Saturday, 28 February 2015

Game Sixty-Two: Leafs vs. habs


- Possession through 40 minutes unchanged. 36%. Just dismal.

- Desharnais and Gallagher vs five Leafs in the crease, and Desharnais scores because the Leafs are horrible. 3-0. Gallagher with goaltender interference, but he gets away with it.

- Brandon Prust has clearly, somewhere along the way this season, lost a major step in his skating ability.

- Down goes Dion. And so easily too. By the 5'7" David Desharnais. Draws a sucker's penalty. What a captain. What a leader.

- Did Kadri know there was a game tonight?

- Phaneuf fakes a penalty, then gets nailed a minute later for mouthing off to the ref. Captains don't do that. Leaders don't do that. Dion does that.

- Pacioretty with selfless pass to Desharnais with an empty net. He could have easily scored in his drive for 40. That's how good this team's roster is to each other.

- Only question now is whether Price can pick up his 6th shutout of the season. Its been another night at the office for him.

- I'll end with two words and three letters: Carey Price. MVP.


- Habs possession in the first even worse than anticipated. 36%. Against the Leafs. Ouch.

- It's no contest: Pacioretty skates circles around the Leafs first line defense, Bozak/Phaneuf. Draws a powerplay.

- The passes to Price are nearly shots. That's how confident his teammates are in him.

- After a quick start to the period, Habs are right back to sitting on their lead, and letting the Leafs take the initiative. This team never learns, it seems.

- Habs have apparently borrowed and implemented a soccer strategy, using Price as a receiver/passer. It looks dangerously brilliant, and had been extremely effective tonight. I wonder if this will become a regular thing?

- Leafs shots have been so non-threatening this period that it appears as though Price would like to join his mates on a rush just to make things interesting. Not a joke. 

- Carey Price in some other world right now. His teammates are basically going through the motions, which is kind of a travesty. 

- Really disappointed by much of what I saw in the 2nd. Again this team, which is one shot away from knocking out their opponent, collectively chose to just be passive, thereby allowing the awful Leafs multiple scoring opportinities on Price, who was practically the only CH who bohered punching the clock. Really is unforgivable how this team takes its goaltender for granted in handling the workload, night after night after night.


- Habs get off to an awful start, and then via an awful Leafs breakdown, Manny Malhotra - yes, Manny Malhotra, scores an actual goal.

- Leafs crease defense is a nightmare. Barely AHL capable, based on what I've seen the first 5 minutes of this game.

- Phil Kessel, you think you can beat Carey Price with a 35 foot wrister? Seriously?

- Habs defense doing nice keystone cops routine in their zone. Only Leafs offensive incompetence has kept them off the scoreboard.

- Gilbert's third line defense is adequate, but he has the tendency of being a space cowboy with his game awareness.

- Habs on delayed penalty, Plecks off the wing with the Leafs going through the routine of waiting to touch the puck, beats Bernier blocker side with a wrister. Leafs look totally deflated now, after starting the period strong.

- Quietly, Subban has risen as the lead candidate for a Norris. Now tied for the points lead among defensemen.

- Man, the Habs and two goal leads. The instant they get one,  the bench books vacation tickets to Bali. 

- Habs were clearly outpossesed by the woeful Leafs in the 1st period, but lead basically because Carey Price is great, and Johnathan Bernier isn't. 


Ugh. Oof. Leafs fans. Man, just when you think you've kicked them enough while they're down, suddenly they rise up from the deepest burrows of despair as though they have the world by the tail.

This week was a pretty good one for the centre of the universe. The Leafs not only won a game (it's true!), they were also, amazingly, able to unload one of the worst contracts ever granted to a National Hockey League player, by somehow convincing the Columbus Blue Jackets to take David Clarkson's 7 year, $7 million/season contract, thereby granting the Leafs the ability to begin rebuilding their team. Otherwise, with Clarkson on the payroll, the Leafs were going nowhere until the year 2020.

Ugh. It just makes a guy sick.

So lick it up Leafs fans, enjoy your small moments of glory and happiness. Grasp at whatever twig of hope happens to pass you by. Over here in Habsland, we're focused on slightly larger sea bass, as the Canadiens continue to prepare for the post-season - more specifically, finishing as high as possible in the Eastern Conference standings.

Tonight, the Habs seek to maintain their 1st place Eastern Conference standing with a win over the endlessly hapless Maple Leafs. The Canadiens will welcome back the services of Sergei Gonchar, who's been out the past couple of weeks with some injury that was never fully disclosed, as per idiotic team policy. To make room for Gonghar, the Habs shipped Jarred Tinordi back to Hamilton on Friday.

With a win tonight, the Habs will increase their winning streak to four games. They're gonna need every victory they can get, because March will not be coming in like a lamb for the Canadiens, as they hit the road for a brutal west coast trip to face the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks. Also on the venue in March are games against the Islanders, three games against the Lightening, the Predators, and the Jets. Yeah, we knew well in advance that March wasn't going to be a fun month for the Habs. Tonight, the February vacation comes to an end.

Also nice to end vacation with a little dessert. That being, the Leafs.

Leafs will start Johnathan Bernier, while the Habs will counter with the best goaltender on the planet, and this years most valuable player in the NHL.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Game Sixty-One: Habs vs. Blue Jackets


- Prust now with de la Rose and Eller. Spend every single second of their shift pinned in their zone. Jackets continue to dominate possession.

- DSP had better be really good in front of the opponent's goal because he hasn't been particularly effective in front of his own.

- Timely and opportunistic scoring. Prust with a totally harmless shot that's wonderfully redeflected by de le Rose, for his very first NHL goal. Dagger has finally been applied. 

- Yeesh, Plekqnec-Galchenyuk-DSP with an awful shift, doing excellent headless chicken impersonations, and the Jackets narrow the lead to two. DSP looking particularly lost. I know it's early days on a new team, but that was really pretty bad.

- Pretty weak sauce tripping call on Calvert, Habs head to the PP. Will we see DSP?

- Even weaker than that penalty is the Habs powerplay, unable to generate simple controlled possession in the Jackets zone, because everybody is focused on chipping and dumping. Which is why the Habs unit is in the League's 20th percentile.

- Powerplay number two arrives almost immediately. DSP now? I thought Therrien was all up on experimentations tonight.

- Improvement. Instead of being awful, 2nd powerplay was just bad.

- de la Rose, his second career NHL goal, empty net. 

- Solid enough win tonight, not entirely happy with how the team sat on the lead even after just 20 minutes. Oh well, it's a win, as the Habs take another step towards solidifying a top tier finish in the Conference. Grats to Carey Price for winning his 10th straight road game, this extending his franchise record.


- Habs with 70% possession in the first, which equates to a near season high for a single period.

- Smith-Pelly with some nice work on the PK. He's not fast but he's sneaky because he seems to have good hockey sense. Play anticipation is strong. 

- Prust basically tossed to the ice like a rag doll carrying he puck into the Jackets zone. Wonder if he's playing through an injury to that bumm shoulder. 

- Instead of going for the knockout punch, Habs in full coast mode this period. Columbus not really offering any pushback, they're just taking what's being given, which Is plenty of open ice. 

- Eller now winging de la Rose and Weise, which is a pretty good sign Lars hath returned to Therrien's doghouse.

- I sesnse not only are the Habs attempting a two period lead sit, but Therrien is doing more line experimentations. They're just begging to fritter away this lead.

- DSP now with Plekanec and Galchenyuk. Goes offside off a rush.

- Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Gallagher would make a killer line right about now. Each is playing in top form.

- Habs sat on it, but get away without surrendering anything on the scoreboard. Outshoot 2-to-1, this team really should have the game totally in the bank, but seem more focused on line experimentation than actually winning. Oh well.


- So Malhotra bumps Thomas out of the lineup, because .. well .. who knows why? In other news, the Blue Jackets just let the Leafs off the hook for the next 7 years, because .. who knows?

- P.K. Subban with a blast, unstoppable. Did you know he's probably going to set a career high this year for points in a season? OH ... but he's having an "off year" if you listen to the mouthpieces. Anyway, Habs right off to a 1-0 lead.

- Yeah, yeah. Malhotra won the draw that led to the Subban goal. Whatever. No way he should be in any starting lineup, ever, again.

- Well, there goes that lead. Dubinsky with a shot that I think (I hope?) deflects off Gilbert, and past Price. Otherwise, Carey just let in an easy one. Tie game.

- Having trouble keeping up here. Markov reestablishes the lead, after McElhinney goes wandering off behind his net. The Jackets netminding tonight appears to be a bit ... uh ... suspect. 2-1.

- Pretty certain to say word on the Habs bench right now is "shoot everything at McElhinney." Can't really argue with that.

- Pacioretty with his 30th. Jackets defence looked horribly disorganized leaving virtually every Habs forwards, including Max, completely unchecked. This one has the whiff of a blowout. We'll see.

- Like what I've seen from Smith-Pelly - good positioning around the net, he's generated a couple of decent scoring chances. Don't know how much of a defensive liability he'll be over the long run, but so far, so good.

- Pretty much a Habs period in most respects, Habs looked a little soft on the PK, giving the Jackets a bit too much lane passing freedom. But the slow, disorganized defensive play and questionable goaltending mean the Canadiens should be a pretty good position to wrap up two more points tonight.

What else needs to be said, other than this is yet another of those games against lesser teams which the Habs can ill-afford to give away, assuming one of their main objectives is to finish as high as possible in the Eastern Conference standings.

Tonight, the Habs will be icing a nearly totally healthy roster, including the debut of newly acquired Devante Smith-Pelly. He'll start, we're guessing, on the Habs third line next to, we guess, Brandon Prust and Lars Eller? Michel Therrien said he won't be announcing the starting lines until the last possible minute.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, continue their process of playing out the schedule, now losers of three straight games, including an inglorious loss at the hands of the Sabers on Tuesday night (we know how it feels). I don't expect the Jackets' game plan to be much different tonight than it's been previously. They'll come out physical, try to slow down the Habs, and hope they can find a way of somehow beating the best active goaltender on the planet.

Which is to say, it'll be a longshot for the home team.

Habs should win this relatively easily.

Now that I've totally cursed them - puck drops at 7:10 EST.


- Mr. Smith-Pelly has arrived in town. He's even on the practice ice! There's a picture of him above in uniform, courtesy TSN's John Lu.
- Here's a nice little piece about Habs prospect Tim Bozon, who met a 13 year old meningitis survivor (and HUGE Canadiens fan) in Regina, Saskatchewan yesterday. Tim, as many of you are aware, survived a meningitis attack last year in Saskatoon (and spent weeks in a hospital that's not much more than a stone's throw from my house). (
- Here's a questionable article clearly written by someone who has little idea what's happening with the Canadiens, about a supposed trade offer of 2013 1st round draft pick Mike McCarron to Arizona in return for defenseman Zbynek Michalek. (NBC Sports)
- Not Habs related, but still hilarious. Somebody actually wrote this. Click, and be prepared to have your mind blown away by the inanity of it all. (Sportsnet Edmonton)

More in a bit.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Game Sixty: Habs vs. Blues


- Still feeling very nervous about this two goal lead - might be one of those nights where the Habs just totally screw the pooch in the 3rd.

- They changed the scoring on the a Blues second goal - Oshie gets credit, which means Price whiffed off a 55 footer? It happens.

- Thought occurred - this might very well be Malhotra's final game of the season. With bodies arriving/returning, it just might.

- Eller and Plekanec basically have zero chemistry together. Yet that square peg just keeps getting hammered into that round hole. 

- Puck luck blues. First, Paciorertty hits shaft of Allen's stick on breakaway shot, two minutes later, it's Prust's turn. 

- Even though he's let in two very suspect goals, Allen keeping his team alive in this period. Habs really setting themselves up for possible heartbreak.

- Thankfully, Habs haven't been sitting on their laurels this period. At least searching for the dagger, but not quite connecting. It's surpressed the Blues' ability to generate sustained momentum. Six minutes left.

- Habs have been really focused in on Steen tonight, but he's been coming closer and closer to scoring this period. 

- Jaskin with a totally inane crosscheck on Galchenyuk while the Blues were nicely set up in the Habs zone. Seconds later, Gallagher finishes the night with a powerplay goal. The Blues have got to play much smarter hockey than this if they want to push deep into the post-season.

- Nice little statement win for the Habs tonight, who maintain their pace over their biggest conference threat, the Rangers. Galchenyuk, Eller, Gallagher, Beaulieu and Prust with particularly strong games. A nice team effort all around. Looking forward to seeing how the lines will be set come Thursday night.


- Well, I just give up. Galchenyuk his second of the night, although this time off the left side, on a shit that Allen simply must stop. Nonetheless, I want Therrien at the blackjack table with my money.

- Another target penalty on Subban, and the Blues score (essentially) on the powerplay, Backes off a wonderful pass from Oshie. Price no chance. 2-1.

- Habs transition woes really biting them hard this period. Turning the puck over not in the Blues zone, but just beyond their blue line. Blues reckon to take control, even though trailing on the scoreboard.

- Eller a real unsung hero tonight, played a key role screening the 2nd goal, being very physical all over the ice. Really wish he could score just once and get this monkey off his back.

- Officials really bending backward giving the Blues a lot of benefits from some obviously line-crossing rough play along the boards. Consistently wrong, I suppose. Unless your name is Subban. Then you can't do jack.

- Four on four play should almost always favour this Habs team, and they take advantage - Galley with a nice slight fake, Allen totally fooled with Desharnais on the other wing, and it's 3-1.

- Terrible Blues breakdown, a totally brilliant pass by Galchenyuk right on the tape of a totally home bound Bournival, and it's 4-1. Crowd totally stunned in St. Louis.

- Backes/Oshie AGAIN. Price no chance again. The lead is back to two. Habs need to really cut down on these breakdowns immediately following their own goals. Been surrendering way too many this season.


- So, where's Lars gonna play when DSP starts Thusrday? RDS reckons it'll be centring the 4th line, which seems kind of .... wrong?

- Man, when did Prust last score? It's gotta be coming up on three months.

- Okay, so it's been three weeks - but beyond that, just one goal in 2+ months. I think how he plays in the upcoming playoffs will tell the tale whether he plays in Montreal beyond this season.

Yet another great goal-saving backcheck by de la Rose. Trying to imagine this kid's peak. So good already.

- Blues have (no surprise) the majority of zone pressure, but Habs doing a decent job protecting the slot. Lot of perimeter offense so far.

- So people gaff as Therrien moves Galcheyuk over to the wrong wing, and then Alex goes and scores in the very first period. It's baffling how he calls this stuff, but who can argue with the result? 1-0. 

- Eller has one goal in 2015, and I fear that line won't be improving anytime soon - he's trying his best on the left side, but it's looking more and more likely that experiment has failed, and he'll be relegated to 4th line duty. A real shame.

- Steve Ott. The intellect is small with this one.

- So Galley and DS-P camped in front together on the powerplay? That could be interesting.

- Blues the edge in play, but as mentioned previously, Habs did a mostly tidy job protecting their goal. More or less your typical road game plan, more or less executed fairy well. So far so good, I'd reckon.


- The Habs latest acquisition, Devante Smith-Pelly, will suit up for his new team Thursday night in Columbus.
- Marc Bergevin isn't with the Habs in St. Louis tonight. Nope, he's in Chicago watching the Hawks and Panthers. Take that for what you will.
- Habs also have scouts out and about tonight in at least a couple of other cities. It's reported that the Canadiens are scouting in Madison Square Garden and also in Carolina.


So, the Habs made a trade today, one that nobody saw coming. Well, maybe one part of the deal isn't particularly shocking, and that's Jiri Sekac being somewhere else, largely because he simply didn't mesh with coach Therrien's philosophy.

That rationale always struck me as odd - just as strange as Therrien's apparent unwillingness to use the young and obviously talented winger. Sekac certainly didn't lack in work ethic - he was one of the most tenacious young players on the Habs. He made huge strides since coming over from Europe, adapting quickly to the smaller NHL ice surface. When he was matched up with the Canadiens' better forwards, which included Lars Eller, P.A. Parenteau, and Thomas Plekanec, Sekac produced ample scoring attempts, producing an adjusted possession percentage of 48.7, which is above the overall team average. And when he did contribute, it made a difference. Every game that Sekac scored this season, the Habs won.

All of that, however, is moot. Bergevin made the move to obtain Smith-Pelly, the narrative being Marc wanted to obtain someone with playoff success, and someone who made the Habs bigger up front.

Let's tackle the later rationale, which puzzles me. Smith-Pelly at 6', is two inches shorter than Sekac, although he's 35 pounds heavier. So there's a trade off - yes, Smith-Pelly has some bulk, but he'll be significantly slower, which doesn't really favor the current Therrien "system" of chasing dumped pucks.

With regards to playoff success, well, colour me a bit suspicious. Yes, he performed well in the two rounds the Ducks played last spring, but let's remember, that was one, just one, playoff. It seems to me rather absurd that anyone, Bergevin included, could draw any firm conclusions that Smith-Pelly is a proven guy based on two series. It's not much less absurd than assuming Sekac would (will) be a big success in this spring's post-season.

So there we have it. I'm not pleased with the deal - I'm hopeful that it works out well for both teams, but I have a nagging belief that this deal could come back to haunt the Habs down the road. Heaven forbid that Sekac soon becomes a 25+ goal scorer. If he does, streams of anger and discontent will not only be focused on Bergevin, but also on Smith-Pelly.

Plus, he's a Leafs fan. Do we really want those on our team? Caamaann.


As we near the playoffs, this site will be a bit more active in Habs-related updates. We might toss in a few more fan pics or two, just for funz.

- Injury updates: Apparently Alexei Emelin and P.A. Parenteau will be back on the practice ice later this week, although there is no timetable for their eventual return to actual hockey (Montreal Canadiens).
- Sergei Gonchar practiced this morning. Also no stated date for return yet.
- Hey, Max Pacioretty was named the NHL's third star for the week. He's got 23 games left to score 10 goals to reach that magic 40 mark. I know you're already wondering. When was the last time any Canadiens' forward scored 40 goals in a season? It was 1994, Vincent Damphousse. He scored 40 (NHL.COM).
- So the coach doesn't really buy into that whole "scoring goals" thing. OOooookay then. Anyway, Alex Galchenyuk appears to have gotten over the flu, is traveling with the team to St. Louis, and is a probable start Tuesday night.

- Fun fact!! Guess who played in his first ever NHL game for the Canadiens 30 years ago tonight? Com'on ... this one is easy. Stumped?!? Really?? Here's your answer.

More in a bit.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Game Fifty-Nine: Blue Jackets vs Habs


- Beaulieu has been excellent, both ends of the ice tonight. Arguably his best game of the season.

- Habs not displaying any killer instinct. Feeling is sinking that the tying Columbus goal is inevitable.

- 3rd line doing a good job grinding out the play. That's invaluable when you're trying to hold on to a razor thin lead.

- Since de le Rose was shuffled out of the 4th line in favor of Malhotra, that line's forechecking effectiveness has basically dried up completely. They can't string a single pass together, either.

- Referees have been giving Columbus open season hits on Habs tonight, Calvert with a blind hit on Thomas, who has to take measures into his own hands. Another poor night for officiating.

- Just over five minutes left, Habs in full huddle mode. They're playing not to lose tonight, which is just asking to lose. Going to be a struggle to reach the finish line.

- Therrien would be unwise to play the 4th line from this point forward. They've had a few defensive difficulties tonight.

- Two minutes left, Columbus really turning up the heat now. Hang on.

- Hoo boy. Markov shoots the puck over the glass. Habs couldn't find the dagger this period, and now Columbus with a golden chance.

- Therrein sends out Malhotra. Oy.

- Plekanec to the rescue. Habs hold on, and we all breath a sigh of relief that this team finally beats a lesser light. 


- Can't imagine where this team would be without Markov this season. No where near first place, that's for sure.

- Nightly lazy tripping penalty by Eller. That rolling sound you heard was Therrien's eyeballs.

- Habs using a couple of horseshoes on their PK from Eller's penalty. Columbus having a very strong period so far, showing the Habs how a transition is supposed to work. Score should be tied, but at this trend, it should be soon enough anyway.

- Sekac with hard work and speed off the wing earns a powerplay. It's still baffling how this guy was a healthy scratch for two games and then saddled on the 4th line. How could would this team be if it managed its assets properly?

- Habs have basically stopped trying to posses the puck this period, in other news, their offense has ground to a near complete halt. #TherrienHockey

- Habs looked so confident in the first period. I'm assuming the coach didn't like that, and told his troops to focus on long bomb passes and puck dumps. Habs doing everything possible to fritter this game away. Still one long period left - I'm not particularly confident they won't do exactly the same thing as Thursday night. 


- Brendan Gallagher just drew a tripping penalty. I thought I'd never see this day arrive.

- Habs great looking powerplay, Pacioretty with an awesome one timer off a great Markov pass. Columbus overplaying Subban on the other side, Montreal takes advantage.1-0.

- Looks like the Habs have their shooting shoes on tonight. Pretty aggressive start to this game. Lots of angry guys were in the dressing room after that loss to Florida. Might be taking a lot of frustration out tonight.

- McElhinney really fighting the puck, some significant rebounds given up via point shots. Net crashing might produce more offense. We'll see.

- Columbus really struggling to adjust to Habs rushes. Key is that the Habs are avoiding the dump, which really leverages their speed. Here's hoping the coach doesn't tell the troops to play #TherrienHockey.

- Officials Ghislain Hebert and Tom Kowal really giving Columbus every possible benefit of a doubt this period - looks of hacks and illegal hits not being called.

- Pacioretty. 29th of the season. Almost identical to his first goal - brilliant pass by Beaulieu for a one timer. Nobody seems to be covering him. 2-0.

- Man, what's the deal with this team? Up by two, Habs surrender a sloppy goal while in complete control of the game. Just inexcusable.

- Kind of the same old story for the Canadiens of late. Outplaying their opponent, but giving up preventable goals while laregly in control of the game. Net result - another night, another opponent still competing for victory when they ought be way down on the scoreboard.   


Well, we're playing another lesser light tonight, aren't we? Seems like we can't buy a win against teams the Habs should be owning in their sleep. Next up, it's the Blue Jackets of Columbus. Surely, we'll win this one. Right?

Ah, who knows? The Jackets have been playing some pretty decent hockey this month, winning 3 of their past 4, and 5 of their past 7, which included wins over the (suddenly struggling) Islanders, and a 7-1 thumping of the St. Louis Blues. So this probably won't be a gimme, unlike the games against Buffalo, Edmonton, Senators, and Coyotes. What's that? We lost all of those? Great.

Lineup tonight will almost certainly be the same. Alex Galchenyuk is out again because of the flu. So that means one more night of Manny Malhotra centering the 4th line. Jiri Sekac, who played a wonderful game Thursday night versus the Panthers, will start on the 2nd line next to Thomas Plekanec.

Otherwise, Habs need to really win these games if they want a top Eastern Conference playoff seed, because the March schedule won't be very friendly.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Game Fifty-Eight: Panthers vs. Habs


- You know, the Panthers would be really, really wise to be covering Gallgher closer this period. He's still being left mostly unchecked in front of Luongo.

- So Petrovic punches Tinordi in the head after he falls face first to the ice, but it's Tinordi who gets the extra two?? Chris Lee.

- And the Panthers convert. Tie game. Chris Lee.

- Habs are getting Habbed tonight. Might actually lose a game they've roundly dominated.

- Sekac and Gallgher both with excellent efforts tonight. Gilbert also looks much improved. Eller again, on that wing, is out of place. Basically Therrien has a line with two centres and the results have not been effective.

- Habs outshooting Florida by 20 with six minutes left. This game should have been over half an hour ago. A couple of questionable calls (and non calls) have also conspired to hurt Montreal.

- Just a point, at least. But much more deserved. Oh well. Live by the sword, die by the sword. 


- Habs with 55% possession in the first. Yeah. That's pretty good and reflective of a mostly well played period.

- Oh, Lou. Pacioretty with a harmless wrister that's completely misplayed by Luongo. Gallagher is right there to punch in the loose puck 1-0. Weak goal, but just rewards for a Habs team that on a back to back night, is outplaying their opponent. 

- Clunker first powerplay, but Habs are really carrying the zone much better tonight. Not sure if that's so much the Habs, but the Panther's passive play at centre ice. 

- Twofer Gally. Wretchedly soft crease protection by the Panther's defense, and Luongo again struggles to pick up the play. It's 2-0, and Price is settling pretty.

- Well, maybe not. Price a little too aggressive trying to clear the zone by pushing the puck along the boards, resulting in an easy turnover. Fleischmann cashes in, and suddenly Florida has reason to think they can still squeeze out some points.

- It's pretty clear to even the most casual viewer that Eller is not comfortable playing the wing. But Therrein gets these ideas in his head and be dammed if he'll let them go.

- Another solid Habs period, good team effort tonight, Florida limited to just 13 shots. One little mistake cost a goal, but there should be no good reason why this game shouldn't end in anything other than a W for Mintreal.


Some last minute line juggling, so let's mow this down:

- Subban is okay and in tonight. Pregame warmup he looked agile.
- Therrien is pairing Tinordi with Pateryn, which means they'll probably get almost no ice time.
- Galchenyuk is out tonight with the flu (sigh), which means Sekac gets a boost to the second line (good), and Malhotra will move in to centre the 4th line (bad).

- Ready for some more bad news, Habs fans? Chris Lee is reffing tonight's game. GAH.

- Jokinen with a trip, was it a slew, on Subban? Sure looked like it. 

- Gilbert has really been joining the rush the past couple of nights, but he's a terrible finisher. This is the kind of stuff Beaulieu, who is far more offensively gifted, should do more often.

 - Malhotra with a totally unforced pass right up the middle in his zone. Guess what happens? 

- Entirely different complexion tonight - Habs returning to their Detroit roots and playing a much more cautious, close checking game. It's limited their own offensive opportunities, although tonight's Habs blue line seems to be doing a far more effective job moving the puck out of their zone. Really stacks up for a pretty low scoring finish.


- So it's looking not-so-great for Alexei Emelin. He's out six weeks with an "upper body injury." Yeah. I wonder what that injury could possibly be? Either severe separation or arm break, regardless, he's done until the ... oh gawd ... playoffs.

- Jarred Tinordi got the call up last night. Which is just fine. Will probably play next to Gilbert tonight.

- P.K. Subban. No news today so far on his status, which means almost certainly he'll play tonight. Which also means he didn't sustain any longer-term injury (fractured bone) last night.

More in a bit.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Game Fifty-Seven: Habs vs. Sens


- Subban, or not to Subban. The anticipation is the worst. 

- Subban starts the period. We breath. For now. Let's see how much he plays before we can collectively breath normally again.

- Subban really struggling out there. I fear they may shut him down for the night.

- No way Habs can run with four D the rest of the night, can they?

- Subban looks terrible. They have to take him out. This cannot continue.

- Sens powerplay goal. Tokarski with more rebound control issues. Been plaguing him his last few starts. 3-1.

- Well, well, well, Nathan Beaulieu gets his first NHL goal, a total fluke bounce in off a half dump, half chip towards the net. It's not pretty, but it gives the Habs hope. 3-2.

- If Subban ties this my head will explode.

- Subban can't keep the line, Sens bury the game. Well, it's a loss, but not overtly bad. Still think this team did a disservice playing its most valuable defenseman through an injury in a relatively meaningless game. On to take on Florida, and Carey Price.


- Subban looks to be on pace for a 35 minute night. Maybe more as the game progresses.

I'm all cool with Subban picking up slack, but Therrien needs to play Pateryn more. 3:46 in the period with just 5d is way too low.

- Pretty good start for Habs offense in the period, but play continues to be scrambly around Hammond. Nobody able to muscle a loose puck home (more 4th line please!).

- Guess what? Habs best scoring chance of the night generated by that 4th line, Gilbert given a wide open net off a sweet pass by, guess who - Jiri Sekac. Gilbert totally misses. Should be 1-0.

- Habs forwards have been going high, very high, on Hammond tonight. Not sure if that's the book, but it's not working.

- Habs powerplay. Everything but the kitchen sink. Just won't go in. Galchenyuk still looking awfully good. Com'on guys.

- 11-4 shots on goal for Montreal this period. Subban 15 minutes, we're at the halfway mark. 

- Well, let the floodgates open. Two goals in 8 seconds, tie game. Pacioretty goes low on Hammond. That's where you need to go, guys.

- Wow. Gryba tried to blindside Eller with open ice elbow to the head. Unbelievable. Total scum. Prust comes in to settle the score and gets thumped. Still, Gryba was totally targeting Eller. 

- Hoo boy. Subban takes shot off the foot and goes to the room. Breath deep everyone. Hold it. 

- Pageau. Tokarski no chance. Original mistake by Gilbert which resulted in deep zone turnover. 2-1.

- As we anticipated, another entertaining period, with 32 more shots added to the board. Now 59, and counting. There is only one thing that matters right now, and it's Subban. If he's done for the night, so are the Habs. If he's done for longer, so are the Habs. You get my point.


- So Sekac is buried on the 4th line. I guess it's better than being saddled next to Malhotra.

- Ouch. Emelin goes for a foolish body check, stumbles and foes shoulder first into the boards. Methinks Pateryn might actually get more than 5 minutes tonight.

- Galchenyuk smartly trying to test Hammond early. Habs need to hammer shots at him every opportunity.

- Therrien appears to be favouring Gilbert to pick up the slack, with Emelin possibly out for the night.

- Prust. Just can't quite deliver. It's been that way for awhile. With de la Rose seemingly sticking, will he be the odd man out next season?

- Habs announce Emelin is gone for the game. That's almost certainly an indicator of a serious injury.

Tokarski's and Price's styles couldn't be much different. The former battles the puck, the later just eases into shots.

- Spirted pace so far, Tokarski really fighting the puck.

Both goaltenders doing quite a flop demonstration tonight. So far it's been working. Barely.

- That tight-checking, watch-your-butt every second game we saw against Detroit has basically been tossed out the window tonight.

- Galchenyuk looks great tonight. Even more so than usual. If there's on guy who's a good bet to make a couple of marks on the scoresheet, it's him.

- Well that was a fun period, 27 shots on goal, both goaltenders were a little bit fortunate to keep everything out, but regardless, both teams's strategies are clear - throw everything possible on net and let's see what happens after the dust settles. Should make for two more exciting periods.


- JIRI SEKAC IS BACK. Hard to believe, but he's starting tonight. Yay.

- Manny Malhotra is FRICKIN' FINALLY OUT. I mean, what .. why .. who ... how ... is this guy still getting dressed for game action? Monday night against the Wings, Malhotra won 4 faceoffs. Out of 16. I mean, he has no other purpose other than to win draws. He can't do that. He must never play in a Habs uniform again. It's that simple.

- Greg Pateryn is in!! Yay. He'll replace Mike Weaver, which is kind of a boo, since Alexei Emelin will still be playing tonight. Still ... it's progress.

- Dustin Tokarski will get the start tonight. Welllllllllll ... we'll see how that goes.

- On the other hand, Sens will start their backup Andrew Hammond. So that evens that.

More in a bit!!!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Game Fifty-Six: Habs vs. Wings


- Looks like Price's margin for error tonight is exactly zero. Not being helped by the Wings continuing to dominate zone pressure.

- Malhotra continuing to get regular shifts, and with it, blowing any semblance of a good scoring chance. Really don't quite understand the point of utilizing him anymore, at least at this stage of the game.

- If there's one player tonight who's capable of giving the Habs an unlikely goal, it's Alex Galchenyuk.

- Habs have basically just given up wanting to control the puck. Let the icing festival begin.

You know, you just KNOW, that Therrien is happy with what he's seeing. The rest of us gouge our eyeballs out.

- Five minutes left. Fans at Joe Lewis trying to get the home team motivated. At this point, it's as though both teams are resigned to a scoreless fate. 

- Malhotra in the circle tonight. 4 wins. 12 losses. We continue see his name penciled into the card, and we wonder ... why?

- After nattering about how useless Weise has been tonight, he makes a nifty pass to Plekanec who blasts a slapper past Howard from the high slot. Unbelievably, astonishingly, the Habs now stand to win this game.

- Pacioretty scores an empty net goal (yes, that happened). What an absolutely bat-insane win. How this team continues to pile on one totally unlikely win after another is something I've never seen, at least at this level, in my 38 years of watching this team religiously. 


That seemed inevitable. Habs get nailed for a hook in their zone (Markov). Waiting for the other game shoe to drop. 

- Has anyone heard from Prust since, oh ... mid-December?

Wings actually looked better 5v5 than during their first powerplay.

- Still blows my mind Jimmy Howard has a Stanely Cup ring. Tells you how deep that roster was.

- On any other top 4 Conference team, no way Manny Malhotra would be on an active roster.

- Habs doing an awful lot of running around in their zone. Really tough to see how the Wings stay off the board for much longer. 

- Normally you'd call this a "good road game", but to be perfectly honest, it isn't even that. The Habs are playing far too much of a passive game, with fits of incompetence with the puck. It's not only unwatchable hockey, it's incredibly frustrating unwatchable hockey.

- de la Rose is just so alert, so well attuned to the formation of the play, just loads of hockey smarts, this kid.

- Hard to believe there's been 39 registered shots on goal so far in this game. Just a whole lotta nothing going on. Habs waiting for Wings to muff it up (they haven't), Wings waiting for Price to muff it up (he hasn't). Should we just fast forward this thing to overtime, already?


- So Weaver starts in place of Gonchar. Probably not a favourable lineup adjustment against a possession strong team like the Wings.

- It's been while since I've seen a game delayed that long over a pane of glass. 12 minutes.

- P.K. Subban coming straight at you full wind up has to be a frightening sight. I don't care who you are or how long you've been an NHL goaltender.

- Unsurprisingly, Habs having problems maintaining control of the puck. Seem to be doing "okay" advancing to the Detroit line, but not much more past that marker. Bodes poorly for Montreal tonight.

- These two teams have some incredibly contrasting styles, it really is remarkable. Babcock has so fewer tools at his disposal, at least in comparison to a rich roster like Montreal, but he maximizes his lineup to full affect. I've little doubt someone like Bacock behind the Habs bench would win a championship.

Helm and the Wings giving a pretty good demonstration on how you leverage speed. It ain't dumping and chasing. It's carrying the zone.

- Shots 7-6 Montreal but don't let that fool you - the Wings owned most of the period, possession and scoring chances. They owned the puck, controlled the tempo, and shut down virtually every meager Habs attack. Gonna be one of those nights.


- Jiri Sekac is a healthy scratch tonight, for no explainable reason other than Michel Therrien is just wanting to drive us totally and absolutely crazy.

- Nothing else matters, except that Sekac, in just his FIRST DAMN YEAR in the NHL, has been very, very good. Head, meet desk.

- Did you know people in Montreal actually think having Phil Kessel as a Hab would be a very bad idea, because they think Kessel can't score? Those people actually exist. With a drool cup in tow, perhaps. But they exist.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Game Fifty-Five: Leafs vs. Habs


Okay, so it's official. Sekac out, Malhotra in. Head, spinning.

Michel Therrien's lineup, as usual, makes little sense. Especially going up against a team in a huge tailspin. The Leafs, we know their story. One win in 14, four wins in 30. They're an awful team with asperations not of making the playoffs, but finishing as badly as possible to increase their lottery chances this summer.

Like we said about last week's game against Buffalo, and Thursday night's game against Edmonton, there is NO good reason why this Habs team should lose tonight. None. Nada. Nothing. There is only one way the Montreal Canadiens, with Carey Price in net, could possibly lose tonight - and that's because Michel Therrine screws the lineup pooch.

Well, he's off to a great start, and we haven't even dropped the puck.

Speaking of which, that happens at 7:15, EST.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Game Fifty-Four: Oilers vs. Habs


So we had a little Habs practice today. And this is what happened:

- Lars Eller got moved to the left wing.
- Jacob de la Rose got moved to centre.
- Dale Weise still plays on the first line.
- Jiri Sekac appears set to be a healthy scratch.

Is as though the coach is living in a totally different universe, watching a completely different game. I have no other explanation.

More later.


- Gotta favor the road team to collect the extra point, for a variety of reasons (Habs iffy goaltending, being roundly outplayed, etc.)

- Yup. Thar we go. Habs implode and get their just deserts. Is there some reason why neither Markov or Subban got a shift before the winner? Anyone?


- Yakupov gets nailed by Emelin, with knees hitting. Stays down on the ice for a couple of minutes. Hit appears to be legal. Oilers are seething, though.

- Pacioretty has flung plenty of rubber on Fasth tonight. Passing? He's been pretty terrible.

- Plekanec carelessly flings his stick at the puck, and hits faces. Big question. Will it be 2 or 4?

- Habs have controlled a good chunk of this period's tempo, but are still compelled to dump the punk in from long distance. It's basically surrendering all of the hard work happening in the neutral zone.

- Oilers totally dominating the Habs four on four, and then just one little mistake at the blue line springs Pacioretty free down the wing. Boom. 3-2. Heartbreak for Edmonton who really had the Habs on the ropes.

- Habs really giving up some sloppy breaks to the Oilers, Tokarski with two near miracle saves this period. Hendricks flubs a chance he totally should have concerted with Tokarski belly down in his crease.

- Eberle looked great in the 1st, has been pretty muted and contained since then. 

- Our nightly dose of Emelin stupid, this time he makes a ridiculous and sloopy pinch at the line, resulting in a two man break, Yakupov and Hamilton, the later hitting the post off a beautiful pass. Once again, this game should be tied.

- Five minutes left, and Habs are holding to a semi-miracle one goal lead. That's how poorly they've played, and that's how much the Oilers deserve a tying goal in the waining minutes.

- And here's their chance after Plekanec takes a very dumb penalty gloving the puck off a faceoff. Com'on guys, you can tie this.

- There we are. First Plekanec can't bury an empty net, then Tokarski can't cover a very open puck, then seconds later, Nugent-Hopkins buries a loose puck. So many things done wrong by the Habs, so many things done right by the Oilers, who indeed, get a well-earned point. Maybe more.


- P.K. doing what P.K. does so well, freewheeling and carrying the zone. A perfect cross ice pass for a Galchenyuk one timer that's totally unstoppable. Pure brilliance. Subban has really lately been playing like he was during his Norris Trophey season - that is, under his terms utilizing his style. 2-0.

- Dale Weise gets plenty of compliments for playing hard, but he's still soft along the boards. Case in point how easily he was bumped off the puck, and within seconds, the Oilers' Hendricks tips in a point shot. 2-1.

- Habs first powerplay doesn't generate any goals, but puck control was good, and more than one attempt was made to carry, instead of dumping the zone. All positive indicators.

- Since the eight minute mark of the period, the Oilers have dominated this game, and just now Nugent Hopkins has tied the game, mainly because Tokarski fails to cover the puck. Tie game.

- Oilers' control of the period couinsides with Habs going back to their bad old dump and chase ways. Shocking.

- Two Habs powerplays, more good puck movement, more shots generated, Fasth with a couple of nifty saves. Again, the man advantage looks functionally effective, it's simply a matter of beating the opposing netminder.

- Goos rebound period for the Oilers, who took control over possession and held on for a good period of time, generating two goals. Tokarski looking very much who he is - a backup goaltender. But before we all jump on his case for a possible loss, we should all recall that he's the second string. He's no where close to Price. Now, or forever. It's up to the Habs offense to win this.


- Sportsnet Edmonton crew, which is just his far away from being unlistenable, really pumping up how hot Eberle is, averaging a point per game over his past 7. I tell you, if that's all you've got, then you ain't got much.  

- Habs game plan seems pretty simplistic - take shots, mostly long range tries, on Fasth. I guess looking for rebounds?

- Man, four Oilers surround a loose puck in the crease, and get zero shots on goal. The Edmonton Oilers.

- Christian Thomas with a beauty snap shoulder over Fasth's right shoulder for his first career NHL goal. Habs are ridiculously blessed with young talent. 1-0.

- Not for lack of effort by Edmonton, but they're such a collection of young individuals. Generating solo scoring chances, but little coordination between teammates. Besides that, good period for the Habs, the 4th line, which has played so well for the past two weeks since Malhotra was yanked out, finally hit the scoresheet. Not for the first time, I'm very certain.


So, are we going to win one of these games we have no business losing? Is that going to happen this year?

It's a oddity. The Montreal Canadiens have strung together a downright mediocre record against the League's five worst teams this year, posting a cumulative 5-4-1 record. It's a stat pretty much identical to that against the top five other teams in the NHL, where the Habs have put together a 4-3 record.

So why the struggles? Well, beyond statistical anomalies, mitigating factors (road weariness), there are the intangibles that go with playing teams that really have very little to lose. So on any given night, you might find your hands full combating powerhouse teams from Buffalo, or Edmonton, Or Raleigh.

But that's a touchy-feel explanation. More likely a main reason why this Habs team struggles with lower tiered clubs might have more to do with who's playing in goal, than anything else. Of the 10 games the Habs have played this year against the teams currently ranked in the bottom 5 of the NHL, Carey Price started 4 of the games, winning two. Dustin Tokarski started 6, putting up a 3-2-1 record. Not great.

Tonight, the Habs will get one more shot at beating the Oilers this season, as they host Edmonton at the Bell Centre, with Tokarski in goal. The Oilers, who are in a fierce tanking battle with the Buffalo Sabres for the best shot at the first overall pick, are just four points ahead of Buffalo for last overall.

We all know the Edmonton story to death. So let's just look at how they're playing right now. In comparison to their dreadful play the first 3 and 1/2 months of the season, not too bad, actually. Recent wins over Washington and San Jose have helped "keep" them out of the League's absolute basement.

Even so, the odds aren't much in Edmonton's favor tonight. They're now having to deal with injuries to a couple of important forwards, namely Benoit Pouliot and more critically, Taylor Hall, who's on IR for the next 4-6 weeks. To match Tokarski, the Oilers will also be going with their backup tonight in Viktor Fasth (+3 GAA and sub .900 SV%). Yeah, there's really no way the Habs should be losing this game.

Over in Habsland, Michel Therrien appears to be going with the same lineup as Tuesday night's game against the Flyers, which includes the high-flying 4th line, which includes the ridiculously impressive Jacob de la Rose, which means that for yet another game, Manny Malhotra will be watching the game from the press box.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.