Monday, 27 January 2014

Game Fifty-Three: 'Canes vs. Habs

The Problem: 2013-14 Edition

Yeah, we've battered on endlessly this year about how badly this team has been coached by Michel Therrien, and how the only hopes the Habs have left to salvage what is turning out to be a lost season would be to find a bench replacement as quickly as possible. So that story hasn't changed. What hasn't been explored enough, though, are the essential problems with the Habs on the ice.

While a considerable amount of focus has been on the Habs offense, or woeful lack thereof since November, I think that's been a misguided criticism of this team. The fundamental on-ice problem for the Canadiens this year hasn't been the lack of consistent production amongst its forwards, it's been the wretched collective performance by its blue line.

Let's look at goal differential rankings amongst the 203 NHL defensemen. Keep that 203 number in mind. It's important.

103: Josh Gorges: 0.50

Wow. Gorges isn't doing very well. He's barely in the top half of the League. Actually, he's exactly at the top/bottom half. But guess what, folks? He's the Habs top rated defensemen in goal differential. Sitting at 103rd position. Now hold on to your hats:

108: Andrei Markov: .492
143: P.K. Subban: .462
171: Raphael Diaz: .424
200: Alexei Emelin: .344
203: Francis Bouillon: .324
205: Douglas Murray: .191

That's ... terrible. As a collective group, those are just terrible, terrible numbers. Murray at .191, is the 2nd worst in the NHL for his position, and 3rd worst among all players. And yet, somehow, Habs management considers him a valuable component to the team's defense, bear witness to Therrien's post-practice comments about Murray yesterday in which he heaped praise on someone who is obviously incompetent.

The woeful blue line performances, while unquestionably the team's greatest on-ice issue, are merely a reflection of the fundamental issue this team is dealing with. Its decision makers have seemingly no idea of what is going on. They don't seem to know who's playing well (Bournival getting minimal time), or more importantly, no idea on who's performing very, very poorly.

This team, right now, is a lost cause.

Montreal 3, Carolina 0
Okay, let's break down the blue line numbers tonight. Corsi:

Murray 7-19, Beaulieu 7-19, Gorges 9-26, Emelin 20-16, Subban 10-22, Markov 21-16.

Those are not good numbers. Actually, they're borderline terrible. Murray, as usual, put up poor figures, which dragged down his partner, Beaulieu. Emelin and Markov seemed to click last night, although that's largely been the exception over the year, rather than the rule.

Gorges continues, as usual this season, to underwhelm. Maybe Josh should focus less time on buttering up his head coach, and more time focusing on his game performance.

Others (good and bad):

Prust (-11), Eller/Bourque (-9), Gallagher (+0), Bournival (+3).

So the game time observations are solidified by advanced stats - the Habs defense wasn't particularly any better than it's been the past two months (arguably just as bad), while the offense put up some medicore numbers. The kids though, played well - which for most teams would be very good news, but not this Habs team, simply because its coach has an established tendency to wrap the young players on a very short leash.

Bottom line - the Habs won because Carey Price. Nothing's changed.


Third Period:

- While the Habs effort is much better tonight, the club's possession line still sucks. Bottom line: The fundamentals haven't improved much.

- Desharnais has Hands of Moen goin' on tonight.

- We'll post the blue line Corsi numbers after this one is done, but I'm already speculating they might not be nearly as good as the 3-0 score might suggest.

- Carey Price won't be beaten tonight. It's just not gonna happen no matter what.

- Final score a bit misleading, a solid but not overwhelming victory tonight. A least a turnacate has been applied to the gushing wound. The Sun can now rise again in Montreal. At least until Friday morning. Numbers in a bit.

Second Period:

- Habs are keeping it simple, driving the net, and the über-soft 'Canes defense is folding like an old tent. Easy pickings for someone like Pacioretty and it's 3-0.

- Don't try to beat Price glove hand. It just isn't gonna happen.

- Dreaded 3 goal Habs lead and now they're sitting on it a bit. Uh-oh ...

- Half way through regulation and Briere has two ... count 'em, two minutes of ice. 

- Price has been beaten clean from long distance twice tonight, saved by posts. Never a good sign.

- 'Canes continue to press, Habs continue to play in a shell. Carolina scoring next almost seems inevitable.

- George Parros might play more tonight than Daniel Briere. It's come to that.

- Speaking of time played, Bournival yet again tonight demonstrating why he's more than entitled to more play than the measly 6 minutes he's been receiving since the call up.

- Another decent period, not quite as dominating as the first frame, but Habs have their legs moving tonight. The effort is there, and finally this team is looking competitive again. 

First Period:

- So two teams going in totally different directions, logic says Habs will win tonight, right? Sheyah, right.

- Prust opens the scoring. The goal made possible because the Habs were able to muster a clean transition out of their zone. Funny that, huh? 1-0.

- Bourque seems ... inspired tonight? Bergevin ought to consider trading him the day before every Habs game.

- P.K. simplify please. Just shoot it, don't overthink. It's killing the powerplay.

- Has anyone yet noticed that Price is almost certainly the NHL's best big save goaltender this season? Seems to make these in routine fashion.

- Ya know, Emelin's got a half-decent shot, I'm surprised he hasn't been utilized more frequently on the PP (instead of past dregs like Bouillon/Gorges).

- Habs have come out to play tonight, seemingly. Gallagher makes it 2-0.

- Might have been Pacioretty, but for now it's Gallagher. That was quite possibly the ultimate Brenden Gallagher goal. Just keep digging till the damn puck crosses the line.

- Easily the Habs' best period of hockey in a month. Possibly longer. We'll take it.

GAMEDAY MORNING NEWS 'N' NOTESUPDATE: Louis Leblanc was sent back down to Hamilton this afternoon, still under the weather, so probably unable to play tonight anyways.

- Just because we hate ourselves, the d-lines at Brassard right now:

1: Gorges/Subban,
2: Markov/Emelin
3: Murray/Beaulieu

And the O lines:

1: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
2: Eller/Plekanec/Gionta
3: Leblanc/Brière/Bourque
4: Moen/Bournival/Parros

Leblanc is back, at least. Also skating this morning (not practicing though) was Ryan White and Drew (remember him?) Drewiske.


Finally, some clarification? is reporting this morning of what might actually have gone down yesterday between Avs GM Greg Sherman and Marc Beregevin. According to Gelinas (and not reported by Louis Jean), the Avs were offering Parenteau in return for Bourque *and* Habs prospect Sven Andrighetto. So a day later, that outlandishly one-sided trade doesn't appear quite so outlandish.

Andrighetto is by no means a blue-chip prospect. Odds are pretty good fans in Montreal will never see him play. Still, credit to Bergevin for refusing to part with any of the kids, even if it means shedding the club of dead roster weight.


UPDATE: The report source is TVA's Louis Jean. He's not amongst the upper echelon of Habs reporters, but he's also not got a reputation for inaccuracies.

Still, I've poked around the net and there's no way this could be true. Not a straight up acquisition of Parenteau, the Quebecer who's playing as a top 6 forward in Denver, for the chronically underachieving, overpaid Bourque. There simply must be more involved. Perhaps the Avs were demanding a higher draft pick, or a chunk of Bourque's contract? There's just no way this trade report is accurate.


TVA Sports reports tonight that the Avs offered PA Parenteau straight up for Rene Bourque.

They are also reporting the Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin turned down the trade offer, wanting Parenteau and another player in return for Bourque.

I find this remarkably difficult to believe, and am searching for some kind of official confirmation, if that ever comes.

But if this original report is true, and again, I find it nearly impossible to believe that Bergevin could say no to this offer, then I can say with great confidence that all hell will break loose in Habsland.

Stay tuned.

"We can't just open things up, go run and gun and think that's how we're gonna win games."

It's not his fault. It's our fault."

- Josh Gorges, January 27, 2014.

Um, okay Josh. So since we're settled on crazy talk, yeah I'll have nuts on that, please.

Josh Gorges. Making a vaulted attempt to become my new least-favorite Montreal Canadien.

PA Parenteau

For Raphael Diaz, reported speculatively.

Here are my thoughts about this:

Don't do it Marc. Just. Don't. Even. Go. There.

Happy MONDAY blah blah ... gah ... 

So I didn't bother blogging Saturday. Because I was off doing anything else which means, doing something better. I read the scoreline. That's all I needed to know - it's all that I was expecting.

So Monday. I hate Mondays - not saying anything the rest of us don't mutter each week of our lives. But this Monday morning ...  well ... just read this. Blah.

The immediate reactions to Boucher's signing in Switzerland has been "ooooh does he have an opt-out clause in case he's offered the Habs job??!?!".

But that's beside the point. It really doesn't matter if Boucher does or doesn't. His signing tells us pretty loud and clear that Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin hasn't even talked to Boucher yet, which tells us that Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin hasn't even begun the process required when you're about to fire your existing head coach.

Which tells us Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin has already made up his mind that Michel Therrien isn't going anywhere. At least, anytime soon.

Happy Monday.

News 'n' Notes:

- Louis Leblanc is out with the flu. Tough luck. Now we'll have to search high and low to find someone to replace the 4 minutes of icetime that Leblanc was receiving.

- Habs O-lines this morning. Because, insanity:

1. Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
2. Eller (relegated to wing now, ugh)/Plekanec/Gionta
3. Bourque/Briere (really?)/Prust
4. Moen/Bournival/Parros (abysmal - how long before Ryan White is healthy?).

- Habs practice D-Lines this morning. Whatever. It doesn't matter.

1: Gorges/Subban,
2: Markov/Emelin,
3. Murray/Beaulieu
4. Bouillon/Diaz

The organization seems steadfast in driving Diaz, one of the very few guys this season who's been playing well defensively, right out of town. Which is where Diaz will be heading in 4 months. I'd do the same thing.

- #FireTherrien

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