Monday, 21 December 2015

Game 35: Habs vs. Preds


- Habs and Preds through 40. I got nothing.

- Emelin, with a pretty awful holding penalty, because he doesn't bother moving his feet on a non-threatening Preds rush. Lots of NHL coaches would roundly bench any defensmen of Emelin's caliber for that kind of play. But you know Therrien won't.

- Lars Eller with an own goal. I mean - you couldn't dream this stuff up. Tokarski, who I guess was wandering a little too much, gets yanked. Slams his stick going down the tunnel. That's pretty much it for tonight.

- So Tokarski finishes the night sub .800 SV%. Habs are really in tough for their backups. For the first time, I'm willing to admit some reconsideration for this team to look at goaltending options.

- Habs just standing around their zone. Literally. Just standing around. 4-0.

- Carr scores ... I think.

- Good lord, Galchenyuk bumped Rinne, although Weber did trip him into the goal. Nonetheless, the Habs are denied a goal, because it's the Habs. You can't make this stuff up.

- Galchenyuk scores. Even though he is, yet again, one of the least used Habs forwards tonight.

- Dale Weise misses an open net. And ..... we've checked all the mandatory boxes. GOODNIGHT EVERYONE DRIVE HOME SAFELY.

- Gods aren't satisfied. Subban finally delivers a goal scoring shot, puck entering the net, zipping past Rinnie. Makes the score 4-2. Oh wait. Dale Weise gets in the way.

- Another night, another game outplaying their opponent, another night outshooting their opponent, another night out chancing their opponent, another night where the goaltenders can't deliver, and the forwards can't finish. Habs are spiralling into a total abyss of defeat, with no end in sight.


- Habs and Preds through 20 minutes. It is the same old exasperating story:

- A right spot, Jared Tinordi looked really solid - and was immediately rewarded by Therrien - he's amongst team leaders in ice time tonight.

- Habs powerplay, they go with just one defenseman, Subban. Desperate times. Especially putting Desharnais on the line.

- Predictably, the man advantage goes nowhere. Nearly surrenders a short handed goal because Desharnais should never, ever, ever, never be at the point.

- Problem for the Habs, even with all their possession advantages, and shot attempts, nothing really incredibly threatening has been generated against the Preds, save the 1st period shot by Desharnis that required a nifty save by Rinne. It's been a pretty routine game for him.

- Preds get a powerplay, and score. Because of course. Weber to Josi, who blasts a puck off the crossbar. Seems like if anyone wearing the CH, that puck stays out. But no .. nope ... it goes in. Habs giving Preds gunners at the line wayyyyy to much time and room to unload. That's why it's 2-0.

- Halfway through the game, Habs have a dozen scoring chances. No goals scored. Preds have generated 3 ... yes ... just 3 ... and have scored 2.

- Halfway though relegation, Habs have nearly 70% of the shooting attempts. Seventy. Per. Cent.

- We're done two periods. Just perplexed. Not a single Habs player with a negative Corsi. Not one. Habs with nearly five times as many scoring chances. Possession nearly 70%. I guess all of these advanced stats are totally meaningless unless and until somebody can put a puck into the opposing net. So far those who are expected and paid to deliver, Pacioretty, Eller, Galchenyuk, Plekanec, Subban, Markov, Fleischmann, Desharnais, are not delivering.


- Here we go. This might be an ugly game. Pekka Rinne is on pace to start 60+ games this season. Maybe he'll be tired for the Habs tonight??

- Therrien putting Pacioretty out with Desharnais, because the obsession with 51 never seems to end.

- Excellent shifts so far by Galchenyuk - he's doing all that you're supposed to do, strong forecheck, taking pucks away, and unlike 51, taking shots on goal.

- Stop me if you've heard this before the last three weeks, but Habs start the game strong, heavily outshooting and out-possessing their opponent. Oh yeah - and not actually scoring.

- Well, uh .. there we go. Weber with a bomb that Tokarski may or may not have seen, and yup - we're right back where we left off. Habs dominate, and trailing on the scoreboard. For what it's worth, Desharnais line was out, and doing a rather poor job in their zone. No way Weber should have had that much time, and open ice to blast the puck at 100 mph.

- Habs still working out there, Galchenyuk with another good shift. Plekanec setting Fleischmann up nicely, but he can't bury the puck. Rewards simply aren't coming. Feels like they'll never arrive.

- Subban is working his tail off out there. You want to talk about leadership, you looking first and last at the guys visibly elevating their effort when the times get tough. There are others out there who are visibly not. That's where many of the problems are originating from.

- Wow, Desharnais took a shot on goal, and Rinne had to make a nice glove save to boot. Because, of course, nothing will go in for Montreal.

- No words. Habs with more than 60% possession, outshooting and outworking their opponent, and losing the game. Galchenyuk looks great, Subban too ... Desharnais ... the usual. Just getting so tired of this - so I'll let the captain repeat his words from 48 hours ago.


Is it January yet? No?? Oh, god. Is the road trip from hell at least over with? There's 7 games remaining? Kill me.

I don't wanna say that Habs fans ought to start running naked through the streets in terror, but this team, which, if you can believe, got off to a 9-0 start, has won only 11 of the 25 games that followed that streak. In other words, if things continue to unravel at the current pace, the Canadiens can not only forget about finishing in 1st place, they might start to struggle just to make the post-season.

If that were to happen, the fellow pictured above would be out of a job. Guaranteed. The guy on the left. Yeah. That guy.

Actually, if there is any substance to the rumblings starting to build in Montreal, Michel Therrien's end might arrive even before the end of a season-turned-sour, because, in case you hadn't noticed, the Canadiens' offence is a disaster, and there doesn't appear to be any light of hope in sight.

That hope, of course, rests with the return of two incredibly key players, Carey Price, and Brendan Gallagher. Since Price's return to the injury list, the Habs' backups, Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski, have struggled to find any semblance of consistency - in particular Condon, who rocketed out of the season's gates, and looked like a 1st stringer until the end of November, when his wheels fell off. Since that time, Condon has posted a SV% nowhere near .900, which on most nights, especially behind a team that's struggling to score even two goals a night, means certain repeated defeats.

The blame can't all lay at Condon's feet, of course. He hasn't received any sort of meaningful offensive support, and the Habs defence, which looked so well-adjusted through the first two months of the season, has become increasingly sloppy in their own zone, resulting in far too many defensive and neutral zone turnovers, which has generated high quality odd many rushes for opposing teams. If you leave your goaltender consistently out to dry, you're going to give up a lot of goals, and lose - a lot.

Which brings us back to Therrien. While many have praised his approach this season, which has emphasized puck possession and less of a reliance on a dump-and-chase offence, his response to the team's current deep slide hasn't endeared him with much confidence amongst his detractors, this writer included. Instead of simply continuing to play his strong cards, Therrien's approach seems more inclined towards conquering the Habs' demons via division. To put it another way, Therrien's reaction has mostly been one of panic - he's pressing every available button, and in some instances, making new ones, in futile attempts to get his team back on the winning track.

All this has meant a lineup that is changing each game, and lines, both offensive and defensive, that are different - not only at the start of each game, but during each period. It is extremely difficult for any team to find any mode of positive consistency if players don't know from one period to the next, who they're playing with.

Therrien's approach to getting certain players out of funk has also raised questions about his decision-making. In particular, the manner in how he's handling two forwards whose production has all but completely dried up - David Desharnais and Dale Weise. Therrien's philosophy, as far as anyone can tell, appears to be one of playing those who aren't contributing, even more than usual. Desharnais is a perfect example - at the start of the year, he was receiving about 11 minutes of ice time per night. Since his production has gone south, Therrien has increased his ice time from one of modesty, to that of exuberance - Desharnais is now averaging over 17 minutes a night, on most occasions, he is the most played forward on this roster.

For someone who can't score a lick, and continues to refuse to shoot the puck even when he's in dangerous scoring zones, that Therrien keeps going back for more and more of Desharnais' futility is mystifying.

So tonight, the Habs will visit the Nashville Predators, another top-flight NHL team, in offensive and defensive disarray. Who'll play tonight for the Habs? Not sure. Who'll play on which line? Who knows? How long will those players stay with their mates? Good question. Because right now, coach Therrien is panicking - he's doing everything short of strapping on his own pair of skates, to get his team playing good hockey.

Meanwhile, the players sulk with frustration:

That, from your capitan, is never a good sign.

Puck drops tonight at 8:10 EST. There's never a dull moment in Habsland.

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