Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Game Seven: Blues vs. Habs


- Through 40 minutes in Montreal:

- Five minutes through the 3rd, with exception to the 4h line, Habs have been sitting on the lead. That's a pretty risky strategy with so much time left on the clock with only a two goal lead. We'll see how this pans out, but I'm not feeling very assured at the moment.

Definite 2014-15 flashbacks going on here. Now icing the puck. And lead sitting. Just begging for trouble.

- Just waiting ... just waiting for the Blues first goal here. Even Price can only do so much while the rest of his team just dumps the puck away.

- Blues have 70% possession this period, with 10 minutes left. That how much the Canadiens are attempting to sit out the clock. Yikes.

- While the Habs sit, the Blues will feel increased pressure to pinch their defense, which will open up the neutral zone significantly for the Habs. 8 minutes left, we're nearing the time when St. Louis must take risks.

- Well, never mind that I guess. Great work by the Habs 4th line pays off on the scoresheet, with Subban the point shot, and Mitchell depositing the rebound. Blues defence simply sagged on that play - they look spent. Habs just opportunistic tonight. The bounces went their way, and they took full advantage.

- Well, even with the 3rd period sag, the bottom line is this team is 7-0. And Buffalo and Toronto next. So ... who knows how long this might last?


- Habs will have to do a far, far better job getting out of their zone from this point forward. Blue have been dominating centre ice since the first drop of the puck. Montreal forwards have been somewhat guilty of pushing up ice a little too aggressively when the defense has puck possession, making successful passes increasingly difficult. They'll need to hang back a bit tighter, in my opinion.

- Just about every Habs chip up the boards from their zone is being anticipated and brought right straight back by a Blues defender. Over three periods, this will kill the Habs.

- Carey Price robs Tarasenko, likely not for the last time tonight, after a sloppy centre ice turnover by the Habs. Blues looking even stronger this period.

- Well, that's just crazy. Habs with the usual shoot in which is bobbled by a miscommunication between the Blues defence and forwards. Semin gains control of the loose puck and wrists a 40 footer past Allen. Montreal getting the benefit of the bounces so far. 2-0.

- Habs offence suddenly comes to life, Desharnais with an outstanding shift after the Semin goal, nearly making it 3-0, if not for a couple of tough saves by Allen. Blues definitely reeling here.

- Looks like Therrien is settling on putting his 4th line against the Blues' 2nd (Backes), and Plekanec against Lehtara.

- Desharnais line with excellent shifts this period, keeping Blues pinned in their zone, and their defense scrambling. Chances being generated - basically doing everything you'd want for your 3rd line, and more.

- Very strange period for the Blues. They started the 2nd period with fire and fury, and looked close to having the Habs on the ropes. The Semin goal just seemed to completely deflate them. They'll need to work hard to get some momentum back.

- Habs penalty kill has been a game saver tonight. Blues haven't been able to muster up much of a scoring threat with the man advantage.

- Not sure if the Blues defense is slowing down as the game progresses, but Habs wingers and pinching defensemen are being granted unmolested puck control wide along the boards.

- Just speculating, but I think another factor with the Habs powerplay struggles has been a poor-ish faceoff percentage deep in the opposition zone. Wish I had numbers somewhere to verify (or disprove) that theory.

- Blues seemed to downshift after Semin goal, and just about fluking a bank shot off the divider past Price, maybe St. Louis is collectively coming to the realizing that tonight just won't be their night.


- Excellent first shift by the Desharnais line, Weise just about backhanding a shot past Allen from the slot.

- Habs doing early line matching, sending Plekanec line out to face the Blues' 4th line.

- Hitchcock does his own strategizing, putting Lehtara out against Petry/Emelin. Probably (rightly) thinks he's better to exploit that pairing than Gibert/Beaulieu. 

- Backes line by far the most dangerous so far for St. Louis.

- Sweet zone entry by the Blues, and a heck of a pad save by Price off Tarasenko. Beware the Tarasenko.

- Blues doing an excellent job clogging up the neutral zone, which has severely hampered the Habs' forward's to generate zone entry speed.

- Blues structured game starting to pay off here as we head into the 2nd half of the period. Generating increasingly more dangerous scoring chances on Price.

- Hockey is just so hard to quantify. Plekanec a wrist shot deftly deflected by Pacioretty and past Allen. Blues were pretty much totally dominating the past 7 minutes, and find themselves down 1-0.

- Well, take what you can get, I suppose. Blues really had a firm grip on this game from about the halfway mark to less than 2 minutes left in the period, and then the Habs (apparently it was Plekanec) get a sneaky goal. Still, the intangibles are heavily in favour of the Blues because they played such a structured period of hockey, which really hampered the Habs ability to sustain any kind of offensive pressure in the Blues zone. Habs should be happy they have the lead against a very good Blues team.


Happy post-election day! Okay, enough politics, we have matters to attend to that really matter. Namely, tonight's CLASH OF THE TITANS, featuring the St. Louis Blues, who are off to a rocking' 5-1 start to their season, and the NHL'S BEST TEAM, the Montreal Canadiens, who are undefeated, baby!

That the Blues are off to a great start isn't particularly a surprise. They've got an excellent roster that rolls four lines, featuring the (very) talented likes of Jaden Schwartz, Troy Brouwer, Alexander Steen, and the (very, very) talented Vladimir Tarasenko, who's off to a sizzling season start, with 9 points (5 goals) scored in the Blues' six games, which just so happens to be the most in the League, at the present.

Let's see that lineup tonight:

Line 1: Steen/Lehtera/Tarasenko
Line 2: Schwartz/Backes/Brouwer
Line 3: Jaskin/Gomez/Upshall
Line 4: Ott/Brodzik/Reaves

Okay, snickers aside with Gomez starting on the 3rd line, the Blues roll two scoring and two energy lines, making them a difficult team to defend. They also play a methodical game, working the puck out of their zone with great efficiency, which forces their opponent forwards to work both ends of the ice.

Fortunately for the Habs, it would appear that this season's team is taking a far more organized approach to the game - the dividends are self-apparent with the Canadiens off to their best start in 106 years. Montreal has rolled four lines with very even splits, highlighted by exceptional performances by the Habs 4th line of Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchel and Devante Smith-Pelly. The relentless forecheck that line has provided has given the rest of the lineup significant energy, which is a huge advantage if you have three lines that are capable of scoring.

Still, the Habs have their hands full tonight - maybe the first true test of whether this team is legitimately elite. I expect nothing less than the game to be tight checking, physical and low scoring.

Keys for the Habs? Well, if there's a weak spot for the Blues, it's their blue line, which is currently dealing with the loss of their young star defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk. which has forced St. Louis to move the relatively inexperienced Colton Parayko up next to Carl Gunnerson, who was Shattenkirk's partner. With the Canadiens possessing the luxury of the last change, Michel Therrien can mix and match his lines in an attempt to exploit the Shattenkirk absence.

Regardless, it'll be a fascinating game to watch. A true measure of just how good (or maybe great?) this Habs team is.

Carey Price will face Jake Allen.

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