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!

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