Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Game 26: Blue Jackets vs. Habs


- Habs and Jackets through 40 minutes:

- Habs start the 3rd with a far more aggressive forecheck. Produced a couple of decent scoring attempts.

- Desharnais and Weise are a two-man self-inflicted defensive wrecking crew. Just abysmal puck control at centre ice gives Columbus a clear-cut 2-0 break.

- The Habs line combinations can only be described with one word: preposterous. Have no idea what Therrien is doing back there, excepting perhaps pulling decision from a hat.

- Normally I'd just shrug off that Lars Eller was cross checked in the neck, and Alex Gulchenyuk high sticked in the face this period alone. However, given that Emelin was tossed for an interference, and Foligno not punished for an attempt to injure, I must stay this: Kevin Pollock and Kelly Sutherland are terrible at what they do.

- Jackets are being stealthy with their attacks, just laying back and then striking quickly. Habs seem to be attempting to generate goals via more complex passing plays. I like Columbus' strategy more, and would probably favour them to score the next (and perhaps winning) goal.

- Habs forwards, whatever combinations they're coming in, need to shoot the puck. Too many puck carriers are holding on for too long, looking for the perfect shooting position. Game will not be won that way. A dirty goal is just as good as a slick one.

- I think it's very safe to say, when it comes to handling the puck. Mike Condon is no Carey Price.

- Wow, Hartnell with a very foolish trip on Subban with 2 and a half left.

- Habs powerplay strikes, what a killer. Unbelievably, it's Weise feeding Pacioretty. Therrien's bizarre, illogical line juggle pays off, I guess. It's crazy how this happens again and again.

- Another terrible icing call that will give the Jackets one more shot at tying the game with a deep zone faceoff. Those have been awful tonight as well.

- Well, a win is a win, however uninspired, and however poorly officiated. A bad penalty by Hartnell, and Therrien somehow magically putting out a line combination that made next to no logical sense, scores the game winner. I'm done figuring out the coach because whatever he does, seems to work out.


- Habs and Jackets through 20 minutes. You can see how Columbus chipped their way back into this game after a slow start to the period:

- That was a pretty poor powerplay for the Jackets, a big 5 minute advantage blown. That could be a key part of the final result story, if the Habs do win the game.

- Habs 2nd powerplay, at least puck control was established, but many sloppy passes and missed shot attempts. Seems like team powerplay in general is getting a little musty, if not slightly disinterested. No sense of urgency or intensity.

- So Therrien has now moved Pacioretty next to Desharnais, which makes all kinds of no sense whatsoever. I've said it before, line experimentations are fine, but only if they make a sliver of sense.

- Foligno with a dirty knee hit on Fleischmann, and Beaulieu comes in to fight. Bad idea, not only because Foligno can hold his own (and did), but the Habs can't afford to take even a sniff of a chance losing another defenceman. Beaulieu hit to the ice with a right to the jaw. Oy.

- So Emelin gets 5 and a game for a bodycheck interference, and Foligno, who clearly attempted to take out Fleischmann with his knee, gets no punishment. NHL officiating continues to struggle.

- Both teams with pretty uninspiring performances tonight, offence execution has been sloppy, at best. Horrendous, at worst. Both fully deserved zero points tonight. Too bad that can't happen.

- Another period, another black eye for NHL officiating. The referees tonight, Kevin Pollock and Kelly Sutherland, have combined more than 2,000 NHL games of experience. There is absolutely no excuse for their poor calls, and for not taking Foligno off the ice for the rest of the night. Hopefully the League will have some semblance of decency, and will handle this matter internally in disciplining these officials.

Oh yeah, the game itself. Another yawner - very little flow to this game, offences a real clunker, and Therrien being Therrien, mixing up his lines with strange player combinations, that included Pacioretty next to DD, which as noted previously, makes absolutely no sense.


- Oh man, what a pretty, pretty play ... Christian Thomas a beautiful pass to Paul Byron, who tips the puck past Bobrovsky, who had little chance. Habs outlet speed too much for the slower footed Jackets defence to react. 1-0.

- Habs struggle setting up properly on their first powerplay, Jackets PK good job with puck pressure. Ice seems to be a little rough, puck bouncing quite a bit.

- Galchenyuk line with plenty of speed and energy in this period, they and the 4th line the best so far for the Habs.

- Galchenyuk continuing to work magic with the puck - he's on the cusp of a big-time breakout season. We may be witnessing it this year.

- Pretty mute attack by Columbus so far, they're not winning centre ice, which is limiting possession and any threatening zone entries. Habs defence, it would appear, are well prepared tonight.

- Sometimes the best move is to not do anything at all. Emelin takes the puck from the line, with no traffic in front of Bobrovsky, takes a 50 foot wrister that probably wasn't any faster than 30 mph. Net effect, Bobrovsky with routine save, Columbus with easy, clean and fast break out of their zone.

- Subban's attempt to clear the zone hits the referees skate, and a shot on Condon is misplayed by the Habs goaltender, with Foligno wrapping the puck into the open side.

- Emelin loses his brain somewhere on the ice, and proceeding to blindside hit Nick Foligno  with the puck nowhere near. Emelin give 5 and a game. Could it be 5 minutes and 6 games? Please???

- Well, that's pretty lame. Habs started strong, but Columbus started to work their way back into the game, with Foligno tying the game, and Emelin being stupid old Emelin again. In any case, the Habs need to return to being more aggressive with their forecheck, as the Blue Jackets defence is suspect at best. It seemed to be working early, but for whatever reason, the Canadiens moved away from that strategy as the period progressed.


Well, by now you've heard the delightful news that Carey Price will be out of the lineup until at least mid-January (that Winter Classic is really shaping up, isn't it?), and that Marc Bergevin says he's standing pat with what he's got - which means, six weeks of backup Dustin Tokarski, and starter Mike Condon ... aka ... Condibear!

In tribute of Condibear being the Habs number-one goaltender for the next couple of months, I found this adorable cartoon bear on the interwebs to represent Condi. It's cute!!

Tonight, the Habs get the opportunity to host, for the first time this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets, as you might recall, got off to an atrocious start this season, losing their first 8 games before finally eeking out an OT win over the actual worst team in the NHL this season, the Colorado Avalanche. Columbus' awful start cost Todd Richards his head coaching job, and the one-man-insanity-show better known as John Tortorella was brought in.

Since the Richards firing, the Jackets, even with a loose cannon line Tortorella in charge, have managed to find stability. From that 0-8 start, the Jackets have gone 10-7, which is quite respectable. Whether or not they'll have time enough to recover a bid for a post-season spot remains to be seen, but they are, at least, demonstrating competitiveness.

Even with those wins, it's still been an up-and-down journey for Columbus. They've beaten some pretty good competition, posting wins against teams like the L.A. Kings, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators on some nights, but then losing games (quite badly) to not-very-good teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators. They are a team that's been difficult to figure out.

The big achilles heel for Columbus has mainly been defensive. The Jackets have the 26th ranked team defence, surrendering on average, nearly 30 shots per game. Compounding the issue has been lackluster performances by former Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who's struggled to put up a .908 SV%, which amongst NHL starters, ranks pretty close to the bottom of the League.

How much their defence has struggled is surprising, given they have two high profile blue liners in Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray. The weakest links reside with the Jackets' third line defence, comprised of journeyman Andrew Bodnarchuk and Justin Falk, who are, as NHL-calibre players, marginal talents (at best). That's a big issue for the Jackets because it forces their top two lines into playing exhaustive minutes each game, and exposes them to a heap of trouble against line-matching opponents, especially when Columbus is the visiting team, as they are tonight.

Once again, the Habs are facing an opponent that, even with all the injuries, they ought handle. There won't be many changes with tonight's lineup as compared to Saturday night, except that Emelin is expected to draw in, with Greg Pateryn, who struggled on the weekend, thought to be a healthy scratch.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST at the Bell Centre. Bobrovsky vs. Condon.

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