Friday, 30 October 2015

Game Twelve: Habs vs. Flames


- Score adjusted possession through 40 minutes. Reminder - the Habs are getting trounced by a team that struggles to crack 40% on any given night:

- Looking forward to Therrien's post-game comments tonight if the Habs do go on to win this game. Will he tell the media that he was satisfied with what he saw? Because it's pretty plain as day that his team is playing pretty horrendous hockey.

- Wack of icings to start the 3rd period, which I guess is what sit-on-the-lead Habs are satisfied in doing.

- Lars Eller is finally given a shift, and upon stepping on the ice, gets caught for a slash. He won't be returning tonight, you get bet on that.

- Byron of all people, to Eller's rescue! Short handed goal gives Habs 5-2 lead. Lars owes Paul ... big time.

- Eller gets another shift! And the Habs keep the Flames pretty much continued in their zone for every second of it. GO LARS.

- Combination of bad puck luck and sloppy defence for the Flames, Dale Weise with his first career hat trick to give the Habs a 6-2 lead. Fleischmann with an unselfish feed to Weise for the goal.

- Habs score adjusted possession in the 3rd period has been through the roof. Slightly more than 80% with 8 minutes left. Goodness.

- The more Dale Weise scores, the worse matters become for the Habs. He's not a power forward, he's not a 20 goal scoring player. But he's going to get top tier ice time from Therrien because of this production. He's not that kind of player.

- Well, Habs at least get a win from the trip, but it was a pretty poorly played game - certainly not much better than last night's debacle against Edmonton, and in some ways, worse. The only saving grace for Montreal tonight was Joni Ortio, who had an abysmal night in goal, a save percentage just above .800. Habs now return home to face a much, much better Winnipeg Jets team. If tonight is what they'll throw at Winnipeg, the final scoreboard result won't be nearly as positive.


- Habs and Flames after 20 minutes. Montreal continues to struggle in outpossessing their opponent. Haven't done so in nearly two weeks:

- Hudler ties the game as a Pacioretty penalty expires, Habs PK unit not nearly tonight enough to cover the passing lanes. Oh well.

- Therrien puts Dale Weise out on first powerplay unit. That's insanity.

- Beaulieu gives the Habs the lead again on the powerplay (no, Weise was not on), with a hard slapper from the point. Seems to me the Habs should just put pucks at the net at every opportunity. Ortio isn't elite. He might not even be good.

- Flames tie, as Condon fails to cover up the puck fast enough, and Jooris swipes in the puck. Habs again, with soft defence around their net. This time Emelin is the culprit. What a shocker.

- And Weise scores again, and Ortio muffs another shot, and Therrien is now going to think Weise is elite, and Weise will get more top line playing time while guys like Eller rot on the bench. You can see it all coming a mile away.

- Eller has been benched. You may commence with shakes of the head.

- So with Eller now just a spectator, Flynn isn't being deployed very much, which means Galchenyuk, one of the Habs most important offensive weapons, isn't getting shifts. It's a crazy misuse of assets. If I were a player I'd be wondering what the hell my coach is thinking?

- Flames are simply handing this game to the Habs on a platter, as Smith-Pelly scores his first of the season off a terrible turnover behind Calgary's net. In addition to massively misplaying their lines, Habs are getting soundly outplayed all over the ice, and yet, somehow, lead by two.

- Dougie Hamilton has been pretty quiet, borderline invisible tonight. Not sure if the Flames envisioned this when they gave up some pretty big parts of their future to acquire him.

- Habs lead by two after two, mainly because Ortio hasn't been very good. He's certainly not been much better than the Habs collectively, and in the meantime, Therrien singles out Lars Eller for punishment, of all people. It's a silly thing of Therrien to do, it certainly underscores the belief that he doesn't know how to watch the game. In any case, if the Habs do win this, it won't be in large part because of what they did right, but a reflection of what Calgary did wrong.


- Sigh, Michel Therrien. And his lineups. Same as last night. Flynn 2nd line. What can ya do?

- Stumbling start for the Habs, Flames, who aren't exactly an offensive powerhouse, keeping Habs pinned early.

- Emelin was heaped praise (deservedly) for his strong play to start the season, but since the Leafs game, he's been slipping back to his sloppy ways. Positioning and judgement, mainly.

- Wow. Flames netminding. What to say? Dale Weise with a 50 foot slapper that may have been screened a little, but it's still a very stoppable shot. Ortio wiffs, and the Habs take a 1-0 lead.

- Mike Condon. Great positioning and great lateral movement robbing the Flames of two golden scoring chances. Still wonder how much of Condon's excellent play is a rub-off effect being a teammate of Carey Price.

- Habs are lucky the Flames are lousy converting their scoring chances. Otherwise this game could very likely have Calgary ahead on the scoreboard.

- Calgary's structure reminds me an awful lot of Montreal's last season (and this season, for all we know). Lots of chips, shooting pucks in from centre and chasing. Calgary also likes to block shots, a Habs speciality under Therrien. Big problem for Calgary is not only do they play like the Habs, but they don't nearly have the depth of talent. Formula for a losing season. We'll see.

- Evenly played first period, Habs continue to not play nearly as well as they did before the Leafs, their zone entries are very inconsistent, and perhaps more worrisome, they're playing very sloppy in their own zone, leaving far too many opposition forwards unmarked. Condon was excellent - one gets the feeling he'll need to be that way the entire night if the Habs hope to win at least one game on this trip.



Remember last season, when the Calgary Flames, to the surprise of just about everyone, put together a 45 win, 97 point season, and then beat the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, their first playoff advancement in 20 years? And then do you remember all the accolades that went to coach Bob Hartley, who won the Jack Adams award for NHL coach of the year?

Then do you remember how during this offseason, the Flames went out into the market to improve their defense, by landing Dougie Hamilton, a possibly-future Norris Trophey, in exchange for high level draft picks? A bold move! So bold that some experts picked the Flames to be a high finish in this season's standings. Could a parade on Red Mile be in the not-too-distant future?

While we're all in a relective mood, did you also happen to remember how the Flames finished 2014015 as the third worst possession team in the NHL? Whoops. Say what? Third worst? Naw. Really? Worse than ... Toronto? Yeah? For reals???!!

Indeed, the Calgary Flames of 2014-15, they of 45 wins and 97 points, were an analytical puzzle. They were winning consistently, even though the raw numbers from those wins weren't really adding up. A corsi percentage of 45.3%, which, indeed, was worst than the Toronto Maple Leafs, who - in the weaker Eastern Conference, finished with only 30 wins, and 29 fewer points in the standings.

So you can't really blame Calgary for standing essentially pat from last season to this. Indeed, you'd have to feel awfully optimistic about Calgary's chances this year, given they were able to obtain a stud like Hamilton.

Problem is, the Flames didn't really make any significant improvements or adjustments in how they approach playing hockey. They are today, as they were last year, a grinding team that prefers to chip instead of carrying the puck. The net affection through the first 10 games of the year? A 5v5 corsi percentage of just 39.2%, even more dreadful than last season's numbers. Add to Calgary's woes, a struggling powerplay, currently 23rd ranked, less than mediocre offensive tempo, registering an average of 28 shots per game (22nd overall), and most certainly huge challenges in goal, with Jonas Hiller, as their number one starter, registering a less than stellar .861 SP%

The net effect? Just 2 wins in their first 10 games, putting them just one point ahead of the lowly Anaheim Ducks for last place overall.

Maybe last year really was a facade. Maybe it was a season where everything went right for the Flames, instilling a belief that they were better than they actually were. If the first 10 games of this season is any evidence, Calgary might not be a playoff team. They might, in fact, be a terrible hockey team.

Tonight, the Flames might be getting a dose of relief, as they take on the suddenly hapless Habs, who somehow found a way of giving up a seemingly insurmountable lead last night against the young, talented, but raw Edmonton Oilers. The loss was so profoundly frustrating, that there's already griping amongst some of the faithful that Michel Therrien be shown the door for his inability to properly construct, and deploy, a lineup. And this for a 9-2 team!

Anyway, puck drops tonight at 9:10 EST. It's the Habs last chance to salvage some points out of this mini western road trip.

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