Thursday, 10 December 2015

Game 30: Habs vs. Red Wings


- Habs and Wings through 40 minutes, the chart indicating that the 2nd was a pretty good bounce-back period for the Canadiens.

- Fleischmann with a bullet shot off another sloppy Wings turnover in their zone, and the Habs grab the lead. Fleischmann has easily been the Habs best forward tonight, so that goal is really deserved.

- Another strong game for Andrighetto, even though he's being played on the right line. Hudan has been mixing it up nicely, Carr also hasn't been invisible (unlike a couple of full-time, well paid forwards who shall go unnamed).

- Tokarski with a pretty desperate save off some soft Habs defensive coverage off Wings transition. Shall we say he's played well tonight? I shan't say so, for fear of hexing everything.

- Another soft, marginal call goes against the Habs, this time Fleischmann for a hook. Amazing how many times this has happened tonight.

- Wings powerplay comes up completely empty, in large part because of what appears to be some poor ice conditions, resulting in a lot of bouncing pucks. Detroit unable to even set up in the Habs zone.

- He'll almost certainly not stay, but Daniel Carr won't be forgotten, not the way he's worked and pursued the puck, especially tonight.

- Alexei Emelin with a very careless high stick, giving Wings a late game powerplay. Nathan Beaulieu, shall we be reminded, sits in the press box.

- And ... the Wings score. Yup. There ya go.

- And Therrien symbolically flips his bird, sending Emelin right back on the ice. Michel, you playing Emelin for the sake of scratching Beaulieu is your terrible decision-making.

- Pateryn with a horrid turnover right in front of Tokarski. Boom. 3-2 Detroit. How's your decisions working out tonight, coach?

- Truth be told, defence both ends of the rink has been pretty poor most of the night - that there's only been 5 goals produced speaks well for how both Mrazek and Tokarski have played tonight, the later really victimized by some really awful plays by defenders who were brought in as replacements because the team coach doesn't know how to utilize his assets.

- Though not quite as one-sided as last night, Habs lose another game they really probably should have won. This team is officially on a big dive now, continuing to struggle offensively. My finger is pointed right behind the bench at Therrien, who in response to Gallagher's injury, cause unnecessary chaos by putting together lines that didn't mix or match. Now the Habs are in total disarray. How long it will take to get them back on to a scoring track, is anyone's guess. But it won't be happening because of what Therrien has, or will be doing.


- Habs and Wings through 20 minutes, Detroit as anticipated, the edge in play:

- Fleischmann and Andrighetto look to be the only Habs playing with any inspiration tonight. It's a pretty lethargic Habs group tonight.

- Habs second powerplay goes mostly nowhere, it's nothing like it was earlier in the season. Not sure if this is another casualty from the Gallagher injury, but it's certainly missing another gear, not nearly as intense as it once was.

- Habs sloppy defence finally burns them, as Helm, on his third (count 'em) breakaway of the night finally beats Tokarski. 1-0.

- Some question whether the Helm goal was onside - it certainly deserved a look, but for whatever reason, Therrien and the bench let that go past the board. Hmmm ....

- Andrighetto ties it up, but it's Charles Hudon, his first NHL game, that should have scored - his shot was going in, but Andrighetto slammed it home to grab credit. Am I the only one unimpressed by that?

- I take that back, replay shows Andrighetto, who was well positioned around the Wings crease (other Habs forwards would be wise to follow his example), backhanded the puck in. Otherwise, we'd still be 1-0. But .. assist to Hudon, which is nice.

- Heckova PK for the Habs, Brian Flynn makes a whole hot mess with a clunker of a backhand while alone in front of Mrazek, and seconds later, Plekanec fed nicely for a breakaway, although Plekanec on a breakaway is about as predictable a finish as you'll find in hockey (i.e. no goal scored).

- Habs seem to be finding some legs, but it's mostly youth inspired. Andrighetto, Hudon, and Fleischmann, while not young in age, has been looking young in spirit tonight. It would be nice if a few others would find some inspiration from the example they're setting.

- Refs seem to be going out of their way to not call obvious penalties committed by the Wings, but nail the Habs for marginal-stuff. Just observing inconsistencies.

- Plekanec on yet another breakaway ... and ... well .. you guess what happens.

- So much sloppy defence tonight, so many breakaways, mostly for the Habs, so many missed opportunities, mostly for the Habs. Feels like last night all over again.

- Better period for the Habs, I suppose. Detroit still doing a lot of risk-taking getting their defence involved in the rush, which has given the Habs a ridiculous number of breakaways this game, all of them stopped. That will be the difference maker tonight, if Montreal does end up losing this game - their inability to covert high percentage scoring chances, especially ones presented to them on silver platters.


- So Therrien decides to "promote" Dale Weise to the "first line", next to Pacioretty and Galchenyuk, which, of course, makes no sense.

- Huge game tonight for Dustin Tokarski. A career game, really. If he does well, he's back for consideration  as the Habs backup, with Condon flailing of late. If he bombs, it'll be a huge nail in his NHL future.

- First five minutes, Habs the more aggressive team, doing a good job gaining the Wings zone, but as per usual during their recent offensive drought, having a tough time generating quality shot attempts.

- Fleischmann booked for an exceptionally soft hook, his stick just brushing against his check. Refs have an itchy trigger finger early.

- Wings first powerplay comes up empty, they love to carry the puck in, but Habs did a good job covering the passing lanes, and preventing Detroit from really setting up for much of a threat.

- While Beaulieu looks down from the press box, Emelin makes two huge gaffes the first 9 minutes, giving the Wings one clear breakaway, and one clear two-on-one break. Habs fortune to still be even at zero.

- Habs first powerplay with some signs of life, but Therrien keeps putting out the wrong guys - this time it's Weise who's getting time he really shouldn't.

- Habs got off to a decent enough start, but seem to be slipping as the period progresses. Not sure if it's the back-to-back, what with Detroit just a 2 hour plane ride away. Still, Habs seem to slowly be losing the foot races and puck battles.

- This period isn't exactly a defensive clinic. Both teams guilty of some pretty horrid zone coverage, especially off transitions. Mrazek with a couple of nifty saves, Wings forwards having trouble hitting the net off close range shots.

- Wings defence isn't nearly as sloppy as the Habs is tonight, they've been caught because they're being very aggressive joining the play. A good, fast transition game could generate some badly needed goals for the Habs, if they are capable of exporting Detroit's risk-taking play.

- Detroit the better team, certainly more dangerous, faster, and more organized. Habs really shouldn't have exhaustion as an excuse - they played last night, but their schedule hasn't been particularly demanding the past couple of weeks. Montreal looks uninspired, which bodes poorly for the last two periods.


Well, that came undone pretty fast, didn't it? The Habs lose three tough games, all of which they arguably should have won, if fancy stats are to be believed. The Canadiens have been dominant with puck possession the past while, last night's loss to the Bruins being a prime example, where even strength, the Habs outshone Boston by a 63-37% margin.

By hockey standards, that's a pretty dominant edge. But like the two other losses earlier in the week, the Habs were outdone by not seizing on their scoring opportunities, not producing on their once reinvigerated powerplay, and not getting timely goaltending by their average emergency netminders, all while the team waits patiently for the return of its best player, Carey Price.

Price is the paradox in this story - since he's been the main reason why the Habs have managed to ice a very competitive team the past two seasons. Price's remarkable performances have provided the exaggerated impression of a team better than the sum of its parts, not excluding its head coach, who has benefited fully by receiving a heafty contract extension and vote of confidence from the club's GM, Marc Bergevin.

A measure of credit should go to Therrien this season. Since he re-arrived back in Montreal, the Canadiens have been a team reguglarly out-chanced, out-shot, and out-possessed. Still, the club has been a winner, in large part because Price continuously made the big saves game in, game out, to seal and steal victories.

This season, the Habs have done a bit of a role reversal, with an increased emphasis on maintaining possession, and ditching the dump-and-chase system that was so heavily relied upon by Therrien up until this season. The effects of this change-in-philosophy were immediately apparent - the Canadiens became a more more efficient and dangerous team, helping them to rocket off to a 9-0 start.

But then, injuries sent in - the Habs streak of luck that had kept their roster pretty much injury-free the past three seasons, came lashing full reverse. Carey Price, the best player in the world, hurt something in his leg after stepping on a puck during warmups in Edmonton. The unfortunate, perhaps even freakish injury, thrust Mike Condon into the pressure-backed front burner. Condon, who had an incredible training camp, took away the backup role from Dustin Tokarski, and during the months of October and November, played like a first string netminder.

Alas, the hopes that the Canadiens had stumbled upon a hidden jewel have come undone the past month, as Condon's lofty performance level has more or less, come crashing back to earth. Not to say that Mike is playing poorly - he's still producing numbers approprirate for a backup goaltender. Condon, however, is not producing the performances this team had become dependant upon - he's not made the big saves late in the game, and in some instances, has let in soft, demoralizing goals. The Habs are a team so accostomed to Price's heroics, that it seems incapable of processing or responding to events where their netminder lets them down. Last night, again, is a prime example.

Therrien's response, predictably, has been irrational. For the past two weeks, it's become clear that this team has started to struggle offensively, in large part because David Desharnais, who had a tremendous first six weeks of the season, has fallen off the cliff. Instead of realizing that Desharnais is not (and will never be) a point producing machine, and playing him appropriately as the team's third line centre, Therrien responded by inserting Max Pacioretty on his wing, thereby breaking up the team's first line - a unit that was actually producing offence, in a bid to get Desharnais producing again.

Of course, this failed. Miserably. Why? Because Desharnais is not a goal scorer. For lack of a better word, as a second-third-whatever NHL centre, he doesen't shoot the puck. We're almost halfway through the regular season, and Desharnais, a (maddeding) staple on the Habs powerplay, has produced 6 shot attempts on the man advantage. Still, for some reason, Therrien thought Pacioretty would somehow motitivate Desharnais to behave more like a centre. The experiement lasted all of three games, before, thankfully, it was shelved last night.

Oh yes, about last night. Even though the Habs did all the right things, even though they again dominated their opponent, Therrien's response today was, predictably, irrational and unwise. This time, he's focused his vitorial on, remarkably, Nathan Beaulieu - who's easily been one of the Habs best players on defence the entire season. Why? Who knows - other than for some reason, Therrien seems to have developed the idea that Beaulieu is not "performing up to expectations", a ridiculous notion, if true, because Beaulieu, who night-in, night-out is amongst the club leaders in CF%, has far exceeded anyone's reasonable expectations, given his age and NHL experience.

So here we go again. Out goes someone who's actually playing well, in comes Greg Pateryn, and Alexei Emelin, who was directly responsible for the Bruins' gut-stabbing third goal last night, stay in the lineup.

Puck drops at 7:10, EST.

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