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.

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