Saturday, 31 January 2015

Game Fourty-Eight: Caps vs. Habs


- Officials miss blatant Caps too many to start the OT.

- Lars Eller appears to struggling with confidence issues again, especially carrying the puck.

- OH my goodness. What a brilliant game winning goal by Max Paxioretty, driving the net and tipping a pin-perfect backhanded pass by Plekanec. Play started after excellent stutter step by Plecks, which created space along the wing that created a very narrow passing zone. Brilliant.

- Habs just do it again. Price with 2nd straight shutout, carrying his team through two brutally bad opening periods. This team totally defies gravity, except for Carey Price. MVP.


- Habs better in the third, which feeds into the season-long pattern. Habs, I think, are a horribly prepared team for each and every game, and it takes the players a couple of periods to figure out their opponent and make the adjustments themselves. Coaches are glorified gate keepers.

- Habs powerplay back to being dreadful. Largely because they are again dumping the puck instead of carrying the zone. Net effect is that it takes this team way too long to set up their unit. Everything is systematically stunted and dysfunctional.

- Christian Thomas has arguably been the Habs best (most consistent) forward today.

- Oh man, Holtby has been great this period. Third period has indeed become a goaltenders showdown, unlike the first two when it was Price against the world. Habs will get another point, and for perhaps the umpteenth time this season, two points even though badly outplayed by their opponent.


- Habs adjusted possession in the first period was 36%. I'm not going to say they played badly in the period, but they played badly in the period.

- Ovechkin can't out-muscle Subban in the crease so it's on to plan B: take a flop.

- Manny Malhotra. I actually wonder if he could beat 60 on the shit clock with his wrist shot. 40?

Stupid, stupid play by Emelin crossing full-flight Ovechkin into a defenseless Price. The guy never observes, never learns, never thinks before "being physical". A true liability in just about every sense.

- Emelin double-downs with the stupid, gets nailed with a cross well after the whistle is blown, put Habs two short. Crazy stupid.

- Two posts hit in the span of five seconds, and Brown flops on top of Price. No interference call. Sigh.

- Ovechkin just took a 4 minute shift. That's Emelin stupid territory.

- Gee, I thought the Habs looked bad in the first period, this second period is making the first 20 minutes look like a walk in the park. Just a terrible, terrible afternoon, execution has been awful.

- The brief moments this team isn't playing on its heals, everything else is off the mark. Passes too far or too short, shots on Holtby wide of the net. It's making this an incredibly frustrating game to watch.

- Speaking of off the mark, Gallagher takes a Subban shot off the leg, and has gone to the room. In considerable pain. Oy.

- Well just a terrible period, even worse than the first. Caps outshooting 16-6. With MVP Price taking on the entire Washington team, and the Habs offense being just terrible, our early game forecast of few goals has come to fruition.


- Weise is a significant defensive liability on the first line, and if not for a brilliant last moment check by Markov, it'd be 1-0 Caps before the one minute mark.

- Caps defense blocking everything in sight. Holtby nearly unecessary so far.

- Carey Price being Carey Price again. Therrien looks on and thinks "I'm the coach of a first place team!"

- Speaking of our esteemed coach, he appears to be matching Weise against Ovechkin, which is all sorts of insane.

- More than a few Caps forwards playing with a nasty attitude today. Let's see if that results in some stupid Washington penalties.

- Price appears to be in another Price-level zone today. Goals are not going to come easy today.

- That said, with exception to one or two even strength shifts, Habs are getting their socks played off today. Caps have almost all of the initiative, Montreal in total reaction mode.

- Not a good period for the Habs, they looked ill-prepared for the Caps speed and strong forecheck. It's the regular Habs pattern this year - their game preparation has been, for at least 80% of their games, simply atrocious.


Woah, afternoon hockey! This Superbowl Habs weekend day game stuff. Whatever. We'll take it! Gets the important hockey out of the way early so the rest of us can devote the rest of our weekend to fun stuff!! Me?!? I ... uh ... will ... probably wash my floors.

Today, Habs will be going with the same lineup tonight as they did against the Rangers, which is fine as long as they play another game like they did against the Rangers, even with Weise on the top line, Emelin and Malhatra in the lineup, etc. etc. etc.

The matchup today is pretty simple. The Caps offense vs. the Habs defense ... sorry, I mean, Carey Price. Washington is playing well, beating the Pens with relative Wednesday night 4-0. They're a better possession team (which applies to just about anyone matched up against the Habs, I suppose), with a 52.5 relative. And of course, there's Ovie - who's leading the League in goals, as per usual.

Habs have been pretty good with these Superbowl weekend events, which of course, means exactly nothing. Washington last lost a regulation game in Montreal back in 2009 which means, of course, everything.

Here's hoping they can somehow overcome their self-imposed disadvantage courtesy Therrien's lineup choices, and muster up another win today. Which is to say, go Carey!

Puck drops at 1:10 EST.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Game Forty-Seven: Habs vs. Rangers


- Plekanec/Pacioretty/Gallagher. Sure, it was a powerplay line, but progress!!

- Price up to his usual tricks, absolutely robbing Stepan with a marvellous sprawling pad save. St Louis now skating around in disbelief. With a mortal in net, it's 1-0. 

- Rangers really turning up the heat with 8 minutes left, but the puck luck has been firmly bouncing in the Habs' favour. 

-   I'm petty damn sure Sekac next to Plekanec and Pacioretty would be giving oppositions defenders plenty o' fits.

- Lindqvist went more than six periods without letting in a goal against this Habs team, and then he lets that in? Crazy. Crazy luck for Habs tonight. 1-0 with four minutes left.

- Here come the Rangers ...

- Habs forwards seem to be having great difficulties of late with putting pucks into goaltender-less nets.

- Carey Price, no problem. And the Habs win another maddeningly dysfunctional game. Again.


- So, how long will it take before Subban is profiled again by this crew?

- Two entirely futile powerplays for the Habs tonight. Slipping back towards the specialty unit abyss.

- Rangers a bit snakebit this period - by far the better team but passes aren't quite connecting, shots finding a way of not going in.

- Closing in on six straight periods without a goal scored on the Rangers by his Habs club. Not even Price can bail his team out of this kind of production.

- Not exactly enthralling hockey tonight. Habs slipping back into their overtly conservative ways, playing classic Therrien hockey. Surrendering the initiative. And so the Rangers were handed the period, but really didn't do a whole lot with the opportunity. I guess it'll be up to Price to steal another one. Sigh.


- Oh yeah. I'd forgotten. I guess our hopes of Emelin getting supplemental discipline after his CFB Tuesday night went out the window. The League obviously hates the Habs.

- Am I the only one who has dreams at night if Sekac playing on the first line? Am I weird? Don't answer that.

- Alexei Emelin slow and soft in front of his net. In other news, the Sun rose.

- It's just so damn obvious. Why hasn't this happened? 1. Shelve/trade Emelin. 2. Get Weise off the first line. 3. Shelve Malhotra permanently. So many addition via subtraction moves this team could make that would make them miles better in an instant. 

- Christian Thomas on 2nd powerplay unit? I'm all for playing the kids, but he's no powerplay winger.

- Subban called for embellishment, for the life of me, I can't figure out for what? And the profiling continues ...

- Pacioretty just had a shift without Dale Weise and guess what - he generates a high quality scoring chance. Shocking.

- Kreider tries to bait Subban into a fight. P.K. Laughs in Kreider's face. Kreider is as low as they get. But we already knew that, right?

- Incredible. Subban also sent to the box for having the audacity of not fighting, I guess? That's two times this period Subban has been profiled and targeted by some awful striped officials.

- Did Weise actually score? It's hard to tell for certain with the cameras they have. Why hasn't the League installed super slow-mo cameras for situations like this?


This guy. Yeah that guy above. Look at that. LOOK AT IT. I'm already angry. I just wanna give that face a good hard smackin', and that's not even considering the fact that this smug little guy completely and utterly derailed our hopes of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, because of this:

Avoiding contact, my butt. Just look at that. One purposeful crash into the net, and all playoff hopes were extinguished. It still smarts today to think about it. Revenge. We want it.

Well, we had an opportunity early in the season to give the Rangers a little taste of come-uppance, and we got a taste of sorts back in October when the Habs beat the Rangers 3-1. But then in November, the Habs got, in one of their ugliest games played all season, curb stomped by the blue shirts 5-0. I hate, HATE the Rangers.

Anyway, a season on, and New York still is a pretty good team. 7th in the Conference, but it's a deceptive placing. I think the Rangers are better than their record represents - 9th rated League offense, 4th rated defense, I would not be the least bit surprised that this team will gradually climb higher up the standings as the season heads towards the stretch drive. I think the Rangers are likely to (bold prediction time) eventually overtake the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and yes, the Canadiens, before all is said and done.

Rangers are a team that, like last year's club, thrive off speed, and spread their scoring around. Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan all have more than 30+ points - they have three competent scoring lines at their disposal. This can be a very, very tough team to play against.

Meanwhile in Habsland, the team continues to just haphazardly rumble down the road, picking up unlikely win after unlikely win, even though they get outplayed, out-possessed and outshot virtually each and every game. The only other significant consistent has been the ridiculously good play of Carey Price, whom game after game, bails his outplayed team to victory. 

Not helping the Habs cause is coach Michel Therrien's continued insistence of putting 4th liner Dale Weise on the team's top line, which, unsurprisingly, had resulted in the suffocation of that line's offensive production. It certainly has dramatically scaled back the ability of players like Max Pacioretty or Thomas Plekanec, or Brenden Gallagher, or whomever else has been saddled with Weise, to generate appropriate levels of offensive production. Yet, for reasons that continue to baffle closer followers of this team, Therrien keeps putting Weise out there, the line continues to get badly outplayed virtually ever shift, and the team as a whole, is left figuring out how to win with its hands tied behind its collective backs, courtesy the coach's terrible bench decisions.

Oh well. Again tonight it's Price in net. Which means the Habs have just as much a chance tonight of winning as any other night. They'll probably get badly outplayed, but that doesn't seem to really matter.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Game Forty-Six: Stars vs. Habs


- Habs two period possession total, 36%. Granted, the play hasn't been totally lopsided, but com'on ... against a team like Dallas with so many defensive issues - this is just atrocious and inexcusable. Habs totally deserve to cough up this game.

- Stars have had at least three empty nets tonight, because of bad bounces and slow reactions by Habs defense. Everyone involved just plain lucky the Habs are leading on the scoreboard.

- Habs again being out-possessed in the period, and Dale Weise ain't exactly helping. Unless the Habs were hoping to have as little to do with the puck as possible.

- Just mind-boggling how Dallas has failed to score tonight off mad scrambles around Price. Habs really living off horseshoes tonight.

- Crazy great blocker save by Price. A mere mortal netminder would have had no chance. Habs are being outshot by a margin of 2 to 1, shots are 38-19 as we type.

- Bad too many call on Dallas for too many. Now down five on three. See how the Habs will muff this one up.

- Annnnnnd ... there you have it. Sekac high sticks Daley. Buh-bye 5-on-3 before it even began.

- Goligoski in a race for the puck, cuts out Price's legs. He's called for a trip, Dallas is furious, but it's the correct call. Habs have a 4 on 3 for 1:25.

- Desharnais on the ice for this 4 on 3, for some insane reason.

- Major mistake by Therrien putting Desharnais out there on the 4-on-3. He doesn't shoot, and guess what, when set up with a wide open net, doesn't shoot. Crazy bench management.

- Habs really, really, really should have buried this game. Somehow found a way of giving away some incredible advantages. This game is foreboding a bad end for the Canadiens.

- Don't know if anyone else has noticed, but since Emelin was ejected, this Habs team has played a better defense game. Huh, that.

- Dale Weise capping off a craptaculour game with a bad interference penalty. Foreboding ... we mentioned it before. Here we go ...

- Somebody with a brain cramp early jump off the bench with Pacioretty coming off, and the Habs get nailed for too many. 5 on 3 for the Stars coming up. 

- Outstanding muscle play by Subban to wrestle the puck away from Seguin, and help clear the zone. It kills the 5-on-3. Worth every penny of that $7 million.

- Dallas swarming here. It's a nail biter.

- Price excellent on the powerplay. But Subban the real star on the 5-on-3 kill. That one muscle play on Seguin might have well won the game.

- Habs just barely hold on for the win. Barely. An unimpressive, but entertaining game and victory. One more night, one more game, one more "we'll take the two points although we really didn't deserve it."


- Well, well, Habs powerplay manages to strike, but then again, when you've got guys like Subban, Galchenyuk and Gallagher spearheading your attack, you're in pretty good shape. 3-1.

- Hoo boy. Alexei Emelin. With a dumb, dumb, dumb CFB on Spezza, and he gets 5 and a game. Don't be surprised if a couple more games are tacked on by the League. The important part here is that the Habs will now be down 5-3 for nearly two full minutes.

- I swear, Emelin has got one of the lowest hockey IQs I've ever seen on a Montreal Canadiens hockey team. Makes way too many stupid choices - the CFB only being the latest.

- Dallas with a pretty passive two man advantage, which they fail to score. Price excellent as usual, but no real sense of urgency from the Stars.

Well never mind that. Totally brilliant carry by Seguin, who feeds Eaves who has simple tap in to make it 3-2. Almost killed it. Almost. Still, blame that on Emelin.

- No Emelin. Addition via subtraction. Betcha high percentage scoring chances on Price stop happening so frequently from this point out.

- Hate just kicking this dog 'til it dies, but lots of speculation by some that Emelin ought be traded by Bergevin, as though somebody else would actually be willing to trade for him. Thing is, nobody would. The only guy in the National Hockey League with any say who seems to think he's a competent NHL defensemen is Michel Therrien, who stubbornly pencils him in every game.

- Another dismal night for Weise on the top line. He's killing their production, possession numbers are atrocious, and yet, Therrien just keeps playing him. Maddening.

- More sloppy defensive play by the Stars defense getting caught up ice unnecessarily, and Fiddler is forced to take a hook. If it wasn't for so many sloppy, slow plays by their blue line, they would probably be ahead on the scoreboard.

- Once again, faceoff next to Price with just a few seconds left on the clock, and once again, Malhotra fails to deliver on his mission of winning a draw. Dallas nearly scores again. If Malhotra can't win faceoffs when they matter, what exactly is his purpose in this lineup?

- Habs same old formula. Outplayed, outshot, out-possessed, leave it to Price to win the game. Meanwhile the first line is drifting aimlessly with Weise pulling them under the surface, and Alex Emelin manages to finds creative ways of being stupid, game in, game out. Habsland!


- Prust opens the scoring, although he shoulda scored off a brilliant setup by Sekac, who looks fantastic early. 1-0.

- Correction. It's Emelin who gets credit.

- And Emelin saves a goal on an empty net, although he was horribly beaten by Seguin leading to a wild scramble in front of Price.

- Good lord, Alex Galchenyuk, with a highlighter. Nail Yakopov who?? 2-0. Stars defense has been soft, soft, soft.

- Man, this Dallas defense, has it been this bad all season? It's a minor miracle they have 49 points.

- Dallas had better close up their passing lanes, or guys like Pacioretty are going to score three or four more.

- Desharnais carries the puck like a winger. But then we already knew that.

- Sweet Jesus. A ridiculous intentional offside call against Subban, and wouldn't you know it, the Stars score off the faceoff. Incredible.

- Therrien going nuts at the officials for that call. For good reason. Should be 2-0 after the first. 


Hey! Did you watch the All-Star game this weekend?!? You did? Then get out. LEAVE. There's the door. NEVER RETURN HERE AGAIN.

Wow, he actually left. Man, I just lost half my readership. Oh well. That "game" this weekend, they scored 29 goals? Com'on already. The whole enterprise is a ridiculous and unnecessary distraction. Instead of wasting a week just to play a stupid game, scrub this silly All-Star nonsense, gain a week, and actually end the season before we start buying Halloween decorations.

It feels so great to return to normality. And tonight, the season's second kicks off in Habsland with a visit by the Dallas Stars! Hey, you know who plays for the Dallas Stars? Tyler Seguin (seen above munching on his hockey stick ... com'on Dallas, feed your hockey players! Sheesh). You know how many points Seguin has scored this year? 52! You know who wishes Tyler Seguin would play for them? The Boston Bruins!

HAH-HAH. Oh man, what was Peter Chirelli thinking??? Oh well. Boston's (huge) loss has been Dallas' big gain, Seguin is having a masterful season, and while he's playing for a team that isn't going to make the playoffs this year, he's going to be a critical piece of the Stars' rebuild. This could be a pretty decent team in 3 to 4 years (although we also kind of said that about Dallas 3-4 years ago).

So tonight! Dallas rumbles into Montreal to take on the Habs, who continue to remain a very healthy team, with only P.A. Parenteau on the sideline recovering from concussion. The Habs lines will be as follows:

Line 1: Paciorety/Plekanec/Weise (OH GOD REALLY, MICHEL?)
Line 2: Galchenyuk/Desharnais/Gallagher (sigh)
Line 3: Sekac/Eller/Prust (we're okay with this one)
Line 4: Bournival/Malhotra/Thomas (meh).

Markov/Subban (yeah, yeah).
Beaulieu/Gonchar (fine, fine)
Gilbert/Emelin (sigh, sigh).

Carey freakin' Price.

So while Therrien continues to put out the wrong combinations, we say hello to our old pal and Saskatchewan boy, Travis Moen! Travis, I'd say we really miss you, but this team had way too much depth. Hope things are going well down south!

Also a welcome back to Patrick Eves, who is in his first game since December 2nd, where he sustained an ankle injury in Toronto. Erik Cole (remember him?) won't suit up tonight, he's nursing an upper body injury.

Kari Lehtonen will get the call in nets for Dallas.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. HOCKEY IS BACK!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Game Forty-Five: Preds vs. Habs


- OMG. Subban. Right in your hands. 

- Smith. Another poor penalty. Again taken in the Habs zone. Dumb, dumb.

- Subban. Just like we called it an hour ago. Habs win. What a game for P.K.


- Habs possession through 40 minutes: 37%. Michel Therrien hockey. TO THE EXTREME!

- Officials have been excellent tonight. Good holding call on Smith. Subban drew it.

- Subban two straight chances from close in. You simply can't afford to do that and not expect to get burned. Second chance, P.K. slap passes to Galchenyuk and it's tipped past Hutton. Habs powerplay continues to show signs of changing towards a positive direction, a lot of it is seemingly because Subban is coming in more agressively from the line. Tie game.

- Another hold on Nashville. They are inexplicably being played into the ice this period. Weird.

Subban has been a monster tonight. No other way to describe how good he's been.

- If there's one guy to lay money on breaking this tie, you'd have to start and finish with #76. He's in his  own orbit right now.

- Just no good rationale for keeping Malhaltra in the lineup. Winning faceoffs doesn't compromise for his inabilty to shoot the puck, or gain any sort of crease penetration. He's easily contained by an average NHL defenseman.

- Even though they were the better period in the third, Habs still stole a point tonight. Canadiens played 36 straight minutes of brutal hockey to start this game, but because (as usual) of Price holding the fort, the Habs were able to squeeze one past an underworked Hutton. We'll take a point, thanks. One more is undeserved gravy.


- Preds had 66% Fenwick in the first. The period wasn't that lopsided per say, but as noted earlier, Therrien was, for whatever reason, allocating ice time evenly. It really hurt the team's ability to generate any kind of offensive momentum.

- Insane. Same tactics being used. Six minutes into the second, Habs have four shots. In total. Preds have 23. 

- Now 25-4. Preds on the powerplay. Essentially what the Habs needed to do tonight, get pucks on goal, has only been done by Nashville. Rolling all four lines, still playing Weise on the top line, still playing Desharnais at centre. It's insane.

- Astonishing. Markov called for a high stick (it was a puck), and argues. No avail. Then they show a replay on the scoreboard. Refs reverse their call. Have never, ever seen that before.

- Puck dribbles to Hutton. Barely. Registers as a shot on goal. The first of the period. More than 10 minutes in. Bell Centre erupts in huge sarcastic cheer. 

- Seth Jones, and Nashville finally score. Price losing his stick moments before, and when getting set to stop Jones' shot, is distracted by Desharnais shoving his stick in Price's face. Desharnais meant well, but that was pretty stupid.

- Subban has been on the ice for nearly half of all of the Habs shot attempts so far. 2 minutes left, 2nd period. That's how good he's been tonight. Arguably the only skater who fits that description wearing a red jersey.

- With exception to the final four minutes, a truly pathetic period by the Canadiens. Montreal getting dominated every category, and still, Therrien plows forward with inexplicable line dispersals. One of these nights where a considerable amount of blame can squarely be laid at the feet of the coach.


- So Hutton gets the start. It really makes no difference, the Wings lit him up early and often Saturday, Habs should not hesitate is doing the same.

- Ya know, Hutton got blistered early Saturday in Detroit, you might have figured the Habs would have plenty of initiative. But nope. Seven minutes in, SOG is 9-3 Nashville.

- Contrary to the coach's sentiments, Dale Weise is not very good at the whole puck retrieval thing.

- Preds have twice iced the puck with an exhausted line caught on, twice Therrien has sent out the Malhaltra line. Therrien hockey. Nothing makes sense!

- What I wrote before about the Preds not being boring this year. I take it all back.

- This is probably one of the most uneventful periods of hockey I've seen in a long time. There's just been nothin. Icings, mucked transitions, no real high percentage scoring opportunity at either end. Basically, Habs blew their chance big time against an extremely inexperienced netminder.

- Disappointing period, Habs are rested and healthy and still can only muster four piddly shots on Hutton. Didn't help that Therrien had some strange line stratagies, preferring to over utilize his checkers. I dunno. When I see this team and how it's played, I sometimes shrug my shoulders. Tonight is one of those occasions.


Hey look, it's Carrie Underwood. She's some kind of music star, country I think? Which means she's terrible. But she's famous! There she is, at a Preds game! She's entertained. Excited even! Because Nashville is hockey town, USA! Aren't they? Or ... maybe not.

Nashville is actually not that boring - the team, I mean. The city itself, I've never been. Because country music. Which is bad. Oh right, we're talking about hockey. Anyway, the Predators! They've got the best record in hockey! How the heck did this come to be, anyway?

Well, I guess you have to look first at their offense. I mean, they beat the Leafs 9-2 earlier this year? Remember that? What a GREAT night that was. Nashville has the League's 5th rated offense, averaging right on 3 goals per game. When you're spotting your goaltender that kind of a lead on average, especially when your goaltender is Pekka Rinne, who'll almost certainly be a Vezina finalist next spring, you're going to pile up a lot of wins. 30 to be exact, in 44 games.

The Preds greatest strength lays in their ability to produce offense at even strength. A 1.52 F/A rating is the best in the League, miles ahead of 2nd place St. Louis (1.31). The Habs are 6th, for what it's worth, at 1.21. But that's largely because the team hasn't been able to score with the man advantage.

It's been quite a season with Rinne. With him in net, the Preds had the top League even strength save percentage, a sparkling .942.

But then, last week, things changed dramatically for Nashville, as Rinne went down to a knee injury after a game versus the L.A. Kings, and will be sidelined for at least a month. On Saturday, the Preds took on the Detroit Red Wings, and were soundly trounced 5-2, in which the Preds Carter Hutton posted a .250 SV% before getting yanked.

In other words, these Predators aren't quite the same without Rinne. It's a situation that Habs fans can certainly relate to.

Tonight, Nashville will likely start Marek Mazanec in goal, and if you're wondering who the heck Marek Mazanec is, don't feel badly. If Mazanec does get the call, it will be only the 2nd NHL game he's ever played in, and his first ever NHL start.

In other words, the Habs would be well advised to take every possible opportunity to get the puck on the Nashville net.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. Don't miss this one, because after tonight, no more Habs hockey for seven days.

Stupid All-Star game ...


Okay, last game before this stupid All-Star waste of time. What's happening?

- P.A. Parenteau is out indefinitely with concussion. Sustained in Ottawa, they say.

- Carey Price practiced yesterday morning, looked good. Practiced this morning at the optional, looked better. I'd say he's a virtual cinch to start tonight.

That's ... about it for now. More later.

UPDATE: And it's official. Price gets medical clearance and will start tonight. Yay!

MOAR UPDATES: Tom Gilbert in, Mike Weaver out. Alexei Emelin, still in. /head desk.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Game Forty-Four: Isles vs. Habs


- Another sluggish and sloppy period start burns the Isles again, too many Habs forwards left unmarked, and Galchenyuk finishes the play with a shot that Halak should have stopped.

- Habs have Isles pinned in their zone. Halak keeping his team alive - barely.

- I don't care what the score line says, Weise has been garbage tonight with Plekanec and Pacioretty. All we can do is hope somebody with decision making ability ends this silly experiment ASAP.

- Islanders have given Habs some really open passing lanes most of the night. I think it's helped make the Habs look better than they actually are.

- Pacioretty to Weise: swoosh. Just about anyone who's qualified to play on a top line takes that pass and it's almost certainly 5-2.

- Why Desharnais needs to shoot more: 5-2. Halak getting steamrolled tonight, his mates have really let him down tonight with some sloppy play.

- And it's a route. Plekanec allowed to waltz in, slips one past Halak, who really has been hung out to dry this period. 6-2. Halak gets the hook.

- Wellll ... Lee with a zippy 65 foot wrister that just plain beats Tokarski glove side. Five minutes left, 6-3.

- Annnnnnd ... make it 6-4. Tokarski really fighting the puck. Handcuffed by a wrist shot that pinballs behind him and finally goes off Subban and in. 2:34 left. 

- Lee with a nifty little slew foot on Subban.

- Empty net, Prust on a break, is hauled down, and somehow it's not ruled a goal. Been a good game called by the officials, except for the final two minutes.

- Anyway, good win. Habs had nice fluidity to their game, managing to outscore their opponent despite a pretty iffy night for Tokarski. Will Price be ready for Tuesday night's tough matchup against the Preds? Habs had better hope so. 


- Weise scores seconds into the second period. Islanders defense still taking first intermission nap. 2-0.

- Islanders not being very aggressive in protecting the passing lanes, and it's generating more scoring opportunities for the Habs. Really unimpressed with New York's passive defensive play tonight.

- No freakin way. Gallagher drew a penalty??

- Islanders get a big bounce courtesy a bad pass by Tavares that hits Plekanec's heel, and Okposo wrists one past Tokarski. Just one of those goals.

Another powerplay goal off a one timer at the top of the circle. So this is how you beat the Islanders. Plecks makes it 3-1.

- Habs more or less swarming Halak now, Islanders defense reeling.

- Yeeks. Gonchar and Beaulieu get all mixed up retreating to their zone to guard a 2-on-2, allowing Kulemin to pick up the puck in some open ice and beats Tokarski low. 3-2. Habs were on the cusp of taking a three goal lead. Now this game is up for grabs.

- Yeah, a 3-2 lead heading into the third against a team like the islanders is tenuous at best. Therrien can't count on someone like Price to carry his outplayed team to victory. So this one shaping up to be a nail biter.


- Habs capitalizing off their first powerplay. Subban. Little different look there, with Subban working his way to the top of the circle for the one timer. That close, goaltenders really have no chance unless it hits them. 1-0.

- Prust engages in a pointless fight. Gets TKO'd. I guess he feels this is his way of contributing? 

Weaver and especially Emeln being far too slow and soft protecting the crease. Islanders should zone in hard against that pairing.

- Not a bad start for the Habs - lots of near misses on Halak, team seems a little more fluid and aggressive than their lame wristed effort against the Sens. Game seems to be settling in a bit.

- Beaulieu with a very good, very physical shift. Maybe a little too physical, but the kind of mean nosed play that coaches love.

Habs movement through the neutral zone much more organized this period. Islanders are being forced into defensive puck dumpings.

- Beaulieu with tremendous hustle back to save a sure goal by Tavares. Beaulieu has done just about everything but score in this period.

- Decent opening 20 minutes, Islanders had flashes of pressure, but Habs with reasonably competent transitions, especially in the neutral zone, generated a fair number of clean zone entries. The Habs were the better team, no doubt about it.


- In case you hadn't heard, Carey Price is day-to-day with an upper body injury sustained in the game earlier this week in Columbus. No word if he'll play on Tuesday. Joey McDonald has been called up to back up Dustin Tokarski.

- Mike Weaver will get his first Habs start in nearly two months in place of ... Tom Gilbert, and not Alexei Emelin. For some reason.

- Jaroslav Halak has never, ever, ever lost playing against the Montreal Canadiens. His career numbers include 0.98 GAA and .960 SV%. Hoo boy.


I think the headline says it all. We just plain old give up. I mean, what is the point? This Habs team, blessed with talent and depth from the top to bottom, can't get it in gear. Today's events, which were more baffling line shifts, underscore the fundamental challenge that faces this organization.

This team can never win a championship with Michel Therrien behind the bench.

This morning, Therrien made that astounding decision to move career 4th line winger Dale Weise - to the Habs first line, to play along side Thomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. The rationale? To quote coach Therrien: "I like his forechecking and puck retrieval skills."

That folks, is a coach that simply doesn't understand the tools at his disposal. For Therrien, even though on any given night on any given english broadcast, you'll hear the old worn out "Therrien is a totally different coach than when he was in Pittsburgh", the plain truth of the matter is, he's not. Michel Therrien is exactly the same guy today as he was 7 years ago when he was unceremoniously fired mid-season by the Pens because that team was woefully underperforming. Why? Because Therrien had implemented an ultra-conservative defensive, ultra-conservative dump/chase/retrieve offensive strategy that put the Pens outside of a playoff spot.

Of course we know that once Therrien was removed from the picture, the Pens totally turned their season around, and in five months, were carrying around the Stanley Cup.

Fast forward 7 more years, and here's Therrien, coaching a team deep with talent, speed and skill, and he's still using the same old game plan. Dump. Chase. Retrieve. And for the most part, it's gotten this team just beyond the boundary of mediocrity. Some might argue that "hey wait, this team is jousting for first place, what gives?". Well, the Habs (tenuous) place in the standings are a facade - the major reason why this team finds itself just a few points back from the first place Lightening has nothing to do with Therrien, and everything to do with the remarkable play of Carey Price, who on close to a dozen occasions this season, carried his out-played team to unlikely game victories.

So now we have Weise on the first line, David Desharnais, who actually looked half-decent on the wing, now playing centre again. Alex Galchenyuk, who was, at least for a while, gangbusters at centre, back on the wing again, P.A. Parenteau, who was constantly shuffled all over the place, not even in the lineup, Sven Andrioghetto, who was racking up goals and assists one night, playing the 4th line the next night, and now playing in Hamilton.

The Habs lineup is now a joke, literally. Tossing names into a blender, and hoping something good comes out.

Well here's the deal tonight. No Carey Price. No Galchenyuk and centre. No Desharnais on the wing. Dale Weise on the top line. And this against the number one team in the Eastern Conference?

The Montreal Canadiens are a team destined for purgatory as long Michel Therrien is behind the bench. Will this team make the playoffs? Sure. Maybe every year. Will it win a championship? No. Never.

Only when Marc Bergevin comes to realize that his coach is just as flawed today as he was 7 years ago, and 4 years beyond that, then his asperations for bringing glory to Montreal are doomed.

Puck drops at 7:10 est. The Islanders are probably going to have their way tonight.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Game Forty-Three: Habs vs. Senators


- Yeah I know, faceoff specialist yadda yadda, abut there's no way you'll convince me that Malhaltra benefits this team and its fourth line than say, a ChristianThomas. Beyond taking draws, he's mostly a dearth.

- Therrien's line juggling, including moving Galchenyuk to the wing, Desharnais back to centre, ain't working. And I mean by "ain't working" as NOT AT ALL.

- At this point I do believe Therrien is wearing a blindfold and is generating lines by touching random players on the shoulder. That's all he's got to offer, I guess.

- Nine minutes left. This is the point where the Sens start to implode, right?

- Parenteau won't let the Sens collapse. Takes a very, very stupid high sticking penalty. That's basically his contribution tonight.


- Pacioretty goes in hard, falls, appears to take a hard bump into the post with his knee.

- Karlsson. Top corner. Habs, especially Malhaltra and Parenteau, get caught sleeping. Gilbert also way out of position. Lots of muck up to be shared. 3-1. Methinks this is headed towards blowout territory.

- Therrien drawing names out of a hat to construct his 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines. Galchenyuk has been moved to the wing. Why? I guess because this is his idea of good coaching. 

- Habs on their second powerplay, still waiting for Beaulieu to finally score his first. He's come so close so many times.

- Forget that. Markov muffs it up and the line and is forced to trip. Probably shouldn't double shift him so quickly. That was a tired legs penalty.

- Parenteau really has fallen off the face of the earth, hasn't he? Not being helped by being subjected to poor line combinations by Therrien.

- Remember how good the Habs powerplay looked about 23 hours ago? Man, that seems like a distant memory now.

- Well, I guess that wasn't quite as bad a period as the first, but it still wasn't very good. Habs outshooting Sens 2-to-1, but a lot of that came as a result of some poor penalties taken by Ottawa forwards. Still don't see a whole lot of hope that the Habs will (again) salvage something out of nothing in the third period.


- Well, that feels familiar. Another terrible start for the Habs. Hoffman a point shot, not overly difficult, Tokarski kicks in straight out to a streaking and un spotted Zibanejed, and it's 1-0.

- Yup. Bad Habs showing up tonight. Five minutes in, shots are 7-0 Sens. Looks like the Habs are going to take a hammering courtesy the back to back starts.

- If current trends continue, Sens will outshoot the Habs 66-18 tonight. 

-:When Emelin is your first food scoring chance 14 minutes into the game that tonight probably isn't going to be your night.

- Complete neutral zone muckup between Cowen and Ceci gifts Pacioretty a gift break, a wrister that Anderson probably should have gotten a piece of. Tie game. Sens mess up big time.

- I was all like, wow, Emelin played well last night! Thinking all like, maybe Emelin isn't all bad and stuff, Ya know?? Okay. Nevermind. Total stumble and bumble routine in front of Tokarski, Pageau eventually finding the open net. Emelin hurts the team again, costing them another goal. Again. 2-1.

- I was joking earlier when I said the Sens were on pace to get 66 shots tonight. Now I'm not so sure ....

- Well that really was a terrible period of hockey, with the Sens registering 20 shots. That the Habs are only one goal down represents a minor miracle. 


Oh, Radek Bonk. We miss you. That hair. That pretty boy face. Those expectations of greatness from being drafted number one overall. You really were and are the Ottawa Senators  - so full of expectations, invariably leading to so much disappointment. 

Anywho ... it's a good day, isn't it? Last night the Habs played one of their better games this season, edging out the Jackets on the scoreboard 3-2, but on the ice, more or less completely dominating their opponent. The Plekanec/Pacioretty/Gallagher line was a mind boggling +58 in shot attempts. Even Alexei Emelin wasn't (totally) terrible. 

Can this team keep it up? Can their woeful powerplay continue to produce the same way it was zapping up the red light in the 3rd period last night? Granted, this was Columbus, but they aren't really as bad as their record suggests, what with all their injuries sustained this season.

And tonight, the Habs will take on a similar opponent in Ottawa. The Senators are floating somewhere near the lesser parts of the eastern standards, although unlike the Blue Jackets, they can't use injuries as an excuse. The Jackets have lost 266 man games so far this year, Ottawa just over 100.

Anywho, here's the Sens' lines tonight:

Line 1: MacArthur-Turris-Chiasson Line 2: Hoffman-Zibanejad-Ryan Line 3: Michalek-Pageau-Stone Line 4: Condra-Legwand-Lazar Methot/Karlsson



So what's up with the Sens? Not a lot that's good. They're home after a four game road trip where they picked up just one win, Ottawa bears some distinct similarities to the Habs - they're not much of a possession team, ranked along with the Habs in the bottom third in the League, they're about the same as far as offensive output is concerned - where there are clear difference is defensively - the Habs have given up more than a half goal less per game than has Ottawa. Fundamentally, the game tonight will be decided by how good the Sens defense hold up, versus how poorly the Habs blue line plays.

One other factor - starting goaltending. Ottawa is expected to start their number one, Craig Anderson, while Dustin Tokarski will probably start for Montreal (even more likely considering the hard bump Carey Price took last night in the first period against Columbus).

Puck drops at 7:40, EST.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Game Forty-Two: Habs vs. Blue Jackets


- Adjusted Fenwick through 40 minutes nearly 60% for the Habs. The game has become a whitewash except for one area - the scoreclock. Plekanec line easily Habs best tonight. 

- Plekanec line has been a monster tonight. Still doesn't let Therrien off the hook for mucking up the rest of the lineup.

- Sekac is now with Galchenyuk and Bournival, Parenteau demoted. That's a good step in the right direction.

- Been awhile since I've seen the Habs swarm puck control in their opponent's like I have tonight. However, it's still not producing shots that are testing Bobrovsky.

- Subban given an atrocious penalty. Called by the official after a very long delay after the supposed violation. Official saw it was Subban and only then raised his arm. This is targeting, pure and simple. It's disgusting, discriminatory and totally unacceptable.

- And OF COURSE the Jackets score. What a god damned disgrace. 

- Well, hell yeah. Pacioretty scores, hold on to something, on the powerplay. Habs are clearly miffed and angry right now - very fired up and determined to take this game back - I suspect over the Subban penalty.

- It's goaltender interference. Except when it's against Carey Price, of course.

- One of these years, Beaulieu is going to score. He's well overdue.

- What a crazy game. Subban, and it seems only just, ties the game with a cannon from the point ON THE POWERPLAY. Tie game. 

- Habs, it should be noted, scored both powerplay goals with two defensemen out. Four offense unit was, let's be honest, a mess.

- Another dumb, dumb Columbus penalty. They deserve to lose this game.

- THERE YOU GO. Pacioretty ON THE POWERPLAY. Habs lead 3-2.

- Galchenyuk can't be pretty in his zone. Terrible turnover creates great Columbus scoring chance. 

- Columbus pressing, trying to salvage a point. Desperately pressing.

- Habs win. A satisfying win. The powerplay making a difference, this time, finally, for the positive. Columbus, in addition to being soundly outplayed, shot themsleves squarely in the foot with terrible third period penalties. Habs defense also, for the most part, were very sound, especially in the second and third period. Habs sixth straight road win, the first time they've done that in 33 years.


- Price took a long time stretching to start the period. He most certainly does not appear to be 100%. Michel Therrien sweating bullets. So are the rest of us.

- Dale Weise on the powerplay. That just happened.

- Habs shifting Plekanec to the line on the powerplay. Thus ends this Parenteau era at the point. Anyway, another man advantage flies past the board. 1 for the past 24.

- Habs getting beaten by the same game they've used all year. Seems only just, I guess.

- Canadiens have owned puck possession, but their zone control is pretty meek. Puck is consistently being forced to the perimeter, which is generating slim good scoring chances. When the Habs do muster something, Bobrovsky bails his team out.

- Very good shift by the 4th line - the Blue Jackets defense really struggling to stay in touch with faster Habs puck carriers. Bobrovsky, though.

- Sekac another strong game, mired on the 4th line. Decision makers making their terrible decisions.

- Price might not face five shots in the period. His health status is almost irrelevant tonight.

- Another tired legs penalty for Columbus. Their fifth tonight, fourth in this period. HABS POWERPLAY.

- Good lord. How does this team manage not to score with the man advantage. How? How has Bergevin not fired someone for this? How?


- Galchenyuk taken away from Pacioretty, Sekac dropped to the 4th line. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

- Columbus strikes on the first shot of the game because the Habs continue to insist on clearing the zone by shooting the puck up the boards. It creates totally avoidable turnovers, and in this instance, creates an opposing scoring chance. Ugh... 

- No way you'll convince me Bergevin wouldn't trade Emelin and Desharnais away in a heartbeat - for next to nothing in return. But those contracts ... those awful, awful salaries ...

- Wow. Jackets got called for too many, and then the call is reversed. I've never ever seen that before.

- Plekanec, Gallagher and Galchenyuk look pretty strong, but puck bounces seem to be going the wrong direction. Gallagher with plenty of mustard so far.

- Oh man, if Gallagher gets robbed by this ... puck on the line. Wow.

Why doesn't the NHL net use transparent string on top of the net? Gallagher denied.

- Anyway ... so many puck bounces going against the Habs in this period - one begins to resign oneself that this one is going to end badly, no matter what.

- Habs resoundingly outplaying Jackets in the period - Columbus defense getting a little tired, and now drawing holding penalties.

- Powerplay. Shield your eyes. 

- Habs desperate - use four forwards on their powerplay, Parenteau at the line, who has a disasterous shift. That man advantage was a total mess, and Price looks injured off a brutal breakaway surrendered.

- Weird period. Habs the better team, Columbus gets all the breaks. And Price might be hurt. A possible nightmare scenario tonight.


Well, great. Do you smell another huge losing streak coming down the pipe? I sure do. Pissing around with a powerplay that hasn't produced in a year, putting together line combinations that make little sense, or reflect badly against reality. To make the woes even more woeful, a stretch of games against some of the toughest/hottest teams in the League. Columbus tonight, then the Islanders Saturday, then Nashville. The Rangers next week. Oy.

What to do? This Habs team's offense has been in sputter mode since coming off an impressive win against the Pens on January 3rd. Just three goals scored since that time, which has generated plenty of second-guessing among the belly gazers that this team is due another lineup shakeup. Move Desharnais back to center! (a mistake). Demote Gallagher! (another bad call). Trade Eller! (one of our most consistently effective forwards the entire season).

It won't get a whole lot easier tonight as the Canadiens take on one of the best in the goaltending business in Sergei Bobrovsky, who was tossed onto the garbage heap just two years ago by the forever inept Philadelphia Flyers franchise, only then to win the Vezina trophy the following season with Columbus. This year his numbers have come down (from a .932 to a .923 SV%), but he's still a very tough netminder to beat on any given night. Matched up against a team like the Habs, and there's plenty of room for hope tonight for the Jackets.

Although ... the Blue Jackets have been hit hard, ridiculously hard, by injuries this season. Through last night, Columbus has lost a mind-boggling 255 man games, the most of any team in the NHL (Anaheim, interestingly, is 2nd). I know, you're asking, how many for the Habs? Glad you asked. It's 34. Yeah. That's the actual total. 34. Another feather in the cap for the argument that the Canadiens have been just as lucky this season as they have been good - realistically, a LOT more lucky than good.

The decimated Blue Jackets lineup means they have few bodies to depend on to produce offense - Nicky Foligno and Ryan Johansen comprise their two top scorers, but after them - well .. there ain't much. Three of the team's top six point producers are defensemen. Then again, those six players (Foligno, Johansen, Scott Hartnell, Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski and David Savard) comprise basically all of those on Columbus' roster this year who haven't missed (many) game to injury. It really has been that bad.

So add it up, and you're looking straight down the teeth of what should be a pretty low scoring game. The Habs, who can't score, up against Bobrovsky, versus the Blue Jackets, who don't have enough healthy bodies to score, up against Carey Price.

I'm thinking ... another 2-1 final? We'll see.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.