Therrien's roster-in-a-blender approach to coaching somehow produces positive results. I am firmly unconvinced that it will.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Tuesday News 'n' Notes:

- George Parros and Doug Murray are healthy scratches for tonight's game. Didn't see that one coming!! /snark

- Optional practice this morning. Everybody pretty much showed up except for Moen, White, Bourque and Subban, who's probably still recovering from his Target experience. I've been in those dreadful stores, it usually takes me DAYS to recover.

- This little stat is getting bounced around this a.m. about how badly the Habs suck with 5v5 this season. Last year, the team 5v5 GF/A ration was +.25%. This season, it's -.04%.  It ain't the defense or goaltending which is the problem - total 5v5 output is down from 2.06 to 1.29. Which is to say, unless this team quickly turns around its even strength production, there's no way it'll qualify for the playoffs. Not. A. Chance.

- TEE HEE HEE: The Sabres announced over the lunch hour that they sent their 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko down to Rochester for "conditioning".

That's all I got for now.

Reason #9,394 why P.K. Subban is Awesome

Here is my partner-in-crime at some gawd-awful Target store opening somewhere in Westmount today, meeting none other than the man himself! Since I couldn't make it, she selflessly stood in line for FIVE HOURS just to get an autograph. What a woman, eh?  That blanket will be (one of) my son's Christmas presents, and I can say with great certainty that it will be by far, his favorite gift under the tree.

Afterward she confessed that she wouldn't have had a clue who Subban was if he walked past her on the street, but that he was exceptionally nice when he met her, and that he was "very handsome". HANDS OFF P.K.

Oh ... who am I kidding? The guy could have anyone he wanted. Plus he's going to be about $70 million richer in a month or two. I'M NOT WORTHY.

Happy Monday Edition

HAPPY MONDAY - and what a great Monday it is!!! The Riders are in the Grey Cup, baby. That means all is well with the world as we know it.

To quote the Mayor, the Green and White will be looking forward this Sunday to "spank the little tiger cats". YOU KNOW IT ROB.

Oh yeah. This is a Habs blog, isn't it? Okay, okay ... what's happening lately? Saturday night. Did that actually happen? Were we that bad? Like, Calgary Stampeders bad?!? Less than two dozens realativly harmless shots flipped towards the New York Rangers net, the Habs blanked at home by the blue shirts for the first time in 46 years? Sheesh, now we know how it feels like to be a Leafs fan. Well, maybe it isn't that bad - but still. 46 YEARS.

So practice today at Brossard. And here's the lines Therrien was putting out: Read 'em and whince:

1. Prust-Ellger-Galchenyuk
2: Gionta-Plekanec-Bourque (Bournival has seemingly been removed)
3. Pacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher (um, okay).
4. Bournival-Briere-Moen (because we want the 4th line to be just as inneffetive Tuesday night as they were on Saturday?)

I dunno. These are by no means the lines that Therrien will run, but the switcheroo routine doesn't bring me a whole lot of confidence that the coach is doing little other than running the blender.

Anyway, call me a traditionalist, but stick with what works (EGG line), identify what isn't working (the 4th line), and leave the other stuff mainly alone with slight adjustments.

Oh well. At least George Parros isn't playing. Or Doug Murray.

Other News 'n' Notes:

- Yannic Weber, who just couldn't quite find a spot on the Canadiens after nearly three years spent mightily trying, was placed on waivers by the Vancouver Canucks today. Weber is a great guy, much more deserved of this fate - and in this writer's humble opinion, more than capable enough of earning a regular starting job as an NHL defenseman.

- Interesting little stat out this morning - the Canadiens are getting 48.3% of their shot attempts on goal, which you might think is not too bad, except that IT'S BAD. Really bad. 30th ranked in the NHL bad.

Rapheal Diaz accounts for about 75% of those missed shots (I kid of course - unless he actually is really that bad on getting shots on goal).

Oh well. More later.

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