Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Game One - EC Semi-Final: Lightning vs. Habs


Above is Tampa's zone entry seconds before the OT winner was scored. Do you see a problem??


- Dale Weise - just about anyone else, would score via that golden setup right in front of Bishop. Oy.

- Bolts win. Pateryn with a bad turnover, and Kucherov buries it. Devastating loss with Tampa ripe for the picking tonight. Habs failure to capitalize early in the game cost them later in the game. Habs now faces with a must-win Sunday night.


- We've got an interesting narrative paradox shaping up. If the Habs win this, it'll be because of Bishop letting in the softy late in the 3rd. If Tampa wins this, it'll be because Bishop stood on his head most of the first and second period to give his team a chance.

- Habs possession through 60 minutes, 55%. Montreal getting Bishop'd and Price'd tonight.

- Tampa nearly wins it off the bat because of a terrible shift by the Desharnais line. 

- Momentous flub by Petry springing Kucherov home free, great leg save by Price who is pushed into the net along with the puck. A big break. Habs still alive. 

- Easily DSP's best game of the post season. Definately more comfortable not playing in a top 6 situation.

- 10 minutes in, game settling in a but. First five minutes were Tampa's, last five were Montreal's.


- Through 40 minutes, Habs have 60% possession. That's pretty impressive. The question is, will they get Carey Priced tonight via Ben Bishop?  

- Well, there you go. Tyler Johnson redeflects a point shot to open the scoring. Good news for the Habs - they have 17 minutes left to solve Bishop.

- Looking at goal replay, Tom Giobert was horribly outmuscled as Johnson drove to the crease. That's what defensemen are paid to do.

- I think it's time to demote Markov off first powerplay unit. He's a mile away from the player he was during the regular season. Wonder what his injury might be?

- Therrien frittering away another strong game by Eller, offloading offensively challenged wingers. Time (9 minutes) running out.
- Bishop firmly in Habs forward's heads. Too much focus on making perfect passing play, not enough on just looking for a dirty, greasy goal. 

- Tampa is hold on mode now, which is all good and fine since most of the Canadiens' forwards have done a poor job pushing Tampa's crease.

- Habs poor performance in the faceoff circle has really hurt them in the 3rd. 

- Montreal needs to start pinching their blue line ... like ... right now. 5 minutes left.

- Bishop whiffs. Whiffs. Totally whiffs off a Paciorerty wrister. Who would have believed? Tie game.

- Bishop being taunted by 21,000 rabid Habs fans.

- Habs finally now pushing Bishop hard. Looking for the winner.

- Well, we wrote about it after the end of the second, and as noted, we had two goals, one via deflection, and one via a mistake. Habs most certainly have the momentum heading into extra time - with Price and Bishop (even considering his huge gaffe) as they are, it could take a while to sort out a winner.


- Jeff Petry taking a shot off his instep at the end of the first, needed assistance to simply get back to the dressing room. No Petry would have a massive imapct to the Habs defense, not to mention their series hopes.

Petry is back, but true test is his first and second shift feels with his foot. First shift is done, he appeared to look okay.

- Prust doing great work winning battles, but no hands. Meanwhile, the struggling Galchenyuk has been demoted to the 4th line, De la Rose promoted.

- Pretty quiet night for Stamkos (again). Still wondering about his health status. He's so far been a shadow of his regular season former self.

- Pacioretty with a dazzling PK shift. Petry looks 100%. Tampa's powerplay still a hot mess. 

- Bad, bad habits die hard. Markov gains the zone on the powerplay, then dumps it into the corner to no one. Maddening.

- Monster players so far: Prust and Eller. Recognition to Paciorerty and Petry. Price solid, but so far hasn't been sternly tested. Tampa in this because of Bishop, who's been excellent. This is why it was so important for Habs to score early in the first period.


- I heart Sara Diamond. There. I said it.

- Lolz. Therrien first line has Emelin. Took Tampa 12 SECONDS to generate a good scoring threat.

- Ref blows whistle too fast in loose puck possibly costing Habs a goal. Funny how hockey always seems to even out.

- DESHARNAIS SHOOTS. Hits the crossbar. See?? SEE?!?!

- Bishop looking a little ... nervous? Mishandled a couple of pucks, having trouble smothering loose rebounds.

No way you'll convince me Pacioretty is playing 100%. Continues to fight handling the puck, winning battles along the boards. It'll be up to Gallagher to pick up some of his slack.

- Eller's great work often for not because of the stone hands of Weise and especially Prust. He's being wasted on that 3rd line, coach.

- Habs massively all over Tampa. Completely dominating them in their zone, Bishop getting pelted by shots, saved by two posts. Montreal's forecheck has been exceptionally strong, speed much faster. Clearly the three extra days rest is having a significant impact. Question is, how long can this be sustained? Montreal needs to score, here.

- Here comes the Habs powerplay!! (Hide).

- Bishop doing all he can to hold Habs off. Just stacking the crease and hoping for the best.

Habs powerplay, if their first is any indication, appears to be more focused on carrying the zone, rather than the usual dump and chase. Also, Eller 2nd unit was brought on far too late to generate any sufficient zone pressure.

- An eventful period - Habs dominate much of it, certainly out-checking and out-hitting Tampa. Bishop looked nervous at the start, but still made some key saves to keep the Habs off the board. Kind of mirrors the Senators series in how, in game 4 and 5, Habs were unable to take advantage of early chances and pressure, which invariably led to deflating goals by Ottawa, and inevitably, two straight losses. Habs must find a way of keeping the pressure on Tampa, who are notably tired from their seven game series against Detroit. Winning both games at home will be essential to Montreal's hopes of advancing to the 3rd round.

- Another entertaining period - much more than anything we saw against Ottawa. Ben Bishop the story so far tonight, keeping the dominating Habs off the scoreboard. Montreal's zone entries this game have been remarkably good - which is something we haven't observed in a very long time. It bodes well for the Habs likelihood of scoring the game's first goal, although with Bishop playing his mind out, it's reasonable to believe this game will require an extra period. Habs have done a pretty good job containing the speed advantage held by Tampa, resulting in more shots coming from the line and perimeter.  The further this game drags on scoreless, the more likely the winning goal(s) will be as a result of error, or a puck deflection.


Well, we can't say "our legs were tired" tonight. Five days off, yeah - that's more than enough time to rest and prepare for an opponent who themselves, only finished off a tough grinding series less than 48 hours ago.

So, advantage Habs.

Beyond that? Wellll ....

You know the storyline. You've heard the big stat - five times these two met during the regular season, and five times the victor was the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a 7-1 mauling in October down in Florida.

Things have changed since then, of course. The Habs did go on to win 50 games - the first time since 1989, and their division, in spite of losing every single game to the Lightning. Carey Price did go on to a Vezina and possibly Hart trophy season. P.K. Subban a Norris nominee. Another near 40 goal season for Max Pacioretty. The establishment of Nathan Beaulieu as a regular, 2nd line defenseman. The continuing improvement and evolution of Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.

Still, Tampa's had the Habs number. It really begins and ends with their top three lines, which tonight will be:


There's a lot of speed and skill there. A lot. It goes without saying that the Canadiens' defense is going to be tested very sternly, which begs the question, can Montreal's blue line handle the Lightning attack?

In retrospect, the acquisition of Jeff Petry from Edmonton by Marc Bergevin was a coup, since that time, Petry has been the Habs best defender second to P.K. Subban. The issue with the Habs is beyond their top three D, (Subban, Markov and Petry), the loss of Beaulieu means added responsibility for those who struggle with forward speed, most notably Alexei Emelin. With Tampa possessing three scoring capable lines, it will be impossible for Michel Therrien to shield his defense from the likes of Tyer Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and of course, Steven Stamkos.

Which means, of course, that Habs hopes and expectations are going to land squarely on the shoulders of the man who largely got them here - Carey Price. We know the season he's had, we know he was solid against Ottawa in the first round, and we know he'll probably have to be at the very top of his MVP game if the Canadiens want to live to see either the Rangers or Caps in the 3rd round.

It wouldn't hurt, of course, if the Canadiens could get their offensive house in order. The powerplay, as it has been all regular season, and the first round, is a hot mess. One of the few forwards that had a very strong showing against the Senators, Lars Eller, appears to have been promoted to 2nd line duty, at the expense of the disastrously underperforming Devante Smith-Pelly, who's now been demoted to 4th line duties. Rotating Eller into the powerplay is a very good move, assuming that Alex Galchenyuk isn't rotated out. There is speculation that coach Therrien wasn't pleased with Galchenyuk's efforts in the first round, and as such, will be removed from specialty units. Hopefully that's not the case.

So on the whole, it's Tampa's offense against the Habs defense and goaltending. It's a formula for either a quick, resounding series win for Tampa, or a slow, grinding, close, exceptionally hard fought series win for the Habs.

The former is a far higher probability. Therefore, I'm predicating Tampa in six games, but wouldn't be entirely shocked if it only took them five.


Hey, we got Habs notes this morning.

- Habs are practicing in Brossard this morning, and the picture you see above is the team working on the powerplay. Because we all know how well that oiled machine was working in the first round. 

Devante Smith-Pelly on the man advantage? Yeah. No more of that. THANK YOU JEBUZ.

- Sergei Gonchar is practicing today.

- Nathan Beaulieu isn't, because as you might have heard yesterday, he won't be available until at least the 2nd week of May.

- CONGRATS TO CAREY. In an announcement that surprised absolutely nobody, Carey Price has  been nominated for the Hart Trophy, as the League's most valuable player.


Is it Friday? It's a long wait between one series and another. Whomever the Habs take on in round two, won't be fresh in the legs department. That we know.

Habs practiced this morning. Here were the lines:

- Galchenyuk-Desharnais-Weise
- Pacioretty-Plekanec-Gallagher
- Prust-Eller-Parenteau
- De La Rose-Mitchell-Smith-Pelly

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean we'll see these combinations come Friday night, but if we do, then Michel, you're a difficult man to teach.

If you're reading this coach, and I just know you are, then here's how it really oughtta be done:

- Pacioretty-Plekanec-Parenteau
- Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher
- De la Rose-Desharnais-DSP
- Prust-Mitchell-Weise


That's all we got. Because it's Wednesday.

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