Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Game One: Habs vs. Leafs

Third Period:

- I guess I shouldn't complain too much about the Habs powerplay, the Leafs' doesn't look a whole lot better.

- Leafs defense really aggressive pinching up into he neutral zone, even without puck possession. Habs might have a couple of breakaways before the night is over.

- Good work by Desharnais battling for and winning the puck behind the net against Gardner, and feeding it to Subban who snaps a screen past Bernier. Habs lead 3-2.

- Again, this Leafs defense appears too soft and mistake apt to realistically out this club into a playoff spot this season. Offensively they look pretty solid. Beyond that. Trouble.

- Markov has made a few poor positional decisions tonight, one of which has cost his team a goal. 

- Weak links for the Habs tonight: Prust. Honourable mention to Markov and Gilbert.

- Monsters for the Habs tonight: Plekanec, Price, Desharnais, Gallagher, Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, Parenteau. In that order.

- Less than 5 minutes, Habs may be tempted to go into shell mode. Hopefully this team has learned enough not to let that happen.

- Oh man, what a way to blow the lead. Puck is flipped out front, hits Eller in the chest and squeaks past Price. Tie game.

- Crazy finish. Plekanec tosses it at the Leafs net, and it apparently deflects off Percy's toe and past Bernier. 4-3 with less than a minute left.

- Price with a fan-frickin-tastic point blank pad save off Kessel with second left, to seal the victory. A well-deserved win for the Habs tonight, who pretty much controlled the game both ends after 20 minutes. The Leafs, in particular their point producers, were well contained tonight, and with Price between the pipes, if your top guys aren't scoring, you're probably not going to beat the Habs.

Opening night win. Finally. It's been awhile.

Second Period: 

- Once again, golden scoring chance, Desharnais refuses to shoot the puck. I can't fathom the rationale here. It's terrible decision making.

- Pretty awful defense by Leafs and a beauty 60 foot pass by Emelin on Plekanec's tape springs him on a break. Great move on Bernier ties the game. 

- Can't see how the Leafs stay playoff competitive with this defense. Too many glaring letdowns combined with "okay" goaltending will be their undoing.

- Winnik catches the puck and throws it into the Habs zone. He doesn't know that's a penalty?

- Habs powerplay again trying to be too perfect, looking to covert difficult setups. Simplify, simplify boys.

- Malhotra is doing well taking faceoffs, which is one of the major reasons why Bergevin signed him up.

- Better second for the Habs - their fore and backchecking was tighter, giving Price a little relief. Canadiens really need to get their man advantage in gear - it faultered during the preseason and hasn't really improved much to start the year.

First Period:

- Pretty lame season opening pregame by MLSE. Looked more like a WWE main event.

- God, Glen Healy. More evidence that Rogers really muffed up their analyst selection.

- Carey Price. Same old same old. Making very difficult saves look totally routine.

- The cable cam is kind of interesting if you can handle the slight vertigo. The NFL has bee using this technology for 10 years.

- Habs sloppy in the neutral zone, turnovers have produced three good Leafs scoring chances and counting early in this game.

- Hoo boy. First shot, first goal. Max Pacioretty. Bernier looked pretty bad there. So also did Phaneuf who watched Max skate around him.  1-0.

- Leafs Kadri ties it up off a wicked tip in off a slot shot. Price had no chance. Plekanec lost his mark, while Weaver and Beaulieu played their zone a little too soft. 

- Desharnais doing the same things tonight (i.e. not shooting the puck) that got him into a huge slump last year that nearly cost him his NHL career.

- Habs come up empty on their first powerplay but their puck control and passing was pretty crisp.

- Just put Healy in blue and white and be done with it.

- Leafs plays a simplified powerplay and it pays off. Not sure where Markov was going, but he left Bozak all alone in front for an easy tip in. 2-1.

- A meh first period. Pretty even handed, the Leafs taking advantage of their chances. Habs defense was a bit soft and sloppy, something a few have pointed out might end up being a problem for the Canadiens during the forthcoming season.


Wow. Is it time to drop the puck already? Where did summer go!? Seriously, if you live out on the east coast or western Canada (as do I), you might have missed the solstice after blinking your eyes.

Summer. It was quite an interesting one, if you're a Habs fan. First the drama over P.K. Subban which, thank ye gods, ended in an eight year, 17 trillion dollar contract. Oh Marc Bergevin, if you had only heeded my advice two years ago when you could have locked up Pernell for about the same amount of time at half the salary.

Speaking of Mr. Bergevin, he was a bit of a busy man. Before signing Subban, he managed to eek a one year contract extension to the gritty and oft' undervalued Mike Weaver, who's performed brilliantly for the Habs since coming over from Florida for literally nothing, thereby taking a big step towards cheaply solidifying the Habs blue line.

But that was before the trade. On the day of Canada's 147th birthday, Bergevin sent veteran dye in the wool defenseman Josh Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres in return for a draft pick. The move, which wasn't entirely surprising considering Gorges' rising age and declining play hampered by an annual salary in excess of $4 million. Still, Gorges reaction to the trade, which hilariously included a steadfast refusal to be dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs, was one of utter shock and disbelief. While Gorges' skill set won't be difficult to replace, it'll be tough to overcome his devotion to the CH and leadership assets he brought to the dressing room.

Following the Gorges trade, Bergevin moved quickly to fill the gap, signing the younger and cheaper Tom Gilbert, who unlike Gorges, will offer the Habs blue line a little more offensive punch, especially on the 2nd line powerplay unit. The signing capped off a pretty insane week in Habsland, which also included the acquisition of P.A. Parenteau in return for Daniel Briere, which in one fell swoop, undid the original gaff committed by Bergevin, when he signed the perennially underwhelming Briere in 2013.

Oh yeah. Also on July 1st, Bergevin signed the solid two way Manny Malhotra to a one year contract. Wow, was that a crazy 24 hours, or what?

Also of significance this summer is what the Habs didn't do with some players. Doug Murray, George Parros and as of this week, Frankie Boullion were all released from the team, thereby correcting the other roster mistakes Bergevin made during the summer of 2013.

Whew. Let's review this.

In: Gilbert, Malhotra, Parenteau, Weaver, Sekac, Tokarski.
Out: Gorges, Gionta, Murray, Boullion, Parros, Breire, Budaj.

Yup. There's no way to slice it. The Habs made some excellent moves over the summer, with Bergevin seamlessly ridding the club of its worst performers, bringing in upgrades, and reducing the club's payroll. That's pretty impressive.

SO TONIGHT LET'S DROP THE PUCK! You know, it's only been four months since the Habs played a meaningful game - that's the benefit from making a deep run in the playoffs. The opposition to kick off the season this evening is, as usual, the Leafs, who also over the summer, seemed to finally grasp some semblance of sanity, where they shed some awful front office decision makers (Randy Carlyle aside), and embraced a culture that actually believes in the value of advanced statistical analysis. The Leafs also made significant roster changes that moves the team away from the dead end roughhouse style (by releasing nowhere players like Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren) towards a team where speed and skill are emphasized.

The Leafs making the right moves isn't particularly good news for the rest of the Conference, who've enjoyed more than a decade of a Toronto franchise that was going nowhere other than 20 feet underground.

It's great to be back for a 4th season of Habs Game Blog. Here's hoping that the 2014-15 season is a special one for the bleu blanc and rouge faithful, young, and in my instance, old.

Puck drops tonight at 7:20 EST.

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