Thursday, 20 November 2014

Game Twenty-One: Blues vs. Habs


- Some really bad defensive breakdowns by Habs defense, but Price makes two sparkling saves to keep his team ahead. 

- How big were Price's huge saves? Desharnais with a nice pass to spring Pacioretty alone on the wing, his snapper leaving Allen baffled. 3-1.

- Habs doing a superb job on the forecheck tonight, basically snuffing out the Blues ability to maintain any sense of consistent possession. Habs have dominated centre ice. In cruise control right now.

- Max Pacioretty looks determined to score about 200 on his birthday. Almost a hat trick tonight.

- Eller with the Cherry on tip. He's so deserved of these goals, and he's benefitted hugely since Sekac was put beside him. Really showing us just how terrible Bourque was in a Habs uniform.

- Impressive, impressive win tonight against a top-flight organization. A collective victory in so many senses. Price was strong as usual, and all four lines were really rolling. It was the kind of win you'd expect from, well, the St. Louis Blues.


- Gallagher claiming during the intermission that an official said to him during the penalty that offenses by opposing teams on him won't be called. That's kind of big. We'll see if anything comes of it. 

- In any case we now have a player making an on the record claim that NHL officials have a set bias against the Canadiens. 

- Ouch. And here I was praising the Blues in the first period for their excellent zone play. Then Shattenkirk does that. Tie game on a gift.

- Pretty solid period by Habs so far - Blues have, surprisingly, sagged. Mainly playing reactionary and defensively.

- And Paciorety puts the home team on top, a brilliant 70 foot pass by Parenteau with Jackman completely disengaged, and Allen whiffs and lets it through the wickets. Blues defense a real letdown in this period.

- Habs first powerplay, they dumped every single attack, and were able to muster zero shots. Didnt even come close to registering a SOG. Feh.

- Shartenkrik with a make-up brilliant poke check on Galchenyuk on a dangerous odd man rush. You just know Alex was about to score. Just an excellent play, there.

- Habs continue to dump the puck with the man advantage, the man advantage continues to go nowhere fast. Makes you really question the aptitude of the braintrust, sometimes.

- Habs with their usual strong second period, deservedly holding a one goal lead through 40 minutes. They've played it pretty close to the chest so far, and the results have been impressive. Blues hardly threatening Price throughout the period.


- So the first game of the official post-Bourque era begins. Trading one chronic underachiever for another.

- Desharnais' refusal to shoot the puck that's set on a tee and ready to be put in the net is becoming ridiculous.

- Third shift for the third line and guess what? Tarasenko given free reign to carry the puck right to Price, thanks to poor coverage by Markov and lazy non-check by Plekanec, and it's 1-0. You simply can't have these kinds of zone breakdowns against a team like the Blues. They will ruin you.

- Blues are ridiculously structured in their zone - everybody plays their position appropriately, especially backchecking forwards, and it's muted just about every Montreal attack.

- Nonetheless, beside the Tarasenko breakdown, Habs have been pretty competitive in the neutral zone, and pretty clean in their own territory - Hitchcock for the most part has avoid pulling any line matching tricks. I'm thinking that will come later in the game.

- Secak is kind of the anti-Desharnais: not afraid to charge the opposing net or shoot the puck.

- Pretty close checking period, thought possession was relatively even. Relatively happy with the results, Habs seem much more competitive tonight than they were against Pittsburgh, which itself wasn't a poor game by the Canadiens either.


It's gotta suck to be a Blues fan. Ozzy Osborne is one of them. I wonder if he's a die-hard. 47 years the Blues have played in this League, and they're still searching for their first title.

So many years, so many times, this organization has looked like a world beater in the regular season, only to flame out, often soon and suddenly, in the playoffs. Last year was no different. 111 points during the regular season, and a first round exit to the Black Hawks.

Really, the pieces are all there for a championship. Plenty of depth, four robust and well balanced lines, a credible defense, decent goaltending, and top-grade coaching.

Yet somehow, this team just can't find a way when it matters most.

The story this year is no different. The Blues have got a terrific lineup. They've got an incredible third line that's most clubs would love dearly as their first line. Centered by Lehtera, winged by Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, this trio has combined for 56 points in 18 games, and individually are the three top scorers on this team. Yowza.

It also doesn't hurt that the Blues not only have a qualified NHL coach, but one of the best hockey minds in the business plotting strategy. Ken Hitchcock, who matches his players better than anyone else on the League, frequently likes to draw opposing teams into a matchup trap, sending out his checking line against the opposing team's 4th, and then suddenly tossing either his first or third line out to expose the opponent.

Which is to say, expect Hitchcock to lean heavily on the Lehtera and Backes lines tonight against the Habs 4th line - however that's constituted by Michel Therrien.

The Habs are in deep tonight. They were already manhandled by the Pens on Tuesday night, and now they're going to face a team deep in depth and disciplined in strategy.

Carey Price will need to do some head dancing, if the Canadiens are to have much of a chance.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

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