Thursday, 30 October 2014

Game Eleven: Habs vs. Canucks


- If Therrien plays it smart, he heavily rotates his best forwards tonight. Eller, Galchenyuk, Gallagher.

- A horrible, just horrible interference call on Gilbert. What. The. Heck?

- Emelin wandering somewhere else, leaving Daniel totally unchecked. Why Emelin was on the ice is also a mystery. 3-2 final.

Third Period:

- Emelin back for the third. Still doesn't change the fact that Burrow's hit was suspendable.

- Eller line, especially Eller has worked so hard tonight, and can't buy a goal or break. Argh.

- And Price whiffs on a snapper. A bad goal. Go figure. 2-0.

- Halfway through the 3rd, Habs offense simply throwing darts in the dark and hoping it hits something. It's not going to work.

- And a dart hits a target. Holy moly, was it Bourque?

- Nay. Galchenyuk. Didn't see the number clearly. How could I possibly have mixed those two up? It's late guys, so very late.

- Oh yeah, Galchenyuk is playing centre. Should have mentioned that.

- Habs get penalized. It was inevitable. A real softie on Eller. Officials were looking for something, anything, to calm the crowd, I suspect.

- Huge defensive breakdown by the Canucks and Pacioretty buries the puck off a beauty Weiss pass. The Habs do it again in the third period.

- And the Habs earn at least a point. They find a way, even though they could only muster 6 measly shots on Miller.

Second Period:

- Good news considered with the Habs finally doing more of zone carrying, the team is still doing the same old chopping of the puck up the boards to clear a zone. It's pretty much wrecking their neutral zone transition, and generating a mountain of icings.

- Jarad Tinordi might be one of those guys that has a decently long, totally goalless NHL career.

- Horrid turnover by Emelin on a horrid pass. 1-0 'Nucks. After the horrid pass, Burrows with flagrant head shot on Emelin. Almost nobody notices or cares, but Therrien is fuming at the officials.

- The clowns that work for Sportsnet called the Burrows headshot "finishing his check". Guess what guys? Burrows is going to get a suspension for that.

- I swear, sometimes I think Price has see-through vision.

- Habs looked so good in the first period. This period? Not so much.

- Another fantastic shift by Eller. Wish these would pay off for him with goals/points.

- Put Eller with just about anyone else other than who he's saddled with now, and he scores points. Guaranteed.

First Period:

- Well lo and behold, Therrien starts Eller. I'm of the mindset that Therrien is now doing this stuff to drive us crazy, or maybe Bergervin did an intervention. Anyway, it's good news.

- That's a weird call by Walsh who didn't call a slash until Weise demonstrated his stick had been chopped in half. That's not good officiating. It was clearly a slash regardless of a broken stick.

- Pretty sure there nobody better stopping point blank snap shots in this League than Carey Price.

- That little two on one is a pretty good demonstration why Galchenyuk has a way to go before he can play centre.

- Another futile road powerplay attempt. 0 for the last 23 (actually, zero for the season, unbelievably). Anyway, Habs are at least now carrying the zone - which is a step in the right direction. Still, bushels of passes and nobody either willing to, or able to, take a damn shot on goal.

- Desharnais is just so predictable now. Take puck, carry, try to pass to Pacioretty. Rinse, repeat. 

- Habs have been consistently carrying the puck in, perhaps more so than any game I've ever seen with Therrien behind he bench. I'm ... impressed.

- Bourque and now Prust, so many criticize Eller for his lack of production, but really ... look at what the poor guy is saddled with.

- Carey Price, again carrying (yeah yeah) more than his share of the load.

- Pleasing period. Habs were clearly attempting to so more, way more, zone entires either carry or passing the puck. Dumps were few and far between. It's as though the team had an epiphany. "Hey wow, we have speed and skill, let's try using it!". Anyway, I'm happy.

Gameday Game Preview:

Vancouver! What a beautiful city! The city of champions like ... the ... uh ... well ... anyway ... Stanley Park! It's beautiful! Hey, look over there. A pot smoking hippie. Lots of them in these parts. And over here is Granville Island. So much beautiful fresh food to buy. And if you look to your left, we see a tire fire from a riot. And straight ahead, why, that's Gastown. Are you a heroin addict by chance? GREATrw!

Actually, Vancouver is a very nice place mostly comprised of nice people. The weather, when it isn't raining four consecutive months, is pretty nice, especially for those of us who endure Canadian Prairie winters. And it's hockey team is ... well ... did I mention the weather? It's very nice.

The Vancouver Canucks. Dear, or dear. What to say. They were following the quintessential blueprint for building a champion so well for so many years. Drafting well, developing young talent into stars. Signing sold third and fourth line free agents here and there. It got them a ticket to a Stanley Cup final, which is pretty impressive. But then there was the goaltending, and the chocking, and then misappropriation of key assets, and then everything just kind of fell apart. And then most of the front office decision makers were fired. And now ... they're rebuilding.

It's not a riot zone of destruction, mind you. The Canucks still retain some pretty good assets like Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Ryan Miller was picked up during the summer, as was centre Nick Bonio and defenseman Radim Vbrata, Still, these Canucks are a team that didn't come close to making the post-season last year, and even with the change of front office guard, and an attempt to refresh and reinvigorate their starting lineup, it remains highly unlikely Vancouver will be able to claim a wild card spot in the tough Western Conference.

Now. We shift to Habsland. Lots of things happening today.

First, a small review of the last game against Edmonton. What a mess. The night somehow salvaged by an unbelievable performance by Carey Price, who spends far too much time making his coach look good by standing on his head.

Speaking of the coach ... hoo boy. Developments today. Lars Eller, one of the few guys who's actually played a relatively consistent  game this season, despite a low point total (but I mean, look at who he's saddled with on each wing, folks), is a healthy scratch tonight. It's an absolutely perplexing decision by Therrien, especially when you consider how many other players have been consistently worse this season, the foremost being, to no one's surprise, Rene Bourque.

Yet, Bourque gets a pass, and Eller gets a sit in the press box.

Eventually, you just have to wonder what runs through the mind of one Michel Therrien. It's pretty clear right now, it isn't sound judgement or logic.

Puck drops at 10:10 est. Grab your jammies and a cup of coffee.

Oh yeah. Fire Therrien.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Game Ten: Habs vs. Flames


- Guys, do this for Carey. You owe him, big time.

- Habs line caught here, unable to change.

- They escape. Barely. Breath.

- Desharnais should be paid by the shot. Then he might actually do it.

- Huge last minute push by Habs, just barely missed with a flurry of point blank chances. Shootout. Blah.

- Price with three spectacular saves in the shootout, Parenteau scores. One of the most preposterous Habs wins I've seen in awhile. Habs living on some borrowed time, which is very worrying. They can't keep playing like this and hope to win more than they lose.

Third Period:

- If Habs somehow win this debacle everyone owes Price a dinner. Heck, they already do.

- Flames, the lowly Flames, simply owning the third. Price standing on his head trying to salvage a point. It's a disgrace to see how his teammates are responding to such an outstanding performance. No pushback. Nothing.

- Flames practically given a free pass to tee up on Price. Laregly because Habs forwards are so badly being outworked in their own zone.

- What a hit by Tinordi on Stajen. Goodness. Looks like knee on knee. Don't think it was intentional. 

- Don't understand why that's a penalty. Both players collided, it's just that Stajen got the worst of it. Lacroix again.

- Another Flames powerplay, although this time the call on Parenteau is legit. Not Lacroix this time, of course.

- Backlund with an obvious dive, Lacroix gets suckered. This is embarrassing.

- Flames have pretty much been 5 on 4 last 10 minutes of the third.

- That choking sound is the Calgary Flames powerplay tonight. I can't believe they might not win this.

- Tie game. Incredible. Carey Price with a ridiculous performance. Calgary handed powerplay chance after chance after chance. I'll be stunned if Habs get two points. 

Second Period:

- Four-on-Four is supposed to favour the Habs, but Gallagher (not for he first time) blows his coverage, Girodano allowed to take the high slot and wrist a beaut over Price's shoulders. 1-0 Calgary.

- Habs had definately shot clock advantage last night, definately not so tonight. More or less a horrible 2nd period for Mintreal, 6 minutes in. Team need a game changing shift.

- Price keeping his undeserved team in this game. Can't be expected to do it all. Somebody needs to generate a spark. Volunteers?

- Abysmal half hearted effort by just about the entire Habs lineup tonight. It's as though everyone except Carey Price is thinking about going home.

- Habs actually have a shift where they don't look like the sleeping undead. Now headed to a powerplay that will of course, not score. But maybe momentum can be generated at least. Grasping straws over here.

- Man, Habs just need a bounce. Something. Anything.

- And there it is. Gilbert fires it on net and it somehow finds its way home. Tie game.

- Pacioretty with a 30 hockey IQ tonight. Shooting it into the opposing goal well after the whistle? Stupid, stupid.

- Flames push hard final 30 seconds pinching the blue line but Price keeps the game tied. Habs for the most part were badly outplayed that period, and committed a series of bad penalties to boot. And Thirthey end up scoring the only goal. Shrug shoulders. Sometimes it makes little sense.

First Period:

- A goaltender interference call in the Habs favor. That actually happened.

- No road powerplay goals this year. Looks like the strategy is to feed the point and have the forwards (all three) crash the net. Worth a shot I guess.

- Dan Lacroix is terrible. Getting fed up with the lack of officiating quality.

- Pretty lame two man advantage powerplay for the Flames. That's their weak spot. Can't produce offensively consistently.

- Wonderful pass from Weise on the tape of Rene Bourque's stick for clear-cut break. You know the rest of the story ...

- Lacroix with another perplexing call - a hook on Gilbert for ... well, there was absolutely no hook. Oh well.

- Seems like the ice just tilts towards the Habs every time Galchenyuk takes a shift. So difficult to even begin to estimate his future peak. But it looks absurdly great.

- First period was a basic wash, some fairly poor calls, mainly by one official (as is usual). Habs don't look quite as sprite as they did last night, but not bad either. Still, it's feeling a lot like this team is entering a scoring funk, which means the Habs will be awfully reliant of Price for victories.

Gameday Game Preview:

Ahhhh .... so all that stuff yesterday about how we were all in your face about being first place overall, and how the Canadiens were the greatest hockey team in the world, and Montreal City Hall better start booking off St. Catherine's street next June for a parade? All that stuff? Yeah. Can we all forget about it?

This western road swing. I tell ya. 8 wins the past 31 games. One more tacked on last night courtesy the Edmonton Oilers, who even with their 30th rated defense, managed to keep the Habs from scoring a single goal. Hoo boy.

Now, it's all not vinegar and iodine (whatever that means) for the Habs. A more-or-less competent game was played last night, impacted negatively by a couple of factors that can't be controlled. First, there were more than one or two questionable penalty calls against the Habs (and for that matter, non-calls against the Oilers) courtesy officials Brad Watson (who ought to know better) and Derek Nansen, who only officiated his 6th NHL game last night, and to be quite frank, seemed to have difficulty in discriminating between actual penalties, and non-penalties.

The other factor? Luck. The Habs, who've been riding the wave of good fortune for all that it's been worth since game one, seemed to have nothing go right last night - in addition to the poor calls, the bounces just never seemed fortuitous, and the one time when the puck was put past Edmonton starter Ben Scrivins, it was waved off (correctly) because Brenden Gallagher drove the net, sending spilling Scrivins to the ice an instant before Max Pacioretty wristed the puck home. Sans that no-goal call, the Habs would have taken an early lead, and who knows ... might very well have gone on to win the game.

Anyway, everything moves 300 km south tonight, as the Habs take on the rebuilding Calgary Flames. On paper, one might think the Habs ought not have too much difficulty getting back on the winning track. The Flames are anticipated to finish near or even at the bottom of the Western Conference standings this season, although to date, they've gotten off to a respectable start, 5 wins in 10 games. Calgary's Joe Colborne, in what can only be described as a statistical anomaly, has scored zero goals so far this season, but still leads his team with 8 points (all assists, of course).  The talented Mason Raymond, whom the Leafs didn't attempt to resign during the summer, holds the team lead in goal scoring, 5 so far in 10 games. So Habs fans would best be advised to keep their eyes focused on numbers 8 and 21, respectively.

For the Habs, fans should keep their eyes on Rene Bourque, who continues to struggle to produce (same old story), and while he demonstrated effort at the start of the year, he looks like he's now firmly in a rut. There's an awful lot of disinterest in his game performance right now, and with Michael Bournical and Jiri Sekac chomping at the bit to get some time, Bourque's leash of chances may now be very short.

For whatever reason, Nathan Beaulieu will not start tonight, even though he played very well last night against Edmoton. Jarad Tinordi will be reinserted into the lineup. As will Carey Price, making his first start since last Saturday's win against the Rangers.

Puck drops at 9:10 EST.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Game Nine: Habs vs. Oilers

Third Period:

- I realize it isn't particularly original to harp on the officiating, but Emelin gets two minutes for simply delivering a hard body check. I can't fathom what the official was thinking, but it once again puts the Habs a man down.

- Pretty lame Oilers powerplay all night - the Oilers with a meager 13 shots on goal, and the Habs still not rewarded for their efforts. A strange game.

- Habs pushing here, Oikers can ill afford to sit on this lead.

- Habs now regressing, playing as though they have a 2-0 lead. Game rapidly going. Nowhere fast.

- Eberle dives, ref gets suckered. Desharnais to the box.

- Schultz with blatant goaltender interference on Tokarski, no call. Abysmal.

- Wonder how different the result might be if Gallagher doesn't interfere, costing the Habs the Pacioretty no-goal? I'm figuring completely different.

- Boyd Gordon must be insane, throwing his limbs point blank in front of a Subban slapper.

- Oilers blocking everything in sight, suffocating the Habs to death tonight.

- Kind of embarrassing to get shut out by the worst defensive team in hockey, but here we are.

- The Pat Roy three minute pull. Desperate times. Desperate times.

- Okay, so let's see if Calgary works out better. It sure looks like the lucky charms that fed the Habs 7-1 start were eaten up tonight.

Second Period:

- Galchenyuk has amazing speed, he seems to actually get faster each game.

- Oilers defense looking ragged and vulnerable, there an awful lot of open ice in the slot while Habs are attacking. Can't foresee the score staying at zero much longer.

- Annnnnmd Yakopov scores. The guys that can't score contributing. Against us, of course. Beaulieu totally out of position, that's all part of the learning curve, I suppose. 2-0.

First Period:

- Really marginal hooking call on Markov, sets the tone for a micro managed game.

- Oy. Call on Prust truly preposterous. Here we go.

- Pacioretty doesn't get nearly enough credit for the contribution he makes to the PK. Positionally he's just so solid.

- Tokarski with some fine work so far - he's very well set in his crease, helps him to make easier saves.

- Don't know what Desharnais was thinking but that high stick kills a Habs powerplay before it even gets started.

- I still think Prust is this lineup's weakest link, and when Sekac returns he ought be the odd forward out.

- I love Gallagher to death but this isn't the first time his aggressive push to the net has resulted in a waved off goal. Sigh.

- incredibly hard hit by Yakopov on Emelin. I felt that through my TV set. Well if he can't score I suppose he has other good uses.

- Questionable call on Subban. Therrien is fuming. 

- And Poiliot buries. Blah. Tokarski probably would like that one back. 1-0 Edmonton.

- Good news for Edmonton. They lead after one. Bad news for Edmonton. They lead after one against the Habs.

Gameday Game Preview

Read it and weep Habs haters. READ IT AND WEEP. Number one in the League! PLAN THE PARADE.

Okay, so these moments are fleeting, so might as well milk it for all it's worth. Indeed, our beloved Montreal Canadiens stand atop not just Division or Conference standings, but on top of the whole damn League. The Habs are off to their best season start in 53 years, which is actually before I was born, which means it's been a LONG time.

What's the reason for all this success? The heck if I know. The offensive ranking is a mediocre 12th. The defensive ranking is very mediocre 17th. The powerplay ranking is not even good enough to be called mediocre. Rated 23rd currently. The PK? Eh. Not bad. 11th.

But really, if you examine the major metrics that influence the bottom line, it doesn't add up, does it? All those sub-par figures, and yet, seven wins in eight games. The big elephant in the room question is, how much of this is fluke? It's pretty hard to not deduce that the Habs have gotten off to an incredible start - in the luck department.

So now, the Habs have left the comforting confines of the Bell Centre, for a western Canadian road trip that as history will indicate, has not been kind to Montreal. The last time the Habs swept all three pegs of the Edmonton/Calgary/Vancouver hop was back in 1998. For the arithmetically challenged, that's 16 years ago. Since then, the Habs have played 30 combined games in those cities, winning just 8 times. Two of the eight wins came last season.

So maybe the trend is shifting back in the Habs direction? Maybe we're slowly returning to western feasts, rather than famines? Is it too much to ask?

Tonight, hop number one in the journey begins in Edmonton, against the (wouldyabelieve?) streaking Oilers. Three straight wins for Edmonton. It should be noted that two of the three wins came against less than stellar opponents, the Caps last Wednesday, and the Hurricanes last Friday. But one did come against the Lightening, and we all remember what happened a couple of weeks ago when the Habs visited Tampa, right? Or have we mercifully forgotten?

SO TONIGHT. With both teams riding nice little winning streaks, the Oilers will send out their usual lineup of "young guns" against Dustin Tokarski. The Oilers' scoring sheet is led, unsurprisingly, by Taylor Hall (7 pts) and Jordan Eberle (6 pts). Of concern to Edmonton is the continuing production (or lack of) Nail Yakupov, who's netting just one goal in eight games, and has generated a -6 +/-. It's been more or less the same ol' story for Nail, the sure-fire, can't-miss first overall draft choice, underwhelming viewers and paid customers with listless performances.

 Even though they're self-proclaimed guns, the Oilers offense isn't off to much of a start, winning streaks considered. 14th ranked offense,  12th rated powerplay. The big albatross, as usual, is their defense and suspect goaltending. At 3.88 goals surrendered per game average, the Oilers find themselves ranked dead last in the League. Much like last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. You know what? You gotta go back to 2008-09 as the last time Edmonton's defense wasn't at or near the bottom. That season, they finished a stellar 21st in the League. Oilers hockey. Be there!

Nathan Beaulieu will get a start tonight for the Habs. Jarad Tokarski will enjoy a few drinks up in the press box.

Puck drops at 9:40 EST.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Game Eight: Rangers vs. Habs

Live From S'toon

Yeah, the game that used to be on a certain national network is here today in Saskatoon. We'll be live blogging the Habs later, as they seek some sweet revenge against the Rangers.


Third Period:

- Rangers coming out strong and unlike most portions of the first 40 minutes, with something resembling an organized attack. Price holding the lead, however.

- Pacioretty, as mentioned back in the first, right place, right time. 3-1. Rangers in tough now with a two goal deficit.

- Bountiful of Habs icings here, as they attempt to slow this game to a snail's space. Still long way to go through - 10 minutes. 

- Man, what a save by Price on St. Louis. Must be maddening to be in a Rangers uniform tonight.

- Brenden Gallagher looks to be a pretty good baseball player, dontyathink?

- One aspect Lars Eller, who's off to a fine start, doesn't get nearly enough credit for, is his steadfast refusal to follow the Therrien dump strategy. He's always looking for ways to carry the zone, rather than surrender possession.

- Two minute goalie pull by the Rangers. Will it pay off?

- Rangers have had at least 12 shots coming from high percentage scoring areas tonight. Price has stopped them all but one. He was that good tonight.

- Offensively starved Rangers can only shrug their collective shoulders. It's just not happening for them.

- Carey Price stellar tonight, Habs move to 7-1, their best start since the first year of the Kennedy Administration. All is well in Habsland.

Second Period:

- Possession basically split 50/50 in the period. Habs overall possession continues to be strong at the season's 10% mark.

- At some point Bourque's utter inability to finish these setups will result in his being taken off the Eller line. Lars is doing everything a centre is supposed to do, but he's not being amply rewarded on the scoresheet.

- Nerminders on birth ends putting on a show, almost feels like next goal wins, even though it's only the 2nd.

- Finally Eller hits the goalscore sheet, with a grinding rebounder through Londqvist's legs. Since Bourque can't ever finish, Lars will have to do it himself. 2-1.

- Galchenyuk with more masterful playmaking, and Plekanec contines to be the sniper we never knew or have seen before. Wonder what the heck Thomas was doing during the offseason. Whatever it was, he oughtta bottle it.

- Rangers aren't nearly as fast or dangerous as the team Habs fans became very familiar with this past May. Don't be shocked if they're in tough for a playoff spot next spring.

- Despite very hard final second push by New York, Habs clearly separating themselves away from the Rangers in the period, Lundqvist doing his part to keep it from being a two or three goal Canadiens' lead. Habs need to simply repeat their third period patterns, and they should rack up their fourth straight.

First Period:

- The Gorges-less PK isn't nearly as good as it used to be, but it's at least slowly improving as the season progresses. Impressive early kill.

- Pacioretty with a nose for being right place, right time, all the time. It's almost a wonder why he doesn't score 50.

- McDonagh muffs it all up giving the Habs an incredible 2 on 0 shorthanded break. Pacioretty and Plekanec? No chance Lundqvist.

- Hagland deposits the tying goal off a Price rebound, Gallagher letting Hagland, his check, go completely untouched to the net for the easy goal. The margin of error is narrow in this league, but that was a pretty egregious mistake by Gally.

- Price totally robbing Zuccarello in the slot, Habs really shoddy zone coverage. Really should be 2-1.

- Habs at least are improving with their game starts, really had a good chuck of the first period under the food, clearly out grinding the Rangers. The Malhaltra holding penalty seem to turn the tide of momentum towards New York, they had the Habs on the ropes the final 5 period minutes. Canadiens need to focus on reducing the stupid penalties, even against this struggling Rangers powerplay.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Game Seven: Wings vs. Habs


- Dry scrape picks - Datsyuk and Pacioretty.

- Well I was close. Pacioretty with the shot, Desharnais buries the rebound. This team just finds a way. Another night, another crazy win.

Third Period:

- Welp, just not happening. Habs have the kitchen sink but Howard won't let one past.

- #AlmostBourque again. Actually it's been #AlmostHabs all night.

- Wings now in grind mode. They're still functionally better than the Habs, so it's looking more and more the Habs will put up a goosegg tonight.

- Eller gets high sticked again, his cut from a high stick he took in the second period opens up. Both, shockingly, aren't called.

- Methinks Habs could have used Sekac tonight. Also Bournival. Moen and Prust have amounted to little.

- Galchenyuk. Brilliant. So fast that even horseshoe Howard can stop it from going in. Tie game with three minutes left.

- Habs are swarming here. They want to end this before regulation.

- Habs at least clinch a point - the better third period team again. But the Wings still play a far more structured attack, which gives them a pretty good edge in overtime. Also, Habs extra time luck has to come to an end eventually.

Second Period:

- Price repeatedly fails to cover a loose puck leading to a penalty. Eller and Pacioretty also go to he dressing room with injuries. On the same shift. Ouch.

- Calls by officials have been pretty questionable (including non-calls), and have almost all broken against the Habs.

- Fascinating to see how each team attacks so differently. Habs mainly dump, Wings mainly carry. Detroit has the best coach in the NHL. You do the math.

- Officials determined to call nothing, Wings saying thanks guys, we'll hook and hold everything in sight. 

- And there you go. Wings carry the zone and score the evening's first goal. Deserved I suppose - they've dominated this second period and to be honest, most of the game.

- Wings get nasty dirty after the whistle with Parenteau robbed by Howard. Butt ends, head punches and ... and go figure, Habs get a PP.

- One good reason why the Wings are perfect this year on the PK, always blocking the shooting lanes.

- Parenteau can't finish. No matter how glorious the chances. Still better than Briere.

- Well, Habs are great in the 3rd. Right? That's all I got.

First Period:

- Well, the start hasn't been great, but not as awful as any of the first six games. So I guess that's improvement?

- Desharnais with a lazy holding the stick call. The usual.

- Carey Price two excellent saves on the PK - the Wings powerplay looks a lot better than their current 9% rating.

- Yup. Price appears to be on "dialed" mode tonight.

- Tinordi, still raw with plenty to learn, inexplicably playing on the Habs 2nd D line. 

- Man, you can tell which of these two teams are better coached, and it ain't the guys wearing a C and an H. Detroit with a much more structured attack, while the Habs are continuously dependant on dump and hope.

- Kind of fascinating how similar these two teams are in roster, but how differently they play the game. The first was a washout, which given how poorly it's gone this young season, is a victory for Montreal. Still, Detroit was the better playing team in that period.


Gameday Game Preview:

24 years. 23 consecutive times.

That figure is the number of times, over the number of years, the Detroit Red Wings have made the NHL playoffs. Think about that for a moment. That, for a good number of people, is nearly half a lifetime. A quarter of a century. It's testament to an brilliantly run organization that's managed to avoid the ebb and flow of contention to somehow generate a consistently competitive team year in, year out.

However, like all good things, even one as admirable as the Wings' streak, it must come to an end. That end may be this season, at least as far as Detroit making the post-season for a 24th straight time.

Actually, making the playoffs for a 23rd time was a bit of a task last year. The Wings had to deal with a slew of injuries to many important parts of its roster, while also dealing with players who weren't living up to expectation. Perhaps foremost in the Wings' problem areas was in goaltending, as long-time starter Jimmy Howard had one of his worst years ever as a full-time NHL netminder.

The Wings had a pretty quiet off-season, and had almost no action in the free agent market, signing only center Riley Sheahan, winger Kevin Porter, and ... that's pretty much it. The Wings are steadfast determined (or resigned) to work with the assets they already retain, focusing on the same program that's worked so well for them over the years - building within, drafting wisely, identifying key assets and retaining them for long terms, and hiring (and keeping) an excellent coaching staff.

This is a transition year for the Wings, and as such, it'll be full of ups and downs, probably more pain than gain, and an odd-on likelihood that they won't make the post season. But that's all part of the plan in Detroit - always keep your eyes focused on the long term.

So tonight, the Wings come to Montreal to take on their divisional rivals. Both the Wings and Habs are off to strong starts, the Wings with three wins in their first five games, the Habs with five W's in their first six. Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are, to no one's surprise, off to excellent season starts, while Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson constitute the backbone of the Detroit defense.

Even with the strong win starts, both clubs haven't posted sparking specialty team starts - the Habs powerplay ranked 17th in the League, is still better than the Wing's 24th ranked man advantage, scoring at a meager 9.5% efficiency. The penalty kill, however, tells a more significant story. The Habs PK of 80% efficiency is only good for 18th in the League. Detroit? Well, they haven't actually surrendered a shorthanded goal this year. So they're ... um ... pretty good there.

Lineup tonight. Dale Weise will get a start (finally) for the Habs, at the expense of Jiri Sekac. Carey Price will get the start in goal, Jimmy Howard for the Wings.

Puck drops at 5:40 EST.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Game Six: Avs vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Decent start by Avs to the period, Habs generally doing a good job preventing high percentage shots. 

- Avs intensifying their push. I'd be tempted to take a timeout if I was Therrien.

- Period now steadying itself as Habs start to grind out possession. Game slowing down significantly, which is just fine from Montreal's perspective.

- Malhatra contines to demonstrate he was an excellent cheap pickup during the summer. Giving the 4th line a nice little offensive boost.

- Really impressive Habs powerplay - again with the intense passing, but shots are also being taken, Pickard doing a nice job keeping his team alive - however barely.

- Price with a ridiculous left pad save on the empty side of the net. He's been quietly excellent tonight, but that save was loud enough to get the Bell Centre buzzing. Outstanding.

Second Period:

- The Avs might have the speed advantage but their talent is too raw to maintain discipline, especially on the transition. Habs ought to catch and pull away tonight.

- So how about that - a powerplay goal. Subban from the line, Pickard handcuffed. 1-1.

- Gilbert is getting alive by the Avs speed, probably his weakest game so far as a Canadien.

- Speaking of, Therrien really should reconsider using him on the PK - at least tonight.

- Horrid neutral zone turnover by the Avs spings Galchenyuk out of the penalty box, who welcomes Pickard to the NHL. 2-1.

- Tinordi pretty much manhandling McLeod in fisticuffs. This is the kind of play that will go a long way towards establishing himself as a regular.

- MacKinnon is pretty much the only player in the NHL that I'd trade P.K. Subban for. MacKinnon's speed and smarts are dazzling.

- Sometimes P.K. Subban does things that leave you at a total loss for words. He's done just that putting the Habs up 3-1. I've never seen a goal like that. Might never again. Just wow.

- Apart from taking some silly penalties, dominative period for the Habs, who've been head above shoulder the much better team since the halfway mark of the first. Avs simply don't have the horses.

First Period:

- So Beaulieu and Weise are the healthy scratches tonight. Calvin Pickard gets his very first NHL start in net for Colorado. Talk about the deep end.

- Tanguay opens it early, after Subban gets caught on a pinch. P.K. oughtta know he can take those risks if Emelin is his partner.

-Terrible zone coverage by Habs so far, yet another terrible start to a game. It's a perplexing pattern. 

- Price keeping it 1-0, but only just. Avs have a frewt chance of extending the lead against such a slat-footed opponent.

- It's astounding to think this MacKinnon kid is only going to get better. The League's next big superstar you'd have to believe.

- This Pickard kid is making a good early impression, including a sparkling breakaway save off Pacioretty.

- O'Reilly with an obvious dive, Desharnais penalized. How the officials can't spot something so obvious is mystifying.

- When he's not almost scoring, Rene Bourque spends an awful lot of time making terrible passes.

- Avs now playing some pretty disorganized hockey, mainly chasing the puck. Shoe's on the other foot- Habs should be scoring right now.

- Habs powerplay would really benefit by winning a faceoff once or twice a year.

- A poor start again by the Habs, but at about the 8 minute mark, they started to overtake their opponent. Just need to solve Pickard, and they should be fine.



Gameday Game Preview:

A lot can happen in the span of a year.

It was just over a year, actually, that Patrick Roy took over the head coaching reigns for the Colorado Avalanche. And man, did they have one heckova start. Through the month of November, Denver put up a League-leading 10 wins in 11 games. Even though their torrid opening season paced cooled down as the season progressed, the Avs still managed to finish 2nd in the tough Western Conference with 113 points.

This season? Well ... things haven't exactly gone to plan so far. Five games in, Colorado has only mustered up a single win. Perhaps even more worrisome for the Avs, they've only scored a piddly 7 goals, which is quite a comedown for a team who had the 4th rated offense in the League last year.

What's gone wrong in the mile high city? The issue probably lay with the moves Colorado made over the summer, which have significantly thinned their roster, especially on offense. The Avs made a splash early in the summer in picking up free agent Jarome Iginla, who is unquestionably one of the finest wingers to every play the game. However, at age 37, it is unrealistic to expect him to continue to score at a 30+ goals per season pace, although playing alongside the incredible Nathan MacKinnon will give his numbers a boost. We'll see.

The Avs next move was their trading of P-A Parenteau to the Canadiens, in exchange for the underproducing, and rarely played Daniel Briere. The move was a bit of a puzzler, since Parenteau was producing the same offensive numbers as Briere, and is 6 years younger to boot. If the early season numbers are any indicator, the Habs won this deal hands down, and that's still not considering the fact the Avs also tossed in a 5th round draft pick to obtain Briere.

The Avs also picked up a free agent centre in Jesse Winchester, who's a cheap and versatile guy, but isn't nearly talented enough to have a good fit with the Avs high octane offense.

So tonight, the Avs head into the Bell Centre hunger, perhaps even a little desperate for a victory against the 4-2 Canadiens, who are coming off their biggest win of the young season, a 6-4 triumph of the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. It's not all roses in Montreal, mind you - the Habs much like last year, are struggling to generate a positive possession game, while their specialty units, in particular their powerplay, has looked for the most part, kinda pretty really bad.

It's always interesting when Patrick Roy comes to town, so it's reasonable to expect a pretty entertaining game tonight. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Game Five: Bruins vs. Habs

Third Period:

- Pacioretty somehow misses a totally empty net off the pass on the PP. Missing that might come back to bite later.

- So many juicy rebounds served up by Rask tonight, the Habs ought to be up by two or three.

- Prust continues to offer little on the Habs 4th line - it's nice to have him around for added depth, but if you want to start considering trade bait as the season progresses, he might be your first stop.

- Bruins got the bounce to grab the lead 3-2, and now the hockey gods return the favor as the puck bounces off Gallagher via a Paciorety shot and past a hapless Rask, who gets the hook. 5-3.

- Habs have really intensified the forecheck in the period, and it's creating many excellent scoring rushes. Habs speed definately overtaking the Bruins in the final frame.

- Another solid effort by Gilbert tonight, Eller has also played an excellent two way game. Still think Eller has much more upside if he plays the game the same way Bob Gainey did. 

- Habs attempting to grind this game to a complete halt. So far, so good.

- Gagne scores - we think, even though it was directed in by a skate. In any case, Habs got complacent protecting the slot and the Bruins narrow the lead to one.

- 2:30 left, Habs sitting on this again. Watch out.

- How sweet is that? Lucic takes a dirty run at Emelin and gets nailed for boarding. Habs can just kill the clock to win the game.

- Parenteau with the empty net, and Lucic, furious, promptly gets tossed from the game. Habs really controlled much of the game after having a shaky first period - we've seen that pattern before. Nonetheless, this game felt like something of a torch was passed. The Bruins aren't nearly as dominant as past years, while the Habs, at least by tonight's game, appear to have caught, if not passed Boston, as a hockey force in the eastern Conference.

Second Period:

- Still reckon something will happen between Emelin and Lucic tonight, the later is too much of a psychopath to hold himself back.

- 3-on-1s you're more apt to benefit by making at least one pass, but Paciiretty elects to take a selfish shot on a covered angle. Oh well.

- Subban with a slight little bump on Marchand, who reacts by taking a failed slash. Same old.layed 

- Okay, that was some of the Carey Price from 2013-14, a superb save off a high labeled Chara wrister from the line.

- Rask struggling with loose pucks, and Gallagher with an easy goal off a low angle shot by Pacioretty. 2-1.

- Speaking of puck control, Price gives up a juicy rebound, after Emelin, for whatever reason, knocks Subban out of the play. Anyway, no way Emelin should be paired with Subban, but whatever I guess. Therrien. Game tied.

- Lucic is a menace and a disgrace. Targeting Gallagher's knee. He's attempting to wreck careers.

- Lousy (incorrect) icing call and Bruins take the lead off the faceoff, a shot deflecting off Plekanec's skate. Breaks very much favouring the Bruins tonight.

- Marchand slashes Subban in the groin, and P.K. is assessed an embelishment penalty. More atrocious calls.

- Rask with more puck control issues, Sekac scores his first NHL goal off a rebound in front of the family, and ties the game. Rask looks really vulnerable tonight.

- Oh man that was a beauty. Plekanec with a great pass on the stick of Parenteau, who fires it instantly past Rask blocker side. Rask looked totally unprepared for the play, and it gives the Habs the second period lead.

- Rask really fighting the puck in the second, Habs would be highly advised to just toss it at the net with every opportunity in the third period.

First Period:

- As I mentioned previously, a little late joining this so doing a little bit of catchup. Price still looking at little iffy, isn't he? A puck getting behind, one off the crossbar, and now a poor clearance into the stands.

- Chara. What are you gonna do? Who can move that kind of body out of the crease?

- Ut-oh .. Habs powerplay. Hide the kids, this could get scary.

- Go figure. The Habs finally score with the man advantage, and lo and behold, it's a pretty basic goal. Puck is delivered on net, Pacioretty drives the crease, and it goes in ugly. 

- Gilbert really has impressed me so far this year, very solid positionally, he's been getting some tough zone starts and still has managed to post some pretty decent possession numbers. 

- Brilliant shift by Subban - he can take this game by the scruff of the neck unlike few others in the game.

- Nifty save by Bergeron off a sloppy turnover by Markov. Still, he just doesn't look the Carey Price of last year, can't put my finger on it, but something's not right.

- Weak tripping call on Pacioretty, Seidenberg with plenty of embellishment - officials having trouble discriminating trips calls.

- Bruins all over Habs with period-closing powerplay, couple of nice blocks by Markov and Bourque. In any case, period advantage to Boston, their forwards beating the Habs at their own game utilizing speed, and carrying the zone to create ongoing pressure. Habs somewhat fortunate to come away with a tied score.


Oh yeah baby, the game we've been looking forward to has arrived, and it's time to pull out the ol' Tuuka-Rask-is-a-headcase gif. The tradition continues!

Funny how traditions never die. Here's one. WE ALWAYS BEAT THE BOSTON BRUINS. Well, nearly almost always. There was that series back in 2012. And I guess the one before that. The point is, WHEN IT COUNTS we win. Pretty much, always.

Have we forgotten about Monday night? That didn't happen, right? That was a nightmare, right? Steven Stamkos, he's just a figment of the imagination? Somebody throw me a bone. Actually, somebody toss the Habs powerplay a femur or two - what is blazes is happening?! Extending back to the last part of last year's regular season, the Habs are currently running an 0-for-39 streak. I'm no match genius, but without pulling out my trusty calculator, it would seem as though the Canadiens' man advantage is running at a success rate of about zero percent.

I'm no hockey rocket scientist elitest prorogue either, but I'm pretty willing to bet (without consulting the statheads) that a powerplay running with a nil success percentage probably means you aren't going to win very many games. Just taking a stab in the dark about that one.

So ... what ... do ... we ... do? Well, if you've watched the first four games of this season, you might have observed a couple of things. First, even with a roster chock-full-o' forwards with considerable speed and snazzy puck handlin' abilities, the Habs continue to play the man advantage with amazing conservatism, choosing (and failing) repeatedly to dump and chase after pucks. The few times when puck control is established, the Habs put on a pretty impressive puck passing clinic - highly entertaining for viewers, and I'm sure extra fun for the Habs opponents, as they watch the penalty seconds drain away with little fear the Canadiens won't do much else.

The dump/chase "strategy" is unfortunately, ingrained and is the net effect of a coaching staff that is seemingly about 10 years behind the times of how this game is played. Sure, for the first good chunk of this century, teams, in particular those brimming with intimidating size, thrived on leveraging the dump and chase. But that was then. The game has since changed rather significantly. For the most part, teams are eliminating hired goons, the average size and weight of players has plateaued, and there's been a resuscitated emphasis on speed and skill. In a sense, the game is returning to its roots, not unlike the freewheeling style we saw (and enjoyed) dominate the League from 1975 to 1992.

So, to put it starkly, the Habs powerplay efficiency doesn't look very promising. Sure, they'll score eventually, but given their current formation, it's unlikely that this team will put up an efficiency much greater than 10%, which also means the prospect for this team finishing with a point total similar to last year, is very unlikely.

So tonight! The Bruins come to town. What's the deal with Boston? Seven goals in five games? Ouch. Surely this can't be the actual version of the 2014-15 Bruins, can it? Surely, this team which most of the experts picked to finish at the top of the Eastern Conference, isn't headed for a tumble down the standings, can it?

It hasn't been a fun start for Boston - following a trade that most Bruins fans bemoaned, when Johnny Boychuck was sent to the Islanders in exchange for a few mid round picks. The Islanders, go figure, have gotten off to a terrific start, led by, guess who, Boychuck, who's collected six points in three games. Yowza!

Anyway, keys to the game - Habs getting their specialty units into something not resembling dysfunction, and Carey Price having a solid start - he been definably "okay" so far, certainly not good, and most definitely not great like he was last year.

Puck drops tonight at (est.) 7:50 EST.  I'll be joining in a little late, probably around the midway point of the 1st period, depending on exactly when the puck drops.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Game Four: Habs vs. Bolts

Second Period:

- Habs First period Fenwick was 43%, which is firmly mired in Leafs land. If the Habs weren't so obsessed about chipping the puck up the boards, when they're aren't busy dumping it in, this team's possession numbers wouldn't be terrible.

- Another horrible Habs powerplay full of aimless passing. Starting to wonder if this is a net effect from losing George Gallant.

- Habs last 35 regular season powerplays (going back to last year), they have scored exactly zero goals. Coaching is the issue. No other way of explaining that.

- Stamkos. Again. P.K. and Markov picked a bad time to take an on-ice nap. 3-1.

- Comedy timeout!! I mean, Habs powerplay!

- Predictably, another zero. Anyway, same issues are starting to creep into the discussion, namely this team's inability to make game play adjustments. It's a reflection on poor strategy, decision making, coaching. Making the big step towards championship legitimacy doesn't  seem realistically until these fundamental issues are addressed.

- Stamkos. Powerplay. Hat trick. Tampa officially drubbing Montreal. Also not one of Carey Price's better nights but that's almost beside the point.

First Period:

- How many people/experts have mentioned how awesome Gilbert has been this season?

- What the heck is Carey Price doing? Gifting Tampa Bay an early goal, apparently.

- Ah another night, another poor start to the first period.

- Habs continue bad patterns of behaviour, banking the puck up the boards at every opportunity. It's destroying this team's zone entries.

- Stamkos, as Tampa makes it simple, driving the net and putting in garbage. Why we can't do this, or even try doing this, is beyond me.

- Well cue the comeback, although it's earlier this time. Tinordi a point shot reflected by Gallager and it's 2-1. A good illustration of why winning draws deep in the opposing song can pay off.

- The few times the Habs carry the puck into the Tampa zone, they generate good scoring opportunities. I mean, com'on guys, do more of this?

- Habs get their first Powerplay. Should be fun watching them find a way of screwing it up.

- Habs spend most of their powerplay passing the puck, doing little else. Different night, same stuff.

- Another terrible start to the first period. Another deficit to overcome. Same old story for this team early in the season. Habs found some legs halfway through the period but for the most part, played another sloppy and indifferent frame. Eventually the luck will run out and this team won't come back. I've got a strong sense tonight is that night.


Pregame Preview:

Well, what a first week it's been.

The Habs, the little team that many experts still couldn't quite come to endorse as a good team (TSN picked them third in their division), will try to start their season 4-0 for the first time since 2001. 

The Habs, which have looked good, but not great in their first three games, are coming off a rather remarkable 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night - Philly confoundingly blowing a 3-0 lead with a mere 12 minutes left in the 3rd period.

The Habs success couinsides with a pretty lacklustre opening week for their fierce rivals in Boston, the Bruins picked (I think wrongly) by most to win their Division this season. Boston lost another game today, and have just one win on their first four games, with only four total goals offense.

While I think Boston is now set for a tumble, I don't think the same can be said about the Tampa Bay Lightening, which has been building itself towards competitiveness by focusing on bundling a strong core of youth. The Lightening, like the Habs, are starting to blossom with promise, and like the Habs, figure to be near or at the top of the divisional for some years to come.

So while it's only the fourth game in an eight two game season, it's important. The Habs and Bolts will be jousting for placement throughout the year, so every head-to-head contest takes on added significance. 

No big roster changes expected for Montreal - Alexei Emelin will sit out another night with an undetermined (unstated) injury, while Carey Price will get the start.

Puck Drops at 7:10 EST.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Game Three: Habs vs. Flyers


- Well, If you're gonna pick one guy you want on the break to win the game it's Galchenyuk. Great save by Emery.

- Embelishment. Yeah, Chris Lee is a sucker for that. Flyers to the powerplay.

- Combination of terrible Flyers powerplay and brilliant PK gives the Habs a shootout shot.

- Parenteau in the 4th round and would you believe it, the Habs win the game. Incredible.

Third Period:

- How many scoring chances have the Habs had so far? Five. Just one with the man advantage. That's coming as close to officially not showing up at all, as you can possibly get in a game of hockey.

- Simply put, failing a crazy bounce, Habs are almost certainly going to be shut out tonight. 

- Well, Markov making me look good again. Flyers defense looking terribly flustered, relatively routine wrister for Andrei. 3-1.

- Habs have, erm ... come to life. 

- Wow. Habs pouring it on, Flyers absolute zone meltdown, and tutlepleks cashes in his 4th. It's a one goal game. I'm astounded.

- Flyers defense too focused on hitting bodies and not nearly enough on zone cocerage on mobile wingers. Habs getting more than ample opportunities to tie this thing up.

- Good lord. There it is. Brilliant slap pass Plekqnec on Glachenyuk's stick and in. The Habs tie the game. The Flyers are stunned. I am too.

- Habs third periods this season have been incredible. Too bad their firsts have been so awful.

- Fllyers sat on it, Ray Emery in net, and a sure lead blown. It's astounding, but not really.

Second Period:

- Simmonds. Powerplay. 3-0. Flyers keep it simple and capitalize. Why the Canadiens don't do the same is baffling. Habs really in deep now.

- Habs just plain listless in this period. Too many thinking about going home, methinks.

- If a team like the Flyers can make the 1-3-1 work, maybe Habs should consider the same?

- Almost Eller. Almoat Bourque. It's one of those nights.

- Habs were hoping to go to 3 and 0 for he first time in 10 years. It's not going to happen.

First Period:

- So Emelin out, Tinordi in, and Nahthan Beaulieu will get a few shifts next PK Subban. 

- Man, that Flyers defense looks slow. It's a poor matchup against a team like the Canadiens.

- Did you blink? You might have missed two Flyers goals, first after blown coverage by Beaulieu, the second after Parenteau makes a bad turnover. So um .... yeah. 2-0.

- Well, at least the Habs have now woken up and remembered they're playing a hockey game. The poor starts to each game this season are finally hitting this team (deservedly) hard.

- Nifty kill by the Habs, Flyers are so thin at the line, don't be surprised if their man advantage ranks near the bottom third of the League this year.

- How can this Habs team with so much talent and speed be so terrible with the man advantage?

- Habs back to their dump-and-chase ways tonight. It's killed their powerplay, it's given Emery a pretty soft period.

- Another disastrous start to a first period puts the Habs into another scoreboard deficit. The good news is the Canadiens held much of the play edge after the two early goals, but their powerplay continues to look atrocious. Still early, but the margins for error are pretty narrow if Montreal hopes to salvage this night.

Pregame Goo:

Do you remember a time when the Flyers were a dreaded, feared organization for the Habs faithful? I sure do. From about 1995 to about ... I dunno ... three years ago, I hated Philadelphia. HATED THEM.

That hate was more born out of fear than anything, because for a good 15 season, Philly owned us. From the mid 90s when a desperate Serge Savard traded away the Habs best forward, John Leclair, the Habs wins against the Flyers have been few and far between. They haven't won in Philadelphia for five damn years.

But that was then. Now? Not so much so. The Flyers have been going through a difficult transition of late, this summer being no different as Philadelphia gave then GM Paul Holmgren a nice little "here's another job for you so you don't do any more damage job" job, and moved in former Flyers netminder Ron Hextall.

Now, the Flyers did manage to make the playoffs last year, but they faced an array of challenges this summer with respect to having more than a few overpaid, underproducing players under contract. Hextall, in an attempt to fix their cap problems, traded Scott Hartnell for R.J.Umberger, a deal that surely will haunt this franchise for years to come.

Hextall only compounded the problems when he signed Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Well, at least they fixed their cap issues. Oh what? They're $5 million over the cap? Oh well then. Nevermind.

Let me put it to you this way. Don't expect to see the Flyers back in the playoffs this season. Or probably the next.

So tonight!! The Habs aim to start their year three and oh! Carey Price returns to net, Thomas Plekanec aims to pad his League-leading goals total, and Rogers sports gets its first Saturday night of hockey coverage. Let's hope they don't embarrass themselves the same way they did with Wednesday nights awful, awful coverage.

Pucks drops at 7:10 EST.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Game Two: Habs vs. Caps


- OT picks? I'll go with Galchenyuk and Ovechkin. 

- Tokarski and Plekanec with game saving plays. Brilliant.

- Does Desharnais get paid for not shooting the puck?

- Dustin's first NHL shootout? Here we go.

- Oh my god. Galchenyuk in the SO.

- Desharnais. See? Shooting means you score.

- Doh. So close. So very close, Dustin.

- Ovie. Nopes.

- Round 6. Gally eeks it through, and Habs get the extra point. Hellova game.

Third Period: 

- Pretty slow and sloppy start for the Habs this period. Hard to figure this team out tonight.

- Orpik just won't stop with the questionable hits - and why should he? He's not being punished for it by the officials.

- Hoo boy. Bourque bumps Holtby, and it costs the Habs a tying goal, which came after some fantastic work by Lars Eller working to win the puck deep in the Caps zone. Oh well.

- Plecks. The man is unstoppable. Great roofer from the high slot and the game is officially tied. As mentioned before, I thought the Caps might have come out too hard in the first and now lo and behold, they're struggling to keep pace on the ice.

- Bourque with a blast that hits the crossbar. Chris Lee calls it a goal (eventually overturned). How Lee stays employed ...

- Anyway, Habs have owned the third much the way the Caps owned the first. Washington basically trying to hold on to a tie.

- Subban misses his check but Emelin saves the day with seconds left. Won't say that very often.

- Very, very good period for the Habs, coming within a fraction of an inch from winning this game. Now to overtime, which this team was definably mediocre last season.

Second Period:

- Looking for Therrien to maybe focus on running only 9 forwards, at least until the Habs start showing signs of offensive life.

- One significant criticism of the Caps tonight - their shot attempts are mainly coming from 40+ feet away from Tokarski, who's made a few very good saves, but has mainly had to handle routine shots.

- Wretched slashing call on Parenteau. The officiating, sadly but not surprisingly, has been very poor.

- Habs currently on pace for two ... count 'em ... two 5v5 shots. For the entire game. Yeah, really.

- Holy cow, Galchenyuk. Incredible moves with the puck, a glimpse of future greatness, we hope.

- Halfway mark, Caps seem to be regressing a bit here, Habs are finding some legs. Perhaps Washington came out of the gate a little too hard?

- Remember how Eller rocketed out of the starting line last year? Yeah ... those were the days ...

- Orpik has delivered at least three dirty hits tonight, and the Habs are taking matters into their own hands, since the refs don't appear capable of doing it.

- Prust gets penalized for dealing with Orpik, or at least trying to. Caps get an undeserved powerplay.

First Period:

- Couple of good Saskatchewan boys between both sets of pipes tonight. Awesomeness.

- Emelin with Sunbban. How long can this possibly last?

- Eller takes a bad penalty for hook/trip. And .... drink.

- Habs PK looks strong again this season, sans Gorges. Speedy checkers are helping.

- Terrible, terrible turnover by Subban makes it 1-0. When he's great, he's great. But when he muffs it up ...

- Canadiens are uh ... disorganized in their own zone. As in, really, really disorganized.

- Nice pass and shot blocking by Weaver, Habs kill another penalty.

- 5 minutes left in the period, Habs still haven't registered a shot on goal. To say they've been bad would be very generous. To say they're lucky to be only down a goal would be a vast understatement.

- Subban called for a hook after an absurd dive by Ovie. Terrible officiating by guess who - Chris Lee. How is this guy still employed?

- About as bad a period as you'll ever see this Habs team play. Totally outskated through much of the frame, the first shot coming with barely more than 2 minutes left in the period, 15-2 total. Dustin Tokarski the only real bright spot in the period, at least giving his team the opportunity of somehow salvaging what is current a disaster. Would love to be a fly in the Habs dressing room during the first intermission.


- Moen in, Bournival out.
- Prust in, Weise out.

As you were.



Yah baby, what a way to kick off game one of the 2014-15 season - breaking the tiny little hearts of Leafs fans right in their own backyard, with a delicate twist of a heartbreaking knife - the winning goal scored at the 19:17 mark by the Maurice Richard Trophy leader Thomas Turtlepleks Plekanec. So sweet. So very, very sweet.

Ah, but the time to savor such victory is short. The Habs are right back at it tonight in Washington D.C. as they take on the Ovie and Caps. Dustin Tokarski, who wrestled the backup job away from Peter Budja this fall, will get the start for the Canadiens.

As we mentioned in the season's first post, the Habs underwent some significant roster changes this summer. For the Caps, the changes went beyond the starting lineup, starting in April when they fired long-time general manager George McPhee, and replaced him with the relatively unknown Brian MacLellan, whose executive experience entering the office was pretty much ziltch.

MacLellan didn't waste much time shaking up the Caps roster, with a particular focus on shoring up the Caps shaky defense. First, MacLellan signed journeyman backup Justin Peters to backup the consistently inconsistent Braden Holtby.  Then as summer set in, Maclellan latched up Matt Niskanen for a big ol' pile of cash (7 years, $5.75m AVV), and his coup de grace, signing free agent Brooks Orpik for an astounding $27.5m, five year contract. That last mentioned signing was astoundingly perplexing, as Orpik has long held one of the worst possession numbers for a defenseman in the League. To commit so much money for such a long time to a 34 year old player with a terrible stats line won't help the Caps very much in solving their blue line issues this season, or the next, or the one after that, or the one after that, or the one after that.

So tonight! The Habs will send out Tokarski, and our eyes will be focused on whether we'll see another fine repeat performance by the like Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, P.A. Parenteau, and yes, Alexi Emelin. All played very well last night in Toronto.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST. It's already game two!!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Game One: Habs vs. Leafs

Third Period:

- I guess I shouldn't complain too much about the Habs powerplay, the Leafs' doesn't look a whole lot better.

- Leafs defense really aggressive pinching up into he neutral zone, even without puck possession. Habs might have a couple of breakaways before the night is over.

- Good work by Desharnais battling for and winning the puck behind the net against Gardner, and feeding it to Subban who snaps a screen past Bernier. Habs lead 3-2.

- Again, this Leafs defense appears too soft and mistake apt to realistically out this club into a playoff spot this season. Offensively they look pretty solid. Beyond that. Trouble.

- Markov has made a few poor positional decisions tonight, one of which has cost his team a goal. 

- Weak links for the Habs tonight: Prust. Honourable mention to Markov and Gilbert.

- Monsters for the Habs tonight: Plekanec, Price, Desharnais, Gallagher, Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, Parenteau. In that order.

- Less than 5 minutes, Habs may be tempted to go into shell mode. Hopefully this team has learned enough not to let that happen.

- Oh man, what a way to blow the lead. Puck is flipped out front, hits Eller in the chest and squeaks past Price. Tie game.

- Crazy finish. Plekanec tosses it at the Leafs net, and it apparently deflects off Percy's toe and past Bernier. 4-3 with less than a minute left.

- Price with a fan-frickin-tastic point blank pad save off Kessel with second left, to seal the victory. A well-deserved win for the Habs tonight, who pretty much controlled the game both ends after 20 minutes. The Leafs, in particular their point producers, were well contained tonight, and with Price between the pipes, if your top guys aren't scoring, you're probably not going to beat the Habs.

Opening night win. Finally. It's been awhile.

Second Period: 

- Once again, golden scoring chance, Desharnais refuses to shoot the puck. I can't fathom the rationale here. It's terrible decision making.

- Pretty awful defense by Leafs and a beauty 60 foot pass by Emelin on Plekanec's tape springs him on a break. Great move on Bernier ties the game. 

- Can't see how the Leafs stay playoff competitive with this defense. Too many glaring letdowns combined with "okay" goaltending will be their undoing.

- Winnik catches the puck and throws it into the Habs zone. He doesn't know that's a penalty?

- Habs powerplay again trying to be too perfect, looking to covert difficult setups. Simplify, simplify boys.

- Malhotra is doing well taking faceoffs, which is one of the major reasons why Bergevin signed him up.

- Better second for the Habs - their fore and backchecking was tighter, giving Price a little relief. Canadiens really need to get their man advantage in gear - it faultered during the preseason and hasn't really improved much to start the year.

First Period:

- Pretty lame season opening pregame by MLSE. Looked more like a WWE main event.

- God, Glen Healy. More evidence that Rogers really muffed up their analyst selection.

- Carey Price. Same old same old. Making very difficult saves look totally routine.

- The cable cam is kind of interesting if you can handle the slight vertigo. The NFL has bee using this technology for 10 years.

- Habs sloppy in the neutral zone, turnovers have produced three good Leafs scoring chances and counting early in this game.

- Hoo boy. First shot, first goal. Max Pacioretty. Bernier looked pretty bad there. So also did Phaneuf who watched Max skate around him.  1-0.

- Leafs Kadri ties it up off a wicked tip in off a slot shot. Price had no chance. Plekanec lost his mark, while Weaver and Beaulieu played their zone a little too soft. 

- Desharnais doing the same things tonight (i.e. not shooting the puck) that got him into a huge slump last year that nearly cost him his NHL career.

- Habs come up empty on their first powerplay but their puck control and passing was pretty crisp.

- Just put Healy in blue and white and be done with it.

- Leafs plays a simplified powerplay and it pays off. Not sure where Markov was going, but he left Bozak all alone in front for an easy tip in. 2-1.

- A meh first period. Pretty even handed, the Leafs taking advantage of their chances. Habs defense was a bit soft and sloppy, something a few have pointed out might end up being a problem for the Canadiens during the forthcoming season.


Wow. Is it time to drop the puck already? Where did summer go!? Seriously, if you live out on the east coast or western Canada (as do I), you might have missed the solstice after blinking your eyes.

Summer. It was quite an interesting one, if you're a Habs fan. First the drama over P.K. Subban which, thank ye gods, ended in an eight year, 17 trillion dollar contract. Oh Marc Bergevin, if you had only heeded my advice two years ago when you could have locked up Pernell for about the same amount of time at half the salary.

Speaking of Mr. Bergevin, he was a bit of a busy man. Before signing Subban, he managed to eek a one year contract extension to the gritty and oft' undervalued Mike Weaver, who's performed brilliantly for the Habs since coming over from Florida for literally nothing, thereby taking a big step towards cheaply solidifying the Habs blue line.

But that was before the trade. On the day of Canada's 147th birthday, Bergevin sent veteran dye in the wool defenseman Josh Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres in return for a draft pick. The move, which wasn't entirely surprising considering Gorges' rising age and declining play hampered by an annual salary in excess of $4 million. Still, Gorges reaction to the trade, which hilariously included a steadfast refusal to be dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs, was one of utter shock and disbelief. While Gorges' skill set won't be difficult to replace, it'll be tough to overcome his devotion to the CH and leadership assets he brought to the dressing room.

Following the Gorges trade, Bergevin moved quickly to fill the gap, signing the younger and cheaper Tom Gilbert, who unlike Gorges, will offer the Habs blue line a little more offensive punch, especially on the 2nd line powerplay unit. The signing capped off a pretty insane week in Habsland, which also included the acquisition of P.A. Parenteau in return for Daniel Briere, which in one fell swoop, undid the original gaff committed by Bergevin, when he signed the perennially underwhelming Briere in 2013.

Oh yeah. Also on July 1st, Bergevin signed the solid two way Manny Malhotra to a one year contract. Wow, was that a crazy 24 hours, or what?

Also of significance this summer is what the Habs didn't do with some players. Doug Murray, George Parros and as of this week, Frankie Boullion were all released from the team, thereby correcting the other roster mistakes Bergevin made during the summer of 2013.

Whew. Let's review this.

In: Gilbert, Malhotra, Parenteau, Weaver, Sekac, Tokarski.
Out: Gorges, Gionta, Murray, Boullion, Parros, Breire, Budaj.

Yup. There's no way to slice it. The Habs made some excellent moves over the summer, with Bergevin seamlessly ridding the club of its worst performers, bringing in upgrades, and reducing the club's payroll. That's pretty impressive.

SO TONIGHT LET'S DROP THE PUCK! You know, it's only been four months since the Habs played a meaningful game - that's the benefit from making a deep run in the playoffs. The opposition to kick off the season this evening is, as usual, the Leafs, who also over the summer, seemed to finally grasp some semblance of sanity, where they shed some awful front office decision makers (Randy Carlyle aside), and embraced a culture that actually believes in the value of advanced statistical analysis. The Leafs also made significant roster changes that moves the team away from the dead end roughhouse style (by releasing nowhere players like Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren) towards a team where speed and skill are emphasized.

The Leafs making the right moves isn't particularly good news for the rest of the Conference, who've enjoyed more than a decade of a Toronto franchise that was going nowhere other than 20 feet underground.

It's great to be back for a 4th season of Habs Game Blog. Here's hoping that the 2014-15 season is a special one for the bleu blanc and rouge faithful, young, and in my instance, old.

Puck drops tonight at 7:20 EST.