Thursday, 16 October 2014

Game Five: Bruins vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Pacioretty somehow misses a totally empty net off the pass on the PP. Missing that might come back to bite later.

- So many juicy rebounds served up by Rask tonight, the Habs ought to be up by two or three.

- Prust continues to offer little on the Habs 4th line - it's nice to have him around for added depth, but if you want to start considering trade bait as the season progresses, he might be your first stop.

- Bruins got the bounce to grab the lead 3-2, and now the hockey gods return the favor as the puck bounces off Gallagher via a Paciorety shot and past a hapless Rask, who gets the hook. 5-3.

- Habs have really intensified the forecheck in the period, and it's creating many excellent scoring rushes. Habs speed definately overtaking the Bruins in the final frame.

- Another solid effort by Gilbert tonight, Eller has also played an excellent two way game. Still think Eller has much more upside if he plays the game the same way Bob Gainey did. 

- Habs attempting to grind this game to a complete halt. So far, so good.

- Gagne scores - we think, even though it was directed in by a skate. In any case, Habs got complacent protecting the slot and the Bruins narrow the lead to one.

- 2:30 left, Habs sitting on this again. Watch out.

- How sweet is that? Lucic takes a dirty run at Emelin and gets nailed for boarding. Habs can just kill the clock to win the game.

- Parenteau with the empty net, and Lucic, furious, promptly gets tossed from the game. Habs really controlled much of the game after having a shaky first period - we've seen that pattern before. Nonetheless, this game felt like something of a torch was passed. The Bruins aren't nearly as dominant as past years, while the Habs, at least by tonight's game, appear to have caught, if not passed Boston, as a hockey force in the eastern Conference.

Second Period:

- Still reckon something will happen between Emelin and Lucic tonight, the later is too much of a psychopath to hold himself back.

- 3-on-1s you're more apt to benefit by making at least one pass, but Paciiretty elects to take a selfish shot on a covered angle. Oh well.

- Subban with a slight little bump on Marchand, who reacts by taking a failed slash. Same old.layed 

- Okay, that was some of the Carey Price from 2013-14, a superb save off a high labeled Chara wrister from the line.

- Rask struggling with loose pucks, and Gallagher with an easy goal off a low angle shot by Pacioretty. 2-1.

- Speaking of puck control, Price gives up a juicy rebound, after Emelin, for whatever reason, knocks Subban out of the play. Anyway, no way Emelin should be paired with Subban, but whatever I guess. Therrien. Game tied.

- Lucic is a menace and a disgrace. Targeting Gallagher's knee. He's attempting to wreck careers.

- Lousy (incorrect) icing call and Bruins take the lead off the faceoff, a shot deflecting off Plekanec's skate. Breaks very much favouring the Bruins tonight.

- Marchand slashes Subban in the groin, and P.K. is assessed an embelishment penalty. More atrocious calls.

- Rask with more puck control issues, Sekac scores his first NHL goal off a rebound in front of the family, and ties the game. Rask looks really vulnerable tonight.

- Oh man that was a beauty. Plekanec with a great pass on the stick of Parenteau, who fires it instantly past Rask blocker side. Rask looked totally unprepared for the play, and it gives the Habs the second period lead.

- Rask really fighting the puck in the second, Habs would be highly advised to just toss it at the net with every opportunity in the third period.

First Period:

- As I mentioned previously, a little late joining this so doing a little bit of catchup. Price still looking at little iffy, isn't he? A puck getting behind, one off the crossbar, and now a poor clearance into the stands.

- Chara. What are you gonna do? Who can move that kind of body out of the crease?

- Ut-oh .. Habs powerplay. Hide the kids, this could get scary.

- Go figure. The Habs finally score with the man advantage, and lo and behold, it's a pretty basic goal. Puck is delivered on net, Pacioretty drives the crease, and it goes in ugly. 

- Gilbert really has impressed me so far this year, very solid positionally, he's been getting some tough zone starts and still has managed to post some pretty decent possession numbers. 

- Brilliant shift by Subban - he can take this game by the scruff of the neck unlike few others in the game.

- Nifty save by Bergeron off a sloppy turnover by Markov. Still, he just doesn't look the Carey Price of last year, can't put my finger on it, but something's not right.

- Weak tripping call on Pacioretty, Seidenberg with plenty of embellishment - officials having trouble discriminating trips calls.

- Bruins all over Habs with period-closing powerplay, couple of nice blocks by Markov and Bourque. In any case, period advantage to Boston, their forwards beating the Habs at their own game utilizing speed, and carrying the zone to create ongoing pressure. Habs somewhat fortunate to come away with a tied score.


Oh yeah baby, the game we've been looking forward to has arrived, and it's time to pull out the ol' Tuuka-Rask-is-a-headcase gif. The tradition continues!

Funny how traditions never die. Here's one. WE ALWAYS BEAT THE BOSTON BRUINS. Well, nearly almost always. There was that series back in 2012. And I guess the one before that. The point is, WHEN IT COUNTS we win. Pretty much, always.

Have we forgotten about Monday night? That didn't happen, right? That was a nightmare, right? Steven Stamkos, he's just a figment of the imagination? Somebody throw me a bone. Actually, somebody toss the Habs powerplay a femur or two - what is blazes is happening?! Extending back to the last part of last year's regular season, the Habs are currently running an 0-for-39 streak. I'm no match genius, but without pulling out my trusty calculator, it would seem as though the Canadiens' man advantage is running at a success rate of about zero percent.

I'm no hockey rocket scientist elitest prorogue either, but I'm pretty willing to bet (without consulting the statheads) that a powerplay running with a nil success percentage probably means you aren't going to win very many games. Just taking a stab in the dark about that one.

So ... what ... do ... we ... do? Well, if you've watched the first four games of this season, you might have observed a couple of things. First, even with a roster chock-full-o' forwards with considerable speed and snazzy puck handlin' abilities, the Habs continue to play the man advantage with amazing conservatism, choosing (and failing) repeatedly to dump and chase after pucks. The few times when puck control is established, the Habs put on a pretty impressive puck passing clinic - highly entertaining for viewers, and I'm sure extra fun for the Habs opponents, as they watch the penalty seconds drain away with little fear the Canadiens won't do much else.

The dump/chase "strategy" is unfortunately, ingrained and is the net effect of a coaching staff that is seemingly about 10 years behind the times of how this game is played. Sure, for the first good chunk of this century, teams, in particular those brimming with intimidating size, thrived on leveraging the dump and chase. But that was then. The game has since changed rather significantly. For the most part, teams are eliminating hired goons, the average size and weight of players has plateaued, and there's been a resuscitated emphasis on speed and skill. In a sense, the game is returning to its roots, not unlike the freewheeling style we saw (and enjoyed) dominate the League from 1975 to 1992.

So, to put it starkly, the Habs powerplay efficiency doesn't look very promising. Sure, they'll score eventually, but given their current formation, it's unlikely that this team will put up an efficiency much greater than 10%, which also means the prospect for this team finishing with a point total similar to last year, is very unlikely.

So tonight! The Bruins come to town. What's the deal with Boston? Seven goals in five games? Ouch. Surely this can't be the actual version of the 2014-15 Bruins, can it? Surely, this team which most of the experts picked to finish at the top of the Eastern Conference, isn't headed for a tumble down the standings, can it?

It hasn't been a fun start for Boston - following a trade that most Bruins fans bemoaned, when Johnny Boychuck was sent to the Islanders in exchange for a few mid round picks. The Islanders, go figure, have gotten off to a terrific start, led by, guess who, Boychuck, who's collected six points in three games. Yowza!

Anyway, keys to the game - Habs getting their specialty units into something not resembling dysfunction, and Carey Price having a solid start - he been definably "okay" so far, certainly not good, and most definitely not great like he was last year.

Puck drops tonight at (est.) 7:50 EST.  I'll be joining in a little late, probably around the midway point of the 1st period, depending on exactly when the puck drops.

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