Monday, 31 March 2014

Game Seventy-Seven: Habs vs. Bolts


- Lars Eller gets nabbed for hooking .... behind the goal. That's about as terrible a penalty as you could possibly take.

- More powerplays for Tampa, largely because the Habs can't keep pace with the Lightening's speedy forwards. You just know Tampa is going to take advantage.

- Price has been ridiculous tonight. If Habs get even a single point, it will have been robbery.

- Thompson with poor judgment boarding Markov and putting his team down a man.

- Oh man. Terrible turnover at the blue line courtesy a poor blind pass by Desharnais springs Johnson on a break. 2-1.

- Atrociuos. Emelin called for tripping trying to pick his stick up off the ice. The officiating has been ... wretched.

- Markov hasn't been seen since getting boarded from behind. 

- Andrei is back, and is now on the ice. Whew.

- Did Emelin think that slash would actually prevent a goal?? More poor judgment.

- Murray with a terrible elbow to the head of Kosyka. Stretcher out. Murray is going to get suspended for that.

- Oh well. A forgettable night for the Habs who were clearly overmatched by a speedier, more skilled Tampa team. Good news is, the Habs officially clinched tonight. We'll take it.


- Joining in a bit late, I see Pacioretty with a poor zone turnover and a very fine save by Price. Carey playing great, as per usual.

- Just like the games first goal, Habs seemingly able to swarm the crease, thereby illustrating one of Tampa's key weaknesses - their physically softish defense.

- Terrible tripping call on Bouillon by the usual suspect, Chris Lee. You just know Tampa is going to score. 

- Yup, there we go, Callahan as a result of poor skating by Emelin. Tampa's powerplay continues to hum which bodes well for their first round in the playoffs.

- it's the Chris Lee show. Apparently the officials are getting an in-person review by the League tonight. Just keep making terrible calls, Chris. Keep being bad.

- Man, this Tampa powerplay ain't easy to play against. So much speed, Habs defenders just too slow to keep pace.

- Was the first period this lopsided in favor of the Lightening? Surely it couldn't have.

- Doug Murray. What and where the hell were you doing? Price with two unbelievable saves to bail out his ridiculously incompetent defenseman.

- Oh man, how was that not goaltender interference? And it's waived off. Thankfully the right call was made.

- Very fast-paced period, largely controlled by Tampa, with Carey Price making some pretty remarkable and spectacular saves. Habs just unable to keep pace with this Lightening team, and are very lucky not to be down a goal with 20 minutes to play. 


Bolts practice this morning, here were their lines:

1. Brown/Stamkos/Purcell;
2. Palat/Filppula/Callahan;
3. Killorn/Johnson/Kucherov;
4, Malone/Thompson/Panik

Other stuff ..

- Rene Bourque, if you can actually believe this, is publicly complaining that he doesn't get enough ice time. RENE, ACTUALLY FINISH OFF A PLAY FOR ONCE AND MAYBE YOU WON'T GET DEMOTED TO THE PRESS BOX.

Just ... good grief, already.

We'll keep posting stuff as the day drags on.


- Alexei Emelin, who's been (finally) playing some good hockey the past week, is back in Montreal attending to a personal matter. He's expected to rejoin the team in team for Tuesday night's game against Tampa.

Habs Forward Practice Lines this morning:

1: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Vanek,
2: Galchenyuk/Plekanec/Gallagher,
3: Eller/Brière/Gionta,
4: Bourque/White/Bournival

- Thomas Plekanec is back with the team, and will start tomorrow against Tampa.

More in a bit.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Game Seventy-Six: Habs vs. Panthers


- Habs in serious sit on it mode, Panthers taking it to them, Price making some big saves. Montreal must push back or this game could get dicey.

- So many blown chances by the Panthers in this game, against a team with a competent offense, the score could be completely different.

- Habs defense really sloppy this period, the usual suspects - Murray, Bouillon, and Ememlin. Their incompetence as usual, masked by Price seemingly always bailing them out.

- Bourque clearly back in the doghouse, now made to play with Parros.

- Habs in nearly zombie like trance sitting on this lead, and Florida seeing the barn door left wide open, are storming the zone. It's getting silly - no way a Price should be breaking a sweat in this game, but he's had to handle 11 shots in 11 minutes.

- Habs did a great job killing off their two minute powerplay. Really unimpressed by their complacent performance this period. Just one shot on the clock with 5 minutes left.

- Why is Parros out there with 3 minutes left? Why?!

- Dismally protective period - an ugly win. But a win, I guess. The playoff spot now, surely clenched. Habs may want to consider resting, or at least, scaling back the icetime of their most important players. Habs need to be as healthy as possible for their first round series against Tampa.


- Habs playing very defensive first five minutes, not sure the rationale for cautuious play, it's way too early to be lead protecting.

- Amazing how the Habs offense takes on a completely different dynamic the instance Vanek steps on the ice. Enjoy it while it lasts, I suppose.

- Good god what a play by Vanek, dangling the puck turning his back to the check then suddenly swinging 180 to fire a perfect pass to a wide open Pacioretty for a tap in goal. Just brilliant.

- Boyes. Great shot but Price shoulda had that. Played the net way too deep with Boyes so wide off the line. 3-1.

- If Habs could just figure out how to get Galchenyuk and (of course) Eller producing, they might be near impossible to best.

- Habs hold their two lead, although they were a tad fortunate, given how they went into sitting mode for most of the 2nd. Still, not a single reason to believe that the Habs shouldn't have any problem in coming out of this with their 5th straight. Panthers are simply totally overmatched.


- If the Habs fined it's players for taking lazy hooking penalties because they weren't moving their feet, Rene Bourque would have to file for bankruptcy.

- Panthers powerplay looks pretty abysmal. If Scott Gomez is on one of your units, you know you're in deep trouble.

- Vanek make it looks so effortless in opening the scoring. Follows up his wrist shot and tucks in the rebound, largely because his size and hands just overwhelm opposing defenseman. 1-0.

- Was about it criticize the Habs pp for being too cute but then that three way passing to Pacioretty to tap it home. Supurb playmaking. 2-0.

- Parros making himself useful, I guess. Barch with the knockdown. Yawn.

- Habs-owned first period, Panthers had two early powerplays that went nowhere, and Montreal basically took over after that. Florida has been miserable the first period this season, so Canadiens would be wise to not let up the leash if they want to clinch tonight.


Wow. We've arrived. We're well into the home stretch of the regular season schedule. The Habs, in case you've paying almost no attention lately, have all but secured a first round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightening. So that's great news.

What's also great news? The total and utter demise of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Another lost last night at the hands of the Flyers, the Leafs, now losers of 7 straight, find themselves well on the outside looking in for a wildcard berth. With but seven games remaining on their schedule, the Leafs will have to somehow win six of them, to have a reasonable chance of sneaking into the post-season.

The Leafs, lest we feel the tiniest bit sorry for them, sewed their own seeds of misfortune by embracing a system whose days were long surpassed. The Leafs played a defense-first, dump and chase, hot puck potato system which meant that on almost every night, they were heavily out-possessed and outshot. The Leafs currently sit in 29th place for puck possession. That lowly ranking as we type, is pretty where they've sat all season long.

Even thought outplayed by their opponents much of the year, Toronto, lest we forget, were frequently bailed out by excellent netminding, by both (yes, both) Johnathan Bernier and James Reimer. They were also helped along by a greater than average PDO, meaning the Leafs were assisted not only by fine goaltending, but by the element of luck.

All of that caught up to them two weeks ago. Playing against the curve, getting all the bounces, and depending on their goaltending to bail the team out of trouble - all of that came undone.

So what does this have to do with the Habs? Everything. The Canadiens play a very similar style to the Leafs - one might argue at an even more conservative level. Through Michel Therrien, the Habs are an obsessive defense-first team, relying heavily on dumping the puck out of their zone at all cost, even at the sacrifice of anything resembling a transition. When the Habs forwards do possess the puck, much like the Leafs, they're inclined to dump and give chase into the opposing zone, thereby sacrificing one of their big pluses - team speed.

And, lest we forget, the Habs, like the Leafs, have been gifted by stellar netminding - Carey Price is having a Vezina-level season, and Peter Budaj, has also played very strong in the backup role. There have been many occasions where the Habs, even though heavily out-possessed, outshot and outplayed, have eeked out victories.

There are, though, hints of hope. Even though the Habs sit 21st in the League, the possession trend has been coming around, at least of late:

You can see just how low this team had sunk - with a rolling average below 43%, which is definitely into Leafs territory. However, since early March, this team has suddenly moved into positive possession territory (albeit granted against weaker opponents, but still ... ). Why the turnaround? Who knows - it could be something as simple as the Habs making some adjustments to modify their defense-first obsession, it could be the team's improved play in the neutral zone, but I think it's largely because of the recent addition of Thomas Vanek, who has brought this team another offensive dimension that the organization hasn't had in a very long time. The Habs, with Vanek, have a very well balanced red line roster, with three very scoring-capable lines. The Habs, with those three lines, are a tough opponent to beat.

Habs and Panthers game blog later.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Game Seventy-Five: Habs vs. Wings


- Wow. That's quite the stat. Detroit is -24 goal differential in the 3rd, worst in the league.

- Subban with a brain cramp clearance righty up the middle intercepted easily by Tatar. Beats Price from ideal position, and the Wings trim the lead to one. 

- Tatar again. Again a d zone turnover. Again Subban in the mix. Tie game, and Leafs fans have a meltdown.

- Pacioretty says chill out, Leafs Nation. 4-3.

- Lots of end to end here, not really the kind of game you want to play holding on to a one goal lead.

- Mike Weaver. Josh Gorges who?? If this is the real Weaver, it sets up an interesting summer as to determining whether there's a long-term place for Gorges on this team.

- Vanek, a beauty redeflect off sweet shot pass by Markov, and the Habs get their two goal lead back. Outstanding goal.

- Hold that phone. 21 seconds later, Franzen on blown coverage (Plekanec) makes it 5-4. Wild third period.

- Bouillon is a defensive disaster tonight. He needs to be pulled from this game NOW.

- Briere with a monster defensive shift. Who'd have thunkit?

- Bournival with his best shift of the night and he draws a Wings penalty. Massive given there's only 3 minutes left on the clock.

- Habs hang on for the W, and move pretty much past the clinching line. Leafs fans celebrate a Montreal victory for perhaps the first time ever. Florida Saturday to formally book a post-season ticket.


- So, I'm joining in a little late tonight, I see a 2-0 score. Obviously a very impressive period for the visitors.

- Looking at first period stats and notes, looks like P.K. had as close to a monster period as is possible. Oh yeah, and Plekanec scored two. Ho hum. Seriously, nice to see Pleks hit the 20 goal mark - he's had a very underrated season. 

- Subban clearly held trying to carry the puck out of his zone creates a turnover, Shehan with a great seeing eye wrister to put the Wings on the board. Bad non-call.

- Pretty aggressive forecheck so far by Detroit in the second. They aren't messing around. Their season is on the line.

- Gallagher with transition pass to Galchenyuk. Misses by at least eight feet, results in an icing.

- Vanek had easy 4th as a Hab, except for somebody named Jimmy Howard. Vanek just needed to shoot higher. Gotta make sure about these things.

- If Bourque finished off even a fraction of the goals that were perfect setups, he'd have at least 25 this season.

- Great physical play by Vanek to take possession away deep in Wings zone, sweet feed to Desharnais who does have the ability to finish. 3-1.

- Holy cow. This Desharnais / Pacioretty / Vanek line is a well oiled machine. Brilliant zone passing, seamless and potent. Yeah. Vanek. Eight years. We need to make this happen.


Okay, no messin' around today.

Defense practice lines this morning in Detroit:

1: Emelin/Markov
2. Bouillon/Subban
3. Tinordi/Weaver

NO MURRAY TONIGHT. Already a good start.

- ICYAWA, a Wings win tonight would be absolutely devastating to the Leafs' hopes of clawing back into the wild card race. Oh ... so torn ... so torn.

- Marc Bergevin is going on the radio in about 30 minutes (from the time of this posting). We'll be listening for anything said worthy of mentioning (likely not).

- Okay, the interview is about as lame as anticipated. So from what little Bergevin has disclosed: 1. He'd like to have Vanek back, but it's beyond his control. 2. He's concerned that somebody will offer Subban an outlandish offer sheet he can't match. 3. Therrien and his coaching staff on the job they've done - "their record speaks for itself" (UGH). 4. Subban and Therrien get along just fine. 5. Says Subban has improved this year with/because of Therrien (WTF?). 6. He wants Gionta back (good grief), and 7. Bouillon has been a "very useful" defenseman.

Well, that was discouraging. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Game Seventy-Four: Sabres vs. Habs


- Just a dismal effort to start the 3rd. The Sabres are just doing their thing, Habs going through the motions.

- Bad clearance, delay of game, Habs get their 5th powerplay chance. Only four lousy shots to show for it.

- Habs far too tentative on the man advantage. It's now in their heads.

- Hackett seeing everything. Habs not getting in front, creating anything resembling a screen.

- Myers crashes into Price and then goalpost. In considerable pain. Not good.

- Looks like he took it right in the ribs. Hopefully he's okay.

- Hackett 30 saves, but maybe 2 shots have been difficult. He's seen them all. Every single one.

- Doug Murray. Hook. It had to be him, of course.

- Last 20 shots of this game, 17 have been by the Habs. Still, Hackett has been able to cruise.

- Conacher allllll alone in front of Price, but shot it just wide. Bullet barely dodged.

- And back the other end, Pacioretty taps it past Hackett, and the goosegg is broken. Finally. That's Max' 100th career goal, by the way.

- Now Habs will go into huddle mode. Clinging to this lead. Against the Sabres.

- Habs have outshot Buffalo 24-7 since start of the 2nd period.

- What the heck ... Hodgson sprung on a shorthanded break, and Price has to bail out his defenseman.

- Briere, salts this one away. Finally. Beauty shot, top shelf.

- Well, mission accomplished. Habs take out the Sabres, now sitting with 89 points, 8 games left to play. Two more wins should get them across the line, three more wins will for certain. Not an overly impressive performance tonight against the woefully overmatched Sabers, which means the Canadiens will have to put forth a significantly better effort Thursday night in Detroit.


- Four words you've heard a thousand times before: "Rene Bourque just misses". Wait ... make it a thousand and one.

- Tinordi aggressive push in from the line, nearly scores. Wish Habs would do this more often, especially against weaker opponents.

- Quality of Habs scoring chances (at least) improving in the 2nd, but they still haven't scored. Hackett pretty solid, this Sabres team playing with nothing to lose.

- Vanek's speed and skill draws a hook. Nice.

- Two more tacked on for unsportsman. Habs get 4 minute advantage. Now ... now they must take advantage.

- Therrien elects to put out Markov/Emelin first shift on the man advantage. Because ... ?

- Habs shooting a ton into Sabers legs. Right into the shooting lanes. Powerplay going nowhere.

- Bourque ain't helping much either. Therrien putting out some odd line combos, Weaver on the line? Who knows. Habs come out totally empty.

- The playoffs are three weeks away. Montreal needs to get this specialty unit back on track, and quickly. No way this team has a hope if they're hovering around/below 10% efficiency.

- Price's side of the ice still pretty clean. Habs have owned the period, possession-wise, but haven't really peppered Hackett with a particularly dangerous shot.

- Vanek is a ridiculously potent sniper. Playmaker? Not so much.

- Mostly Habs 2nd period, but sans the late Desharnais shift, Montreal didn't test Hackett with grade-A shots. Habs can pretty much waltz across the playoff finish line with a win tonight, we'll have to see how badly they want that luxury in the 3rd.


- Well, that ain't good. Sabers with most of the play the first 10 minutes, few bright Habs spots so far ... Galchenyuk looking extra fast so far. Otherwise, not much else.

- Carey Price just makes it look so easy, these tough saves are a result of he playing angles so efficiently.

- Vanek is not the type to blast shots for goals. He's a sniper. Ergo, he's useless going wide along the wing.

- Solid shift by the make-do 4th line, Bournival nearly tucking a rebound under Hackett. All season long, this team's fortunes have long been determined by the effectiveness of its 4th line.

- TSN Lucic "just gave him [Emelin] a little extra". So spearing is okay, as long as it's a little extra? Got it.

- Amazing how the  can look so utterly intense one night, 24 hours later, largely indifferent.

- One might say both teams are playing a close checking first period. No. The Sabres are overmatched by inexperience can't finish, the Habs, at least a good portion of the roster, are cruising. This ought to be two very easy points in the bag. Canadiens are making this far more difficult than necessary.

- Ho hum first. Price solid, few brights spots for the Habs: Galchenyuk, Weaver, Plekanec. Everyone else just going through the motions against an opposition that would probably have trouble beating an upper-tier AHL club.


- Welllll ... lookie here. We were all concerned that the injuries to Travis Moen and Dale Weise would mean the return of George Parros, but ... NO!  Habs will insert Ryan White and Lars Eller for 4th line duties tonight, while Jared Tinordi will take Frankie Bouillon's spot. So ... progress?


Alexei Emelin, you keep doing that, and we nay-sayers will just forget about that contract extension. Deal?


- Josh Gorges skated this morning - not much of a revelation, since it's his hand that's mending. Still .. progress.

- No word yet on the prognosis for Travis Moen and Dale Weise. Expecting something later this morning or early afternoon. UPDATE: First word out on Weise, and it's a tendon injury. MRI is being performed today to determine if it's torn. Needless to say, he won't be playing tonight (meaning George Parros will probably have to dig his skates out his basement).

- "I never speared the guy". Uh-huh. If you need any reminder of who's the most classless organization employing the most classless players in the National Hockey League, we give you this:

Monday, 24 March 2014

Game Seventy-Three: Habs vs. Bruins


- Budaj's last shootout wasn't textbook. Have to favor Rask here.

- Bergeron. Hah. Came in too slow.

- Vanek...nopes. Telegraphed that.

- Budaj 2/2. Habs in good shape.

- Marchand. NO. Budaj great in OT. Now Briere for the win.

- Nope. Where's Galchenyuk???

- Budaj. 4/4. NOW Galcheyuk.



- Julien runs three fowards, Therrien two. Wonder who scores?

- Briere cruises on his OT shift. Inexcusable. Get him off the ice.

- Therrien plays the Gallagher/Galchenyuk kids, but they're totally overmatched. 

- Subban got one OT shift. Then out for the final 17 seconds. Beats me.

- Well win or lose in the shootout, Habs have played a pretty remarkable road game. Weaver and Gionta were fantastic, Emelin with his best game in weeks/months, and the bodily sacrifices made by many others played a key role in the Habs earning at least one point. Gutsy effort.

Third Period:

- Habs PK saving their bacon tonight. Emelin also having one of his best games in a very long time.

- Terrible holding call on Murray. Just watch Boston score on this. Just watch.

- Even more wretched call for hooking on Gallagher, who made a brilliant backcheck. Just atrocious officiating here.

- Not sure if it's the ice conditions but Bruins can't quite make the killer connection with the man advantage. Habs 5 for on the PK.

- Bruins really pressing here. And another Bruins powerplay. Their sixth of the game. No way the Habs can keep holding on. No way.

- Brian Gionta has played a titanic game tonight, in particular the PK. What a game.

- Yup. Something had to give. And it gave. Game tied.

- 3 minutes left Habs just barely holding on to the tie.

- Lucic spears Emelin from behind in the groin. Not called. Classless play by a classless player.

- Well. A point earned. Very hard fought. And at great expense potentially, depending on Moen and Weise's injury status.

Second Period:

- Habs officially now with just 3 lines. Staying in this game will require a minor miracle.

- Bruins swarming to start the period, Habs far too complacent, and are getting railroaded as a result. Don't see the dike holding much longer.

- Remember how Chara was so deeply feared? Not so much anymore.

- Marchand high sticks Subban. Careless stick work will give Habs at the very least some reprieve from the Bruins onslaught.

- Zombie Habs powerplay. That's being charitable.

- Gallagher steps up on Chara. That is awesome on so many levels.

- Habs last powerplay was a mess, but it's stunted some of Boston's momentum. At least. 

- Not for the first time Bourque takes a lazy hook because he doesn't move his legs. Terrible time to take a penalty.

- Habs with a most excellent PK, one sparkling shoulder save by Budaj.

- Another bad Habs penalty this time Bournival holds a stick. Bruins are gonna cash one of these unless the Habs smarten up quickly.

- Budaj so far looking nothing like the mess he was on that west coast trip. Knock on wood.

- Dumb Bruins penalty. Goaltender interference. Just not smart and it lets the Habs off the hook.

- More Boston lack of discipline. Habs getting this served on a platter, need to convert on the man advantage.

- Boychuk. Brain cramp. Huge chance for Habs here - 44 second 2 man advantage.

- Bruins an incredible job 2 men down blocking the passing lanes.

- Didn't score, that's gonna hurt. 

- Bruins lack of composure and discipline in the 2nd, it's all the more amazing given that this is a team that hasn't lost in a month. Of the 12 straight games won, Boston has only trailed once headed to the 3rd period. Gonna be a fascinating final 20 minutes.

First Period

- Moen vs. Miller. Moen coming to the defense of Weise, and promptly get KO'd. He's done for the night, and now the Habs find themselves in real roster trouble.

- Habs powerplay was going nowhere until Emelin with an inoxuous shot from line redeflects, and Habs take 1-0 lead. It was a difficult but not impossible redeflect to stop.

- Bruins playing very hard very physical but but not very smart. So some advantage of the offering here for the Habs - at least early.

- Budaj flip flopping away with puck around the crease. Not a good sign.

- Habs benefited with two powerplays first half of the period, but since then, Bruins have overtaken possession and are controlling this game. Habs just trying to hold the wall.

- Bruins very aggressive in the neutral zone, basically breaking up any semblance of a Habs transition. It's been very effective since the 8 minute mark.

- Habs clinging. Just barely clinging here. Budaj muffs a Bergeron bankhander but it hits the post.

- Aside from the scoreboard, pretty tough period for the Habs - essentially losing their 4th line for the night (and beyond?), and basically getting manhandled by a constant Bruins attack. Bruising period, very intense, and significantly in Boston's favor. Habs will need to figure out getting their transition game on track, or Boston will take control in the 2nd.


- Tinordi out, Bouillon in, Murray in. And of course, Budaj starts.



So what else is there to really say, other than let's lay it out on the table. The Bruins are playing ridiculously good hockey right now, resting a good chunk of their lineup, and yet, since the start of this month, winning games with ease. Their 12 game winning streak has propelled them from a mild battle for top spot in their Division, to the best record in the National Hockey League. If you're a Boston Bruins fan, life is good.

The facts don't lie. Matched up tonight, the Bruins dominate the Habs like crazy in most major statistical areas. So as mentioned, let's put it on the table.

Fenwick For %:
4. Boston: 52.9%
21. Montreal: 48.7%

Corsi For %:
3. Boston: 54.7%
25. Montreal: 47.6%

2. Boston: 103.
11. Montreal: 100.3

2. Boston: 3.2
20. Montreal: 2.51

Goals Against/Game:
2. Boston: 2.08
11. Montreal: 2.5

6. Boston: 20.4%
13. Montreal: 18.8%

Penalty Kill:
4. Montreal: 85.5%
9. Boston: 83.7%

5. Boston: 32.0
24. Montreal: 28.8

12. Boston: 29.0
21. Montreal: 30.7

Save the PK, a relatively minor indicator, the Bruins dominate across the board. They are (easily) arguably the East's only elite hockey team. They are deservedly going to finish first in the Conference.

That said, there's a very small dent in Boston's armor. It's that PDO. At 103, it's high. Way too high, I'm certain, for Claude Julien's liking. It's an indicator that the Bruins, while putting up some pretty good numbers against, granted, some pretty weak Conference competition, has also been assisted by the element of luck. And as other teams, in particular in Toronto Maple Leafs, you can't hold out on luck indefinitely. For most of the year, Toronto has been putting up horrendous possession numbers, and yet managed to win enough to keep them very playoff spot competitive, largely because their goaltending has been excellent. Well, that's all coming undone - the Leafs luck string has officially run out, and they now find themselves in a complete free-fall.

Are the Bruins facing a readjustment? That 103 PDO might suggest so, but the team's core numbers, possession, offense and defense, are so strong, that an end to the shooting luck streak probably won't be significant enough to result in a dramatic win/loss decline.

In other words, the Habs have their hands totally full tonight, so Therrien's decision to go with Budaj, who's had a pretty terrible month of March, just doesn't make sense.

You go to to a gunfight with a gun. Tonight, Therrien's roster strategy is essentially arming his team with a shiv.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.


Happy Monday! Happy game day! Tonight the Habs head in Boston to take on the hottest team in hockey, the Bruins riding a 12 game winning streak. So this is BIG. We gotta bring out THE BIG GUNS.

So with that in mind, let's see what's happening today:

- With his team facing a critical game against one of the toughest opponents seen all season, Michel Therrien announced that start netminder Carey Pr ... uh ... he ... sorry what's that? (checks earpiece) ... I'm sorry, he's announced Peter Budaj will start tonight.

Uh. K?? Anyway, when challenged this morning about making this seemingly insane decision, Therrien said he's starting Budaj to avoid Price playing back to back games. So ... I'm guessing by this rationale, Therrien is assuming a loss tonight, instead hoping to play his big chips against the 30th placed Buffalo tomorrow night. Call me crazy, but if the Habs can't beat the lowly Sabres with Budaj in goal, they probably don't even deserve to finish the season with a playoff spot.

Anyway, Michel Therrien hockey, folks.

- Doug Murray will probably, amazingly, be playing tonight, possibly paired with Subban. Michel Therrien hockey, folks.

More in a bit.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Game Seventy-Two: Habs vs. Leafs


Third Period:

- Bouillon continues to have most icetime of any Habs player, Subban is next nearly two minutes behind. #TherrienHockey

- Kadri ties it on the powerplay, Price losing track of the puck behind his net. Habs consecutive PK streak ends at 26.

- Weaver on that PK - that really doesn't look like his specialty. But Therrien must play him somehow to make up for the weak links on that blue line. Playing Weaver on the PK means Subban can be utilized for other purposes.

- This has not been one of Andrei Markov's better nights. Poor pinches, puck chasing in his zone.

- Leafs clearly outskating and outhustling Habs in the 3rd, and generating scoring chances from high percentage locations.

- Hard to believe one of the two refs didn't raise his arm from that Van Reimsdyk run on Price. As clear cut as penalties come.

- Tic. Tac. Toe. Subban. Markov. Plekanec. Very very pretty. Habs regain lead on a powerplay beaut.

- Six minutes left, Habs are in hard chuck, dump, chase mode right now. Price will invariably have to make one or two more big saves to keep the Leafs at bay.

- Desharnais with a foolish neutral ice pinch seeking an impossible interception, it generates odd-man Leafs chance. 

- Leafs their own worst enemy with too many men. CBC has a meltdown.

- Toronto just couldn't get their act in order, and Habs hold on for the win. Leafs controlled their own playoff destiny two weeks ago, and now they'll have to scramble to hold on to a wildcard. Meanwhile, Habs just about home free for securing their ticket to the playoffs.

Second Period:

- The manner in how Therrien has structured his defensive pairings tonight means the Habs will always have one very weak link on the ice at all times. Murray, Emelin and Bouillon. This means the Leafs are going to get plenty of scoring opportunities, and Price will need to be razor sharp to keep his team ahead.

- Far less chaotic 2nd period, but the Leafs have shown a far more organized transition and rush. Habs are very much on the defensive, I suppose hoping to ride out the opposition momentum. But they can't keep playing this way, Habs need to change the dimension of this game quickly or the Leafs will tie the score. Very soon.

- Excuse the language, but what's the deal with CBC's hardon for Bolland? He's in the lineup and suddenly Toronto are Stanley Cup contenders?

- Nine times out of ten Vanek tucks the puck in on the sharp angle. Puck drifted across the line.

- Who has the most icetime of any player in this game through 34 minutes? Frankie Bouillin. Insanity.

- Price owes his goalposts dinner. Two dingers in this period and counting.

- Tempo of game picks up rapidly - that's more advantageous for the Habs.

- Habs owned the first, Leafs made appropriate adjustments with playing more disciplined positional play in their zone, and owned the 2nd. The Habs have had chronic difficulty competing this season against teams who make mis-game adjustments, if only because the Canadiens are incapable of doing so themselves. Should be a very interesting 3rd.

First Period:

- Okay, I'm fully expecting a big night from Max Pacioretty. Seven games without a goal, you know he does these things in bursts. And right now, the dam must be close to breaking.

- I'm JUST sayin' ... for reminders, Leafs Fenwick still mired in 29th place overall, a lowly 41.9%. How they're even sitting in a wildcard spot as we type, somewhat defies explanation. Oh yeah ... their PDO? Just under 102, 4th in the League. LUCK, LUCK, LUCK.

- Kessel skating against Murray. Blows past him, not even a contest. Habs are going to be victimized by this, the Leafs know darned well how terrible Murray is and will ice their best forwards against him.

- Pacioretty. We totally called that on our Twitter feed that Max would break out tonight. 1-0.

- Bourque. Woah. Reimer totally muffed that wrister. And it's 2-0. The arena is stunned, and the Reimer controversy is now front and centre.

- Weaver/Murray combo are going to be an adventure tonight.

- Pacioretty with a far more difficult wrister glove side but Reimer makes the snag. Don't want him gaining confidence here - he's on the ropes.

- Do'h. Lupul with a rocket. Markov unable to make the easy clear and instead coughs it up deep. 2-1. That Reimer save looking even bigger now.

- Bouillon with an absolutely brutal turnover behind his net, and Bozak cashes in to tie the game. We lamented pregame what a huge folly it was to start both he and Murray the same game, and now it's hurt the Habs directly on the scoreboard.

- Well that didn't last long - Gionta from Bourque to give Habs 3-2 lead. Leafs have been terribly slow and sloppy reacting to the Habs rush this period, and with Reimer chocking the hold, it's really worked to Montreal's advantage.

- Entertaining but very sloppy period of hockey. These are not two well oiled teams going head to head. Habs had clear advantage in that period but silly mistakes by the usual culprits keeps the Leafs in this game. Too bad.


OOOOOOH YAAA. Saturday night. Habs and Leafs. A critical showdown with huge playoff spot implications. Rob Ford smoking crack. WE GOT EVERYTHING GOING 2NIGHT.

So let's run down some notes.

- Jared Tinordi gets scratched. Oh well.
- Doug Murray is in. UGH
- Rene Bourque is in. Wait, who's that?!? Ooooh yeahhhhh ... that guy.

Habs lineup:
Line 1: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Vanek
Line 2: Galchenyuk/Plekanec/Gallagher (um, okay ...)
Line 3: Bourque/Briere/Gionta
Line 4: Moen/Eller/Weise


Oh god. Bouillon AND Murray getting starts, thanks to le Coach.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Game Seventy-One: Blue Jackets vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Really careless high stick by Subban. Habs D not having a banner night.

- Carey Price - at what point does he start getting in Columbus' heads?

- Really, guys. Now Plekanec with an even sloppier high stick, this one a 4 minute. Disaster looms.

- Eller with a clutch interception and board bank and then earns a penalty shot. Great play.

- Eller projected the fake, Bobrovsky wasn't going to be fooled. Bah.

- Weaver doing some fine work on the PK tonight. That unit as a whole has kept the Habs in this game - barely.

- Wow. Perfect cross ice pass Pacioretty to Vanek's wheelhouse, and ties the game. No way it should be tied, but here we are.

- Oh man, another undisciplined penalty. This time the bench screws up a change. Oy.

- Gallagher's skate just imploded. Wonder how long it'll delay his return to the bench. He's been motering this period.

- Columbus is going to crack 40 SOG tonight, and might still end up without a win. I'd be miffed. Very miffed.

- Tinordi is right now thinking about bus rides in Hamilton. Bad turnover probably costs the Habs this game.

- Tough but deserved loss. Habs took too many penalties, and got worn into the ground. Wouldn't want to be the team that faces the Blue Jackets in the first round, assuming they qualify.

Second Period

- 5v5 Fenwick 55% Jackets. Not good, but not as bad as I thought it might have been.

- Jackets aren't letting up - Dubinsky 2-1. Bouillon puck chasing - again. Anyway, Columbus is not going to leave this night without two points. Habs won't be able to do anything to stop it.

- Columbus totally dominating here. This game could, again, spin out of control very quickly. It already is.

- Price holding the fort. Barely. Therrien owe him a coaching career the number if times his goaltender has saved his team from total decimation. Habs are being decimated tonight, just not on the scoreboard. Yet.

- No idea what Vanek was thinking there. Columbus to the powerplay. Betcha they score.

- More sloppy Habs D forces White to take a holding penalty. 5-on-3. Here we go ....

- All world PK play by Markov to kill one penalty. One to go.

- Until the final 15 seconds Jackets were far too indecisive on the PP and blew their big chance. If they lose tonight they're gonna look back at that PP and kick themselves.

- Habs PP. If they tie this, the game will officially be totally illogical.

- Desharnais, Pacioretty and Vanek are having a relatively brutal night. Collective -30 Fenwick.

- Jackets pretty much owned just about every facet of that period, but only have a one goal lead, which from the Habs perspective, is a damned miracle. Unless the Habs find something extraordinary, they have no chance in the third. No chance.

First Period:

- It took precisely 3 seconds for Bouillon to make a big defensive mistake giving the Jackets a break on Price. 3 seconds.

- Bovrovsky - you just never know what you're going to get. Habs might score a bunch or get totally goal slammed tonight.  

- Nifty goaltending by Markov covering up for Price who was wildly out of his crease. Jackets can't cash in on an empty net.

- Jenner is playing out of his mind, robbed twice by Price. 

- Jackets are simply taking it to the Habs early on with relentless speed, hitting and checking. Habs with little response. This could spiral out of control quickly.

- Ryan White, as we predicted, doing a fine job filling in for Prust.

- Habs Fenwick has been pretty good past two weeks. First intermission numbers tonight, however, are gonna be ugly.

- Columbus the better team but Habs strike first via their suddenly hot powerplay. Really good puck movement and Gallagher knocks the puck off Bovrovsky for 1-0 lead.

- Carey Price is on. That knee? Don't see any issues now.

- Jackets are making some stupid checking decisions along the boards, it's cost them one goal and it might soon cost them another.

- Uh, nevermind. What the eff was that? Bizarre shorthanded goal off a draw ties the game.

- Pacioretty, like Vanek was during his recent goal scoring slump, is doing all the right things. Eventually the scoring will come. Eventually.

- And ... Pacioretty and Johannsen drop gloves? That's just stupid. Pacioretty with the knockdown, but still ... dumb, dumb.

- Pretty much Columbus' period, Price very strong to earn a scoreboard tie, Blue Jackets with significantly more energy, maybe desire tonight? They need this game a whole lot more than do the Habs.


SPRING HATH ARRIVED. It's one of those dates in the calendar you swear might never come. So I'm in a good mood, and it's not only because this Habs team appears to be rockin' again. Three straight wins, the latest done in very impressive fashion against a relatively tough Avs team. Jeez ... I wonder what common denominator we could find with regards to the team suddenly playing well again. What certain player who plays a certain position on a certain blue line has been a healthy scratch the past two games where this team won in very convincing fashion. Hmmmm ... I WONDER.

Okay, news and notes for this gameday.

- Doug Murray out tonight? YAY!!!!!

- Anyone remember Rene Bourque? Yeah .. me too.

- Brandon Prust. Injured. Again. Sigh. He tried to practice this morning, it was a no-go. His body is broken, folks. Prust strongly denied to the media a couple of days ago, that the injury is with his gimpy shoulder. All we know is that it's upper body. UPDATE: TVA says it's his ribs. Which (it true) would probably mean he'll be back, but it won't be anytime soon (7-10 days?).

- Ryan White will start tonight, which as far as a Prust replacement is concerned, is pretty darned good.

- Habs killer R.J. Umberger is a no-go tonight (injury) nope he's a healthy scratch. Weird, that.

- Oh, did we mention that tonight's game is pretty huge as far as the playoff race is concerned? A Habs win will push them to an almost uncatchable playoff position, while a Blue Jackets win will move them even closer to catching the Leafs for a wildcard berth. SO EITHER WAY IT'S A WIN-WIN RESULT TONIGHT. WOOT!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Game Seventy: Avs vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Only three Habs defenseman capable of shooting the puck on net. Subban, Markov, Beaulieu. That's is all.

- Prust. What injury? That slapper from the slot a total bullet. 3-2.

- Penalty calls have been absurd tonight. Subban with total non-interference interference call. Yikes.

- Habs standing around the zone, Bouillon who's now -3, again abandons his position, and McGinn gets a shot and a rebound shot before scoring. Keep Bouillon off the ice, already.

Second Period

- Habs with a bit more gusto to start the second but the Avs do such a fine job guarding their crease that good scoring chances are coming few and far in between.

- Another weak penalty call - this time on Pacioretty for reaching out (called a slash apparently). Officials trying to make themselves relevant I guess.

- Alexei Emelin on the PK is a recipe for disaster. There are better options such as ... anyone else.

- Vanek! Finally. Big time defensive breakdown by Avs on a fairly harmless Habs rush, Desharnais with a nice carry and feed in front.

- Talbot, nice feed in front by Duchene, helped by Bouillon chasing ... something behind his net. He's now -2 ... and counting.

- They're coming fast and furious. Stone Hands Moen with a sweet behind the backer beats Gigure. One of those plays that ought not be goals, but we'll take it. 4th line production evens the game at 2.

- Bouillon is a defensive disaster tonight, Avs are having a field day when he steps on the ice. Roy has taken notice and is matching with the MacKinnon line.

- Wiese has had a nice grinding game tonight.

- Therrien must make adjustments and match out Plekanec line against Mackinnon who's having an all-world game tonight.

- Habs swarm Avs zone last two minutes but can't cash in. Good rebound period for Montreal, now well positioned to have a good shot of winning this game. One solid 3rd period might just accomplish that.

First Period:

- Tinordi AND Beaulieu AND no Murray. My eyes surely deceive me.

- Okay, Vanek is snakebit. No other explanation.

- Specialty unit battle tonight - Avs 3rd rated PP against Habs 4th rated PK. Could be the game decider.

- Brandon Prust heads off to the dressing room, we suspect injured. And here we go again.

- Upper body injury apparently to Prust. Gonna stick out the neck here and call it a shoulder.

- Mackinnon, looking like a seasoned vet stealing the puck and calmly deaking out Price with a backhander. Eller taking a stroll. 1-0.

- Prust back on Habs bench. So, huh.

- Flat as pancake period for the Habs - fans send them off with scattering of boos. Avs really controlled back end with great ferocity and while scoring chances were limited, controlled possession. Not looking good for Habs for the rest of the evening.


Patrick Roy blah blah blah. Whatever. I had enough of this guy in 1995. This is who he is, now, then, and forevermore:

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Game Sixty-Nine: Habs vs Sabres


So, not that your life or its full meaning is dependent on this, but no live blogging tonight, as my kid is playing for his League's city peewee championship tonight. SORRY HABS you ain't THAT important to me.

I guess if there's a game to miss, it's this one. The competition? Pretty lowly. The Sabres not only blew up the building, they shipped off the rubble last month trading away just about every asset they had left for futures. This means a team, which was already pretty talent-thin to start the season, has a roster strongly resembling your average AHL team.

So the Sabres offense is by far the worst of the worst, a mere 1.88 GPG average, which puts them an amazing half goal+ behind the next worst team, the Oilers, who have a 2.44 average. Defensively the Sabres have slowly improved over the year, once ranked dead last, Buffalo enters tonight's game ranked 24th overall GA/G. So threat-wise, the Sabers pretty much have nothing going for them. This is a team that's just at the start of a complete and total rebuild.

Over in Habsland, the Canadiens are coming off one of the most incredible come-from-behind victories in their 106 years of existence. Trailing by three goals with just over 3 minutes left to play, the Habs did what no team has ever done in NHL regular season history by scoring 3 times in 3:21, and then going on to an OT victory. So the buzz from last night is, shall we say, a little high today. 

This is not to say the Habs are now on easy street. The team defense last night was particularly dreadful, marked by pathetic turnovers and ill-advised pinches by the League's worst defenseman, Doug Murray. His mistakes directly led to three Senators goals - a level of incompetence which even Michel Therrien could no longer overlook. The net result is that Murray is a scratch for tonight's game. For the sake of everything sane in this world, we all hope that last night's game was the last we'll ever see of Mr. Murray in a Habs uniform for the rest of time (it'll never happen, of course).

Also ... Carey Price stayed in Montreal, which caused a few to panic that he'd re-injured his knee. But Price was never going to play tonight, not back-to-back, and certainly not against a team like Buffalo. So Dustin Tokarski was called up from Hamilton today, and will start in the nets tonight, while Peter Budaj will ride the pine.

Puck drops at 7:05 EST. NO LIVE BLOGGING TONIGHT!! You're welcome.


There it be in all of its glory. This was approximately 0.5 seconds before the puck was pushed out to Frankie Bouillon for the game winner.

Whine all you want Sens fans, that puck wasn't covered by Lehner, who played some of the most inept goaltending over a five minute span that you'll ever see in an NHL game.

Habs/Sabres in a bit.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Game Sixty Eight: Sens vs. Habs


So anything happen last night?


- No pressure on Montreal in the OT. To get just a single point out of this game is incredible. Sens are ballistic over the calls made (or not made) the final two minutes.

- Well, here we go. Hoo boy. What a night.

- Therrien plays it conservatively of course, starting out with Plekanec and Gionta. Jesus. Go for the win, I mean ... really.

- BOUILLON. Lahner can't cover the puck. THE HABS win. The Sens are going absolutely ballistic, though.

- That was one of the craziest games I've ever seen played in the Bell Centre. Right up there with the Habs 5 goal deficit comeback over the Rangers in 2008. 

- The first goal of the season by Bouillon. What a time to score it.

Third Period:

- Right off the opening faceoff Zach Smith sprung for a break, Doug Murray again the culprit out in la la land. He's a one-man wrecking crew and yet amazingly he continues to get regular shifts.

- Hemsky. All alone in the slot. Eller line caught up ice and slow to hustle back. 3-1. Terrible goal to surrender. Now the Habs are really in tough.

- Zach Smith AGAIN sprung in alone on Price who makes a sprawling save, AGAIN Murray the culprit as he's caught way up ice. This madness must stop.

- MacArthur. Complete defensive breakdown by Habs defense, as Emelin recklessly chases a hit and leaves his goaltender out to dry. Habs two worst defenseman this season, Emelin and Murray, particularly rancid tonight.

- Vanek just can't find the back of the net, even via these gift wrapped zone turnovers courtesy the Sens.

- What an end to end rush by P.K., nearly goal of the year. Draws a powerplay, although it's all too little too late.

- Lars Eller scored. For the first time in one third of a season. But it's a laregly useless goal, this game was over long ago.

- Woah. Gionta with a tip in, and it's 4-3 with two minutes left. Could this possibly happen?? Naw ...

- Can't believe the Habs might pull this out the fire. 

- Lehner looked shaky to start the game and now to end it. And wow - Habs about to get a powerplay. With 1:30 left. Turris goes for a foolish trip in offensive zone.

- Price pulled. 6-on-4 powerplay. Hang on to your hats.

- OH my god. What a finish, Desharnais puts it in the net but did it beat the buzzer???!??

- THAT IS A GOAL. With 2 tenths left on the clock. I cannot believe what I've just seen. 

- That goal happened because Subban, who might have had the powerplay shift of a lifetime, passed the puck to the wide open Desharnais, who barely .... and I mean just barely, beat the buzzer.

- That final powerplay was some of the most frantic hockey I've seen in a very long time. What a crazy game.

- Watched the replay, Gallagher with an incredible desperation dive with 7 seconds left to keep the puck in the zone. So many incredible plays to be dissected in that last remarkable 20 seconds of the 3rd.

Second Period:

-  Bogus goaltender interference call on Spezza, methinks Price might have Mike Smith suckered the refs into that call.

- Well it evens up, Eller given a silly tripping call on Karlsson, he clearly played the puck and Karlsson simply tripped over the stick himself.

- Vanek clearly very frustrated by his recent inability to finish, but he's doing all the right things. It's gonna happen.

 - Habs just plain dominating this period - this game. If they somehow can't come away with the two points, it's going to sting.

- For so many weeks Habs were riding the benefit if a PDO wave. Now nothing seems to be going in - the luck tables have steadfastly turned against.

- Doug Murray with an absoltely dreadful turnover at centre to Greening creating a breakaway. But the net appeared to come off before the puck went in. It'll be close.

- That was just a horrible turnover by Murray - how can Therrien continue to ignore this? Anyway, no goal, but Eller gets nabbed for the trip - he had to take the penalty to try to prevent the goal. 

- Doug Murray is just terrible. Just terrible. Wanted to write that for the umpteenth time.

- Brilliant pass by Karlsson to spring Zach Smith all alone. Maddeningly, the badly outplayed Sens take a 2-1 lead. 

- Price has played well, but not his usual super-sharp style we've grown so accustomed to this season. That Smith goal he hesitated between playing the shooter and making a poke check. The end result he lost all control over the puck. A weak goal, by Prices's standards.

- The Sens have been the Sens tonight - terrible turnovers in their zone, but they've been getting away with it.

- Habs owned that period - possession and scoring chances, but somehow find themselves behind. I really don't see much of an adjustment is necessary, they need to just keep doing the same as what they did the first 40 minutes, and I think they'll come out on top. We'll see.

First Period:

- T-minus 8 minutes before Carey Price makes Michel Therrien look way better than he actually is.

- Weaver in, Tinordi out. Murray in. So predictable.

- Holy crap has this city ever been anticipating Price's return. Bell Centre standing O when his name was announced.

- How long before the first fight?

- Briere. 38 seconds in, a 25 foot wrister that should have been stopped. 1-0.

- Lehner. He knows the game has started, right?

- First shot on goal by Sens courtesy a rocket by Spezza, Price with no chance. 1-1.

- Oh Briere. Not once, but twice. As golden as chances come.

- Habs PP is 0/2 but both tries it was rockin'.

- Big time penalty problems for Sens as Hemsky barrels into Price

- Vanek looks great out there - him scoring is enevitable. Positioning all the right places, has come very close more than a couple of times tonight.

- Eller just holding the stick so tight, but he's battling, and this kid line has looked like it hand missed a beat. Very promising.

- Doug Murray bear Lehner clean with a simple wrist shot, but hits the crossbar.

- Vanek way way way more dangerous with Desharnais than Plekanec, miles more dangerous.

- very fast period, Habs with plenty of jump and dominated possession and the bulk of scoring chances. Really little reason to complain.


Yeah, he's back. And so are we. Kind of. Sort of. Not really. Live blogging the first period and then I (sadly) must depart for the evening. So sad.

Anyway, you've probably heard the lowdown. Reuniting the Kid line, a move surely born of desperation to get Lars Eller to display something resembling a pulse. ANYTHING, at this point. Also, Vanek no longer with Plekanec and Gionta, a move born out of growing concern than Vanek is kind of busting the joint in his failure to deposit a single black puck inbetween two posts.

That's all fine, but it still isn't removing this team from the insane path currently taken by its coach, who for some reason that is way beyond any ability to comprehend, refuses to see the obvious awfulness that is Doug Murray, opting instead to bring in the almost-as-awful Frankie Bouillon, which has only compounded the Habs blue line woes - the absence of Price surely gave Habs fans a pretty good indication of how bad our defense is with sub-par goaltending.

BUT ... Price is back tonight, and he will, I'm sure, do his usual job of making his team, and in particular, his coach look WAY better than they acutually are.

Plus we get to see Chris Neil!! What incredibly stupid thing will he do tonight?!?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Game Sixty-Seven: Bruins vs. Habs

Third Period:

- So perfect opportunity for Habs to take stock in Tokarski, with this game out of reach, but nope, Therrien stays with Budaj, and another softie is surrendered to start the 3rd. 4-0.

- Seems to me if Tokarski is deemed backup capable, Budaj immediately becomes a draft pick commodity this summer.

- Desharnais. At least Rask won't get the shutout.

- Bruins really have played a sloppy game, PDO saving their day (and hurting the Habs). No way Boston will go far in the post season if this is all they've got at the table.

- Dump, chase, dump, chase. The madness never ends.

- Habs have made zero adjustments during this game. They almost never do because they are incapable of doing so. This team decides its course before the puck drops and just keeps plugging away, even if they're headed over a cliff. There is no way this team has any hope of competing the first round (assuming playoffs are even reached). Just no way.

- Bruins adjusted after 20, Habs didn't (or more accurately, can't). That's your game story. 

Second Period:

- In addition to outshooting, Habs 5v5 Fenwick was 80%. Dominance.

- And just like that, it's all rendered meaningless as Tinordi and Murray team up to leave Budaj high and dry. 1-0.

- Habs have three breaks and counting so far because the Bruins are getting their clocks cleaned in the neutral zone. But Habs haven't converted, and they probably won't get many more great chances like that.

- Markov just plain falls down at the bruins blue line and gives Boston a 3-on-1, finished by Bergeron. 2-0.

- Story of the game, it really doesn't matter how well Habs have played, they haven't converted, the Bruins have. No finish, no chance.

- So Prust is out for nearly enough with a shoulder injury and he picks a fight? Uh .. kay.

- So when's this Vanek with Plekanec/Gionta experiment going to end? Because so far, it ain't been clicking.

- Great shift by Plekanec line, Vanek included, but can't finish.

- Lucic gets away with a board, and Budaj surrenders a weak one to him on resulting transition. You simply can't give those up against first place competition. 3-0.

- Bruins made appropriate adjustments in the 2nd, took advantage of their opportipunities, and have now won complete control of this game. An excellent example of how a very good tactical coach (Julien) can have a profound effect over a not very good tactical coach (Therrien).

First Period:

- That Prust/White/Moen 4th line might be the strongest, most well-rounded this team has had in 20 years.

- Decent first Habs PP, passing was crisp and accurate, finish - not so much. Beyond the Subban/Markov team, it's a serious drop off on that Habs man advantage. Emelin and Bouillon don't have the smarts (or shot) to be anything resembling effective. Still can't figure out why Therrien refuses to play 4 forwards and split the 2 minutes between Subban and Makrov.

- Bruins first PP, Budaj with some nice stops. No signs of early game shakiness that we saw on that western road trip.

- Thomas Vanek - this is the team you've frequently destroyed. Just a little reminder.

- Habs are bounds faster than this Boston team. If Montreal only could play a possession game, the Bruins wouldn't have much of a chance most nights.

- Habs sniffing close, Vanek included, to a PP goal, but finish still not there. Bruins really collapsing hard around their crease, converting rebounds (which Rask has been surrendering) has been near impossible.

- Vanek gets attention for his goal scoring abilities, but he's really a two-way specialist (making him all the more valuable).

- Really solid first for the Habs, clearly the harder skating and working team, and it's helped them to win the little battles. 13-6 SOG to boot. Very happy with what I've seen.


Soooooo ... let's see what's cooking today.

- Carey Price isn't playing tonight. He might not play until the post-season? WHAT?!? So Peter (sigh) Budaj is in.

- Um. Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Therrien has scratched Mike Weaver tonight (waaa?). So guess who's starting? Emelin (oy), Bouillon (OY) ... and ... Murray (sweet merciful god, why must you mock us?!?!)

It's gonna be a clusterfu ... uh ... a terrible mess on the blue line tonight. And you have one person to thank for this impending self-inflicted wound: Michel Therrien.

- On the upside, Brandon Prust will return tonight from injury for the first time in like ... ever. Well, mid-February, to be more exact. So that's welcome news. Still, Emelin, Murray AND Bouillon ...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Game Sixty-Six: Habs vs. Sharks

Third Period:

- Another sloppy turnover (Gallagher this time), and more terrible defensive coverage (Emelin) and it's 4-0. This time Couture. Just awful.

- Sharks might top 70% Fenwick tonight. It's that bad.

- Well, it's not that bad. 5v5, San Jose is 64%. Except that 36% is really, really bad.

- Current Corsi stuff, Murray 8-13, Emelin, who's been beyond terrible, 9-20. Ugly stuff.

- More ugliness. Bourque 6-14, Markov 7-25, and Eller .... yikes ... 4-12.

- Sigining off now. Final thought, the trip wasn't a complete disaster, but it didn't do this team any favors in the standings. Here's hoping Price is back for Wednesday night.

- Also, Fire Therrien. We haven't said that in awhile. It needs to be reminded,

Second Period

- The Habs inane dump and chase system is not helping Vanek much. He looks perplexed many shifts.

- Irwin. Another questionable goal, and Tokarski is brought in. 2-0.

- Torres with a dirty hit on Eller, and Tinordi gives us a really good glimpse of why he rocks by dropping the gloves and hammering that goon to the ice. Officials give offsetting penalties but tack on 10 more against Timordi, which doesn't help the Habs much the rest of this game.

- Eller with a brutal turnover at his line, Nieto cashes in from the slot, with Murray in la la land. Sharks now running away with this.

- This Habs dump and chase PP is a mess, and putting Bourque out first line isn't helping much.

- Habs have 8 shots through 40 minutes. They haven't been so hugely outplayed in that nobody seems able to execute. Plus Emelin and Murray have been particularly bad tonight. Habs are going to get only 2 out of 8 points this trip.

First Period:

- Budaj 5 goals on 23 shots in Arizona. I was hoping for another Tokarski start ...

- Club got day off yesterday, and if it means anything, team legs seem to have an extra jump early on.

- See .. Tokarski ... All Budaj on Sharks first goal. Horrible brain cramp, wretched goal to surrender.

- Some credit to the Habs, tempo hasn't alters much, killing off a couple of San Jose penalties. The Budaj mistake was brutal but it hasn't changed the team's apparent focus on speed and aggressive forechecking.

- "Slow and wobbly shot by Murray." Yeah that pretty much sums it up.

- Interference call on Emelin. There's a big difference between being a physical defenseman, and a physical defenseman who makes dumb plays. Emelin the later there.

- Habs had 5v5 possession edge in that period, a relatively meaningless achievement because of Budaj's terrific error. 


... This stupid west coast swing. The toughest part of the whole year's schedule, without our number one start stud goaltender.

Today, tonight, it ends. Finally, mercifully.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Game Sixty-Five: Habs vs. Coyotes

Third Period:

- Mike Smith flopping, altnough this time to make a desperation save on Gallagher rather than the usual attempt to draw a penalty.

- Habs might be the only dump and chase PP unit in the League, and it almost always goes nowhere fast.

- Terrible turnover by Tinordi, whiff by Budaj, and it's goodnight from Arizona. 4-2.

- Timordi has not looked good on this swing. Now we wonder if this means Bouillon will get into the rotation, or if Beaulieu will return.

- 5-2. Soft shot from the line, I guess Budaj was screened. Doesn't matter much though.

- Carey Price ... update?? For the love of gawd when will you be back??

- Oh well. Shoulda had this one, but sloppy play and poor netminding undid the Habs tonight. Well they got 2 in Anaheim, they can do the same in San Jose, right? Uh ... right?

Second Period:

- ahh I see we're down 3-1. I also see that among the Habs 6 defenseman, P.K. Subban got the least amount of ice time. Because, bench management.

- Emelin no goal correctly assessed. Desharnais interfered with Smith. Still, it adds to an amazingly high total of goals Habs have scored that have been waived off this season.

- Habs seem to be doing well, tempo-wise. I don't see this game nearly out of reach. Yet.

- Habs are moving their legs well, and Phoenix is getting nabbed for hooks and holds. Waiting for this PP to actually start scoring, though ...

- One of the Habs' biggest PP struggles of late has been making clean and accurate feeds to the point. Way too many zone possessions have been lost since the start of the break.

- Is there any other player in the NHL who falls down for no apparent reason, than Rene Bourque?

- Another hook, another Habs PP. They gotta score sooner or later.

- Okay, delay of game, and it's a two man advantage. They totally gotta score now. Vanek??

- Finally. Subban. 3-2. Wait, it's Galchenyuk. Anyway. 3-2!!!!

- Something says the fancy stats through 2 periods will be comfortably in favour or the Habs. They're been the much better team this period (can't attest for the 1st period though).

- Habs outshooting 11-1 in the period. Yeah, you read that right. Although trailing by a goal, one more period like the 2nd, and the Habs should be in good shape.

First Period:

- We'll be posting game blog notes at the start of the 2nd period, as I'm currently occupied watching my son's peewee playoff game. Priorities!!!

GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES: Are we pinching ourselves this morning afterimage  what happened yesterday? Is Thomas Vanek really a Montreal Canadien? (yup). Did the Habs, in front of their 3rd string goaltender, really beat the best team in the NHL last night? (yup!). Maybe it's because we're edging close to a warmer change in the season, but I felt a little spring in my step this morning. I presume I wasn't alone in that sentiment amongst Habs fans. It's amazing what a difference 24 hours makes.

Okay, some notes (we'll add as the day progresses):

 - Not ALL good news, Josh Gorges tested positive for a fractured hand last night. No word on how serious the fracture is, or whether he'll be out of the lineup. - Nothing on the Carey Price front. Still hurt, still no word on any possible return. Peter Budaj will start tonight.

- Along with Vanek, expect Mike Weaver to make his Habs debut tonight. Who'll sit is anyone's guess, although it'll probably be Tinordi.

- P.M. UPDATE: Gorges has flown back to Montreal to have his hand further examined. Which means he's out for the rest of this trip (at least).

- Here's a screen grab of Gorges after he was injured. I'm not doctor, but judging by the blood and swelling on that hand, it's not a fracture of the minor variety. Ouch: