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.

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