THIRD PERIOD:- Habs and Panthers after 40 minutes. It's ugly out there. Really ugly.
- It must be noted that Galcheyuk, who's one of the very few Habs players with a positive corsi tonight, has gone from being at the top of player usage tonight, down towards the middle, while Desharnas and Weise, both of whom have zero corsi, are now near the top. If I'm a General Manager looking at just the raw, basic stats, the red flags aren't popping up - they're stabbing me in the eyes.
- Well, Paciroetty now with Andrighetto and Plekanec, which is something resembling progress.
- Galchenyuk with a tremendous play to hustle back to break up a sure-fire Panthers short-handed goal, to keep the score 2-1. Even Therrien can't miss that.
- Barkov makes it 3-1, with Eller and Galchenyuk missing their assignment (it was probably Galchenyuk's). Killer goal, with the Habs continuing to struggle scoring more than one goal a night.
- Well, another disappointing loss. Habs looked like a pretty disorganized bunch tonight, a particularly rough night for the Habs 4th line, Desharnais and Weise were a disaster, even the Plekanec line looked pretty shaky - especially defensively. Actually, the Habs defense as a whole looked pretty shabby - the Panthers had far too many third skaters waltzing in on Scrivens, who delivered an excellent performance. The Habs play, in general, looks far less organized than even during their big losing slide, which is awfully concerning. It's as though the players are starting to tune out, and are "doing their own thing". That's an important mark of a team whose coach is losing control of the dressing room. We'll see what happens New Year's Day, but if it's anything like what happened tonight, it could be another ugly game for the Habs.
- Habs and Panthers through 20 minutes. The chart looks bad, but a good chunk of it represents Gallant matching the Barkov line against the Desharnais line, which is getting crushed tonight.
- Barkov line eating Habs alive tonight. No way Jagr should be that free to waltz in on Scrivens 5v5, but the Habs 4th line wildly out of position, while Pateryn/Barberio got all crossed up retreating to their zone off the rush. 2-1 Florida.
- Half way through regulation, only three Habs players, Galchenyuk, Carr and Eller, have a positive corsi. That's .. uh .... pretty not good.
- Same story. Scrivens looks awesome, Bakrov line is steamrolling, and Jeff Petry flings yet another puck into the stands for a delay-of-game penalty.
- Habs 4th line has had a pretty brutal evening, getting caught up ice numerous times, giving the defence fits, and providing the Panthers with way too many glorious scoring chances.
- Eller with a strong game, moving his feet well, and draws a powerplay late in the 2nd.
- Speaking of the period, as we near the end of it, the Desharnais CF% is currently 0. Not sure whether to laugh or cry. I think laughter is apt.
- Carr rings one of the crossbar, so the PDO gods aren't done with this team yet. Andrei Markov looking totally spent on the powerplay, he really needs his time scaled back, or he might become totally useless by the end of the season. Anyway, another period where the Habs were totally outplayed, obviously the team having lots of issues dealing with back-to-back games - but even that considered, the score is just 2-1, which at the very least, gives the Habs a chance, however unlikely, of getting a point tonight.
- Scrivens with a couple of amazing/acrobatic saves early in the period. The trade already looks good.
- Excellent embellishment call on MacKenzie after Flynn makes a pretty obvious trip. Like to see these calls made more often.
- Habs on a back-to-back, and the first few minutes are a pretty keen illustration if tired legs are an issue. Panthers winning most foot races, while Habs defence looking a little overwhelmed as forwards struggle to contain Florida's zone attack. This could be a long night ahead for the Canadiens.
- Habs' bacon being saved by some pretty spectacular goaltending by Scrivens. Now the Habs have managed to gain a powerplay. Hopefully that calms the momentum needle that's wildly swung in the Panthers favor.
- Ooooh, Pacioretty is feeling it. You can see it now. Picks up the loose puck in the slot, with Desharnais and Carr doing a nice job creating traffic in front of Luongo, gives the Habs a 1-0 lead.
- Holy moly, Ben Scrivens is having himself quite the debut period. He's giving the Habs everything they haven't received the past month - some outstanding goaltending to keep the Canadiens in the hunt.
- Gallant, like Cooper did last night, with apt line matching against Therrien, who has always struggled with the concept of playing certain lines and players against others. Somebody needs to bring this to his attention, or Florida will (eventually) work their way back in front on the scoreboard.
- Barkov scores late on the powerplay, Markov doing a pretty poor job clearing traffic (Jagr) away from Scrivens who didn't see the shot. Game tied.
- MacKenize with an obvious hit to Subban's head with his elbow. An infuriated Subban drops the gloves (probably unwise). The hit will probably get a review by the League.
- The thing is, there's no way the original hit by MacKenzie should have gone without a penalty call. When Subban looked over to the referee and saw that nothing was being done, he took matters into his own hands. That play symbolizes everything that's gone wrong with NHL officiating - nobody seems willing to make tough calls. Officials are more interested in "managing" the game by making hooking, tripping and holding calls.
- Habs got outplayed pretty badly in the period, but made up for it via some pretty good goaltending by Scrivens. Panthers clearly with more energy tonight, it certainly helps them to be playing on two days rest. Still, this doesn't excuse the Habs for their lackluster play - their defence needs to do a better job reacting to the Panthers zone entries, and clearing traffic in and around Scrivens. Meanwhile behind the bench, Michel Therrien has to be much more hands-on adapting to the line matching being done by Gallant. This means limiting the amount of time being given to the defensively weak Desharnais line.
A LIGHT AT THE END OF A DARK TUNNEL?
As the photo taken last night illustrates, Mike Condon raised his arms in celebration after Max Pacioretty scored the shootout winner in Tampa Bay, to give the Montreal Canadiens just their second win this month. It was a rare moment of happiness in what has been an otherwise dreadful and depressing four weeks of losing hockey.
Okay Mike, you can sit now. Enter ... Ben Scrivens! The Habs newest band aid asset will arrive on the scene as tonight's starter as the Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers in Sunrise. Scrivens was acquired on Monday from the Edmonton Oilers in return for the disgraced Zack Kassian.
It's not going to be an easy night for Scrivens because this year's Florida Panthers are not like the Florida Panthers we've come to know and enjoy playing against. The Panthers are riding a 6-game winning streak, their latest victim being the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night. Uh-oh.
Granted, the Panthers' current win streak has come against some pretty meager opponents, including the likes of the Panthers, 'Canes, Canucks and Devils. Still, Florida is a pretty good team this year featuring the wonderful and seemingly ageless Jaromir Jagr, who leads the team with 25 points, and Jonathan Huberdeau, who ... and this is true, was born THREE YEARS after Jagr started playing the NHL. Huberdeau has collected 23 points this season, 19 of them assists. Actually, if we're going to get all technical about Jagr's age, there are only 6 players in the Panthers entire organization that were born before he started playing in the NHL. SIX.
In any case, the Panthers are a nicely balanced hockey team - no big-time leading scorer, but a nice supporting crew - which means Florida, much like the Habs (are supposed to be played), come at you with 4 pretty decent lines.
This balanced attack is no accident - it fits very nicely with the philosophy of Don Gallant, who was an assistant coach with the Habs last year. Gallant has combined a youth-driven offence (Jagr aside), with a mainly veteran-driven defence to produce a pretty competitive team. The Panthers blue line, along with veteran netminder Roberto Luongo, have the League's third rated defence, and lead the NHL with the fewest goals allowed in the 1st period.
In summation, the Panthers are disciplined, well-coached organization. The Habs have their work cut out for them tonight.
Puck drops at 7:40 EST. Luongo vs. Scrivens.