Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Game 27: Caps vs Habs


- Shorhanded Byron to Flynn with a sweet move to beat Holtby. Habs deservedly take the lead.

- Man, that puck luck is so very strong with the Caps tonight, as Oshie blindly gets his stick off a harmless a looking point shot. 3-2.

- Habs powerplay, Caps basically conceed the passing lanes but stack shooting lanes with bodies. It's a crude way to kill penalties but it's working.

- Habs being more aggressive with defence being more involved at centre ice, seeking turnovers. Montreal continues to utterly dominant puck possession. 

- Without Holtby's performance tonight, Caps have no chance winning. Zero.

- And Dale Weise takes dumbass award, a slash with less than 2 minutes to kill his team's chances.

- Habs might have lost on the scoreboard tonight, but that doesn't take away from a most excellent and impressive effort. Even considering that Therrien again struggled to identify his best playing forwards (Galchenyuk line), the Canadiens really demonstrated tonight they're still the team to beat: 



- Habs and Caps through 20 minutes. Habs won shots on goal and shot attempts, but Caps still seemed to control period tempo:

- One significant (very) bright spot for the Habs in the first period - the utter lack of production by one Alex Ovechkin.

- Subban, still stuck on one goal, rings a 60 foot shot off the post, beating Holtby clean glove side. Holtby a couple of lucky plays so far to keep the Habs scoreless.

- Galchenyuk with a perfect pass setup to Andrighetto, who misfires with gaping net to shoot at. Holtby again catches a big break.

- Puck luck now owes the Habs. Whether or not that repayment will come tonight is yet to be seen. Still, the 2nd period has been very strong for Montreal - on the whole, they're easily outplaying their opponent tonight. Just can't quite seem to cash in.

- There we go. Eller as the powerplay comes to an end with a nifty backhand to forehand goal in front of Holtby to the the game.

- Habs totally dominating play as period progresses. Zone control and shot attempts, especially dangerous ones. Holtby just hanging on.

- Wow. Hockey. Oshie with a flukey goal off weird deflection gives Caps late period lead. 

- Habs with an outstanding 2nd period, a class way above the Caps with puck control and offensive pressure. Also dominant defensively. Puck luck a huge factor in the Caps holding an incredible 2-1 lead, however being completely outplayed.


- Watching CSN's coverage of this game tonight. So far it's been pretty unbearable. We complain about the quality of hockey coverage in Canada - but it could be worse. Much, much worse.

- Caps strike on their first shot on goal, Condon caught snoozing a tad - Canadiens' defence penchant for wrapping the puck up the boards (yes, this time it was again Emelin) leads to a turnover and half a second later, 1-0 Caps.

- Habs first powerplay as usual, with good puck movement, but focused too much on setting up for high slot shot, which is easily being broken up or blocked by Caps PK defenders.

- Caps with 11 blocked shots before the game is even 7 minutes old, which is kind of insane. Credit for the blocks to Washington, but Habs shot attempts are coming from places where many bodies are in the way (i.e. from the high slot, as we noted earlier).

- Condon not exactly enthusing me confidence so far. More than a couple deer-in-headlight reactions to Washington shot attempts.

- Habs appear to be trying to suffocate the pace of this game, lots of puck dumps and icing attempts. Typical road game strategy, so odd that they're doing this on Bell Centre ice.

- Another odd piece of gamesmanship - Therrien essentially playing only 9 forwards in the period - 4th line has received just one shift, 59 seconds long. That's been it.

- Habs playing a pretty conservative period, the new lines struggling to find any sort of chemistry. But then we know that would be the problem well in advance. Therrien pretty much deploying just 9 forwards in the period, which is a strategy that cannot be maintained through 60 minutes. Looks like Habs are overmatched tonight, further hampered by Therrien's poor line deployments.


Huzzah! We've finally arrived at the game. The two very best teams in the Eastern Conference going head-to-head for Conference supremacy. This is the think that hockey dreams are made of. An orgy of brilliance. A titanic struggle between two ice weary titans. THE GAME TO END ALL GAMES.

Okay, well maybe tonight's game isn't quite as significant as I'm proposing, but it still should be a pretty good game! The Caps are riding a 5 game winning streak, and in the eyes of some analysts, have surpassed the Habs as the East's best team.

Yeah yeah, I know, it's Pierre LeBrun. That's all I could find. But still, the point is raised for discussion - are the Caps that good - nay, even better than the Habs?

This might come as a shocker to you given that you're reading a blog that only covers the Habs, but no. No. They're not.

Yes, the Caps stack up pretty well in the major stats -  3rd ranked offence (behind Montreal), 5th ranked defence (behind Montreal), 2nd ranked powerplay (ahead of the Habs), 9th ranked PK (behind Montreal), 7th in even strength offence (behind Montreal) ... I'm sensing a trend ...

More fundamentally, the Caps to date, haven't exactly had much of a challenging schedule. Of the 23 games played so far, Washington has played only 8 games against teams that now have above .500 records. EIGHT. Of those eight games, the Caps' record is 3-5. Not exactly compelling evidence that Washington is, indeed, currently the "best" in the East.

Hey now, what about the Habs schedule, you might ask? Well, here's the answer. Of the 26 games played by the Canadiens so far this season, 14 games have been played against opponents with +.500 records. FOURTEEN. Of those 14 games, Montreal's record is ... wait for it ... 11-1-2.

Indeed, if there's a marked difference between these two teams it's in how each has handled "lesser" opponents. The Caps record versus sub .500 teams is 14-0-1 (!!!), while the Habs are 8-3-1.

So ... who's got the better base stats, and who's been better against tougher opponents? The answer is pretty clear.

Of course, things have changed a bit the past week. The Habs have been hobbled by recent injuries to some of its franchise players, while the Caps come into tonight's game pretty much injury-free, save for Brooks Orpik, who's basically defensive addition through subtraction.

So, even with a little demonstration in reality about how the Caps aren't yet in the Habs league, this game won't be easy, injuries considered, and also that coach Michel Therrien is terrorizing his lineup with a series of line combinations that baffle the brain, referencing to putting Max Pacioretty along side David Desharnais, in a bid to get the later producing offensively again. Desharnais, if you hadn't noticed, has come back to earth the past 10 days or so - which was to be fully expected given how DD's percentages were unsustainable.

Regardless of that and any other bizarre inept ideas that Therrien will bring to the table, tonight's game should be entertaining - the fun starts at 7:40 EST, Braden Holtby vs. Mike Condon.

Wednesday News 'N' Notes:

Hey ho, here we go. Habs lines at practice this morning. Apparently "sleeping on it" had zero affect on Michel Therrien's brain:


Le sigh.

Also, this gem:
Some days, it's just better not firing up the Twitter feed. The NHL's attitude towards head injuries continues to be a joke.

Annnnnnnnnnd ... looks like Michael Bournival won't get his opportunity to prove some worth - he was yanked from playing at practice, and will hit the waiver wires at noon. Betcha somebody scoops him up.

More in a bit.

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