Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Game 37: Habs vs. Caps


- Habs and Caps through 40 minutes:

- Okay, I think a Bergevin intervention is needed. After 40 minutes, forward ice times are 1. Pacioretty, 2. Weise (really?), 3. Plekanec, 8. Galchenyuk, 12. Eller. Lars' CF%, by the way, is 81% so far tonight. Therrien has no idea what's happening. 

- More Therrien follies. Emelin still getting regular shifts, but instead of sending Tinordi out, he's double-shifting Subban to take Tinordi's place. 

- Chimera with the dagger, totally outracing ... guess who ... Alexei Emelin to the puck, and beating Condon high. We've been begging, pleading, screaming all night about how awful Emelin has been tonight, and yet, Therrien has been giving him regular shifts. Well now the Habs are probably toast for the sixth straight time.

- Well, same old story, another game, another loss. But unlike the other losses earlier in the month, the one tonight against the Caps, and others earlier in the week, are different. These losses the Habs have been the worse team, they're failing to produce any sustained offence because their line combinations make little sense. Their defence deployment has been awful, the use of Emelin tonight underscores that. And while their goaltending hasn't been very good, it had zero factor tonight. Condon played well, this game could easily have finished 5 or 6 to 1 for Washington.

This loss also feels different - as though we're on the cusp of a major shakeup. If that happens, or what it is if it happens, is yet to be seen. But it just feels like a shoe is about to drop, because we're now seriously approaching a point where the entire season may be lost. 


- Habs and Caps 5v5 through 20 minutes of play:

- News during the intermission that Brendan Gallagher is seeing a specialist this week for a possible green light to play as early as January 1st. 

- Hey, Galchenyuk isn't near the bottom for ice time - 5th most played Habs forward in the 1st period, believe it or not, more than Desharnais. 

- Mike Condon whiffs, it's 2-0. He simply can't miss those shots - not the way the Habs are playing right now. Another killer goal surrendered by Condon.

- Carr gets Habs on the board off a Markov shot rebound, because Carr and Galchenyuk are the only players apparently capable of scoring. 

- Desharnais is just a mess. He doesn't seem to have the slightest clue, perhaps shred of confidence, with the puck in the opposing zone. More inclined to give the puck away then to actually shoot or complete a meaningful pass to another teammate. 

- Alexei Emelin is a one-man defensive disaster tonight. Seems totally unable to track his assignments, is constantly either totally out of position, or scrambling to find position. How Therrien is giving him shifts, and benching Tinordi, is baffling.

- Speaking of disasters, Dale Weise. Constantly played on powerplay, producing nothing, and making horrible passes through the neutral zone generating Caps odd-man breaks, with Condon, full credit, making huge saves to keep his team in this game.

- Condon rising to the occasion, with Emelin being absolutely horrible again. Habs are getting destroyed at the moment, and while the score is 2-1, this game is dangerously close to going totally off the cliff for Montreal.

- I'm not sure if anyone is noticing this, but because Desharnais is so badly failing, his job of centre has largely been taken over by Pacioretty shift after shift. How the coach can't see or recognize this problem is very troubling.

- I think it's a more than reasonable bet that the Habs powerplay, by some time in February, will be near or at the bottom of the League. 

- Caps really flexing their muscle in the period, and while Condon gave up a soft 2nd goal, he more than made up for it the remainder of the period to keep his team, however barely, in this game. The Canadiens are a mess right now - Alexei Emelin is, as we noted in the first period, a one-man disaster, and yet, Therrien keeps giving him regular shifts. The decisions being made right now simply defy logic. The worst you play, the more you get played, while Tinordi struggles to get 6 minutes of ice time tonight, while Sven Andrigehetto watches from above. 


- Horrible giveaway by Plekanec with a pretty meek backhand pass behind his net is easily intercepted. Habs generally looking pretty nervous and rattled, lots of unforced errors being made, Caps with early chances.

- This does not look good. Habs are slow, disorganized, Caps are not. This is just not going to end well tonight. I foresee ... catastrophe. 

- Just ... abysmal. Alexei Emelin, who has no business being in a lineup when somebody like Greg Pateryn is sitting in a press box, coughs up the puck to Kuznetsov, and then fails to even bother covering him as he skates in front of Condon to redirect a high slot shot past Condon. Yup. This is looking really, really bad. 

- Okay, whose bright idea was it to fly the team out this afternoon from Montreal? 

- Soft interference call on Carr off a faceoff. NHL officiating is just a mess - too many referees are happy to call soft stuff like hooks and holds, but steadfastly refuse to crack down on nasty stuff that really slows the game down and creates injuries - stick infractions and nasty boarding checks. League officiating, in general, is a mess. 

- I guess the Galchenyuk line looks the best. I guess. It's hard to tell - the Habs in general look like a sluggish bunch - too much turkey perhaps. Or maybe it was the incredibly stupid decision to have a pointless morning skate and have the team take an afternoon flight. These plane rides, by the way, take much more out of you than any practice, as far as recovery is concerned. 

- Among the many interventions this team needs is to get Smith-Pelly off that 4th line, and out of the lineup. Since he was brought back, his contribution to that line (or any line) has been pretty much nil.

- Well, I guess the score isn't any worse than 1-0, which is a kind of victory. Still, Habs look listless, even somewhat disinterested. Moral looks terrible on the ice, body language on the bench not much better. This is a team slipping towards a full-fledged crisis of ineptitude. Unless something dramatic happens quickly, this spiral won't stop.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Was Santa good to you? He was? Great! He screwed me over again. I put out some old Crown Royal next to the cookies, and still, nothing. Damn you, fat man. Damn you.

Well at least we have hockey again, right?? December 25 seemed to drag on forever since the only thing on was the NBA, and that's terrible. BUT ... it's full engines go tonight as the NHL mercifully returns to action, with the Habs going to (gulp) Washington to take on the Caps.

Hey, are we gonna get a team that isn't hard to play against ever again? Man, the schedule has been brutal, almost as terrible as Michel Therrien's deployments AMIRIGHT?

Before Santa's night to screw me over, we bemoaned the coach's decision to yet again, scratch Sven Andrighetto leading up to the (loss) against the Minnesota Wild. So with the holiday break, we were hoping, I mean, really, really, really hoping that coach would finally see the light today and tonight. 

... and ... there you have it. Desharnais and Weise get top billing status, because their combines three points since the beginning of the month is the sure-fire solution to this team's abysmal offence.

Oh well. Bright news? Jeff Petry is back tonight - he'll play along side Andrei Markov on the 2nd line, with Jared Tinordi getting a start tonight along side Alexei Emelin. In case you missed the news, Tom Gilbert, who sustained a lower body injury in St. Paul's, won't be playing again for the remainder of this road trip - meaning he's out a minimum two weeks.

So ... what to hope for? Do we hope for this log jam of losing continues to build towards some kind of monumental bench shake up that might involve the dismissal of Therrien? It's tempting, considering how Therrien continues to make the same odd deployment decisions each and every game. Of course, don't hope what you wish for, because if the spiral genuinely goes out of control, then the Habs might find themselves scrambling just to qualify for the post-season. Failure to do so would be a monumental failure - one of the greatest in the 106 years of this team's history.

These are the Caps - the best offence in the Eastern Conference. The second best powerplay in the NHL. The best rated defence in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom. Evgeny Kuznetsov. That's just about 100 points right there. If there's any soft spot on this team, it's ... well .. uh ... I guess ... possession? They're 5v5 CF% is a shade under 50%, which is not the number you usually associate with a team that's so dominate in major statistical categories.

Thing is, as Habs fans should know well by now, it matters not how much you own the puck, if you can't bury it, nothing really matters. The Caps, by and large, are a good team at doing the later.

Mike Condon will start tonight, and he'll have to have one of his great lifetime performances if he and his team hopes to end the losing.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Probably not. But it sure feels like we're getting warmer.

Happy holidays.

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