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.

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