Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Game Thirty-Seven: Habs vs. Panthers


- Betcha Therrien does something crazy and benches Subban for OT.

- P.K. gets a shift. So forget that speculation.

- Most boring overtime ever.

- Parenteau makes up for a lousy game in the shootout. Habs steal yet another point.


- Emelin has been a turnover machine extradinaire tonight. He can't be moved somewhere else soon enough.

- Might as well mention that Emelin has been played just as much as Beaulieu tonight, for some inexplicable reason. 

Tokarski looks wayyyyy more confident and stable tonight than his last start two weeks ago.

- Smart play by Beaulieu to ignore the official's orders and sit on the puck. Another fundamental difference between him and Emelin - smarts.

- Panthers are hanging around - being patient, waiting to capitalize on a Habs mistake. Who can blame them? Montreal has been coughing up the puck left and right this period.

- Parenteau tonight. So that's why the Avs were so eager to unload him. Silly tripping penalty opens the door for Florida.

- And there you have it. Subban fails to cover the slot, Plekanec doesn't hustle back to check his man, and Bjugstad ties it up with just over a minute left. Panthers capitalize on sloppy Habs zone coverage.

- Serves Habs right for a third period that was constantly tempting fate. Probably will cost them a point as a result.


- Emelin, even though he's way too slow to keep up with most everybody, gets nailed for a phantom hook. Tim Peel strikes again.

- P.K. shoots the puck into Markov's head, sending him down injured. When I said these two were out of synchronicity I didn't mean it was quite that bad.

- Habs completely flub a three-on-one, and to make matters worse, Gallagher gets nailed for a hold chasing the loose puck. Utterly disasterous rush.

- We mentioned in our preview that the Panthers play good defensive hockey, and they've lived up to that tonight, doing a very good job blocking the passing zones near the slot. Habs continue to try to feed the middle instead of doing some net crashing and it's largely produced offensive snake eyes tonight.

- Finally, Habs generate good powerplay pressure, but Luongo very solid covering up rebounds. Speaking of, he's giving quite a few up.

Andrighetto and Bournival with a very nice energy shift here. Game has become a contest of attrition. Kind of painful to watch.

- Luongo putting on a show this period. Stealing the game. Now the Habs are getting a good dose of their own medicine.

- Roberto, Roberto. Here we were heaping all that praise on you, and then you go and do that. Relatively straightforward snapper by Gallagher somehow squeaks through Luongo. 1-0.

- Welp, Habs controlled most of that period and skate off with the lead. Habs have 28 shots?? Shot clock guy has an itchy finger methinks. Anyway, Habs playing pretty good defensive game giving Tokarski plenty of protection. All good so far.


- Bournival starts!! He'll get a pathetic 6 minutes of playing time, but he's starting!

- So Tokarski gets the start, which of course makes no sense (better to have played him last night and Price tonight). This will undoubtedly come as a huge disappointment to the 10,000+ Habs fans in attendance tonight.

- Subban and Markov are certainly the right number one line combo, but they just don't seem to be quite in synchronicity with each other this season. It's important that Therrien start solidifying the defensive pairings as we move further into the season.

- Halfway through the period and it's been a yawner. Habs get the first powerplay. Hoping that'll generate some excitement.

- Habs are the Nickleback of powerplays. Same old song, and progressively unbearable to watch.

- This horse was dead weeks ago but I'll just keep on kicking it. What in heavens does Therrien see in having Desharnais play even one second on the powerplay, nevermind putting him out on the first unit? Maddening.

- Andrighetto with Eller and Sekac. Would that kill anyone to do the obvious?

- Markov again way out of position, bailed out (again) by Subban. It's been happening too many times this year.

- Tokarski has yet to make anything close to a difficult save in this game. Luongo - maybe one. It's been that kind of period.

- Not exactly a classic tonight. Both teams with listless efforts in the opening period. Florida really shouldn't be that tired, a day's rest coming off playing the Leafs. Not exactly strenuous. Regardless, given they're playing back to back, Habs are probably genrally satisfied with the less-than-mediocre result.


Ahhh .... finally, a return to home. It's been awhile since the Habs played in front of a hometown crowd - it's been since December 20th. That's a pretty long stretch!

At this point, you're probably rolling your eyes at me for making yet another stupid and completely ruminate statement. But AH HA! Tonight's game is in Sunrise, Florida, SUCKER! And that means the Habs will be playing to a sold out rink dominated by fans wearing red sweaters not emblazoned with some goofy panther, but with a brilliant crisp C et H!

Seriously, these Florida swings are like mini home trips for the Habs. A good chunk of the crowd is composed of winter vacationers from Quebec, or people who simply fly or drive down to take in a Habs game because it's cheaper than seeing one at the Bell Centre WHICH IS INSANITY.

Anyway, the Habs, in usual fashion, stole another game last night, thanks in large part to one Carey Roy Price, who as usual backstopped his, as usual, badly under performing teammates directed by, as usual, a terribly misguided and incompetent coach. Well - let's not be too harsh on monsieur Therrien - who finally, blissfully, and mercifully played Alexei Emelin less than any other defender. MORE PLEASE. Or better yet, can we just have a total intervention? Marc, surely there's another team that will take him off our hands. Surely?

So Price. Man, has this guy been good, not just this season, but in particular, this month. Since December 3rd, Price has a sub 2.00 GAA and a .940 SV%. The past week? His GAA is 1. That's one. His SV% - .967.

Basically the Habs are a team that just needs to toss guys on the ice, and let Carey Price do all the work. It's a crazy formula for winning, and it's all, eventually, going to come to a full and complete end.

But until then? Therrien has no motivation to change his terrible ways, the exception of course tossing us a bone by limiting Emelin's ice time. He'll just keep putting out silly line combination, keep scratching better 4th line options like Bournival, keep burying competent hard-working forwards like Andrighetto, and just let Carey make him look far better than he actually is.

But Price is human, and eventually, maybe even tonight, he won't be able to carry everything on his shoulders.

There's good reason to think the Habs will be in trouble tonight - they're about to play one of the hottest teams in the NHL, the (can you believe it?) Florida Panthers, who have leapfrogged themselves from assumed bottom-feeding oblivion in the Eastern Conference, to within two lousy points away from an actual playoff spot (with a ton of games in hand over two teams in front, the Bruins and the Leafs).

What the heck?  How can a team whose leading scorer, Nick Bjugstad, who has just 20 points, have 7 more regulation wins than losses? Well, you'd probably have to look at the fine job the Panthers have done defensively, starting with Roberto Luongo, who has, very quietly, put together one of his best seasons in recent memory. His .921 SV%, while not quite elite, is the best he's had since 2011, when he helped lead the Canucks all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

This isn't to say the Panthers are a championship contending team - they clearly aren't of that mettle. But they certainly aren't pushovers, and they certainly will give teams who woefully under perform - teams like the Montreal Canadiens, all they can handle.

The puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Game Thirty-Six: Habs vs. Canes


- Subban gets nailed, correctly, for a very stupid and unecessary trip to start the period.

- Funny how the stupid and foolish penalties kill you. Eric Stall out the Canes on the board.

- Carolina swarming now. Atrocious 3rd for the Habs so far. Shots are 9-0 Canes the first five minutes. That's insane.

- The Canes have roundly dominated this game since halfway through the 2nd period, outshooting Montreal by a margin of 3 to 1. An inexcusably poor performance by a team with overwhelming advantages over their opponent. Except for one, possibly: coaching. 

- Habs powerplay zone entry is atrocious. We even wonder why the unit is in the 20th percentile?

- Little less than five minutes left, it appears Habs are resigned to holding on to a one goal lead for dear life - to the Carolina Hurricanes.

- Carolina apparently not wanting to take the silver platter that the Habs seem determined to hand them. Two minutes left.

- Pacioretty into the empty net. The Habs survive the night, but only just. Extremely unimpressive road win tonight. Bodes poorly for the Habs chances the rest of this five game road trip. 


- Gallgher's first shift, he crashes Cam Ward. Can't take it out of him.

- Terrible traffic management by Emelin nearly costs the Habs a goal. Slow and soft. What else is there to offer?

- Terrible tripping call on Sekac, with Gleason clearly losing amps edge along the boards. No way a qualified NHL official should get that one wrong.

- Haah. How sweet is that. Sekac out of the penalty box heads straight into the Canes zone and weaves magic through the slot to beat Ward with a backhander. Didn't we just mention he'd score?? HUH? HUH?! 1-0 Habs.

- Habs running around and getting pinned in their own zone. Price with two superb saves to keep his team ahead. No way Habs should be getting outplayed like this. 

- Habs have defiantly lost a step, which is allowing the Canes to get their transition game in order. Momentum firmly on Carolina's side, only Price seemingly standing in their way.

- Gonchar with a nice pinch to keep the puck in the Canes zone, but it still doesn't excuse Ward from getting beaten by Eller from a very sharp angle. Terrible goal makes it 2-0.

- Weird period, Carolina the better team, but Habs score 2 on only 5 shots. The impact of excellent vs. ordinary goaltending on full display so far tonight. It's put the Habs firmly into the driver's seat with one period left.


- So this Reily Nash has come out to play. 80% of his team's shots in the first 7 game minutes. Carey Price, he who should not have been played, making a couple of point blank saves to keep Nash and the Canes off the board.

- Carolina's transition game is ... really ... bad.

- Sekac hasn't scored a whole lot lately, but he's doing all the right things. Getting plunked with Desharnais for more than a week didn't help much, but with Eller, something will give.

- There's no way you'll convince me this Canes team took a step forward after firing Kirk Muller. They can't string together a proper rush. That's a fundamental coaching problem.

- Emelin has/will have the least amount of playing time among Habs defensemen this period. Feels so good to see that.

- Gilbert scores, but because Gallagher, for at least the third time this season, makes contact with the netminder in his crease, the goal is disallowed. Gallagher isn't learning the simple things easily.

- Well, if not for the boneheaded play by Gallagher, Habs would be up by one. Otherwise it was a relatively even period, which from the Canes' standpoint, is just fine, thank you.


Hey, was Santa nice for you? Did he bring you lots of gifts (vacuums, power blenders) and treats (candy canes, chocolates)? I'll tell you what Santa brought me for the 31st consecutive year: NOTHING. Now I'm really, really pissed. This year I set out the milk (extra cold and creamy) and an extra big gingerbread cookie. Next morning, half the milk and cookie are gone, anything in the stocking hung with care? NOPE.

Enough of this. Next year I'm adding rat poison to the gingerbread cookie dough. I warned you more than once, you fat bastard. You've stiffed me far too many times. Next year, it ends.

Heyyyyyyy ... kids! How's it going? WE HAVE MEANINGFUL HOCKEY AGAIN. Tonight it's the Habs and the Caroline Hurricanes, within the dreaded confines of the Royal Bank of Canada Centre in Raleigh.  Just the thought of facing 3,700 rabid fans in a 20,000 seat arena already has me shaking in my Santa Rosa Biltrite booties, just like the ones Santa wears! That horrible fat fu ... hey hey now ... kids!

So who's in tonight for les Habitants? Well, it sure looks like it won't be Bryan Allen (yay!!), Mike Weaver (okay), and Michael Bournival (booo). In other words, same lineup tonight as last Tuesday night's game against New York.

Also in tonight, Carey Price? Man, that's a puzzler. You're sending out your number one guy against the second worst team in the League, on a back-to-back schedule? It would be pretty much totally obvious to start Dustin Tokarski, and save Price for the significantly more challenging Panthers tomorrow. I mean, that's TOO obvious, right? Michel? Oh ... never mind.

Anyway, there's no way the Habs should lose tonight. More than twice as many points in the standings, total dominance from virtually every meaningful perspective - offense, defense, netminding. Even better, Nathan Beaulieu got a LONG overdue promotion!! He'll be playing on the Habs 2nd d-line, beside Sergei Gonchar. YES, FINALLY.

It's a totally lopsided contest, no matter how you measure the influencing factors. Even with Jordan Staal making his season debut tonight.

So that said, we should all fully expect the Habs to find a way of frittering away this game!

Puck drops at 7:10. Watch the Habs, and for goodness sake, just give the World Juniors a pass. It only matters because TSN has nothing else to blather on about.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Game Thirty-Five: Habs vs. Islanders


- After two straight starts of reasonable competence starting the first period, Habs back to their bad old ways, outshot 5-0 the first 8 minutes. Defense a little shaky with puck control to make the issues more pressing.

- Now it's 7-0, and Plekanec gets nabbed for a hook. Outskated teams take those kinds of penalties.

- Now 11-0, the Islanders Oskoto finally puts the home team on he board after a chaotic Habs line change. Price hung out to dry so far. We're well on our way to a route.

- Desharnais and Eller on completely different pages. How long will Therrien continue to insist on their pairing? Eller-Sekac-Andrioghetto were barnstorming before Eller's injury. 

- First registered shot, takes 14 minutes. 

- Habs first powerplay, Desharnais had to make a simple four foot pass to Markov for what would have been a tap in goal. Pass was about two feet behind Andrei. Desharnais continues to hinder, not help, the powerplay unit.

- Habs are gonna get pounded tonight if they continue to commit unforced turnovers, especially in the neutral zone.

- Just an awful first period for the Canadiens, outplayed just about every direction possible, with Price keeping the scoreboard from getting out of control. That may very well happen in the 2nd period. Actually, it probably will if Habs don't get their house in order.


- Total Horrorshow first period for Montreal, every single player with a Corsi under 33% except for Beaulieu. That's .... unbelievably .... bad.

- Well, well. Andrei Markov shows Subban he's got a cannon as well. Habs, so badly outplayed, are tied. 

- Good news, bad news. Emelin's incompetence has apparently been finally noticed, and he's been played least among Habs D. Bad news, Beaulieu, who's easily been one of the better playing blue liners, has been 2nd least played. Sigh.

- More Galchenyuk line magic, Gallagher with some nice gritty work and excellent pass to Galchenyuk, who beats Johnson on an otherwise stoppable shot. Habs take an unlikely lead.

- Another one of those games. Habs badly outplayed except for one area, goaltending. Price is just so damn good that no opponet can afford to have their netminder have an off night. So far, that's been what's happening.

- So, so unwise to have Emelin on the PK unit. His hockey IQ is not nearly high enough to handle the responsibility. Also, his positioning is awful. I'm exhasperated.


- Habs offense has made far too many long lob, low percentage passes on the transition tonight. It's otherwise muted an offense that could score more than a few off someone like Johnson.

- Beaulieu very quietly having one of his best games in memory. Positionally he's been excellent, and has done a fine job containing the Islanders attack to the perimeter. A real difference maker tonight.

- Habs maintaining an aggressive forecheck even though there might be a tendency to shell up with just 6 minutes left on the clock.

- Gonchar played Islanders one on two horribly, letting Tavaras waltz in for a tough Price save. Carey again bailing poor defensive play. 

- Lars Eller seals the deal with sweet puck control and an even sweeter thread pass to Desharnais to finish this game off. Great, great goal.

- Habs steal this one, no other way to describe it. Well, there is one way - Carey Price. Another spectacular performance giving his team two points that they richly didn't deserve. 45 points at the Christmas break is a pretty impressive total for a team that on most occasions this season, has been pretty unimpressive.


This really is a wretched time of year for hockey fans. Everything shuts down for three days because apparently hockey players have lives and family or something. WE MUST BE ENTERTAINED DAMMIT. I've got four consecutive days off in a row for the first time in about 47 years, so I want my damn hockey fix. AND NO TSN WORLD JUNIORS DOESN'T COUNT. God, TSN, enough with pumping this tournament up 24/7. You'd think the juniors is the only hockey they have left to cov ... oooooooh ... wait. Right.

Well, we've got one more game still stuck in the sock to be unwrapped, and it features our Habs against the sad-sack NY Islanders. Sorry, what's that? They ... what? They're ... where?  First place? No, seriously. Really? Well, I'll be dammed.

So what is the deal with the Islanders? Aren't they supposed to be terrible? It's been so long since this organization has seriously competed for anything meaningful, 30 years, give or take, that most of us have just taken it for granted that New York was the NHL's special little elf team, giving out bonus wins to all the other clubs, just because!!

Well times, they be-a-changin'. No longer is this team a perennial doormat. As we near the halfway point of the regular season, New York has the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference, currently riding a four game winning streak, 5th rated offense, 2nd rated shots/game, this team is a legitimate threat to be the eastern representative for next spring's final. The Islanders, and it's been a long time coming, are no longer a laughing stock.

Now that all said, a good reason for their success lays in their offense. Look at their centers:  John Tavares (28 points), Brock Nelson (27 points), Ryan Strome (21 points), Frans Nielsen (17 points). That's 93 points right there. How do the Habs four starting centers compare? 77 points spread among Galchenyuk, Plekanec, Desharnais and Eller. That's a pretty healthy spread.

Also part of the story this season is the rujuvinated career of one Jaroslav Halak, whom as you're probably aware, has been bouncing around the League the past twelve months, getting shifted out of town from a Stanley Cup contender in St. Louis to nowhereland in Washington, then getting bounced over to New York, where most of us expected he would, like the team he plays on, fade into oblivion. This year, however, Halak has collected 18 wins between the pipes, which puts him behind only Frederik Andersen, Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne, Not too shabby!

So tonight, the Habs find themselves in tough against a team that plays very well at home - the Islanders have lost just 3 of 16 in Uniondale, the best home winning percentage in the NHL. The Habs will be going with the same lineup and line combinations as was used Saturday night against Ottawa.

Puck will drop at 7:10 EST. Carey Price will start for the Canadiens, while Chad Johnson, for whatever reason, will start for New York (big mistake guys, you should have gone with Halak).


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Game Thirty-Four: Sens vs. Habs


- Math is pretty simple for a tired team like Ottawa. They'll need to score reasonably early in the period, otherwise, the hill will only get steeper as play drags on.

- Habs being very conservative, defensively. Basically folding up their tent and hoping the storm never arrives.

- Sens have a pretty atrocious transition game, basically firing darts in the dark, feeding the line and hoping a point shot makes its way through.

- Habs huge defensive breakdown, Chaisson misses a completely empty net. Game should be tied.

- Habs doing their best to not salt this game away. I guess they're wanting to keep their fans on the edge of their seats?

- Nothing more satisfying than seeing someone named Gryba going to a penalty box.

- This team would probably be sitting at 24 -25 wins with a properly functioning powerplay. That I have little doubt.

- Man, the Sens are just a disorganized mess tonight. Too many men with four minutes left, trailing by one lousy goal to an underachieving opponent. Long year ahead in Ottawa. Long, long year.

- Subban and Markov have not been on the same coordinates at the line tonight. It's hurt this team's scoring chances.

- Plekanec with a simple wrap shot, Lehner ... who knows? Insurance goal, Habs should be able to cruise to the finish now.

- Sens just throwing in the towel. Galchenyuk finishes a nice little three way passing play, Ottawa defense not even bothering to skate back to cover their zone. 4-1.

- As we speculated earlier, tired Sens team only had one shot in the third - to score early, or forget about it. Habs had the legs with the extra rest, and Ottawa could do nothing to compete. A relatively easy win, although given the circumstances, it should have been a whole lot more comfortable of a victory for the Canadiens. 


- Habs Corsi rating halfway through the first was 83%. End of period, it fell to 50%. Yuuuuuup.

- Emelin is just so sloppy, has such a low hockey IQ. The day Bergevin is able to unload his services on someone else will be a major step forward for this franchise's championship hopes.

- Second period mirroring the first, Habs dominated up until the 8 minute mark before switching into sleep mode. We're approaching same time mark of second period right now.

- Oh baby, what a beautiful goal, Patches, Galchenyuk and Gallagher finishes very pretty goal, assisted by clunky Sens line change. 2-1.

- Safe to say the Habs are extending their strong play beyond what we saw in the first frame. Actually, 5-on-5, Habs have looked very strong tonight (yeah yeah Sens are tired, but still, Montreal playing a much more coherent goal than we're used to seeing).

- Sekac with Plekanec does nothing for me. Wonder how long Therrien is going to stick with this combo. Then again, we thought he wouldn't play Weise on the top 6 for more than a week, and here we are, more than a month later.

- Deaharnais having big troubles figuring out how to play the wing. He's just not working out anywhere. So like Emelin, Bergevin really needs to think hard about this team's long-term competitive prospects if he isn't wiling or able to move him somewhere else.

- Sens have no business even having a sniff at a win, but if not for Price, this game really ought be tied.

- Habs mailed in last seven minutes of the period, which is really disheartening and unimpressive. Third period coming up and this game is still up for grabs. Sigh.


- As we didn't remotely expect but aren't entirely surprised, Pacioretty will play tonight. The guy is incredible.

- Welp, Bornival is a scratch. Sigh. And Sekac won't play alongside Eller, because why would you want to keep doing something that works?

- Habs storm out of the gate against an already visibly tired Sens team. Karlsson with a tired hold goes to the box.

- Um, okay. Andrighetto falls with Habs well set up in the powerplay, a routine 65 foot flip shot by Condra on Price who completely muffs it up and Sens take a 1-0 lead. Quite possibly the weakest goal ever surrendered in Price's NHL career.

- Energy kind of just totally left the building after that goal. Game turns on a dime.

- Lehner trying to make Price feel better about his first goal. Prust from almost behind the red line. Tie game.

- Habs are kind of overwhelming right now - constantly on the attack, Sens in survival mode right now. Eller looking extra fast tonight.

- Sens righting the ship, pressing the zone and now drawing a powerplay. Momentum, she's a fickle lady.

- So Habs dominated first half of the first, Ottawa the later. One thing, though. Habs have no excuse not to be dominating most of this game.

- This game should have been tagged and bagged for the Habs. Getting the sinking feeling this team is going to have to scrap for all their might to get points tonight. 

Oh Ottawa. Why do we not like you so? We've little reason to feel this way. It's not as though you're a perennially winning franchise. It's not as though you've repeatedly dashed our championship dreams on an almost annual basis. It's not as though we even give two figs about your mediocre city that has virtually nothing to brag about.

And yet, we just don't like you. Maybe it's because of all of your dirty players and dirty hits over the years, like this:

Or maybe it's because of your inability to lose with class:

The lack of class certainly seems to be systemic. On this rare occasion, we'll let Michel Therrien take the microphone:

Better yet, let's let Brandon Prust sum it up:

Ah, who cares. You know what? The Senators aren't a very good hockey team. 11th overall in the Conference, 17th rated offense, 16th rated defense, 12th rated powerplay and penalty kill, their top scoring players is a defenseman, yadda yadda.

So tonight, the Sens will finish a back-to-back set in Montreal, coming off a pretty resounding win last night against the Ducks, whom themselves were playing their 2nd game in two days. I think the League is going to need to take a serious look at scheduling teams two games two days in a row. Teams playing the 2nd game have put up a dreadful winning record this season. Which means, of course, that the Sens ought to be ripe for the picking tonight.

Habs have a couple of things going their way tonight. First, Lars Eller will make his return to the lineup, hopefully reuniting him next to Jiri Sekac. Also, probably to nobody's surprise, Max Pacioretty, who took a brutal (and sadly unpunished) hit on Thursday night at the hand of career thug Clayton Stoner, may actually start tonight. Max Pacioretty, is without a doubt, OUR HONEY BADGER.

Carey Price will start tonight, with Joey McDonald as backup! Welcome back to the NHL Joey! Enjoy the extended view from the players bench!

Robin Lehner will start for Ottawa because ... the Sens are too scared to start Craig Anderson? I'll bet you that's why.

Puck drops 7:15 EST.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Game Thirty-Three: Ducks vs. Habs


The second-greatest centre in the history of the Montreal Canadiens.


First Period:

- What an incredible presentation and standing ovation for Saku. What a player. A small tragedy he didn't play his entire career in Montreal. He could have. He should have.

- Two strong shifts to start the game for the Galchenyuk line, it's the first one they've had in a very long time that could be called a power line.

- Reasonably decent start more or less wiped away by poor faceoff and slot protection, Duxks take early lead. Gilbert and Beaulieu a tad soft off the draw.

- Eller can't come back fast enough so that Desharnais isn't given any more powerplay time, which of course, Therrien would never do.

- Galchenyuk line proving that Ducks struggle when a strong forecheck is applied. They've had Anaheim pinned more than a couple of extended times in their zone this period.

- So, Galchenyuk line decided to make an appearance tonight. Subban and Markov. The rest? Pretty much traffic control from the Ducks' perspective. Habs collective effort in that period not nearly enough to compete tonight. That, and the 4th line really struggled with Bordeleau doing some savvy line matching. This Habs team really struggles against teams that are well coached. 

Second Period:

- Habs first period stats indeed pretty dismal. Poor possession, 42% Fenwick and 34% Corsi. Team got an extended visit to the woodshed.

- Prust with a clinic on how not to try to fake out an opposing goalie during a 3 on 1.

- Gallagher showing great hustle getting back into his zone to cover for AWOL Emelin. If not for that, it's probably 2-0. 

- Emelin now playing alongside Gilbert. I'm guessing this means Therrien is shortshifting Beaulieu.

- I'm counting on less than two fingers the number of tough saves Anderson has had to make the first 35 minutes of this game.

- Galchenyuk line is being dangerous, getting very close to breaking the scoresheet via some pretty intense speed and forechecking. Puck luck hasn't been on Habs side this period.

- Gallagher's been Habs best forward tonight, certainly both directions. Subban has looked awfully strong, helping Habs to gain a lot of zone possession tonight. 

- So Therrien benches Beaulieu. Two shifts, 27 seconds ice time last half of the second period.

- Much stronger 2nd period for the Habs, but bounces were firmly in Anaheim's court. This can't last all night, can it? Anyway, Montreal with as good a chance of any of evening the scoreboard if they can muster another 20 minutes like the previous. Game still very much up in the air.

Third Period:

- Strong second period has put the Habs into positive accumulative possession. 

- Anderson has surrendered more than a couple of big league rebounds off point shots tonight. Again the puck luck not quite there for Habs to capitalize.

- Another poor phantom tripping call, this time Prust is the victim. Seems like we can't have at least one of these bad penalties at least once a night.

- Nathan Stoner with an atrociously dirty board on Pacioretty with the play moving up ice. Pure intent to injure. Mission accomplished. Max is helped off the ice and into the room quite obviously badly shaken up. Stoner deserves a good suspension for that. Officials again not doing their job.

- Pacioretty really looked in bad shape headed into the room. Injury may be very serious. Just horrible.

- Desharnais one timer (yes he shot the puck) on cross ice pass ties the game. Habs clearly motivated there to even the score for the fallen Pacioretty. 

- Habs on the PK off a very silly interference call on Subban. The PK box is very tight. Too tight for my liking.

- Habs report Pacioretty won't return. Sigh.

- Beleskey. Just as Subban steps out. There's that PK issue. 2-1 Ducks.

- Stoner isn't just a dirty player, he's a lousy fighter. Prust cleans his clock.

- Seven minutes left, Therrien sends out the 4th line, which ain't exactly generating much energy tonight. 

- More 4th line shifts for a team that's registered a meager two shots on goal in 15 third period minutes. What Therrien is thinking is anyone's guess.

- Habs listlessly hobbling to the finish line here. Dismal third period. Disasterous if you consider the Pacioretty injury.

- Subban targeted for penalization. Dagger in the game heart.

- Not a night we'd care to remember. Now we wait to hear about Max's status. Player safety will probably hand out punishment on Anaheim. And Darcy Burchell, a rookie official, has given us a glimpse of the NHL's officiating future - and it is not bright.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Game Thirty-Two: 'Canes vs. Habs


- Habs get a powerplay, looking for game killer goal, proceed to just shoot puck around harmlessly in Canes zone, not play Subban for a single second, not record a SOG. That could haunt us later.

- That's the problem with having almost nothing to do for 50 minutes if you're the goaltender. You let a softie in, this time a relatively harmless shot by Rask that totally handcuffs Price. It ain't over. 2-1.

- Canes finding legs here, Habs defense far too indifferent about slot protection. Time to get really nervous.

- Subban was beaten to the pucks a couple of times tonight, leading to nothing. Therrien however, has seen fit to bench him. Net effect? Canes score, gain momentum, Habs on their heels. Just brilliant.

- Now Price bailing out his team, robbing Hainsey from point blank. Crazy that the Habs are now hanging on for dear life.

- Carolina narrowing in for the tie. Habs really need to call a timeout. Stop the momentum bleed.

- Terrible neutral zone turnover by the 'Canes. Galchenyuk on a break. It's almost automatic when he's alone. 3-1. We breath. Relief.

- Galchenyuk with his first career hat trick. Pacioretty, who we spent weeks begging to be taken off the Desharnais line to play next to Galley, has 3 assists tonight. 

- Habs found a way of making a game that shouldn't have been close, really close. At least until the Galchenyuk show began. The Canes were easy pickings. Thursday night will be a whole different story.


- Two kinda very really borderline penalties called 20 seconds apart. By the same official, of course.

- Hoo boy. Even worse tripping call on Gallagher. Amateur hour here.

- Habs may have been led to believe that only one period was needs to be played. Just about the entire lineup going through the motions right now. Better be careful, boys. No way your opponent should even be sniffing at a win tonight.

- As pretty as they come. Markov, Pacioretty to Galchenyuk. 2-0. Canes defense on a swivel not knowing which way is left or right.


- Can't say I've ever seen a barbershop quarter sing the athems before. Let us never see or speak of this again.

- Weiss with Plekanec. There goes playing the same lineup. Red hot Andrighetto gets slapped down to 4th line duties.

- Beaulieu's command of the puck is so much better than even the 40 year old guy that sits down the bench from him. Really shouldn't be third string defenseman.

- 4 on 2, bare minimum you gotta get a shot on goal. Habs find a way not to.

- Pretty terrible defending by the Canes, Desharanis once again doesn't shoot and hooks Ward way out of his crease, leaving Prust with a wide open net. That's a last place goal given up by Carolina. 1-0.

- Not sure if it's just this period or just who they normally are, but this Carolina offense is totally without flow or coherence. Price hasn't had anything resembling a challenging shot so far.

- Decent Powerplay, the Habs allowed to move the puck and shoot from s variety of directions, still can put it past someone like Ward. Nonetheless it was a pretty awful period for the visitors who should count their blessings they're only down 1-0.


So about Friday night. Not pretty. Except for the winning part. And that the other goalie had trouble stopping, you know, the puck. Otherwise, it was the same old same old that we've had for the past two years. Toss together four lines, send them out there, and let Carey Price do all the work = profit!

So we stole one against the defending champs. These things happen sometimes. When I mean sometimes, I mean, hardly ever. But it's two points, and it keeps the Habs within comfortable distance from not being in the playoffs. Which I think they probably will end up anyway, at least as long as they continue with this insane "system" of just having the goaltender make all of the difference.

So tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes roll into town. Remember how last week how our collective tongues were slobbering in anticipation of two weekend games against the lowly Buffalo Sabres, and then we went out and lost not one, but both games to those lowly Buffalo Sabres?? Good times, good times. Tonight, we're once again salivating at the chops in anticipation of Carolina, because they're last in the NHL with a meager 19 points, which is - and this is true, no better than Edmonton. So ... that's bad.

Carolina has another similarity to Edmonton - they've really messed things up behind the bench. Last year the 'Caines turfed (incorrectly) Kirk Muller because, I guess, upper upper management  figured they were a playoff team. Well, like the Oilers, who recently (incorrectly) ash-canned their bench boss, they weren't and they aren't.

So what's the deal with Carolina? Well, if you look at their offense, it's pretty yuck. Rated 3rd worst in the League. But even teams with lowly offenses can muster together a reasonably competitive team, as long as they have a good defense. In that department, Carolina is actually pretty decent. They've surrendered an average of 27.7 shots/game this season, which is 5th best in the NHL. Yet, they're stuck on just 8 piddly wins in 29 games.

What gives? Well, it's pretty much their goaltending. It's been ... uh ... not good.  The netminding duties have been a 2/1 split between Cam Ward and backup Anton Khudobin, with the former mustering just a .909 SV%, the later an .892. So Ward is their main guy, and in case you're wondering, his stats among goalies who've played 20+ games ranks him 6th worst in the League, while Khudobin's .896 ranks him 43/48th among goaltenders who've played a minimum 9 games.

So while the 'Canes do a reasonable job limiting the number of pucks directed towards their goaltedners, the guys in charge of making the saves simply haven't delivered. That's not exactly good news for a team that's going to face somebody like Carey Price, who'll start for the Habs tonight.

Lineup wise, here's how it breaks down. For Carolina:

Line 1: Gerbe/E. Stall/Dwyer
Line 2: Skinner/Rask/Lindholm
Line 3: Malone/J. Stall/Shugg
Line 4: Boychuck/Nash/Terry

For the Habs, it's the same lineup tonight as Friday, including defense. Mike Weaver, by the way, was added to the injury reserve list today, which means he's out for an indefinite period of time.

If the Habs have any shame, this shouldn't be a particularly difficult game to win tonight. Not against the 'Canes, not on four days rest.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Game Thirty-One: Kings vs. Habs


- Not like we didn't see this coming, but we saw this coming. Kings come out strong because they know darned well that three goal deficits or no, this game is winninl. Muzzin with a point shot that seemingly deflects off Markov and past Price. Another redeflected point shot for a goal. Really odd game. It's 3-1.

- Kings about to cross the 40 shot threshold. Might register 50 before this night is done. Insane.

- Clock can't tick fast enough for Montreal. Can they cling to life and stay ahead? 

- That'll help. A lot. Kings press just a little too hard, get caught in the neutral zone, and Parenteau with a pretty perfect feed to Desharnais. 4-1. Will that do the job?

- Kings now have 42 shots. 9 minutes left. I think they're going to reach that 50 mark.

- Doughty with a "holy crap" howitzer past Price. It had to be very close to 100 mph on the radar. This one ain't over. 4-2.

- Habs appear intent on trying to shutter the door. It's way too early for that. The Kings can easily overcome such an obvious defensive strategy.

- An absolutely fabulous shift by Andrightto and Bournival, with the latter's determined forechecking efforts finally producing a juicy turnover, a perfect pass to Andrighetto, and Jones can't move over fast enough to keep it out. 5-2. THAT should do it.

- Sekac. Wow. Highlight reel goal. It's just icing on the cake though. Jones having a miserable night. 6-2.

- A blowout score, with the losing team registering a blowout shot total. Just one of those weird, weird nights where everything seemed to go right for the Canadiens. Also masked by another great performance by Carey Price, I guarantee that this game played 20 times would have generated a Kings win 19 times. We will, however, take the money and run.


- Habs indeed were totally outplayed in the first, in particular Prust, Emelin and Desharnais, who each had a Corsi rating of 0%.

- Amazing. Another powerplay, another powerplay goal, another point shot that appears to have been redeflected. Markov. 2-0.

- Habs having a much better second period, at least they're getting zone possession and registering shot attempts.

 - Just crazy. Another point shot, this time Subban, another goal. But it's one that Jones should have stopped. And it's 3-0.

- Who needs a penalty killing unit? Just give it to Price and he'll fire it out. 

- Looks like one of those weird nights where the Habs can't do anything but let the good bounces happen. They haven't done anything special to earn this lead, other than using a pen to mark Price as the starter.

- Price is putting on quite the show. Habs PDO must be about three million tonight.

- Kings totally dominating last half of the second period, and it's resulting in a string of Habs penalties, all totally deserved.

- Second period not much different than the first, the Habs got more scoring attempts away. Otherwise if not for the Carey Price show, there is no way the Habs would be headed to the 3rd with the lead. Oh, about that. The three goal spread is by no means safe. Not the way the Kings are playing tonight.


- Galchenyuk line gets to start, a nice acknowledgement they were the best line out against the Canucks Tuesday night.

- Calls on Subban have been questionable this year but that boarding was fully deserved. Kings to the PP.

- Kings possess the puck like a well oiled machine. They're everything the Habs aren't and what the Habs must become if they're to compete for a cup anytime soon.

- My eyes. They surely deceive me. A powerplay goal, three seconds in? Tres manufique! Definate Habs bounce there off Subban's point shot, but we're owed a few of those. 1-0.

- Carey Price's switch appears to be set to "on" tonight. Three magnificent saves so far in the period.

- It should be noted that Price's dazzling saves as this period winds down is underscoring how the Kings, regardless of Subban's goal, are methodically taking over this game.

- If it wasn't for the scoreboard we'd already be wringing out hands over how badly the Habs are being outplayed. Well, I'm doing plenty of wringing over here - something needs to change soon or L.A. is going to run away with this.

- Parenteau, who got nailed for a marginal high stick, is badly wacked in the face after a faceoff, and somehow the refs missed the play. Terrible.

- Kings outshot the Habs 14-4. That's about right. No way the Habs can hope to win tonight unless they do something else, quickly. The dump and chase ritual plays right into L.A.'s wheelhouse, the only other realistic option for Montreal is to intensify their forecheck and put the Kings on the defensive. Otherwise, don't be surprised if this game ends up a blowout.


FRIDAY! HAPPY FRIDAY. What's this? A Habs game on a Friday night? At home? That's only happened three (3) times in twenty (20) years. For real! How do I know? Just because I know. Don't ask for facts or anything. I don't do facts. My gut says it's three times, so that's the correct answer.

Hey - guess what? No lineup changes for tonight. That means another night with Alex Galchenyuk at centre (yay!), with Brendan Gallagher on his right (yay) and Max Pacioretty on his left (yay!).

It also means another night where David Desharnais is relegated to marginalized third line duty (yay!). Now if only Michel Therrien (boo) would be willing to take Desharnais off the powerplay (yay), we'd really be going in a good direction.

Also it means another start for Nathan Beaulieu (yay) who seemingly does everything a young defenseman is supposed to do (and more), and yet can never seem to establish regular playing time mainly because his coach (boo) doesn't have confidence in his abilities. Ergo, it's meant more playing time for the likes of Alexei Emelin (boo), and Bryan Allen (barf). 

So the Kings. Hmm. Maybe tonight isn't something to look forward to. First meeting of the season between these two, last year the Kings swept the season series (two games) outscoring the Habs 8-1. Yeek. L.A. is pretty much the team we all expect them to be, a defending Stanley Cup champion that hasn't taken much if any steps backwards from last year to this. What does this mean? It means the Kings this season are (again) the best possession team in the League, the second best Fenwick %, and an offensive zone start 2nd in the League at 36%. That means the Kings are a strong forechecking team that thrives on pinning their opponent into submission in their own zone. The Habs would kind of be the perfect example of a team that just loves to keep it in their end, and let Carey Price bail them towards victory. 

The Kings have a pretty solid balance of attack, split mainly between Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter lines. It doesn't also hurt when your other centres are Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, and for good measure, Jarret Stoll. Man, how do you defend against that?!?

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.