Saturday, 29 March 2014

Game Seventy-Six: Habs vs. Panthers


- Habs in serious sit on it mode, Panthers taking it to them, Price making some big saves. Montreal must push back or this game could get dicey.

- So many blown chances by the Panthers in this game, against a team with a competent offense, the score could be completely different.

- Habs defense really sloppy this period, the usual suspects - Murray, Bouillon, and Ememlin. Their incompetence as usual, masked by Price seemingly always bailing them out.

- Bourque clearly back in the doghouse, now made to play with Parros.

- Habs in nearly zombie like trance sitting on this lead, and Florida seeing the barn door left wide open, are storming the zone. It's getting silly - no way a Price should be breaking a sweat in this game, but he's had to handle 11 shots in 11 minutes.

- Habs did a great job killing off their two minute powerplay. Really unimpressed by their complacent performance this period. Just one shot on the clock with 5 minutes left.

- Why is Parros out there with 3 minutes left? Why?!

- Dismally protective period - an ugly win. But a win, I guess. The playoff spot now, surely clenched. Habs may want to consider resting, or at least, scaling back the icetime of their most important players. Habs need to be as healthy as possible for their first round series against Tampa.


- Habs playing very defensive first five minutes, not sure the rationale for cautuious play, it's way too early to be lead protecting.

- Amazing how the Habs offense takes on a completely different dynamic the instance Vanek steps on the ice. Enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose.

- Good god what a play by Vanek, dangling the puck turning his back to the check then suddenly swinging 180 to fire a perfect pass to a wide open Pacioretty for a tap in goal. Just brilliant.

- Boyes. Great shot but Price shoulda had that. Played the net way too deep with Boyes so wide off the line. 3-1.

- If Habs could just figure out how to get Galchenyuk and (of course) Eller producing, they might be near impossible to best.

- Habs hold their two lead, although they were a tad fortunate, given how they went into sitting mode for most of the 2nd. Still, not a single reason to believe that the Habs shouldn't have any problem in coming out of this with their 5th straight. Panthers are simply totally overmatched.


- If the Habs fined it's players for taking lazy hooking penalties because they weren't moving their feet, Rene Bourque would have to file for bankruptcy.

- Panthers powerplay looks pretty abysmal. If Scott Gomez is on one of your units, you know you're in deep trouble.

- Vanek make it looks so effortless in opening the scoring. Follows up his wrist shot and tucks in the rebound, largely because his size and hands just overwhelm opposing defenseman. 1-0.

- Was about it criticize the Habs pp for being too cute but then that three way passing to Pacioretty to tap it home. Supurb playmaking. 2-0.

- Parros making himself useful, I guess. Barch with the knockdown. Yawn.

- Habs-owned first period, Panthers had two early powerplays that went nowhere, and Montreal basically took over after that. Florida has been miserable the first period this season, so Canadiens would be wise to not let up the leash if they want to clinch tonight.


Wow. We've arrived. We're well into the home stretch of the regular season schedule. The Habs, in case you've paying almost no attention lately, have all but secured a first round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightening. So that's great news.

What's also great news? The total and utter demise of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Another lost last night at the hands of the Flyers, the Leafs, now losers of 7 straight, find themselves well on the outside looking in for a wildcard berth. With but seven games remaining on their schedule, the Leafs will have to somehow win six of them, to have a reasonable chance of sneaking into the post-season.

The Leafs, lest we feel the tiniest bit sorry for them, sewed their own seeds of misfortune by embracing a system whose days were long surpassed. The Leafs played a defense-first, dump and chase, hot puck potato system which meant that on almost every night, they were heavily out-possessed and outshot. The Leafs currently sit in 29th place for puck possession. That lowly ranking as we type, is pretty where they've sat all season long.

Even thought outplayed by their opponents much of the year, Toronto, lest we forget, were frequently bailed out by excellent netminding, by both (yes, both) Johnathan Bernier and James Reimer. They were also helped along by a greater than average PDO, meaning the Leafs were assisted not only by fine goaltending, but by the element of luck.

All of that caught up to them two weeks ago. Playing against the curve, getting all the bounces, and depending on their goaltending to bail the team out of trouble - all of that came undone.

So what does this have to do with the Habs? Everything. The Canadiens play a very similar style to the Leafs - one might argue at an even more conservative level. Through Michel Therrien, the Habs are an obsessive defense-first team, relying heavily on dumping the puck out of their zone at all cost, even at the sacrifice of anything resembling a transition. When the Habs forwards do possess the puck, much like the Leafs, they're inclined to dump and give chase into the opposing zone, thereby sacrificing one of their big pluses - team speed.

And, lest we forget, the Habs, like the Leafs, have been gifted by stellar netminding - Carey Price is having a Vezina-level season, and Peter Budaj, has also played very strong in the backup role. There have been many occasions where the Habs, even though heavily out-possessed, outshot and outplayed, have eeked out victories.

There are, though, hints of hope. Even though the Habs sit 21st in the League, the possession trend has been coming around, at least of late:

You can see just how low this team had sunk - with a rolling average below 43%, which is definitely into Leafs territory. However, since early March, this team has suddenly moved into positive possession territory (albeit granted against weaker opponents, but still ... ). Why the turnaround? Who knows - it could be something as simple as the Habs making some adjustments to modify their defense-first obsession, it could be the team's improved play in the neutral zone, but I think it's largely because of the recent addition of Thomas Vanek, who has brought this team another offensive dimension that the organization hasn't had in a very long time. The Habs, with Vanek, have a very well balanced red line roster, with three very scoring-capable lines. The Habs, with those three lines, are a tough opponent to beat.

Habs and Panthers game blog later.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, even anonymously. All I ask is that you behave, and in support of good taste, avoid the use of course language, or express opinions that are just plain silly (racist, sexist, etc.)