Monday, 9 November 2015

Game Seventeen: Habs vs. Pens


- Condon vs. Fleury. I'll take the former over the later.

- Galchenyuk too fancy, and Pens take early advantage.

- Crosby with the dagger. Actually, Condon doesn't do well with breakaway stuff. So the Pens grab the extra point. Disappointing result.


- As Habs fans are fully aware, this 3-on-3 stuff has been a killer. 

- Habs really struggle with gaining puck possession in this overtime format. Really hurts their ability to generate scoring chances.

- Habs get called for too many. That's just insane.

- Tom Gilbert jumped off the bench too early. Gilbert, just wow.

- Habs, remarkable, survive the penalty. But the Pens were their own worst enemy with the advantage, as they kept their powerplay unit out for the entire two minutes. Helped the Habs to somehow hang on. 


- Habs had, get ready for this - 76% possession in the 2nd period. Pens are lucky to find themselves down just one.

- Dale Weise first shift of the 3rd, looked pretty meek. No way he's playing 100%

- Desharnais line had a pretty dreadful 1st period, but have been much improved since then. Doing a nice job gaining the Pens zone. 

- Been kind of an up and down night for Markov, Kessel turning him inside out off a rush, but Condon makes a nice save off the backhand.

- Habs defence suddenly getting a bit slow and sloppy, as Malkin somehow doesn't score on an open net. Montreal would be wise to slow the pace down, 14 minutes left.

- Gallagher takes a hard slapper off the ankle. Off to the room. Uh-oh.

- Habs getting tighter and tighter as the period progresses, and that's not a good thing. Pens are gaining the zone with relative speed, and intensifying their forecheck, which is generating a lot of Habs turnovers. Montreal must adjust quickly, or this game will be tied soon.

- Brian Flynn moved up to take Gallagher's spot on the Plekanec line. We await his return. Hopefully soon.

- Mike Condon building the fort, keeping the Habs ahead by one. But only barely. Habs seem to collectively think there's less than 20 seconds left on the clock. There's 8 minutes left. No way this lead holds unless the Canadiens smarten up.

- Gallagher returns! And makes a horrid giveaway right in the high slot. Condon with a spectacular blocker save. Gallagher owes Condibear a biggie for that.

- And there it is. Hornqvist with a snapper that deflects off Petry's stick, and ties the game. Habs sat on this and got burned. We saw it coming.

- Pens have all the mo' right now. At this point, Habs can probably hope to play for overtime. But wouldn't be surprised if the Pens win this in regulation. 

- Nice momentum shift for the Plekanec line, Gallagher with some determined forechecking to keep the pressure in the Pens zone. Maybe the ship will right itself after all?

- Never mind. Gilbert muffs the puck up at centre ice, and then hauls down his man. Really poor play by Gilbert that might cost his team the game. 

- Pens take a timeout to keep their number one unit out for the entire 2 minute powerplay. Smart move. Crosby looks awfully anxious to score what would be the winning goal.

- It was close, but the Habs survive the Gilbert penalty. 

- Wow. Habs just didn't show up in the 3rd, and blew a game they largely had in full control just half an hour ago. This team doesn't learn lessons. Not after blowing their big lead two weeks ago against Edmonton, repeating old mistakes tonight.


- Habs and Pens through 20 minutes. Habs may have had the possession edge, but the Pens still controlled the game tempo - by a substantial margin. 

- Officials calling this game incredibly tight. Consistent, but tight. Could be a few powerplays from here on out.

- Maatta has been given credit for Pens second goal, sorry Phil. Replay show Kessel's shot was deflected, impossible save for Condon. 

- Habs would be wise to just keep firing on Fluery at every opportunity, at any angle, any distance.

- Desharnais line being out-chanced by more than a margin of 3-to-1. That's pretty awful.

- This second period not nearly as free-wheeling as the first. That's a good thing for the Habs.

- And just like that, Gallagher scores high off the break off a sloppy neutral zone turnover. Fluery gave him most of the top left of the net, going down too early off the shot. Tie game.

- Kris Letang, in the middle of a dreadful season, retaliates off a non-call off a very marginal hit delivered by Markov in the corner five minutes ago. Pretty stupid play by Letang. Gives Habs another powerplay chance.

- Habs string together 10 passes in a row, manage to generate zero shots on net. That's the bad old version of the Canadiens' powerplay.

- Weise looks to be significantly injured, favouring leg. Straight to the room, assisted by two teammates.

- Weise hurt, it's been a very difficult night for the Habs third line. Possession, and now injury. 

- Lovejoy with a clumsy play falling on Weise's leg from behind. Reply does not look good, the way Weise went down. Alex Semin, are you watching?

- Hoo boy, Marc-Andre Fleury, with a terrible goal scored on him by Brian Flynn. Crosby losing his marbles after the goal, draws two minutes for being stupid. Habs lead for the first time in the game.

- Sidney Crosby, who looked so good to start the game, now looking so ... bad. What gives, Sid?


- I don't know if anyone has noticed, but the Habs have kind of destroyed the Pens in this period. 

- Weise with an uneventful shift since coming back to the bench. 

- A completely dominate period for the #Habs in the 2nd period. The Pens held to just two shots on goal. Habs possession was crazy one-sided, and aided by some shoddy goaltending by Fluery, Montreal has totally turned this game around. Habs were definitely aided by a much more sound defensive approach in the period, which kept the Pens in check, especially the Crosby line, who let loose frustration at the end of the period. One of the best played periods of hockey by this Habs team - possibly this season.


- Did we even sit down to start watching? Plekanec does a very poor job checking his mark, leaving Dupuis wiiiiiiiiiide open to receive a Crosby pass, Condibear no chance. Boom. 1-0.

- If the first three minutes is any indication of what the rest of the game will be, this good be a monster night for Crosby.

- So this is the highly rated Pens PK? Passing lanes far too open, Subban to Markov with a hard, but not impossible shot for Fleury to stop. Tie game.

- Terrific puck movement by the Pens, still. With that, and Fluery in net, we might have a scoring bonanza tonight. Wider nets? PFFT.

- Good buzzing shift for Habs 4th line, Mitchell with golden scoring opportunity, but instead of taking a shot, he makes a perplexing pass.

- Pretty fast and free-wheeling first 8 minutes. Defences mostly on their heels trying to handle the attacks. Lots of unmolested zone entries so far. These teams are just going to hammer each other with shots all night.

- Pens might have scored off their first shot, but Mike Condon is bringing it tonight. More than a couple spectacular sprawling saves by Condibear.

- Kessel with Malkin looks very impressive. They've been generating some excellent scoring chances, all undone by spectacular goaltending by Condon. By the way, Condon. This guy is turning out to not only be a great story for the Habs this season, but a great story of the entire League. 

- Gallagher nailed for a blindside skeaky/slimey trip in front of the Pens net. Good call by the referee. 

- Habs defence (Markov/Subban) way too passive handing the Malkin line rush, with Kessel snapping a shot past Condon to give the Pens a 2-1 lead. Habs simply can't afford to retreat defensively against an opponent with so much speed.

- Desharnais line is one huge defensive liability this period. One of the worst periods I've seen from this unit in a long time.

- Spirited period of hockey, very fast, very entertaining. It was a home team period, which is bad news for the Habs, who need to smarten up their defensive game if they hope to hang tight in this game. They need to slow the game pace down dramatically. Maybe, heaven forbid, ice a few pucks.

Phil. PHIL! It wasn't supposed to be this way. What happened??

We're about 1/5th into the season, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who came into the year featuring one of the most intimidating offenses in the game of hockey have ... well ... is flopped a good word to use?

That feared Pens offence - maybe more aptly described as that once-feared Pens offence, currently is ranked 26th in the League for goal production. Only Carolina, Philadelphia, Anaheim, and yes, Toronto, are ranked worse than Pittsburgh.

Through 14 games, Kessel has amased 6 goals, which is okay, but (fair to say) isn't nearly at the anticipated goal-churning production line that everyone was anticipating. I mean, Kessel next to the "greatest hockey player in the world" Sidney Crosby, that's a sure-fire formula for a resounding success.

Oh ... right. About Mr. Crosby. The Pens had Kessel next to Sid the Kid for a half dozen games, a match made in hockey heaven that produced ... uh ... 1 goal. Since being moved "down" to play next to Evgeni Malkin's wing, things have picked up a bit for Phil. At the very lease, he and Evgeni are producing actual measurable positive offence.

The issue here is not only Phil, of course. It's Crosby, who's off to the worst start in his NHL career - just 2 goals in 14 games, and a horrid -6 rating. Sure, with only a handful of games played, it was easy to disregard his slow start to some kind of aberration. But now we're 14 games in, well past that rationale, and Crosby still isn't producing. For whatever reason.

Crosby is absolutely critical to the Pens' success. Where he goes, so too go the rest of the Pens - who've managed to stave off his lack of production in order to generate a respectable 9 wins. But their win/loss ratios can't stay this loft if Crosby can't produce. Something, as they say, has gotta give. With a League-leading 103 PDO, the Pens have been the beneficiary of good luck. You know what happens with good luck. It turns bad. It always does.

So tonight, Crosby and the Pens host the (still) number one team in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens, whom are dealing with uncertainties - specifically, the health Carey Price (who, by the way, so happens to be the actual greatest-hockey-player-in-the-world). Price was supposed to return this week, but after seeing a specialist on Monday, that return has been pushed back another week. These make for nervous times.

Still, the Habs are riding the wave of excellent play by their backup - Mike Condibear Condon, who was the NHL's 3rd star of the week last week. While the Habs would certainly prefer to have Price be their starter tonight, as long as Condon continues to efficiently keep pucks out of the net, the Habs are stacked up well to continue their winning ways.

Tonight, it's the Pens and Habs - Condon vs. Fleury. Phil vs. the World. And the puck, it will drop at 7:40 EST.


Carey Price Update: Apparently, out another week. Which, apart from him not being able to play, might be a blessing since the Habs have only two games scheduled this weeek.

Habs practice this morning in Brossard before they venture off to Pittsburgh:

- Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski on the ice. Carey Price, who was in New York City yesterday seeing a specialist for his lower body injury, was not at the rink.

- Alex Semin sighting! Practising today, did a few drills next to Eller and Galchenyuk, no less. Could this mean ... ?


- Congrats to Condibear Mike Condo, selected NHL 3rd Star of the Week! Condibear might get three stars from the League, but he gets zero stars from me for wearing that AWFUL REEBOK CAP.  Just look at that thing. Good lord.  Final word: anything designed by Reebok is an abomination to the human race.

- Carey Price flew to New York City today. Not because he misread the schedule, but he's going to see a specialist for his never-to-be-actually-identified-publicly lower body injury. When specialists get involved, all you can say is, uh-oh.

- Here's your interesting fact-o'-the-day: Habs have 13 regulation wins in their past 16 games. The Toronto Maple Leafs have 13 regulation wins in their past 68 GAMES. If that doesn't brighten the start to your week, nothing will.

More in a bit.

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