Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Game Twenty: Habs vs. Leafs

First Period:

- Really like the uptempo start by the Habs, taking a much different tact than the game they lost 6-0.

- Outshooting your opponent by a ratio of 4 to 1, hurts to be down 1-0. Subban the defensive error reacting the wrong direction, allowing Mclaren free path to the net and a fluky backhander that somehow eludes Price. 1-0.

- Always sweet to have your 4th line produce. Emelin first of the year off a Leafs leg in front. Game quickly tied, important to maintain pace if you're the better playing team.

- Kaberle, I must admit, has brought his A game tonight. Impressively sturdy and physical so far.

- Brown with a terrible blind hit on Gorges who went into the corner awkwardly. Case could be made that Brown should be given 5.

- It is, indeed, a 5 minute major and game for Brown.

- Habs clearly the better team, dominated puck possession, outshot Leafs 10-4. Take that every time.

- Pacioretty might not be able to hit empty nets, but a fluky bounce will do nicely, thank you. Habs take 2-1 lead.

Second Period:

- The Toronto scribes are up in arms over the Brown call. Not a surprise there. Mike Milbury called it a clean check, which automatically tells you the Brown hit is suspension-worthy.

- Huge PP opportunity here. Be sweet to score at least one from this.

- Puck was rolling a bit, but still, Pacioretty's gotta bury that into the empty net.

- Such a huge drop-off when Bouillon and Kaberle work the PP line.

- Prust has to be smarter than that on the PP. Drawing a fight isn't worth it.

- 5 minute major added, Habs really running up the shot clock.

- Shots 9-0 Habs at the 7 minute mark of the period.

- I'd wager 8 of the 10 minutes of this period, the puck has been in the Leafs' zone. It really has been that one-sided in favour of the Canadiens.

- 25 to 5 the shots on goal. Habs should be running away on the scoreboard. But they aren't burying.

- Grabovsky isn't a speedster, but Emelin looked like molasses. Grabovsky draws a penalty shot.

- Pathetic attempt by Grabovsky. Score remains 2-1.

- McCarthur off the rebound seconds after Leafs carried the puck in blown offside call. Leafs taking advantage of their opportunities. 2-2.

- Emelin rings one off the inside of the goalpost. Karma not going Habs way.

- Habs have simply dominated 36 of the 40 minutes played do far. But the score is tied. This game might be headed with the same fate as Monday's game in Ottawa. Canadiens simply not burying enough chances, Price not his stellar usual self.

Third Period:

- Much more evenly played period, both teams with cautious offensive jabs, but defenses being very protective of their slots. Almost as though each is waiting for the other to make the first big mistake.

- Ryder with a pretty quiet first night, to be expected given he's playing with new teammates and an entirely different system.

- Right off a sloppily dropped faceoff, Gorges with a harmless wrist shot tipped by Gallagher. Habs lead 3-2.

- Habs just barely surviving post-goal letdown here.

- Leafs continue to spout venom from the bench over how that faceoff was dropped. Like they're gonna actually take the goal off the board, guys?

- Btw the poorly dropped puck made by the same official who blew an offside call on Toronto's tying goal in the 2nd period. So it all evens out.

- Toronto scribes STILL fretting over the the Bozak faceoff drop. Sharpening up the excuses for a loss, I suppose.

- BEAUTIFUL forecheck and an even more brilliant shot by Pacioretty. One of the best goal shots I've seen anywhere this season. Habs have insurance.

- Habs in lock-down mode. Doing nice job so far clearing the zone.

- Scrivens needs to wait until the puck crosses centre red line before leaving his net. Gionta with icing on the cake.

- Scribes are now silent. Habs took the Leafs out to the shed tonight.

- Nine wins for the month of February, tonight a brilliant performance to cap an outstanding month for the Canadiens. This team just keeps impressing more and more with each start, one starts to wonder when the sky is the limit.

Pregame Preview:

I know we're a little late to the trade party, but the big news out of Habsland yesterday was the deal between the Canadiens and Stars, with Erik Cole headed to the Big D, and Michael Ryder coming back for another stint with the team that originally drafted him.

A disclaimer. First, I really, really approved of the original Cole singing. He's a tremendous puck controlling winger with feast or famine offensive output. Unfortunately, it's been more famine that feast for Cole this season, and with two years left on a fairly large sized contract, I can fully understand the rationale in Bergevin's mind. Let's cut some salary, and if Ryder really continues to produce well, maybe offer him a nice little deal at season's end. Even if Ryder goes elsewhere, the Habs are still looking at about 16+m left floating on their cap space, which is ENORMOUS.  So there's lot of flexibility heading into the offseason. 

Tonight, Ryder's in uniform as the Habs will try to FINALLY beat the Leafs, whom as we all remember, and can't forget as hard as we try, pretty much handed the Habs their butt on a plate the last time the two met two weeks ago. Ryder will play along side Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. Hopefullly Ryder will continue his +1 PPG pace.

We have injury problems creeping up, though. Rene Bourque apparentlyuky didn't have the flu, but was suffering from concussion symptoms. So he's a scratch for who hurt knows how long. And late this afternoon there's news that Raphael Diaz will sit out tonight because of, you guessed it, concussion symptoms. Yikes.

So in Diaz' place, Tomas Kaberle will get his first start since February 2nd. Double yikes.

Carey Price will start for the Habs, Ben Scrivens for the Leafs.


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Game Ninteen: Habs vs. Senators

First Period:

- Plekanec line picking up where it left off Saturday night. That's good news for Habs fans.

- Both teams with pretty sold zone coverage, shots on goal so far have been fairly routine.

- Pacioretty with a monster forecheck and wicked wrister that beats Bishop but not the goalpost. Habs must continue this strategy, the Sens defense sans Karlsson is not nearly as dynamic, and Bishop can't stop them all.

- Habs clearly outmuscling the Sens for the loose puck, aggressive hard work simply has to pay off eventually.

- Last half of the first all Habs, Sens have just one shot since 8 minute mark, Ottawa fans, what few are in attendance, now growing restless.

- Since the 8 minute mark, Habs outshot Ottawa 8-2. Except for not scoring, Habs must be pleased with how the period went. Sens, with all those injuries, look significantly overmatched.

Second Period:

- Habs were 11/16 in the faceoff circle in the first, Lars Eller 5/6. It's those numbers which will give Therrien little choice but to play Eller more each night.

- Another dominative shift by Plekanec line, Bishop excellent keeping game scoreless.

- Fine collective defensive effort by the Habs. When Ottawa is able to escape their zone, Canadiens' forwards hustling back to intercept any rushes. Ottawa with few places to go.

- Makes sense in a game this physically tame that the first penalty of the night would be for too many men.

- Habs PP looked like it was taking a page out of the Rangers' book, in that it went totally nowhere.

- Really hurts to dominate a game, and have the other team score first on a softie. Carey Price just let one of those in.

- Sens fans must be saying "Craig Anderson who?" Bishop having a tremendous game. Time to start crashing, boys.

- Bishop love tapped by Gallagher outside the crease. Went down as though he was shot. I guess the officials aren't willing to assess dives on goaltenders.

- Whatever is beating Bishop is hitting the goalpost. Got the feeling it's gonna be one of those kind of nights.

- Bishop is playing out of his mind. Impressive and simultaneously frustrating to watch.

- Now it's Diaz' turn. Clang! Crazy the number of goalposts hit by Habs tonight. Plekanec line collectively shaking their heads on the bench tonight.

- Chris Neil takes some of the stupidest penalties amongst active NHL knuckleheads. Nabbed giving Moen silly punch to the back of his head.

- Seems only fitting that Neil's moronic roughing leads to Markov's 5th of the season (all on the powerplay). With 3 seconds left in the frame, massively important goal for the Habs.

Third Period:

- Habs the aggressors so far in the 3rd, really forechecking hard in Ottawa zone. It's helping them generate significant pressure.

- Price overrun in his own crease by Chris Neil. The application of goaltending interference is a crapshoot. There's no consistency other than its inconsistently assessed by some NHL officials, ignored by others.

- He's a tremendous defenseman and player, but Andrei Markov has more than lost a step since he injuries. Struggles intensely to adjust to any puck carriers with above average speed.

- I still haven't quite figured out how the Sens seem to defy gravity and keep winning. It's got to be goaltending, specifically great goaltending. No other reasonable or ready explanation.

- Cant say this game was a snoozer. Pace and transitions have been very fast. With 5 minutes left, it's totally up for grabs, Habs seemingly with more legs right now.

- Note to NHL linesmen: drop the friggin' puck already.

- Wow. Methot with marginal interference hit on Cole with less than 2 minutes left. Stunning call.

- And now Subban called for a (deserved) trip which is very significant because it should give the Sens a minute of a 4-on-3 powerplay in overtime.

- Habs the much better team tonight, a season high 40 shots on goal, not counting the four that hit posts, but Bishop was excellent. Ottawa in good position to steal an extra point.


- Here comes the Sens 4-on-3. Ut oh.

- Holy moly, Habs gifted with silly hook on Diaz by Turris.

- Bishop career high 42 saves tonight. There ya go.

- Price again beaten from 50 feet. But the crossbar saves his hide.

- Bizarre game. Bishop having the game of his life. Price a little shaky at times. You know what this means for the shootout, right?


- Oy. Price on Silfverberg.

- Galchenyuk, nope.

- Alfredsson turned aside.

- Desharnais, yes!

- Turris, turned aside. And Gallagher to win this.

- So close.

- Price with a circus save there on Daugavins.

- Oh, Gionta. Ouch. Good luck on the next shootout, assuming you're ever used again.

- I do believe Price was just turned inside out by Regin. Plekanec misses, and Sens steal the extra point. Exceptional performance by Bishop. One of those nights.

Gameday Preview:

Alright, let's not mess around. There's no way the Senators should win tonight. No way. Here's a team totally and completely battered and bruised. Here's a team without their best forward in Jason Spezza. Here's a team without their best defenseman in Erik Karlsson. Here's a team without their number one starter in Craig Anderson. And yet, astonishingly, here's a team that's won their past four in a row.

It's crazy. How are these guys doing it?

Well, for starters, they're getting production from unexpected places. The Sens 2nd line - Zibanejad/Greening/Condra have been scoring - a lot. They dominated the Leafs on Saturday night, propelling Ottawa to a dramatic late game win over Toronto. They're also, like the Habs this season, a very, very good home. Just one regulation loss in 11 games.

So somehow, someway, even with all the catastrophic injuries, the Senators are finding ways of winning. I just hate playing teams like this.

The Habs, meanwhile, keep rolling along. Another win over the Rangers on Saturday, propelled by a great performance by the Plekanec line, who were greatly assisted by the dominating presence of Brandon Prust, who's making a pretty good case for being the best free agent signing of 2012. That line will reformate again tonight, you can't blame Therrien for sticking with whatever is working.

The Canadiens' defense continues to shine brightly. The Habs come into tonight having surrendered an average of 26.0 SPG, 3rd best in the League. The Habs have been downright brilliant in clearing the zone, and when shots are getting through, Carey Price, who's having a Vezina season, is getting a clear view, more often than not. Add it all up, and the Canadiens' are allowing  measly 2.11 GPG, 4th best in the NHL.

And yeah. You win in the playoffs with defense, you win championships with defense, and as the Habs seem to be resoundingly proving this season, you win regular season games with defense.

With Anderson out, Ben Bishop gets the start for Ottawa, while Carey Price starts for Montreal. Puck drops at 7:40 EST. ENJOY THE GAME!

Sunday Update:

Okay ... so let's review. For this, you don't get a penalty. Zip. Nada. Nothing.

For this, you get a League hearing, and a probable suspension:

Anything wrong with this picture?

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Game Eighteen: Rangers vs. Habs

First Period:

- So Prust and Gallagher are in, Bourque is out with the flu, otherwise White would have been odd-man out.

- Beautiful pass by Gallagher right on Desharnais' tape for the break. I think Halpern coming back knocked the puck away from going into the net.

- Del Zotto's scratch tonight gives Habs a bit more opportunity to crash the net. Watch for that as game progresses.

- Ryan White, soft hands you have not.

- Boullion with an excellent blind backhand clearance right up the middle. Please stop.

- Habs forwards doing a good job bottling up the neutral zone, Rangers having a tough time organizing much of an effective transition.

- Not sure if its a bad case of snakebite, but Cole needs to start producing from these opportunities.

- Prust on the Plekanec line has definitely provided an aggressive punch. Creating quality chances on Biron.

- Just 2 shots on the clock for Habs with 4 minutes left. That can't be right, can it?

- Game has a more energized pace compared to the Tuesday night snoozer in New York, but not by much. Both teams do excellent man-to-man defensive coverage, nobody buckling yet. Garbage goals will likely decide this one.

- Best bodycheck of the game thrown by referee Brad Miere. Awesome.

- There's the Plekanec line again, giving the Rangers headaches. Habs to the PP.

- First Period summary: Glad I'm not a paying customer tonight. Zzzzz.

- The RDS guys just flashed a graphic - Biron has 3rd most wins among active NHL goaltenders.

Second Period:

- I don't want to look too far ahead, but if there are two teams that I do not want to see face each other in the playoffs, it's these two.

- Erik Cole. There we go, flippin' finally he scores. Courtesy massive Rangers defensive lapse. Torts is furious. 1-0.

- Pacioretty took blindside hit right in front of his bench. In considerable pain.

- Mcdonagh hit Pacioretty and then a shift later delivered a high stick to Prust's face, neither called.

- Correction, Mcdonagh elbowed Prust. Was still a very obvious penalty not called.

- Pacioretty kindly provides Mcdonagh a taste of his own medicine, and is assessed a boarding penalty. Resisting snarky officiating comment here.

- Mcdonagh gone to the dressing room. I think a couple of his teeth are still somewhere on the ice.

- Rangers powerplay looks terrible. They gotta somehow get that fixed. By the way, it was also broken when Nash was in the lineup.

- No love loss between these two. Hits are brutal out there. Hope there aren't too many injuries after this one is finished.

- Biron goes wandering and gets caught. Plekanec left with a totally wide open net from 25 feet. Fires a shot seven feet wide and high. Maybe he thought it was a soccer net?

- Love icings? Habs and Rangers are here to satisfy your cravings.

- Don't know if that will count but that was a beautiful goal by Galchenyuk.

- If Eller swiped that in with a high stick it was completely unnecessary. The puck was already well on its way to going in.

- Ruled a good goal. Eller might be breathing a sigh of relief. Therrien doesn't like stupid and/or selfish plays. He might have been benched for the violation.

- Prust is a body crashing monster out there, but his odd man rush executions are ummm ... not so great.

- My mind is boggled by the thought of how good Galchenyuk will be once he gets better.

- Habs demonstrate how not to execute a 3-on-1 break.

- Markov not nearly as dangerous or commanding on the man advantage as he was the start of the year. It's a mystery.

- Don't wanna hex this, but given how this Rangers offense is playing right now, I can't see how they could possibly come back down 3-0.

- All Habs in the 2nd. Rangers look like a non-playoff team tonight. Cruise mode should easily bring this one home.

Third Period:

- Mcdonagh hasn't come back since the Paciiretty hit. His head was crunched against the unforgiving Bell Centre boards, so start making your own assumptions.

- Okay, the Rangers absolutely have to score on this powerplay. Zero shots their last one.

- Eller shorthanded rush. More reason why the Habs organization would be crazy to give up on him.

- I didn't think it possible, but that Rangers man advantage was worse than its last one.

- I know NHL players make a ton of money but I'll being going to bed tonight glad I'm not on the Rangers' roster. I'd hate to think what drills Torts will put them through in response to tonight's dreadful performance.

- Habs get a nice little test Monday in Ottawa against the banged up Sens. At least tonight's win keeps first place in tact.

Game Preview:

Okay, so blowing a game against the overmatched Islanders wasn't very much fun, but this stuff happens. The Habs either wouldn't or couldn't keep pace with the Islanders' , and much like we endured numerous times last season, the Canadiens faded the final 20 minutes, and let reasonably comfortable leads turn into defeats. While the bottom line totals are very impressive, 11 wins in 17 games, the loss to New York, and a previous loss two weeks ago to Buffalo where a 3-goal 3rd period lead was blow (not to mention the blow 3 goal lead to Tampa 10 days ago) must remain an ongoing concern.

Anyway this still doesn't take away from a pretty impressive string of victories, most recently against the Rangers in Manhattan. Tonight, the Habs have a few banged up bodies which may or may not play. Brendan Gallagher is almost certain to return tonight, although there are questions surrounding the health of Brendon Prust, who is an "upper body" injury is gametime decision, according to coach Therrien.

As per the previous game, the Rangers' powerplay is a mess - so like Tuesday night, if they can finally start producing with the man advantage, their chances of winning will improve dramatically. That said, New York will once again be without the services of Rick Nash, who will miss his third straight start. The Bell Centre hasn't also been a very friendly place for the blue shirts, 6 losses the past 6 games in Montreal, in three of those games, New York was shut out.

Martin Biron, who's played will in the past, will start for the Rangers, and as usual, Carey Price will start for the Habs.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Game Seventeen: Islanders vs. Habs

First Period

- Excellent start, Islanders caught off guard by aggressive forechecking by Habs 4th line, Moen with a nice snapper off the post. 1-0.

- Habs really taking it to the Islanders, transition game looking sharp as a tack. New York struggling to react and adapt.

- Subban, Desharnais, Pacioretty. Tic. Tac. Toe. As pretty as they come, Habs lead 2-0. Islanders reacting in slow motion. This game could spin out of control quickly.

- Pacioretty's PP goal first team man advantage score in five games. Yeah, it's been bad lately.

- All Habs first. 14-3 were the shots on goal. Canadiens continue to impress defensively.

Second Period

- There's that Islanders powerplay, Streit the point shot, Moulson with a pretty tip. New York back in it.

- Islanders transition game miles better this period. Looking dangerous.

- Prust trying to score gets hauled down, really should have been a tripping call. NHL officials seemingly will never call anyone who hauls Prust to the ice.

- Pacioretty is all cylinders right now - like all excellent goal scorers, his positioning has been perfect. Receive the pass, fire it home. 3-1 Habs.

- Joe Finley boards Eller, Prust drops the gloves in response. Finley is 6'8"' 250 pounds. That's why they love Prust in Montreal. Fearless, borderline insane.

- Montreal stopped moving their legs, Desharnais called, and a good test here for Habs PK, Islanders chance to get back in this.

- Habs fail the test. Moulson again, left untouched in the slot, no chance for Price. Islanders man advantage very impressive. 3-2.

- Habs with mental letdowns, Islanders able to draw penalties and convert. Habs have to be very careful and disciplined in the 3rd, or this one could slip away.

- Habs seem to have rediscovered some momentum.

Third Period

- After going nearly 70% in the faceoff circle on Tuesday night, Lars Eller just 20% tonight. Their line not nearly as dangerous as they were against the Rangers.

- Tavares line comes out storming to start the period. Islanders revving, Habs totally flat footed.

- Ryan White pushed in Nabokov, gets called for interference. Killer Islanders powerplay goes to work.

- Plekanec with a lazy and terrible hook in the neutral zone. Left the ice shaking his head. I suspect at himself.

- Taking a page out of the previous game playbook, Habs icing every opportunity. Attempting to slow the pace of the game.

- Another icing. Islanders totally outskating and outhustling in the 3rd. Habs have to find a way of turning the tide very quickly, or this game will soon be tied.

- Surely by now the Canadiens lead the League in icings. Surely.

- Bourque doesn't hustle back to check his man, and as we saw it coming, Islanders' Nielson ties it up. Be tempted to call for time because right now the Habs are skating in quicksand.

- Solid shift for the Eller line, trying to inject some momentum and energy into a pretty sluggish Canadiens roster.

- Pacioretty won't get an easier chance for a hat trick than that.


- Islanders don't score that winning goal if Taveres doesn't make an unbelievable pass while flat on his stomach. Islanders fully deserved victory. Winning streak over.

Gameday Preview:

Let's make it short and sweet. The Habs are gunning for their 6th straight. They've got Carey Price in net, whom, if the vote were held today, would be the Vezina winner.

But right now, that doesn't matter. What matters is that the Habs just keep winning, and keep padding their lead in the Conference/Division. They'll have to handle the Isles John Tavares, who's averaging 1.25 ppg. The Islanders also come in with a pretty decent powerplay, 7th in the League. So they can be dangerous.

On the other hand, they can also be horrible, as witness to the 7-0 shellacking they took at the hands of the Flyers a few days ago.

Habs meanwhile, have some powerplay concerns - it's been pretty wretched the past two weeks or so, even with the team's terrific winning run of late. So keep an eye on any progress for that unit.

Brandan Gallagher continues to rest from his recent concussion, coach Therrien has hinted he might return Saturday night against the Rangers. Meanwhile, as per last game, it's the same lineup for the Canadiens. Keep an eye on the Eller/Galchenyuk/Prust line, they might get some powerplay time tonight as a reward for their excellent performance Tuesday against the Rangers.

Puck drop is at 7:40 EST. ENJOY THE GAME!

Gameday Updates:

Happy Thursday! It's gameday in Habsland. The Canadiens are hoping to maintain (still pinching myself) first place in the Eastern Conference with a win tonight against the Islanders, which would be their 6th in a row. Sweet.

Meanwhile, last night in hockeyland:

- Flyers edged the Pens in one of the wildest games played since these two met last spring in the playoffs. While I'm perfectly fine with Philadelphia never making the playoffs again for eternity, I'd be willing to watch these two teams duke it out in a 7 game set in April.

- In another titanic offensive showdown, the Avs beat the Blues 1-0 ... in OT. Yawn.

- Watch out for those Kings. They won another one last night on their western Canadian road trip, 3-1 over the Flames. You don't fluke Stanley Cup championships, I suppose.


First Place in the Eastern Conference.

Doesn't that feel good? Go on, say it aloud. First. Place. In. The. Eastern. Conference.

Now, let's hope it lasts.

Sweet, sweet victory last night in one one of the most forgettable games I've ever seen. What was the score, anyway? Doesn't matter. A win, however boring, is still a win.

Some odds and ends around the League from last night's action:

- So what the heck is going on with the Edmonton Oilers? Weren't they supposed to be routing the League with their studly soon-to-be-superstart countless top-ranked first-round forwards? The Oil lost another one, their offense only managing to score one piddly goal.

Mewonders at what point Edmonton's bench boss Ralph Krueger needs to start looking over his shoulder?

- The San Jose Sharks WON ... finally, breaking a seven game winless streak beating the Blues 2-1. Now I'm all embarrassed for poking fun at the Sharks organization for signing and playing Scott Gomez, and for losing every single game with Gomez in the lineup. Well that streak is over, thank goodness.

What's that? Gomez wasn't in the lineup last night? Ooops.

- Leafs lost in Tampa, as Ben Scrivens' defiance of gravity came to an abrupt end. Oh well.

- Sabres looked horrid losing to the equally horrid Jets at home. Whispers mounting over Lindy Ruff's near-term future. UPDATE: Ruff has been fired. Who'll snap him up?

- Hawks set an NHL record, 16 games to start the season without a regulation loss. When will Chicago lose? 4-3 last night in a shootout against Vancouver. Unlike the Habs/Rangers contest, this one was a very entertaining game.

- I'm going to stick my neck out and predict for the first time in about 459 years, the Red Wings won't be in the playoffs. Nonetheless, one must take great delight from this absurdly wonderful goal by the great Pavel Datsyuk, which I think we can safely say, will probably end up the goal of the year. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Game Sixteen: Habs vs. Rangers

First Period:

- Habs keeping it very basic early on - being very cautious mindful of the Rangers' offensive advantages. Clearing zone as quickly as possible, not being afraid to ice the puck if nobody is open.

- Really solid shift for Desharnais line, aggressive forechecking creating turnovers in Rangers zone. NY on their heels there.

- Halfway through the 1st, one shot registered by the Rangers. Zip for Habs. Ouch.

- Rangers have nearly twice as many wins as they do powerplay goals. That ain't good.

- If Price sees it, it's going to be stopped. Also, zero rebounds surrendered.

- Habs are seriously in danger of not getting a shot in this period.

- There it is. Habs register their first shot of the game with less than 4 minutes left in the 1st.

- Rangers zone defense is ridiculously disciplined. They suffocate the opposition from setting up for any quality chances. Simply no where to go, no where to pass.

- Habs 4th line has been the most dangerous tonight, grinding out chances. Really, that's the only way the Habs will score tonight - dirty, hard-fought goals.

- 8 total shots in the period, 5 of them by New York. This game isn't much fun to watch, unless you enjoy defensive clinics.

Second Period:

- Big pressure by Desharnais line, Lundqvist quality saves, no juicy rebounds.

- Elite goaltender vs. elite goaltender. Who'll blink first?

- Definitely more free-reeling period compared to the first. Surely a goal is coming soon ...

- Habs can crash Lundvqist all night long, but Rangers blue liners aren't surrendering the slot for any shots or passes. It's an impenetrable shield surrounding that New York net.

- Credit other direction, has anyone yet noted Habs have only surrendered one goal the past 11 periods?

- Nevermind that last point. Subban delayed penalty call, everyone just seemed to disengage and coast, leaving Stralman alone for a routine tip-in past Price. Bad, bad goal. Rangers lead 1-0.

- 8 shots in just under 40 minutes isn't gonna do the job.

- Nevermind that last point as well. Pacioretty one timer from Gorges, Lundqvist knocking himself for letting that past. Tie game. Rangers defense rare surrender of the slot gives Patches the room he needed to pull the trigger.

- Once again Habs find themselves even on the scoreboard after two periods. The team has thrived this season under such a scenario - can they pull out yet another late game win?

Third Period:

- Terrific defensive block by Eller, and the Rangers, so stellar throughout the night, leave Lundqvist out to dry on the ensuing Habs rush. Galchenyuk scores to give the Habs the lead. This hard working line, Eller/Galchenyuk/Prust richly rewarded.

- Therrien throws Eller line right back out there, and Prust nearly makes it a two goal lead.

- Sloppy point giveaway but excellent recovery by Emelin, who's been a rock on the Habs blue line tonight.

- Aside from that atrocious first goal, Habs forwards hustling back hard on every New York rush.

- Markov can't handle the contact behind his net, coughs up the puck and the Rangers nearly score about a half second later. It happens that fast in the NHL.

- Habs three icings in less than 30 seconds. Eller line is exhausted.

- Officials confer and realize icing was incorrectly called. TV timeout arrives. Habs forwards can catch their breath.

- Subban falls behind his net, surrenders the puck, Rangers very nearly score two seconds later. Think Plekanec played some goal there to keep Habs in the lead.

- Habs finally get a powerplay, courtesy a disastrous line change by New York.

- Eller line has been fantastic in the 3rd period. Rangers are fit to be tied.

- Price robs Boyle on shorthanded 2-on-1 Rangers break.

- Habs PP really needs to be a point of concern. A mere shadow of their early season self.

- Playing with fire here, slot coverage wayyyy to soft.

- Bad news, Habs penalized with 3 minutes left. Worse news, it's Plekanec.

- Watched the replay, that was a pretty soft interference call.

- Habs holding on for dear life here.

- Hoping Eller scores on the empty Rangers net - he deserves it.

- It wasn't Eller, but it is Diaz into the net, and the Canadiens win a huge game. I think this one cements what we've been suspecting for weeks - this Habs team is for real.

The Drive for 5 is ALIVE

Wow. Here we are. Gunning for a fifth straight win. When did that last happen for we Habs fans? Who knows - do I look like a statistician?

Tonight, we're in tough. The Rangers, who weren't exactly setting the world on fire the first two weeks of the season, but have since began to settle down a bit, winning 4 of their past five, most recently against the Caps (no big deal) on Sunday night, and also be the Bruins last week, which ain't too shabby.

Rangers also have not lost a single time to anyone playing outside of their Division this season.

So something's gotta give tonight.

Habs will obviously have to keep their eye on the usual Rangers suspects, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik ... this team does not lack offensive depth. A big break for the Habs came late today when the Ranger announced that Rick Nash will not be in the lineup. Meanwhile Marc Staal is making solid contributions from the blue line, Ryan Mcdonagh remains an agonizing memory amongst Habs fans, but let's not pick that still smarting, still raw wound.

Weaknesses for New York? Their powerplay is kind of a mess, go figure. Clocking in at just over a pathetic 11%, the unit is ranked last in the League. Their PK is significantly better, just a tad over 84%, good for 8th in the League.

Montreal's powerplay, even with the recent winning streak, has also looked pretty shabby of late. So throw that all together, and if one of these two teams can start producing tonight with the man advantage, it would probably go a long way towards earning a victory.

Carey Price, he who was having fluids fed into his body via a tube less than 48 hours ago, will start. Great thanks to Peter Budaj who admirably stepped into the line of fire, and reeled off two sweet wins. Have a seat Peter. We'll talk to you again some time in March.

What else. Same lineup tonight as last night, which means Ryan White is in. That's fine. He played a pretty solid game against the Hurricanes, so more redemptive icetime is clearly in order.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST! Enjoy the game!


Sorry Cam, not this year.

Game preview later today! First place, baby!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Game Fourteen: Flyers vs. Habs


HAPPY FRIDAY!! It's a great day to be a Habs fan, ain't it? Going two-fer in Florida, a swing that has for years plagued the Habs losses and broken dreams of playoff hopes. Well no more, 'cause thanks to Carey Prince and Alex freakin' Galchenyuk, who simply willed that puck on Jose Theodore, the Candiens are off to their best season start in a longggggggg time.

So here we sit, some 27% through the season, a single point out of first place, nobody injured (knock on wood), four well balanced lines, a more-or-less balanced defense (we're still waiting for the Subban/Gorges reunion - coach Therrien are you listening?), and Carey Price playing out of his mind.

So life is good in HabsLand. AND IT'S FRIDAY. 

Meh. Let's ruin the day. Here's a clown from Western Siberia Winnipeg who's taken a five length lead for Father of the Year award, assuming the greatest fathers are drooling knuckle-headed psychopaths.

The talk is they're gonna keep this moron away from the hockey rink for the rest of the year. That's a joke. How about the rest of his life?

Oh well, at least this guy wasn't talking about how raping someone just ain't as easy now as it used to be. What to go Philadelphia. You keep up that class act, mkay?

Habs and Flyers game preview tomorrow. Ya'll behave tonight, mkay?


Am I the only one who no longer dreads Philadelphia? Am I alone about this? Because tonight, I'm really looking forward the Habs taking on the Flyers with first place on the line. Yup, that's right. Hard to believe. Whowouldathunk that the this far into the season, Les Boys would be competing for top spot? But then again, there's lots of crazy stuff happening - the New Jersey Devils? Weren't they supposed to finish somewhere near last place? What is up with that? Yeah, yeah .. Brodeur.

Speaking of New Jersey, the road-weary Flyers are coming off a smarting defeat last night, blowing an early lead, and then flip flopping their way to yet another road loss. That's the thing about Philadelphia this year. They can't win on the road. Just two times in nine games. Not good.

I suppose in the Flyers own defense, they have been hit hard by injuries. Scott Hartnell is out indefinitely. Andrej Meszaros is out indefinitely. And now it appears that Kimmo Timonon might not be able to play tonight. That's a lot of important hurt on the Philadelphia blue line, while even healthy wasn't all that great to start with.

So there we have it. The injury-riddled, probably exhausted Philadelphia Flyers. My boots? Not shaking.

But fear not Flyers fans, THERE IS HOPE. Carey Price has been downed with the flu bug, and so Peter Budaj, whose play this season is making a few Habs faithful a little uncomfortable that we might not have capable backup, will get his chance for redemption after a pretty iffy start last week against the Sabres.

That said, the Flyers goaltending situation by contrast would accurately be described as a mess. Ilya Bryzgalov, he who posted a sparkling .666 SP last night against the Devils, has reportedly been benched. Problem is, the Flyers backup Michael Leighton is hurt. So Philadelphia is reaching way down deep in their system and have pulled up Brian Boucher, who hasn't played in a year. Assuming you get the start, good luck, Brian. You'll need it.

Something else to keep an eye out for tonight - Max Pacioretty, whose lack of goal production has now reached "concerning" status, will be grouped tonight with David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher. It's a shame to break up the steadily producing kid line, but Therrien seems to believe that Gallagher will do the messy work gaining and feeding the puck in hopes that Pacioretty will finally bury something to remove said monkey from back.

Puck drops at 7:15 or so EST. One more time - FOR FIRST PLACE. Enjoy!

First Period:

- Budaj looked like a nervous wreck during the anthem.

- The embellishment call on Prust was absurd. Officials simply keep miscalling these penalties.

- Habs are playing against a goaltender who's barely played the past three seasons. Just pelt the net guys, nothing fancy required.

- Well it's the plan in reverse, but Pacioretty with a nice feed to Gallagher who snaps a stoppable shot past Boucher. 1-zip.

- Bourque's work ethic continues to go beyond the pale, determined chase and check draws a hooking penalty. Habs head to PP.

- Boucher surrendering some juicy rebounds here.

- Subban/Markov on for the entire 2:00 PP. Unusual strategy, not entirely advisable.

- Budaj with a nice glove snag. It's been pretty quiet on his side of the ice so far.

- Cole wastes a stunningly beautiful feed by Galchenyuk.

- This Desharnais/Gallagher/Pacioretty line is giving the Flyers fits.

- Habs PP lacking any coherence.

- Domination. Flyers looked very tired. 2 shots for the whole period. If that trend were to continue, Budaj could sleepwalk to a shutout.

Second Period:

- Safe to say now Therrien is pleased with the line adjustments.

- In the span of about 14 seconds, Flyers doubled their shot total.

- Holy moly, the Desharnais line is an unstoppable force. Gallagher denied his 2nd goal of the night by Boucher's best save of the night.

- Game really settling in right now. Big offensive chances are an exception.

- That was quite an adventurous shift for Subban.

- Habs D goes soft on Philly rush, and Budaj totally overplayed that slot shot by Briere. Flyers suddenly back in the game. 2-1.

- Two delay of game penalties via clumsy clearances have Habs in trouble.

- Not to be outdone, Flyers send 6 on the ice, and are promptly called for it.

- Flyers got their act in gear the last 8 minutes of the 2nd, but it's still a Habs-controlled game right now. Flyers mostly a step behind, aided however, by a relatively sound start by Boucher. Montreal's game to lose.

Third Period:

- Habs successful year coming even though the team has struggled in the faceoff circle. 25-16 through 2 periods tonight, though.

- What a difference a year makes. 12 months ago I'd be a nervous wreck watching this team carry a one goal lead in the third. Right now I'm feeling calmly confident.

- Plekanec with a goal scorers goal there, aided by a flopping Boucher and a slag-footed Flyers defense. 7th for Pleks.

- Hard to believe the Habs are 13 minutes away from going to 9-4-1 while being ranked 30th in the League for 3rd period offense, but here we are. Guess that underscores the importance of a fast start to each winning game.

- Habs completely outworking Flyers right now. Winning virtually every chase.

- Gallagher got his bell rung early in the 3rd. Habs now reporting he won't be coming back tonight.

- And just for fun Pacioretty has gone to the room for treatment. That ain't good.

- Now seemingly used for defensive purposes, Eller now getting extra shifts.

- Oh wow. Great reach back save by Budaj. One of the best this year. Looking like a first stringer past couple of minutes.

- That desperation save pretty much drained what remaining life was left in the Flyers engine.

- Horrible spear/slash by Giroux on Emelin goes uncalled. Emelin getting treatment. Rough game for some key Habs starters.

- Ouch. Now Armstrong takes a puck to the face via Diaz' clearance attempt. Habs need to get out of here quick.

- Rare goal call with the puck not going in the net. Can't remember last time I saw that. Another one for Bourque.

- Routine win for the Habs. They leapfrog ahead of Boston into first place. Two tough tests coming up against the 'Canes and Rangers.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Game Thirteen: Habs vs. Panthers

Oh Ottawa. Poor, poor Ottawa. Now you know today how it felt to be us three years ago. Above is a picture of Andrei Markov moments after getting hit by Matt Cooke along the boards. That was the hit that ended Markov's season, and which supposedly sunk our playoff hopes, but somehow, Les Boys managed to eek out an incredible 7 game series win over Mr. Cooke at the Penguins.

So take heart guys, we managed to do it without Markov - you can do it without Karlsson.

Naw. I'm kidding. Ottawa is pretty much sunk. TOO BAD SO SAD.  So Senators out of the way, just Boston stands between us and first place. Sweet!

So tonight - it's the Habs and Panthers from Miami. The Habs are coming off a shootout victory that ought never have happened in the first place, while the Panthers are doing pretty much what everyone figured they'd do, lose more than win. Just 4 wins in 12 games. Yeah. That seems about right.

Who's hot for Florida? Well it sure isn't their offense, 6th worst in the NHL. Tomas Fleischmann leads the Panthers with 10 points, Jonathan Huberdeau leads in goals with 5. That's about it. Florida's powerplay sits at a respectable 26.9%, 12th overall in the League, their PK though, 72.9%, 5th worst overall. Not good.

So ... expect the Habs to focus on speed and aggressive puck control to draw some penalties, and then convert powerplay chances into goals. We'll see.

Jose Theodore, who was the greatest goaltender on earth between January and April, 2002, will start for Florida. Carey Price for Montreal because, well ... we want to actually win this thing.

Oooh yeah. Speaking of goaltending, the Habs pulled off a nifty little under-the-radar trade earlier today surrendering minor league flop Cedrick Desjardins for Dustin Tokarski who might ... just might, be good enough to be Price's backup next year. We'll see, because the cupboard is pretty bare with regards to netminding in the Habs system. WE APPROVE OF THIS TRADE.

Puck drops 7:30 est, and due to other obligations, my updates will be sporadic, at least through the first two periods.

Enjoy the game!

First Period:

- Habs using some of their speed and forechecking to generate an early PP. Gameplan is on.

- Erik Cole really humming out there - but his shot remains oddly ineffective.

- Another PP, but Panthers PK keeps puck on the perimeter, and any shots that do get through are routine for Theodore.

- More or less evenly played period, pretty unintensive action, no stellar chances generated for either side. From a Habs' perspective, pretty decent road period.

Second Period:

- Panthers really doing a good job blocking shots, and d zone coverage. Habs simply haven't been able to set up for a quality shot so far.

- Habs playing classic close checking road game, but so too are the Panthers. Beginning to wonder if the first goal, if there's any, will be dirty or flukey.

- Pretty solid powerplay for Habs, Subban ringing one off the post. One hopes this will give them enough momentum where they can finally put a puck behind Theodore, who should be noted, had played solid, unspectacular goaltending.

- Glad I'm not a paying customer for this game, the thrills have been few and far between.

- Shots are 21-13 through 40 in favour of the Habs who have held the edge of play, but are struggling to convert against a very protectionist Panthers defense. This game is totally up for grabs, the big question is whether anyone will actually score before the clock hits zero.

Third Period:

- Gianta with the first great scoring chance of the night for either team, turn aside point blank by the very steady Theodore.

- 11 minutes left, game finally opening up, Panthers with a flurry but Price shuts the door. Thinking goal should come shortly, but who will score?

- Hardly surprising that the game ends regulation 0-0. Habs will get at least 3 out of 4 points on the Florida swing, which is nothing other than an unqualified success.


- Galchenyuk does some great determined work getting past two Florida defenders and placing the puck on Theodore, Bourque is there to cash in a dirty rebound, and the Habs sweep in Florida. Brilliant gritty determination by Galchenyuk.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Game Twelve: Habs vs. Lightening

Wow. Are we already a quarter way through the season? It seemed like just two or three weeks ago the whole thing start ... oh yeah. It was two or three weeks ago when it started. Man. Time flies.

So let's figure this out. Win tonight, we have 15 points, on pace for 60, which would easily be enough to clinch a playoff spot. So no problemo, right?

Oh yeah. Saturday night. That happened? Gotta hand it to those Leafs, they really took a BITE out of our season. Har har. Sigh. As per usual, the NHL head office went to the tape, saw the bite, got the medical report indicating said bite on Pacioretty's arm, and did ... nothing. But we're used to that in Habsland, aren't we?

So tonight, that Habs fresh off the stench that still exhumes from the weekend, are taking a nice little trip through southern Florida, and tonight the first stop is in Tampa to face the Bolts, aka "Habs South". Nevermind the fact that the stands are half full of snowbirding Habs fans, but Tampa has (as usual) a ton of ex-Canadiens on its roster ... thankfully none of them named John LeClair.

Anyway, early in the year Tampa was cooking up a storm, shooting right to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. But somewhere along the line, Tampa went off the cliff, and have lost their past four in a row. So something's gotta give tonight.

As per usual, Steven Stamkos is running up the points, 17 in 11 games. But the Bolts have problems, problems, problems beyond the 4-game losing skid. Their goaltending is bit of a mess right now with both Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon struggling to find the .900 SP mark, which is definitely not good. Tampa's netminding problems might have something to do with the number of shots they're giving up per game (6th worst in the League), or their wretched fades in the 3rd period (19 goals surrendered this season, worst in the League).

This isn't to say that the Habs are walking on easy street. We still have a few players MIA. Eric Cole is in the middle of his usual slow season start, Max Pacioretty is still searching for his first goal of the season, Lars Eller is ... who knows what Lars Eller is doing anymore these days, and Colby Armstrong ... why exactly is Colby Armstrong in the lineup? I'm trying to recall why he was picked up in the first place because for the most part, he's been flying way below the radar. I guess he's supposed to be the PK specialist, and he's supposed to be physical? Colby, could we see some of that physical stuff at least? Brandon Prust can't do it all, ya know.

In light of some of these seemingly offensively oriented issues, coach Therrien has moved Pacrioretty down to the kid line. The thinking, I'd reckon, is that Pacioretty will cash in some of those sweet sweet passes from wunderkid Alex Galchenyuk, because Brenden Gallagher is far too busy crashing into everything in sight (which is a very good thing).

Ryan White won't play (we assume), although if Armstrong continues to slumber and Eller continues to look disinterested, he may get another shot very, very soon.

Carey Price, he being the Habs goaltender that knows how to cover up a loose puck, will start.

Enjoy the game, we'll be following along 7:30 EST!

First Period:

- Solid first shift for the Galchenyuk line. Gallagher crashing as usual, creating turnovers.

- Habs definitely with early game initiative here. Delivering solid hits on Tampa's defenders.

- Habs Emelin continues to struggle with these odd man rushes. Really don't like his pairing with Markov, who's obviously slowed because of those severe injuries.

- Armstrong and especially Prust really should have buried that PK chance.

- Horseshoes around the Tampa goal right now.

- Another line combo I'm not crazy about - Gorges/Diaz. Their styles don't complement each other.

- Wow. How'd Markov not finish that chance?

- Not to take anything away from Lindback, but Habs not finishing these easy chances. That bodes poorly because you just know Stamkos is going to get something going sooner or later.

- Do believe Tampa has yet to register a chance on Price yet. 7 minutes left in the period. Whoops, there's the first.

- Habs with dreadful PP, unable to even gain the puck in the Tampa zone. This also bodes poorly.

- Habs out working Tampa by a considerable amount, getting lots of PPs as a result. Now if they could only finish ...

- Habs inability to win Faceoffs is really hurting the PP big time.

- Gianta. Finally. 1-0.

- Habs dominated the period, outworking and outskating Tampa, drawing lots of penalties, and finally taking advantage late in the frame. Much, much better than Saturday night.

Second Period:

- Tampa appears to be skating in some of that Florida sand - surprising given how "fast" this team was to play against.

- Terribe passing both directions, costing both clubs glorious chances. Sloppy period so far.

- Figures that Subban with a harmless shot finds its way in. Sloppy play results in sloppy scoring. 2-0.

- 34 minutes into this game, Price really hasn't hade much more than routine chances to handle. He's almost getting the night off, Tampa has been so offensively ineffective. So far.

- Emelin paired with Bouillon. Much better matching. Now if we could only get Subban back with Gorges ...

- Habs forwards really coming back and protecting their zone when the Bolts send their big guns out. So far Stamkos and St.Louis stymied.

- Finally finishing off the scramble, Moen with some 4th line offense. 3-0. Luck ran out for the flopping Lindback.

- Tampa's been pretty terrible tonight, they look spent. Somewhat rested Habs simply running away with this. 20 minutes of smart hockey should sew up the 2 points.

Third Period:

- Desharnais/Prust/Cole line with an outstanding forechecking shift.

- Therrien trying to match with Gorges whenever Stamkos steps on the ice.

- Tampa forwards seem insistent on going high on Price, keep missing. Emelin with another sloppy game around his crease. Otherwise, everything still in cruise mode.

- Stamkos line getting better every shift, pushing harder. Still not breaking through.

- Love Boucher's incredulous look as Tampa is nabbed for clear-cut too many men.

- If Subban hustles to pick up the puck he bobbles, Tampa doesn't score. 3-1.

- Be surprised if that counts. Look like shot was deflected in by Hedman's glove.

- Oh well. Head office rules against the Habs for the 14 zillionth time.

- Dominated this game ... if this lead is blown ...

- Plekanec takes a tripping call. Hoo boy.

- Wow. Just wow.

- Habs have to get this faceoff thing figured out in a hurry.

- Many post game fingers are going to be pointed in Subban's direction for that soft goal which got the Bolts on the board ... and you know the rest of the story.


- Brewer with a terrible trip, Habs to PP.

- Tampa had four out while on the PK. Unbelievably not caught by the officials.

- On to the shootout. Or as it's better known in Habsland, death.


- Subban escapes the coach's wrath. Thank goodness for that. Thank goodness we get the two.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Game Eleven: Leafs vs. Habs

Alright, so it's been a couple of days since Ryan White got a cramp in the cranial, and for the 2nd major time this year, took a double-minor penalty that contributed towards losing a game. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of calls for White's butt to be shipped off to Siberia or Winnipeg (I suppose there's little difference), because, as coach Therrien and everyone else who makes decisions in the Habs organization had readily proclaimed, there are "NO EXCUSES" if you play for the Montreal Canadiens.


Of course, unloading White as just desserts (I assume) serves the purposes of sending a clear message that the Habs mean business now when it comes to winning, and there are few, if any, margins for error  or forgiveness.

Problem is, punishing White beyond the expected forthcoming scratches would be a terribly counterproductive move by the Canadiens, because White has significant value, and plays an important specific role on his team. He's the classic 4th line grinder, willing to stick his nose in places most players aren't willing to go. He's prepared to dish out hits and (we hope appropriately) drop the gloves to defend his mates. He's even got some offensive ability to boot - he is capable of leading a line searching for grubby goals to propel his team over the top in those hard-fought, competitive contests.

So it makes little sense for Therrien to admonish White to permanent obscurity for these errors in judgement. Yes, they were significant errors, but they are correctable.

I'm pretty certain at this point, White knows he's got a problem, he's identified it, and he'll work on making sure it doesn't happen any more, when he's given the chance to prove himself.

And I'm very sure Therrien will give him another chance. Not tonight, probably not this week, but eventually.

TONIGHT: We gots yer Leafs and we gots yer Habs for the 700th and 65st time or whatever it is, in history. The Habs will try to put an end to this mini winless streak against a Leafs team that we're still trying to figure out. Are they good? Are they bad? Are they great? Are they horrible?

The Leafs, with their mediocre .500-esque record, haven't been helped much by the guys who are supposed to produce, namely Phil Kessel, who finally scored his first goal of the year in the last game, but is nonetheless the centre of much trade speculation. Meanwhile the Leafs defense hasn't exactly been turning heads, Dion Phaneuf has looked pretty awful on a few occasions this season. So opportunity's aplenty for the speedy Habs forwards to take full advantage on the supposed 1st line Toronto defense. Look for many drives to the Leafs net tonight.

Oh yeah. Toronto's PK? Still terrible. How many years in a row will this continue? Looking forward to the Markov/Subban duo setting off cannons from the line on the PP. Gonna be fun.

Habs, even with the mini winless streak, still looked pretty solid in defeats. P.K. Subban seems to be settling in - he hasn't played a game yet without scoring at least one point. The Desharnais line continues to be plagued with inconsistency, but you just know that once Max Pacioretty starts to get his wheels back that they'll start to produce - even considering Erik Cole's usual slow season starts.

Carey Price, he amongst the Habs netminders who is capable of covering up a loose puck, will start. James Reimer, who I guess is now for sure the Leafs #1 guy for the rest of the year(?) ... will start for Toronto.

Travis Moen will also return from his mini-injury. And yeah, Ryan White will sit.

First Period:

- Markov gets caught, can't get back, Emelin fails to cover the crease, and Leafs Kamarov scores on the Leafs' first shot of the game. Yuck.

- Eller with a ridiculously sloppy and lazy giveaway in his zone nearly costs the Habs another goal.

- Leafs gameplan pretty transparent. Forecheck like crazy. Habs should adjust accordingly, and benefit by generating odd man rushes.

- Habs 4th line with some good work keeping puck in Leafs zone. Trying to generate some much needed momentum.

- Price looks hmmm ... shaky?

- Habs are letting Leafs walk all over them in the slot, and Toronto is killing them. 2-0 and counting.

- You'd never know the Habs were a "rested" team by what we've seen the first 10 minutes. Slow and sloppy.

- Quite possibly the worst played period of the season to date right here. Boos peppering down from the seats.

- Habs haven't registered one good chance on Reimer so far. First nearly over.

- Can we just play the Galchenyuk line for the rest of the night?

- Outhustled, outhit, outchanced, outshot, outplayed. Fully deserving to be down by two after one.

Second Period:

- Habs come out strong. Clearly a message was delivered in the dressing room.

- Subban attempting to carry the puck deep, which is fine - but he tends to stick handle himself into a position where he's forced to make a pass, often blind pass.

- Not a great night for Emelin, Gallagher misses his check, and it's 3-zip. Leafs are simply cashing their opportunities.

- Need big momentum changing event here, like a short-handed goal.

- Canadiens' passing simply not clicking. Can someone explain playing the Leafs on a Saturday night this season? #maddening

- Leafs passing like a top-flight NHL team tonight. Why us?

- Cole taken off first line, Gallagher has his spot now.

- Wow. Crazy call on Gallagher. Grabbed and tossed to the ice, he's called for a dive. Wrong call.

- Why is Tim Peel an NHL referee? Too many bad calls being made by this singular official.

- 5 on 3 opportunity coming up. Chance to get back into this. Markov and Subban warming up at the line. Let's do this.

- Bourque turns the puck over with the two man advantage. Goodbye two man advantage.

- Faceoffs are 30 Leafs, 15 Montreal. Need we say more?

- Habs are only going to beat Reimer with garbage tonight. Nothing getting past.

- 16-5 SOG Habs 2nd period. Ain't happening.

- 4 minutes left, Habs simply must score before period ends to have any hope.

- Bourque gets mugged, gets called for the penalty. More officiating wow. Leafs, of course, score on the PP. That's all she wrote.

- Seen way too many poor penalties being called this year - far more than I can ever recall. There must be some explanation.

- Habs register 20 shots in the 2nd, Leafs register 7. Leafs score 2, Habs score zip. Yeah, me either.

Third Period:

- Subban in lala land, Price simply hasn't been himself, 5-0, Habs determined to be humiliated tonight. They already have been. What's the excuse going to be for this sorry demonstration?

- Price's elite GAA and SP League standing going to take a huge tumble tonight. Hasn't been the same since Eller hit him you-know-where in warmups.

- Pacioretty livid, claiming Grabovski bit his hand in a scrum. Refs, at least these two, of course, missed it. League may review this, however.

- Signing off for the night, the reverberations from tonight's shellacking are going to be interesting. Ryan White might be back a lot sooner than we thought.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Game Ten: Habs vs Sabres

So last night. Still have a taste in my mouth. Dry, bitter, rancid taste. And no, it's not Folger's crystal coffee that I may or may not have consumed this morning. It's losing to ever-loathsome Boston freakin' Bruins. I've had enough of that. No more. No more Folger's crystals either. That stuff is poison. I think it might be recycled pieces of ashphault.

ON TO BETTER AND BRIGHTER THINGS. Tonight we face the Sabres, who've become one the the early-season disappointments! They were supposed to be kinda challenging for a high spot in the Division this season, but right now they're at the bottom of the heap looking wayyyyy up to see the top. So you just know that Lindy Ruff is very displeased right now, and everyone who wears and plays in that Sabres sweater knows it.

Ergo, I don't expect tonight's game to be anything less than a significant challenge. You know the Ryan Miller will be bringing his game, and by now, in case you've been dead the past couple of weeks (which, by the way, you really should see a doctor about asap), there's a guy named Thomas Vanek who's kinda tearing up the League with 19 points, or 2 points a game, which is sorta *really* good.

Habs side, who's going to sit? Kaberle again? Will Ryan White return, and if so, who'll sit for him? Eller, possibly? So many questions.

Answers in a few hours when the game puck drops.

First Period:

- Both clubs doing very good job clearing their own zones, limiting chances.

- That's how you do it, Pleks with a beaut snap from the circle, Habs grab early lead.

- Fast and furious now, courtesy a wreathed turnover by Bouillon deep in his zone. Kaberle is already thinking "no way I'd have done that." Orr score ties the game quickly.

- Habs D more aggressive pinches to keep the puck in Sabres zone, it's creating pressure and chances.

- Poor decision making by Subban creates two on one shorthanded break for Buffalo. Needs to play smarter.

- Sabres feeding the line quite a bit for shots, clearly looking for deflections and rebounds. Not a lot has been forthcoming to this point.

- Relatively even period, one major good by Bouillon cost the Habs a probable first intermission lead.

Second Period:

- Is it unreasonable to say that Budaj is terrible at covering up loose pucks?

- Not to be overly harsh, but no way Price plays as soft as Budaj did on Sabres equalizer. These backup netminding wins are going to be tough.

- I've read the preposterous argument that Markov and Subban combo on the PP is a bad idea. Hoping that Subban cannon goal shuts that stupid observation up once and for all.

- Sloppy played period. Habs somewhat fortunate to be up by one. With Budaj, Habs will need to score at least one more in the third. It's that simple.

Third Period:

- Well there you go. Pleks with a beautiful move on the break to beat Miller, and Budaj has his cushion. 4-2 Habs.

- Canadiens really clamping down nicely here, clearing their zone beautifully. Buffalo hasn't had a sniff of a chance since the Plekanec goal.

- Seems like Vanek is dangerous each and every shift. He's that good.

- Speaking of, it would be a significant feather in the Habs' cap if they were to keep Vanek off the scoresheet tonight.

- Ryan White drops his glove on Ott, and has just drawn an incredibly dumb penalty. Four minutes in total, and it's all but certain he'll be a healthy scratch for some time to come.

- Hoo boy. Sabres score and are still on the powerplay. No way I'd want to be White right now. No way.

- There goes keeping Vanek off the board.

- Sabres all over Habs right now. Ryan White praying.

- Office pool on when White plays again? Put me down for March. Maybe.

- Habs seemingly have regained some of the momentum which was pretty much all Sabres. Now can they hold and win?

- Sabres swarming, Budaj's gonna give me a cardiac.

- Habs doing incredible job keeping puck in Sabres zone there. Speed/hustle kills.

- Therrien tosses Eller out there last minute, showing confidence that he'll help bring this home.

- Oh Budaj. Oh dear. Hoo boy. Point blow. This might be reviewed though.

- Budaj simply unable to cover the loose puck. Yeah, we mentioned that earlier.

- Plekanec pleading with refs that Budaj was mugged in the crease during the scramble. Interference is not reviewable.

- It might be over simplistic, but if Price is in goal, we win. If Ryan White doesn't do something really stupid, we win. Overtime we go.


- It's simple, Habs must win in OT, because Miller vs. Budaj in shootout is massive advantage for the Sabres.

- Sabres aren't dumb, they're clearly playing for the shootout.

- Shootout it is. Do we even bother watching a foregone conclusion?


- Vanek, of course. Oy.

- Galchenyuk, responds! Beaut.

- Nice blocker save by Budaj. There is hope.

- Don't understand going with Bourque.

- Pomminville, there it is.

- Plekanec, nope. Point blown.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Game Nine: Bruns vs. Habs

It's almost one year to the day since the last time the Bruins and Habs squared off against each other. In case you've forgotten, and believe me, most of us Habs fans strive to non remember last season, Boston has won the last four straight. Not good.

But that was then! Things are much different now. We have already-Norris-Trophy candidate Andrei Markov back at full capacity quarterbacking the blue line. We've got two stellar young players in Brendan Gallagher and already-Calder-Trophy candidate Alex Galchenyuk making our 3rd line a force to reckon with. We've got Carey Price playing arguably the best hockey of his life, near the top of the League in SP and GAA.

We've got a League-leading goals F/A ration for 5-on-5 play: 2.15 which is way ahead of second place Tampa Bay who sit at 1.67. That's a pretty sizable improvement over last year, when the Habs finished 18th overall in that critical department.

What has Boston got? Well, a lot. They're good. Real good. Maybe not 2010 good, but they're definitely a contender this season. What they don't have is Tim Thomas (man, I miss that guy - he provided sooooo much material to write about). They do have Tuukka Rask, who unlike Thomas, hasn't had the greatest of success against the Habs - even though the Canadiens have been, by full rights, a pretty mediocre, nay, terrible team the past couple of years.

Oh ... and they also don't have goon specialist Brad Marchand in the lineup, he's got some eye problem or something. Not sure. Anyway, he ain't playin'.

Carey Price will start - as if I even need to tell you all.

It's gonna be a good one. First place on the line!

First Period:

- Well that won't keep you out of the doghouse. Lars Eller rings a shot off Price in an ... er ... particularly sensitive area. We think Price will be alright, but we know deep down he's not. Price looked mighty mad after taking the shot, and immediately skated to the dressing room.

- Beautiful patience puck control and feed into the crease by Eller along the wing, Armstrong had the empty net but couldn't quite guide it in.

- Good pace, fast changes, and Rask robbed Bourque off a rebound. Habs have to be pleased with the pace they've set.

- No goal but Habs PP looks like its firing all cylinders, if that first one is any future indicator.

- Markov/Subban combo at the point looks particularly potent, as we kinda already figured it would.

- Habs are dominating this thing. Need some payoff though.

- 11 minutes in, no registered shots for the Bruins.

- High stick on Bouillon right in front of the ref, no call.

- Little pushback by Bruins here, crossbar hit.

- Speaking of hits, relatively tame game, hit-wise - certainly nothing compared to years past.

- Bruins going with four forward setup on their PP, much like our last place unit did last year. Boston two PPs, zero shots.

- Habs really taking it to the Bruins in the 1st, with the usual stuff we've seen this year. Emphasis on speed, driving opposition net. Rask made a few excellent saves to keep the Habs off the board, but he can't hold the fort forever.

Second Period:

- Plekanec's worst breakaway of his career?

- Bruins defense doing a tremendous job blocking Habs shots. Can't score if you can't get them in goal.

- Subban with an absolute cannon from the line for his first of the year on the PP. Crowd goes nuts. Habs score the critical first goal of the game.

- After trying Markov/Subban first unit pairong, looked like Therrien was returning to Markov/Diaz as the first unit. Subban's goal assisted by ... Markov. Coach might change his mind again.

- Bruins buzzing with Prust line on. Subban stung by point shot. Price fortunately covers up before Boston strikes. But tempo being now set by the B's.

- Really think Therrien will just cave in eventually, and go with Markov/Subban as the first power unit. Why divide your strength?

- Is there anyone better in the NHL at making his position look easy than Carey Price?

- Bruins as expected, evening things up a bit in the period, but Price looks so solid right now, Boston might need to look for some garbage if they want to even the score in the 3rd.

Third Period:

- Certainly no garbage goal there - Seguin finishes off quick shoot in, fast turnover, and pretty pass in front.

- Bruins coming out hard. Price trying to hold the fort. Habs need pushback quickly.

- Falling apart here, Habs defense way too soft on the Bruins rush, and Plekanec is one step too far behind, much like the first goal. 2-1 Boston.

- Boston still coming hard. Therrien might want to consider calling for time.

- Rask with a brilliant rebound save off Desharnais, but not feeling imminent scoring pressure being demonstrated by Habs offense. Boston has this game under control.

- Habs D has attempted three long bomb passes for breakaways the past minute, none quite connecting. Bit soon for the Hail Mary, but nothing else really working right now.

- Bruins forwards scorching the neutral zone - no where to rush, no where to pass. Habs no answers to the puzzle.

- Eller looked great in the first. Since then, invisible.

- Desharnais simply has to bury that past Rask. You can't miss those kinds of opportunities.

- Big push here. Just need to get these opportunities ON the goal.

- So many blocked shots, it's frustrating as hell to watch this.

- Killer penalty on Subban. Boston is going to win this.

- Hold the phone. Boston takes a penalty. Hope yet.

- Habs dominated the first, and last five minutes of the third. That's it. That isn't going to cut it against a team like the Bruins. Lesson learned for the next time.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Game Eight: Sens vs. Habs

Max Pacioretty, who a week ago had a piece of his internal body ripped out by surgeons, and was placed on the injury list with an expected return of 4 weeks, could be in the lineup today.

Yeah, seriously, I know. From nearly having his head torn off his shoulders to this, the guy is an amazing gamer.

More in a bit with a little game preview.

GAME DAY UPDATE: Well, what is there to say, really? Ottawa trounced the Habs on Wednesday night, although that loss came at the end of back-to-back games (excuse) on Ottawa ice (another excuse) with some key players like Price and Pacioretty not on the ice (final excuse). And of course there's Craig Anderson, who hasn't - and this is true, allowed a single goal this season except for the first period.

So what does this tell us? Score early, and hold on for dear life.

If we lose again today, we won't have nearly as many excuses. Like Wednesday, we're playing two game in 24 hours, but unlike Wednesday, we'll be at home with Carey Price between the pipes, and quite possibly/probably, the iron man himself Max Pacioretty back in the lineup.

Who's hot for the Habs? Who isn't? Who's cold? Well Kaberle looked pretty clunky last night in what was otherwise a breeze victory for the Canadiens, so with Pacioretty returning, Therrien may shift back to 6 defensemen, which would likely make Kaberle the odd man out. The coach could opt to sit Raphael Diaz, who struggled with puck control on the Habs powerplay yesterday, and was the only guy with a negative +/- (hard thing to do when you've won 6-1).

That said, if Pacioretty does return, it'll probably be Kaberle.

Will Ryan White get a chance to redeem himself? That'll be an interesting story to keep an eye on. Also, will Therrien continue to reward Lars Eller with more icetime, with Eller coming off what was easily his best game of the season last night against Buffalo?

And will anyone freakin' score on Craig Anderson after the 20 minute mark? I mean, just once?

Let's watch.

First Period:

- Plekanec brushes Anderson, gets goalie interference call. I guess the refs have been getting some communication from the League head office. Silferberg cashes in on the man advantage, and the early year. Blah start.

- Habs really getting rewarded for their new attitude of driving the net. Desharnais ... he was slumping? Already forgotten. Nice deflection from the shot, Patches picks up the assist, which is mighty cool. Game tied.

- Anderson is being defined as a slow starter, but really no way he could have blocked the Desharnais deflection.

- Subban with an ill-advised attempt to deliver a huge body check creates a 2 on 1 break for Ottawa, but Boullion with a nice poke intercepts the pass saves the day. Plays like that are what's going to get Subban into the doghouse. He needs to be smarter about when to go for the big hits.

- Amazing patience and puck control by Habs powerplay, Cole with a great backhand to give Canadiens a 2-1 lead. Habs miles and miles ahead of last year's unit.

- Watching replay of Cole goal, Anderson was wayyy out of position, which bodes well, maybe?

- Diaz stock continuing to drop.

- The reborn Bourque. Fearless in the crease.

- Gallagher and Galchenyuk are a defenseman's nightmare. Handling one bearing down on your goaltender is tough enough, but handling both at the same time?

- Karlsson forechecking Habs defense? Creates 2 on 1 for Canadiens. Surely the Ottawa staff can't let that one slide, can they?

- Canadiens continue to drive the net, continue to create chances, continue to score, and who knows? May even continue to win.

Second Period:

- That boarding call on Gorges ... I'm speechless. Might be the worst penalty call I've ever seen. At the very least it's up there.

- I think officials realized they totally muffed up the Gorges call, and quickly call an even-up against Ottawa. Just guessing.

- Regin with an absolutely brutal board on Desharnais right in front of the official. No call. Inexcusable game management by the officials.

- Why do Habs forwards struggle so much hitting the net with their shot on breakaways?

- Anderson still hasn't allowed a goal this season past the first period. Habs will need to break that astonishing streak if they hope to collect two points.

- Carey Price don't need no stinkin' stick to play this game.

- While Habs have done great job driving the crease, Anderson still getting too many good looks at the shots. Going to need more distractions to push one through.

- Habs forwards perhaps being a little too precise in their attempts to score. Just get one, even if it's ugly.

- Eller gets two for giving a hug? Oy.

- Eller thinks he could beat Anderson with that shot?

- Embellishment? Just brutal officiating today. Just brutal.

- And Turris goes for phantom hook.

- Subban four sparkling chances in the span of 20 seconds. Comes up empty.

- Unreasonable to expect Price to carry this team to a one goal win. Habs will somehow have to solve Anderson at least once in the 3rd period.

Third Period:

- See, that's how you score. Ugly. Create a screen. Sens tie it.

- Woah. Silvferberg for goaltender interference? No way that should have been called. Habs gifted a goal. Wretched officiating continues.

- Ugly guys. Just go ugly. Pad this lead.

- Gary Galley, CBC colour commentator: "I don't know much about Francis Bouillon". This is Bouillon's 13th NHL season. I guess it's because Frankie hasn't played for the Leafs.

- Sens buzzing. No way this 2-1 lead holds.

- Subban is reputedly injured. Not sure how or why. In dressing room.

- Turris set up brilliantly in the slot, misses net. Should have converted. Nonetheless this is why the Sens will score - eventually. The chances they're creating in the period are just too good.

- Bourque did all the right things driving the net, but Anderson was there. Can somebody please just beat this guy once after the first period?

- Subban on the ice. Looks fine. Equipment problem?

- Apparently Subban had a broken skate, which isn't a quick fix. So that's a whew.

- Anderson finally beaten by a shot (Bourque), but not the goalpost. Ugh.

- Sens totally had too many men on the ice, refs didn't pick it up. Shocking.

- 6 minutes left. Will the lead hold? Hard to believe it was 1-1 two minutes into this game.

- Greg Kimmerly who had reffed 872 games, and Brian Pochmara who has reffed 329 NHL games are today's officials, in case you were curious.

- 3 minutes left, Sens will have to seriously gamble now.

- Prust line doing amazing clock killing work.

- Carey Price, just so solid. Habs defense on their heels, but Price doesn't buckle.

- Nail biting finish here.

- Alllllmost there ....

- Great win. Carey Price is the man. This team is so much unlike last year, it's ridiculous. The big bad Bruins next. Can't hardly wait.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Game Seven: Sabres vs. Habs

More in a bit, but P.K. has just been announced as a starter today. Yay.

Ryan White gets a scratch. Hopefully next time he'll think twice before mouthing off at the net. Carey Price will start between the pipes. Duh.

More in a bit.

First Period:

- Habs get early PP, Markov and Diaz paired, Subban remains on the bench.

- Desharnais very unnecessary hold there. When will the funk end?

- Tenuous, close-checking start first 6 minutes, Habs shots all from the parameter, easy shots for Miller.

- Diaz isn't particularly mobile at the line, as least keeping the pucks inside the zone.

- If Habs PP continues to sputter, will Therrien match P.K. With Andrei?

- Still baffled how Bourque, 5 feet from the goal, can miss the shot by six feet.

- Habs buzzing around Miller, but still haven't been able to muster a quality challenging shot on the Sabres' netminder.

- Took 11 minutes, but Sabres finally register a shot.

- Jeebs, let's hope the next 45 minutes are more uptempo. Almost unbearably tight checking hockey so far.

- Eller was put out Habs 2nd shift. Don't think he's been out until now, with 4:30 left.

- Habs doing an exceptional job blocking Buffalo's shots. Price never had it so easy.

- Too soon to call Desharnais/Cole/Eller combo the Lost Line? 'Cause that's what they look like.

- Bourque another fine effort, just can't seem to finish.

- And finally Bourque delivers going hard to the net. Entirely deserved. 1-0.

- Habs owned the period, Sabres pathetically registered one one shot. Key to finally put one past Miller to come away with a clear period win. Sabres will almost certainly come out with a response in the 2nd, Habs must anticipate and defend accordingly.

Second Period:

- As expected Sabres come out strong, but struggling to complete passes. Canadiens bring very aggressive in their zone, not allowing Buffalo forwards much room or time to wind for a shot.

- Gallagher to Galchenyuk to Gallagher to Galchenyuk. But it hits a defender's leg and trickles in and Galchenyuk gets his 3rd. Nifty goal by two very young and dynamic wingers. 2-0.

- Armstrong a little too casual on the PK and nearly costs a goal. Be interesting to see if he gets any more specialty unit time today.

- Sabres may not have scored on the man advantage but it's given their offense some wings. Next goal will be critical in determining the final outcome of the game.

- Plekanec exasperated with the linesmen at the faceoff circle who have tossed him out three times so far in the game.

- Subban's penalty is all on Kaberle, not to mention the difficult save required by Price. Kaberle's main argument for making the lineup card is that he benefits the PP. Not helping his cause much.

- Sabres definitely have responded, but Price remains razor sharp.

- Goalpost hit by Buffalo one end, Sabres caught flat footed on the transition, and finally, finally, Desharnais cracks the scoring list.

- Speaking of, welcome to the club Lars Eller. The Sabres defense is waving the flag as the gate is opened wide on the wing, and Habs are threatening to make this a blowout. 4-0.

- Buffalo in total zone chaos. Really should be 5-0 now.

- Habs blue line super aggressive with the pinch, even up by four goals. Odd approach, certainly not necessary at this stage.

- Eller with a phantom tripping penalty. Gotta make this somewhat interesting, I guess.

- Sabres just taking their sweet time moving the puck around. Easily defended.

- Eller really solid shift to end the period, grinding hard for puck possession. Therrien is inclined to reward that effort with more time.

- Habs hard work and seemingly fresh legs paid dividends in the 2nd. Sabres looked a lot like we did Wednesday night in Ottawa.

Third Period:

- Logical move by Buffalo to start the 3rd, Miller out, Enroth in.

- Bourque right place again, picks up his 2nd of the night. Buffalo just terrible handling checks and giving away pucks today. 5-0.

- Insult to injury, Prust creams Steve Ott in a fight. Sums up the day, really.

- Pretty goal by Vanek on a shorthanded break as Price gambles with a poke and loses his shutout bid. 5-1.

- With nothing to lose, Sabres pelting Price with shots in the 3rd. Creating breaks and odd man rushes for Canadiens' forwards.

- Subban absolutely clangs the post with a cannon shot. So close.

- Gotta say that minute of 3 on 3 was great fun. League really must have this for their overtime format. Can't imagine a goal not being scored within 5 minutes.

- Brilliant puck control by powerplay, Habs 6th goal courtesy point blast by Subban, Desharnais with easy rebound for his 2nd of the day. All Montreal today.

- Sabres totally dominated today. So many of these games in a compressed schedule seem to be determined by whomever has the fresher legs. Tomorrow another difficult test as Habs, with less than 24 hours rest, will face the more rested Sens. A win will go a long way towards solidifying the emerging belief that this Habs team might be a whole lot better than many had given them credit for heading into the season.