Saturday, 30 November 2013

Game Twenty-Seven: Leafs vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Leafs come out charging, Habs need to survive first 5 minutes ... or else ....

- Game settling down a bit, which is fine from the Habs' perspective.

- Bernier keeping Leafs in this. Just barely.

- Bernier nice glove off the tip. Really liking Bourque's effort - quality tries on net, a less sharp netminder wouldn't have kept them all out.

- Habs a little too careful here, they'd better increase the tempo and bring this one home already.

- Definately one of Bourque's better games in awhile. Just needs to start producing points.

- Price forced to make a great save after Desharnais was mugged behind the Leafs' net. Refs have whistles firmly put away.

- 71 faceoffs and counting tonight, which is kinda crazy high.

- Plekanec can only shrug at that great save by Bernier - Leafs just won't quite go away, but time is running out.

-  Bourque can't be falted for lack of trying. Something's gotta give.

- Leafs really haven't been much of a threat since the 10 minute mark, but now they get a PP off a Van Riemsdyk dive. So weak.

- Phaneuf loses his cool, drives stake through the heart of Toronto's hopes. 

- Habs coasted to victory in the 3rd, really was no contest tonight, as Habs climb higher up the standings. The Leafs, judging by tonight's game, are heading for a hard fall.

Second Period:

- Leafs come out strong, really should have scored sans a lucky post bounce in Montreal's favor.

- Seems like Gallaher thrives these marquee Saturday night games against the Leafs. He knows a good portion of the nation is watching.

-  Parros vs. Orr. Let's just get it over with already.

- And they get it over with. Suitably, a draw. Now let's play some hockey.

- Kessel won't get them much easier than that. Leafs are snakebit.

- Pacioretty tackled on a breakaway. How that wasn't called ...

- Plekanec having quite the night - for not scoring any points. At least, yet.

- Leafs are gonna need a redeflect to beat Price tonight. If he sees it, it's not going in.

- Subban vs. Phaneuf ... Leafs will take that trade in the penalty box.

- Leafs pressing here, sensing that a goal surely must be close. But they'll have to be closer than 40 feet if they want to beat Price. So far most of their shots have been from long distance.

- Desharnais and Gallagher making an effective forechecking duo. Like their chemistry.

- Really there should be no reason why Parros should get another shift tonight.

- Plekanec, who's been massive this period, puts the Habs up 3-0. Briere doing some fine work battling for the puck along the boards. Gonna be hard for Toronto to recover from this far down.

- Briere looking great, Desharnais involved, now if Bourque could dial up his game,we'd really be cookin'.

- Pacioretty!! Bernier with the assist, and Max with his 9th shot of the night, now has three points. And counting.

- Habs letting it get to their heads - take defensive  siesta and Van Riemsdyk with a beauty flip shot that somehow slips through Price. Leafs with a sliver of hope now.

- Woah. Guys. Raymond unprotected, and Price with a bit of a juicy rebound. We've got ourselves a game. 4-2.

- Disappointig end to the period - the Habs really have this game owned, but let the Leafs slip back in. Now they'll have to actually work for it to finish things off in the 3rd. Do'h.

First Period:

- So Therrien goes with Parros, le sigh.

- Habs off to a blistering start, out skating and vastly outshooting the Leafs. But that's standard operation for Toronto isn't it?

- Pacioretty sprung on the break, bangs in his own rebound, and Habs take early lead.

- Habs forecheck creating lots of chance in Toronto's zone.

- Good no-goal call, Van Riemsdyk clearly interfering with Price.

- Pacioretty with six shots (!!!) so far and counting. The Leafs - six shots as well.

- Leafs Franson in the dressing room, apparently injured. That won't help Toronto much.

- Wouldn't be surprised if patches scores 2, 3 or 4 tonight. 

- Habs massively outhustling Leafs right now. Whether they can keep this up for 60 minutes is the big question.

- Subban scores his first in a month, this time not a slapper. Leafs opened the lane for P.K., and Habs take 2-0 lead. Patches the assist as he builds towards a big night on the scoresheet.

- Leafs reeling here, backing into their zone, and Habs are pelting Bernier as a result. Toronto wanting the clock down to zero so they can regroup in the room.

- As noted In our pregame preview the Leafs have been defying gravity this season, Habs returning Toronto further back to a proper orbit. No contest so far.

JUST SAY NO MICHEL. Orr won't get 6 minutes of ice tonight.

Gameday Game Preview:

Ah, Saturday night. The Leafs against the Habs. The one classic showdown that rarely disappoints. It's the CLASH OF THE TITANS.

Well, except that it isn't. It's a clash between a pretty decent playoff projected team (Habs) against, and this is not hyperbole, an AWFUL non-playoff team - the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Woah, woah, woah ... you might respond. The Leafs? The 14-9-3 Toronto Maple Leafs??!  Are you on Rob Ford crack? LOOK AT THEIR RECORD YOU IDIOT. THEY'RE HEADED FOR THE PLAYOFFS. THEY'RE A VERY GOOD TEAM. GO BACK TO RUSSIA YOU NINNY.

But, but, but .... I'd protest back, they're almost certainly not headed for the playoffs. Because, this:

- Corsi Differential (all situations): -16.6 (29th, only Buffalo is worse).
- Fenwick Differential (all situations): -12.6 (29th, only Buffalo is worse).
- Shot Differential: -12.6 (29th, only Buffalo is worse).

By the way, the second-to-last-ranking isn't even close to the teams ahead. They're buried in 29th place in these key categories, saved only by the fact that the Sabres might possibly be the worst team the League has seen in its modern history (and yet, somehow, the Leafs couldn't even beat them last night).

There's no logical way the Leafs should be even close to 14 wins when you look at their possession and shooting stats. No. Freaking. Way.

But ... they are. So what the heck is going on? Well, in this writer's opinion four elements have allowed the Leafs to stay somewhat competitive against their opposition. They are (in no real particular order):

1) Goaltending. For the most part, it's been very good. Jonathan Bernier and backup James Reimer have posted very similar numbers, both currently with a .931 SV%, with Bernier a slightly better GAA (2.33 vs. 2.58). Their collective performances have allowed the Leafs the opportunity to win close games against (as we shall see later) mainly less-than-average NHL teams.

2) Specialty Units. The Leafs have a pretty good powerplay, 24.4%, which has been producing goals at maddeningly apt times. Their production, in particular the timing of their production leads us into the next point ...

3) Luck. The Leafs have been incredibly lucky. Their shooting, while awful, is somehow finding the back of the net way more than it should be. Their PDO is 103.9, 3rd in the League. Only Anaheim and Colorado have been more fortunate in getting fortunate bounces. The luck love-in has also played a role in our next big category ...

4) Scheduling: Toronto's schedule has been uncannily *easy* - not only in that they've played against teams that have been struggling to get to the .500 mark, but they have played against teams that were struggling at the time of their games.

To give you some perspective on just how favorable the early season scheduling was, I've put together their win-loss record vs. "competitive" and "non-competitive" opponents. The metric for "competitive" being games against teams who at the time, had more wins than losses:

- Competitive: 2-7-1
- Non-Competitive: 12-2-2

So there you have it. Of the 26 teams they've faced this year, 10 have been against clubs with more wins that losses at the time the games were played, and the Leafs have just 2 wins to show for it. Meanwhile the Leafs have feasted (credit due - you're supposed to win these games) against teams playing under .500.

Luck, however, has this funny way of running out. The Leafs' fortunes, I'm afraid, cannot defy gravity forever - and the schedule, which was very kind through October and November, isn't looking so easy in December. In addition to facing the Habs tonight, the Leafs can look forward to clubs, mainly from the Western Conference, that are either at, or significant above the .500 threshold. The Sharks, Stars, Kings, Blackhawks, Blues, Coyotes from the West, the Bruins, Pens, and Red Wings from the East.

I foresee a very, very difficult month of December for the Leafs, and a resulting tumble down the Eastern Conference standings.

SO TONIGHT. The Leafs take on the Habs, who even with the shootout loss last night, are still playing some pretty decent hockey, and have been since their roster returned to full health. Thomas Plekance, who must NEVER AGAIN participate in a shootout, has been racking up the points. Andrei Markov continues to hold a hot hand, and Habs goaltending, even though Peter Budaj was a bit "meh" last night against the Caps, has been stellar.

The big question tonight is whether Michel Therrien can resist temptation, and NOT insert George Parros into the lineup. In the games which Parros has played, the Habs' record is 0-4-1.  Without him in the lineup, 14-5-2.

Don't do it Michel. Just don't do it.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Game Twenty-Six: Habs vs. Caps


- Usual disclaimer, I hate the shootout, blah blah.

- Fehr, off the bar. Advantage, Washington.

- Eller, very sweet backhand to forehand foolery. Ties it up.

- Did someone switch Budaj with Price? Ovichkin, 2-1.

- Deshairnas! He's good at this. 2-2!

 - Budaj on Backstrom makes the save, Habs can win this with Galchenyuk.

 - Nopes. Shootout overtime.

- Grabovski. It had to be Grabovski.

- Therrien goes with Plekanec, who's terrible at this, and predictably, his try is disastrous. Game, set, match.


- We'll keep playing this record, but how much time is Subban gonna get in the OT?
- Markov/Subban.

- If Grabvoski scores I'm gonna jump the bridge.

Subban to wide open Markov, who got a little too cute with Holtby.

3rd Period:

- Habs continue to be excellent on the PK, seemingly since the return of Prist from his injury.

- Ovechkin can be an enigma - so many nights he totally dominates the game, some nights he's just another NHL forward. Tonight it's a lot of the later.

- My goodness, the warp speed passing by Habs on their PP. I'm literally dizzy. Markov brilliantly set up by Desharnais, Holtby has to make three saves.

- Budaj the back end of the best one-two netminding duo in the game (delusional Leafs fans be dammed). Budaj sans the 2nd period stick handling brain cramp has been pretty much flawless.

- Subban has had Ovechkin's number all night. Ovechkin now trying to sucker the officials into calling a penalty. Not working.

- Bournival soft on his check, Emelin slow to react and nemesis Grabovski ties the game with 6 minutes left. Budaj would tell you'd he'd like that one back.

- Very good teams find ways of winning these games. Let's see how Habs respond.

- Caps smell blood. Intense pressure here.

- Budaj is gonna have to rob a couple of Caps if the Habs hope to hold on to the point.

- Ovechkin, at the slightest contact, goes down. Always looking for the penalty call. Ridiculously transparent.

- Overtime it is. Habs really should have won that in regulation. 

2nd Period:

- We be a bit late to the game, I said it before I'll say it again, anytime either one of Briere or Desharnais scores for the Canadiens, this team becomes very difficult to beat. Briere with his 5th to give Habs 1-0 lead.

- Plekanec scoring a minute after Budaj with a brutal giveaway behind his net, giving the Caps a gift first goal of the game.

- Max Pacioretty showing some rare physicality with a huge hit on Latta. Impressed!!

- Desharnais drives the net, nearly tips one past (hits the post). The formula ain't really that hard - drive the net and you'll be rewarded.

- Habs powerplay. When Subban swings and misses with the one-timer, everyone feels the breeze.

- Bournival seemingly slipping further into Therrien's doghouse, only two shifts this period, on track to play less than 8 minutes tonight.

- Bournival gets a shift, nearly beats Holtby with a snapper. He's out there gaining chances on most shifts, but for whatever reason, is on a very short leash.

- No way this Caps team, as I've seen them play tonight, make the playoffs.

- Even though shot margin favored Washington, Habs with lion's share of zone pressure, Caps had sporadic bursts, but no real sustained puck control. Really should be at least a two goal margin in favor of Habs, but if the game continues as is, they really ought salt this away in the 3rd. 

Friday News 'n' Notes:


Okay, a couple of notes:

- Peter Budaj will start tonight. We reported that a couple of days ago.

- Deck chairs shifted again, Doug Murray will sit, Frankie Bouillon will start. Tomorrow night they'll probably switch again.

- HABS GAME BLOG MOVEMBER TRAFFIC: Almost 39,000 visits!! Thank each and everyone who comes out to look at this little blog. Knowing that more than a few people are reading is great motivation.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Game Twenty-Five: Habs vs. Sabres

Thursday News 'n' Notes:

- HAPPY AMERICAN THANKSGIVING!! Pretty quiet on Habs front this morning - plenty of praise last night and extending into this morning for Andrei Markov, who played one of his best games in recent memory, adding three more points to binder. The Habs may very well end this season with its top two point leaders being defensemen. Has that ever happened in Habs history? In NHL history? Not sure - but it'll be a very rare acheivement.

Whether or not this closes the book on the argument whether Andrei must be resigned (I can't see how Bergevin can let him walk) is up for debate. Surely though, we're approaching resolution.

- Word out this morning that former Hab Guillaume Latendresse, who's been struggling with concussion injuries, may be on the cusp of retiring. ICYDK, Latendresse has been playing this season in Zurich.

More later as we receive updates.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Peter Budaj will start tomorrow night against the Caps. Did we mention that Washington has only 6 regulation wins in 25 games this season?? It's true because SCIENCE.

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Okay it's a slow day, but Desharnais announced after practice this afternoon that because of his recent reversal of fortunes, he will not be shaving off his Movember moustache until Christmas. That actually happened.

Montreal 3, Buffalo 1

Third Period:

- 2nd period Fenwick totals, closed 5-v-5 Habs percentage decreased to just under 60%. Still is easily their game to lose.

- Eller line getting just barely more than 10 minutes average. That's really, really low at this stage of the game.

- Doug Murray can't skate, can't shoot, but he sure can bleed.

- Anyone spot Brian Gionta tonight? I blinked.

- So about those Habs trade rumors, why is Pacioretty mentioned as trade bait when it's Gionta's contract that's about to expire?

- Lars Eller now has had the same amount of playing time tonight as Doug Murray. Because ... er ... ??

- Bleeder:

- 9 minutes left, not a lot of urgency in the Sabres game right now. Then again, the Habs don't seem to be particularly motivated to put this game away.

- Tyler Myers. The trainwreck continues. Undisciplined boarding penalty on Pacioretty behind his net gives the Habs a powerplay opportunity to put this one away.

- Sabres super paranoid about Markov/Subban combo at the point. Totally overplaying the line, leaving their slot practically unprotected.

- This game really should have been put away in the 2nd period. The Sabres still with a decent shot.  Perplexing.

- Habs in hang-on mode now. That's always asking for trouble.

- 3 minutes to go. And Tyler Ennis just got caught interfering Ryan White of all people. Why he was doing that, I've no idea. Now the Habs can REALLY close this out.

- As I was mentioning, the Sabres PK was totally overplaying Markov/Subban, and Gallagher was left alllllllll alone in the slot, one timer past Miller. Game over.

- To their credit, Sabres aren't giving up, Price with a nice desperation save to keep the game a 2 goal margin. 

- Relatively routine win tonight against a vastly inferior opponent. Habs streak extended to four, and they can really move themselves upwards in the East this weekend, with back to back games against the Caps and Leafs. A healthy roster, Desharnais producing, goaltending exceptionally strong, the Habs find themselves in a very, very good place. At the present.


Second Period:

- First period Fenwick closed just shade under 70% in favour of Habs. That's about right. 

- Murray has to keep that puck in at the line, only a desperation dive (and lucky check) kept the a sabres from gaining a clear break on Price.

- White doesn't get nearly enough credit for centring the 4th line - he and that line really do a nice job forechecking and creating momentum for the scoring lines.

- Subban with a careless and lazy puck handling deep in his zone generates two glorious scoring chances for Buffalo, Price with a brilliant save. P.K. owes him a steak dinner for that.

-Sabres with a much better 2nd so far, at least they're controlling the puck more effectively, but continue to struggle with zone setups. Making matters pretty straightforward for Habs defense.

- Emelin just said hello to Matt Moulson. Ouch.

- If Habs could get their transition game in gear it would easily be a two or three goal cushin by now.

- Galchenyuk has been credited with Habs first goal his 6th of the season.

- Habs strike on powerplay. So many good things to mention here. Terrific passing and puck control. Markov to Subban combo. And Desharnais parking himself in front of Miller for the screen and tip. 2-0.

- I guess it's safe to say that Desharnais has reestablished his place on the Habs roster. It goes without saying if he's producing the Habs become an exceptionally difficult team to beat.

- Assist to Sabres Tyler Myers for somehow not being able to move Desharnais away from the Buffalo crease. Myers is a defensive mess.

- Subban again too casual picking the puck up along the boards, blows a tire, turns the puck over and this time it costs the Habs on the scoreboard. Moulson. Sabres back in it.

First Period:

- So Price it is, vs. Miller. Canada vs USA's Olympic starters, I'd reckon.

- I suppose the Sabres uniforms are apt, given how ugly their season has been so far.

- Wow that's bad. Sabres have played 506 first period minutes this season, have scored 6 goals over that stretch.

- Eller with careless stick work, provides Sabres with 4 minute powerplay. Habs fortunate he didn't get 5 and a game.

- Sabres powerplay is simply dreadful. Price didn't have to break a sweat.

- We've been here before, Pacioretty with perfect pass to Desharnais on a 3-on-1, and David can't finish. 

- Speaking of perfect passes, Eller with a beaut to Markov, who finishes. 1-0 Habs. Sabres can at least take solace in that they didn't score first.

- Buffalo is hopeless. It's pretty much an NHL vs. AHL matchup tonight. No reason why the Habs shouldn't cruise to an easy win.


We got this. Not a problem. Piece of cake. The wind of a three game winning streak behind our backs, sailing towards a game against the worst team in the entire National Hockey League. We can just doze off for a few hours before collecting the two points. Right?

Well, it should be easy. The Buffalo Sabres, tonight's opponent, have just 5 wins in 25 games played this year, which puts on a pace for 36 points for the 82 game season. Yikes. Where to start? League worst offense - 1.64 goals per game (29th ranked Hurricanes are way ahead at 2.0), 26th ranked defense (3.16), 25th ranked powerplay, 22nd ranked penalty kill, 30th ranked 5-on-5 F/A ratio (0.52 ouch), and perhaps most fascinating (horrible?) of them all, the Sabres have not won a single game this year where they scored first. That's right. Their SC 1% is 0.00%.

So THERE YOU HAVE IT. Let the Sabres score first, game is won. Simple as that.

Over in Habsland, as noted, Doug Murray will start tonight, while Francis Bouillon will sit in the pressbox. Otherwise, same roster as Saturday night - although who's starting in net is still uncertain. Logically, the Habs would start backup Peter Budaj tonight, giving Carey Price extra rest to gear up for the back-to-back games this weekend. We'll see.

WHO'S HOT: MadMax Pacioretty has 5 goals in his last 3 games. Thomas Plekanec is coming off a pretty impressive performance against the Pens, helping to shut down Sydney Crosby while scoring a goal, and winning nearly 80% of his faceoffs. Andrei Markov has 3 assists his past 3 games, while the Habs collective defense continues to hold its own nicely, now 2nd ranked in the NHL with just a 2.04 GA average. Well done!

WHO'S NOT: The Buffalo Sabres. Okay, maybe specificity is in order. The Buffalo Sabres offense. 5 goals their past 4 games. I don't care how well Ryan Miller is playing, you're not going to win anything when your forwards are running at a 1.25 clip. 



I'M BACK. Did you miss me? Hey, this place actually generates more than a few thousand hits each month, so somebody's gotta be paying attention, right? Hello? Anyone there!?

No ... body ... there?

Oh well.

Then I guess it's back to one of my favoritist hobbies - talking aimlessly to myself. Or in this case, writing. HEY ... what the heck, the Habs have a winning streak? Didn't we mention this about a week ago? Why with the return of all those once damaged bodies to the lineup, resulting in the almost-permanent demotion of George Parros to the netherworld, and the significant reduction of playing nights for either/or Doug Murray and Frankie Bouillon, we've actually been icing a half-decent team! BIG wins this weekend over the Pens (didn't watch) and the Caps (only watched the first period), has the Habs climbing the eastern ladder. Only one point behind the Leafs! AWESOME.

Speaking of the Leafs, yours truly spent the past few days visiting the centre of the universe, Canada's wasteland, Dante's seventh circle, the Capital of Ontario, in hopes of gaining an audience with his Worship Rod Ford, because party!!! Sadly, my aspirations went unfulfilled, as Rob didn't return any of my calls. I guess he's too busy doing other things like BEING THE BEST DAMN MAYOR IN NORTH AMERICA. Actually, Toronto is REALLY terrible folks - even spending just a few days there reminds me of how lucky I am to be living .... anywhere else.

OKAY ... now it's on to ....

Habs News 'n' Notes

- We got some!! Lesseee ... for tonight's game in Buffalo (damn, I just realized if I stayed a bit longer I could have gone to this game) ... Doug Murray will start in place of Francis Bouillon. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

- Peter Budaj in net tonight? Don't be surprised if he's announced as the starter later this afternoon.

- WHAT THE H - E - DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS??? TSN was reporting last night that Max Pacioretty is on the trading black?  Not sure what that's about - is Max unhappy for some reason? We noted last week how ... well, unenthused were his reactions to his hat trick goals against the Minnesota Wild, but com'on ... Pacioretty is a huge part of this team's future. Can't understand where this is coming from, can't think of any reason for unhappiness ... except possibly, his contract? Otherwise, I got nothing. BUT DON'T DO IT MARC. Very slowly ... step away from that trading gun.

- WHAT THE H - E - DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS??! (PART DEUX): So Habs prospect Magnus Nygren packed his bags this morning and took off for Europe, thereby abandoning the Hamilton Bulldogs and any hopes of ever playing in the NHL. He wasn't a top-level prospect, mind you, but still - to come this far and to then just ... abandon everything, is a bizarre turn of events. Oh well. Good luck Magnus!!

- That media deal yesterday between the League and Rogers was the talk of the town yesterday. Not going to repeat what you already know except to say THIS DEAL IS TERRIBLE. It basically allocates hockey coverage to one media outlet, which is bad ... and it's Sportsnet, which if you've ever had to actually watch them cover an NHL game, you already know how TERRIBAD they are doing it.

Plus, Pierre Houde THE BEST DAMN PLAY-BY-PLAY GUY IN THE BUSINESS, he's going to be out of a job? Meanwhile, Don Cherry apparently will be around for another decade at least?!?!? I mean ... what the hell??!?

Bah. MORE LATER INCLUDING .... gameday game preview.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Game Twenty-Three: Habs vs. Caps

First Period:

- Warching the period from a bar, anytime you have both Desharnais and Briere producing, you have a team that's basically impossible to beat. Habs looking a lot like they did against the Wild. Impressive.

No BLOG tonight.

I repeat, NO blog TONIGHT.

Yeah, yeah ... I know, what kind of a game blog am I running here if I'm not actually, you know, blogging the games, dammit? Sorry folks, I've other pressing obligations in Toronto tonight, and in case you were wondering, they've nothing to do with the Mayor. Although a Friday evening with His Worship might be an awful lot of fun. 

Anyway, TONIGHT. Canadiens take on the Capitals. Two roster shifts for the game - even though he's had some pretty shoddy history against Washington, Peter Budaj will get the start tonight. Peter had better bring his A+ game because for reasons that are completely baffling to yours truly and just about anyone else paying nominal attention to the Canadiens, Doug Murray will get a start tonight, while Frankie Bouillon will enjoy cocktails from the pressbox. Looking down at, no doubt, the Caps pounding the snot out of the Habs by sending out the Ovechkin line every time Murray steps on the ice.

It won't be pretty, me sadly suspects.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST. I'll do my best to sneak a peek at the carnage. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Game Twenty-Two: Wild vs. Habs

Thursday News 'n' Notes:

- Habs practice this morning, nothing extraordinary to report. Rene Bourque however, was absent, not unlike his game days. AMIRIGHT?

More later. If there's anything.

UPDATE: The Candiens have given an update on Bourque's status, saying that he missed practice because of a lower body injury. No word on its seriousness, or whether Bourque would not be playing Friday night in Washington.

LATER UPDATE: Therrien announced that Peter Budaj will be starting tomorrow night's game in Washington.

Fashion Police: This Man Must Be Stopped

Brandon Prust, wandering the streets of Montreal this morning. Brandon, what in heaven's name are you wearing, and did you ask your gramma for permission before borrowing it?

Wednesday News 'n' Notes:

- Pretty quiet morning in the wake of the thrashing delivered by the Habs last night. Optional practice at Brossard this morning which was barely attended. Most of the players are taking in a blood donor clinic at the Bell Centre today. So Montreal-area residents, head on down and give a little! You might get to meet a few players, including Mr. Fashion Guru himself, Brandon Prust (see above).

- Ah, Mikhail Grigorenko. The drama continues. As noted here a couple of days ago, the Sabres sent Grigorenko down the Rochester for what they called a "conditioning" stint - the reality being, Grigorenko hasn't improved his play enough to earn a regular spot on the already-awful Buffalo Sabres roster.

One snag, though. The League ruled the demotion as illegal, and forced the Sabres to bring Grigorenko back to Buffalo.

Read the whole thing here - it's a pretty sad story about player mismanagement.


Montreal 6, Minnesota 2

Third Period:

 - Briere. It's been quite the night for the guys who've been on recently, or season-long slumps.

- Fans happy at the Bell, five goals scored, and its free wings for the paying customers.

- Welp, there goes the shutout. Price couldn't find the loose puck. WILD COMEBACK STARTS HERE.

- Another recently slumping Hab joins the scoring gang, this time it's Galchenyuk. 6-1.

- Habs aren't this good. Wild have been horribly slow and complacent in their zone, giving Habs pretty much free reign. Can't figure out why they've simply not come to play - entirely different effort compared to two weeks ago.

- Not much to really follow in the 3rd, just to see if anyone else who's been having trouble scoring could get on the board. Galchenyuk did, which is good to see. Pretty one-sided game, fans are happy, but the next game in Washington will represent a solid test for the Habs. They'll need to continue scoring from all sides if they want to give the Caps a run for their money.


Second Period

- Subban with 8:25 time in the first. Suter 9:17. Bournival barely cracked 3.

- Snakes are gone, and are no longer biting. Pacioretty via Desharnais. Finally they produce. 1-0.

- Pacioretty and his mates are buzzing. Just about made it 2-0.

- Holy crap. Desharnais. What a pass to Pacioretty, and it's NOW 2-0.

- So okay, this Desharnais-Pacioretty thing appears to have some chemistry.

- Habs have played the Wild twice and remain the only team to score two or more regulation goals on Harding in a game this season. Yeah. Harding's been that good.

- Habs are completely swarming the Wild, and Bournival draws Stoner into interference.

- Pacioretty with a pretty grim demeanor on the ice tonight. What's up with that?

- When it rains it pours. Pacioretty with the hat trick on Habs powerplay.  3-0. Harding is yanked. Hard to believe, really.

- Habs continue to buzz all around the Minnesota net. The Habs side of the ice has barely been used in this period.

- Holy moly. Canadiens their own express train this period. Bournival climbs on board. 4-0.

- Habs really doing quite a job forechecking Minnesota to death - when Therrien plays a safe gameplan, this team struggles. When he turns them loose, things click. He's gotta see and understand this.

- Pomminville with the first quality shot on Price this period by the Wild, comes with 1:30 left in the period.

- Habs got sleepy sloppy the last 30 seconds, and the Wild came very, very close to putting one up on the board. Shot differential was only 3 in the period in favor of Montreal, but save the last little bit, practically all the play was on the Wild's half of the ice. Habs completely and utterly dominated the middle frame. Cruising right now to an impressive win.

First Period

- Little game delay here, they're recognizing the Montreal Fire Department in a pre-game ceremony.

- Sort of insane to see Price's line - .946 SV%, and a sub-.500 record.

- I dunno, I stand to be ridiculed for this, but the Habs' 4th line is so much more effective at transitioning the puck when Ryan White is centering it.

- Habs continuing to struggle getting shots on net even with wide open shooting lanes.

- Pacioretty on a break, was brought down hard from behind with a hook. That could easily have been ruled a penalty shot.

- So is Therrien gonna play Bouillon on the powerplay? Just a reminder - he's 130 minutes of PP icetime, one assist to show for it.

- One more time, they Wild aren't the least bit afraid of playing their best defenseman an average of 30 minutes a game. Oh yeah, they haven't lost in regulation the past 8.

- Markov another wide open lane, another shot nowhere near the net.

- And Therrien sends Bouillon on the ice. Of course.

- Gotta say the Desharnais/Gallagher/Pacioretty line is at least applying something resembling zone pressure first half of this period.

- Prust drops 'em, does well. Draws quite a bit of his opponent's blood. I guess this means he's 100%.

- Konopka bleeding quite a bit, begs the officials off after they tell him he has to get repairs. Stomps off to the dressing room.

- Wild have struggled to gain any significant puck control in the Habs zone. Canadiens doing a pretty good job keeping them in check.

- Great setup by Pacioretty to wide open Desharnais streaking towards the Wild net. Can't get a shot on Harding.

- Briere's got the same fundamental challenge as does Desharnias - simply not strong enough to finish off scoring places with loose crease pucks.

- They're reviewing this, but Harding reached back to swipe a puck away at the last possible moment to keep Pacioretty from putting the Habs ahead 1-0. Max is totally snakebit.

- Price had a pretty routine period, at least in comparison to what he's had to handle the past few matches. Habs were able to generate sporadic, although not a whole lot of consistent pressure, Harding coming up with a couple of very impressive saves, including the goal line swipe. Minnesota will be more than happy to get out of this period on even terms.

Gameday Game Preview

No reprise for the weary - in this case, the offense-starved Montreal Canadiens, who are faced with the challenging task of taking on one of the hottest teams in the League, the Minnesota Wild, who haven't lost in regulation the past 8 games.

That offense. Woe that offense. We seemingly have none, other than one line and one defenseman. Michel Therrien seems to be taking an ingenious approach towards generating goals and it goes something like this - put the names of his fowards in a hat and start picking out the lines.

So what happens? Why, you break up the only line that's actually producing, of course - by yanking out Brendon Gallagher and sticking him next to the guy who was supposed to be your number one centre, who's only scored two goals since March 3, 2013.  GENIUS.

What else do you do? Well, you take the rookie who's been a brilliant surprise from the line where he was actually producing, and you bury him on the 4th line. Welcome to oblivion, Michael Bournival. GENIUS.

Still not good enough? Hmmm ... well let's see. You take the guy who was your "big" free agent signing during the off-season, but has yet to even come close to meeting scoring expectations, BUT who actually seemed to be doing will after he was put back at his natural position, and you also stick him down on the 4th line. Hello Danie Briere! GENIUS.

Look, I don't present myself as coaching qualified material, but it seems to me the last thing you want to do with a team that's having trouble putting pucks in the net, is to dismantle the line that's actually, you know, putting pucks in the net. It also makes no sense that you shuffle chairs on a deck, thereby diluting your line balance, while guys like Max Pacioretty, Brian Gionta, and Rene Bourque struggle to produce.

Whatever. This team, as we noted earlier today, is playing very poorly at even strength. This means it is overly dependent on specialty team success and stellar goaltending. It has certainly (and fortunately) received the later, but if the Habs can't muster any powerplay goals, their winning percentages basically drop through the floor.

The Wild's penalty kill is hovering just under 80%, which isn't very good. So if the Habs are to have reasonable expectations of victory tonight, they'll have to score with the man advantage.

Or, hope that Therrien's roster-in-a-blender approach to coaching somehow produces positive results. I am firmly unconvinced that it will.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Tuesday News 'n' Notes:

- George Parros and Doug Murray are healthy scratches for tonight's game. Didn't see that one coming!! /snark

- Optional practice this morning. Everybody pretty much showed up except for Moen, White, Bourque and Subban, who's probably still recovering from his Target experience. I've been in those dreadful stores, it usually takes me DAYS to recover.

- This little stat is getting bounced around this a.m. about how badly the Habs suck with 5v5 this season. Last year, the team 5v5 GF/A ration was +.25%. This season, it's -.04%.  It ain't the defense or goaltending which is the problem - total 5v5 output is down from 2.06 to 1.29. Which is to say, unless this team quickly turns around its even strength production, there's no way it'll qualify for the playoffs. Not. A. Chance.

- TEE HEE HEE: The Sabres announced over the lunch hour that they sent their 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko down to Rochester for "conditioning".

That's all I got for now.

Reason #9,394 why P.K. Subban is Awesome

Here is my partner-in-crime at some gawd-awful Target store opening somewhere in Westmount today, meeting none other than the man himself! Since I couldn't make it, she selflessly stood in line for FIVE HOURS just to get an autograph. What a woman, eh?  That blanket will be (one of) my son's Christmas presents, and I can say with great certainty that it will be by far, his favorite gift under the tree.

Afterward she confessed that she wouldn't have had a clue who Subban was if he walked past her on the street, but that he was exceptionally nice when he met her, and that he was "very handsome". HANDS OFF P.K.

Oh ... who am I kidding? The guy could have anyone he wanted. Plus he's going to be about $70 million richer in a month or two. I'M NOT WORTHY.

Happy Monday Edition

HAPPY MONDAY - and what a great Monday it is!!! The Riders are in the Grey Cup, baby. That means all is well with the world as we know it.

To quote the Mayor, the Green and White will be looking forward this Sunday to "spank the little tiger cats". YOU KNOW IT ROB.

Oh yeah. This is a Habs blog, isn't it? Okay, okay ... what's happening lately? Saturday night. Did that actually happen? Were we that bad? Like, Calgary Stampeders bad?!? Less than two dozens realativly harmless shots flipped towards the New York Rangers net, the Habs blanked at home by the blue shirts for the first time in 46 years? Sheesh, now we know how it feels like to be a Leafs fan. Well, maybe it isn't that bad - but still. 46 YEARS.

So practice today at Brossard. And here's the lines Therrien was putting out: Read 'em and whince:

1. Prust-Ellger-Galchenyuk
2: Gionta-Plekanec-Bourque (Bournival has seemingly been removed)
3. Pacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher (um, okay).
4. Bournival-Briere-Moen (because we want the 4th line to be just as inneffetive Tuesday night as they were on Saturday?)

I dunno. These are by no means the lines that Therrien will run, but the switcheroo routine doesn't bring me a whole lot of confidence that the coach is doing little other than running the blender.

Anyway, call me a traditionalist, but stick with what works (EGG line), identify what isn't working (the 4th line), and leave the other stuff mainly alone with slight adjustments.

Oh well. At least George Parros isn't playing. Or Doug Murray.

Other News 'n' Notes:

- Yannic Weber, who just couldn't quite find a spot on the Canadiens after nearly three years spent mightily trying, was placed on waivers by the Vancouver Canucks today. Weber is a great guy, much more deserved of this fate - and in this writer's humble opinion, more than capable enough of earning a regular starting job as an NHL defenseman.

- Interesting little stat out this morning - the Canadiens are getting 48.3% of their shot attempts on goal, which you might think is not too bad, except that IT'S BAD. Really bad. 30th ranked in the NHL bad.

Rapheal Diaz accounts for about 75% of those missed shots (I kid of course - unless he actually is really that bad on getting shots on goal).

Oh well. More later.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Game Twenty-One: Rangers vs. Habs

New York 1, Montreal 0

Last night, the Rangers took 34 shots on Carey Price. He stopped 33 of them. Over the past five games, Price has posted a 2.12 GAA, and .930 SV%. He has one win to show for it.

That's all you need to know about last night.

Oh yeah. Briere was awful. And also Bourque. But then you already knew that.

Third Period:

- Stats line is gonna be ugly tonight. Assuming we can, while watching this terrible game, stay awake long enough to read it. 

- Richards cunningly guides Prust into the crease, Talbot flops, and Chris Lee takes the bait.

- Two minutes later Brassard flops on Price, Lee looks the other way. Seems about right.

- Not sure if all the boos in the Bell Centre are so much directed at the officials as they are in frustration over shelling out $200 for two-and-a-half hours of nothing.

- Bournival and Pacioretty in deep funks. Briere looks totally lost as well. Plekanec totally invisible. Gallagher probably shouldn't have even played. Gionta and Eller are it tonight, really. And Price.

- Habs might set an icing record this period, and it's not because they're protecting a lead, or something. It's because they're so awful.

Daniel Briere accounts so far for 100% of the Habs shots this period - one.

- The drills for tomorrow's practice in Brossard are gonna be ugly. Real ugly.

- Habs first sustained chances, swarming Talbot but can't finish. Too little too late.

- Good teams find a way of scoring. The Habs, at least from what we've seen tonight, aren't one.

- Carey Price robs Richards with the glove. He does everything you could ask for and then more. Another outstanding effort by Price frittered away by his team.

- Atrocious, simply atrocious effort tonight. One of the worst I've ever seen by any Habs team with this level of talent. I don't even know where to begin with how awful the team collectively played tonight, but whatever the explanation, Bergevin can't ignore the huge red flags. This team simply isn't trying.


Second Period:

- Pretty quiet night, at least so far, for Richards.

- Rangers picking up where they left off, hemming Habs in their zone first 3 minutes of the 2nd period.

- Prust did a pretty impressive impersonation of Travis Moen with that big juicy rebound off Gionta's shorthanded shot.

- Rangers capitalize off the 5-on-3 powerplay, and beat Price for the first time in 12 periods of hockey. 1-0.

- So before the game started did Therrien tell his players "remember how we played against Tampa the other night?? I want exactly the same thing tonight". Because that's what he's gotten.

- Feeling sorry for the paying Bell Centre customers tonight. This game has been a total dog.

- Habs not going with a grinding 4th line tonight has turned into a big mistake, team has no energy, no sustained pressure in the Rangers zone. Prust simply not fitting in next to Plekanec. White/Moen/Prust combo makes things happen.

- Rangers not adverse to playing their best defenseman, Mcdonagh, on the PK. Novel concept, eh?

- Bouillon consistently being used on the powerplay. This madness must stop.

- Dismal period dismal 40 minutes dismal night for the Habs. Most everyone going through the motions. Rangers defense not playing particularly effectively, but then again they don't need to. Canadiens calling this one in and like earlier in the week against Tampa, fully deserve a loss tonight.

First period:

- So White is the scratch tonight, meaning that Therrien wants to come at the Rangers with a 1a 1b, 2a 2b attack. No real checking line tonight.

- Desharnais goes straight at Talbot, nearly pays off with an early goal. But does draw a Habs powerplay.
- Emelin just sent flying backwards 10 feet after getting buried by Krieder. Looks fine on the bench post-hit, but still, collective breath was held.

- Price whiffs at a Krieder shot off the wing. Post saved the day. This time.

- Paciorety no goals one assist in the six games since coming back from injury. At what point do we start getting really concerned?

- McDonagh 3rd in points for Rangers. Can't even begin to imagine how great the Habs blue line would be right now if you-know-what wouldn't have happened.

- Briere completely adverse to going anywhere near the Rangers crease until well after the whistle. Does he think Therrien won't notice?

- On the other hand, Desharnais driving the Rangers crease hard - seems pretty determined to score his official first tonight. Therrien can just as easily scratch Briere as he has Desharnais.

- Briere is the centre, but just played his last shift as though he was on the wing. Can somebody wake this guy up, please?

- Kreider looking awfully dangerous this period. Price picking up where he left off against Tampa. 

- Not a particularly encouraging period - generally a lacklustre performance, Habs could only muster one shot the last half of the period. Habs will need to be much, much better than this.

Gameday Game Preview

WOW. What a difference 24 hours makes, eh? David Desharnais? HERO. He got that valuable point, albeit a shootout goal (which doesn't really count as a point and the shootout system is monstrosity that must be destroyed) BUT STILL. DESHARNAIS. HERO!

So anyway. Last night. The winning streak began! It was a pretty decent effort all-around by the Habs, aside from Desharnais' heroics, the Eller line was, as usual, performing its usual goal-scoring chores (can somebody else pitch in, please?), the Briere line, while held pointless, still looked pretty good, with Max Pacioretty getting 8 shots on goal - keep 'em coming Max, eventually they'll start going in for you.

Defensively, also pretty impressive, except for (as usual) the Habs 5/6 combo. The competition of who would suck more, Bouillon or Murray, was pretty stiff. At the end of the night, the Corsi differential between the two was pretty awful. Just to give you perspective, it was Markov +15, Subban +14, Gorges +12, Diaz +4 ... and here we go ... Bouillon -9, Murray -9. Equal suckituge!!

Man, tough decisions. They're both just ... so ... awful. I'm leaning towards banishing Murray to the netherworld in light of his penchant for constantly pushing opposing forwards into his own goaltender. He did it last night on Budaj, directly contributing to the Jackets' second goal.

But Bouillon ... is also so much bad. He's received an absurd number of powerplay minutes this season, god only knows why, and the Habs have produced exactly one goal while he was on the ice during a PP.

Anyway, Emelin returns tonight!! With this being his first game back in the lineup in nearly a year, his limited icetime means it's almost certain Therrien will go with 7 defensemen tonight, which means that either Ryan White or ... Desharnais will have to sit. I'm guessing the later. We'll see.

The opponents, the New York Rangers, aren't as horrible a team as they were the last meeting, when the Habs manhandled the blueshirts 2-0 at MSG.  Hampered by a schedule that subjected them to playing their first 9 games on the road, the Rangers stumbled out of the gate with 3-6 record. Since finally arriving at home, the Rangers have posted a more respectable six wins in nine games, which was a good enough run to get them back into the playoff picture within the Metropolitan Division.

The Rangers' big issue this year? It's pretty much been their lack of offense, currently 24th ranked in the League. New York has had to work through not having Rick Nash, who's been dealing with concussion from a dirty hit delivered by the Sharks' Brad Stuart on October 8th. Anyway, Nash started skating with his team in practice this week, and his hoping to make his return in 10-14 days.

Tonight also marks the return of ex-Hab Dominic Moore to the Bell Centre. Habs fans fondly remember Moore, who was picked up for nothing, did an excellent job as a 3rd/4th line scrubber, and then mysteriously, was simply let go by the team. After floating around for awhile, Moore found employment again with the Rangers, and has done a pretty good job filling the gaps for New York.

Back in Habsland, there are still questions about whether Brendan Gallagher will play tonight - he sat out last night due to the flu. Still, even with his absence, the Eller line delivered, and with Prust back in the fold, the Habs should be alright tonight.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST. The winning streak continues!!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Game Twenty: Habs vs. Blue Jackets


- As usual I prelude these things by reminding readers how much I despise the shootout. So ... I despise these shootouts. 

- Just no Desharnais in the shootout please. PLEASE.

- Good grief. Therrien chooses Desharnais.   /headslap.

- Yeah. Budaj's got this.

- Oh god. The Columbus ice claims Galchenyuk as a victim.

-  Oh Yeah. Budaj's got this.

- Holy crap. Desharnais. Consider my hat eaten.



- Looking forward to seeing Subban's icetime in this overtime. Or will Therrien "punish" him for that holding penalty?

- Pacioretty with big zone interception, great scoring opportunity ... who's free in front? Desharnais ... and ... yeah ... pushed aside, chance eliminated.

- Wow. Habs have played two horrible OTs in a row. You'd figure 10 minutes of 4-on-4 would generate at least one good scoring chance, but nope ...

- Well, Budaj at least giving his team a shot in the shootout. And yeah ... at least he's better at these than Price. So who knows? We might actually win this.

Third Period:

- For the most part, the Habs have played a pretty sound, competent defensive game. Exception being Murray who's been particularly slow tonight. Emelin is back tomorrow, RIGHT?

- Galchenyuk's head was definitely targeted by Foligno elbow. The reply is crystal clear. Fortunately, Galchenyuk was able to move his head at the last possible moment, but that play was a recipe for disaster. Shameful. 

- Columbus' shots have been extraordinarily ordinary, their main difficult has been delivering pucks on Budaj from anywhere but perimeter shooting spots. As long as this continues, Budaj should be fairly assured of keeping them off the board for the rest of the period.

- Bournival has had perhaps his quietest night as a Hab this season.

- Yup. Holding the stick on Subban, although he was getting hooked like crazy from behind. Therrien looks like he's about to meltdown, although I'm not sure if its towards Subban or the official who made that call.

- Replay shows the stick was up in Subban's armpit while he was trying to carry the puck. What else is he supposed to do other than to grab and remove it from his body? Terrible call.

- Very quietly, the Habs PK has become ridiculously efficient. Plus goaltending.

- Man, that woulda been just deserts if Subban could have converted coming out of the box.

- Just two shifts for Prust since his fight. Hrmm ...

- Seriously, if Prust got hurt fighting Boll, I'll be ticked.

- Man ... who's it gonna be off the lineup once Emelin returns to full form? Bouillon or Murray? Both are equally terrible in their own unique manner ...

- Bouillon's shot from the line nearly squeaks through, Bourque running some borderline goaltender interference there.

- Habs couldn't finish it off, even though they pelted 40 shots. If Habs can't come away with two points, then it'll be a tough pill.

Second Period:

- Good news, Eller ties the game. Bad news, they're again the only line producing. We'll take it, but production is required from other places, or this team has some significant long-term challenges ahead.

- Poor Desharnais. Redeflects a shot that goes off the inside of the post. It's just not meant to be.

- What the hell is Prust doing getting into a fight right off the injury list. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

- Opened gate for Habs forwards to attack the Jackets net. They've dominated the period largely because of Columbus' zone indifference.

- Pretty lobsided in the Habs favour, 15-6  second period shot totals. Possession should be an interesting tale told, but since the rocky start that included the someone fluky second Columbus goal, it's been the Habs which have controlled this game.

- 5v5 closed Fenwick through 40%, 53.7% - not dominating, but still with control. So far things look alright for Desharnais, we'll see how it pans out - but if he can somehow produce a point in the 3rd, he might earn himself another start tomorrow night against the Rangers.



First Period:

- That Briere/Pacioretty/Bourque line looks kinda snappy. At least so far.

- Budaj gift wraps one for Umberger. 1-0. Funny how those gift goals can sometimes get a season in gear for a struggling forward.

- Bounces, or in this case, bodies, are decidedly going against the Habs. This could be a very ugly night. 2-0.

- Budaj clearly pretty rattled.

- Why Galchenyuk wasn't used last (and every) shootout, I'll never know. Habs salvage the period.

- Some sparks of life, but they were brief. This is a team that badly lack offensive consistency beyond the Eller line. Another unremarkable period for Desharnais - who's destined for pine time if he doesn't do something very quickly.

Gameday Game Preview:

So. When are we gonna start winning again? We were supposed to have started winning Tuesday night against the ripe-for-the-pickin injury-hobbled Tampa Bay Lightening. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Everything kind of went south, however, when 18 of the 20 people listed on the Habs roster didn't bother showing up to the rink, metaphorically speaking. So it was left up to Carey Price and P.K. Subban to single-handedly draw a point against the Bolts, with Subban more or less doing all the work of the offense, while Price kept 44 of 45 shots out, while 20,000 fans sat around and looked on. Plus 18 other guys wearing a CH shirt and skates. It was not good.

SO TONIGHT THE WINNING STREAK STARTS I TELLS YA. And it starts in the glorious capital of Ohio, Columbus! Home to ... the ... well ... it's the Capital of Ohio!

Okay, so it hasn't been a great start for the Jackets. Just 6 wins in 18 games. Just one single little win over their past 9 games. Net result? Last place in the awfully named Metropolitan Division.

Their offense? An anemic 20th rated. Their defense? A slightly more anemic 22nd rated. Their powerplay? A slightly less anemic 19th rated. Their penalty kill? An even more anemic 23rd rated. Basically, the team that jusssssst barely missed grabbing their first ever franchise playoff birth last season has been going nowhere and fast this year.

What's the prob? Well, Columbus' big summer signing Nathan Horton hasn't actually played a game for his new team, and won't for a couple of more months. At least. R.J. Umberger, who's been healthy, has been a huge disappointment and underperformer since signing a tidy little 5-year contract extension worth over $4 million per year. HABS FANS CAN RELATE.

Current Vezina Trophy winner  Sergei Bobrovsky hasn't maintained his previous season form, his SV% dropping from last year's .932 to this year's .908, while his GAA has gone from 2.00 even to 2.83.

Over in Habsland, the Candiens welcome back Brandon Prust who's finally returning from a shoulder injury sustained it feels like about 305 million years ago because the Habs 4th line has totally gone south since he's been gone, and yeah ... it's good to see him back!! Also getting a start is the much maligned David Desharnais, who'll probably get shift mainly on the 4th line. Or maybe he'll play wing next to Danie Briere. Or maybe he'll just be terrible again. Or maybe he can exchange notes with Umberger.

Peter Budaj will get a start tonight against Bobrovsky. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.



YAY it's FRIDAY! And it's double-plus gameday too! Game 20! We're at the quarter pole already. Where does time go, my oh my stars.

Anywho, a couple of important notes this am/pm:

- Brandon Prust will be starting tonight. Right about on schedule for his return, but still, it's great to see him back. Brandon, stay healthy for awhile, kay?

- So we're healthy again!!! Whoops. Not quite. Brenden Gallagher is out with the flu. Sheesh. That's Travis Moen's bad, I guess. David Desharnais' prayers answered, he'll be in the lineup tonight. I'd reckon he'll get shifted back and forth between 3rd and 4th line duties.

- Peter Budaj will start tonight, Carey Prince tomorrow.

More in a bit, including a gameday preview.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Game Nineteen: Lightening vs. Habs

Wednesday News 'n' Notes:

- Still plenty o' buzz this morning over Carey Price's remarkable performance last night - observers are recognizing just how magnificent many of his 44 saves were, allowing his team to pick up a roundly undeserved point in the standings. If not for the Habs preposterous inability to win shootouts, the Canadiens could have well finished a point higher in the standings.

But justice won out, and the best team, yes, the woefully undermanned Tampa Bay Lightening, won over the worse team - the relatively healthy Canadiens.

It's yet another feather in the Therrien cap of not having the ability or capacity to prepare his team for regular season games. The Canadiens had massive advantages last night, healthy roster, better players, home ice, and yet they needed a miraculous performance by one guy to salvage a lousy point. The team's early season possession dominance is now just a faint memory of glory days gone past. The Habs struggle mightily these days to come even close to the 50% threshold.

Price's glowing reviews are no slight on P.K. Subban, though. He was outstanding last night as well - when he was on the ice, the Habs outshot the Lightening 17-11. When he wasn't on the ice, the shot totals were, and this is true - 34-12 for Tampa Bay.

Let that settle in for just a moment. Without Subban on the ice, it was 34 shots for Tampa, 12 for Montreal.   - Other happenings. With Alexei Emelin set to return this weekend, the big answered question yet to be settled is, who's gonna get shelved? There really are only two candidates for demotion - Frankie Bouillon and Doug Murray. Earlier in the week, the CW had Murray as a mortal lock for the press box - however, be it skill or just plain dumb luck (or more likely Carey Price), nobody has yet to score on the Canadiens PK with Murray on the ice. That one stat might just be enough to have him avoid the roster guillotine. Which is fine, since Bouillon has, for the most part, been a huge defensive liability. Plus, Emelin will more than amply fill the physicality dimension that Bouillon supposedly would leave behind. 

- Brandon Prust is getting very, very close to a return. At the optional this morning at Brossard, Prust said that he might be able to return this weekend, although at this point, he said he's not 100%. If not this weekend, it's almost certain that he'll be back sometime next week, which means that the Habs 4th line can finally reestablish its early-season self: White/Moen/Prust.

More later.

UPDATE: Habs announced they have sent both Gabriel Dumon and Greg Pateryn back to Hamilton. Which means that it's likely George Parros will get a start Friday night against the Blue Jackets. For some reason.


- Talk today that the League might go to a 10 minute, 3-on-3 overtime, to limit the number of these awful shootouts, made even more awful that either Bishop or Price will end up with an "L" tonight.

- Steve Yzerman in the crowd tonight. If he hasn't yet got Price selected for Team Canada ...

- However, these shootouts aren't exactly his strength ... 1-0 Tampa.

- Briere? Ugh. No no no ...

- Yup. Easy save for Bishop. Sigh.

- Price keeps Habs alive. It's up to Gallagher now. Wait, Gallagher??!?

- Ugh. Price takes the "L". A stellar performance unrewarded.


- Markov was flung/falling to the ice when he tried to fire the puck out, and he's being called for delay of game. What a bad break.

- Can Price save his team's bacon one more time? Heckova challenge coming up here.

- Rare 5-on-4 overtime situation here.

- 41 saves by Price. And counting.

- Habs desperately need a change here. Tampa has the pinned.

- Carey Price, with one of the superb performances of his career. You saw it tonight, folks.

- Sensational overtime period. Even more sensational than sensational was Price's performance tonight. 45 shots, 44 saves - at least 25 of them "difficult" to "very difficult" variety.


Third Period:

- Subban, 20 minutes through two periods. That's just about perfect.

- How do you score in close against someone like Bishop? At his gigantic size all he has to do is just ... be ... and the puck stays out.

- Gallagher/Galchenyuk connection has been buzzing around Bishop all night, but they're snakebit.

- Shouldn't Murray know well enough you don't pass up through the middle from behind your goal? No?? Alright, then. Carry on.

- The NHL just explained the disallowed goal. Control Centre noted the puck crossed the line, but also that incidental contact was made on Price, and instructed the officials the goal should not be allowed. So there you have it.

- Yeah. This is pretty much about right:

- Price keeping his undeserved team in this game.  Astonishing the Habs in theory, might actually win this.

- Habs offense, which has been pretty limp, getting the occasional try on Bishop, but no sustained pressure. With exception to their 2nd powerplay, they've had nothing tonight.

- If this game ends 1-0, it might be the worst I've ever seen this team play while losing by that score. Habs had two full days off, maybe the players thought they could take one more?

- If during the post-game conference Therrien says that the team's compete level was high tonight, I'm going to know for sure he has no idea what he's talking about.

- Tampa's combined Corsi just under 65% right now. It's a minor miracle this is still a one goal game.

- Briere isn't a Desharnais lightweight, but he's not a whole lot better.

- Bishop just totally robbed Plekanec's rocket shot from the slot. And Gionta twice point blank. He will not be beaten tonight.

- I suspect Therrien will heavily rotate Eller and Plekanec lines from here on out.

- Bishop .... not only do I hate the Ottawa Senators, but I hate their ex-players penchant for coming up with great performances against the Canadiens.

- Wow. A garbage goal it is, and it's Briere. Tie game. Unbelievable.

- They're gonna review this. Puck went in off Briere's body, but was it intentional? I don't think so.

- Well, we called it. Garbage goals were the only way that Bishop was to be beaten tonight. Man, if I'm a Lightening fan, I'm ticked.

- Oh wow. Carey Price with the save of the night. Glove snag. How'd he do that?

- If it's gonna be one guy with a clumsy stick, you know it's Rene Bourque. At the worst possible time.

- Good grief, Carey Price. What a third period. I'm not cheering for the Habs as much as I am for Price's gutsy performance.

- Silly Bourque high stick penalty killed by Habs ... WHAT am I saying? ... by Carey Price.

- We got ourselves quite the game going right now, don't we?

- Wow. Eller called two minutes for passing the puck with his glove off the faceoff. I've never seen that call before.

- Gorges is a robotic shot blocking machine.

- First, second and third star tonight is Price. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him play better than this.

- Habs will get at least a point out of this. TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.

Second Period:

- Habs continue to outskate Tampa, and are pulling down Hans left and right, but officials aren't calling them.

- The high PK ranking is largely illusionary. The main reason for the Habs success this year can be boiled down to one guy - Carey Price.

- Bishop is very solid. It's not helping matters much that only 3 shots have been registered this period. Eller line has more or less been kept in check. Plekanec line hasn't faired much better. Again, the Habs will need to score dirty if they want to erase that goosegg.

- 3-on-1 break, Gallagher has to make that pass to Galchenyuk not drop it back to the already in check Eller. Pretty sure it would have been a routine follow through for Galcheyuk and a tie game. The pretty plays simply will not work tonight.

- Eller line far too cute tonight, looking for a highlight goal. Bishop has gotten into their heads.

- Oy. Briere. If you're gonna play centre you have to at least look before passing.

- Two posts in the period for Tampa.

- Gallagher making poor decisions tonight, costing his team excellent scoring chances.

- Oy. That wasn't a post. Tampa had scored. Nobody noticed. 2-0.

- Bouillon/Murray now -4 tonight. And counting.

- Holy moly. The puck went in but it's waved because Price was bumped. Crazy play. Score remains 1-0. That's a weird call because while there was contact on Price, it made little difference on whether he would have stopped the shot. Nonetheless, that's the ruling and the Habs catch a huge break.

- 13-5 shots on goal in that period for Tampa. Bishop who was tested a couple of times while the Lightening were on the PK, it's been a snoozer. Good news? The Habs only one goal down. They really don't deserve any wins or points tonight, given their anemic effort. 

First Period:

- Bouillon/Murray combo strike again, soft in front of Price, Malone gives Tampa the early lead.

- Habs on pace to register 12 shots on Bishop tonight.

- Some things never change. When Bishop played in Ottawa it seemed like he had our number. He's has it again tonight in particular the Habs' second man advantage.

- Habs have been outskating their opponent so far, and it's drawn them 3 powerplays in the period.

- Cannot possibly convey how much better that 4th line looks with Parros out and Moen in. Miles ahead.

- Bishop getting clear views of Subban's PP point shots tonight, Habs forwards need to jam the crease more aggressively. 

- Basically Bishop is so large that your most realistic chance for a goal is via the rebound.
- Good news, Habs got 5:59 seconds of 5-on-4 ice. Bad news, they still got outshot and trail on the scoresheet. This will have to be a garbage goal night.

Gameday Game Preview:

Okay, I'm sorry, I will forever be sorry. There is only one person to blame for this and that is myself. I can't explain how difficult this was to do. I hope, I hope, that nobody, nobody has to go through what I have gone through. I would do anything, absolutely anything to change the past. But the past is the past, and we must move forward. I want to be clear. I want to be crystal clear to every single person: I will not miss another Habs game blog, and it will never, ever, ever happen again.

Until the next time, of course.

SO THAT ISLANDERS GAME? What did I miss? Looks like it was another night of EGG line dominance. Looks like it was another night of Carey Price being excellent. Looks like it was another night when David Desharnais had some nappy-nap time, even with reduced shifts! Sheesh. That guy! He'd better be careful, or he might lose his spot in the lineup!

Anyway, we got news, lotsa news today. Daniel Briere will return tonight. He'll be playing centre!  This means, no Desharnais tonight! Alexei Emelin will be returning this weekend. That means, no Doug Murray! I tells ya, things are looking up at the addition via subtraction department.

Meanwhile, over in Tampaland, the Lightening, who were already dealing with the loss of Sami Salo who suffered a leg injury during Monday's game against the Bruins, and then lost another defenseman in Keith Aulie, took a monstrous hit when they lost start centre Steven Stamkos, who broke his leg sliding into the Boston net, an injury so serious that he probably won't return until next season. Ouch. The Lightening today called up forward J.T. Brown, who was a late-camp cut, and defenseman Dmitry Korobov, as roster tourniquets. This is one big-time hurtin' Lightening roster.

So one team's pain is the Habs game, we'd reckon. With the Habs very nearly back to full health, one hopes, if not expects, this team to start delivering wins again on a regular basis.

Carey Price will start tonight, versus Ben Bishop, who's been pretty darned good for Tampa this year.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Game Eighteen: Islanders vs. Habs


I'm travelling on the road, and will almost certainly not have access to the blog tonight.

But fear not, George Parros isn't playing!!! Healthy scratch tonight.

The Habs, by the way, are 8-4 when Parros isn't in the lineup.

So the game? IN THE BAG.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Game Seventeen: Habs vs. Sens

Really? 'Cause I ain't laughing.

Hot Wet Habs Trade Rumor:

- Normally I don't pass these things on, but it's going around today, so we'd might as well address it - Jordan Eberle for Jarred Tinordi.

Dunno. It's a compelling proposition, but conditional on a couple of aspects - one, that the Habs do whatever possible to extend Markov's stay for another couple of years, and two, this organization's willingness to admit that the moves it's made the past year were mistakes. That means, a willingness to either significantly reduce or cut ties altogether with George Parros, and to sit Daniel Briere in the pressbox if and when he's invariably unable to produce the offensive numbers.

If there is a genuine weak spot on this year's Habs club, it's offensive consistancy. We flagged this earlier in the year while the Eller line was basically carrying the team's goal production. We asked, what will happen to the Habs when they invariably stop producing? The past four games, all losses, are supplying us with the unfortunate answer.

Eberle would undoubtedly give the Canadiens a significant boost at the red line, and the Oilers, who've made some incredibly poor strategic choices from the bounty of top-tier drafts pics, are beyond desperate for young, potentially very talented defensemen.

Tinordi fits that bill.

But it is enough to get Eberle?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: A couple of people have emailed me pointing out that the Habs don't have the cap space to take on Eberle's $6 million annual salary - which is true. At the moment, the Habs' cap space is just a tad under $2 million, but their available cap space is slightly under $5 million (expanding to $11 million by the trade deadline). So while acquiring Eberle wouldn't be possible at this given moment, it technically could be possible in less than a month (by the way, only six teams are presently cap-able to take Eberle: Buffalo, Ottawa, Calgary, the Islanders, Florida and Colorado).

BUT ... and this is where it gets tricky, freeing up the space beyond this season would present some challenges. Gionta is a goner automatically. Subban is looking at a $7M annual return. So is there space left for Markov? Well, with Emelin recently rewarded with a $16 million deal, the answer is probably not. Unless Andrei is willing to provide the organization with a pretty generous hometown discount - (why should he?).

Soooooo ... in all probability, acquiring Eberle would come with a double-hit. Losing whomever it takes to acquire the Oilers' forward (say, Tinoridi), and losing Markov forever.

So how does the Habs defense look in the future, with no Markov and no Tinordi?

Not as good. Not nearly.

Above, we see Habs General Manager during last night's loss to the Senators, pondering over signing the very unnecessary George Parros, Doug Murray and Daniel Briere to contracts over the summer. He's possibly also thinking about Rene Bourque.


Ottawa 4, Montreal 1

Third Period:

- 2nd period close, Fenwick 51.7%, 53.5% Corsi. Not dominating, but still not reflective of the scoreboard. As per usual against the Sens.

- Subban needs 8:46 this period to crack the 26 minute mark. He'll definitely beat the 24 minute mark, unless Therrien again benches him the final 5 minutes.

- Sens in shut-down mode, Habs are driving the Ottawa net, but Lehner has been very good. Throwing hands in the air.

- Habs had Sens on the ropes trapped in their end, until Bourque was simply pushed off the puck, and Ottawa got their icing. Sigh.

- Suddenly Subban getting buckets of icetime. Therrien forced to play his biggest cards with time running out.

- Rene Bourque is officially in my doghouse. He's got to be entering Therrien's.

- Habs are +13 in shots, -2 in goals. Maddening.

- Another penalty, and that's all she wrote. Another loss, and while the pitchforks aren't yet out, the barn door has been opened.


Second Period:

- Subban on pace for at 21:12 night. Markov 26:00.

- Canadiens have blocked 48 shots the past 4 periods. 

- Ottawa's defense continuously setting the puck on a silver platter from these turnovers. Habs need to start cashing these in.

- Nice shift by Desharnais. That's one.

- That's two in a row for Desharnais. We're on a roll.

- I've often heard many an "expert" assert that Gorges wouldn't qualify for 2nd line defense for most NHL teams, not for a moment understanding the value Josh contributes by blocking all these pucks. The man is a machine.

- Even though it might be a shocker, I won't be surprised if Desharnais pots one tonight. Really pushing for the Sens goal tonight.

- Price surrenders a juicy rebound off a Spezza shot, and Methot cashes in. 

- Oy, the hell? Therrien sends out the 4th line after the Methot goal, and Borowiecki gets his NHL first. 

- Nothing's changed since the playoffs against the Sens, has it? Habs dominate scoring chances and puck possession, and trail by two goals.

- That's a good call?? What's Gallagher supposed to do when he's being herded into the Sens' net?

- Sigh. Frustrating period against a team we consistently outplay, but always seem to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Only area where the Habs are being trounced is in the faceoff circle. Just 11 wins in 38 tries. Otherwise, I'm really starting to hate this Ottawa Senators team.


First Period:

- Has there been a game where so much attention is being paid to one player's total icetime? None in my recent memory.

- Wow Sens really are a turnover machine - specifically their defense. Habs have been pelting Lehner like crazy, but nothing in yet.

- Doug Murray comes with an eyelash of scoring ... on his own goal.

- Pacioretty has been hooked and mugged by the Sens defense. No calls. 

- Paciorety has his nose in most of the Habs chances so far. He's looked really good since his return, but hasn't been rewarded. At least yet.

- So Gallager gets nailed for the marginal dive? That's NHL officiating consistency for ya.

- Habs 13 for their last 13 PKs.

- Tremendous puck movement by the Habs powerplay. Markov with the shot, but the Sens defenders simply couldn't catch up with the play. Dazzling goal.

- Bouillion went chasing after the puck, abandoning his defensive partner, giving Bobby Ryan a very clear shooting lane to blast one past Price. Habs lead lasted 28 seconds.

- Habs one significant defensive mistake costing them a deserved lead. Penalties hurting the team's ability to maintain early period momentum. Still, a pretty impressive road period.

Gameday Preview:

A few considerations.

- Erik Karlsson, vs. P.K. Subban. Karlsson is off to yet another great start, even though the Senators as a complete unit, have struggled. 17 points so far. Meanwhile, the whole Therrien/Subban drama continues, with the mainstream writers finally taking note of how Subban has, or more importantly, hasn't been utilized this season. On any other team, Subban would be an icetime stud, easily racking up the icetime he's imminently capable of delivering. That is, 30+ minutes a night. Instead, he's been reigned in at just over 24 minutes on average, and perhaps even more preposterously, has been subjected to late game benchings when his team is either tied, or trailing by just a goal to the opposition.

Will the "treatment" continue tonight?

- Ottawa has so far, been an early season disappointment in the League, posting a sub .500 record to date. This from a team that many had figured would be finishing very high in the Conference. It's a long season, of course, so the Sens might reach those lofty heights after the 82nd game is played, but there's no question the team right now is in a spot of trouble, what with Craig Anderson back on the injury list after suffering a neck injury last night. Robin Lehner is no Anderson.

- This will be Lars Eller's first game against the Sens since taking that brutal broadside check in last spring's playoff series against the Sens, courtesy Eric Gryba. Maybe a little revenge is in the offering, is Lars can produce some offense tonight.

- Carey Price continues to perform ridiculously well, with the League's 9th best GAA and 6th best SV% - a terrific .933. So the Habs, if this season is any indication, have a significant advantage between the pipes.

Gametime is 7:10 EST.


News 'n' Notes:

- We've covered this already, but it bears restating - Travis Moen returns to the lineup tonight, which is great news. Since his facial injury, the Habs 4th line has been nothing short of atrocious - with plugs like Mike Blunden, Patrick Holland, Louis Leblanc, and Martin St-Pierre failing to stem the bleeding.

- Habs announced this morning that Brandon Prust won't likely see any game action until late November, slightly longer than was originally projected. So, blah on that.

- Sens will start Robin Lehner, whom since the neck injury to Craig Anderson, has been suddenly become the Sens defacto number one. Lehner has had four starts this year, and has posted one win.

More later.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Game Sixteen: Blues vs. Habs


Afternoon News 'n' Notes:

- Travis Moen is a confirmed go for tomorrow night's game in Ottawa.
- Speculation flying all over the place this afternoon that Nail Yakupov will be demoted to the AHL. All I can say to that is, Alex Galchenyuk.
- TSN: shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up SHUT THE FRONT DOOR UP. Thank you.
- "I can't hate someone who's better than me." Erik Karlsson on P.K. Subban, November 6, 2013. Have I mentioned that TSN SHOULD SHUT UP?

Morning News 'n' Notes:

- Louis Leblanc and Martin St-Pierre were shipped back to Hamilton this morning. It must be a rough day for both players; St-Pierre had to wait nearly 4 years between NHL starts, and for Leblanc, his chances of solidifying a starting spot on the big club are now nearly out. After having less-than-stellar pre-season, Leblanc was sent back to Hamilton, where he played well enough to give himself another shot after the injuries started piling up in Montreal. For the most part, Leblanc performed at an acceptable level - granted Therrien didn't put him out very often. But unlike Bournival, Louis simply didn't make a marked impression.

So will Leblanc get one final shot? Hard to say - it largely depends on the health of the Canadiens' forwards over the next few months. If the Habs go through another rash of injuries, then he stands a chance. If not, then I fear that Leblanc is destined for the "good-but-not-quite-good-enough" list of professional hockey fatalities.

Starting practice lines this morning at Brossard:

1st: Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher (relieved to see this trio reunited).
2nd: Bournival-Plekanec-Gionta
3rd: Pacioretty-Desharnais-Bourque (with Leblanc and St-Pierre assigned, Desharnais will start tomorrow night)
4th: Moen-White-Parros (yeah, Travis is back. Not a moment too soon).

Also this morning, Prust and Briere are reportedly close to getting a green light for return, so Desharnais' reinstated status might be very brief.

St. Louis 3, Montreal 2 (SO)


- Well, it only took 16 games to get one of these, but we'll take it.

- Dismal OT for Habs so far. Not a single chance on Halak.

- TSN pointing out that by rule, Plekanec had to take that penalty shot, he was the last Habs player to touch the puck.

- Shootout, Price vs. Halak, pretty hard not to put the money on Jaro. 

- I guess this is the ultimate duel.

- Yeah Halak is good at these. Price, not so much. 

- Gallagher. Weak. 

- Last chance. Pacioretty.

- Blah. 37 blocked shots for one measly point.


Third Period:

- If the Habs manage to win this game, looking back at that 2nd period save by Price on Stewart is a significant turning point.

- Has Leblanc been benched?

- And there we have it, Gord Miller talks about the glut of Habs defense not signed past this season. Memo to TSN: there is only one player of any significane who will be a UFA: Markov. Please update your note cards.

- Pretty tight 3rd, both teams being very cautuos, the Blues appear to be passively waiting for the Habs to make a mistake.

- Blues now turning on the jets, the game opening up. Hitchcock matching the Steen line looking to catch Therrien sleeping at the switch, which is always a looming possibility.

- Nights like these that you begin to realize Price's elite upside. Must be frustrating to be on the Blues' side of the ice.

- Bah. Lucky redeflects elude Price, Hitchcock finally nailed Therrien who deployed his 4th line and got burned.

- I guess we're not going to see that Habs powerplay tonight.

- Check that. Subban boarded by Reaves, Habs to the powerplay.

- Diaz with the entire shooting alley, missed by 25 feet. Worst accuracy in the game? He's up there.

- The Habs just set an NHL record for shots blocked in a game. 36. Wow.

- Absolutely correct call for delay of game. Habs with a huge opportunity here.

- See, did it have to be Plekanec?? He's easily the Habs weakest penalty shot man. Ah well.

- Therrien could have selected Pacioretty to take that penalty shot. He chose Plekanec. Because, stupidity.

Second Period:

- First period combine: 73.7% Corsi, 72.7% Fenwick, Blues.

- Pacioretty seems to be fitting in well along side Eller and Gallagher. 

- That Price glove save on Stewart was so good it's almost as good as scoring a goal.

- Bouque off a rebound, the goal wouldn't have happened if it hasn't been for the Markov drive. 

- Halak shaken up after the Bourque goal, just about made a horrible mistake goal passing the puck to Gallagher 20 feet away from the goalmouth. 

- Carey Price circus save, Subban took a rocket shot off his right arm, going to dressing room in significant pain. Habs season now flashing before our eyes.

- Subban back on the bench. And I'm breathing again.

- Halak and Price have a nice little duel going right now, don't they?

- Hockey gods if you've any mercy, please don't allow Lapiere to score tonight, m'kay?

- I can't be down on Bouillon all the time. That was a class A bodycheck on Leopold.

- Gionta creates the turnover, and Bournival with his 4th, a complete bullet past Halak. The Habs take a gritty 2-1 lead.

- And Bouillon makes a terrific defensive play to break up a Blues 2-on-1 break. The world's gone all crazy.

- Blues living up to their stingy penalty reputation. Will the Habs get a powerplay tonight?

- That's a terribly strict too many men call against the Habs. Galchenyuk touched the ice for about a quarter of a second.

- Another penalty kill. Gritty period for the Habs who blocked Blues shots like crazy, the dividends being a 40 minute lead. Habs in a pretty strong position to actually win this thing. Go figure.

First Period:

- Subban and Markov off to sloppy start, very soft around Price, Blues pick up a couple of good quality shots.

- Doug Murray. Oh boy.

- Briere, Parros, Murray - the big summer signings. That's all I'll say.

- Got the feeling we're looking at one of those 4 or 5 goal losses tonight. We'll see, but the Blues are toying with the Habs so far.

- Countdown to Gord Miller talking about the Habs not signing their defense beyond this season in 3 ... 2 ...

- Seeing Diaz on the first line PK .. drives. Me. Up. The. Wall. No wait, seeing Diaz AND Murray together on the PK drives me over the cliff.

- Well, Pacioretty's legs are moving in pretty rapid succession tonight. So that's something.

- Can't afford to take unnecessary penalties to a team like the Blues. We're gonna get burned ... eventually.

- Parros with the decision over Reaves. Don't know the issue, the hit by Reaves on Murray along the boards was perfectly fine. Anyway, Habs had control of the puck in the Blues zone and were setting up a good scoring chance when the gloves were dropped. Parros can't do anything right.

- Bourque was particularly invisible over the weekend, but came within a whisker of tying the game off a rare Halak rebound.

- Price doesn't clear that puck over the glass if Diaz can do the simple task of keeping the puck in the Blues' zone.

- Habs PK unit was totally exhausted, fortunately bailed out as puck drifts to Price, and he covers up. Blues are almost certainly going to strike if they keep getting these powerplays.

- Habs pretty much totally outplayed in the period, the penalties will make the possession stats look particularly bad. At least it's just 1-0. It could be a lot worse.

Gameday Game Preview:

OH ... what's the point??

Jaro Halak returns, and all those in Habsland welcome him back. Also returning is Max Lapierre, but nobody cares. You ain't welcome, Max. Can't say we ever missed you, either.

Blues have better players and more importantly, much, much better coaching. We have good players, and coaching that ... well. Uh. Did I mention that we have good players?

Tonight, the Blues are gonna win, and do it easily.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. We'll be blogging it all live, for what it's worth.

Desharnais Demotion:

Did I mention early this morning that it's quiet on gameday? Foolish scribble - it's never a dull day in Habsland. When will I ever learn?

The Desharnais demotion/scratch ... however you want to define it, is a real head scratcher for yours truly.  Yes, there is no argument that Desharnais' output this season has fallen way short of expectations, even by his slumping standards. One point in 14 games for any player that was pegged as a top-6 forward will get you a seat in the press box on just about any NHL team.

However ...

These are not normal circumstances in Montreal. The rash of early season injuries which knocked out Parros (first), then Pacioretty, then Prust, then Briere, then Moen - has ravaged the Habs' offense. Even with Parros and Pacioretty back in the lineup, the Canadiens are still struggling to cobble together well-balanced lineup, with particular effect on the team's forth line, which came out very strong early in the year when it featured Ryan White centering Moen and Prust. Since the latter two have gone down, the Habs have struggled to effectively forecheck their opponent towards creating consist waves of offensive pressure. The last two games have been particularly dismal, with the Habs 4th line posting an atrocious -9 against Minnesota on Friday night.  Saturday night, that line pretty much watched from the bench, with Therrien choosing to play just 8 forwards the last half of the game. Little surprise then, as the Habs collapsed in the 3rd period.

So that all said, it strikes me as baffling that Therrien feels the team would be suited to shelve Desharnais tonight, while electing to keep Parros in the lineup. On Saturday night, Parros received 3:57 seconds of ice time - which included just one, that's right, one 57 second shift in the 3rd period.

So there you have it - Parros has been so utterly useless since his return that his main function has literally devolved as a bench warmer.

So yes, Desharnais continues to be a magnificent disappointment and spectacular failure seemingly since the moment he signed that big contract extension, but you'll never make me believe for a split second that having him sit out tonight for a hired goon, against the 3rd least penalized team in the League, makes even the slightest shred of sense.

But then again, we're talking about Michel Therrien, the same guy who wants his best player, point leader, and all-around superstar defenseman, to do more.

News 'n' Notes:

We'll post stuff as it comes in, although it's usually pretty quiet on gameday. So at the very least, preview later.

In the meantime, in addition to the whole Therrien vs. Subban controversy, more feathers have been ruffled by this video which was posted yesterday of a hit Subban delivered on Brenden Gallagher during practice. It's a hard thump along the boards, and the folk are wondering if that kind of contact is "allowed" during team practices (hint: yes, they are).

Still, the muckackers are mucking their muck over this clip.

The drama never ends.

UPDATE: Wow. We figured it would happen, but this quickly? Marin St-Pierre has been called up and will play tonight on the 4th line along side Ryan White and George Parros.

David Desharnais is a scratch.