Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Game One - EC Semi Finals: Habs vs. Bruins


ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Well, that was quite a roller coaster, wasn't it? Bathing in the glory of a double overtime victory, and early series advantage, some morning-after thoughts.

- Habs were - let's be perfectly honest here, roundly outplayed by the Bruins, who had trouble burying some glorious scoring chances. The Habs cannot count on good fortune to carry them through the rest of the series. Eventually Boston will bury these scoring opportunities, regardless of Price's capacity to play some heroic netminding.

- I watched the overtime period again, and Price's performance really was astounding. Most above average NHL netminders wouldn't - couldn't have made some of the acrobatic saves we saw from Carey. The split bad blocker save made by Price on Krejčí halfway through the first overtime period was one of the greatest OT saves I've ever seen by a Habs netminder. There's nothing wrong with having your goaltender steal the occasional victory, but you cannot rely it. Certainly not in what reckons to be a lengthy, grinding series.

- The Eller/Bourque/Gionta line continues to be head above shoulders, the best line on this team. They were pretty much the only line generating consistent chances on Raask last night, and were among the (very) few possession brights spots for the Canadiens. The reliance on Eller is eerily resemblant of the Habs early season success, although at that time, it was Eller, Galchenyuk and Gallagher who were carrying the team offensively. When that line eventually stop producing, the team as a whole started slumping. The Desharnais line must rise to the occasion, and start scoring. Like ... now.

- Of course, the reliance on one line is somewhat nullified if production comes from other places. Last night it came from P.K. Subban on the powerplay.

- While not producing points, the Habs 4th line has been doing what 4th lines are supposed to do - either to stem or create momentum, and focus on containing the opposition in their zone. The line's hard work generated the Bartkowski holding penalty that resulted in the Subban OT winner.

- Bruins were getting some ridiculously good scoring chances off the rush, largely because the Habs were failing to clog up the passing lanes both at centre ice, and as Bruins forwards were entering the Canadiens' zone. This was largely a result of Habs fowards not being able to retreat fast enough to defend the lanes, which is pretty inexcusable given this team had nearly two weeks of rest. I'm sure the Habs coaching staff will take note during their video reviews today, and make the necessary adjustments.

- There were a couple of areas where the Habs played a very disciplined game. Their shot blocking was excellent for most of the game, in particular blocking Bruins shots off (the few) rebounds surrendered by Price. Perhaps more importantly, the Habs were exceptionally disciplined in not biting on Bruins attempts to fish for retaliation penalties. Staying out of the penalty box will be a critical component of any series victory over Boston.

- Coach Therrien noted that he thought his team looked rusty, which I largely agree with - the passing was okay, but certainly not as crisp or as accurate as it was against Tampa. I didn't like Therrien's attempts to get his offense producing, much of his focus seemed to be on moving Thomas Vanek around. If your team is rusty, you don't shuffle - you work through it. Vanek, who was moved around starting late in the first period, was eventually reunited with the Desharnais line late in the 3rd, but by that time, it was too late for Vanek and that line to work off the so-called rust.

- The bottom line is pretty clear. The Habs will have to be better - much better, if they hope to win 3 of the next 6 games. Last night Carey Price stole them a victory, but that's not going to continue. It's not reasonable to ask of him, it's not responsible for Therrien and Price's teammates to depend on it.


OVERTIME:

- Brillaint feed Prust to Plekanec who really needed to bury it. Big missed opportunity.

- Vanek firmly back with Desharnais, but he just doesn't look right.

- This is the kind of game where guys like Gallagher are the heros.

- Compared to first three periods, Habs hanging tough.

- Price Brillaint right pad save. Saves the game. All because of another sloppy neutral zone turnover by Briere.

- Price with three remarkable overtime saves. So far. If the Habs win this, it's all Price.

- Eller line practicaly the only unit producing any offense for their team right now. It's become that bad.

- Brenden Gallagher didn't score the winner, but he saves the game.

- More impact play by Gallagher intercepting the puck in centre and then taken out by a knee check by Paille. Luckily Gallagher isn't hurt, and Habs will get a powerplay.

- Carey Price making enormous saves in that period to give Habs a chance of winning this. Boston pelting the Habs like crazy, but Montreal is living another day - or at least one more period.

- Okay. That's one for Rask.

- Habs 4th line with some great work, and they draw a powerplay.

- SUBBAN!!!! A rocket to win the game.

- No way the Habs win the game if it wasn't for one Carey Price.

- Because we mentioned it wayyyy back in the first period, note that it was the Plekanec line who were on when the winning goal was scored. 



THIRD PERIOD:

- Well, Boston has had some pretty impressive third periods this season, a major reason for their final points total in the standings.

- Bruins are overthinking this on the rush. Gotta be the Price (in their heads) effect.

- Seeing eye shot by Smith puts Boston on the board. Nothing you can do about those. Well, Emelin could have cleared traffic better, I suppose.

- Three or four minutes after a goal makes is when this Boston team is most dangerous. Habs will have to weather another storm, and a Bruins powerplay.

-'Excellent kill there. That might be enough to get them through the onslaught.

- Briere with killer neutral zone turnover. Resulting rush the B's tie it.

- The onslaught was not weathered. The two goal lead has been a curse this spring.

- Habs need to be philosophical - they have a tie game in the third period, and are but one shot away from winning home ice advantage. 

- Still not sure what the deal with Vanek is. I think Therrien needs to reunite him with Desharnais. Habs have nothing going right now, offensively.

- All four lines rolling for a Boston. Third goal is inevitable unless the Habs find a way of changing the game's tempo in a hurry.

- Emelin hurt by a shot taken off the hand. Is in the dressing room.

- Habs need gut check play here - one of their character guys. Somebody. Something.

- Bouillon. Right on cue. Wait, Bouillon??? 3-2.

- Vanek back with Desharnais.

- UH. How was that not a penalty for the Bourque mugging?? Looked like knee contact.

- Price had that deer in the headlights look going after the Bruins tied it. Seems to be more settled now.

- Bruins desperate crash Price like crazy, refs don't intervene and Boychuk ties it with a point bullet. Oy.

- Vanek must be hurt. That must be the explanation.

- Overtime it is, then. Heckova game, but the bottom line is the Habs did not come back physically like they needed to in the third, and the Bruins steamrolled their way back into this.


SECOND PERIOD:

- Bruins slightly improved their Fenwick percentage to 56% in the period (compared to 53% they had against Columbus). Habs dropped from 56% registered against Tampa, to 46% in that period. But those numbers aside, the Habs played their strengths well, plus Carey Price (of course).

- Habs defense doing good job blocking rebound tries, forwards deflecting shots away.

- Weaver with a monster shift blocking three great scoring chances, and then the Habs generate that neutral zone turnover with Bourque scoring yet another one. Rask really beaten clean and badly there. 2-0.

- Bourque goal has really sparked this team. TD Gardens very quiet right now.

- Vanek is dropped to the 4th line, which is somewhat shocking.

- Marchand sticks Subban in the face, and the refs blow the call.

- Habs simply not biting on the Bruins baitings. This is awesome.

- Thierrien sending Vanek the message to step it up. I fully expect to see him right back with Desharnais.

- Different tact now for Boston: hit everything in sight. Trying to overrun the Habs, create energy, momentum, and hopefully, goals.

- Gorges nabbed for a hold. Woulda figured the refs were giving the Habs a free pass after blowing the Marchand cross, but nope.

- Tremendous pressure and great chances for the Bruins on the powerplay, but Price, who brought his elite game to the Gardens tonight, with wonderful saves.

- Dammit, P.K. needs to stop focusing on making huge hits - he's not making contact and it's generating scoring chances for Boston.

- Bruins really dominated the period - Habs did some great shot blocking, but they ran into lots of problems when the Bruins turned up the physical play a couple of notches. After the physical barrage, the Habs played the final 7 minutes on their heels, bailed out by Price. Habs need to be more assertive and defiant of Boston throwing the body around - I'm please they aren't retaliating, but they must push back physically. The game is still in a razor's edge.


FIRST PERIOD:

- Hey, hey, now, now. Doug Murray is a scratch.

- Moen will play, Bournival will sit. So the lineup tonight is exactly the same as it was against the Tampa series, except for the 4th line switch.


- Bruins come out with fury, no surprise. Habs need to weather the first 10 game minutes.

- Julien playing Bruins first line heavy early. Also no surprise. Boston wants to score as early as possible.

- Very good first series shift by the Eller line, Rask good save off Bourque.

- Briere out with Prust and Gallagher. Interesting. 

- Terrible shift for Bouillon, hit like a rag doll, coughs up the puck, can't find position, and Bruins come within a whisker of scoring.

- Habs fans would be wise to keep an eye on the Pleks line - they could have a major say with tonight's final score.

- Bruins fans are holloring dive, no doubt. But Weise was hacked to the ice. Here're one of those Habs series keys coming up - scoring on the man advantage.

- Subban with a seemingly harmless wrister sneaks its way through a screen (I think?). Rask should have had that? 1-0. Habs powerplay clicks.

- So there you have it. Habs survive first 10 minutes, capitalize on the powerplay, and now appear to be dictating tempo.

- Gallagher with an excellent period - generating scoring chances, and getting into the faces of Boston's biggest bullies.

- Habs transition looks sharp, and it's giving Boston trouble. Canadiens have dominated the puck since the period half mark.

- Price with some outstanding saves in the period, and I sense frustration setting in on the Bruins side of the ice.

- Boston clearly targeting Subban. He must remain cool, not retaliate.

-  That was an excellent period for the Habs. They held the fort early, took advantage of the powerplay, and then dominated tempo. Good neutral zone presence, very good transition play. One of the better road periods they've played all year.



THIS IS HOW YOU BEAT THE DIVING BOSTON BRUINS:



BOSTON VS MONTREAL: THE PREVIEW

10 days. Man. That’s way too long.

Relief, however, is arriving with Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi Final, Habs and Bruins in a playoff showdown. For the 34th time in League history.

With all that time to consider the confrontation at hand, a great deal of focus the past few days has been on whether the Habs can someone find a way of beating the mighty President’s Award-winning Bruins.

The speculation, at least within the constrict of whether the Habs have a sliver of a chance, has puzzled me.

Why the befuddlement? Because, at least in this writer's mind, the Habs are going to win this series.

First, let’s clear the obvious stuff out of the way.  Yes, the Bruins finished with the most points of any other League team (although they did with a  weaker schedule compared to teams in the West), and yes, the Bruins’ biggest strength is its roster depth. The acquisition of Jarome Iginla, who’s had a significant impact in bolstering an already potent offense, has made the Bruins a most difficult team to contain – during the regular season.

Plus Tukkaa Raask, whom with his Vezina nomination, has obviously been very good.

Funny thing though. Along the way towards finishing on top of the League, the Bruins were fit to be tied when playing the Canadiens. Four times they met this year, and three times they lost. So, what gives?

It’s actually nothing mythical, mystical or mysterious. The Bruins lost to the Habs this season because they don’t match up very well against the speedier, more skilled Montreal lineup.

Sure, the Bruins have significant advantages in how they can deploy their assets – when you have lots of options, you can make significant adjustments, even in game mid-flight. But the Bruins do have weaknesses, which often don’t get as much attention as they deserve.

First and foremost, the Bruins defense, solid, but slow. They do a fine job protecting their crease and winning puck battles in the corners, they can be an intimidating bunch. I mean, led by the 6’9 troglodyte Zdeno Chara, how can you not be second guessing yourself digging for a loose puck near the boards?

But - they have been very vulnerable in adjusting to defending the rush. Because the Bruins defense depends so much on using their size and physical intimidation, by paradox this team performs well defending against bigger sized players. It makes sense. The larger your target, the easier they are to hit. The Habs smaller sized forwards, for once, can leverage their smaller sized stature to an advantage. That’s why I’m expecting the likes of David Desharnais, Daniel Briere, Briant Gionta and Thomas Plekanec to shine in this series. Don’t be surprised if larger players including  the seemingly reborn Rene Bourque, regress slightly in the series – insofar as their point totals are concerned.

The key to exploiting this Bruins weakness is for the Habs to continue to play an effective transition game (just like they did against Tampa), and strong play in the neutral zone to help create turnovers.

Secondly, the Bruins are – and let’s be honest, a boorish collection. They are not afraid to play a dishonest game if it results in victory. Ergo, the dives and dirty stick work. The Boston mouthpiece media has been cranking up the noise machine this week in an attempt to reverse the narrative by defining the Habs as divers.  But we know the score – and seen the evidence. There’s certainly plenty there – just type in “Bruins divers” in Youtube, and enjoy the shows.

The point being here that a boorish team is also prone to a lack of discipline. Get them off their game, give them a taste of their own medicine, and they lose focus. The Habs did a very good job of that this season, drawing Boston into silly retaliation penalties, and causing the Bruins the lose focus on playing the game their way.

The keys? Well, it’ll depend an awful lot on the players who have the capacity to drive the Bruins to mental desperation.  So keep a keen eye on the likes of the so-called agitators. Brandon Prust, Brendon Gallagher, P.K. Subban, and Travis Moen will play an important role in determining whether the Habs win the series via frustrating their opponent.

Exploiting the Bruins’ two biggest failings also is contingent on taking advantage of the resulting opportunities. This mean the Habs powerplay MUST start producing at rate that more reflected their regular season totals – slightly under 20%. If the Habs are able to score on the man advantage, they will have realized a massive series advantage.  

The series will be close. It would be physical. It’ll probably be dirty. But it will be won by a Canadiens’ team whose symmetry seemed to all come together at the very best possible time.

The time really is now for the Montreal Canadiens. I believe at the end of the day, aided by an expected stellar performance by Carey Price, they will win this series in 6 games.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. Wear your jersey people. And cheer hard. Because this playoff season is starting to feel special.


GAMEDAY NEWS AND NOTES

- So Carey Price is a child molester? You keep staying classy, Boston. 

- PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC. Max Pacioretty did not participate in this morning's skate in Boston. Therrien will be giving an update. Oy, oy, oy. UPDATE: MAX IS FINE, says coach Therrien. Just took the morning off. 

SERIES PREVIEW IS COMING UP!!!



HERE'S YOUR BOSTON BRUINS DIVE OF THE DAY FOR MAY 1, 2014:

IT'S GAMEDAY!!!



HERE'S YOUR BOSTON BRUINS DIVE OF THE DAY FOR APRIL 30, 2014:



BONUS LOLZ FROM THE BRUINZ AND THEIR HACKS:

You stay classy, Boston.



WEDNESDAY NEWS AND NOTES:Series eve!! The anticipation mounts. We'll be posting a series preview, maybe today - likely tomorrow. Depends on how non-lazy I feel. In the meantime, we've got a few updates:


- Habs a.m. practice, and the drill lines were exactly the same as what we saw during the Tampa series, with Doug Murray again paired up with Jarred Tinordi. This does not mean that Murray won't play - but it does give us a morsel of a hint that Therrien might be edging towards going with the same D-line pairs tomorrow night.


- Alex Galchenyuk practiced this morning - although it was pretty light. This means that 1) rehabilitation progress is being made BUT 2) given how light his drills were, he's nowhere close to being in game shape. Um ... round 3 maybe??

- Bruins fans and the people who cover them are shameless. But hey - you knew that already.



HERE'S YOUR BOSTON BRUINS DIVE OF THE DAY FOR APRIL 29, 2014:


HAPPY TUESDAY NEWS AND NOTES:

Howdy.

So it's been a week. A whole week since the  Habs wrapped up their series against Tampa. 7 days!!

It's been a lovey siesta, but all good things must, invariably, come to an end.

So here we go. Habs and Bruins. For the 34th time in playoff history.

It's looking more and more as though game 1 will probably be played on Friday evening, so in anticipation of the big puck drop, we'll be putting up as many news and notes, stats and drivel - leading right up to the puck drop on Friday, or whenever game one occurs.

In the meantime, let's leave you with this little tidbit. Lots of lazy analysis going on right now about how the Bruins will dominate this series because of their massive size advantage. Well, consider this. The average weight of the Bruins roster heading into game one is 206 pounds. The average for the Habs, without Doug Murry in the lineup, is 199 pounds. With Murray? It's 202 pounds.

So that massive advantage? 6 pounds. Or maybe 3.

More in a bit.

- UPDATE: Lots of speculation this morning that the League is aiming to have the series start on Saturday. At noon. Ick. Bruins have played 14 afternoon games this season, and have won 12. Habs have played 4 this season, and have won exactly zero. Thanks, Gary.

- EARLY EVENING UPDATE: So the series schedule is out!! And it's ... disappointing (slightly). Here it is:

Game One: Thursday May 1 (Boston - 7:30 p.m.)
Game Two: Saturday May 3 (Boston - 12:30 p.m.)
Game Three: Tuesday May 6 (Montreal - 7:00 p.m.)
Game Four: Thursday May 8 (Montreal - 7:00 p.m.)
*Game Five: Saturday May 10 (Boston - TBA)
*Game Six: Monday May 12 (Montreal - 7:00 p.m.)
*Game Seven: Wednesday May 14 (Boston - TBA)

So, there's a potential for at least one, perhaps two afternoon games in this series, both in Boston. The Bruins, FWIW, have won 12 of 14 afternoon games played this season (at home), while Montreal is 0-4. That ain't very encouraging.



Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Game Four - EC Quarterfinals: Bolts vs. Habs

THiRD PERIOD:

- I fully totally expect Tampa to come out full guns blazing. Anything short of that would be mystifying.

- Yup. Nothing to loose, a fast and aggressive start.

- eek. Bolts narrow lead to one with a puck off Price's back. Another nervous finish.

 - Tampa's speed and transition, which so far in the series was blanketed, has revved to life. Tie game and the Habs call a badly needed time out.

- Now would be a good time to score a damn power play goal.

- Max Pacioretty. Told ya. On to the 2nd round.

SECOND PERIOD:

- Stamkos loses his cool, frustration setting in. Habs to a fruitless power play.

- Massive flub on the power play alas, Chris Lee blows the goal call, but its a legit goal. Could be game changing moment.

- Never mind. Gallagher. Lindback beat badly. And the Bolts make a change. 3-1.

- Well whatever mo Tampa had after that goal is gone. Habs are taking over again.

- That said, Tampa does appear to have made an upgrade in goal.

- Jon Cooper is toally thinking right now "why'd I start Lindback?" 

- So many unforced errors by this Tampa offense robot now. It's killing them.

- Relatively decent pushback by Tampa in the 2nd, and they would have oawon the period if it wasn't for netminding. Habs in a great position to wrap this series up, if only by default.

FIRST PERIOD:

- Electrifying national anthem. Let's get this on.

- pretty fast start by the Bolts but Mr. playoff comes through to open the scoring. Outstanding carry and feed by Weise. 

- Chris Lee has entered the game with a poor call on Bourque. Not the last we'll hear from Lee tonight I suspect.

- Max is gonna score. I promise.

- Habs haven't missed a beat since game three, bottling up neutral zone, giving Tampa's defense all they can handle off the transition. 

- Brandon needs to be a little wiser with his passing. Very nearly the second Tampa goal of this series off a terrible zone pass.

- Habs 4th line extremely impressive tonight, been giving Tampa fits in their zone.

- Speaking of impressive, Lars Eller. A terrific backcheck in the neutral zone, and a bullet past Lindback that he probably should have had. 2-0.

- Habs completely dominating this period - no letdown at all even though up 3-0.

- Total domination. Habs best period of the playoffs. One of their best of the entire season. Two more periods of this will almost certainly punch a ticket to round two. 








A little warm up action from my seats. I had two extra tickets to give out via my Twitter feed but there were no takers!!!





Here's P.K. being awesome signing autographs at Brossard on April 21st. My son is (barely) visible in the blue cap. There were literally a dozen pairs of hands shoving a variety of objects into P.K.'s face. He took and signed each and every object.

GAMEDAY PREVIEW

Well, this feels different. Up three games to none? You've probably already read or heard that the Habs haven't been in this position since 1993 when ... well ... you know what happened that year. Anyway, it's a luxurious place to be, but it's a position that does bear some responsbility: To finish the job as quickly as possible.

The Habs are in terrific position to gain a massive playoff advantage by being the only team in the first round to advance in four games. The advantages are pretty obvious - at least a week to ten days without having play, giving the entire roster ample time to rest and recover. It'll allow the Habs current list of injured bodies with sufficient time to fully recover, including the likes of  Alex Galchenyuk and Travis Moen. And, it will allow players who almost certainly are playing through injuries the opportunity to reach something close to 100% health - the list including Brandon Prust, and (likely) Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, Lars Eller, Brenden Gallagher, and Josh Gorges.

The time off will also give the Habs coaching staff with more than ample opportunity to prepare for their next opponent, whomever that is. This could be the most significant advantage, especially in light of how remarkably well the Habs prepared for Tampa in the first round.

Regular readers here should know I've been a frequent critic of Michel Therrien and his staff this season - my main beefs being this team's rapid decent in their possession rating as the season progressed. From a top five team to a near bottom five team at season's end. I've also been terribly distrought over Therrien's player usage - prefering to play dregs like Doug Murray and Frank Bouillon over the likes of younger, just-as-capable talent like Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi.

But then something odd happened as we shifted into playoff mode. The Habs have suddenly transformed themselves to a team that much more resembled their early season selves. Instead of being a team that barely managed to crack the 43% Fenwick line, the team has suddenly become a possession monster again, putting together a 56% Fenwick, 54% Corsi rating in their opening round series, which not only matched, but actually beat their early season numbers.

So what happened? I think it starts and ends with how this team prepared for their opponent. The Lightening are built two significant attributes - speed and skill. That means the more they possess the puck, the more difficult they are to beat. So the Habs put together a gameplan based on frustrating the Lightening off the puck. The centerpiece to the strategy has been a focus on dominating the neutral zone. The Habs have been stacking their forwards at centre ice, which has prevented Tampa from organizing anything resembling an effective transition. Instead of having their forwards flying towards the Habs line, a fearsome sight for any defender desperately scrambling to keep pace, the Habs have blocked passing lanes, positioned bodies to slow Tampa's flighty forwards, and the odd time when the Lightening have worked the puck into the Habs zone, the Canadiens have done a very good job not only clearing their zone, but in working the puck up to their forwards.

Tampa hasn't been able to answer the Habs counter strategy, because they can't answer. The team is so heavily dependent on speed and blistering the puck into their opponents zone, that any adjustment would require a total rebuild of how this team plays the game. You can't do that in a day, week, month or even in a year. Tampa has placed their chips on one marker, and they've little choice but double down and hope for the best. It's a desperate hope, at best.

Of course, there have been extenuating circumstances which have only added to Tampa's woes. The injuries to Bishop and Palat were devastating. Imagine the Habs' chances with no Carey Price in net - not good. But injury considerations aside, the Habs overall approach to the series was pretty much exactly what it needed to be, so even with a healthy Bishop and Palat in the lineup, I don't think the results would have been much different. The Habs have dominated thoroughly.

So tonight? Why should anything change? The Habs will continue to play the same lines, push the same strategy, leverage their biggest advantages, and feed off the insane noise and energy the exudes from the Bell Center.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST. I'll be posting live from the Bell.

====================================================================


GAMEDAY NOTES:

Hey - happy gameday. Habs look to sweep the series tonight at home, while Tampa seeks to live another day, and maybe get a few very hurt bodies back into their lineup. Let's see what's happening this morning:

- Tampa's practice this morning, here's their lines (very similar stuff):

Line 1: Palat/Johnson/Stamkos
Line 2: Killorn/Filppula/Callahan
Line 3: Purcell/Thompson/Crombeen
Line 4: Pyatt/Paquette/Brown

- Oooooh guess who practiced this morning? Ben Bishop!! Jon Cooper already ruled him out for game 4 ... beyond that .. well ... I guess the Habs might be wise to wrap this up ASAP.

- Controversy aside from him playing a period after suffering a head injury, Steven Stamkos is reportedly a go tonight.

- Optional Habs skate this morning, the following showed up: Starters: Gallagher, Gorges, Weaver, Briere, Bournical, Emelin, Subban, Markov. Scratches/Backups: Murray, Moen, Parros, Tinordi, White, Budaj. 

- Hey, guess who's the referee tonight? Yup. CHRIS LEE. Habs have been drawing some pretty crappy officials this round. First Tim Peel, and now Lee. Yay.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Game Three - EC Quarter Finals: Bolts vs. Habs

THIRD PERIOD:

- Stamkos injury might be more serious than it appeared. Head injury - we'll see if he returns.

- All or nothing for Tampa this period. Habs will need to buckle down.

- Subban attempted that long bomb pass to Bourque again. Almost worked again.

- Habs most of the chances early in the period. Tampa being surprisingly tentitave. 

- Methinks Prust isn't 100%. Hasn't looked near his normal self tonight.

- Plekanec. Not sure if there was a deflection but Lindback was way too deep in his net. Huge goal. 3-1.

- Frenzy in this rink. The noise is as Lou's as it's been all night.

- This Habs PP - best looking worst powerplay I've ever seen.

- Stamkos comes back and Tampa scores off a Carle point shot that somehow eludes Price. We've got quite a finish in store.

- breaks even up as Eller hits the crossbar. Both teams playing very even right now which means this game could go any direction. Habs best not go into turtle mode, or they could get burned.

- Habs in hang on mode now. 83 seconds left.

- Habs hang on. Another excellent team performance, another very good night for the Eller line which has easily been the Habs best overall in the series. Gallagher with a first star effort, and P.K. demonstrating to anyone half paying attention why he's an elite defenseman. While the final score was just a one goal margin, one never got the feeling that the Habs were anything but in control of this game - which is a sure sign of a team playing with tremendous confidence. Indeed, the Habs look as good now as they have at any point of the entire season. To sweep this series would be a tremendous bonus, as it would allow this team to be very rested and healed for their next opponent - in all probability the Bruins. But one more win, which is often the hardest, still remains.


SECOND PERIOD:

- Cooper was pretty dead on when he said there was no goaltending controversy - but to expect Lindback to maintain this pace through 60 minutes is not reasonable. Tampa must work on their neutral zone aggressiveness or the Habs will keep bringing it. The fort can't last indefinitely.

- oh for 29. Speaking of something that's gotta give ...

- Stamkos ... much much less of a factor the first half of regulation than any point of the first two games. Habs been very conscioness of his presence.

- Bolts tie it on the powerplay (why can't we?). And it's Palat off a poor shot block by Gorges.

- Habs back to the PP, can they make it oh for 30?

- Vanek, oy so close. Just not happening for this team on the man advantage. Tampa definitely looking rejuvenated right now.

- That disallowed goal is a huge huge break for the Habs. Really should be 2-1.

- Crowd thinks Stamkos is playing his injury up. Must confess I missed the play.

- Replay shows Prust's contact was incidental. 

- Gallagher makes it 2-1. But that goal was ALL P.K. 


FIRST PERIOD:

- Rene Bourque. Is playing out of his mind. Great flip pass by Subban, Habs off to a perfect start. 1-0. This place is going nuts.

- Bolts announce Palat is in, but Salo is out. Can't see how Palat is 100%, so Tampa already vastly overmatched before the puck is even dropped.

- Bell Centre atmosphere is totally electric. Haven't seen this level of interest and anticipation in Montreal in a lonnnnng time.

- Pregame warmup from the rafters.


- 4 minute high stick this game could go from bad to worse for Tampa very quickly.

- Almost 2-0 Bourque. Best chance in that 4 minute advantage. Game all Habs so far. Tampa needs to slow down the tempo, and quick.

- Habs zone coverage has been pretty airtight, Tampa struggling to get much of anything on Price. Canadiens transition has also been very fast, very crisp.

- Beast shift for Gallagher, giving Bolts slow moving defense headaches a plenty. Tampa kind of still holding on here.

- Who is this Bourque and where has he been all year?

- Tampa finally getting some semblance of momentum here, Habs plugging up the slot and keeping the shots on the perimeter.

- Max in the middle of one of these scoring snakebite periods. Eventually something will go in.

- Pretty one sided period, fancy stats are going to heavily favor the Habs. Credit to Lindback for making key saves to keep this game from spiraling out of control.


GAMEDAY NOTES

- Ondrej Palat, he who leadeth his team in all scoring this season, is still a big question mark for tonight's game, although he was quoted this morning as saying that he "feels great." Hockey players being hockey players, that means he thinks he can play and wants to play. But that final decision won't be his to make (but these are desperate times for Tampa, so don't be surprised if he's green lighted).

- Anders Lindback was first off the ice at practice this morning, usually meaning that he'll be given the start tonight. Not a surprise, really ... although the leash on Lindback might be short if he gives up a weak goal early in the game.

- Tampa seems convinced that their biggest issue is this series are zone entries. They spent much of their morning practice working on carrying/chipping the puck. I'm of the opinion that if you're getting dominated in the neutral zone, entering the offensive zone is moot. But what do I know?

- Habs will be using the same lineup/line combos tonight as they did Friday night as they did Wednesday night. Can't argue with the logic.

- Finally, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper after the practice: "I'm sure they've never had a 2-0 series lead on the road and blown it." NICE!!!

- OOOh yeah, tonight we'll be (to the best of our abilities) game blogging en direct from the Bell Centre!!


Friday, 18 April 2014

Game Two - EC Quarter Finals: Habs vs. Bolts

 
THIRD PERIOD:
 
- Price picking right up where he left off. If he sees it, he will be stopping it.

- Emelin has made a couple of devastating bodychecks tonight, but he still is by far making the poorest defensive decisions tonight, masked by many fine Price bailing saves. 

- I have to say, I expected more from Tampa this period. Seem to be playing very cautuious, as though the score were actually tied.

- Crowd breaks out in a USA! USA! chant because ... ???

- Habs powerplay, three golden scoring opportunities missed .., a third goal would be the death nail. Let's hope that doesn't haunt us later.

- Gallagher with the death blow. Lindback has to stop that. And he gets yanked. Wow. 

- Rene Bourque. A monster game. Icing on the cake. Might be his best game ever in a Habs uniform. Rest assured, Rene won't be a healthy scratch for the rest of he year.

- Habs have too much depth. They're overwhelming Tampa. Four rolling lines, the Bolts have no answers. There are no answers. 

- Bah. No shutout. Too bad, Price deserved that.

- Bourque ... Bourque ... Soooo close.

- Dominating win. Stranglehold series lead coming home. Habs looked amazing this week. Habsland ought to be getting excited about what might be ....


SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs powerplay finally comes to life. Set play Subban shot pass redeflected in nicely by Desharnais. 1-0.

- How the heck does Prust draw a rough on that scrum??? Tim Peel, that's how.

- Tampa forwards are simply going around Emelin at will. One of these times, they're going to score because of that. 

- Pacioretty went down awkwardly off a hit, as in right on his tailbone. He's sitting on the bench in great  discomfort.

- Gorges with a terrible shift - giveaways and soft slot coverage galore. Yikes.

- Tim Peel with an absolutely brutal trip call on Desharnais. Amature officiating at its best (or worst).

- Rene Bourque. Almost no more. That was one of the best Habs goals seen all season. That might have been the best by any Hab this year.  Amazing score. 2-0.

- Weaver and Bouillon a mess, and Price with an incredible left pad save on Pauquette to keep Tampa off the board. Not sure who's the weaker link, but Weaver has not been meshing well with Frankie this series. 

- Habs bench looks really uptempo very energized, very positive. Tampa bench very quiet, subdued, pretty much the exact opposite.

- Habs controlled much of the 2nd - neutral zone checking has really been a significant differing factor in this series. It's giving Tampa's speedier forwards fits in trying to organize any kind of transition, and helping the Habs to gain a defined possession edge. Also, Carey Price. When he's on, this team becomes exceptionally difficult to beat. 20 minutes left and the Bolts are now faced with a desperate situation. Expect them to come out full flung to start the 3rd. They've got nothing left to lose.


FIRST PERIOD:

- Palat is out, Tampa going with 11 forwards and 7 D. 

- Tampa comes out stormin, no surprise. Price steady.

- Lindback doing a decent job so far with rebound control.

- Bourque with an excellent backcheck to possibly stop a goal. Continues to play a strong series.

- Sweet breakaway save by Lindback on Gionta. And even better pass by Bourque to spring the Captain, who was completely and absurdly free.

- Eller line by far the Habs best so far - driving the Bolts nutty with aggressive forecheck, and generating quality chances. 

- Lindback looking far more relaxed and confident tonight. 

- 4 minute high stick to Stamkos. Habs PP can now be doubly inept.

- Too many men. On a four minute man advantage. We have just reached PP rock bottom.

- Putting Weaver on the man advantage with a minute left won't help much.

- Pretty even first, Tampa coming out much harder than game one, and Lindback looks good. This one is stacking up to be a close final score. 



GAME TWO GAMEDAY NOTES

Happy game day!! Anyone else still doing their happy dance from Wednesday night? Oh, poor Steve Yzerman! Awe. Keep your chin up Steve. It'll be okay Steve.
 
Actually, maybe it won't. Couple of injury notes out since Game 1, none of them particularly encouraging for Tampa. First, Ben Bishop won't play for Game 2, and while he "hasn't been ruled out" for later games in the series, whenever you hear a team say "maybe he'll be back!!", it almost always means he ain't coming back.
 
The other bit of bad news is rookie star Ondrej Palat, who was injured in game one, is probable no tonight ... we think? Jon Cooper made that announcement after practice this morning, and after quizzing a reporter as to whether he tweeted the information out, he (humorously?) then did a 180, and said "okay, Palat's in".
 
We're pretty sure Palat's out. Which is huge, because he comprises a significant portion of the Lightening's offense this year.
 
So less offense, and no starting goaltender. It's a rough situation for Steve and his troops.
 
OTHER NOTES:
 
- The Lightening have placed white t-shirts on every seat in their arena for a "White Out" tonight. That'll go just great because nothing instills fear into the eyes of an opponent than the intimidating colour of ... white. Amiright?
 
- Habs scratches for tonight. Doug Murray, George Parros, Ryan White, Jarred Tinordi, Travis Moen.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Game One - EC Quarter Finals: Habs vs. Bolts

OVERTIME: 

- Okay, even though Price hasn't looked his usual self, you still have to give the Habs a huge, huge advantage in overtime.

- Therrien sends out his pluggers and grinders to start the OT.

- Stamkos really is an incredible player - not just for his ability to score, but for doing all the small things right. There's a good case to be made he's the best player in the world right now.

- Weaver/Bouillon duo really nerve racking. Tampa forwards are blowing past them wide, and its creating quality scoring chances. Tampa with much faster tempo to start this OT.

- Best lines for the Habs tonight, Desharnais/Vanek/Pacioretty, and Eller/Gionta/Bourque. By far.

- Price with a beauty save off soft coverage on Tampa rush by Emelin and Markov. That's the Price we're all accustomed to.

- Usual playoff OT pattern. Fast start the first 3 or 4 minutes, and then both teams settle in and try not to make any fatal mistakes. It's getting tight right now.

- Daniel Briere with a rare shift. Mr. Playoffs hasn't been much of a factor tonight.

- Love the Habs attitude. Just get it on Lindback, no matter what the distance or angle. Just get it on net.

- Man, Almost Bourque has been very almost this overtime. Really appreciate his effort though - he's showing up. He and this Eller line have looked fantastic tonight.

- Wow, Bouillon, of all guys, with a possible game-saving recovery there. That's a big heart play.

- Josh Gorges with a total game saving puck clearance in the crease, the result of tremendous hustle. Tampa comes within a whisker.

- The more I watch these two teams play, the more I'm struck by how much more depth the Habs have. The Bolts might have a more dangerous top scoring line, but top to bottom, the Habs are clearly the better team - on paper.

- Hoo boy, Stamkos line at it again with Subban and Gorges in disorganized panic, and Price with two excellent back to back saves. Probably his best of the night.

- This OT really picking up speed, both teams sensing a possible end. Transition games both directions is very strong, very fast.

- Tampa taking over possession here with 6 minutes left, they're pelting Price with shots, Habs on their heels. Uh-oh.

- Vanek to Pacioretty, who hits the post, Lindback totally down and out. Brilliant pass by Vanek, but Patches can't bury. Hoo boy.

- If Habs lose this, Max will never sleep soundly again for months. What a huge miss.

- WEISE!!! Perfect feed by Mr. Playoffs Briere from behind the net, Tampa's defense making the fatal error with both defensemen gone chasing the puck, leaving Lindback totally out to dry in front. No chance for Lindback, and the Habs win the game. Deservedly!!!

- Habs won a game in which they totally out possessed and out shot their opponent. That's not part of the Habs winning formula this season, which for Canadiens fans, is very, very good news.


THIRD PERIOD: 

- Quite the contest here, as anticipated the score is as close as it can get, but the play so far has been decidedly in the Habs' favor, more so than any other game between these two this season.

- Eller very quietly, is having an excellent game so far, their role is definitely checking, there's no doubt about that. They've been driving the Bolts nuts in constantly interrupting the transition. It's preventing the Lightening from generating any sort of momentum. Eller!!!

- Habs passing also decidedly crisper and more accurate. Another very positive sign.

- Vanek with a tremendous drive to the net, taking on two Bolts defensemen and simply steamrolling around them. Brilliant.

- That said, this Desharnais line is giving up a lot of zone chances to Tampa - the Lightening are aptly matching the Stamkos line with them, and it's paying off.

- Great play by Eller, picking up the puck in the neutral zone to get a quality shot on Lindback who was terribly handcuffed. Tampa's netminding, as expected, up for questioning. Lars Eller really seems to be turning his fortunes around tonight.

- Habs, I think quite rightly, are just getting pucks at Lindback with every opportunity.

- Tampa evens the game. Largely as a result of the Habs inability to clear the zone. Emelin couldn't make the original clear, and Prust lost the puck and his check. Bad goal, sloppy goal. Habs are gift wrapping passes to Tampa, keeping them in a game they've been largely outplayed.

- Man, if I'm a Tampa fan, every time that puck gets close to Lindback, I'd start sweating.

- Even with that Tampa goal, Habs are still the much better team in the 3rd. They have better command of the puck (Prust's flub aside), more energy in their legs. They must keep firing on Lindback on each and every opportunity. No need for perfect scoring plays. Just get it on net.

- Eller line is having one heck of a game - there seems to be a great connection between Lars and Gionta, which is fascinating considering they've almost had no playing time together this season.

- What. A. Goal. Vanek perfect streak to the slot, Desharnais with an absolutely perfect pass off the rush. That's as pretty as they come. Vanek has been a two-way monster tonight, his backcheck started that play. This guy is astonishing. 4-3!!!

- Watched the reply on that goal. Just brilliant. Lindback was way too deep in his crease, far too tentative. He's way out of his element, and for playoff hockey, out of his League. Tampa simply must have Bishop back or they're headed up a very steep hill to win this series.

- Oh man. Weaver with a bad, bad, bad pinch at the line, creates an odd man rush for Tampa, with Stamkos on the receiving end. The lead, so hard fought for, is lost. Tampa doing a lot of line matching with Stamkos, and as we noted earlier, it's paid off with great dividends.

- Weaver might sit on the bench for awhile given that play. Therrien will almost certainly think twice about having him out there against #91.

- Habs crazy outpossessing Tampa right now - one of the best games they've had all year. But the Lightening, mainly Stamkos, have been taking advantage of their opportunities. Hockey is weird (and frustrating) that way.

- Ice conditions look pretty terrible. Puck is bouncing all over the place, and it's creating turnovers and odd man rushes.

- Carey Price just not looking "on" tonight. Not his usual stellar self. That's worrying.

- Oy. Goalpost saves the day, but it was a 45 foot shot that totally beat Price stick side. Now definitely worried.

- Vanek having a monster game. Great cross ice feed on the tape to Pacioretty, and a high stick penalty is drawn. Habs with late powerplay to maybe win this game?

- Desharnais was at the end of a shift when that penalty was called, but Therrien elects to keep them out there. That was a bad mistake, and it created a great shorthanded scoring opportunity for Tampa.

- And then Therrien sends out Gorges and Emelin with more than a minute left in the man advantage ... and we wonder why this unit can't score.

- Intense finish, but Habs powerplay again comes up empty. Montreal has, as we've said many times tonight, been the dominating team. But timely scoring may salvage the night for Tampa as we head to overtime. Playoff hockey!

SECOND PERIOD: 

- They've been criticized for their defensive slack, but I've seen Vanek make a couple of very impressive backchecks to break up Tampa rushes.

- Bolts seem to be playing a pretty uptempo 2nd period - decided the better team the first 5 minutes.

- Great shift for Eller. He looks a zillion times more involved compared to what we saw last three months of the regular season.

- Lindback and rebounds don't appear to be the best of friends. Habs could pot a few simply by crashing the net.

- Subban goes for a bodycheck kill on Palat, and totally misses. Gets caught way up ice. That's the play that got him into some hot water with his coach.

- Pretty physical second period, teams seem more focused on finishing checks than they are finishing shots on goal. Just five registered through the first 10 minutes.

- Price really hasn't been tested much in the period,  Habs are doing a pretty good job with zone coverage and shot blocking.

- Saw that CBC stat. Faceoffs 26-9 in favor of Tampa. That's got to even up soon or it could come back to bite the Habs.

- Stamkos end to end. Shot Price probably should have had. 2-1.

- Call on Subban in inexplicable. He gets slashed and his reward is a two minute penalty.

- Gionta!! Shorthanded break, terrible defensive by the Bolts, and the Captain makes Lindback look weak between the legs. Just deserts considering the absurdity of the Subban penalty.

- Another solid period for the Habs, although the Bolts did play a much more even period as opposed to the first, where Tampa was very much dominated. While the Habs powerplay is still firing blanks, their penalty kill is looking pretty solid, which will be a critical factor in the series, considering how well Tampa's powerplay was producing the last quarter of the regular season..


FIRST PERIOD:

- Wasn't able to catch the game on flight, but the first period stats look very, very good. Habs clearly out possessed and outplayed Tampa, the net result being a clear edge in shots. It also appears that Briere had a very good period, so his reputation for delivering in the post-season seems to be in tact. Lindback, from what I've read, struggled with his rebound control. Good and promising period!!



LIVE BLOGGING TONIGHT?!? 

Tonight's live game blogging is up in the air, as I'm on a flight en route to Montreal just as the puck is dropping in Tampa. If AC has the game on board, I'll be posting from there. Otherwise, NO BLOGGING BECAUSE AIRPLANES ARE TERRIBLE.


SERIES PREVIEW:

Oh boy. What to think, what to think?

I must confess, I'm torn. Yes, I'm an unadulterated biased fan of the Montreal Canadiens. So writing these playoff series previews is inherently difficult. One can't help but be excited, as a Habs fan, about the potential of this team because the roster is simply teeming with talent, as much as this organization has seen in more than 20 years. From elite goaltending in Carey Price, to elite defense in P.K. Subban, to elite offensive prowess in Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek. Not to forget, of course, the supporting cast of very good, although not-quite elite players. Andrei Markov, Thomas Plekanec, Brandon Prust, heck ... we'll even toss in a Daniel Briere and David Desharnais. Then there's the steadfast Josh Gorges, the excellent deadline pickup Michael Weaver, and outstanding grinders like Travis Moen and Ryan White.

From a distance, the Montreal Canadiens are blessed with enormous talent and depth.

But ...

Achievement. Not exactly a strong suit for this team. With all of that talent, with all of that depth, the Habs mustered out an unimpressive 100 point season. Normally, 100 points is a pretty impressive milestone. But for this team, this year - not so much.

It all begins and ends with possession, which to great extent, is a refection upon this organization's weakest link in the chain - its coaching philosophy.

While the Habs managed to finish with the League's 9th best record, its approach to winning games has largely been the result of following a pretty crude and simplistic strategy: let's be carried by our goaltending, or specifically, Carey Price.

The final season numbers are just ... so ... not good. Fenwick percentages, the Habs ranked 22nd overall, behind non-playoff teams like (get ready for this), the New York Islanders, Winnipeg Jets and the Florida Panthers. When you're keeping company - actually, when you're statistically worse than teams that finished almost near the bottom of the League in points, you're not heading in a very good direction.

Team Corsi, the situation is even worse. 26th overall. The Canadiens surrendered 2,396 shot attempts during the season - which is roughly 500+ more than teams that are legitimate Stanley Cup competitors such as the L.A. Kings and Boston Bruins.

The philosophy is flawed. Michel Therrien has developed a mysterious lack of faith and believe in his roster. Instead of leveraging his team's most significant advantages - speed and skill, Therrien has instead instructed his players to play puck afraid - choosing instead to sacrifice team transition for the sake of clearing the puck out of the defensive zone at all costs. The few times when the Canadiens have puck control on a transition, players are instructed not to utilize their speed and skill assets by carrying the zone, but instead, are choosing to dump and chase pucks.

It's an old-school, ultra-conservative approach to playing hockey that's ill-fitting this team's character and characteristics. It means that unless and until a fundamental readjustment in philosophy is taken, the Montreal Canadiens are destined to underachieve - be it the regular season, or the post-season. At least, with Therrien at the helm.

So ... this series. What to think?

On paper, at least when focused on roster comparisons, the differences are incredibly narrow. The results have born this out - as each game played between these two clubs this year have been decided by one goal difference..

So the margin for error is razor thin. Which is why I'm picking the Canadiens to win this series in 6 games.

The reason? Plain and simple - injuries. They've devastated Tampa's lineup at the worst possible time, and they've come to the Habs advantage at the best possible time. At the foremost of the injury issue is Ben Bishop, who's played a tremendous season - certainly in the top 5 amongst all goatenders in the League. In case you've been on the moon the past couple of weeks, Bishop went down with an arm injury last weekend, and has been ruled out for play in game one. Possibly longer.

From Tampa's perspective, to lose Bishop would be not unlike the Habs losing Carey Price. Goodbye series, goodbye season. Actually, the Habs did endure that last spring losing Price to a knee injury. After that, the Ottawa Senators cakewalked their way to victory.

The other intangibles are pretty much even. For GPG Tampa registered 2.83 to Montreal's 2.55 (advantage Tampa), defensively, Montreal surrendered 2.45 GA/G, to Tampa's 2.55 (advantage Habs). Specialty teams, the Habs dominated on the PK, finishing with the League's 4th best average, while Tampa struggled a bit, finishing 23rd. However on the powerplay, Tampa holds the advantage, posting a 18.5% success rate, versus Montreal's 17.2% rate - and lest we forget, the Habs man advantage is currently experiencing its greatest dry spell, not just this season, but in the past 5 years, going 0 for its last 23. That's bad.

So the intangibles are split, offensively and defensively. When the division is so narrow, there's little left to decide other than goaltending, and because of unfortunate circumstances for the Lightening, the Habs hold a huge advantage. Price versus Lindback? There's just no contest.

At least, on paper.

So contrary to what many of the experts are saying (remember these same experts had picked the Leafs to win a wild card spot and the Habs to miss the playoffs), I'm taking the Habs in six games. I do believe, biases aside, that the Habs have the depth and the goaltending advantage to help them overcome Tampa.

Beyond the first round, however, is where the road will almost certainly come to an end for this Habs team.

Other Series:
- Boston in 6.
- Columbus in 7.
- New York Rangers in 6.

- Los Angeles in 7 (this is gonna be a great series).
- Minnesota in 6 (sorry Avs, you're a lousy possession team too).
- Chicago in 6
- Anaheim in 4.


=================================================================

We got a series breakdown and predictions coming up later this evening. For now, a few odds and ends from news today:

- Habs spent most of today just practicing their powerplay, which if you hadn't heard lately, has vanished into the twilight zone (oh-fer-23 and counting).

- Travis Moen practiced today, and is a maybe for game one.
- Brandon Prust also practiced today, and is a maybe for game one.
- Lars Eller also also practiced today, and is a maybe for game one.
- Ben Bishop stayed home today. He's out for game one. Possibly longer.

Bolts Practice Lines Today:

Line 1: Palat Johnson Stamkos
Line 2: Killorn Filpula Callahan
Line 3: Panik Thompson Purcell
Line 4: Brown Paquette Kucherov 

Backend: 

Salo/Hedman
Carle/Gudas
Brewer/Kostka

THAT'S ALL FER NOW.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Game Eighty-Two: Rangers vs. Habs

OVERTIME:

- There is no reason, I repeat no reason, for the Habs to gamble like gamble this overtime.

- Oh wow. Penalty shot. Gionta.

- GIONTA!!!!! Le Capitan!!!

- That. Is. An. Awesome. Way. To. End. The. Season. See you in the playoffs, folks!!


THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs 2 period Fenwick sits at 40%. That's a figure that the Leafs would feel embarrassed about.

- 4 on 4. Therrien plays it safe and sends out Plekanec. Therrien hockey.

- Bouillon with a poor decision knee, which is especially frustrating for those of us who hopes Therrien wouldn't have been stupid enough to start him tonight.

- Well, if the Habs pp is to ever score again, now would be a pretty good time.

- Both teams having a thought time stringing passes together. Ice conditions appear to be poor.

- Habs totally overthinking this man advantage thing.

- Rene Bourque has had 1 shift, 20 seconds long in the third period. 

- When did the Habs last score a goal? Were chariots used at that time?


SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs second powerplay. Let's see if it can be worse than the first.

- Desharnais line comes on, powerplay finally comes to life the last minute. Talbot is bringing it tonight.

- That powerplay might not have scored but it has given this team a boost. Desharnais line really flirting with success.

- Hard to tell for certain but that sure looked like a targeted shot by Carcillo on Gallagher. Total blindside.

- When the Habs had the hottest streak in the League last week, their PDO during a good chunk of that stretch was 106+. Now it's all turning against them, because gravity. Can't buy a goal now.

- Rangers' goon squad are clearly targeting Habs forwards. Officials need to intervene before somebody gets seriously hurt.

- Now slashes and hacks on Price, Habs take offense, and Emelin gets penalized. This is not how you control a game, zebras.

- Carcillo is hell bent on injuring someone. Out of control. Somebody needs to intervene. 

- Much better period for the Habs, the first powerplay seemed to engage their offense. Also, Bourque's icetime was severely scaled back, which doesn't hurt. We've got a real battle going down between Price and Talbot. Remember, Habs need just one point to at least keep their home ice aspirations alive.



FIRST PERIOD:

- If the Habs don't storm this period, something will be very, very wrong.

- Well at least P.K is getting some PK. That's kind of new.

- Emelin and Markov might both be from Russia, but they're on different planets when they're on the ice together. They never quite seem to know where the other period is.

- Rangers first powerplay looked pretty dangerous. Price held the fort, but it's pretty clear the Habwould be wise to avoid the box tonight.

- Linemates are trying too hard to set Paciorerty up for his 40th. Just shoot the puck guys (I'm talking to you Thomas and David).

- Habs transition game really sloppy so far. It's killing their offense and giving Rangers too many free wheeling rushes. 

- A full season full of dump and chase can make a team very terrible very quickly. Habs are simply unable to control the puck, string together two or there passes. It's ugly to watch.

- Dorsett goes after Deaharnais' knees. Subban suckers him into an extra two. Because P.K. rules.

- Gorges on the powerplay because ... who knows?

- Habs powerplay needs to do something drastic or it'll kill this teams hopes for a decent playoffs. Putting Gorges and Bourque's out there ain't working. 

- Almost Bourque. Almost received a pass. Almost kept standing on his feet. 

- Dismal effort by the Habs in that period. You'd think they're weren't playing for something that's incredibly important to their season ... like home ice advantage in the first round. Rangers literally playing for nothing, and yet, they're dominating both ends of the ice. 



GAMEDAY UPDATE:

- Well, well. Doug Murray is a healthy scratch tonight. Re-freakin-joice. And George Parros (but we already knew that). Coming in will be Michael Blunded (we knew), and Frankie Bouillon. 

Which means, Tinordi is a healthy scratch. 

Because ... as we know .... when given the golden opportunity, Michel Therrien still can't quite get it right.

- Meanwhile in a Rangers Land, New York, with basically nothing to play for tonight, are resting some key players. Martin St. Louis, Daniel Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, and Henrik Lundqvist are all healthy scratches.

In other words, the Rangers are handing this game to the Habs on an argent platter.

Habs lineup in a bit.


P.M. UPDATE: END OF THE ROAD FOR GEORGE PARROS. And so it ends? Habs announced that Michael Blunden has been called up from the Dogs, which normally would be a ho-hum announcement ... if we were in the middle of the season. But we're at the end of the season, so the Blunden call-up (and Eller's mysterious health status) spells pretty loud and clear that the Habs have no interest in playing George from here on out.

Anyway, thanks to you George, for coming out. We wish you the best of luck in the future.

Next ... Doug Murray (baby steps, baby steps) ....


A.M. UPDATE: Doug Murray reportedly won't face a disciplinary hearing. So ... hmm. Go figure.

====================================================================

Happy Friday! Wait ... is it happy? Habs laid an egg last night, which is being very, very charitable. Perplexing roster decisions - inserting Parros (who contributed, as expected, nothing), to Doug Murray, who, as expected, was terrible - and to boot, committed an awful board on Johan Sundstrom, resulting in a 5 minute major. The Islanders scored two on that powerplay, and that ... was that.

No word, at least yet, on whether or when Murray will be called in for a disciplinary hearing. I'd be shocked if he didn't receive another suspension. Meanwhile, Habs announced that Alex Galchenyuk won't be available to the team until at least the 2nd round of the upcoming playoffs, which is a big IF for this organization. Guaranteed if the Habs play Tampa like they played the Islanders last night, there will be no 2nd round.

Anyway, Michel Therrien is just awful. But you knew that.

More in a bit.