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.

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