Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Game Thirty-Five: Habs vs. Islanders


- After two straight starts of reasonable competence starting the first period, Habs back to their bad old ways, outshot 5-0 the first 8 minutes. Defense a little shaky with puck control to make the issues more pressing.

- Now it's 7-0, and Plekanec gets nabbed for a hook. Outskated teams take those kinds of penalties.

- Now 11-0, the Islanders Oskoto finally puts the home team on he board after a chaotic Habs line change. Price hung out to dry so far. We're well on our way to a route.

- Desharnais and Eller on completely different pages. How long will Therrien continue to insist on their pairing? Eller-Sekac-Andrioghetto were barnstorming before Eller's injury. 

- First registered shot, takes 14 minutes. 

- Habs first powerplay, Desharnais had to make a simple four foot pass to Markov for what would have been a tap in goal. Pass was about two feet behind Andrei. Desharnais continues to hinder, not help, the powerplay unit.

- Habs are gonna get pounded tonight if they continue to commit unforced turnovers, especially in the neutral zone.

- Just an awful first period for the Canadiens, outplayed just about every direction possible, with Price keeping the scoreboard from getting out of control. That may very well happen in the 2nd period. Actually, it probably will if Habs don't get their house in order.


- Total Horrorshow first period for Montreal, every single player with a Corsi under 33% except for Beaulieu. That's .... unbelievably .... bad.

- Well, well. Andrei Markov shows Subban he's got a cannon as well. Habs, so badly outplayed, are tied. 

- Good news, bad news. Emelin's incompetence has apparently been finally noticed, and he's been played least among Habs D. Bad news, Beaulieu, who's easily been one of the better playing blue liners, has been 2nd least played. Sigh.

- More Galchenyuk line magic, Gallagher with some nice gritty work and excellent pass to Galchenyuk, who beats Johnson on an otherwise stoppable shot. Habs take an unlikely lead.

- Another one of those games. Habs badly outplayed except for one area, goaltending. Price is just so damn good that no opponet can afford to have their netminder have an off night. So far, that's been what's happening.

- So, so unwise to have Emelin on the PK unit. His hockey IQ is not nearly high enough to handle the responsibility. Also, his positioning is awful. I'm exhasperated.


- Habs offense has made far too many long lob, low percentage passes on the transition tonight. It's otherwise muted an offense that could score more than a few off someone like Johnson.

- Beaulieu very quietly having one of his best games in memory. Positionally he's been excellent, and has done a fine job containing the Islanders attack to the perimeter. A real difference maker tonight.

- Habs maintaining an aggressive forecheck even though there might be a tendency to shell up with just 6 minutes left on the clock.

- Gonchar played Islanders one on two horribly, letting Tavaras waltz in for a tough Price save. Carey again bailing poor defensive play. 

- Lars Eller seals the deal with sweet puck control and an even sweeter thread pass to Desharnais to finish this game off. Great, great goal.

- Habs steal this one, no other way to describe it. Well, there is one way - Carey Price. Another spectacular performance giving his team two points that they richly didn't deserve. 45 points at the Christmas break is a pretty impressive total for a team that on most occasions this season, has been pretty unimpressive.


This really is a wretched time of year for hockey fans. Everything shuts down for three days because apparently hockey players have lives and family or something. WE MUST BE ENTERTAINED DAMMIT. I've got four consecutive days off in a row for the first time in about 47 years, so I want my damn hockey fix. AND NO TSN WORLD JUNIORS DOESN'T COUNT. God, TSN, enough with pumping this tournament up 24/7. You'd think the juniors is the only hockey they have left to cov ... oooooooh ... wait. Right.

Well, we've got one more game still stuck in the sock to be unwrapped, and it features our Habs against the sad-sack NY Islanders. Sorry, what's that? They ... what? They're ... where?  First place? No, seriously. Really? Well, I'll be dammed.

So what is the deal with the Islanders? Aren't they supposed to be terrible? It's been so long since this organization has seriously competed for anything meaningful, 30 years, give or take, that most of us have just taken it for granted that New York was the NHL's special little elf team, giving out bonus wins to all the other clubs, just because!!

Well times, they be-a-changin'. No longer is this team a perennial doormat. As we near the halfway point of the regular season, New York has the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference, currently riding a four game winning streak, 5th rated offense, 2nd rated shots/game, this team is a legitimate threat to be the eastern representative for next spring's final. The Islanders, and it's been a long time coming, are no longer a laughing stock.

Now that all said, a good reason for their success lays in their offense. Look at their centers:  John Tavares (28 points), Brock Nelson (27 points), Ryan Strome (21 points), Frans Nielsen (17 points). That's 93 points right there. How do the Habs four starting centers compare? 77 points spread among Galchenyuk, Plekanec, Desharnais and Eller. That's a pretty healthy spread.

Also part of the story this season is the rujuvinated career of one Jaroslav Halak, whom as you're probably aware, has been bouncing around the League the past twelve months, getting shifted out of town from a Stanley Cup contender in St. Louis to nowhereland in Washington, then getting bounced over to New York, where most of us expected he would, like the team he plays on, fade into oblivion. This year, however, Halak has collected 18 wins between the pipes, which puts him behind only Frederik Andersen, Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne, Not too shabby!

So tonight, the Habs find themselves in tough against a team that plays very well at home - the Islanders have lost just 3 of 16 in Uniondale, the best home winning percentage in the NHL. The Habs will be going with the same lineup and line combinations as was used Saturday night against Ottawa.

Puck will drop at 7:10 EST. Carey Price will start for the Canadiens, while Chad Johnson, for whatever reason, will start for New York (big mistake guys, you should have gone with Halak).


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