Friday, 31 January 2014

Game Fifty-Five: Bolts vs. Habs


- Therrien starts the big guns, including Subban with man advantage.

- Not a single shot with the man advantage, Habs passing not taking a damn shot. SHOOT THE PUCK.

- Subban damned to end this game in overtime. He knows he hasn't had his best today. He's something else.

- Habs dominate the OT, but it's Gorges that goes the wrong way chasing the puck behind the net, and Thompson left unmarked, ends it. Habs undone by their defensive sloppiness. Again.

Third Period:

- Habs with 44% Fenwick (closed) through 40 minutes. In other words, right back to sucking.

- Dismal Habs PP, Tampa the only scoring chances (2 of them). Canadiens just going through the motions right now.

- Woah. Briere with an incredible top corner shot, after an absolutely beautiful cross zone pass by Gionta. Game, shockingly, is tied.

- Habs defense, in particular Murray, Emelin and Markov, really struggling to get the puck out of their zone.

- Tampa pinning Habs in their zone, generating some pretty good chances and putting lots of traffic in front of Price. 5:30 left.

-  Beaulieu, Handling the puck penalty, what a terrible call to take this late in a tied game.

- Tampa just barely didn't score with the man advantage, largely because of Price holding the fort.

- Rene Bourque did absolutely everything right in carrying the puck for a breakaway, dandy move on Bishop but couldn't finish. That's Rene Bourque for you.

- P.K. has really struggled on the powerplay unit tonight, he's overthinking. Or something.

Second Period:

- Woulda figured given how this game was proceeding that it would have been Murray, not Subban, to screw the pooch. Any consolation, the better team today scores first: 1-0 Bolts.

- It's mystifying how this team, which coming off a very solid victory over the first place Bruins where speed and forechecking was utilized to beat Boston, goes right back to their hapless mucking ways against Tampa today. Makes no sense.

- Habs are dreadful today. No way this ridiculously depleted Tampa lineup should be competing for a win today, but no way the Habs will score of they don't change their strategy. Quickly. Actually, it's probably too late. 

- With the possible exception of the Desharnais line, the Habs strategy today is this: dump, skate back.  Dump, skate back. I think I'm going crazy watching this.

- Bishop picks a fight with Prust, throws the first punch, and Habs end up shorthanded. Okay, then.

- Bell Centre ice conditions today are terrible, puck is bouncing all over the place. Costs Plekanec a great chance on a shorthanded break.

- Habs lay another egg. Bishop can basically cruise to a shutout if things continue as is. Habs haven't mustered a single dangerous shot on goal today. It's been that bad.

First Period:

- So, Bishop will start. Let's hope he's not trying to "play through" an injury. If he is, he's being as foolish as he is reckless to his own health, and his team's future fortunes.

- Excellent anticipation by Beaulieu to intercept Bolts d-zone pass and fire a quality shot on Bishop. Therrien won't like it, but that's the kind of play that could make this team fun to watch again.

- If Prust really wanted to hurt Cote he should have just coughed on him.

- An inspired Doug Murray thinks he's Subban and dashes up ice to join the play. It creates a Tampa breakaway and resultant penalty shot. Just. Terrible.

- Murray appears particularly slow and fumbly today. That could spell big trouble as the game progresses.

- Desharnais line's transition pretty fast today. It's something this team has struggled with this year, largely because of Therrien's ultra conservative approach to clearing the zone (chip/dump)/grind).

- Gudas hitting Prust's numbers, the officials need to call that dangerous nonsense.

- Pacioretty is a monster carrying the puck over the line. He's rarely recognized for this even though he's one of the League's best puck carriers.

- Beaulieu making Murray look better than he actually is today. Illustrates how good the former, how awful the later is.

- Tampa has controlled most of this period missing nearly a quarter of their starting lineup. Yeah ...

- Pretty lacklustre period for the Habs. 4 piddly shots on goal against a depleted Tampa team. Fortunately Price was on his game to keep the game scoreless, otherwise, the Habs output was pretty indefensible. 


- So Ben Bishop is "maybe" status as we type. According to Bishop, he's going to take warm ups, and if he feels okay, he'll start. You know goaltenders and how they think. I'll be shocked if he doesn't play.

- Not confirmed for sure for sure, but Christian Thomas is almost certainly going to get a start today because Michael Bournival is out with the flu. Bleech!

- We kinda sorta haveta run the table this weekend against both Ottawa and Winnipeg, as the schedule from here until the Olympic break does not look particularly appetizing, at least for winning games. So today's game is big! HUGE!


News 'n' notes as we move through the day:

- Yikes, Tampa is one banged-up bunch. It appears that in addition to Bishop (and of course Stamkos), that the Lightening will also be without Val Filppula AND their backup Anders Lindback. Tampa will have to dig deep into their system for netminders if both Bishop and Lindback are out.

- Ben Bishop indicated post-practice that he's feeling discomfort and that he doesn't know if he can start for tomorrow (which, when a player makes that kind of comment, especially a goaltender, it usually means they won't start).

So big game break for the Habs?

- Habs practice lines at Brossard this morning:

Line 1: Bournival/Plekanec/Gionta (Bournival top line! WOOT!)
Line 2: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
Line 2: Bourque/Eller/Thomas
Line 4: Moen/Briere/Parros

Soooo ... Briere gets knocked down, as Thomas comes in to replace the ailing(?) Prust. Looks like the kids almost assured a start tomorrow afternoon.

- Ben Bishop, the assumed starter tomorrow for Tampa, was on and off the ice during practice, after sustaining an injury last night as a result from a collision (skate to the head) with teammate Nikita Kucherov. So ... who knows what will happen there?

- Steven Stamkos is with the team in Montreal. Speculation is buzzing that he might, just might, start tomorrow. Tres exciting!!

As mentioned, we'll continue to update through the day if we receive anything worth updating. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Game Fifty-Four: Habs vs. Bruins

Third Period:

-  Bourque with one of his better efforts tonight. Which doesn't say much, but he's been hustling (for the most part).

- It's a funeral home in the Boston Gardens. The fans are completely indifferent unless their team is winning.

- Bruins will have to completely open it up at this point. Time is running out.

- Habs now into icing mode, which is basically just asking for trouble. They've got the legs tonight, there's really no need for the play to be ground to a halt. They can forecheck and trap the remainder of the game with relative ease.

- If the Habs had a half decent transition game, they could generate a ton of odd man breaks to close this period. IF.

- More credit where credit is due, Budaj has been excellent tonight. Not sure if the result would have been much different with Price in net, but the right call was made in starting him.

- Another impressive outing by Beaulieu tonight, he's really taken a significant step forward since his precious demotion - Habs will be hard pressed not to keep him around, which probably spells doom for Diaz as a member of this organization.

- Well, Habs went out tonight and dominated. Using their speed and aggressive forechecking, the Bruins were just totally absent most of this contest. Habs now inching themselves into the playoff mix, and now head home for a 4 game stand. The calls for Therrien's head will undoubtably lessen - the Habs will need to win quite a few more if the heat is going to be reduced. Nonetheless, full marks tonight. Budaj was fine, Beaulieu, Bournival and Gallagher really stood out. So satisfying to hand it to Boston.

Second Period:

- Habs 51% Corsi, 52% Fenwick (all) in that period. Can I call it or can I call it??

- Bruins goal has now been awarded to Hamilton. I'm guessing Kercji made the correction during the intermission.

- 1st period Corsi by the numbers, Murray 6-3, Gorges 7-9, Beaulieu 7-5, Emelin 9-12, Subban 6-8,  Markov 9-12.

- Bourque slow along the wall gets hammered. Slow to get up. Slow to defend his zone. Gets nailed for a hold. This is why most NHL coaches wouldn't stand his presence in their lineup.

- Impressive kill. Bruins much like the start of the first, stumbling to start this frame. 

- Therrien calls a timeout, not sure why. Bruins weren't overwhelming the Habs, don't have significant momentum. Puzzling.

- Bournival nearly scores. With Parros as one of his linemates. That alone is impressive.

- Marchand cheap shots Gallagher after the whistle. Desharnais gets sent for standing up to this bully. Bruins really ought have the extra 2 minutes.

- Just desserts as Gimota with a beauty tip off a Plekanec wrister. Habs grab an essential 2 goal lead. And Rask (wow) is yanked.

- Rask is absolutely furious at being pulled by Julien. Storms off the bench. Yikes.

- Holy moly. Parting of the sea by the Bruins defense and Briere of all players, buries it on the break. A shocking 4-1 Habs lead.

- Credit when it's due, Habs have dominated this game since Therrien called for time.

- Bruins opening up, rolling the dice to get something going. At this point, they might as well.

- Bruins outhitting 23-13 at this point, which makes sense since they've been doing most of the chasing this game. 

- Budaj hasn't been overwhelmed with activity, but he has made some quality stops. He seems to have Boston's number, for whatever reason.

- Boos rain down. Quite the period for the Habs, who while outshot, still were the faster, more energetic team. Boston is, quite simply, laying an egg tonight. 

First Period:

- So who had Emelin in their first goal pool? Habs putting plenty of traffic in front of the Bruins' goal to help grab the early lead.

- George Parros is +1. Has that happened more than once this season?

- Pretty aggressive start for Montreal, Bruins almost appeared shocked by what's been thrown at them early. Julien will make adjustments accordingly, but so far no answer to Habs focus on attack via speed.

- So Habs get a PP and take their foot off the aggressive throttle. Don't understand this. Just get it on net, guys.

- Canadiens' defensive softness starting to shine through and Bruins are generating high percentage chances. This should be tied soon.

- Nix that, what an incredible effort to carry the puck down and bury through Rask's legs. Sweet feed by Desharnais. Habs lead by two. Who woulda thunkit?

- Hamilton. 50 footer off Markov who was protecting the crease, and in. B's catch a huge break and it's 2-1.

- Boston desperately seeking a tie before period is out, Therrien would be wise to put out his checking units. 

- Goal replay shows Krejci redeflected the Hamilton shot, a result of his ability to outmuscle Markov in the slot. So Habs soft defense strikes again.

- Rask with ridiculous save on Desharnais redeflect. Goals are not going to come easily for Habs tonight, thereby making their zone performance all the more critical the last two periods. I remain doubtful they can do that.

- Beaulieu is already better than Murray or Emelin on their best night. He really ought to be paired with a top 4 guy like Gorges.

- Very good effort in the first, Habs might actually have narrowly outpossesed the Bruins. They were, overall, more aggressive and even faster than Boston. Budaj solid, so we can't second guess the decision to start him - yet.


Well, who knows anymore.

Nearly 48 hours fresh off an underwhelming victory over the middling Hurricanes, the Habs enter the teeth of a storm that are the Boston Bruins tonight. Just about every indicators point towards a relatively routine bean town win tonight.

And why not make the assumption? The Bruins head into the game riding a four game winning streak (best League streak going at the moment), a commanding first place lead in the Atlantic Division, bolstered by a defense that's played consistently near the top of the League all season. Boston is relatively healthy to boot. Tuukka Rask is having another fine season. Etc., etc.

On the other bench, the Habs, even with that Tuesday night win, are spiraling down the Conference/Division standings, and are now in a dogfight for a wild card spot. Team defense is in shambles, not helped by the fact that Habs management has now officially declared a love-in for Doug Murray, the 2nd worst playing defenseman in the NHL, while Rapheal Diaz, one of the few guys who's been even slightly competent in his own zone, will sit in the pressbox ... again.

Oh yeah. And backup Peter Budaj will start. Against the number one team in the Division. Because in the past, he'd had a few good starts against Boston, which is utterly meaningless.

So how can the Habs win this one? Luck, I guess? They're going to get outpossessed and outshot a ton tonight. They're going to over-utilize the "tough" Murray, which will only make possession and SA matters worse.

Want a bright spot? The Habs have beaten the Bruins the past four games (true!!). Which like Budaj's record against Boston, is an irrelevant stat (D'OH). Besides, that was then (we were better). This is now (we're terrible).

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see this game as being much of a contest.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST. Hide the kids. This could be ugly.



We'll be posting gameday updates all through the day. So here's what we got so far.

- Peter Budaj will start tonight, because ... the hell if I know. Start your second string guy against the top club in your Division. I .. just ... ugh ...

- Anyway, Habs recalled Christian Thomas from Hamilton this morning. Thomas, no doubt, eagerly anticipating being stapled to a bench for three hours. But the view is great!! UPDATE: Apparently Thomas is staying put in Hamilton? Nobody seems to know for sure. Habs communication lines obviously a well oiled machine today. Perhaps their terri-bad Twitter account could throw us a clarification bone?

- Defensive scratches tonight: Frankie Bouillon (fine), and Raphael Diaz (sigh).

More as we receive.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Game Fifty-Three: 'Canes vs. Habs

The Problem: 2013-14 Edition

Yeah, we've battered on endlessly this year about how badly this team has been coached by Michel Therrien, and how the only hopes the Habs have left to salvage what is turning out to be a lost season would be to find a bench replacement as quickly as possible. So that story hasn't changed. What hasn't been explored enough, though, are the essential problems with the Habs on the ice.

While a considerable amount of focus has been on the Habs offense, or woeful lack thereof since November, I think that's been a misguided criticism of this team. The fundamental on-ice problem for the Canadiens this year hasn't been the lack of consistent production amongst its forwards, it's been the wretched collective performance by its blue line.

Let's look at goal differential rankings amongst the 203 NHL defensemen. Keep that 203 number in mind. It's important.

103: Josh Gorges: 0.50

Wow. Gorges isn't doing very well. He's barely in the top half of the League. Actually, he's exactly at the top/bottom half. But guess what, folks? He's the Habs top rated defensemen in goal differential. Sitting at 103rd position. Now hold on to your hats:

108: Andrei Markov: .492
143: P.K. Subban: .462
171: Raphael Diaz: .424
200: Alexei Emelin: .344
203: Francis Bouillon: .324
205: Douglas Murray: .191

That's ... terrible. As a collective group, those are just terrible, terrible numbers. Murray at .191, is the 2nd worst in the NHL for his position, and 3rd worst among all players. And yet, somehow, Habs management considers him a valuable component to the team's defense, bear witness to Therrien's post-practice comments about Murray yesterday in which he heaped praise on someone who is obviously incompetent.

The woeful blue line performances, while unquestionably the team's greatest on-ice issue, are merely a reflection of the fundamental issue this team is dealing with. Its decision makers have seemingly no idea of what is going on. They don't seem to know who's playing well (Bournival getting minimal time), or more importantly, no idea on who's performing very, very poorly.

This team, right now, is a lost cause.

Montreal 3, Carolina 0
Okay, let's break down the blue line numbers tonight. Corsi:

Murray 7-19, Beaulieu 7-19, Gorges 9-26, Emelin 20-16, Subban 10-22, Markov 21-16.

Those are not good numbers. Actually, they're borderline terrible. Murray, as usual, put up poor figures, which dragged down his partner, Beaulieu. Emelin and Markov seemed to click last night, although that's largely been the exception over the year, rather than the rule.

Gorges continues, as usual this season, to underwhelm. Maybe Josh should focus less time on buttering up his head coach, and more time focusing on his game performance.

Others (good and bad):

Prust (-11), Eller/Bourque (-9), Gallagher (+0), Bournival (+3).

So the game time observations are solidified by advanced stats - the Habs defense wasn't particularly any better than it's been the past two months (arguably just as bad), while the offense put up some medicore numbers. The kids though, played well - which for most teams would be very good news, but not this Habs team, simply because its coach has an established tendency to wrap the young players on a very short leash.

Bottom line - the Habs won because Carey Price. Nothing's changed.


Third Period:

- While the Habs effort is much better tonight, the club's possession line still sucks. Bottom line: The fundamentals haven't improved much.

- Desharnais has Hands of Moen goin' on tonight.

- We'll post the blue line Corsi numbers after this one is done, but I'm already speculating they might not be nearly as good as the 3-0 score might suggest.

- Carey Price won't be beaten tonight. It's just not gonna happen no matter what.

- Final score a bit misleading, a solid but not overwhelming victory tonight. A least a turnacate has been applied to the gushing wound. The Sun can now rise again in Montreal. At least until Friday morning. Numbers in a bit.

Second Period:

- Habs are keeping it simple, driving the net, and the über-soft 'Canes defense is folding like an old tent. Easy pickings for someone like Pacioretty and it's 3-0.

- Don't try to beat Price glove hand. It just isn't gonna happen.

- Dreaded 3 goal Habs lead and now they're sitting on it a bit. Uh-oh ...

- Half way through regulation and Briere has two ... count 'em, two minutes of ice. 

- Price has been beaten clean from long distance twice tonight, saved by posts. Never a good sign.

- 'Canes continue to press, Habs continue to play in a shell. Carolina scoring next almost seems inevitable.

- George Parros might play more tonight than Daniel Briere. It's come to that.

- Speaking of time played, Bournival yet again tonight demonstrating why he's more than entitled to more play than the measly 6 minutes he's been receiving since the call up.

- Another decent period, not quite as dominating as the first frame, but Habs have their legs moving tonight. The effort is there, and finally this team is looking competitive again. 

First Period:

- So two teams going in totally different directions, logic says Habs will win tonight, right? Sheyah, right.

- Prust opens the scoring. The goal made possible because the Habs were able to muster a clean transition out of their zone. Funny that, huh? 1-0.

- Bourque seems ... inspired tonight? Bergevin ought to consider trading him the day before every Habs game.

- P.K. simplify please. Just shoot it, don't overthink. It's killing the powerplay.

- Has anyone yet noticed that Price is almost certainly the NHL's best big save goaltender this season? Seems to make these in routine fashion.

- Ya know, Emelin's got a half-decent shot, I'm surprised he hasn't been utilized more frequently on the PP (instead of past dregs like Bouillon/Gorges).

- Habs have come out to play tonight, seemingly. Gallagher makes it 2-0.

- Might have been Pacioretty, but for now it's Gallagher. That was quite possibly the ultimate Brenden Gallagher goal. Just keep digging till the damn puck crosses the line.

- Easily the Habs' best period of hockey in a month. Possibly longer. We'll take it.

GAMEDAY MORNING NEWS 'N' NOTESUPDATE: Louis Leblanc was sent back down to Hamilton this afternoon, still under the weather, so probably unable to play tonight anyways.

- Just because we hate ourselves, the d-lines at Brassard right now:

1: Gorges/Subban,
2: Markov/Emelin
3: Murray/Beaulieu

And the O lines:

1: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
2: Eller/Plekanec/Gionta
3: Leblanc/Brière/Bourque
4: Moen/Bournival/Parros

Leblanc is back, at least. Also skating this morning (not practicing though) was Ryan White and Drew (remember him?) Drewiske.


Finally, some clarification? is reporting this morning of what might actually have gone down yesterday between Avs GM Greg Sherman and Marc Beregevin. According to Gelinas (and not reported by Louis Jean), the Avs were offering Parenteau in return for Bourque *and* Habs prospect Sven Andrighetto. So a day later, that outlandishly one-sided trade doesn't appear quite so outlandish.

Andrighetto is by no means a blue-chip prospect. Odds are pretty good fans in Montreal will never see him play. Still, credit to Bergevin for refusing to part with any of the kids, even if it means shedding the club of dead roster weight.


UPDATE: The report source is TVA's Louis Jean. He's not amongst the upper echelon of Habs reporters, but he's also not got a reputation for inaccuracies.

Still, I've poked around the net and there's no way this could be true. Not a straight up acquisition of Parenteau, the Quebecer who's playing as a top 6 forward in Denver, for the chronically underachieving, overpaid Bourque. There simply must be more involved. Perhaps the Avs were demanding a higher draft pick, or a chunk of Bourque's contract? There's just no way this trade report is accurate.


TVA Sports reports tonight that the Avs offered PA Parenteau straight up for Rene Bourque.

They are also reporting the Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin turned down the trade offer, wanting Parenteau and another player in return for Bourque.

I find this remarkably difficult to believe, and am searching for some kind of official confirmation, if that ever comes.

But if this original report is true, and again, I find it nearly impossible to believe that Bergevin could say no to this offer, then I can say with great confidence that all hell will break loose in Habsland.

Stay tuned.

"We can't just open things up, go run and gun and think that's how we're gonna win games."

It's not his fault. It's our fault."

- Josh Gorges, January 27, 2014.

Um, okay Josh. So since we're settled on crazy talk, yeah I'll have nuts on that, please.

Josh Gorges. Making a vaulted attempt to become my new least-favorite Montreal Canadien.

PA Parenteau

For Raphael Diaz, reported speculatively.

Here are my thoughts about this:

Don't do it Marc. Just. Don't. Even. Go. There.

Happy MONDAY blah blah ... gah ... 

So I didn't bother blogging Saturday. Because I was off doing anything else which means, doing something better. I read the scoreline. That's all I needed to know - it's all that I was expecting.

So Monday. I hate Mondays - not saying anything the rest of us don't mutter each week of our lives. But this Monday morning ...  well ... just read this. Blah.

The immediate reactions to Boucher's signing in Switzerland has been "ooooh does he have an opt-out clause in case he's offered the Habs job??!?!".

But that's beside the point. It really doesn't matter if Boucher does or doesn't. His signing tells us pretty loud and clear that Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin hasn't even talked to Boucher yet, which tells us that Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin hasn't even begun the process required when you're about to fire your existing head coach.

Which tells us Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin has already made up his mind that Michel Therrien isn't going anywhere. At least, anytime soon.

Happy Monday.

News 'n' Notes:

- Louis Leblanc is out with the flu. Tough luck. Now we'll have to search high and low to find someone to replace the 4 minutes of icetime that Leblanc was receiving.

- Habs O-lines this morning. Because, insanity:

1. Pacioretty/Desharnais/Gallagher
2. Eller (relegated to wing now, ugh)/Plekanec/Gionta
3. Bourque/Briere (really?)/Prust
4. Moen/Bournival/Parros (abysmal - how long before Ryan White is healthy?).

- Habs practice D-Lines this morning. Whatever. It doesn't matter.

1: Gorges/Subban,
2: Markov/Emelin,
3. Murray/Beaulieu
4. Bouillon/Diaz

The organization seems steadfast in driving Diaz, one of the very few guys this season who's been playing well defensively, right out of town. Which is where Diaz will be heading in 4 months. I'd do the same thing.

- #FireTherrien

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Game Fifty-Two: Caps vs. Habs


Time finals from last night. Because, insanity.

R. Bourque

D. Brière   


Got that? Okay, some more:

B. Gallagher

D. Desharnais


I dunno. I just don't know.


So what's the weather like down there? Actually, just kidding about the question. I've still only got one: Has Michel Therrien been fired yet?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Game Fifty-One: Habs vs. Wings

Third Period:

- Murray paired with Subban, I don't even know what the rationale could have been.

- Absolutely zero urgency in Habs game. The team has mostly thrown in the towel. That's when coaching changes should (do) happen.

- Wings stacking the line. Habs offense utterly baffled on what to do. 

- Well at least Beaulieu continues to look good. Nice punch and seems smart in generating scoring opportunities. 

- The Habs know they need to score here very quickly, right? Hardly anyone out there seems to care.

- So Michel what are ya gonna do now?

- Seriously mulling over skipping tomorrow night's game. This Habs team is just too painful to watch.

- #FireTherrien.

Second Period:

- Habs biggest PP challenge right now is gaining the zone. They can't. Usually indicative of poor or disorganized positioning. 

- Combined, Leblanc and Bournival have less than 6 minutes played, past halfway through regelation. #TherrienHockey

- Sheehan, wrister that Price probably wants back. It all started by a terrible zone pass and turnover by Emelin. The stuff that gets you benched. 2-0.

- Brenden Gallagher doing what Brendon Gallagher should be doing more often. Piling the net. 2-1.

- With these acrobatics Habs wouldn't be close to 27 wins. Or even 20. Shoddy zone coverage continues.

- Carey Price. When you think it no longer possible, Price does it one better. That glove save will be in the year end highlight reel.

- If Habs can't be inspired by Price's heroics, nothing will.

- Kronwall. In the slot. Not a Hab within 15 feet of him. Inexcusable zone coverage. Inexcusable.

- Habs played like an old tuba in the second. Zone play is a complete disaster. Transition is in tatters. Wings are owning the neutral zone. Habs have almost no chance tonight. The team has simply fallen apart.

First Period:

- Wings with early zone pressure, Habs again sloppy winning battles and clearing their zone. 

- First powerplay Habs looked like holding their sticks too tight. Zone control unattainable, passes off the mark. Yuck.

- Markov. Not understand the careless play of late. When wingers haven't been easily skating past, he's been a turnover machine.

- Pleks is the PK breakaway king - at getting and missing. Emelin with a silly call against him for boarding puts Habs 2 short. 

- Markov on with the 5-on-3? Has Therrien not noticed his poor zone play of late??

- And of course, the Wings convert. Doug Murray completely ineffective clearing bodies in front of Price.

- Leblanc driving the net generates a solid scoring chance. Will he get more than 6 minutes of time tonight?

- Habs possession particularly terrible this period. This team just regresses, regresses, regresses.

- Another marginal call on Habs, this time Prust is the victim. And here we go ....

- Listless period for the Habs, little puck possession. Few scoring opportunities, passing is off the mark. The rest of the night not shaping up well.

What the ... You're Kiddin', Right?
- Subban not on the ice today. Not a therapy day. This is the usual routine taken for players that are healthy scratches the next game.

No way. There's no way this can possibly be true.

Even More Horrific Chart of the Day:

Credit and HEOTP for this. Simply wretched. What you see is Michel Therrien in his final season as head coach with the Pens (blue line), leading up to his mid season firing, and the Habs Corsi this season (in red).

Scared now?

Has Michel Therrien been fired yet?

Horrific Animated .gif of the Day.

Good lord. Yeah. January really has been THAT bad.

Has Michel Therrien been fired yet?



Before I check, I must ask, is Michel Therrien still our head coach?

Hmm ... let's see .... ahhh ... okay, then.

I'm going back to bed.

More later. Wings on Friday. Hoo boy. That's gonna be fun.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Game Fifty: Habs vs. Pens

Third Period:


Second Period:

- Breire's passes from behind the net are consistently awful. They appear nearly as blind as they are rushed and as a result, are badly off target. Lots of potential scoring chances are being lost from this.

- Gallagher post. Fleury seemingly having trouble with the high shots tonight.

- 3-1. Jokinen. It all started because Subban makes a poor clearance from behind his net. Price probably also wants that shot back. Pens halfway to 6.

- Past the halfway mark, Leblanc has less than 2:30. Almost tragic, really. This kid isn't getting even a fair shot at proving his worth. 

- As usual Subban the target of marginal interference calls. His nemesis St. Laurent one of tonight's officials.

- Pens PP, Crosby left totally alone, makes it look easy. 4-1. Pens two away from 6.

- Malkin. Markov having one of his worst games, possibly ever. 5-1. The route is officially on.

- So Price mercifully pulled and the Habs are getting trounced. Not like we didn't see this coming but it's still been ugly to watch. Would give an eye tooth or two to know what's going through the mind of Marc Bergevin right now. His team is falling apart.

First Period:

- Hoo boy. Here we go. How ugly will this game be?

- Pens shockingly send out the Crosby line the instant Bouillon and Murray hit the ice.

- And Murray makes a terrible unforced turnover in his zone his first shift. Buckle your seats folks.

- One of the Pens' stratagies tonight is pretty clear: don't let Subban get a shot on net.

- Mouillon on. Pens generate another great scoring chance, of course. Inevitably they're going to finish.

- It begins. Malkin catches Markov flat footed and makes a pretty pass to Jokinen. Price no chance. 1-0.

- Habs are playing like, well, the Habs. Having a wretched time getting the puck out of their zone and the Pens, specifically the Malkin line, are eating them alive. Wouldn't be shocked if Pittsburgh scores 6 or 7 before the night is done.

- Even strength or on the PK, Habs really struggling to clear their zone. That's a formula for disaster against this Pens team.

- 2-0. Murray soft in the slot. Yup.

- Wow. Rene Bourque scores. Pinching myself.

- Decent pushback by Habs last 5 minutes of the period. This game might not be a complete debacle. We'll see.


Good grief. The wheel goes round and round, where it stops, nobody knows.

Many of us covering the team yesterday were sparked with mild excitement, happiness even, when it was witnessed at practice that the Habs were running Frankie Bouillon and Doug Murray as the 7th and 8th defensemen.


So with great anticipation, Habsland began to dream of those practice lines starting tonight in Pittsburgh. P.K. Subban with Andrei Markov. Nathan Beaulieu with Josh Gorges. Raphael Diaz with Alexei Emelin. These aren't perfect lines, but finally ... FINALLY ... common sense has settled in with the braintrust. Bouillon out. Murray out. REJOICE!

Alas, it was not to be.

Michel Therrien just annouced tonight's scratches. Diaz and Emelin.

Bouillon and Murray will start.

So we have arrived. Facing one of the League's most powerful offenses, the Habs will be starting not one, but two of the worst roster defensemen in the NHL. Together. At the same time.

It is totally, inexorably and inexcusably baffling.

Here we go. The Habs, who once enjoyed a huge lead in the standings, in the span of two short weeks facing very beatable opponents, suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for a wild card playoff spot. Oh, how fortunes can turn so dark so quickly.

Tonight, it's gonna be a nightmare.

The Pens, who took a trashing at the hands of the lowly Florida Panthers Monday night, are going to unleash their fury, at the Habs expense. It is not going to be pretty, aided by the inclusion of both Bouillon and Murray.

What is Therrien thinking? The Pens with the 4th rated offense, top rated powerplay, 10th rated 5v5 - we all know the arsenal they have on offense - and matched up against the porous Habs defense, Carey Price is almost certainly looking at a 40+ shot total tonight. Possibly 50+.

This game has the possibility of becoming a circus sideshow of ineptitude for the Canadiens. It has the potential of being a complete and utter washout. It has the potential of being such an extraordinary debacle that finally ... FINALLY ... the scribes following this team will start questioning Mr. Bergevin about his determination to keep Therrien behind the bench.

A devastating loss tonight might end up becoming a magnificent gain for this organization.

I will be cheering for the Penguins. This madness must end.

Puck drops at 7:10 est. The slaughter shall probably commence shortly thereafter.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Game Forty-Nine: Habs vs. Leafs

Third Period:

- Habs better in the second, 61% Fenwick, slight overall edge (52%) as we head to the third.

- Decent start to the 3rd. I remain steadfast the Habs will fade the deeper the period goes.

- Habs pressing, Leafs sitting on this quite a bit. Just one shit halfway through the period (very weak at that). Leafs simply watching the puck. Don't know if they can maintain this, even against the offensively incompetent Habs.

- Question answered. Subban with a wrister that banks off the post. Not sure if there was a deflection. Dirty goal. Tie game.

- Really surprised by how much the Habs have outplayed the Leafs in this period. Toronto just doesn't seem to have the horses to maintain pace. How the heck do they have 53 points? (Yeah yeah shootouts).

- Markov misses his check, and Emelin plays the puck and not the streaking van Reimsdyk. 4-3.

- Officials calling nothing. Leafs commiting countless offenses that are normally always called.

- Habs outperformed Leafs majority of the game, but their slow start did them in. Leafs just find a way of winning these games. Oh well. What goes up must come crashing down. They'll be crashing soon enough.

The Habs, meanwhile, are crashing in slow motion.

Second Period:

- As predicted, Habs indeed had 40% Fenwick (closed), less than 20% 5v5 in the first. That's ... astoundly abysmal.

- Habs attempting to grind this game to a halt in the second. But given how much Therrien is short-shifting his bench, the Habs probably don't have the horsepower to carry this through 60 minutes.

- I'm not afraid to admit it. God I love Brenden Gallagher. 

- Beaulieu with the fatal mistake of dishing instead of passing. The kid will learn for it, we hope. Meanwhile Price with a sensational stop off the resulting Kessel breakaway.

- Parros on the ice. Leafs score. Yup.

- Expect that should be Parros' final shift of the night. Otherwise, Leafs are just gonna keep pounding that chicken.

- Parros 3:00 so far. Nattinen 1:45. Habs are essentially playing just 3 lines tonight. No way they'll be able to compete on a level surface in the 3rd. #outcoached

- Too much open ice on the PK. Leafs open passing lanes, and Raymond buries it top shelf. 3-1 and Toronto are on their way.

- Briere with that sizzling Batum-level wrist shot. 

- A gift. Bernier can't handle a simple 60 footer and Gionta buries the juicy rebound. I guess that was his birthday present.

First Period:

- So Bourque, Diaz and Murray are the scratches. Hmmmm .... 

- Not often you see a guy from outer space sing the national anthem. Just sayin'.

- So obligatory Parros/Orr fight by end of the first? There's little other rational for either being in the lineup tonight.

- Leafs seem inclines to focused on hitting to start. It's helping them to generate some turnovers and early possession advantage.

- Alexei Emelin. It's hard to justify that contact when you're made a fool like that. 1-0 Leafs.

- Habs are getting their clocks cleaned by the woeful possession team that are the Leafs. How low can this team go?

- Well, Eller looks good. That's all I got.

- Game settling down a bit but Leafs are still dominating the neutral zone. Plus, the Habs self-inflicted wound that is their 4th line will invariably have to be played. 

- Habs great PK numbers are pure deception. It's mainly Carey Price.

- Emelin is a disaster on skates tonight. The Leafs are going to feast by sending out their number one line against him.

- Habs PP, Leafs PK was totally exhausted. We'll take it. Tie game.

- The scoreboard might be even but it was a woeful period for the Habs. Leafs will probably have close to 60% Fenwick. This from the second worst possession team in the NHL. Gives you an idea how broken the Canadiens are right now.


YEAH BABY. It's the Habs and Leafs!! Two fierce rivals clash head-to-head in an ongoing battle to make the NHL playoffs. Two teams that have woefully inept offensive units, can't keep possession of the puck to save their lives, besieged by inept coaching which has fans from both sides of the aisle screaming for a coup d'etat. It's a match made in heaven!!

Do the Leafs even have 20 players to ice tonight? I'm looking at their presumed lineup, and it's looking .. uh ... thin?

But the Leafs are hot!! Winners of three in a row. Well, two of them were extra time victories. Which brings up the larger point - Toronto has managed to defy the rules of gravity most of this year. The Leafs have played 16 games requiring either extra time and/or a shootout, and they've won 11 of them. Sheesh. To put this into perspective, if the Leafs had only won a reasonable number of these games, say ... half, they'd be sitting in 13th place in the Conference, instead of their current position of the first wildcard position.

The Leafs have been incredibly fortunate. They have the 2nd worst fenwick percentage in the League, a pathetic 42%. The sheer fact they've been able to muscle out 24 wins this far, even though they've only had 4 regulation time wins over the past 33 games, is a pretty remarkable acheivement.

The Leafs received a bit of bad (I guess?) news recently with an elbow injury to David Clarkson, serious enough to place him on injured reserve. So with him out, expect the Leafs to serve up the following line combos:

Line 1: van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel
Line 2: Raymond-Kadri-Lupul
Line 3: Kulemin-Holland-Ashton
Line 4: McClement-Orr-Bodie

Meanwhile over in Habsland, the picture isn't a whole lot different or brighter. Continuing to struggle offensively, suffocated by an ineptly over-conservative zone system that has an obsessive emphasis on goal clearance instead of transition, the Habs have some gaps to fill following the injury to Alex Galchenyuk and Ryan White, and a recent team battle with the flu bug which cause David Desharnais to miss a start, and apparently has laid claim to Raphael Diaz. Ergo, the Habs yesterday called up Nathan Beaulieu and Joonas Nattinen from the Bulldogs - expect the later to get 4th line spot duty (you know Therrien won't play him more than 6 minutes, tops), and the former to get paired with (I guess?) Doug Murray. Poor Nathan. He never stood a chance.

So there you have it. Two teams with mightily struggling offenses, playing over their heads for most of the year. So expect the unexpected, I suppose. Two points on the line - two fairly significant points as the Habs try to provide themselves with a bit of distance from "the rest of the pack", while the Leafs try to improve their slender hold on that wildcard spot.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

Oh!! By the way, tt's Hockey Day In Canada!

Yeah, me too. Who cares.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Game Forty-Eight: Habs vs. Sens


Hey Bruce, I've one more response to your pathetic trolling. From last night:


 - Habs announced this morning that Nathan Beaulieu and Joonas Nattinen have been called up. Nattinen to (finally) ensure that Parros doesn't play, and Beaulieu to hopefully (forever) replace ... Doug Murray.

UPDATE: Oh of course. It's not like the coaching staff were motivated to do the right thing by calling up Beaulieu. Seems as though the flu bug is running through the team - both Lars Eller and Raphael Diaz are home today trying to get over the bug.

So Nattinen and more importantly, Beaulieu might just be protection if either/both Eller and Raphael can't play.

IOW, Murray ain't going anywhere.


- We got a biggie post coming up that examines how this year's roster is playing compared to last year's roster. Are we better? Worse? The same??

Stay tuned.


Montreal 5, Ottawa 4 (OT)


- Okay boys, do it for Carey. No way this game ends 4-4 through 60 minutes without Price's performance.

- SUBBAN. Habs grand larceny complete. Unbelievable.

Third Period:

- Really wonder if Bergevin can continue to look the other way with respect to Therrien's tenure if the Habs do indeed go on to lose.

- Doug Murray's shots from the line I'm sure aren't much faster than 20 mph. What's even the point of trying?

- Plekanec is horrible at these breakaways so Cowan decides to help out. Insane. Tie game.

- Well at least the third hasn't been completely lopsided in Ottawa's favour. Sens maybe guilty of sitting on this too much. Habs would be incredibly fortunate to get out of here with a point.

- Bourque with lazy, sloppy turnover at centre ice creates great scoring chance for Turris. Just keep him off the ice, already.

- Well, we got a point. Gladly taken. Can Price steal us one more?

Second Period:

- So good to see Plekanec on the ice to start the period. Habs were outplayed in the first, but the scoring chances weren't ridiculously lopsided: 9-6 in favour of Ottawa.

- Gorges with two consecutive failed zone clearances there - Continutes to struggle with making successful transitions.

- Seems inevitable that the Sens are going to tie this - Habs will need a lucky bounce or two to stay in front. That's unlikely.

- Above all, Bourque does a lousy job working himself into a clear scoring position. Most of the pucks/passes fed his way are usually broken or cleared away by opposing defense.

- It's been years since I've seen a Habs defense so collectively poor at feeding passes forward. It's suffocating this team's offense to death.

- Price can't hold the floodgates indefinitely.

- Sens on pace for 60 shots. Not a typo. 

- Death pool for when Ottawa ties this up. I'll say at 15:30 of this period.

- Carey Price. On Bobby Ryan. An astonishing save. His performance tonight has been incredible.

- Price on Stone. I can't believe my own eyes. Incredible.

- At some point in this game the Sens are going to go insane, thanks to Carey Price.

- Floodgates finally breeched. Ryan. 3-3.

- Gallagher 5 shots tonight, nearly half of all the Habs shots.

- Turris. Price can only do so much. Habs defense in completely disarray, not being helped by shoddy backchecking. Sens should pull away easily in the third.

- Totally abysmal period for the Habs. Price did all he could but really, there's only so much one person can do. Scoring chances line should be embarrassingly one-sided for the Sens. The Habs in general are embarrassing.

First Period:

- Figures that given how horrible the Habs PP has played of late that they'd get offensive production from their PK unit. Plekanec makes it 1-0.

- Carey Price. Oh my. What a glove save on Greening on the break. He couldn't believe Carey made that save. Neither can I.

- Habs might have the early mark, but Sens look to be in full motion. Price will have to steal this one. If he's good, it won't be good enough for the Habs to win tonight.

- Plekanec down after taking a very hard shot off the leg. This is not looking good, and potentially disasterous for the Habs since Pleks has been playing out of his mind the past two weeks.

- Ottawa dominating this - Habs haven't registered a shot in 8 minutes.

- Oddicials just won't call it the Habs way - whether it's disallowed goals or pucks fired into the crowd that are clear-cut delay of games.

- Doesn't matter. Pacioretty with a rocket one timer snap shot top corner, 2-0.

- Good news - Habs lead 2-0. Bad news, Pacioretty is nearly almost the only player on the roster who's scoring goals.

- Holy moly. Sens totally reeling as the gates are opens up for Desharnais to waltz right to Anderson, beats him like an old rug, and the Habs take a 3-0 lead. 

- Well huh. MacArthur with a redeflect that Price really ought to have stopped. Habs are terrible at these 3-0 leads, so here we go again.

- Karlsson. Unchecked. Moen in la la land. 3-2. Yup. Sigh.

- Habs got an incredible start on the board, but coughed it up. Habs gave up one he shouldn't have. Habs yet again soft in their zone, and what seemed like a cruise game has turned right back into the Sens' favour. 19-7 shots on goal., Habs will have to do much much better, or an Ottawa comeback will be inevitable.


Gameday Goo

Okay, stop me here if I lose you, 'cause I don't understand the math.

With David Desharnais a *big* question mark to start tonight's game, the Habs are dressing just 11  forwards. We hope.

This against a very, very red hot Sens team, which has lost just one of its past 10 games?

I don't get it.

Could be a suicidal mission tonight. I'm feeling bad for Carey Price already.

More in a bit.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Game Forty-Seven: Devils vs. Habs


Do we still suck?

Yeah. We still suck.


New Jersey 4, Montreal 1

Third Period:

- Well, we can take some salvation in that we probably don't have to go through with Brodeur stoning the Habs to defeat. Just one more period to endure.

- On three days rest Habs simply have no legs tonight. So what's their excuse?

- Devils are playing the perfect two goal lead, right now. This is how well coached teams with average rosters can put together an above average performance.

- Devils focused on uptempo checking, puck possession. One shot through 12 minutes, I'm sure they could care less.

- Habs really dreadful with transition tonight - Murray is the usual culprit here. If you can't cleanly break out of your zone, you're not going to score. It's that simple.

- Part and parcel with the terrible transition, Habs have had just two starts in the Devils' zone through 14 minutes of the 3rd. Two.

- Prust careless high stick. Shove a fork in the Habs, they're done. Not like they really had a chance. Not tonight. Not with this effort.

- Bourque is simply incapable of finishing plays. It's that simple. His mantra for playing in this League is to score. He cannot. What's the point? 

- Devils might only register one shot in this period. And win easily. #TherrienHockey

- Devils got two shots on net. One into an empty net.

- That whimper you heard was the Habs collective performance tonight. This team right back to where we thought they were. 

Second Period:

- Gelinas with a howitzer from the line, beats Price on the powerplay. Assist to Doug Murray for perfectly screening his goaltender. 2-1.

- Now 3-1, Clowe runs Price even more so than Gallagher did on Brodeur, but this time the refs look the other way as Henrique jams it home. 3-1.

- Open season on Price, Habs defenders unable to hold their crease, refs unwilling to call interference.

- Great play by Eller who held the puck during Habs line change and feeds Gallager in front. 3-2.

- Did Gallagher kick that in?? Looks close.

- Taken away. Because, the Habs.

- Make-up trip call there? Only matters if Habs score on e powerplay. Oh yeah. The powerplay. Forget it.

- An "okay" man advantage, but Habs really couldn't sustain pressure, which is their biggest issue right now. Team doesn't seem capable of making the necessary adjustments.

- So obvious question, if Bourque is seeming incapable of burying his attempts, how is he any asset to a mightily struggling powerplay? Don't get how he's being utilized.

- Another powerplay, another Bourque shift into nothing. This madness must stop.

- Just dismal. Man advantage has zero organization, zero confidence.

- 2nd period controlled by Devils, Habs Saturday night game looking more like an aborrration. Canadiens back to their old bad habits, offense sputtering, powerplay in the wilderness, defense sloppy clearing their zone. Adds up to the Devils lead. See no reason why they shouldn't have little trouble coasting to victory.

First Period:

- Gallagher goes for goaltender interference. Fans don't like the call, but it was correctly assessed. Nonetheless, it's the kind of infraction I love to see.

- Habs PK off to rock solid start, Plekanec looks again tonight like he's got his wheels motering.

- Pacioretty. From 35 feet. Wrist shot. Beats Brodeur. Cold. Brilliant. 1-0 Habs.

- Prust sprung home all alone, and he passes it back to ... Murray? Big Do'h.

- And then Jagr scores. Because, of course. Habs turnover by Gorges. Eller in la la land, Price totally screened.  An easy goal for the likes of Jaromir.

- Bourque has scored this year, right? I can't remeber the last time.

- This period. Not exactly Josh Gorges at his finest.

- Good road period for the Devils - kept the Habs in check, were patient and took advantage of opportunities. Habs somewhat sloppy in their zone, slight indifference contributed to Jersey's game tying goal. Hard to feel out who's got the advantage headed to the 2nd.

Gameday Game Preview:

Okay, let's see if this thing is FOR REALZ.

We're all feeling pretty fine out here on the El Rancho del Habs ... land ... O ... not sure where I was going with that, but anyway, after a resounding victory of the feared Chicago Black Hawks on Saturday night, a few of the faithful are starting to double-think this whole "WE SUCK BECAUSE COACH THERRIEN IS AWFUL AND WE'LL NEVER SEE THE CUP AGAIN" sentiment.

Full disclosure here, I was thrilled by what happened over the weekend, but it hasn't changed my stance about how this team is (or isn't) being coached. I still think that Michel Therrien has turned out to be the guy we thought he was - intemperate, rash and strategically incompetent man incapable of guiding this team to loftier heights. Realistically, his dismissal won't be happening anytime soon - unless the Habs suffer a collapse of Fidenae Amphitheater proportions (I'LL BET YOU HAD TO LOOK THAT UP).

So tonight, last game for Marty Brodeur in Montreal? Sure looking that way. Not that Habs fans will have deep regrets if they never see is face in town again, at least while he's in full gear and standing between goalposts. A career 1.81 GAA against Montreal, Brodeur has eaten us alive over the past 20 or so years. Thanks Marty, but we surrender. Happy trails. Don't come back again, like ... ever ... ya hear?

Bordeur's Devils aren't exactly setting the hockey world on fire. They've only won 2 of their past six games, including Sunday's extra time loss to the Leafs. How embarrassing!!  While New Jersey continues to play its usual defense-first boring tempo, which has given them a 6th overall League rating, their offense, or lack of, has dragged them down badly. With just the 27th rated offense, the Devils have fallen victim to a number of narrow losses this season - 19 of their 28 losses so far have been by one goal margins. That's a sure-fire formula for missing the playoffs.

You'd have to wonder where this team would be had it not signed Jaromir Jagr over the summer (it should have been US ... bah!). He leads New Jersey with 36 points, way ahead of Patrik Elias who's 2nd with (just) 25 points. This team can't score. But then New Jersey has always been that way, haven't they?

The difference this season is that the team is just not as strong defensively as in past years - this is a club in transition, but it's making the right steps, acquiring Cory Schnedier, who'll become the unabashed starter for the organization once Brodeur finally retires - likely at the end of this season.

Over in Habsland, the formula should be simple. Play like you did on Saturday. Coach Therrien is going with basically the same lineup and lines, except that George Parros won't play, and seven defense will be dressed. Now I'm all fine with Parros getting the scratch, but the 7 d is a bit puzzling given they're facing one of the weakest offensive teams in the League.

But that's the coach's decision, I guess. So I'll just shrug my shoulders and hope for the best.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. It's Brodeur vs. Price.


It's game day. Let's get right into some news.

UPDATE: Therrien has changed his mind. Parros will be a healthy scratch tonight. Martin Brodeur has been confirmed as the Devils' starter.

- Habs will be playing same lineup tonight as they did Saturday. That means more Parros and no Bouillon.

- The Montreal Gazette is reporting that Andrei Markov has started negotiations with Marc Bergevin for a contract restriction. Markov, who'll be a UFA at season's end, is representing himself in the talks, after turfing agent Don Meehan in October. At a discount rate, the Habs would be foolish to let Markov walk.

- Marc Bergevin gave a little Q&A yesterday. It was ... shall we say ... not encouraging. To paraphrase the esteemed Habs G.M.:

1. Bergevin is totally happy with Brian Gionta this season, and would gladly welcome him back next year, at the right price. Ugh.

2. Bergevin isn't displeased with Daniel Briere's performance so far, because Briere is an "historically slow starter". Except that Briere isn't. The past four season's, he's averaged a tad under 1 ppg over the first half of the season. This year, he's averaging 0.4 ppg. A significant drop-off. I know Marc was attempting to tie a ribbon around a turd, but who's silly enough to eat such nonsense up?

Okay, enough about Habs management, or lackthereof.

- Speaking of Briere, here's a take from a New Jersey perspective, on why the Devils might be interested in trading for the underachieving Habs forward. DO IT MARC ... oh wait. They want us to take Anton Volchenkov in return? UHHH ... that doesn't help.

- In light of Thomas Plekanec's brilliant performance Saturday night against the Hawks, there's increasing speculation that finally, Pleks might be gathering serious consideration for a Selke Trophy.

- Tonight: Marty Bordeur's final start in Montreal? Odds are, if he is played ... that this will be his final curtain call.

More later.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Game Forty-Six: Hawks vs. Habs


Okay, what the heck was that?!? Coming off one of their worst team performances of the year in Philadelphia; coming off another matchup where the head coach had no idea how to put up a proper lineup; coming off an horrific loss where the team's best player was bench most of the final period while the club was only two goals down, the Habs ... our Habs, go out Saturday night and play their best game of the entire season. Heck, that might have been the best game played by this franchise in five years.

This hockey. I just don't get it

What is there to say other than the team deserves its collective dues. Everybody deserved a gold start from top to bottom. Alexei Emelin, who's been totally ineffective since his return from injury delivered two thumping hits last night and played his zone with apt and ease. Gold star for you. Thomas Plekanec, while -1, looked like a Selkie Trophy candidate, not only commanding countless rushes (and successfully gaining the opponent zone), but his backchecking was ferocious. Gold star for you. Raphael Diaz and Doug Murray, who had two nerve-racking shifts in the first period, amazingly started clicking and settled down for the rest of the game, nullifying Joel Quennevielle's line match tactics. Gold Stars for the both of you.

Rene Bouque was dangerous all night, David Desharnais another solid outing, and George Parros, yeah ... that George Parros, was an actual asset tonight - his screen was probably the difference in Markov's first goal of the night. Gold stars for all of you.

Carey Price, outstanding as usual. Andrei Markov with his game of the season, spectacular and deserved the star of the night.

On and on we could go - but the bottom line is simple. There were no passengers on the Habs bus Saturday night. Everyone came out to play, and everyone delivered.

It was a statement game. A win that can catapult teams to lofty heights. We will see shortly whether Saturday night was an abboration, or perhaps an indication that this Habs team might be a bit more special than we've given them credit for.


Montreal 2, Chicago 1 (OT)


- Plekanec on a break. Death.

- MARKOV WINS THE GAME. And what a game. Heroic performance tonight by the Habs. Wonderful!!

Third period:

- Habs Fenwick through 2 periods, 55% (very good), and 61% while on even strength (very great). Outstanding numbers against a team like Chicago.

- Crawford the reason why Chicago isn't done like dinner this point in the game.

- Crawford. Dear lord. What a show tonight. Those in attendance getting very cent value of their ticket.

- A playoff game in January. That's how intense these two teams have played tonight. Can we have 80 minutes, please?

- Might be one of those very, very rare nights where I've got nothing bad to say about anyone in the Habs lineup.

- Hawks just one shot through 9 minutes. Brilliant period played so far by the Habs.

- And as I type that in, Towes sets up Sharp to Hossa, outstanding transition by Hawks, Gionta couldn't keep up with his check (Hossa), and the game is tied. Got quite a finish on the way.

- Watched that Chicago goal on reply. It's so brilliant - it's the kind of goal they use in clinics on "how to play hockey very, very well". 

- Well, I won't get 20 more minutes, much as I'd love it, but maybe 5 or less? Tremendous game, outstanding effort by the Habs.

Second Period:

- Question answered - Hawks with spirited start to the period.

- Habs can't be pretty - too many fancy passes on the rush will go nowhere. Just drill the net and look for a Crawford rebound.

- Emelin with quite possibly his best hit since coming back, levelling Smith who had his head down. Hawks don't like it, but Habs fans will be heartened.

- Habs have had the better legs tonight and it's helped give them 3 powerplays to Chicago's none so far.

- Can the Habs just decline the penalty? Just dismal tonight with the man advantage. Beyond tentative.

- Not surprisingly, the Hawks get a boost from the kill and generate two sparkling chances on Price. Ergo, the desire to just say no to a powerplay.

- Halfway through this game Hawks have just mustered 8 shots on Price, which is kind of crazy.

- A zillion bucks says next penalty call is on Montreal.

- Price hasn't been very busy but the few he's faced have been pretty tough saves.

- Markov! Shot on net! Goal! Did Parros make that play?? 

- Habs have collectively been very good tonight, but Eller has (again) been distant, tentative, and relatively ineffective. It's been that way at least a month.

- At some point Price has to start getting into the Hawks' head. He might have already.

- Penalty. Habs. Told ya.

- Excellent blocking and recovery by Prust on the PK.

- Oh, Lars Eller. How can you miss that?

- Really should be 2-0 Habs but no matter, I think there's little question this has been the Habs' best quality effort all season. They've given the Hawks everything they could handle and more. It's impossible to be overtly critical when you see an effort like this. Really want to see the team come away with two points tonight. They roundly deserve it.

First Period:

- Hawks appear to be targeting Diaz/Murray for line matching, sending their biggest guns out once that pair is sent out. They know their opposition, they know what they're doing.

- Holy moly, when Chicago takes possessin of the puck they just don't let to. Hawks are everything the Habs need (must) be to win.

- Spurt of pressure for the Habs generates a powerplay, Briere and Bourque with some nice work, hard to believe, I know.

- Hawks will give you the point on the PK, but they shut down the lanes against anyone who's got a dangerous shot from the line. Which means, Subban and that's it.

- Two straight powerplays for Habs, they've generated some decent pressure, Hawks have had trouble adapting.

- Remeber when Diaz was a major specialty unit weapon? He was - for about three months. Now, not so much.

- Sticking Gorges out with the man advantage is essentially conceding advantage. Has it never entered the minds of the strategists to use four forwards?

- Well at least the Habs are competing. But you just have the feeling the Hawks are a cat with a yarn ball. Just toying with the Habs now, but eventually they'll pounce.

- Diaz/Murray continue to be an adventure.

- Well, be darned to say this but very good first for Habs, outshooting Hawks by 5 and outhitting them by 4. Also won 10 out of 14 in the circle. A very un-Habs period of play, which is a good thing. It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Hawks make during the intermission. I'm sure Quenneville wasn't  pleased with what he saw.


Gameday Game Preview:

Hoo boy. What to do about this one.

By all rights, tonight's game won't be much of a contest. The defending Stanley Cup champions make their only (thankfully) visit to the Bell Centre this season, as they take on the hobbling Montreal Canadiens.

As we discussed the past couple of days (read my article about Michel Therrien below), the Habs are going the wrong direction in a very bad way, not unlike the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once one of the team's top puck possessors, the Canadiens have seen the production of their once top-rated offensive unit fall like a rock to the bottom third of the NHL.

While the Canadiens nearly desert-dry red line has seen it at least score at a slightly higher pace the past week, the blue line has suddenly fallen on very hard times, likely a result from the moves made by Therrien resulting in the removal Raphael Diaz from the starting lineup to make way for the use of Doug Murray and Francois Bouillon. The result: a string of losses to what was supposedly weaker competition, 4 goals surrendered to Florida on December 31st, 5 to Carolina, and 4 to Ottawa. Once tied for the top-rated defense in the National Hockey League, the Habs have now fallen to 4th overall - still "elite", but definitely headed in the wrong direction.

Tonight, it could get ugly. The Habs will take on the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Towes, Breant Seabrook, and Duncan Keith.

Counterparts to this powerhouse? Why, none other than Geroge Parros, whom inexplicably will get a start tonight. I guess the "rationale" for Parros' start is that the Hawks have drawn the 3rd most penalties minutes in the League this year - but they aren't an extraordinary rough team - they have just 7 majors this season, tied for second fewest in the League.

And so the decisions, however inappropriate or illogical, continue to be made, and the Habs, conversely, continue to flounder.

It could get ugly. It should get ugly.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

About Michel Therrien

When Marc Bergevin announced on June 5, 2012, that Michel Therrien was to be the 27th head coach in the Montreal Canadiens' history, I wasn't particularly thrilled with the decision. The Habs were coming off one of their most disastrous seasons in franchise history, finishing in last place in their Division, and nearly last overall in the entire National Hockey League.

At the time, there wasn't a whole lot of people to choose from to be the next Habs bench boss. The Habs ownership and upper management were stubbornly determined that the next head coach had to be Francophone, or at the very least, fluent in french. It's a requirement that's always baffled me - while the team does play in a language-sensitive city, I've always held the belief that fans of the Canadiens don't give two figs about what language their head coach speaks, as long as the team produces a winning product. Scotty Bowman, who couldn't speak a lick of french much beyond bonjour, did just fine, thank you very much.

Nonetheless, the Habs focused their eyes on french-only speaking individuals, which severely limited their options. As spring progressed, the field of candidates had seemingly been whittled down to three - and none of them were particularly enthralling.

There was Patrick Roy, who had coached a few successful seasons in the QMJHL for the Quebec Ramparts. While Roy had a winning record with the kids, he'd also displayed an unpredictable temperament, leading some, including myself, to second-guess whether he had the emotional maturity to handle a big-league team.
There was Bob Hartley, whom after winning a championship as head coach in 2001, then put together a string of underwhelming seasons leading to his dismissal from the Avs in 2003, and later on with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008.

Then there was Michel Therrien, who from the outset, seemed to be the longshot candidate amongst the bunch to land the job.

Dismissed from the Habs as head coach in 2003, largely from his inability to properly manage his bench, and his emotional immaturity that ultimately spun out of control during an infamous game 4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2002 Eastern quarter finals. Leading by three goals midway through the 3rd period, and seemingly cruising to an easy victory which would have given the Habs a commanding 3-1 series lead (and almost certain berth to the Stanley Cup semis), Therrien went ballistic after a questionable cross checking call was made by referee Kerry Fraser on Habs defenseman Stephan Qunital. Standing on the bench and firing off a series of loud coarse epitaphs (much like what you'd see in the video above), Fraser, who'd had enough, called an abuse of official bench minor, giving the 'Canes a two minute, two man advantage.

Carolina took full advantage, scoring quickly on their powerplay, and then again, and from then on out, dominating the rest of the 3rd, tying the game late in the period, and eventually, winning in overtime, 4-3. Carolina would ultimately win the remaining two games with relative ease - the Habs were never able to recover from the shock of their game 4 implosion.

Therrien's meltdown not only cost the Habs their season, it ultimately cost him his job as head coach.

Therrien didn't stay unemployed long. In 2005, he became the head coach of the up-and-coming Pittsburgh Penguins, whom had build an exceptionally strong core of young players via high draft picks after a string of losing seasons. And then in 2005, the Pens struck it lucky - winning a lottery draft giving them the first overall pick, which they used to draft Sidney Crosby. The Pens were on their way.

Therrien, though, hadn't changed much of his personality. He was still temperamental, and still struggled to utilize his bench assets to their fullest potential. The Pens, who quickly emerged as championship-potential contenders amongst pre-season experts, stumbled to deliver on their promise.  Missing the playoffs in 2006, losing in the first round in 2007, Therrien finally got his talented team to a Stanley Cup final in 2008, ultimately losing to the Wings. Even with that series loss, there was little to believe that Pittsburgh wouldn't soon be raising a championship banner.

The 2008-09 season was full of promise. The Pens were the prohibitive pre-season favorites among most experts to win a championship. But the team struggled early on - and by the 57 game mark, had posted only 27 wins, and were in grave danger of missing the playoffs. Sensing the team was headed nowhere fast, Pens G.M. Ray Shero announced Therrien's firing on February 15, and replaced him with interim coach Dan Bylsma.

Three months later, the Pens won their 3rd Stanley Cup championship.

After spending a few years in the relative obscurity, beyond making occasional analyst appearances on RDS, Therrien's relevance as an NHL coach became an afterthought. So his reemergence as a possible replacement to interim Randy Cunningworth took many Habs fans by surprise. I certainly was one of them, never really taking seriously the premise that this man, whom for so many seasons, proved that he was incapable of managing an NHL team, could possibly get a second chance in Montreal.

But I was wrong. At least, in my assumption that Therrien would return.

However, at the time, I was willing to defer to the judgement of Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin, whom unlike his counterparts from the previous 20 years, seemed knowledgeable and capable. I assumed that during the interview process, Bergevin saw something in Therrien that gave him great confidence that he had found the right man to lead, much like the Pens were in 2005, a young and very talented roster.

The 2013 season seemed to play out as Bergevin had hoped. The Canadiens had, more or less, an excellent 48 game regular season, good enough to win their Division. This in spite of the team's tailspin the final 8 or so games of regular schedule, and quick exit in the first round to the Ottawa Senators. Still, there was plenty of optimism in Habs land that this franchise was headed in a very good direction, with Therrien behind the bench.

But then, this season happened.

October was a relatively successful month for the Habs. Their early schedule was relatively difficult, matched up against very competitive western conference teams. The Habs though, managed to hold their own, and as the stiffness of the competition lightened, the Habs began to pile up victories, putting them in a fairly comfortable position in their Division.

But along the way, something funny happened. The team, which posted some very impressive possession numbers against those tough western conference games in October, as high as 4th overall in the League, suddenly started giving the puck away. A lot.

There were other troubling signs. The Habs defense, which many of us considered to be one of the team's core strengths, struggled to feed the puck to their forwards, which had not only a significant impact on the team's puck possession, it was also chocking the transition, which in turn, suffocated the Habs ability to score goals.

And so December arrived. And the tail started to spin. Downwards. Very quickly. The offense dried up. Entering the month, the Habs had the League's 7th rated offense. Today, it's 21st. The powerplay, once near the very top in the League, has now fallen to 10th.

And then there's possession. Earlier in the season, the Habs Fenwick percentage was 4th best in the NHL. Today, it's 21st. It had the 5th best Corsi rating. Today, it's 26th. Only Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Buffalo are worse. This is not good company to be in.

Nonetheless, the Habs somehow find themselves with 55 points, good for 3rd place in their Division, and a comfortable 8 points removed from a wild card spot. The reason for the Habs somewhat comfortable position is two fold. First, the team plays in a very weak Eastern Conference, where with exception of possibly two teams, nobody could possibly compete for a playoff spot if they were in the West. The second is Carey Price. His performance behind a team that's now falling apart from all seams, has been exceptional. Without Price, the Habs, even in the weak East, would almost certainly be barely north of 40 points.
And maybe that would have been a good thing. A 40 point Habs team a this point in the season probably would have resulted in significant changes.

Still, the Habs are a ship in the sea without sails, or for that matter, a mast. Or even a rudder. They are a team whose coach hasn't demonstrated a capacity to make necessary adjustments, beyond simply throwing out a neverending array of line combinations that ultimately lead to nothing. They are team that employs two aging and totally incompetent defensemen in Francis Bouillon and Doug Murray, both of who are far too slow in their zone, and utterly incapable of feeding the puck forward - the few times they actually win battles.

The Habs are a team whose coach stubbornly refuses to play his very best player to his full potential. They are a team whose coach somehow has come to believe that one of their better playing defenseman, Raphael Diaz, ought to be a healthy scratch to make way for the likes of Murray and Bouillon.

They are a team that can't score, even with a lineup that's near full health. They are a team where one of their young sparkplugs in Michael Bournival, barely sees more than 6 minutes of ice time, while washed-up clunkers like Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta, readily see 14+ minutes a night.

And then, there's last night. Hoo boy. Last night.

Down two goals with a period to play, Therrien decided to send a message - to the team's scoring leader and very best player, because of a single penalty he took in the 2nd period. The net result? Zero shots on net for the first 10 minutes, and ultimately, just 5 shots for the entire period, only one of which bore anything resembling a scoring chance.

In a sense, the incident from last night's game indicates just how little Therrien has progressed over the years. The fundamental issues he struggled with during his first term with Montreal, and then later with Pittsburgh, still hampers him today. An inability to cobble together a properly functioning lineup, an inability to adjust to gametime situations, an inability to make adjustments either during or leading up to games, and an inability to formulate a gameplan. One might summate Therrien's failings as a coach is an inability to develop a team identity. Unless you consider the dump and chase, which is a losing formula in today's game, to be an identity.

There is one aspect in Therrien that has changed. In years past, this man, with an immature temperament, externalized and projected to his rage and fury, often to his own detriment. Therrien admitted as much when he started his second tenure with the Habs, and professed he'd changed his ways - he'd become a much calmer, level-headed individual.

Last night, we caught a glimpse of just how false that declaration was. Therrien is no different, except that his immaturity has been internalized, and converted into passive rage. Instead of berating others with words, he berates them with silent actions which are almost certainly tearing this team apart. P.K. Subban was a victim of this passive anger last night, and his mates, in response, quit.

It has come to this. Michel Therrien has lost this team. He is what we thought he was. He has no business being an NHL coach. Whether Marc Bergevin will, or even can, make the right decision, we will soon find out.