Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Game Forty-One: Habs vs. 'Canes

Okay, it wasn't the greatest finish to the year, but that still doesn't take away from my wish to you all for a very VERY Happy New Year. We'll see you in 2014!!!!!!

Carolina 5, Montreal 4 (OT)


- Desharnais time?

- How much will it take to get Gionta in the pressbox?

- If Eric Stall is out there, I'm probably not gonna send out Emelin. But that's what they pay Therrien the big bucks for. 'Canes win.

Third Period:

- Sweet jesus, Markov now called for a hook and the Canes once again back to the powerplay.

- Yeah, it's 3-0 but nagging old bad habits remain - 56 faceoffs so far tonight, Habs have won just 20 of them.

- 'Canes 4-on-3 advantage, Therrien elects to play just one defenseman, for some reason. Skinner scores to make it 3 to 1.

- Hoo boy. Habs called for a bench minor (Therrien?). Another 5 on 3, and it's Skinner, again.

- Hate to see a game where the officials make such a huge footprint on the outcome, but here we go.

- Staal. And it's all come apart. And so quickly.

- 'Canes are all over the Habs like cheap Champagne on a Hobo's breath.

- Both teams have basically thrown the game out the window. It's end to end now, last man standing.

- Might as well pull out this line just because. Therrien ought thank his lucky stars this team is six games over .500, because these are the games that coaches get fired over.

- 4-3.  Malhotra. Bouillon running around like a piece of headless poultry. The whole chain of events started after the Habs lost yet another faceoff deep in their zone.

- This might be the most chaotically played period by the Habs in 5 years. Everybody is in full-throttled panic mode, and the pucks are coming at Price from all possible directions.

- P.K. comes to the rescue. The blood flow has found a tunicate. Powerplay (as we predicted) scores again. Gallagher running a little goaltender interference there that wasn't spotted (or called). Tie game.

- Eller tries so hard, and more often than not, tries too much.

- Brian Gionta reminds me way too much of Scott Gomez' final disastrous seasons in Montreal. His shot ... he has none. I don't think his wrister is breaking 50 on the gun, which means he's easy pickings for any NHL goaltender.

- Defense out the window, bot teams have tossed caution into the wind looking for the game winner. Could be a pretty wild final 5 minutes.

- Staal interferes with Moen along the boards and then draws two more for complaining. Habs have the door open, can they step through?

- Just. Keep. Gionta. Off. The. Powerplay. PLEASE. Please?

- Catastrophic powerplay so far.

- Linesman calls deflect off puck in 'Canes zone. No contact was made - should have been delay of game on Carolina. In other words, another blown call. Just ... wow.

- Bottom line, if you have a 3 goal lead in the 3rd, you should win. Everytime. If you're a playoff-bound team, that is. Tonight's game makes me glad to be in the Eastern Conference. Otherwise, Habs would have no hope of post-season action.

Second Period:

- First period splits, 'Canes actually had possession edge by 4 percentage points. Sometimes the curve doesn't reflect reality, as Habs basically controlled play for 15 of those 20 minutes.

- Emelin was the low man on the blue line totem pole, getting less than 4 minutes in the first, least amongst Habs defenders. Safe to say Therrien has clued in, and has lost confidence in the Habs latest long-term albatross contract.

- Desharnais goes to the box for a trip, officials are calling a very tight game.

- Welp ... here we go again. Habs sitting back on the lead, and Carolina has outshot 5-0 so far.

- Gallagher got as about a clear a breakaway as you'll ever see. Ward keeping the 'Canes in this.

- Yet another penalty on the Habs - a not uncommon result when you surrender momentum and struggle to gain it back. Canadiens' PK can't keep coming through all night.

- Hoo boy. Too many men. Forget it. PK is gonna cave now.

- If I'm Therrien, I use my timeout to keep Markov and Georges out the whole 2 minutes. But Carolina burns their to try and nail this huge opportunity.

- Markov and Gorges doing an incredible job out there. Therrien, burn the timeout ... keep them out there.

- Crazy insane great kill by the Habs PK unit - that was almost 2 full minutes of 5-on-3 and the 'Canes barely got a shot on goal.

- Take away the Gallagher break, and the Habs have zero shots on goal in this period, 7 minutes left.

- No way you'll convince me that Rene Bourque is any better a player than Michael Bournival. If Bergevin is looking to move players, Bourque has to be your lead candidate.

- Who else to the Habs have for trade fodder? Bourque for sure, Bouillon .... would the Habs dare to move Gionta? Who else is an obvious candidate?

- It's a funny game some times. The value of winning faceoffs right there. Desharnais clean off the dot to Subban who carries and feeds nicely to Pacioretty to make it 3-0. Period totally dominated by the 'Canes, and yet they might be outscored for it.

- I guess tonight's game is as good as any to indicate that Subban has exited his scoring funk.

- Carey Price has been sneaky brilliant tonight.

- Way .. way too many unnecessary penalties by Montreal tonight. Poking the hand into the flames far too many times.

- Lopsided first for Habs, totally lopsided second for Carolina, yet the Canadiens hold a 3-0 lead through 40. Carey Price has been excellent, as has the Habs penalty kill, which surely is the best in the League. Habs need to clear the first 10 minutes of the 3rd before they can start thinking about cruising.

First Period:

- Daniel Briere gets the pressbox treatment tonight. George Parros and Doug Murray will join him.

- So if Kirk Muller gets the boot either during or at the end of the season ... sorry ... just daydreaming ...

- Big part of Carolina's disappointing start is focused on Cam Ward - he was (just a small while ago) a sure-fire Olympic team candidate. Today? Not even a consideration.

- Sloppy puck control by 'Canes out of the gate. Strong forecheck would generate lots of chances.

- And just as I type that last comment in, Habs forecheck in the corner by Galchenyuk wins the puck in the corner feeding a wide open Lars Eller. For the first time in a month, Eller scores.

- Ice conditions look pretty rough - typical lousy Carolina ice is typically lousy.

- Eric Staal really ought have better control over his body, as he barrels into Price and gets nailed for interference. Habs horrible powerplay goes to work.

- No goals, but good puck possession, and Carolina was giving the Habs some pretty clear shooting lanes. If this continues, Habs should get some point production with the man advantage tonight.

- Hands of Moen strikes again. He just muffed handling the puck, and a terrible hooking call an Faulk who made a nice defensive play taking the puck off Moen's stick.

- And there you have it, Habs strike on the powerplay. Canes not protecting the lanes, and Habs are getting the puck on Ward at will. Pacioretty makes it 2-0. Desharnais with a nice feed towards the 'Canes crease.

- Gallagher has the hustle on tonight. Here's hoping he can find the scoresheet. As noted, just one goal the past month.

- Prust went down awkwardly after taking a hit from Murphy. Slow getting back to the bench.

- Canes getting very physical here, Habs need to keep their heads up.

- Hate playing second guesser, but Emelin on the PK?? Com'on. Predictably Emelin gets nailed for a hold after he gets beat wide for the umpteenth time, and sets the Habs two men down. Oy.

- Turnovers are killing Carolina in this period - Eller gets a break, Ward a nice save, but another penalty drawn.

- That was pretty much an all-Habs first, Carolina was very sloppy handling the puck, and when they weren't turning over possession, they were drawing penalties. Habs more or less in cruise mode, but will they sit on this lead the same way they did in Nashville? (and almost blew it?). Stay tuned.

Gameday Game Preview



So let's review. At the 41 game mark, the Habs are aiming to win their 24th game of the season, which is very good bordering on the absurd when you consider this team has scored since December 5, or 12 games ago, 10 goals not by Alex Galchenyuk or Max Pacioretty. Stick Thomas Plekanec and Brandon Prust, and that goal total drops to 5 ... over 12 games. That means, 1 goal by David Desharnais, Brenden Gallagher, P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov. Then we start hitting gooseggs - nothing from Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere, and Rene Bourque.

There are a lot of guys wearing the C and H right now that aren't earning their pay.

Yet, remarkably, this team sits 3 games above .500 for the month of December, and has an opportunity to set a near 50 win pace with a victory tonight in Carolina.

Normally, the Habs would assume tonight's game to be one of those reasonably straightforward road contests - the 'Canes have a less than mediocre 14 wins, a relatively terrible record in the relatively terrible Eastern Conference. So let's run down the mediocrity: 26th rated offense, 20th rated defense, 27th rated powerplay, 20th rated penalty kill, 25th rated Fenwick, 17th rated Corsi. I'm pretty sure Carolina's ownership were hoping for better results, especially after making the big off-season deal for Jeff Staal, uniting him with his brother Eric.

Speaking of Eric Staal, he predictably leads the team with 30 points, 21 of them assists, mainly feeding Jeff Skinner on the 'Canes first line, he with 14 goals. The big problem for Carolina is that they really have only one scoring line - the Staal line. After that, the drop-off is steep, and more often than not, the 'Canes have been playing catch-up games most of the season.

But at least they have ONE producing line. That's something the Habs haven't had since early December.

We'll see what Michel Therrien has up his sleeve tonight. I suspect it's the usual - throw them out there and hope for the best.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Game Forty: Habs vs Panthers


Wait. Is Michel Therrien still employed?

Well then, nevermind.


Florida 4, Montreal 1

Third Period:

- Ya know, it's a good thing for Therrien the Habs are 7 above .500 because this is the kind of game that gets coaches fired.

- Briere is back on the bench. Who knows where or why he left.

- Habs with 4-on-4 open ice, so of course Therrien sends out ... Bouillon.

- 7 minutes gone in the 3rd, no shifts yet in the period, safe to say Emelin has been benched.

- Briere gets his first shift with nearly 20 minutes of game clock ticked, and scores. But then it's waved because Galchenyuk bumped the goalie. Habs and Briere can't score for losing.

- Galchenyuk clearly pushed into the crease. That goal should have counted. Oy.

- "Make up" penalty called on Florida. As if the Habs had an actual functioning productive powerplay.

- Markov has had nothing going tonight. Just. Nothing.

- Habs December record will drop to 8-5, which is mind boggling when you consider they've scored just 25 goals over that stretch.

- Dismal outing. No excuses for this club - although I'm sure the coach will offer up a few, and the scribes will happily pass it along. But, this team, in particular, it's offense, is broken. Hopelessly broken.

Second Period:

- Prust turnaround wrister in front of an extra slow motion Florida defense draws Habs even. Habs have had the legs to start the period.

- Pushback by Panthers after Habs goal, Canadiens Prust having one of those three minute long shifts and Panthers have Habs pinned in their zone.

- Terrible line change and Budaj fumbles the puck ... guess who was also on the ice for an even strength against? Emelin. 2-1.

- Markov's shooting accuracy has mysteriously gone south the past 6 weeks. Could explain his scoring drought.

- Watching Emelin's shift. He looks ...anemic? Just not moving his feet. And the panthers score again. He needs to be pulled from this game.

- Daniel Briere isn't on the bench. Not sure if it's an injury or equipment or .... something else?

- More or less a disasterous period for the Habs, a complete disaster for Emelin, and to a lesser extent, Markov. Just dismal ... and no excuses ... Certainly not "exhaustion" considering the team just had a 7 day rest.

First Period:

- Gomez a healthy scratch. Big mistake Florida ... BIG mistake.

- The perennially invisible Rene Bourque gets some powerplay time, and immediately gets nabbed for interference. And so it goes ....

- Habs really struggle to get shots ON net, this time it's Pacioretty and the redeflect off the boards generates a two on one after Markov makes a half-hearted poke check at center ice. Kulakov the trailer, Budaj not moving laterally fast enough and Florida takes early lead. None of this happens if Bourque stays out of the box while on the powerplay.

- What does it take to get Desharnais to shoot? Must the net be completely wide open?

- Subban and Gorges with some pretty awful zone coverage. Should be 2-0.

- The book on Emelin surely is established by now, he can be beat wide by any rushing winger ... pretty much at will. The knee injury has seemingly resulted in permanent damage.

- Gionta enraged as linesman miscalled high stick denying Habs tying goal. Officiating cardinal sin - if you're not sure, don't make the call.

- Emelin is positionally terrible, in addition to his chronic slowness. A double whammy defensive liability.

- Evenly played first period - which is very good news for the supposedly overmatched Panthers. Habs offensive woes ... well, it's the same old story.


Only one man stands in the way.

Fear him. 

I think that's Scott celebrating a goal? Not sure, since such photographs are exceedingly difficult to find.

Anyway .... the Gomez express is about to leave the station. Hat trick. Five assists. Peter Budaj won't know what hit him. The Habs are toast tonight. Bank it.

Puck drops at 5:10 EST.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Game Thirty-Nine: Habs vs. Bolts


- Usually would easily pick Bishop but he's look beatable tonight. So who knows?

- St. Louis not on the list, surprisingly.

- Lars Eller. Goodness.

- Price looks "on" for this.

- Price 3 for 3. Habs claim the extra point. Looked brilliant, right in front of Yzerman. Carey might as well pack his bags for Russia by this point.


- Just cover St. Louis, guys. 

- Emelin is the Travis Moen of the Habs defense. #handsofstone

- Thomas Plekanec with the break. Predictable result.

- Ain't gonna score if you don't shoot the puck. You can take that one to the bank. 

Third Period:

- Seriously guys, who's covering St. Louis? This ain't rocket science.

- Tampa has wrestled away game tempo in the third - looking good to score the next goal.

- Price playing his rescue raft role here. Not sure how many more he can keep out though.

- Habs have played themselves from leading this game to having to steal it.

- Canadiens completely disorganized coming back on the transition. Price continues to bail the team.


- Habs have hit the post at least three times tonight. That tells you Bishop has been beatable but also very lucky.

- Markov misplays the puck and is forced to ice the puck - thus encapsulating the team's chronic challenges with the transition.

- Desharnais easily hustling the most among Habs forwards tonight.

- I suppose there's a moral victory to claim gaining at least a point against a team as hot as Tampa, but Habs really frittered away too many scoring opportunities tonight, and let this winnable game slip away. Let's see if Habs have any more overtime heroics still in the bag.

Second Period:

- Habs Fenwick 5v5 (close) was 70% in the first. So they dominated possession, but weren't really able to generate many quality shots on Bishop.

- Habs two biggest defensive liabilities: Complete inability of its blue line to get pucks on goal, lacking passing accuracy to the forwards, which is really hurting Canadiens' transition.

- Plekanec gets Habs on the board with a nice little backhand deke on Bishop. Tampa defense unusually passive.

- Pacioretty back on the ice after taking puck to the face in the 1st.

- Bishop looking beatable this period. Just doesn't seem to be "on" tonight, at least compared to the marvelous season he's had to date.

- Terrible hooking call on Subban, ref was guessing there was a hook (there clearly wasn't).

- Can't ever ever never ever never not ever allow St. Louis be that free in your zone. That was Briere's check, shockingly. Tie game.

- For the zillionth time, Habs 4th line is demonstrably more effective when it's centred by Ryan White. E When Therrien scratches him, that line becomes useless. 

- Another horrible powerplay - 3rd in the game and counting. I'd say better planning and coaching would have eased its futility, but nearly one month of nothing and you conclude that at this point it's hopeless. Habs frittering this game away.

First Period:

- As usual, Tampa is as close or a road home game as the Habs get - lots of Quebec snowbirds and vacationers flock to this game. Usually 6 or 7 thousand Habs fans are in the arena.

- Gorges will match with Subban, again Markov with Emelin (mixed results with that combo) and Diaz draws the short stick and is saddled with Bouillon.

- 3 minutes in, no shots on goal. Passing and puck control has been atrocious both directions.

- Great play by Price to shoot the puck up to the Tampa bench while they were changing, drawing extra man penalty.

- Habs powerplay comes to life ... after the penalty expires.

- Bishop has a monsterous frame in goal but he does have one weakness - rebound control. Habs will need to generate and capitalize off of those loose pucks.

- Plekanec with the break, with predicable results.

- How'd Galchenyuk miss that beautiful setup? Habs not burying these great opportunities.

- Bouillon with Habs first glaring defensive mistake of the night, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

- Desharnais definately rediscovering his playmaking mojo ... he deserves some powerplay time.

- Speaking of the powerplay, Brian Gionta should not be getting any. He's a turnover machine.

- Habs powerplay again fruitless. This team needs to return to the basics - passing simplicity and establishing zone puck possession. They struggle with the later, and then aim for complex setups that require pinpoint accuracy and impeccable execution. They're not playing well enough to score pretty goals. Just shoot it at the net and bury a rebound, guys.

- Period has been mostly Habs controlled, but they haven't finished their play. You just know Tampa will score first.

- I know it's an unwritten rule you never trade your team captain mid-season ... but ... there might be an exception to be made this season in Montreal.

- 0-0 through 20. Habs couldn't finish, although period possession stats should be favourable though. 


It's been a good one for yours truly - I'm spending this time off visiting family in Northern Saskatchewan, which is actually just as cold as it sounds. Nonetheless, I'm all bundled up sitting beside a warm roaring fire in the middle of snow blanketed woods, with the Sun shining and the air bitterly crisp and chilly.

What the heck am I writing ... this is supposed to be a hockey blog, dammit. SO let's get back on the boat - the hockey world roars back to life (yeah, yeah the World Juniors and the other tournament ... the Sputnik ... spandex ... SPENGLER ... that's it ... I think Canada plays in that one).

SO TONIGHT ... the Habs return from their little one week long Holiday siesta to face one of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightening, winners of 5 straight, which has helped propel Tampa all the way up to 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, ignominiously pushing the Habs down to 3rd place.

Even though they lost their premier forward in Vincent Levacalier to free agency over the summer, and earlier in the season, star centre Steven Stamkos to a broken leg, the ageless Martin St. Louis has more than filled the gaps, putting up one point per game this season, while feeding the puck brilliantly to Valtteri Filppula, who's contributed 13 goals this season, which puts him roundly on pace to set a career high for a season's goal production.

The other big factor? Ben Bishop is having a career year, the League's 4th best GAA and SV%, his off-season acquisition from the Senators is arguably the best off season deal made in 2013. While Tampa's offense hasn't been sparkling (12th rated), Bishop has, on many nights, been the big difference maker in helping the Bolts to pile up the wins.

Over in Habs land, there was quite a buzz last night after speculation that coach Therrien was going to sit Raphael Diaz, who's arguably worked himself up the ladder to 2nd line status, in favor of pairing Doug Murray and Frankie Bouillon. Much of the discussion was of the rather negative or befuddled variety, for reasons that are pretty obvious to just about anyone casually following this team. If even the idea that Diaz ought to be a healthy scratch in favor of playing both Murray and Bouillon was crossing Therrien's mind, it ought give any fan serious pause to evaluate the sanity of the roster decision-makers in Montreal.

However, word emerged this afternoon and Murray would be sitting tonight, and Diaz would be starting. So ... whew to that. Also, George Parros won't be suiting up ... so double whew.

Even though the Habs seemed to get their offense back into gear for a fleeting period of time last Saturday, the team seemed to go back into its collective funk the last 30 minutes of their game against Nashville, escaping barely with 2 points after overtime heroics by David Desharnais. Otherwise, it's business as usual in Habsland, with the coach putting names into the blender to make up the lines, while hoping the Carey Price will simply continue to bail his team's comprehensive inability to put the puck into the net.

Price, speaking of, will start tonight, against, speaking of, Bishop.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST. I'll be watching, with leftover eggnog in hand. At least, I hope it's eggnog.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Game Thirty-Eight: Habs vs. Preds

And now, a message from his Worship, Rob Ford: Just put down the crack pipe.

Consider that a Holiday message to anyone and everyone that's circulating the Max-Pacioretty-in-on-the-trading-block rumor mongering.

Just put down that crack pipe. No, you cant take a hit. Not even a little one. Just put it down. Right now.

Merry Christmas.

Montreal 4, Nashville 3


- I don't think it's a stretch to say if Josh Gorges was able to play tonight, the Habs would already be in the showers with 2 points in the bank.

- Markov goes back to the box. He can come out of the box with 1:20 left in overtime, assuming we get that far.

- Desharnais saves the day. Great work in the Preds zone creates the turnover and Ekholm stumbles, and blasts it home with a slapper top of the circle. Heartbreaker for Nashville who fought so hard to get back to even against the Habs. They really deserved the extra point. Oh well.


Third Period:

- For the most part, Habs doing a decent job containing the Preds the first 10 minutes of the period, but they're still in sitting mode. Just awaiting the tying goal here ...

- Subban gets nabbed for a trip ... here we go.

- Weber. Lead. Gone. What a shocker. Markov hit hard along the boards, incensed that it wasn't called,

- Watching the replay, Markov was hit on the numbers from behind by Hornqvist, sending Andrei spiraling dangerously into the boards. Could have been called boarding, but officials let it go. And Nashville scored as a result.

- Preds were 0-14 this season when trailing after two periods. But then again they weren't playing Michel Therrien and the Habs in any of those games.

- Doug Murray on the ice for the final game shift. Therrien is just ASKING for trouble.

- Habs will earn at least one point. No way they should have been in this position, but given how the lead was blown, they really deserve nothing from tonight's game.


Second Period:

- So from what we've seen tonight, who'd you rather have on team Canada? Subban or Weber?

- The Diaz/Murray combo isn't installing me with confidence. Wilson getting way behind them and receiving the breakaway pass, only Prices' heroics are keeping the Preds off the board. Murray looking especially slow tonight.

- Emelin continues to play some petty lousy defense in his own zone. Post-injury Emelin really no better than a 5 or 6 slot blue liner. Emelin fortunate the Habs don't have strong depth at his position, although in the next year or two I can foresee him having competition starting on the second line.

- Plekanec is one of those guys that has less chance of succeeding on a play the more opportunity he has to think about it. It's why he's so lousy on breakaways.

- Doug Murray. Not sure what he was doing or thinking, but it comes with little surprise the Preds' Bourque gets his team on the board courtesy Murray's bumbling. Can't say we weren't warning about this.

 - Now Nashville is pumped. Price might have busy rest of the second.

- Bad high stick by Desharnais, resulting PK, Price hung out to dry. Spaling makes it 3-2. Habs really have been sitting on it, their forecheck has totally disappeared, and Murray's incompetence - potent combination for a big lead blown.

- Wilson very very nearly tied the game in the waining seconds of the period. How much did the Habs sit on that lead? Try 20-6 second period shots, for Nashville, on for size.

At this point I'd be surprised if the Preds don't win this game. Their opponent roundly deserves to lose.

First Period:

- Gorges can't start tonight for the first time in years, which means Murray starts. Ugh.

- Habs first powerplay, dismal.

- Subban strikes, courtesy some nice forechecking by Eller and Briere. Habs actually score a first period goal.

- Brilliant pass by Gallagher to streaking Pacioretty ... Preds defense completely flat footed. 2-0.

- Nashville defense all that cures Habs wretched offense, it seems. Plekanec plays give and go with Gionta, redeflecting the return pass, and it's 3-0. Habs flying, Preds look abysmal.

- With Murray and Bouilllon both in the lineup tonight, this 3-0 lead is by no means "safe".

- Jones takes a direct hit on the face off a near point blank slapper by Markov. Awful.

- Nashville actually came out well to start the game, the Habs as per usual, wasn't generating much of anything, just two shots the first 10 minutes. But then Subban scored, and the floodgates opened up. The Preds defense looked slow, unprepared for Habs attack and speed, none of the three goals was the fault of Mazenec. The next test will be to see if Montreal can maintain the pressure, or will they make the mistake of sitting?

Gameday Game Preview:

Did you know that the Montreal Canadiens haven't scored a goal in the first period since December 4th? That's 9 games ago. Since then, nothing. Not a single goal in the first frame.

This is to say that the Habs, for most of the month of December, have been playing catch-up hockey, which isn't a good thing under any circumstances, especially when you've been as offensively starved as this team has been this month.

So tonight, guess who's back? It's Daniel Briere, and he'll take a spot on the 3rd line, sliding along side Lars Eller and Rene Bourque. This means the Ryan White gets to sit healthy from the pressbox, along side Doug Murray.

Anyway, same old story. This team can't score. The droughts are all over the place. Lars Eller, Thomas Plekanec, Rene Bourque, Lars Eller, Brian Gionta, P.K. Subban, Brandon Prust ... it's been many, many games since any of them as made an kind of meaningful offensive contribution.

After a predictable defeat in St. Louis Thursday night, don't expect the ship to be turning around tonight in Nashville. Michel Therrien doesn't appear to have any answers to the puzzle - beyond, seemingly, tossing names out on the ice at random, hoping that a couple of forwards make some kind of connection. Emphasis on forechecking? Apparently gone. Puck possession? No longer a priority. The team just lists at sea, awaiting some kind of rescue ...

The Preds are a mediocre team in a very tough Conference - in a bit of a rebuild mode, with Barry Trotz in the unfamiliar position of coaching a team that's posting a sub .500 record. The Preds, like the Habs, have struggled offensively, with only David Legwand putting up respectable production this year - 25 points in 35 games.

In other words, don't expect the red light to come on very many times this evening.

Puck drops around 7:10 EST.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Game Thirty-Seven: Habs vs. Blues


Is it vacation yet??!?

SPEAKING of vacation, seems as though more than a few guys wearing a C and an H last night were taking one. As noted, I wasn't able to live blog the game, or see (much), but I read over the game notes and stats and ... yup ... looks like the boys took an early one.


Line 1: Gionta/Plekanec/Galchenyuk
Line 2: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
Line 3: Bourque/Eller/Brière
Line 4: Moen-Prust-Bournival

Meh. Does it really matter any more? I think Therrien should take the "clean" lineup approach, FOR FUNZ.

Line 1: Pacioretty/Plekanec/Prust ... The PPP line ... because, FUN!
Line 2: Bourque/Briere/Bournival ... taa daa! THE BBB line ... because TWICE AS MUCH FUNZ! Plus Briere can't bitch all night about not playing centere.
Line 3: Gionta/Galchenyuk/Gallagher ... THE GGG line ... because THREE TIMES THE FUNZ!! And Galchenyuk used to play centre, I mean IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.
Line 4: Whatever. Like they'd actually get played.

Do it Michel. Do it. You can just mail in the victories. DO IT.

Gameday Game Preview:

I hates doing previews like this. Just hates it. Tonight is gonna suck - big time.

7 loses. That's it. We're nearly half way through the regular season, and the St. Louis Blues have 7 regulation losses. Nobody has fewer in the NHL. That's what we're up against tonight. And as visitors to boot. The Blues have won 13 of the 17 games it's played at the Scott Trade Center. Whatever a scott trade is.

The Blues are good team. A very good team who just so happen to probably have the very best coaching mind behind their bench. They are a team whom I think is probably the strongest candidate to be the Western Conference representative for next spring's championship.

The Blues are also a team with few, if any glamorous superstars. The brightest spot for the Blues this year has to be Alexander Steen, who's having a career year - 22 goals in 33 games. That's already almost equivalent to his career season high for goals scored - he got 24 in 2009-10, but that was done over 68 games. 

After Steen, the names don't get anymore household. David Backes. 30 points. T.J. Oshie, 27 points. Kevin Shattenkirk. 23 points. Noting a trend? The Blues play by commission, they don't overpower you, they just outmaster you with a well-refined gameplan.

The Habs know this first hand, witness the game earlier in the year, when they were playing a pretty decent game against St. Louis, holding a 2-1 third period lead when St. Louis, who were waitin'-in-the-bushes, game out full throttle for the final frame, and the always cunning Ken Hitchcock, even though the Blues were the visitors, started line matching, and finally caught Michel Therrien asleep at the switch, getting the Steen line out against the Habs depleted 4th line. Seconds later, game tied. And then lost in overtime.

Playing the Blues requires much planning and strategy, which I don't think is exactly the Habs greatest coaching strength today. So for the Habs to even entertain thoughts of somehow coming out of this game with 2 points, they'll have to play a classic road game, which means rigorous forechecking, insufferably consciousness D-zone coverage, and a defense that's able to clear the zone and execute an effective transition - something the Habs have done very poorly the past 6 weeks (coinciding with the club's marked tumble down the fenwick standings).

Oh yeah. And somebody other than Max Pacioretty or Alex Galchenyuk has to score goals.

Just like in November, tonight it's Price vs. Halak.

Puck drops at 8:10 EST. I won't be live blogging tonight because of my son's Christmas concert. Priorities!!



 - Daniel Briere ... healthy scratch tonight, to make way for Ryan White.

For those of us Habs fans who still haven't pulled all the hairs from our scalp this season, that's great news!

Gameday preview in a bit. It's-a-gonna-be-ugly.

Lineup Goo:

Expected Blues offensive combos tonight:

Line 1: Schwartz/Steen/Oshie
Line 2: Tarasenko/Berglund/Paajarvi
Line 3: Porter/Roy/Stewart
Line 4: Morrow-/Lapierre/Cracknell

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Game Thirty-Six: Coyotes vs. Habs

Third Period:

- A Christmas miracle as Markov scores off the powerplay (no less) on a shot that Smith would tell you he'd like another shot at. Gallagher nice work in front causing distraction. The fundamentals. Game tied

- Another post for Pacioretty. He only scores in bunches. Posts too, it would seem.

- Habs started coming to life last two minutes of the second and have carried that over to the third. Coyotes in retreat mode now trying to ride out the storm.

- Eller's not going to get many more gifts like that as Smith falls flat face down as Lars carries the puck to the net. Only needed to flip it over the Phoenix goaltender. He didn't. Playing with just a sliver of the confidence he had a month ago.

- Welcome back from the dead, Montreal Canadiens' powerplay. Pretty feed by Desharnais. This time Pacioretty didn't hit iron. 2-1.

- Sometimes these things just inexplicably happen, as Habs offense comes to life. It's all fine they've scored and taken the lead, but fundamentals haven't changed. This is a team still not playing with any kind of competence or coordination, in particular at even strength. 

- Brain cramp by Subban creates a four-on-one break for Phoenix, Josh Gorges with game saving check. Might have also saved Subban's Olympic hopes as well. Habs earn a very rare come from behind 3rd period victory, but are now faced with a difficult mini swing out west. St. Louis, even with tonight's win, looks like an improbable obstacle.

Second Period:

- Habs powerplay percentage over the past 7 games now officially at 5% efficiency. That is a rate so poor it defies description. One point for consideration - Subban and Markov are both struggling to get their point shots on goal. It's resulting in missed opportunities and plenty of zone losses.

- Dismal play leads to frustration and lack of discipline. Prust gets two extra minutes for mouthing off. 

- If Riberio scores we'll know we've reached rock bottom.

- Phoenix' offense ain't exactly rocking either. Even with the 4 minute powerplay they have two shots in the second period. Watching these games are torturous.

- Emelin has almost no mobilty skating backwards to defend the attack. Wingers are simply skating around him, and all Emelin can do is reach out and grab. Borderline penalties.

- Habs PP simply throwing punches in the dark. Pacioretty hits iron. Nothing is going right.

- Now Therrien is tossing the defense into the blender. Georges matched with Subban for reasons that I can't contemplate.e storm

- Habs finally come to life the final minute and Smith robs Galchenyuk. Nothing is still going right.

- Habs registered into the double digits for shots in the period, so I guess that's something? Still, this team is like a Ford on the side of the road. Completely broken with nowhere to go.

First Period:

- Boedker. Once again the Habs don't score first. Already the omens are bad.

- Pacioretty taps Smith who goes down as though he was shot. Officials get suckered into calling a penalty. Amateur hour.

- Habs forechecking abilities have simply vanished. I'm not sure if this is a result in a change of philosophy via Therrien to dump and chase instead of leveraging team speed, but it's not working.

- Habs have 2 shots with six minutes left in the period.

- Habs defensive doing a decent job protecting the shooting lanes, dogs are tossing the puck into legs looking for a crazy bounce or redeflection.

- I didn't think it could be possible for the Canadiens' offense to play any worse than it has the past week, but here we are. 3 total shots for the period, and no relief in site. 

Gameday Game Preview:

 Who hasn't got a feeling of dread about this one? 2 lousy regulation goals scored over the past 13 periods, a team powerplay that hasn't scored in its last 19 attempts.Three straight Eastern Conference bottom feeder games played, and two lousy points to show for it.

And up against a Western Conference team, which unless their names happen to either be the Calgary Flames or Edmonton Oilers, is a daunting prospect for success.

At this time I'm not sure what's going right, except goaltending. Team offense has basically totally dried up. Team defense, except for the starting first line, is more or less swiss cheese - in particular the Habs 3rd line paring of Doug Murry with (insert name here) ... I guess Raphael Diaz?

Anyway, the Coyotes have nearly as many points as the Habs, but if the season were to end today, would be 5 points removed from a playoff spot. Which is kind of insane.

Phoenix has no big-named stars, but they do an excellent job of playing as a collective unit, relaying on a balanced attack to generate offense, which is pretty damn good - 4th rated in the League. The one weak spot for the dogs is their defense, 6th worst in the NHL. So if there's an opportunity for the Habs to rediscover their offensive mojo, tonight is as good an opportunity as ever. Because it's not going to get any easier for the Canadiens after tonight's game - St. Louis looms on the horizon Thursday night - a matchup that you'd reckon the Habs would be lucky to score, period.

Rene Bourque returns to the Habs lineup tonight after coming back from one of his never-ending injuries. Mike Smith, who's been very solid in net, despite Phoenix' blue line challenges, will start, against the only thing going very, very right for the Habs this year - Carey Price.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.


So .... let's see what Michel Therrien's blender has produced for tonight's lines.

Line 1: Galchenyuk/Plekanec/Gionta

I guess because ... Galchenyuk is one of two guys on the roster that's scored since forever?

Line 2: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher

I guess because ... Eller hasn't been getting Gallagher scoring since forever, so Desharnais is the next best option?

Line 3: Bournival/Eller/Brière

I guess because ... Bournivan can't do anything right, so it's up to Eller, who hasn't scored in forever, to make it all better? Oh yeah ... and Briere. Gotta shove him somewhere, I suppose.

Line 4: Bourque/Prust/Moen

I guess because ... oh yeah. Bourque. I'd forgotten he played for us. Funny, I often have the same realization when he's actually on the ice. Ryan White gets the screwdriver again, even though he's one of our better playing forwards.

Okay. So that's the latest. After tonight's inevitable loss, can't wait to see what the blender shoots out for Thursday night when the Habs take on the ... oh crap .. St. Louis Blues.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Game Thirty-Five: Panthers vs. Habs

Florida 2, Montreal 1:


So ... let's add it up. That's 3 ... add 'em ... 3 goals scored over the past 13 periods of hockey, 2 goals if you're only counting regulation time. To say this team is failing to produce would be a inny winnie understatement.

So is it time to push the panic button? Well, truth be told, that time arrived lonnnnnnnnnng ago. This team's fenwick numbers, once the envy of the League (back in early November), has since that time, tumbled down to the bottom third of the NHL. Meanwhile, the offensive PDO, which was carrying the team through lousy possession, has sunk below the 100 mark the past couple of weeks, meaning the luck ain't happenin', meaning when the team isn't skating around chasing pucks (which is now firmly more than 50% of the time), it's failing to convert on its scoring opportunities, which are few and far between because .... we don't have puck possession.

So it's a double whammy. The solution? Be dammed if I know. The team is healthy - everyone who Marc Bergevin wanted in place is there. We bought this, we own this.

Well, actually, there are things that can be done. Over the past couple of days, with the aid of a trusty notebook, and sharpened pencil, I jotted down a list that might just do the trick. So here are the options ... really the only options readily available that might help the team turn the ship in another direction. This list, please note, are remedies with no particular order of importance. Please keep them in mind as you read them off.

So here we go:

1) Fire Michel Therrien.

More later.

Sunday Update

NO LIVE BLOGGING TONIGHT. I'm just that busy. These Sunday early starts just won't work for my schedule, so all I can offer up tonight is a little pregame preview. Have at it.

SO tonight. The Habs riding an enormous one game winning streak after conquering the Islanders last night by a blistering 1-0 margin, will seek to feast some more on the Eastern Conference's bottom feeders. Tonight, it's the Panthers from Florida.

Some lineup goo before we get into the gritty. Peter Budaj, predictably, starts in net for the Habs are playing back to back, and that's their routine. Ryan White will get another start, not because he's rightfully earned them, but because George Parros is out with a concussion, suffered last night during a first shift fight. Okay George, take a rest. You've earned it. See you next summer.

Also sitting tonight is Frankie Bouillon - again. It would appear that in the battle of the defensive back end, Doug Murray has prevailed competing for the Habs 6th D slot.

Okay, back to the opposition at hand. The Panthers. Rebuilding, seemingly they're always rebuilding. This year it's no different - a hapless team going nowhere, subjugated to desperate player acquisitions such as Tim Thomas. That's all you gotta know about how far Florida has fallen.

Like the Islanders last night, the Panthers have just 11 wins in 33 games, and like the Islanders last night, come into the game near the bottom for all the important categories. 29th rated offense, 27th rated defense, the Panthers ought to be, under normal circumstances, easy pickin's for the Habs.

But these are the can't-score Habs - two goals over the last 10 periods of hockey, plus the two minutes of overtime against New York when Max Pacioretty lifted the Canadiens to another offensively-starved victory.

The Habs funk list is long - Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Eller, Plekanec, Bournival, Markov, Subban - are all in the middle of an extended scoring drought, with no apparent end in sight.

With the Canadiens powerplay also struggling to find a scoring touch, there's little to believe that tonight's game won't be a lot like last night's against New York. That is, little punch, and few goals.

Puck drops 6:10 EST. Have fun watching. Thank goodness for myself, I won't be.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Game Thirty-Four: Habs vs. Islanders


- Desharnais win brilliant determination battles for puck, feeds Pacioretty for the winner. That was all Desharnais.

- Pacioretty with the holster move after potting the game. Nice touch. 

Third Period:

-Eller with thunderous hit on Tavares who didn't have his head up. The contact looked clean but Eller is being given an extra two for head contact.

- Without Price how many wins would the Habs have at this point? I'd reckon no more than 12.

- Tavares looking dangerous out there since that hit. Watch out.

- With Parros gone before he even really began, and Bournival nailed to the bench most of the night, Habs have essentially been running just three offensive lines tonight. Look at the scoreboard. Tells you all you need to know.

- Plekanec with Habs best scoring chance of the night, courtesy a sweet feed by Galchenyuk. Nabokov with brilliant save. 6 minutes left.

- And Navokov flashes the glove off a Markov blast. Just ain't happening.

- So Price tosses a goosegg tonight and he still might (probably) lose. 

- What the hell is Briere doing out there with 90 seconds left??

- A point in the standings. At least. Habs have one goal in last 3 and 1/2 games of hockey played. 

Second Period:

- Parros, one shift, 30 seconds, and he's done for the night. So the Habs have a shortened bench, because Therrien for whatever reason, believes that starting Parros instead of Ryan White makes the Habs a better team. 

Now they have to play the rest of the game without a 4th line.

- Still hard to understand why the Habs' powerplay, which looked so good two weeks ago, looks so flat now. Team seems adverse to dumping and winning the puck.

- Bournival given two minutes for phantom trip. 

- Horrible and foolish pinch by Markov creates a 4-on-2 Islanders break -  they should have converted. Markov ought know better.

- Habs powerplay is oozing zero confidence, or for that matter, coherence. Atrocious.

- So many producers, so much power outages. Eller, Gallagher, Pacioretty, Plekanec. Habs one goal in last 190 minutes. And counting.

- Eller is a mess, and a headcase. Playing with almost no confidence, it's bizarre how things have gone so sour for him this month.

- When two teams utterly incapable of scoring clash. This is what you get. Two periods of frustrating hockey. 

First Period:

Couldn't make it to see the first. What did I miss? It would appear not much. Nobody scored, Habs marginally outshot the Islanders by two, but Habs did appear to return to something resembling early season form with their puck possession - 58%, which isn't too bad.

And Geroge Parros started tonight, for some ridiculous reason. And he got into a fight. And he got concussed.

And so it goes ...

On Danie Briere

Alright, let's get the big news this morning out of the way. Word is spreading around Montreal like wildfire today that Daniel Briere has demanded a trade because he doesn't like the way Michel Therrien has been playing him. The source of this speculation comes via Luc Chenier, play-by-play guy for the Gatineau Olympiques.

Nobody has a solid idea about the validity of these rumors, but if they're even remotely true, well Danny - all I can say to you is join the line.

You think you've been short-shifted this season? Ask Ryan White, who's been very solid centering the Habs 4th line this year, but has on more than frequent occasions, been a healthy scratch to make way for the utterly useless George Parros. Go ask Michael Bournival how he feels about his ice time -  after cracking a lineup spot in training camp, and starting the year strong playing along side Thomas Plekanec, Bournival had two ... TWO less-than-average outings in November, and found himself relegated to marginal 4th line duty, and a healthy scratch in Thursday night's loss for ... yeah you guessed it - George Parros.

The point is - SHUT UP. Yeah, you've strung together 10 points this year, roughly the point pace of what you were doing last year in Philly (not many Flyers fans pine over you leaving, by the way), but you are one of the biggest defensively liabilities in the National Flippin' Hockey League. Your season Fenwick is a not-exactly-stellar -23. Your Corsi is -25.

But then Marc Bergevin knew this about you - he knew that you can't play hockey in your own zone - he knew that the Flyers were desperate to unload you while you played there. Or at least, he should have, when he tendered you that very - some might say, overly generous two year contract that most General Managers wouldn't offer to a player who's on the very backend of a slightly better than mediocre career. You and I and everybody else in this room knows why you got that contract offer, and it's got just as much to do with your place of birth as it does your supposed offensive hockey abilities.

So fine - bid yourself farewell, waive that NTC, and give your employer a way out of a mistake that ought not have been made in the first place.

Anyway. Game Preview shortly.

Gameday Game Preview:

Let's get this out of the way. The Islanders are a disaster. Here's a team coming off a hard fought playoff appearance last year, brimming with youth and enthusiasm and a future that looked bright instead of dark, as it has been (1993 removed) for nearly 30 years.

Losers of the past 11 out of 12, there's plenty of reason to believe that unless a total reverse in fortunes happens between now at the end of this calender year, the Uniondale front office will be swept away. The season we've had wasn't supposed to happen like this - the Islanders were pegged to claim a playoff spot. Instead, they're staring at a high draft pick next summer.

9 wins in 33 games, the Islanders can be found near the bottom in most important categories. Offense, 22nd overall. Defense, 30th overall (yes, worse than Buffalo). Powerplay, which last year was 11th ranked, is now 22nd ranked. Perhaps what's hurt New York most of all is their penalty killing unit. At barely more than 70% efficiency, opponents are killing the Islanders whenever they're sent to the box - New York is constantly playing catchup because of their woeful short handed specialty team, and it's turned their season of promise into a pretty big mess.

Not that matters are much better over in Habsland. Losers of two straight, a thumping courtesy the Kings, and then losing rather badly to the completely under-talented Flyers Thursday night, has started the drumbeat of criticism against Michel Therrien again - seemingly unable to figure out a way of getting his team back on track, other than constructing his lines during the game by drawing names out of a hat.

Did you know that a month into the season, the Habs were a top 5 possession team? They're now ranked 18th, and falling fast. Instead of controlling the puck and tempo, the Habs are now a team constantly on the defensive, reacting instead of imposing. The defense, once top-rated, is in free-fall, largely because of the incomprehensibly terrible play by Alexei Emelin, who seemingly dropped off the face of the hockey planet the *instant* he signed a four year contract extension with the team. Good grief.

The Islanders are horrible, but they're up against a Habs team in chaos. Don't be surprised if Montreal loses their third straight tonight, which ought to be good enough to send the city into a full flurry of hockey panic.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST from some rink in the middle of nowhere that will be abandoned next year. I'll be joining in a bit late - about the halfway mark of the 1st period.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Game Thirty-Three: Habs vs. Flyers

UPDATE: BLOGGER IS TERRIBLE. Apparently their servers are messed up, and posted images aren't showing up, period. Hopefully they'll get things figured out soon, so you can see the above chart in all of its glory. At the very least, here's a link to the original graphic. 

See this chart above via @Le_Matheux? Click on it. Look at it. LOOK AT IT. That's team defense Fenwick from the start of the season (left) to last night (right). If you're above the 0, you're fine. Below, you're not fine. Way below, you basically are terrible at your position. But the trend, across the board, as you might note, ain't good. This chart ... this chart, is part of the explanation why this team ain't headed nowhere but Losertown.

A thousand beers, is what I feel like drinking after viewing charts like this.


HAPPY ... ah ... screw it.

Memo to Marc Bergevin: Before offering these extension contracts, maybe ... just maybe ... pause and reconsider?

More on the Habs soon-to-be-extensive losing streak later.


Philadelphia 2, Montreal 1:

Third Period:

- Habs need to score a dirty, dirty goal. Something, anything to break the drought. Put it on goal, crash the crease, just ... anything.

- Good news, Habs get a clear-cut two on one. Bad news, it's Gionta and Plekanec.

- I guess it could have been worse - it could have been Stone Hands Moen.

- Habs have demonstrated little urgency - I can't understand the utter lack of energy. Yeah, it's been a busy stretch, but this is just the 3rd game in 6 days. 

- Unlike Tuesday night, Briere has been given plenty of shifts tonight, I'm guessing Therrien was hoping he'd receive an inspired performance. Instead, it's been a resounding thud. 

- Speaking of thuds tonight, the Habs 4th line - it's back to doing nothing. The purpose of inserting Parros was what, exactly?

- Hmmm, when I said get a dirty goal, I should have mentioned not using your hand, Brian. Anyways, Habs can't get a break. Hockey gods revenge continues.

- Galchenyuk with less than a minute left, saves the Habs the humiliation of being shut out twice in a row. Too little, too late.

- Habs were playing with fire, getting outworked and out puck possessed during their winning streak, and now the reality is setting in that they had a week of very good fortune. But now, the truth is exposed - they were beaten handily by a sub .500 team - the Canadiens really didn't muster a single strong scoring chance, save the Galchenyuk goal, the whole night. Emelin a terrible outing. Murray and Diaz not far behind. Putting Parros in the lineup, period - there are no excuses left. 

This is a team heading south in an accelerating manner, with little reason to believe things will turn around anytime soon.

Second Period:

- Decent first shift for the Eller line to start the second. Habs with a little more energy ..certainly more than they demonstrated the first 20 minutes.

- High hit sends P.K. to the box, his victim, Voracek, went down as though he'd been shot.

- Voracek out there first shift PP. Because, of course.

- Stone Hands Moen.

- Giroux. Habs with decent keystone cops impersonation. Eller line slow to retreat on transition, Murray with a phantom check on nobody takes him off somewhere else, Diaz way out of position, Price hung out to dry. Some pretty terrible hockey right there.

- Last 9 goals in Habs game has been scored by the other team. I see little reason to believe that won't soon be 10.

- Emelin. Sigh. Not convinced this guy didn't make a full recovery before returning. He's only hurting his team, not to mention his reputation as a competent NHL defenseman.

- The Desharnais/Briere "experiment" might end after one game.

- Emelin gives Downie what sure looked like a targeted headshot with his elbow. I foresee a possible suspension ahead.

- And he gets 5 minutes and a game misconduct.

- Another nothing period for the Habs. That's six in a row extending back to the 3rd period of he Sabres game. I'll be surprised if they aren't shutout tonight, shocked if they somehow win. 

First Period: 

- I think it's officially official. The Habs powerplay is in a pretty deep funk. Too much focus on the perfect setup, when what is needed is something down and dirty.
- Both teams' offenses looking very tentative, not exactly brimming with confidence. They're both coming off dreadful losses where their clocks were cleaned. I'm guessing that's it.

- Briere given warm applause by the fans during TV timeout. Not sure how much of that applause was affectionate and how much was relief that Briere is no longer the anchor on the Flyers payroll that he used to be.

- 9 combined shots on goal through 14 minutes. 

- Raffl. Emelin with a horribly weak attempts to shoot the puck around the boards after Habs won the faceoff, Plekanec abandoned his check in front of the net. 1-0.

- So Bergevin signs Desharnais to a generous extension, Desharnais' career goes into the tank. Signs Emelin to an extension, has looked terrible since the ink dried. 

- Desharnais and Briere on the same line ain't working.

- 4 shots for the Habs in the period. Looked ... uninspired. Flat as a pancake, a team playing with very little mojo. Regardless of how weak their opposition will be the next week, the Habs are showing every sign of a team that's entering a sustained period of losing.

Gameday Game Preview:

Alright, it's bounceback time. Nowhere to go up. This is gonna happen. Piece of cake. Right back on the winning track. I mean, we're taking on the Flyers, who last night took a pounding at the hands of one of the best teams in the Western Conference, the Chicago Black Hawks, and were blown out the arena by 5 goals. How awful does Philly have to be to lose to an opposing team by 5 goals, RIGHT?

Yeah, yeah I'm being all smarmy here in light of the Habs' 6 goal drubbing the other night, but seriously, the Flyers aren't a very good hockey team. They had a disastrous start to the season, which resulted in their coach getting ash canned, recovered enough to entertain thoughts of actually being competitive for a playoff spot, and have since gone right back into an abyss. Entering tonight's game, it's three straight losses and counting for Philly, the result over that period being outscored 17-7.

Why so terrible? Well for the first time in an awfully long time, Philadelphia has a NHL team that can't score. 4th worst rated League offense to be exact. A mediocre powerplay. The Flyers are 23rd rated possession team, 17th rated Corsi, and just 11 wins to show even with luck on their side, a PDO rating over 100 (101.2).

It's not as though this team doesn't have talent. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds have been predictably productive. 36 points scored between the two. The problem has been the other direction - combined, Simmonds and Giroux are -19. Then there's Scott Hartnell. Remember him? It was just two seasons ago that Hartnell was an elite League goal scorer - 37 in 2012, aided by an excellent 16% shooting percentage. This year, he's on pace for 17, and that shot percentage has dropped through the hole, now just 7.8%.

Goaltending. It's a franchise curse in Philadelphia, who've searched high and low for an established starter since the days of Ron Hextall. That's 25 years ago, by the way. This season the Flyers sunk their chips with the very tall (6'9") but perennially mediocre Ray Emery, who had one decent season as a first stringer with the Ottawa Senators, and that was way back in 2006-07. Since then he's made a name for himself for poisonous off-ice behavior, and obsessive on-ice headhunting tactics that included a debacle in November, when he mugged the Caps' Braden Holtby. It was egregious, goonish and totally idiotic. It was Philadelphia Flyers hockey at its finest.

So the Flyers are seemingly just the medicine that might cure the hurtin' Habs. A few changes have been made for tonight's game - the biggest one is the reuniting of the EGG line to help give the offense (hopefully) something of a spark.

On the backend, don't expect Michel Therrien to fool around with mix-and-match combinations. Tuesday night, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin were matched up, with disastrous results. Yeah, I appreciate the "physicality" that Emelin brings to the table, but defensively, he's been kind of a mess this year - benefiting greatly playing along side Josh Gorges. It almost makes me wonder if the Habs defense might benefit if Emelin were demoted to the 3rd line, promoting Raphael Diaz to play next to Gorges.

And because it's Philly, the Habs will dress George Parros tonight, which means Ryan White is likely to be a healthy scratch.

Puck drops at 6:10 EST.

Gameday Notes:

Okay, just a few odds and ends.

- The EGG line is to be reunited, starting tonight. Let's see if that kickstarts each of the three - they've all been struggling of late (Gallagher in particular).

- Daniel Briere, he who had a nightmare outing Tuesday night against the Kinds, will play alongside Desharnais and Pacioretty.

- Doug Murray will start, Frankie Bouillon (who actually wasn't too bad against Los Angeles) will sit.

- George Parros will start. Le sigh.

- Carey Price will start - and hope to rebound.

- Former Habs goalie and one-time Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore, who's been an unsigned free agent this season, has given up hopes of getting back into the game, and today joined TVA as a hockey analyst.

Game preview in a little bit.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Game Thirty-Two: Kings vs. Habs

The Night After the Day Before

Sooooooo .... how'd you sleep last night? When you awoke, did the Sun rise? Wait, what am I thinking?? we're in Canada in December. The Sun never rises. Still, we're still here, the world hasn't imploded, and Habsland, while hurtin' all over this morning, lives on.

But yeah, the sucktitude was strong last night. The horror-role was long - Briere got benched (fine), Markov and Emelin were atrocious, Gallagher can't score to save his life, Eller mysteriously is a bit of funk. Subban appeared little more than your average NHL defenseman ... Bournival didn't get a chance to show he deserves a regular shift. Even Carey Price, setting aside the argument the Kings 4th and most certainly, their 3rd goal came as a result of goaltending interference, didn't have a very good night.

So pretty much everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. But, nobody got hurt ...

... we think? Josh Gorges and Max Pacioretty didn't practice this morning, electing to take a "therapy day", which is another way of saying they're too banged up to do their drills.

Rene Bourque, who has some kind of injury, won't travel with the team to Philly tomorrow. Oh yeah - Philly. I guess this means George Parros will be back in the lineup. Le sigh.

Here's Oliver Bouchard's breakdown of last night's horrorshow. Oyoyoe is right.

Anyway, more in a bit. I'm going outside to see if the Sun has risen.

Third Period:

- What, you're still here? Why, aren't you a glutton for punishment?

- Therrien has decided to put the EGG line together again. Might as well - there's a good case to be made it shouldn't have been broken in the first place.

- 3rd period tonight at the Bell Centre strongly resembles any first period at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. About 1/2 empty.

- These blowout losses can have a cathartic upside. It might cause Therrien to pause to consider his blender deployment "strategy" might not be suitable against really good teams. Lessons to be learned here - is the coach adapt enough to understand, though?

- Okay, games like this call for drastic action. Puppy kitty time.

- More worryingly for the Habs tonight is how their powerplay has seemingly gone into the tank - and it's not just tonight. This has been building for awhile, the Canadiens were defying gravity with their specialty units, and the return to earth is having some pretty dramatic consequences.

- Okay. Major beef time now:

49M. Bournival


Okay, coach. Your team is getting blown out 6-0. The loss was assured a long time ago. So what's the point of short shifting the young kid who you might wanna play out a bit more, if at the very least, to give him some development opportunities.

I mean, really.

- Oh well. Get 'em next time. We'll just pretend tonight never happened. Just move along. Nothing to see here. 

Second Period:

- Habs with 63% possession.

- How the heck was goaltender interference not called? Kings gifted a third goal by the officials. Just terrible.

- That non-goal zapped all the Habs' hopes and apparently their will to live. Nobody skating back and Toffoli makes it 4-0. Goodnight.

- Roll of shame: Emelin, Subban, Briere, Pacioretty, Eller and Prust all -2 so far.

- Not that it matters but the officiating this 2nd period has been uhhhhh ... bad.

- Can we go home now?

- Jones not nearly as impressive this period. Maybe it's got something to do with only taking one shot.

- Well if you're gonna lose, you might as well go big. Right?

- Oh well. Just one of those nights, when it comes right down to it. Habs will have a day to absorb, reflect, readjust and get back on the horse.

- Catestrophic 2nd period for the Habs - the blown call by the officials giving the Kings a 3-0 lead just killed this game to pieces. Not that it would have made much of a difference for the final result, but this is the big league, and stuff like that can't be missed by so-called professional referees. 

First Period:

- So Gord Miller says the reigning Norris Trophey winning defenseman is "on the bubble" for an Olympic spot. Don't even know where to begin with how dumb that statement is.

- Kings have been nearly unbeatable this year when scoring first. Just sayin.

- Jones killing that penalty. Kings goaltending really has been incredible this season.

- Nolan off a juicy Price rebound, gives Kings that first goal. Nolan was Desharnais' check.

- Hockey Gods evening the score here - Habs dominating play, losing on the scoreboard.

- Markov is the brain of this Habs powerplay. His setups are exceptional.

- Canadiens specialty units look very good, but Martin Jones is the Kings' trumph card. 15 saves so far, 8 shorthanded.

- And another Habs powerplay. They've been the more aggressive team and it's reflective the Kings are getting called. Gotta cash one in, here.

- Habs doing the right thing driving the net, but Jones. Sheesh.

- No way Bouillon should be on any powerplay, and yet ... would perfect even Emelin as the 4th option.

- Kopitor. With 12 seconds left. What a killer goal. Habs in a massively huge hole against a team like L.A.

- Well what can ya do? Habs dominated possession and scoring chances, on pace for 50+ shots, and zero goals. Martin Jones excellent but can he hold it up for 3 periods?

Gameday Game Preview:

Okay, so tonight the mountain is a little bit tougher to climb. That goes without saying since the Habs' most recent victory came at the expense of the Buffalo Sabres, who this year might be the worst team this League has seen in 40 years. Or maybe forever. Yet, even with all that awefulness .. ness ... the Habs only managed to squeak out a 3-2 win, extending the team's winning streak to five games, including just one regulation loss in their past 11. We are the HOTTEST THING IN HOCKEY.

I think?

Just getting past Buffalo, getting outplayed and just getting past Boston, then getting outplayed twice in a row and just getting past New Jersey twice in a row, doesn't enthrall me with lots of confidence that this team is firing on all cylinders. Methinks that the current winning roll is something a mirage that's masking a problematic undercurrent - this team, given its talent, isn't performing as well as it should - or worse, given its lack of talent, is overperforming. 

Oh well. The next month or two will tell the tale. Maybe even this week, since after tonight's clash with the Kings, the Habs will then take on a string of less-than-impressive opponents.

So it's the same old same old. Saturday night the Habs 4th line, which not coincidentally was being centred by Ryan White, was easily the best of the bunch. White, as I have stated ad nauseam on this blog, isn't getting nearly the credit he deserves this season. When White plays, the Habs 4th line becomes an effective forechecking unit, wearing down the opposition's better lines. When White is taken out for the sake of George Parros, this team isn't nearly as effective.

So White had better be in the lineup tonight, because the Kings are no pushover.  Actually, they're a pretty darned good team.

The big story in L.A. this year is netminding - hoo boy have they struck it rich. After signing Johnathan Quick to a long-term deal, the Kings sent Johnathan Bernier to the Leafs in return for Ben Scrivens, whom the Leafs had basically given up on. Actually, the Leafs were so down on Scrivens they actually tossed in prospect forward Matt Frattin AND a second round pick.

Funny thing happened. You see, Quick suffered a groin injury last month, and Scrivens was pressed into duty. Guess what? Since getting the call, Scrivens has played out of his mind - putting up a 1.56 GAA (2nd best in the NHL), and a ridiculous .934 SV% (tops in the League).

Not that the Leafs are complaining - Bernier has performed admirably - but still, poor ol' Leafs. They gave up the best performing goaltender this season in return for another goaltender who's been good, but not nearly as good to warrant Toronto also tossing in a prospect and a pick.

It's a pretty interesting matchup. Scrivens with his terrific save percentage, against the stingy Habs, who like the Kings, have given up an average of just 2 goals per game.

So don't be shocked if tonight's final score is 2-1. The only question is, who'll have 2?

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Game Day Stuff:

- We'll update as long as there's stuff worth mentioning. This is what we have this morning: Frankie Bouillon will be in the lineup tonight, Doug Murray shall sit.

- Kings' lines for tonight:

Line 1: King/Kopitar/Carter
Line 2: Brown/Stoll/Williams
Line 3: Clifford/Richards/Toffoli
Line 4: Carcillo/Fraser/Nolan.

That's all we got. For now.


HAPPY MONDAY. You know (full disclosure), I live in Western Canada and the past week has been ... shall we say ... a tad frigid? So to say right now that I'm looking forward to the time of the year when hockey isn't played would be a slight understatement. Spring CAN'T come fast enough.

Actually, spring is looking pretty good in Habsland, isn't it? The Canadiens are on 108 point clip, which should more than enough to clinch playoff home advantage for a series or two.

Maybe we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, but the Canadiens are easily the hottest team in the NHL, nay a single regulation loss in the past 10 games, putting them in the lofty heights of the Eastern Conference. The roster is healthy, the best players are playing their best hockey, everything is roses and panda bears!

Practice lines this morning - think of them as you will:

Line 1: Galchenyuk/PlekanecGionta
Line 2: Bournival/Eller/Briere
Line 3: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
Line 4: Moen/White/Prust

ALSO, Josh Gorges left practice early in the session today, no word on why he departed so soon. Just when we mentioned the roster is healthy. Blecch.

More laters!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Game Thirty-One: Sabers vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Don Cherry and P.J. Stock's defense of Thornton and blame of Orpik tonight - words cannot express the insanity of their viewpoints. Anyway, on to the third period.

- This might be Ryan White's best game of the season.

- What. Was. That? Subban fumbles the puck at the blue line, and simply opens the gate wide for Girgensons. Just, awful. 3-2.

- I mean, credit to Girgensons for an outstanding effort, but no way that goal should happen.

- Habs have had solid possession edge in the 3rd, but Buffalo the only team who's scored. There you have it.

- Sabres bench right looks confident, energized. Habs bench looks downtrodden, disinterested? Just sayin'.

- Daniel Briere getting George Parros-like icetime tonight. Barely five minutes so far. Just 1 shift in the 3rd period.

- And Subban for holding the stick. Is Therrien fuming yet?

- Ryan White rewarded with PK time. That kind of time is an indication that Therrien is appreciating his effort.

- Markov hurting. Didn't see the play.

- Gionta simply had to get it on net to score off that 3-on-1. Missed by seven feet.

- Fenwick (closed) and Corsi are both now exactly at 50

- Saw Markov's tumble to the ice, with his left leg bent backward as he fell on it. Not good. But he's back on for another shift.

- You know, these "hold on for dear life the last five minutes of the 3rd" strategy is going to eventually burn the Habs, right?

- Markov having a lot of difficulty out there. Methinks Therrien will just sit him for the night.

- Sarbes buzzing. They want this one. Habs clinging.

- Full credit to Enroth for keeping his team in this game, made some key, tough saves in the 3rd.

- Markov out there for final 30 seconds.

- Habs barely beat the worst team in the League. Not exactly impressed, but like the two victories over New Jersey, we'll take it.

Second Period:

- Just saw some of the footage from Boston's game tonight against Pittsburgh. What a freakin' disgrace. Shawn Thornton is looking at some big-time unpaid vacation.

- Anyway, back to the game - Habs best playing line, their 4th, strike as White with a nice feed to Prust, Sabres D seemingly forgot to leave the dressing room. 1-0.

- Here's the disgraceful Thornton totally losing his mind. Orpik knocked cold before Thornton got down on he knees and started pummeling his face. Just awful.

- Back to the game - Habs taking it to Buffalo early in the period, I'm thinking the troops were read a little bit of the riot act during the first intermission.

- Sabres with 55% Fenwick (closed) through the first 20. That's gonna change a fair amount if this 2nd period continues as is.

- Habs outshooting Sabres 6-2 so far in the period. But Sabres are pushing back a bit here.

- Superb toe save by Price on a wicked backhand by Weber. But Habs can't clear the zone, and Ennis buries a loose puck. Yet another weak defensive shift by Subban/Markov.

- Therrien looks to reclaim some momentum, and sends the White line back out. Go with your best playing trio tonight - who could argue?

- Pacioretty had higher percentage chance with a shot on a 2-on-1 break, chose instead to feed it to the struggling Gallagher.

- Habs powerplay of late has shown signs of having a power shortage. Tonight's first not exactly encouraging.

- Gotta figure, what with Price in net and the Sabres being the opposition, that 3 goals wins this game for the Habs.

- Sabres have actually extended their possession edge in the 2nd.

- No question, the White line as been the most dangerous for the Habs tonight. They gain the zone, and Plekanec, off the bench, fires one off the post. Assists Prust and Moen.

- Sabres have apparently given up the goat. Galchenyuk. Extra, extra pretty assist by Markov. 3-1.

- 2nd period possession almost exactly the same as the 1st (55% closed for Buffalo), but the Sabres with too many of zone breakdowns you seen from awful teams, and the Habs simply buried the puck. One more goal and the Habs can safely entertain a cruise to the finish line.

First Period:

- We'll hand it to Buffalo, they've come out with some decent forechecking, applied zone pressure, Habs more or less in a sleepwalk first 6 minutes.

- Murry having trouble handling Sabres forecheck, results in juicy turnover in front of Price. So not impressed by Canadiens' early effort.

- Halfway through the first, we have 4 total shots on goal. It's a barnburner.

- For being so young, Bournival sure displays an awfully high hockey IQ.

- I was almost jolted awake as the Habs finally muster something resembling pressure in the Sabres' zone.

- This isn't a particularly close checking game, it's just that both teams' offense has been totally inept.

- We need a penalty, powerplay, something ... to get this game moving in some kind of direction.

- Words cannot describe how boring that period was. So I won't bother. 9 shots on goal total, 5 for Buffalo.


Gameday Game Preview:


It's hard to believe. Exactly one week ago today, the Habs stood in the standings with 31 points, 4th place in their Division, 7 points behind the first place Boston Bruins.

Seven. Short. Days. Ago.

What a difference a week makes. Tonight, the Habs will be looking to move to 41 points in the standings, and perhaps, just possibly - 3 points ahead of the Bruins for first place - Boston has their hands full tonight as they're taking on the Penguins.

Look, there's no reason why the Habs should lose tonight. Montreal is the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, loser of just one game in their past 11, going up against what might be the worst team in modern NHL history, the Buffalo Sabres. The poor ol' Sabres, with just 6 wins in 29 games, are on pace for a 40 point season, which ranks up with some of the worst records in League history.

The Sabres are either near or next to last place in every major offensive category. So that's all you need to know. They're terrible. Terrible, terribad, terrible.

So the Habs should have next to no trouble tonight - the only possible way I could envision them somehow blowing these incredibly easy two points is if they take their opposition too lightly, and attempt cash in their chips by taking a stroll through the park.

Doug Murray gets the start tonight, Frankie Bouillon sits. Carey Price for Montreal, and for whatever reason, Buffalo backup Jhonas Enroth gets the call.

Oh yeah. and John Scott can bite my ass.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Game Thirty: Bruins vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Bruins come out hard to start the 3rd. Habs hemmed in their own zone.

- Diaz with a shot on net, that actually was a shot on net.

- Reports now that Boychuck sustained a lower back injury, but he's moving. So he should be okay.

- Even though he scored a big goal Monday, Galchenyuk still in a funk ... for the first time since getting to the bigs, he looks like he's struggling to maintain his confidence.

- Outstanding, perhaps goal-saving block by Emelin on Lucic slot shot.

- Bruins buzzing, coming really close now. Sensing a tie.

- Shots are 10-1 Boston through first 9 minutes of the 3rd. Habs have to stop the bleed, and fast.

- Boston forecheck too much for Habs to handle. It's creating numerous offensive zone opportunities for the Bruins - Price will have to dig very, very deep to keep this game in control. 

- Whatever legs Habs had in the 2nd are gone. This team is limping towards the finish line, seemingly exhausted.

- Short shifts. 30 seconds. Sprints to the finish. I dunno what else can be done to save this game.

- Two least played Habs, Parros and Briere, also happen to be the two weakest players, defensively. What can ya do?

- 5 minutes left. 5 agonizingly long 5 minutes left. Bruins with 15 shots in the 3rd.

- Price doing everything and more.

- Great energy shift by the Desharnais line there.

- 90 long seconds left.

- Bad decision by Subban who overplays the puck and draws an icing. 38 seconds left. Faceoff deep next to Price. Hold on, folks.

- That was NOT an icing. Good grief.

- Subban single handedly killed the clock hugging the puck behind his net.

- Carey freakin' Price. First place. That is all.

Second Period:

- Bruins had shade under 80% Fenwick (closed) in the first. That's really, really bad from the Habs perspective. They really were taken to the shed.

- In the span of 48 hours the Habs powerplay has entered an abyss. Rask virtually untested so far.

- Iginla sprung free, Markov blowing his coverage. Again. Methinks Andre's legs and mind are too weary.

- Eller levels Campbell. If we can't beat em, might as well hit em.

- Boychuk in the hospital. Reportedly his arms and legs are moving.

- Eller line actually generated actual offensive pressure in the actual Bruins zone. No, really.

- Plekanec! From nearly behind the nearly behind the net, finds a way. Tie game.

- Right in front of the official, Hamilton boards Prust, who luckily is not injured, but could very easily have been. Tim Peel, one of the League's worst, didn't make the obvious call.

- Funny this game. Since that Eller shift, Habs have suddenly discovered they have legs. Are actually using them.

- Habs powerplay suddenly waking up as well, Bruins continue to be very aggressive with puck pursuit.

- Massive defensive breakdown by reeling Bruins defense creates loose pucks a plenty, Pacioretty cashing in, and the Habs, who have dominated the final 2/3rds of the period, take the lead.

- Weird, weird game. Two periods, each total opposites of each other. Boston dominated the first, looked to be cruising to an easy win 6 minutes into the 2nd, and then the wheels fell off. Habs totally controlling the play from that point out, outshooting Boston 14-3, and taking the lead 2-1. Claude Julien won't be pleased - the Bruins can't possibly use exhaustion for an excuse. 

First Period:

- Very physical start to the game, as expected. Habs delivering the bulk of the blows, unexpected.

- Pacioretty with a board on Boychuk who's appears to have sustained a significant injury. Not a dirty hit, but still might get a League review. The loss of Boychuk will create some defensive problems for Boston, especially since it's so early in the game.

- Full medical staff looking at Boychuk. Being taken off on a stretcher. 

- Watching reply it wasn't a check from directly behind, it appears that Boychuk lost his footing just before going into the boards. Don't think it's a suspendable infraction.

- Habs PK looking good as usual, even though Smith missed an open net off the rebound.

- Marginal tripping call on Desharnais. Brooons back to the PP, which like the Habs', didn't look too hot first time out.

- Boston sloppy, sloppy puck control so far.

- Habs outdrawing Boston so far by a factor of 2 to 1, but Bruins outshooting Habs by a factor of 3 to 1.

- Habs haven't a lot this period, but now get a second powerplay. Would like to see some sustained pressure, at the very least.

- Bruins with extremely aggressive puck pursuit on the PK, works great if the other guys can't gain consistent puck control, but is still a high risk strategy.

- Lucic with a pretty and perfect feed to Campbell in full stride, Price with no chance. Play happened as a result of Markov with a bad pass in the neutral zone. Bruins have been nearly unbeatable this season when they score the first goal. 

- It wasn't a route, but the Bruins slowly took over the period as it progressed. Habs legs might not have enough in the tank to compete tonight. All first period signals point towards a fairly routine Bruins win tonight.

Gameday Game Preview:

Alright, it's the game that we've had circled for weeks. You just knew this game was gonna be worth the wait - and lo and behold, it's a showdown for first place.

Logic would reckon that the Habs have a few factors working against them tonight. First, they've just come off two consecutive wins where they were either matched or badly outplayed by a supposedly inferior opponent (specifically, sub 50 percentile possession numbers). Secondly, its the last half of  back-to-back games. Thirdly, their hated opponent, the Boston Bruins, haven't played in five days - so you just know they're bursting with energy.

And yet ... logic seems to be taking a backseat to intangibles, which have worked greatly to the Habs advantage this week. Timely scoring, outstanding netminding, fortunate bounces, missed penalties (specifically Subban's trip on Elias last night which allowed the Desharnais tying goal to happen). For whatever reason, the hockey gods are smiling down on the Canadiens. At least this week.

But the stats are daunting. The Bruins have posted superior numbers in key categories. Overall offense, defense, fenwick and corsi percentages - really the only area where the Habs have better numbers are specialty units.

The Bruins feature strong goaltending - Tuukka Rask has had another solid campaign so far - not Carey Price good, but still enough to be on the first page for many leading netminding stats. As usual, the Bruins feature three reasonably balcned lines, with no one player dominating the scoresheet - David Krejci leads the team with 21 points, decent but by no means anywhere close to the elite league point getters. Meanwhile the Bruins' star off season free agent signing, Jarome Iginla, has been an occasional contributor, but he's nowhere close to the player he once was - he certainly doesn't seem to be aging nearly as well as the recently departed Jaromir Jagr.

On the Habs page, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais still have the hottest hands, although it appears that the recently goal slumping Lars Eller seems to be turning the page a bit - he's due for a big night sooner rather than later.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Habs lineup tonight:

1. Brière/Pleks/Gionta
2. Patches/Desharnais/Gallagher
3. Galchenyuk/Eller/Prust
4. Moen/Bournival/Parros



Price, duh.

More gameday preview stuff in a bit.


P.K. Subban Watch

Pierre Houde said in Montreal radio this morning that P.K. Subban is "close" to signing a long-term contract with the team in the neighborhood of 8M per for 6-7 seasons.

Given what the Rangers were dishing out yesterday for a goaltender that hasn't won anything important, 8M seems fair and reasonable to me.


 The Day After the Night Before

Well, it's everything we could have possibly hoped it would be. A showdown for first place in the Division, two rivals who hate each others guts fully and completely. It'll be fun, fun, fun!!

Still, if you're a Habs fan, even with the team at a lofty 17 wins, the last two games haven't been particularly encouraging. A stolen game on Monday night, and then a crazy victory last night that was also not particularly deserved, and you're looking at a team, although fully healthy, is probably playing over their heads right now.

I'm a nervous fan. I haven't liked what I've seen this week - and I most certainly don't like what lays ahead.

More today.