Thursday, 17 December 2015

Game 33: Kings vs. Habs


- Habs and Kings through 40 minutes:

- Markov's ice time tonight least amongst Habs defenders - so it's pretty clear they're attempting to scale back his time. Obviously wear and tear is taking an issue with his body.

- Crazy number of great scoring chances being generated by this team, but nobody seems to be able to bury it. It's pretty demoralizing.

- 40th shot registered. Still nothing on the board. Eventually you have to really start looking at who's taking the shots, and where they're coming from, because there clearly are Montreal players, mainly forwards, that are failing to deliver. 

- Lars Eller in a significant funk, it's showing with his body language and his decision making - doesn't seem to have very good game awareness tonight, and has made more than a few passes to nowhere. He's getting frustrated. A lot of Habs players are.

- During these offensive funks, which happen to all teams during the season, it's critical that you allocate ice times to lines that are performing well, and scale back those who aren't delivering. The Desharnais line should be scaled back to 4th line time status, until this log jam breaks. Leave it up to the players who are performing, to deliver.

- Habs swarm on the powerplay but again, have the wrong guys out there. Weise with an incredible chance off the rebound, which he can't bury, because it's Dale Weise. Deployment is mystifying.

- 45 shots, zero goal. And now the schedule gets *really* tough. We might not see another win this calendar year, if the Habs offence can't find a solution to this dire offensive problem.


- As we mentioned, we're a little late to this game, but I've been watching the game over a stream, and was, at least up until the past two minutes, very impressed with the Habs - in that they've done everything you're supposed to do against an opponent like the Kings - but the finish just hasn't been there. The Kopitar goal to make it 2-0 an example of a defensive breakdown, with Emelin losing track of the slot, and Kopitar sneaking in behind him.

- Habs with clear edge in shooting, shutting attempts, and high percentage scoring attempts, but are being undone by some fine netminding by Quick, and some just plain old bad luck. 

- Kings 3rd and 4th line isn't especially strong, unlike its Stanley Cup years - so it'll be crucial for them to start playing their most effective lines against them - in other words, Montreal is the home team, they need to start behaving more like one.

- Montreal outshooting L.A. by a margin of 2-to-1 through 2 periods, although the ratio isn't quite as strong fro shooting attempts. It seems to me the Habs are floundering offensively because, while they're playing a strong system, they're getting too many chances by guys who have difficulty scoring. While it's nice that the Habs roll 4 lines, there comes a time when you need to push the peddle to the floor a little harder - that means, more time for the Plekanec and Galchenyuk lines, less for the Desharnais and Mitchell lines. Whether coach Therrien will heed the obvious, is another question.


Now, it begins. For reals this time.

The Habs host the Kings of Los Angeles tonight to kick off, what will be by far, the most difficult part of their 2015-16 regular season schedule. Tonight's tilt will be final home game for the Canadiens until January 6th. That's three weeks from today.

In addition to facing L.A. tonight, the Habs will hit the road for an eight-game trip, where they'll have to face some of the tougher teams in the League, including Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville, Washington and Tampa Bay. The Habs don't get any sort of reprieve until they face the Florida Panthers at the end of the month, and the Philadelphia Flyers on January 5th. Hoo boy.

What I'm saying here is over the next 9-game span, don't expect the Habs to be raking in the victories. I'd be very pleasantly surprised if the Canadiens were able to post 3, maybe 4 wins until the first week of next month, which means this team is due for a massive tumble in the standings.

Do we have bright news? Well, it appears that coach Therrien stumbled upon an excellent defensive pairing Tuesday night, when he yanked a clearly struggling Andrei Markov off the top line, and replaced him with Nathan Beaulieu. Along with P.K. Subban, the pair looked pretty damn magical together - in particular their seemingly unstoppable knack for helping the Habs continuously gain the San Jose Sharks zone.

The new pairing also appeared to liberate Subban, who more often than any game I've seen him play in maybe three years, was carrying the puck from zone to zone, which helped create significant offensive pressure on the Habs opponents. Unfortunately, Habs forwards were shooting blanks for most of the night.

Gaining the zone will be critical against possession-mad teams like the L.A. Kings. They are the League's Corsi Supreme Leaders, clocking in at 57.2%. When the Kings set the tempo, they are awfully difficult to beat.

The Kings, believe it or not, are on a small slide - losing their past two games to significantly inferior opponents - the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. In response to this, the Kings have made a couple of minor changes to their line combinations, tonight Milan Lucic, President of the Alexei Emelin fan club, will slot next to Anze Kopitar and Marin Gaborik, which means the Kings second line will be compoased of Jeff Carter centring Tyler Toffoli and Michael Mersch.

Over in Habsland, no changes of significance tonight, other than the Habs blue line combinations. That means Charles Hudon will be the heathy scratch.

Goaltenders? It's Jonathan Quick against Mike Condon.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. We'll be missing the first period because of an unrelated time conflict, so live blogging in ernst will begin about halfway through the game.

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