Saturday, 19 December 2015

Game 34: Habs vs. Stars


- Habs and Stars through 20 minutes. The pattern holds. The Canadiens the better team, but keep rolling snake eyes.

- Benn, it's 2-0. Emelin loses puck battle, Condon playing way too deep in his net. Habs may never win a game again. It sure feels that way.

- Sharp, deflects one in, bounces are going against the Habs both directions. That, and turning the puck over at your blue line is probably a bad idea against a team with an offence like Dallas. 3-0.

- The Sharp deflection was pretty nifty, and perhaps impossible to stop, but Condon is playing his position very, very deep. That's a sign of a goaltender fighting confidence.

- Dallas doesn't seek perfection when it come to goal scoring. They put the puck on the net. The Habs don't seem to be able/capable/wanting to just fire the damn puck. Net result - lots of wide shots, posts and crossbars hit, and Dale Weise constantly missing wide open nets.

- Therrien running the line blender full tilt. Hard to keep up with all the combinations happening out there tonight. We apparently have a stable 4th line, and everyone else drawn from the coach's hat.

- McCarron is a boulder in front of the net. If only he could have some shots coming is way that he could screen.

- Carr tucks in a rebound, on ... get ready for this ... the powerplay. Habs ... wat .. scored? Yes, they actually did. 3-1. Now ... if only they could get some production out of the guys expected to score ... we might have something.

- Laughable holding call on Beaulieu. Phantom call. Threatens to undo all their momentum.

- Possible big break? Goal waived off, goaltending interference called on Demers.

- Forget about it. Benn mauls Petry along the boards in a play that was blatantly interference, Seguin snaps a shot over Condon, who again, is too deep in his net. 4-1. Montreal can't have anything nice.

- McCarron called for a rough merely for bumping into someone along the boards. Words escape me tonight. Officiating has been absolutely horrible.

- Dallas, too many on the ice, not called. I'm giving up on this game. Officiating has been a disgrace.


- Nice little acknowledge by Dallas for Dickie Moore.

- As we noted in the pregame preview, the Stars aren't invulnerable. Their defence isn't particularly  good with puck movement, in particular out of their own zone. A good strong forechecking game by the Habs could reap some benefits (i.e., actually scoring a goal).

- Emelin can't stand still like a pylon at his blue line with the Stars mounting a rush.

- And we're off. Spezza easily gains the zone off a rush, does a nice little shot fake, and makes Condon look ... well ... not good. 1-0 early.

- So now the Habs are chasing the lead early, which is just about the last place you want to be when you're offensive starved to death. It's too early to take big chances, but that might be what's required so that this team can at least remember what it's like to score a goal.

- Habs don't seem very perturbed from surrounding the early goal. Strategy appear the same - maintaining possession. Their forecheck so far, though, isn't nearly as strong as I think it ought to be.

- They acknowledge Dickie Moore in Dallas ... Texas. Nothing in Toronto tonight, because Toronto and their big-league organization is, and will always be, terrible.

- Strong shifts by the Eller line so far, Lars really skating well, and doing an excellent job getting the puck towards the net, which is the intended strategy with McCarron in the lineup.

- Past half way mark, same old story. Habs are doing the right things, but not putting pucks in the net. Also, part of the same old story, players who haven't been producing any raw offence are continuing to get lion's share of shifts.

- Habs powerplay. Eventually this unit will score. Before the end of time. Tonight? Well, let's see who Therrien puts out there.

- Therrien puts out McCarron out first unit, with Plekanec and Pacioretty. Galchenyuk not part of the primary unit. Okay, then.

- Habs 2nd powerplay, Therrien repairing Markov with Subbban, and Andrei rings a snap shot off the crossbar. Sweet jesus, they'll never score again.

- And Weise misses a wide, wide, wide open net. Because, Dale Weise.


We knew looking at the schedule, even way back before the season began, that December would be a challenging month for the Montreal Canadiens. Now nearly 3 weeks into the month, and those original concerns have borne out, with the Habs winners of just 1 game.

Believe it or not, that one win came during the easy part of the schedule. Now things get tough. Really tough. The Habs play in Dallas tonight, the League's best team - to kick off an 8-game road trip, which will take Montreal through some of the toughest arenas in hockey, with stops in Nashville, Minnesota, Washington and Tampa Bay.

In fact, the Canadiens won't even see home ice again until the 2nd week of next year.

The big problem for the Habs, in case you haven't been following the past while, has been their offence. It is, to put it generously, anemic. Realistically, it's a disaster. Montreal has scored a meager 15 goals over their past 9 games during their slide, which unsurprisingly, coincided with the loss of Brendan Gallagher.

Compounding the Habs goal-producing woes, has been the manner in how the Canadiens have attempted to get out of their offensive funk. Specifically, the manner in how Montreal has been deploying their forwards. For the most part, and for reasons that are only known to him, Michel Therrien has scaled back ice times of players who have been point producers, while increasing ice times for those whose outputs have been near zero.

Let's bring forth, Exhibit "A", and it's a doozy:

I've been on Therrien's case the past couple of games about deployments - in particular the amount of time he's been giving David Desharnais, whose production has fallen off the face of the planet since November, while scaling back time to forwards that are actually generating goals. Forwards like, say, Alex Galchenyuk.

Therrien's penchant for Desharnais is mystifying. Surely, even he must see the bottom line? Surely even he must understand that giving a forward who's not clocking in at even half a measly point a game, with top line times, is counter-productive for a goal-starved team?

The rationale? I've no idea. Perhaps Therrien believes that putting Desharnais out for more than 17 minutes a night will help him "play through" his funk, but after a while, you have to call a spade a spade, and cut your losses. By stubbornly giving Desharnais so much time, its causing profuse bleeding to the Habs offensive wounds.

Whether or not Therrien will finally understand the error of his deployments, and change course, bears to be seen. In the meantime, the Habs have called up another young body from Newfoundland, and it's none other than Mike McCarron, the once highly-touted winger who brings plenty of size to the rink. With McCarron about to play his first NHL game, the Habs lineup tonight will look like this:

1: Pacioretty/Plekanec/Galchenyuk
2: Fleischmann/Desharnais/Weise
3: Byron/Eller/McCarron
4: Carr/Mitchell/Flynn

So (thankfully) Byron is mercifully pulled off the Habs "top" line (although given how Therrien deploys, who's the number one line is always up for debate), with McCarron slotted next to Lars Eller.

At this point, anything is worth a shot - but only if those who aren't producing are allocated an appropriate number of shifts.

In any case, the Habs will have their hands full tonight in Dallas. The Stars are bolstered with the League's top-rated offence, 5th rated powerplay, and 7th rated possession. If there is a weak spot to be found in the Stars armor, it's their defence - rated a mediocre 14th in the League, and an weak-ish penalty kill, rated just 20th.

Oh yeah speaking of which - the Habs powerplay. It's currently on a 0-23 streak. If there's a good time for it to emerge from hibernation, tonight would be a good night.

One other possible bright spot. The Habs PDO in December is just 94. This means the Canadiens are, offensively speaking, overdue big-time.

Puck drops tonight at 7:10 EST.

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