Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Game 36: Habs vs. Wild


- Habs and Wild through 40 minutes. At what point is Therrien going to shelve the Pacioretty with Desharnais pairing? Because so far, it's not working. What is preventing him from putting Patches with Galchenyuk? It's so logical, so obvious, but it's not happening.

- One area Tinordi is a little rough at and should improve with more NHL experience is headmanning the puck. His passes have been a little rough tonight, which has hurt the Habs transition game.

- Killer. Eller with a bad turnover carrying the puck over the Wild blue line to Coile who beats a flatfooted Beaulieu, and then a shot that Condon should have and would have stopped if he didn't play his net so damn deep. Series of mistakes kill the Canadiens again. 

- Awful slash on Markov's hand carrying the puck out of his zone not called. Habs aren't getting anything tonight.

- That second goal is so dreadful, and it's just another exclamation mark on how the Habs have not had the privilege of their goaltenders making key saves this month. It seems just when the Canadiens are on the cusp, either Condon or Tokarski let something in that normally Carey Price would stop. There's no solution to this problem. The Habs are stuck with what they have until Price returns. He question is, will they win a game before that happens?

- Another loss, and while surely Michel Therrien's job is safe, at least at the moment, the pressure will almost certainly grow over the Holiday break, and mount with each and every loss that will happen as this string of defeats continues, unabated.


- Habs and Wild through 20 minutes:

- Habs swarm to start the period, with Pacioretty and Beaulieu generating two great scoring chances, and yet ... nothing going in. Kuemper with a couple of very nice saves.

- Bad bounce for the Habs (of course) springs Stoll in all alone, and Condon makes a terrible half-hearted poke check attempt, flopping on his belly. Somehow, Stoll is still unable to bury the puck. Whew.

- Carr continues to impress, he's doing all he can to try to break the logjam - denied a goal last night after appeal, he's another example why the future still is bright for this organization, even though this month has been pretty dark and depressing.

- Been mostly Habs controlled period, but not a lot of dangerous chances being generated. Canadiens need to get more bodies in the Wild's crease, need to follow Carr's example and drive the net. Not seeing a lot of that tonight.

- Habs first powerplay, played four forwards first minute of the advantage, which smites of some desperation.

- Predictably, the powerplay goes nowhere, because it's glaringly obvious that this team has done almost no 4-forward powerplay practice or drills. We're at the point that the coaching staff is just tossing players out there and telling them to make it up.

- Galchenyuk slowly sliding down the ice time standings. Somebody needs to do an intervention with this team.

- Same old through 40 minutes, although the Habs haven't vastly outplayed their opponent tonight. More or less a draw, but it could be better if somebody knew how to deploy the Canadiens' offensive assets with some measure of competence. Right now, deployments are a mess, with players who aren't doing their job continuously and mysteriously getting rewarded with regular shifts. This, more than anything, is driving me crazy during this losing streak.


- So, Tinordi gets the start tonight over Pateryn. He played a pretty good game last night, so that's halfway towards an ideal defence (Emelin being the 7th would be wonderful. We can dream, can't we?)

- Desharnais line gets to start, because you just know Therrien is rubbing it in our faces.

- Excellent first and second shift by Galchenyuk, and his line. The scratched record keeps repeating itself.

- Sustained pressure by the Desharnais line, can't bury a couple of good chances. We're off to the same start. Habs dominating early.

- Pretty tight checking game - Habs appear to be consciously reeling things back a little, don't seem nearly as aggressive and free-flowing tonight as they've been most of the season. Whether or not it's just this period, or the Canadiens have decided to take a different approach, we'll have to see.

- Habs are holding their own, Wild's shot attempts have been pretty much limited to the point and permitter. Condon getting lots of time and plenty of clear vision on the shots (so far).

- Oh god, Alexei Emelin. What a horrible, stupid pass in his own zone, blind, cross-ice, right in front of his net, generating a horrible turnover. Boom. 1-0 Wild. Alexei Emelin. Why he never sees a health scratch is beyond me.

- Gilbert hurt, in the locker room. Which means Emelin can't be benched. More importantly, why isn't Emelin ever scratched?

- If Gilbert is seriously hurt, then Subban will likely get double shifts, meaning look for him to have ice totals near 30 minutes tonight.

- Gilbert done for the night. Strap 'em up tight, P.K., you'll be working plenty tonight.

- Oh, god. Beaulieu with an own goal, because you never know when the bottom will be reached. They're taking a close look at this, and ... no goal. WOW WE CATCH A BREAK.

- So, will the Habs turn that "break" into some good fortune? Should be interesting. I don't think that it was actually a goal, but the Habs were extremely fortunate that the puck managed to just barely stay out. Regardless, an evenly played period, and except for the incredibly dumb play by Emelin, this game ought be scoreless. Nonetheless, we'll take the "good bounce".


Two down, six to go.

The Habs enter St. Paul tonight to take on yet another top-flight Western Division hockey team. The Canadiens are riding a 397 game losing streak, in which over that time, their offence has managed to score -28 goals, all of them coming from Lars Eller into his own net.

Well, maybe the situation isn't quite that bad, but it sure is starting to feel like it. The Habs continue to outplay their opponents, but aren't being rewarded with victories. Mainly due to an offence that's doing the "right things" systematically, but failing to convert any opportunities into actual goals. On the other end of the ice, the Canadiens have been further hampered by what could be charitably defined as inconsistent goaltending from their two AHL callups, Dustin Tokarski and Mike Condon.

What can you do? The Habs, during this latest losing streak which currently stands at 4 games, have a PDO of 85.8, which is pushing the boundaries of statistical improbability to its absolute limit. Which is to say, assuming the Habs continue to play the same style of hockey where they dominate puck possession and shot totals, they're going to have a goal explosion unlike any other witnessed in modern NHL history. Right?

Well. Maybe.

See, the problem here for the Habs isn't just that they're the recipients of some really rotten luck, but they're also the cause of some of their own miseries. As we've highlighted exhaustively for days, Michel Therrien is stubbornly deploying underachieving forwards, while stubbornly limiting the ice times for players that are actually producing actual offence. Last night, same story. Dale Weise and David Desnarnais, two woeful underproducers, if you exclude the first month of the season, get first line time. Alex Galchenyuk, who's out there scoring right in the middle of a team-wide slump, is given the 4th least amount of ice time.

The point here is, as long as Therrien fails to understand who to play, and how much to play them, there's little reason to believe the Habs will be escaping this astounding funk any time soon.

To that extent, the Habs seem to by choice, compound their problems. Sven Andrighetto, who was a tremendous spark plug in substitution for the injured Brendan Gallagher, has been a healthy scratch for most of this streak. Today the Habs announced that Mike McCarron was returning to St. John's, and would be replaced tonight by - you guessed it, the offensively underproductive Devante Smith-Pelly.

Do we see the pattern emerging here?

So, tonight, the Habs will try once again to solve their quandary. However, unless and until the team's decision makers start making decision that are beneficial to the well-being of this team, there should be little reason to expect anything other than the same result tonight.

Mike Condon is in the net for the Habs. Darcy Kuemper (Saskatoon born!), the Wild's backup, will start for Minnesota.

Our opponents are starting their 2nd stringers now? Has it come to that already?

Puck drops at 8:10, EST.


 - We have new bodies in the lineup! Michael McCarron was reassigned to St. John's today, which is fine. McCarron and his 15 foot 7 inch frame made a nice impression this week. With McCarron headed back to the rock ....

- Finally!!! After a week of pointlessly benching Sven Adrighetto, who's been a nice offensive bright spot for the Habs since his call up since the Gallagher injury, will return to the lineup tonight and ... will ... play .... sorry. What??

Oh. Well then. Never mind.

- As Aropon noted, Mike Condon will start, which at this point, is whatever. Might as welll draw goaltending names from a hat - neither Condon or Dustin Tokarski have appeared even remotely capable of delivering a game required to get the Habs back into the "w" column.

- Jeff Petry, who took that NON-CALLED hit to his face, which also led directly to Dallas scoring a game-killer goal, is out again.

- Alex Galchenyuk, it bears repeating - by far the best Habs forward on the ice last night, got the 4th least amount of ice time. Madness.

Game preview in a bit.


A little graph I cooked up this morning which gives you a snapshot of the League for the month of December, including games up to last night.

Guess which team really sticks out like a sore thumb?

Hockey and life really aren't much different from each other; nothing is fair.

More in a bit.

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