Saturday, 7 March 2015

Game Sixty-Six: Habs vs. Coyotes


- Poor start to the period by the Habs, agressive start by the Coyotes. Carey Price with a head standing save, the puck very nearly crossing the line. Canadiens are going to get mowed into mulch if they don't start moving their legs, and fast. 

- Okay, much better. Desharnais line with a momentum changing shift, De La Rose robbed by Smith with a high hard snapper that Smith somehow gloved.

- Another good shift by Eller, Habs maintain the newly found momentum.

- Officials have been very generous tonight towards the Coyotes in crashing and bumping Price. Therrien fuming at the bench about this.

- Gallagher has managed to self-generate about four or five high quality, in close scoring chances tonight. Not rewarded on the sheet - at least not yet.

- Habs in full-fledged icing mode now, which is another way of saying they're dumping the puck with every opportunity they get. Classic lead sitting behaviours here. Just asking to get burned by arguably the worst team in the NHL right now.

- Combined, Paciorerty, Gallagher and De La Rose have been robbed about a dozen times tonight. Really should be a 3 or 4 goal Habs lead, but Smih has responded very well.

- Haven't really mentioned Price tonight, but he's been fantastic as usual. We've gotten so used to him being great that we've arrived at a point that we no longer recognize it while it's happening.

- Habs totally floundering in their zone, Arizona coming very close to tying the game, but Price with more key saves, as usual. Canadiens looking a lot like the same team that coughed up the lead against L.A. with less than a minute left.

- Terrible icing by De La Rose with just over a minute left. Gives Arizona a chance to pull Smith and set up their play deep in Montreal territory. Habs have iced the puck 5 times the final six minutes of this period.

- Make that six icings. 

- De La Rose out there for the final minute. That's quite a vote of confidence by Therrien.

- Make that seven icings.

- Gallagher ices it, Carey Price his seventh shutout of the season. Habs with an "okay" win against some pretty lowly opponents. But we'll take it, and thus ends this horrible western road trip. Finally, we go home.


- Habs with something that looks like a decent transition from their own zone, which is something we've seen very little of all season. 

- Habs continue to play too passive in their zone, it's given Arizona wingers a few good rips at Price, who's being unnecessarily tested. 

- Arizona's forwards have significant scaled up their forechecking in the Habs zone, and the Canadiens continue to look flat footed. Now Gonchar gets nailed for a bad hook, largely because of Montreal's inability to adjust.

- Another meek Arizona powerplay. No threat to score tonight.

- No lack of effort tonight by Gallafher, even more so than usual. He's a man on a mission the way he's been skating and hitting so far tonight.

- Another point blank slot save by Smith on Pacioretty, but this one way more impressive and difficult. Smith a great job flicking out the left pad to keep this game scoreless.

- Well, hey hey there you go. Lars Eller opens the score, nice work and pass by DSP to feed Lars, who finally releases a shot that goes in. We called it for you, Lars!

- Habs kind of taking over this game with four minutes left in the period. Smith doing his best to keep his team in this, but you have to wonder how much longer he can do this.

- Good grief David Desharnais. No more passing. Try a damn shot. Just once.

- Well, good enough, I guess. Two competent periods against a terribly inferior opponent. Just the one goal for the efforts, but at least it was Eller, who was sorely overdue for a break. Here's hoping that one goal sparks a bit of a run for him, even while he contines to be misplayed as a winger.


- Gonchar slots back in tonight, after getting a night's rest for his ancient, tired legs.

- Weakish holding call on De La Rose. Don't like it when the officials penalize players for doing their jobs.

- Dreadful first powerplay for Arizona, viciously they've been watching too much tape of the Habs.

- I just remembered how unbelievably annoying that coyote howl is in their arena. 

- Solid first five minutes for the Habs, even with the Arizona powerplay, out possessing and chancing their opponent.

- Okay, this is finally going to be Lars Eller's night. It's gotta be. He looks great out there so far. 

- De La Rose's hockey IQ is sky high - he's nearly always where the play is developing, one major reason why he's been a fantastic checking forward since being called up.

- Nice point blank save by Smith on Pacioretty, who's a bit overdue for a monster scoring game..

- Desharnais' nagging don't shoot bad habit appears to be surfacing again. 

- Habs pulling the trigger a lot so far, 13 shots in 15 minutes, but very few of them have tested Smith. Increasing volume is not necessarily a solid formula for success.

- Habs are being a little too casual coming back to their zone - guys, yeah it's Arizona, but you still have to respect any NHL opponent.

- Again, Habs played a decent enough period, but their offensive woes still look pretty pervasive. Yes, they moved the puck with more authority than they have in more recent games, and were able to generate 16 shots on Smith, but they weren't particularly dangerous tries. Not good enough, fellows. Against a team that's 39 points behind you in the standings, you don't pussy foot around.


We all knew this was coming. We all looked at the calendar, and pointed at the first week of March and said "there". Well in advance, we realized that this western swing was going to be a killer. And ho boy, has it been a killer.

Tonight, finally, mercifully, it all comes to an end, as the Habs visit Glendale to take on the Arizona Coyotes.

The Habs come into the game against the lowly desert dogs riding a three game losing streak, all of the losses happening in California. Meanwhile, Arizona finds itself a viable candidate in the race for last place in the League - most recently they won a shootout against Vancouver, but previous to the victory against the Canucks, the Coyotes were on a 10 game losing streak. With all of those losses, they now find themselves only two points clear of Edmonton, and six points ahead of the Sabres for last place overall.

Leading up to and on the trading deadline, Arizona did the NHL equivalent of a five alarm fire sale of most of its roster, shipping out Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek and Keith Yandle for picks and prospects. With most of its veteran core now stripped away, Arizona is basically icing an AHL equivalent team, meaning that on most nights from here on out, they ought to be on the losing side of the scoreboard.

Tonight though, they're taking on a "first place team" that doesn't really play like a first place team, especially against opponents that for a "first place team", would be easy pickings. The Habs have been hampered with problems all season long dealing with bottom-feeder clubs like the Sabres, Oilers and Coyotes. So while one should readily expect the Habs to end this dreadful road trip on a winning note, nobody would call you crazy if you were to lay down a couple of Andrew Jackson's on Arizona to win.

The Habs problems are, of course, offense. It's spotty and irregular like ... well ... let's not finish that simile. Let's just say, they're struggling. Even with new bodies brought into town at the trading deadline, coach Michel Therrien appears to be struggling with constructing consistently productive lines, perhaps because he continues to fiddle with combinations. From one game to the next, it's anyone's guess as to who will play, and where. Tonight is no different. As I write this preview, nobody has a clue who will be starting.

One person that we know for certain will be starting is Carey Price. In fact, as we look at the rest of the remaining regular season schedule, the Habs have just one more set of back-to-back games, so it's a pretty fair assumption that of the 17 games left, Price will probably start at least 14 of them, and depending on how the Habs perform (and how much they want to finish at a lofty place in the Conference standings), as many as 16 of the 17.

Puck drops tonight at 7:15 EST.

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