Friday, 11 December 2015

Game 31: Sens vs. Habs


- Here's the rundown for Habs and Sens through 40 minutes:

- Sens buzzing to start the 3rd, the Habs, again, playing much to cautiously, letting Ottawa bring the attack to them. Canadiens' defence far less engaged as the game has progressed.

- Emelin lays into Karlsson, which looks great, and gets the Sens all mad, but bodies were hit while the Sens were carrying the puck into the Habs zone, which means Emelin's check left the Canadiens with just one defenseman back. What I'm saying is, it was a dumb play.

- Sens getting nasty right now, slashes, trips and knee checks. The officials are refusing to call anything, so as long as their whistles stay silent, Ottawa will continue to hack away.

- Habs are going to need one more, just to make this game comfortable. Right now, it's not. It's very, very not.

- 10 minutes left. We're approaching the stage in the game that's been Montreal's undoing the past 10 days. Will history repeat itself?

- Pacioretty easily Habs best forward tonight - while Lars Eller has been largely invisible for most of the game.

- Habs on their heels, right at the 12 minute mark. Just like Boston and Detroit. And now having to kill of a penalty. Here we go again?

- Ryan goes down rather suspiciously with Pacioretty's stick just brushing him, but whatever, the officials call a penalty, and now Ottawa has a 2 man advantage. Get ready to hold on to something.

- Habs survive, but only just. Plekanec breaks his stick after the 1st penalty expires, essentially putting the Habs right back at 2 men short. I've never understood the "strategy" of keeping players out there, sans a stick, instead of having them dash a mere 30 feet to the bench to either change or be handed a stick.

- Habs powerplay again comes up zeros, but with plenty of puck passing and shot attempts. Still not seeing nearly enough aggressive traffic in and around the opposing crease during these things. Habs need a dirty powerplay goal, with the unit now sinking fast, 0 for the last 16.

- Well, it wasn't exactly pretty, given how good they looked in the first period, but the Habs win. As noted in our game preview, Habs may not have received any actual goal support from their powerplay, but the did get a key "big" save early from Toakarski on Hoffman, which would have made the game 1-0 Ottawa, and might have send everything in a totally different direction. In any case, a strong outing for him - you'd have to figure that he'll get the next start, and will continue to be the defacto number one as long as he continues to play well.


- Habs and Sens through 20 minutes. Incredibly one-sided, 5v5 CF Habs 71.1%, Sens 28.9

- It will be fascinating to see how the Sens respond in this period. I'm pretty sure they were read the riot act during the intermission, with Erik Karlsson playing a period so terrible, he might lose Norris trophy consideration (okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but he did struggle mightily).

- Oh yeah - Pageau took a stupid roughing penalty to end the 1st period, so the Habs will start with the man advantage on a clean, fast sheet of ice.

- Not much on that man advantage. Habs are now 1 for their last 18, 0 for their last 14.

- Not a night to remember for Karlsson, as he again gets caught up ice, the resulting rush for the Habs, Petry with a wrister that beats Anderson blocker side, and it's 3-0. At this point, Ottawa might as well through all caution to the wind.

- 4-0 ... almost. Max Pacioretty knocks the puck into the net with his glove, as the Sens totally collapse in their zone, utter chaos around Anderson. Regardless, Anderson is removed from the game - I think he's had enough of the nonsense of his team's performance, and it's hard to blame him.

- Pageau, of course Pageau, puts the Sens on the board, with Gilbert making a perplexing pinch deep into the Sens zone, with his team up 3-0.  Ottawa has life.

- Well, that Pageau goal has certainly had its effect. It's given Ottawa some reason to believe, and it's made the shell-shocked Habs, because of their recent slide, very wary - far too wary, in their zone. Habs playing far too conservatively trying to protect a 2 goal lead before we've even reached the 3rd period.

- Habs nearly surrender another goal as the period comes to a close - they looked great to start the 2nd, but a silly play by Gilbert to free up an odd-man rush for the Sens leading to a goal for Pageau has put a different complexity on this game. Sure, the Habs remain overwhelming favourites to go on to victory, but the mental awareness of his this team has found ways of losing the past 10 days surely will have an impact in the 3rd. It is essential that the Canadiens remount an aggressive approach that made them so successful in the 1st. I'm not advocating dumb plays like Gilbert made, but controlling centre ice and maintaining a strong forecheck should give Montreal all they need to finally seal a victory.


- So, Andrighetto gets bumped down to the 4th line, Byron in his spot on the first line next to Plekanec, Carr bumped up to the 3rd line next to Desharnais. Make whatever of that like as you will, but whether these jumbled lines will produce actual goals for the offence-starved Habs, we'll have to see.

- Byron with a speedy first shift, Therrien seemingly hoping both his and Pacioretty's tremendous speed will be too much for Karlsson and the Sens to handle.

- Tokarski just robbed Hoffman, with a great move left to right to rob him with the pad. That's the kind of save that's been missing from Condon's game for a solid month.

- Nathan Beaulieu returns, and immediately has a big impact, carrying the puck in from the line around behind the Sens net, and feeds a wide open Flynn for a slam dunk goal. Beautiful play by Beaulieu, great work by Hudon to help set up the goal. 1-0.

- Still hard to believe Therrien had the audacity to scratch Beaulieu Thursday night. The kid makes a nice in-your-face statement by setting up that goal.

- Pretty hard not to like how this period has gone for the Habs - outshooting Ottawa 14-4 halfway through, Karlssoon gets called for a hold, basically because Montreal is vastly out skating and outworking the Sens.

- Habs first powerplay dangerous, good puck movement, but lots of shot attempts blocked, and no real presence close to Anderson, save Desharnais who  was top of the crease with 6 feet of open net, and managed to whiff on a sure-fire goal.

- Habs dominance of centre ice this period has been nothing short of astounding.

- Ahh, Mad Max finally strikes. Was beginning to worry this dominate period go for naught, but Pacioretty left all alone on the week, and beauty pass by Plekanc. Habs lead 2-0.

- That was about as one-sided a period as you'll see played, anywhere. Habs totally and utterly dominated Ottawa both ends of the ice, and everything else in-between. Craig Anderson immediately skated off the ice at the buzzer in disgust. He's right. It was a pretty disgusting period of hockey by the Senators. Crazy possession stats in favour of the Habs, as we shall see.



Hey, it's another showdown between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators, or as Sens fans like to call it "our Stanley Cup". That's because beating the Habs is pretty much the only big achievement in the cards for the Sens and their poor fans. WE BEAT THE HABS!!!! ... yeah okay Bucky, congrats ... enjoy your parade.

I'm sorry to say all is not well in Sensland. Ottawa is on a small slump (something Habs fans can relate to), largely because Ottawa is receiving contributions from pretty much two lines, and only two lines. Ottawa coach Dave Cameron has been riding the Sens two top lines of Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, Mika Zibanejad, and the aforepictured, Mark Stone.

A big controversy in Ottawa right now is the way Cameron has been handling Hoffman, who was royally benched on Tuesday night, even though he's had an excellent season so far, scoring 15 goals for 27 points. It's highly unusual for any NHL coach to bench a player who's currently in the League's top 20 in scoring, but that's exactly what Cameron did. To make matters worse, Cameron took Hoffman off the Sens top line, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks the Sens are attempting to slow Hoffman's scoring pace down a gear, since he'll be a free agent come next summer. Stranger things have happened.

Of course, much of this is being offset by the great play of Erik Karlsson, already the runaway favorite for the Norris trophy, and might actually be a Hart trophy candidate. Karlsson and Marc Methot have done a fine job commanding the Sens transition game, which has bolster point totals for guys like Ryan, Stone, and Hoffman.

This all means the Habs, whose defence hasn't been playing particularly well the past couple of weeks, which has had a direct effect on creating an anemic offence, will see the return of Nathan Beaulieu, who was inexplicably scratched on Thursday night, because Michel Therrin doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on who's been making actual, positive contributions. While it's great news that Beaulieu is returning, unfortunately it comes at the expense of Greg Pateryn, who will sit tonight. Alexei Emelin will play.

Keys for the Habs tonight are pretty much threefold. 1) the defence needs to be more engaged and disciplined, 2) Habs powerplay has to be productive again, 3) Montreal is going to need some timely goaltending. Dustin Tokarski, who had a pretty good start against the Wings, will get another chance to prove that may he deserves the Habs backup job again.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Stuff around the League today, mainly Habs-related.

- Dustin Tokarski, who had a strong outing Thursday night, has earned his second straight start, as Michel Therrien this morning announced that he'll play tonight against the Sens.

- Speaking of Therrien, the Pens fired their head coach Mike Johnston this morning. Mike Sullivan will take over duties. The last head coach the Pens fired mid season was - you guessed it - Michel Therrien. After dumping Therrien, the Pens then proceeded to win the Stanley Cup.

- Hey ho, Nathan Beaulieu is good to go. Therrien will insert him back into the lineup tonight, and to make room, the coach announced that Alexei Emelin will be a healthy scratch. HA HA HA .. just kiddin'. Did you think Therrien would actually do the right thing? Greg Pateryn will be the guy sitting in the press box.

- Were you thinking what I was thinking when you read that above paragraph about what the Pens did today? I know you were.


Honestly, sometimes this stuff writes itself. This actual article with its actual swear-to-god headline appeared on the Globe and Mail late Friday night. I smirked. I'm sure you will, too.

Mr. Klinkenberg, in case you were wondering, is an Edmonton-based correspondant for the Globe. Thanks for that Marty. As always, we enjoy your continuing coverage of all things sporting from Alberta's capital, better known as the City of First Round Draft Picks.


Are you still bummed out about last night? Remember, today it's Friday! Also, this is kind of nice, as a pick me up:
Kid, you played well your first time out. Welcome to the NHL!

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