Monday, 30 March 2015

Game Seventy-Seven: Bolts vs Habs


- Well, there's a break. Petry wrister redeflects off a defender and hits the top corner. 3-2 on the benefit of some serious puck luck.

- Emelin has been just horrible tonight, poor Petry has been left on more than one occasion, totally left hung out to dry because of Emelin's inability to simply retreat to his own zone. 

- Habs finally finding some offensive footing, Galcheyuk with a near highlight goal. Habs with good zone pressure in the period. Looking dangerous actually.

- Habs were playing like an express train and thn Pateryn with a bad play, Namestnikov makes it a two goal game again. Price playing like a human being tonight, and as a result, Habs have no real chance.

- Emelin relegated to third D line. Wow. Somebody noticed.

- 6 minutes left, Habs looking more resigned to defeat.

- Man, Lightning hace done a fantastic job blocking shots tonight. In serious playoff form. Hate to face this team in the first round. Or the second. Or the third. 

- Last gasp powerplay for Habs coming up. Where there's hope ...

- P.K. With a bullet. There's hope. 

- Gallager. All goalpost. Ugh.

- Plekanec goes 0-for-3 in the circle, the last loss results in empty netter. Habs made a great push, hit a post, but couldn't draw even. Deserved result tonight, as the Canadiens only seemed to come to play the final 20 minutes. That's not nearly enough against a team as good as Tampa. The Habs will need big help not to finish in the 3rd Conference spot.


- So would it kill Therrien to make a couple of adjustments? Could he not promote Eller up a line or two, and downshift the woefully underperforming Desharnais? I mean .. would it kill him to just try?

- Habs with a horrible line change, with the Stamkos line on the ice. That's just beyond dumb. Stamkos, not suprisingly, takes full advantage carrying the zone, and feeding Namestnikov who goes in all alone on Price. 1-0. Habs made the same exact mistake Saturday night against the Panthers and the Barkov line. It's not rocket science. You don't do a full line change when the opposing team has their most dangerous line on the ice.

- Oh man, Dale Weise. Gets called for a slash, and mouths off to the ref. The slash was a mild clip on Bishop, but yapping an obscenity to an official won't change his mind. Still, terrible original call by the referee. Tampa can bury the Habs right here.

- Pacioertty shorthanded! Number 37. Bishop looked stunned. It's as though he wasn't even set for the shot. Tie game. What a turn of events.

- What in the heavens ... Habs surrender *another* breakaway goal, with Markov somewhere up ice (?), and Subban and Eller taking a siesta, Drouin takes a sweet feed from Stralman, and makes an even sweeter move on Price. Weise's lack of composure hurts his team. Will Therrien show him the bench?

- 10 minutes left, Habs mostly scrambling in their zone, as Tampa is outhitting and outskating them for the puck. It's very bad news for realistic hopes of staying in this game. The Lightning have owned just about every minute of this game. 

- Not even a contest right now. Almost all the action is now contained to the Habs zone. Tampa just firing picks at Price from virtually every angle. The rest of his teammates are flip flopping around. Some fans rightfully starting to boo the dismal effort.

- J.T. Brown with a breakaway. Petry to wide off to adjust, and Emelin is (for real) doing pirouettes. Habs performance this period has been so bad it's safe to say I'm laughing rather than crying.

- Dale Weise hasn't had a shift since taking an unsportsmanlike. No excuses, indeed.

- It was inevitable. Markov with a weak clearance attempt up the boards, Pavlat easily picks up the puck, feeds to Namestnikov, to Kucherov, 3-1. You surrender nearly 20 shots in a period, you lose. It's simple.

- Habs got throughly thumped in the period. Outshot 18-6, 31-13 through 40 minutes, three clear breakaways surrendered, it's been a wretched evening. Habs are going to finish the season oh-for-five against Tampa for a couple of reasons. The Lightning are a more talented, better coached hockey team. They'd probably sweep the Habs in the playoffs.


- So the Petry/Beaulieu pairing ain't happening. The practice lines this morning were all a facade. Sigh.

 Killorn-Filppula-Stamkos. Last game, those three were mostly contained. Tonight, the same needs to ,happen, or the Habs won't stand much of a chance. 

- Pretty good start for the Habs, zone entries are pretty clean. But Tampa, an offense-first team, tends to surrender those.

- Well, there goes the good start. Tampa's taken over the game 6 minutes into the period, and the Habs, on their heels, are drawing penalties. First Mitchell with a hook courtesy being outskated, now De la Rose with a trip.

- Petry gets nailed for a pretty iffy trip. Yeah, the stick was down around the feet, but there was clear embellishment. Wish the officials would call these more often, especially the flagrant dives.

- Habs PK bailing them out of the period, Price as per usual having to make better than average saves to keep Tampa off the board.

- Shots are 13-3. Just another night, another first period for the Canadiens.

- Powerplay for Montreal. Not bad, again zone transition was sloppy, but once they managed to set up, some quality chances were generated on Bishop. Nonetheless, the dump and chase PP routine hasn't worked for the past 5 months, and it's not about to start working the next 2. 

- Strong period for Lars Eller and of course, Carey Price. Otherwise, unimpressive period by the Habs. Tampa doesn't really have Montreal's number, they're just a better organized team.


Oooh. A game that matters. We haven't really had one of those for a while. Well how does "winner probably puts themselves in a good position to maybe win the President's Trophy" strike you? Yeah. I know. Feel the excitiment.

So we've arrived. Tonight the Habs will host the Tampa Bay Lightening, with not only first place in the Atlantic Division on the line, but a plum opportunity for tonight's victor to take a big step towards winning first place in the National Hockey League, an achievement that means totally nothing. Except for bragging rights. And maybe a free dinner for the players at The Keg? I have no idea.

All attempts at humor aside, this is a pretty important game, with the Habs attempting to nail down a high placement in the Conference. Realistically, the Canadiens won't finish any worse than a number 3 seed, but would, of course, desire the number 1 or 2 placement. In order to arrive there, however, Montreal will have to win these showdown games, and tonight, they're facing a team that's given them fits this season.

The Habs, if you hadn't been keeping track, are 0-3-1 against Tampa Bay this year, losing all games by a combined score of 16-4. Yeeesh.

In their final showdown for the regular season, matters are slightly different as Tampa finds itself battling the injury bug. The Bolts will be absent starting defensemen Andrej Suster and Jason Garrison. Adding to their woes, Tampa will also be missing starting centres Tyler Johnson and Cedrick Paquette, although the later will be a game-time decision.

Over on the Habs side, Michel Therrien will be going with the same lineup as Saturday night, with a couple of adjustments to the first line, and second defensive pairings, which, mercifully and finally, have Jeff Petry with Nathan Beaulieu.

Line 1: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Parenteau
Line 2: Galchenyuk/Plekanec/Gallagher
Line 3: De la Rose/Eller/Flynn
Line 4: Prust/Mitchell/Weise


Carey Price.

Tampa will go with, as expected, Ben Bishop in goal.

Keys for the Habs finally beating Tampa tonight? Scoring goals. That's about it. Montreal has managed only 4 in 4 games, so it doesn't take a math wizard to figure out your chances of victory are pretty limited if your GPG average against an opponent is 1.00. The Habs have a some hopes tonight, with Alex Galchenyuk hopefully out of his recent scoring funk, Brendan Gallagher producing well, Lars Eller playing some of his best hockey this season, and Tampa dealing with some pretty critical defensive injuries.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Game Seventy-Six: Panthers vs. Habs


- Habs have not been good in OT the past six weeks, which is always a bad sign heading into the playoffs. Speaking of, if they do score a winner, a spot is mathematically secured.

- Panthers take stupid stupid penalty In OT. Hoo boy.

- Obvious move would be for Therrien to take a timeout to put out the guys he wants. 

- Doesn't matter, Pacioretty finishes it off. Habs officially are in the post season.


- Both teams being extremely careful to start to period, feeling each other out, waiting for other guy to make the mistake. Habs are getting soundly outplayed in the neutral zone, so ice is tilting away from the Canadiens.

- Seems like folly to put Emelin out with Jagr on. But what do I know?

- Pateryn pricing himself to be just as physically capable as Emelin. Except for one thing. He's actually a good defenseman.

- Florida's edge in the neutral zone paying dividends here, as they have generated the bulk of scoring chances in this period. Habs really flirting with disaster.

- Desharnais line is a mess tonight. Almost totally ineffective offensively. Much like Thursday night when Desharnais spent most of the night with his head in the clouds.

- Fans getting their money's worth final five minutes of this period. Both Luongo and Price outstanding.


- Habs start the period off strongly, hemming Panthers in their zone. Starting to wonder if 2 would be the number requires to clinch.

- Nevermind that. Flynn loses his man, Barkov, who on a nifty pass from Jagr, finds himself all alone and beats Price with a nifty backhander. I said it earlier, if Flynn is a defensive liability, what exactly is his purpose?

- Markov/Subban pairing (especially P.K.) has been very sloppy in their zone tonight. If not for Price, the Panthers could be up 2 because of them.

- Therrien, for some bizarre rationale, is matching the Flynn line against the Barkov line. I have no idea what that's going to produce other than Florida scoring chances.

- And Barkov puts Florida in the lead with a redeflect, Emelin way too passive protecting the crease. Habs conservative ways and perplexing line matching killing them in the period.

- Ah, finally Galchenyuk hits the scoresheet, raising the puck tight on the post, a goal that Luongo shouldn't let in. Game is quickly tied.

- After 40 minutes, Florida not doing themselves favours tonight taking some dumb penalties, which has directly led to both of Montreal's goals. The Habs in turn, not doing themselves any favours with disorganized zone coverage around Carey Price, which has led to both of Florida's goals. 


- DSP is a healthy scratch. To make way for Brian Flynn. You know you're nearing bottom when ...

- I'm pretty sure that Bergevin brought Flynn over assuming he wouldn't be a defensive liability. Yet, here we are.

- Desharnais is consistently bad carrying the puck inside the opposing zone. Doesn't seem to have any plan besides "don't shoot".

- Looks more and more like the Habs have already shelved the "be the better team" approach we saw last two games. Spending a good time in their own zone, a recording we've heard dozens of times this season.

- Habs may not reach five shots on goal in the period, and this against a Panthers team that isn't doing anything special defensively. So back to Therrien hockey, it is then.

- Pateryn destroys Hayes along the boards with a devastating check. Hayes breaks his stick in half in anger, gets two for unsportsmanlike. But Pateryn. Wow.

- Habs powerplay lots of passing, not nearly enough shots on Luongo. Eventually Habs catch a break as a Petry shot deflects to Lars Eller who fires it into an open net. 

- Montreal has apparently woken up from its 15 minute funk, last five minutes they've had the puck mainly in Panthers zone.

- Canadiens benefit from lack of discipline by the Panthers last half of the first period, surrendering possession and tempo to the Habs after dominating it for a good portion of the frame. Panthers seem to lack focus at a time of the year where there are no margins for error. 


Can we have a game where we aren't playing someone totally desperate for a victory? Just one?

Following a disappointing 5-2 loss on Thursday night to the outplayed Winnipeg Jets, the Habs take their mediocre March act back home to the Bell Centre tonight, where they face off against the Florida Panthers, who are running out of games in their faint quest to grab the last wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

Tonight's game will feature Roberto Luongo, who the Habs missed the last time these two teams met, due to an injury. Luongo loves to play in his hometown, and tonight he'll have additional motivation as he aims to win his 400th NHL career game.

The Panthers are pretty healthy, with forward Nick Bjugstad now sidelined for the rest of the season following back surgery earlier this week. Otherwise, the Panthers bring forward an anemic offense, mediocre-rated defense, terrible powerplay, and solid goaltending. In other words, they have a lot in common with their opponent tonight.

Over in Habsland, it's not all doom-and-gloom, even though the Canadiens have come up empty their past two starts. The Habs have strung together two impressive games, albeit in defeat, where their possession numbers exceeded 50%, and shot totals greater than 30. So there are definite signs that this club is moving in the right direction as we near the playoffs. Whether or not these numbers are sustained moving forward, is the greater question.

So the puck drops tonight at 7:15 EST. The Panthers basically have to run the table to have a decent shot at a playoff spot, while the Habs, if they wish to maintain a high placement in the Conference, need to start stringing together victories in a hurry. There are just seven games remaining in the regular season. Victories are getting important.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Game Seventy-Five: Habs vs. Jets


- Not sure if there's much of a point watching is period, I'll probably exit early. But if there's a Habs player out there right now who's due for a benching from awful play, it's Desharnais.

- Jets have been playing the trap since the start of the period because, hey, why not? 

- No rationale right now for the Habs to give the Malhotra line one more shift in this game.


- Habs a shade under 60% possession in the first, to give you an idea of how much they dominated Winnipeg. Just need to keep doing what they're doing, and Montreal should start taking over in the category that's most important - the score.

Pavalec with his best save of the night on Plekanec. Price looks on and says "that was it?". Anyway, Jets goalie is having a pretty good night, Montreal might want to consider doing a little net crashing.

- Peel appears to have green lighted Winnipeg to haul down anyone they please, without consequence. Fine. As long as that goes both ways, Tim.

- Byfuglien high sticks Subban right in front of Peel. Not called. 

- Maddening night. Jets are getting railroaded, and then Desharnais runs into Petry behind his goal, point .5 seconds later, it's 2-0. 

- Sweet mercy. Markov with a screen wrister that Pavalec can't pick up, and the Habs are on the board. 2-1 Jets in a game they should be trailing by 2 or 3.

- Jets luck train an unstoppable force tonight. 3-1 as puck is footed in. Shots are currently 26-9 Habs. 

- Ladd takes five hard strides and blindside hits Petry in the head. In front of Peel. Assessed two minutes. Incredible.

- Tim Peel. The game has been so poorly officiated that players are now taking numbers, scrums after every whistle. Somebody may very well get hurt before night is done.

- Wheeler. Tokarski whiffs. I ... can't ... begin ...

- Whelp. Ones of those nights. Tokarski bombs, Habs dominate the Jets on the ice and are royally rewarded with a three goal deficit. Time to turn in early, I suppose.


- When the Habs gain the zone, their powerplay actually is pretty good. Their big problem, is, or course, gaining the zone. Dump and chase teams like the Habs struggle. Why nobody on the coaching staff has figured this out is a mystery.

- Habs controlling tempo of the first half of the period, doing a good job at centre and entering the Jets zone. Winnipeg hasn't had much on Tokarski, mostly long range tries.

- Byfuglien with a slapper, yes hard, but it gets through Tokarski. The Habs are not a team that does well when weak goals are surrendered. Night looks ominous.

- Winnipeg going very hard physically, the hits are borderline, the interference is not. Tim Peel not picking the dirty play up. As expected.

- Habs powerplay looks great with passing. Petry has been a fine acquisition, but he really struggles putting shots on net.

- Habs borderline dominating this period, the Jets overly focused on hitting bodies. Montreal has had most of the puck possession as a result. 

- Habs with 20 shots in the period, which they dominated. Habs outskated, out-passed, out-possessed, outshot but find themselves down on the scoreboard. If Montreal contines to outshoot the Jets 4-to-1 for the rest of the night, they will win. Even with a struggling Tokarski in goal.


Have you ever been awful at a job? I mean, consistently terrible? I have. I don't have that job any more, because like just about everyone who is terrible at their job, they get fired.

Note, I said "just about" everyone. There are, of course, some exceptions.

Tim Peel is an exception.

Let's look at the tape.

Exhibit one: PENALTY. OOOooh .. maybe .... ?? AAAAhhhh ... naw!


Okay, TOTALLY NAILED IT. Moving on ...

But those are just blown calls for regular season games. How about stuff that matters, like ... the playoffs? Glad you asked:

And if you've got a little time, how about this classic from just last week!

I could paste examples all day long, but I think you should have the idea by now. There's no way Tim Peel should be officiating NHL hockey games, and yet ... tonight, in Winnipeg, Peel will be there at centre ice, dropping the puck for his 1,000th game.

Safest job in the universe? NHL referee!!

Puck drops at 8:10 EST. Jets need this one bad. Habs?? Eh. Whatevs.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Game Seventy-Four: Habs vs. Preds


- Habs first have to get out of Therrien mode. Easier said than done.

- P.K. called for a trip. Ford erg not called for an obvious embellishment.

- And of course, the Preds powerplay, which has been awful all night, scores. Even worse, it's Forsberg, who ought be in the box. Whatever. A point. We'll take it. 


- Preds have been sloppy with the puck all night, this time it's a giveaway to Plekanec at centre, and Rinne is forced to make a tough save off a snap shot.

- Habs breakouts have been impressive tonight. Pateryn a perfect pass to Desharnais at centre which generates two high % scoring chances on Rinne.

- Preds benefit from a ridiculous break, Ellis simply firing the puck towards Price from the line, Petry instinctively gets his body in front, puck takes weird bounce and hops past Price. Tie game, but only by fluke.

- Prust has really turned his game around the past two weeks. For whatever reason.

- That fluke Preds goal has Price fired up. Like. Really, really fired up.

- Habs playing Therrien hockey again, over-relaying on the boards for zone clearances. 6 minutes left. 

- Galchenyuk is long overdue for a big goal, but he's got to follow through. Had the game on his stick, but couldn't lift it over Pinne's pad. 

- Preds get big-time benefit of puck luck in the third to send us to OT. Regardless of the final result, Habs have played a very good road game in an arena that's awfully tough to win in this year.


Lots of karma, if not a few insanity points, to Emelin for throwing himself in front of a Weber slapshot. Emelin smarting rather badly on the bench.

- Seth Jones completely mucks up a loose puck in front of Rennie, creating a terrible turnover. Gallagher says thanks a lot. Tie game. Habs would be wise to learn that an agressive forecheck does pay dividends against this Preds team.

- Habs continue to play a smart road game. Patient, tight and apart from Nashville's first goal, tidy defense in their zone. Possession is also very solid.

- Price with a crazy lucky break as Preds play the 3-on-1 perfectly, Fisher a gaping net, but deflects the killing pass wide. Should be 2-1 Nashville.

- Plekanec has made two very bad terrible horrible turnovers this game, the first led to the Preds first goal, the second should have resulted in their second if it hadnt been for Fisher's whiff.

- Habs first powerplay looked pretty good, especially puck movement. If it wasn't for some excellent Preds shot blocking, the Habs probably score.

- Shea Weber is the next to join the terrible turnover club. Parenteau with excellent work to win the puck and make an easy to pass to Desharnais who is totally alone in front of Rinne. Not even Desharnais would pass up that shot. 2-1. 

- Habs like Saturday night, the much better team against a reasonably formidable opponent. Whether they will, like Saturday, sit on it for the 3rd, is yet to be determined.

- How/why did the Oilers not sign Petry to a 135 year contract? Even six or seven more. No way they can replace this guy. He's just so damn good.

- Habs clearly outskating the Preds at both ends of the ice. It's been a surprisingly passive performance by the Preds so far.

- Another impressive period for the Habs. This game very similar to the Sharks on Saturday. Excellent performances by Habs defense, in particular Petry. Looking at the scoreboard a win tonight might get the Habs back into serious consideration for the President's Trophy. But 20 minutes is a long time. 


- Wonder how good a player Ribeiro would have been if not for the personal/substance issues. Amazing. the Preds have put up with his antics this long.

- Preds first powerplay rather underwhelming. Habs are allowing them free zone entry, but Nashville hasn't taken advantage.

- Pekka Rinne looking a little unsure with the puck. Meanwhile Carey Peice - well you know ... the usual.

- Price totally bowled over by Fisher in his crease three feet away from a staring official. Unbelievable.

- Preds have been terrible entering the zone, but that doesn't seem to matter when Habs defense is too busy rolling out red carpet. 1-0. Ekholm. Price bowled over again in his crease. Habs organization playing with fire against a ridiculously agressive Preds opponent.

- If officials refuse or arr incompetent to protect Price, then Habs will have to start taking numbers and the game into their own hands.

- As defensemen, Habs best two the past 10 days have been Petry and Pateryn. Not even close. At this point, getting harder to see how Gonchar gets much more action this season. That might also extend to Tom Gilbert.

- After 20, pleased with the period, Habs had a great period start but got tripped up by a couple of penalties, which is irony since Price was almost certainly the victim of avoidable contact that wasn't punished by the officials. Habs just need to stay the course, although they really need to send the Preds a pretty strong message that Price is off limits.  


We just couldn't resist. Remember Sergei Kostitsyn? Actually, remember anybody with the last name of Kostitsyn? Of course you do, because as a Habs fan, you've been spending the past three years trying to forget. Sergei, whom the last we heard is now playing for Ak Bars Kazan in the nearly-defunct KHL (just yell that out ... ACK!! BARZ!!! KAAAAAZAN!! ... it's lots of fun), was part of a new almost legendary play of indifference when he decided to just ...well .. you watch the video.

Anyway, that was two years ago. Since that time, the Preds have gone from a non-playoff team to a possible President's Trophy award winner this year, although that prospect has taken a hit over the past month, as the Preds, after going the entire season without as much as a two game losing streak. Since February 26, Nashville has gone 3-8-1, which has taken them from the lofty heights of being the top team in the NHL, to now battling for third place in the Central Division.

It was just over a month ago that the Preds' Pekka Rinne, whom for the longest time many were saying was a good bet as this season's Vezina winner, has hit a roadblock, winning just 3 of his past 11 starts, with a less-than-stellar .910 SV% over that time.

Pekke, like the rest of the team, have struggled, and maybe it was overdue, with the Preds riding one of the highest PDO's for most of the year. It's a situation that Habs fans can certainly relate to - a season of exceeded expectations, although unlike the Preds, the Habs haven't quite had a similar period of decline. It's close, though. This month, the Habs are riding a most mediocre 5-5-1 streak, which has only barely kept them in the running for top spot in the Atlantic Division. For how much longer remains an unanswered question. It's games like tonight where the picture becomes clearer whether the Habs finish as high as first in the East, or as low as 4th.

So it's Renne vs. Price. Not too shabby. Will we see more than 4 goals scored? Probably not. But, it should be an interesting and competitive game.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Game Seventy-Three: Sharks vs. Habs


- Gilbert is done for the night after taking a puck in the face at the end of the 2nd. With Emelin in the lineup, expect to see a lot of double shifting of Subban/Markov.

- Sharks loading up their first line, now clearly desperate to find some way, any way, of scoring a goal. They're running out of time 13 minutes left.

- It's mystifying why Subban isn't part of the regular conversation about Norris candidates. Another solid, brilliantly efficient night for P.K.

- Sigh. DSP with a dumb, dumb slash that puts the Sharks on the powerplay. It's uncanny how goals are so frequently scored off stupid penalties. We'll see soon if that happens again.

- Survived. Sharks in pure desperation mode. Could be some odd man Habs breaks coming our way very soon.

- Carey freakin' Price. Incredible.

- That save by Price on Couture was simply incredible. One of the best of the NHL season.

- Gallagher, icing.

- Carey Price. 40th win. 9th shutout. He's playing in another universe. He's playing beyond the NHL. One of the greatest seasons by a goaltender in hockey history. Enjoy it, every precious second. We may never live to see this again.


- There's something to be said about the Habs playing Price only half of the remaining schedule, as he's blindside bowled over by Couture. No Price, Habs might as well not bother showing up for their first round opponent.

- Gilbert looks incredibly uncomfortable playing on the wrong wing. Really makes no sense inserting his next to Emelin just for the sake of Emelin.

- Price on the first PK, spectacular. Sharks appear resigned to trying to set up a perfect play if only to get a goal.

- DSP having one of his better starts in a Habs uniform. His hits seem a little more targeted, rather then his past few games where he was just hitting whatever was in his sight line.

- I've given up figuring out Habs lines tonight. I think there have been 20-something combinations used so far.

- Sharks are a mess handling the puck right now. A consistent forecheck ought produce somepretty choice scoring opportunities.

- Another solid period, Habs much faster, more energized, the Sharks have been disorganized, especially in their own zone. San Jose on just the 2nd game of their brutal 7 game road trip, but they already look weary.


- Headshot on Malhotra, nothing penalized as the contact was incidental, he's in the room being reviewed for concussion.

- Sharks rolling four lines in order.

- Galchenyuk whiffs at an open net, but he's got a spring in his ordinarily fast step. Keep an eye on 27. 

- Therrien's working the blender early with his line combos. Hardly a shift so far with the actual starting lines.

- Galchenyuk is having a monster period. Everything but the goal so far. One crossbar already in his basket.

- Great end to end action so far, 4 on 4 had a basketful of chances, both goaltenders have been excellent. Habs certainly with a lot more zip than we're accustomed to. 

- Habs score? Against San Jose? Yup. Nice breakout from their zone creates a 4 on 2. Galchenyuk quarterbacking the puck with a nice backhand feed to Plekanec for an open netter. Montreal's transition really on the mark this period.

- Impressive first period. Habs did the stuff you come to expect from a first place team, getting clean zone exits, carrying the puck over the line, agressively pursuing the Sharks goal, and capitalizing on a chance. Price, as usual, so so very good. 


The Habs roll out the red carpet to play against yet another team in desperate need of a victory to keep their post-season hopes alive, tonight it's the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks are yet another club in a string of win-hungry opponents the Habs have had to deal with. On Thursday, the Habs beat the Florida Panthers, who are trying to catch the Bruins for 8th place. Last week, the Canadiens had to deal with the Ottawa Senators (losing), and next week, they'll hit the road to visit fantabulous Winnipeg.

You know the problem with playing teams like this. They're kinda hard to beat. When you're the Habs, a defeat only means a blow to finishing in the Conference top three. For the Sharks, a loss means a probable early end to the year, the dismissal of the coach, the firing of the general manager, the firesale burning of the roster.

San Jose enters tonight's game five points out of a wild card spot, currently held by Calgary, and four points away from the L.A. Kings. So the margin for error, with about 10 games left, really doesn't exist for the Sharks, who haven't missed making the playoffs since 2003.

The Sharks feature two big lines (literally) comprised of Joe Thornton (at centre) along with Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson, while their second line is Logan Couture (at centre) with Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels on the wing. The Habs defense will need to contain those forwards if they hope to finally eek out a win against the Sharks.

For Montreal, simply scoring a goal on San Jose could be considered an accomplishment, since that normally straighforward objective hasn't been done since 2011. Yup. It's been that long since the Habs have scored on the Sharks. Tonight, that ends, because it's absurd and it's eventually gotta end.

The Canadiens lineup, at least its forwards, are exactly the same tonight as they were on Thursday against Carolina. There are some changes on defense, with Nathan Beaulieu getting a seat tonight to make way for Alekei Emelin and Greg Pateryn (the later who's looked pretty impressive since being called up last week).

Netminders are predictable. It's Antti Niemi for San Jose, and of course, Carey Price for the Habs.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Game Seventy-Two: 'Canes vs. Habs


- Pateryn making veteran-like plays tonight, brilliant strip of Skinnner on a break. Pateryn is certainly giving Habs plenty or reassurance their defense is well set up for at least the next three years.

- If Price gets the shutout, it won't be a waltz. He's made some superb saves this and the second period, mainly because his defense was caught taking naps.

- Habs powerplay continues to be a hot greasy mess. It's as though they've basically given up trying to improve it, because for six months, it hasn't.

- Price benefits from some puck luck, which given his play tonight, he's fully entitled to. Six minutes left.

- Paxioretty from behind the Canes net. Yeek. His 35th. The drive for 40 still very much within reach.

- Price with two Class A saves the last two minutes to stake righteous claim to a shutout. 8th of the season. Not a dominating win, as the Habs played some sloppy hockey, especially in the second period, but at least another step forward towards securing a top seed in the East.


- Not surprisingly, Price nearly lets in an embarrassing goal from a shot from behind his net. Lack of action can often result in these sleepy goals.

- Eller looks in fine form again tonight, unfortunately saddled with DSP, but nonetheless, doing fantastic work to create scoring chances for his wingers. Maybe De la Rose can deliver.

- Habs getting sloppy in their zone, which means Price is now into sweat forming phase of the game. Really no reason why this game shouldn't already be put to bed, but Carolina is sticking around.

- Fantastic backcheck by Parenteau to break up a semi-break, but the Habs still very passive about coming back to their zone, Price forced to make an acrobatic diving save on Stall. Not pleased with what I'm seeing.

Habs picking up some slack since the five minute mark, and whoops, Desharnais just scored during a delayed penalty call, off a sweet pass from Gilbert, Canes defense again MIA. Three, nothing. Finally, Habs deliver a dagger.

- Habs dabbled too much in some turtling for a good chunk of the period, resulting in the overmatched Canes outshooting the Habs. A no-no when your opponent is on the ropes. Anyway, all is more or less fine - Habs in total control,with 20 left. 


- Canes defence, or what exists anyway, looks very slow afoot and soft. Again, no good reason why Habs shouldn't have their way tonight.

- Well there you have it. Habs 4th line swarms the crease, Weise putting home a juicy rebound for a 1-0 early lead.

- Carolina's a mess. Two rebounds surrendered, Gallagher finally buries the puck, the road team more or less standing around. If this is all the Canes are bringing tonight, we could be witnessing a slaughter. 2-0.

- Canes are basically laying out the red carpet for zone entries. Even a rush-adverse team like the Habs can't resist the invitation. Fun in the the Habs are dominating, but it's terrible hockey.

- 15 minutes into the period, Price has yet to be tested. He's definitely in unfamiliar territory.

- Pretty much all Habs in the period. Everything as it should be, given how terrible the Canes are right now. For the first time in forever, Habs breakout looked like a typical NHL team, although we shouldn't be fooled into thinking there's been an internal philosophical shift amongst the coaching. Nonetheless, it's nice to have the luxury of a relatively straightforward game. The rest is simply a matter of not repeating the mistakes made last week, when the Habs twice let their opponent off the carpet, towards eventually losing.


Not a whole lot to talk about tonight. The Habs, by every right, should win this game with eyes half shut. But it's the Habs, and you're never going to know what will happen from one night to the next.

Not many changes for tonight, except for adjustments to the top two lines. Thomas Plekanec will move up to line 1, centring Brendon Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. I can see the rationale behind the adjustment, what with Plekanec's game getting much more consistent, while David Desharnais continues his usual pattern of struggling to produce meaningful offense.

Speaking of, Desharnais will centre Alex Galchenyuk and P.A. Parenteau. Both wingers have been very good the past two weeks, so maybe, just maybe, they can help get Desharnais' productivity going again.

Carey Price starts. Puck drops at 5:40 EST. Tune in, unless you're watching the game that really matters, with Ottawa facing Boston for that final playoff spot.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Game Seventy-One: Habs vs. Panthers


- Panthers come out full throttle, just as we figured. Tokarski doing his best, but Habs defense really bending.

- Habs in turtle mode now, icing at every opportunity. Trying to slow the game to a crawl.

- Panthers almost universally dominating the game, first five minutes. No way the Habs can hang on for  15 more, barring a break or unforced Panthers error.

- Florida powerplay, Habs just barely survive. Meanwhile Subban is having an outstanding game, at both ends of ice. Doubtful the score is 3-2 for Habs without him.

- 10 minutes left. Florida now on pace to outshoot the Habs 25-6 in the 3rd period. Yup. It really has been that bad.

- Not the coach, but I'd be awfully tempted to call a timeout and read the riot act. Tokaraski is the wrong guy to stand on his head, yet that's what he'll need to do if the Habs don't get their gear in order to salvage this game.

- Small reprieve in the onslaught with 8 minutes left. But the second storm is surely about to begin. Habs desperately need something to stop the tide. 

- DSP with a stupid O zone hold, but Tokarski is actually doing a head stand routine, somehow keeping the Habs one ahead. Panthers running out of time - both this game, and their season. 4 minutes left.

- Hoo boy. Campbell nailed for a hook, with just 2:53 left. Killer penalty. Killer.

- And Galchenyuk nailed for O zone interference. Closed door is opened again. Unbelievable.

- And Jagr with O zone tackle to extinguish the Panthers hopes.

- Well, Dustin freakin' Tokarski. Bravo. Bravo.


- Powerplay continues to be a lost child in the wilderness, with no search and rescue crew dispersed.

- Don't know if it's an age thing, but Gilbert has been pretty bad the past 30 days, which fits with the general pattern of slow decline as the season has worn on. He may find himself the odd man out once the post season begins. 

- Brutal deep zone turnovers are killing this team. This time it's Petry, wearing his Oilers best, serving it up for Barkov. 1-0.

- 4th line production, go figure! Malhotra and Weise doing some nice screen work on Ellis, Emelin with a 55 foot wrister that's not seen or blocked. Tie game. 

- Sweetness, Prust to De la Rose, and 2-1.  But on a 2-on-0 shorthanded? Really? Tsk, tsk, Panthers.

- Florida, for whatever reason, tightened up like crazy after the clunky Barkov goal, leading to numerous unforced errors, and two goals for the Habs. Game hasn't been very logical so far.

- Prust loses his mark, and Pirri with a ridiculous snap shot that must have clocked near 90 MPH on the radar, ties the game. Can't blame Tokarski. It was an incredible shot that probably nobody could have saved.

- Great, great work by Eller to win the puck behind Eller and feed Subban who beats a somewhat surprised Ellis. 3-2. Subban the goal but that was 90% Lars.

- Habs slowly seem to be getting their act in gear, at least offensively. Defensively, this team is getting a little untidy, with forwards frequenly losing their marks. In any case, times are definately desperate for the Panthers - a loss tonight will be a killer blow for their post season hopes. So except them to come out hard for the final 20.


- Cred to Ellis, here's a guy that was buried nowhere a month ago, and he's managed to come in and keep Florida's faint hopes alive.

- Malhotra, Prust and Weise. A most agreeable 4th line.

- Five minutes in, we are not watching Class A hockey. I don't know if I can withstand 55 more minutes of this.

- Panthers so far with a better neutral zone trap, which is helping them generate more shots. Gerard Gallant doesn't get nearly enough credit for how well he prepares this team for each opponent.

- Habs first good scoring chance comes 12 minutes in, excellent save by Ellis on Gallagher. On St. Patrick's day, no less.

- After playing a relatively inspired 3rd period last night, which gave me hope that brighter times were ahead, Habs are right back to their mostly listless ways. 

- Jagr hooks Pacioretty on a break, and gets called. Funny how last night a different crew saw no violation on pretty much the same play.

- Shot clock says 13-9 Montreal. I say, no way. Apart from a couple of flurries, Panthers had most of the period under wraps, certainly generating more scoring attempts. Anyway, Florida the hungrier team, which should come as little surprise.


The booze cart is out! And being pulled around the pool. Pina coladas for everyone! 29 degrees was the approximate high here today, under sunny skies. Tomorrow looks to be the same.

Oh yeah, 3-on-3 OT next year, probably. I think? I wasn't really paying attention.

Stay tuned for more updates.


So, over the past eight games, the Habs have won exactly two. I'm not saying it's time to panic, since we knew well in advance that March was a tough month on the schedule, but at this rate, the Canadiens are looking straight down the throat at a big tumble down the Eastern Conference standings. If they don't start winning, and doing it soon, Montreal stands a chance of losing home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

So, all this losing means the games, which a little while ago, held relatively little importance, now suddenly start getting significantly crucial. Tonight is no exception - for both teams.

While the Habs hold on to a top seed by their fingernails, the Florida Panthers are trying to claw and scratch their way to the a playoff berth. The Panthers enter tonight's game as they have any other game the past month - in desperate need of wins to narrow the gap between themselves, and the 8th place Bruins. Boston has a 6 point lead, with both clubs left with 13 games in the regular season.

So that all considered, tonight should be interesting. Games in Miami, at least for the past few years, haven't been particularly compelling. The big news in Florida, is of course, the health status of Roberto Luongo, who sustained an injury two weeks ago, isn't quite ready to return to game action. That means journeyman backup Dan Ellis will get the start tonight against either Carey Price or Dustin Tokarski (as of the writing of this post, nothing has been announced by the Habs of who'll start).

A couple of injury notes - Torrey Mitchell is out for at least two weeks with an upper arm injury, while the other recently acquired 4th liner, Brian Flynn, is a question mark for tonight's game.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

UPDATE: Tokarski will start, and Manny Malhotra will also get a start tonight, in place of Flynn, who isn't 100%.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Game Seventy: Habs vs. Bolts


- Well, now. Hold those phones. Plekanec With a brilliant forecheck to intercept Bishop's pass up the boards, and Parenteau, whom we've noted has been playing very strong since his return from IR, is alone in front for the easy goal. It's 3-2. We've got a game.

- Brandon freakin' Prust. Another pointless fight that ruins a Habs offensive rush. Enough of this guy.

If Smith-Pelly can't win a simple 2-on-1 battle for the puck along the boards, what good is he for, exactly?

- Pateryn has had a quiet, but steady and effective evening. Another example of someone who can more than easily replace the easily replaceable Emelin.

- Five minutes left. Habs powerplay just barely doesn't score. Tampa hanging on, here.

- Max wants the next goal bad. Real bad.

- Eller given a terrible, terrible holding penalty, which basically snuffs out Habs hopes of tying the game. Just a horrible decision by the official. 

- And that's it. Officials decide the night.

- Full marks to the Habs for their efforts the second half of the game. They actually looked like a half decent team, mainly because the effort was intensified, and they appeared to shelve the dump and chase system for more structured zone entires. Definately something to build on for tomorrow night.


- Hedman. Gilbert, for some reason, totally in nowhere land wandering off while Tampa was on the attack, leaving Petry hung out to dry. Therrien would be wise to pull Price at this point, if only to give him opportunity to go right back to Carey tomorrow night. But he won't, of course.

- Prust runs at Bishop, because, hey - why not?

- Amazing what you can do when you actually control the puck on the powerplay. Markov to Subban to Eller to Plekanec and in. All on the tape. Habs at least avoid the embarrassment of being shut out again.

- While the likes of Desharnais and DSP continue to flounder, it's at least good to see Eller slowly but surely putting his game back together.

- De la Rose with another rookie mistake, he needs to make his hooks less obvious. Momentum killer powerplay handed to Tampa.

- Strong final five minutes to end the period, probably as strong as the Habs have played in a couple of weeks. Still matters little, as there is little or no chance of this team overcoming a two goal deficit against the likes of Bishop. All they can do is contain the damage, and try to build positives for the rest of the week.


- Ferocious start to the game, Lars Eller in particular. Playoff atmosphere to this one.

- Habs four minute powerplay, all set up nicely in the Tampa zone, Desharnais shoots a stupid four foot high cross ice pass that (of course) is impossible to control. Zone lost. Words escape me.

- Parenteau looks in fine form early, Desharnais does not. Also, no more Gibert on the powerplay, m'kay? You have Subban, Markov, Petry and Beaulieu, Michel. This ain't hard.

- Habs powerplay is so dysfunctional, they can't even muster momentum from it, nevermind actual goals.

- Pretty clunky high stick by Pateryn. Have to control your stick much better than that. Tampa to the powerplay.

- Filppula shoots, Markov slips, Price whiffs. 1-0. Powerplay goal. Something we'll seemingly never experience.

- Brandon Prust. He drops the gloves very nicely. The other stuff that is actually hockey-related? Not so much.

- Petry hurt? Just made a slow walk to the dressing room.

- Bolts forwards do such a nice job passing the puck to each other. Maybe it looks really good because I've mainly been watching Habs games, where passing is a totally foreign concept. Anyway, in a seven game playoff series, Tampa would twirl the Habs around like a rag doll.

- Petry returns. Thankfully that means less of Emelin.

- Max Pacioretty. With a brain cramp to end all brain cramps. 2-0. 


Dinner on the beach has arrived! In a box! Very tasty!

Oh yeah they talked about goalie interference something, something. Whatever.

Ooooh. Sangria. Anybody want one? They're frosty cold!


Brian Burke! We think. We didn't approach. Brian can be a little testy at times.


- Habs Game Blog exclusive coverage of the NHL G.M. meetings in Boca Raton! The weather here is fine and sunny. Check out that sand and surf! In an hour, we'll be ordering dinner on the beach.

We'll have more as stories develop.

Well, we have arrived. Alexei Emelin will make his return to the Habs lineup tonight, as the Canadiens take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a crucial showdown for first place in the Atlantic Division. The winner tonight will take a huge step towards securing the top seed.

I'm not going to get into the whole pluses/minuses about Emelin. I've made my opinions pretty clear in the past about what he brings (or to be more specific, doesn't bring) to the Habs blue line. I will question, however, the wisdom of inserting him into a game, nearly a month after he was injured, that is of this magnitude. Basically, the Canadiens need all hands on deck tonight, with only their best, game-ready bodies to take on a very difficult opponent.

With Emelin working to find his game legs again, why not start him Tuesday night against the Panthers? Miami, with all due respect, are a far easier opponent (although more desperate, as they fight to catch Boston for the 2nd wild card spot).

Whatevs. It's Therrien's call, he wants Emelin to get into the lineup again as quickly as possible. So tonight's the night.

Now, about Tampa. We haven't been here in a while. More than 5 months to be exact. The last visit, the Habs, with Carey Price in goal, got blitzed 7-1 by the Bolts. It's was the night of nights to forget. Fast forward to the present, the Habs hold a tender 2 point lead on Tampa, with a game in hand. With a dozen games left in the regular season schedule, this is as critical a game as the Habs have had all year.

Both teams enter tonight with healthy rosters. Tampa will be missing Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat, while the Habs basically have a full slate of healed bodies. Both teams are coming off 2-1 games, the Habs beating the Islanders Saturday night, while Tampa, in a rather lackluster effort, losing by the same score to the Winnipeg Jets.

As last week, tonight's game figures to be another low scoring affair. There won't be any 7-1 results, that's for certain. The Canadiens have had their hands full of tonight's starter for the Bolts, Ben Bishop, who - for the most part, has owned Montreal this season, posting a 3-0 record, given up less than a goal per game, and stringing together a .950 SV%. With the Habs offense often struggling to muster 20 shots per game, goals will be few and far between on Bishop tonight, meaning (once again) that it'll be up to Price to carry the team load, if the Habs are to escape with a victory.

So there you have it. Don't be shocked if we have another 1-0 result. But then again, with Emelin back in the lineup, don't be surprised either if Tampa wins tonight's game with relative ease.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.