Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Game Forty: Bolt's vs. Habs


- Habs with 40% possession through 40 minutes. On pace for sub 20 SOG night. It's classic Therrien hockey and we're getting our clocks totally cleaned.

- Could easily see this game finishing 7-1 in favour of Tampa. Again. 

- Faint glimpse of life. Gallagher with a nice tip pass at the Tampa blue line to spring Paxioretty in alone, who beats Bishop high, and it's 4-2.

- Absolutely atrocious crosschecking penalty on Pacioretty, who was doing nothing other than sturdying himself after being hauled down. Bad, bad officiating. 

- Tyler Johnson is going to be a big reason why Tampa will compete for a championship in the next year or two, if everything goes according to plan.

- Tampa pretty sloppy in their zone this period. Very lucky their lead isn't down to one goal.

- While Tampa has visibly regressed this period, the Habs seem intent on frittering it all away. Can't gain any kind of puck possession in the Tampa zone, and their neutral zone transition game is in shambles. Lightening can fumble their way to victory. They will.

- Tampa pretty much set the puck up a tee for Habs final powerplay, and even with a 6-on-4, couldn't deliver. It's beyond abysmal. 

- All good things must come to and end, and tonight the Habs luck which has helped them rise to the top of their Division, ran out - hard. This team cannot continue to be out possessed and out played night after night and expect to still compete for a top playoff seed. Also, the powerplay is a total mess. This team continues to play the wrong kind of hockey, and eventually, ultimately, they're going to lose a lot of gems very quickly.


- Poor puck control off a routine shit gifts JT Brown his first of the season. Very un-Pricelike goal.

- Galchenyuk line only one for Habs so far to sustain some offensive pressure against Tampa's offence. Very lucklaster game by the Canadiens so far.

- Dale Weiss with a semi-breakaway off the wing, manages to release a shot six feet wide from 15 feet out. That's not easy to do.

- Subban with a dumb, dumb slash of Connoly. Dumb even by Subban's standards. 

- And Tyler Johnson makes Subban and the Habs pay for that brain cramp slash. 2-1. Therrien is fuming behind the bench. P.K. best keep his distance.

- Habs firmly on track for a sub 20 SOG night. Odds of winning with such output? Almost nil.

- Tampa playing a classic road game. Close checking, patient, basically suffocating their opponent into submission. Makes for a dull game, but two points are two points.

- Gonchar needs to play smarter. He's too old and lost too many steps to be so casual with his pinches. Tampa ought now be up 3-1 if not for Price. 

- Connoly. Off the wing. Absolutely nobody there to defend. Gilbert couldn't scramble over in time after making a bad turnover at centre ice. Not sure where Emelin was. Sleeping on the bench? It's 3-1.

- As we noted in the preview, this Tampa team can score quickly and mercilessly. Why Therrien had Gilbert and Emelin out on the PK, however, is a total baffling mystery. 4-1.

- Welp, that was pretty much a disaster of a period. Habs winning streak will end at 6. 


- Andrei Markov. One shot, two posts. I'm wondering if this powerplay is as cursed as it is bad.

- Don't think the officials target Subban? Check out his first penalty of the evening.

- Referee assistance aside, Tampa not helping their own cause early. Clunky and disorganized start.

- Second powerplay truly dismal. Habs can't gain the zone, Tampa actually had more pressure. It's as though nobody has even noticed there's a tire fire. 

- Dale Weiss finally scores again. Foot at the right place, right time. Still doesn't excuse the fact this 4th liner continues to get 3rd line playing time. 

- Checking is tight, very tight. Game has very little flow or sustained pressure by either team. Not exactly entertaining hockey.

- A period to forget, both teams struggled to organize anything resembling sustained pressure. Defenses played well, Habs D kept most shots to long distances and blocked much of the rest. Beaulieu and Markov looked solid. Was expecting much more of a jump by this Tampa line, but saw very little - in particular the Johnson line.


Well, how long can this continue? How many wins in a row can this underperforming Habs team pile up? Tonight, they'll be gunning for their 7th straight, which unless my memory is totally shot, will be the longest club winning streak in 11 years.

So much of this is smoke and mirrors. The Habs have a sub-50% Corsi possession mark, which makes them totally unlike every other NHL team in the League's top 15 in points. And here they are - 2nd overall. It's ... well ... Carey Price. The Habs have a team SV% of .934 which is kind of crazy fantastic, but almost certainly unsustainable. They also have managed to post an usually high shooting percentage, better than 9%. Add them up, and the Canadiens have the second highest PDO in the NHL, 102.4. Only the Nashville Predators are higher.

Can the Habs keep floating on air just one more game? It would be nice. A win tonight would move the Canadiens two points clear of the Bolts, with two games in hand to boot (or for that matter, 7 points clear of 3rd place Detroit and a whopping 11 points ahead of Toronto).

It won't be easy. Recall, the Habs were already taken to shed earlier in the season when they were manhandled by Tampa 7-1. The Lightening are, unquestionably one of the Conference's best teams, bolstered by an exceptionally good season to date by their top line that doesn't have Steven Stamkos. I'm referring to the Tyler Johnson line, who along with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, have combined to become of the most dangerous scoring sets in the League. This team has the ability to score, very quickly, and relentlessly.

Over in Habsland, the Canadiens continue to be led by the usual suspects (Galchenyuk line), but have been receiving some much needed extra support by their 4th line, in particular Michael Bournival, who's had an exceptionally good streak of games of late. Meanwhile, the Habs defense, coming off one of their better performances of the season Saturday night against the Pens, seems to be settling in nicely with Nathan Beaulieu and Sergei Gonchar solidifying their position as the team's 2nd unit in command.

And then, of course, there's Carey Price. At what point does he start to enter the conversation for the Hart? He's been borderline incredible for most of the season - really, since Sochi, don't ya think? He'll be going up against Ben Bishop, he who probably might have helped Tampa give the Habs a run for their money during the last playoffs, but was knocked out due to injury. He's healthy now, and he'll start tonight.

Home! Back home at last! Will it be for 7 in a row??

Puck drops at 6:40 EST.

Sigh. Yeah. We kinda figured. Maybe Michel thinks Tampa is Carolina? Who knows? He collects his paycheck, sends his lines out, doesn't fix the powerplay, and hopes Carey Price does all the hard work. Coaching is difficult!!

Anyway .. time for:

News 'n' Notes:

- Bryan Allen cleared waivers today. He's in Hamilton. THANK GOD.

- Randy Carlyle was fired this morning. If you just found out, welcome back from the moon. Now let the Leafs fans fantasize about hiring Mike Babcock (hint: it's not going to happen).

- F.A. Parenteau is still hurt. Which means he won't play tonight. Which means another night where he doesn't score a goal. But we're used to that.

- Tampa got some bad news today, defenseman Radko Gudas will be out at least a month following knee surgery.

Hey, showdown for first place in the Atlantic tonight. We're involved!!

More in a bit.

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