Saturday, 28 November 2015

Game 25: Devils vs. Habs

OVERTIME:

- Well, this is stupid and completely unnecessary.

- I'm still fuming over Therrien calling that timeout. What a stupid, stupid decision.

- Oh, FWIW, both teams through 60 minutes:








- Markov pinches, loses, and everybody gets caught up ice. Condon with a great initial save on Moore, but he can't get up for the rebound. A terrible way to loose - totally unavailable, a huge mistake by Therrien calling a timeout late in the 3rd, and allowing the Devils the opportunity to put together a set play to tie the game. Argh.

THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Devils through 40 minutes:









- -- S- - Should come as little surprise the Henrique line is the best playing unit for the Devils tonight, but still, if they're contained from scoring, the Devils are in tough.

- Condon't been excellent this period - really solid through much of the game. Keeping things very simple, very compact tonight.

- Habs have been pretty disciplined this period, not taking any unnecessary chances, and doing a pretty decent job maintaining puck control in the Devil's zone. Also matching them well in the battle for centre ice. So far, Jersey's shots on Condon have mainly come from the point. They're looking for a lucky bounce.

- Weird, very marginal interference call on Elias, and the Habs quickly take advantage on the powerplay, a loose puck around Schneider that Galchenyuk eventually roofs to give Montreal a 2-0 lead. Galchenyuk is officially on fire.

- Jersey gets that lucky bounce off a point shot, through the legs of Condon. Larsson the goal with Henrique line on the ice.  2-1.

- Jeff Petry injured? Not on the Habs bench. That could be huge.

- 7 minutes left, Habs in hang-on mode.

- Petry has returned. We breath. And now hope the Habs don't continue to try to hold on to this one goal game.

- Devils taking chances now, and it's creating some odd-man rushes for the Habs. Just need to bury one more ...

- Beaulieu misses golden opportunity - he tries way too hard sometimes. A minute left, and Habs will just stack the line.

- With 24 seconds left, faceoff deep in their own zone, Therrien calls a timeout. Which is very strange strategy, as it gives the Devils best forwards time to rest and set their play. Okay, then.

- And wouldn't you know it, the Devils score off a set play. What the heck was Therrien thinking?!?



SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Devils through 20 minutes. It was, for the most part, a stalemate period.
























- Scoring chances in the first were kind of sad, especially if you're a Canadien:





- Habs are having a "devil" (sorry) of a time setting up a shot anywhere near the slot. The Devils forwards do a great job collapsing to protect their goal whenever there's even a sniff of a threat.

- This game evolving (devolving) into a titanic struggle between checkers. Virtually no flow to the game, and almost no good scoring chances are being generated. Might take a lucky bounce to break the zeros on the scoreboard.

- Well, there you have it. Beaulieu with a point shot that hits Galchenyuk in the shoulder, and deflects top corner behind Schneider. As lucky a goal as you'll see. 1-0 Habs.

- Before the Galchenyuk goal, the Habs had only mustered three shot attempts (that's attempts) through the first 9 minutes of this period - so lethargic has this game been.

- Galchenyuk might have the only goal so far, but Plekanec line has by far been the Habs most consistent tonight. Desharnais line hasn't shown much, and the 4th line continues to look amiss without Mitchell in the lineup.

- Desharnais clearcut breakaway, but follows through with a pretty lame backhand deke.

- Pacioretty assessed a nonsense hooking penalty with 5 minutes left. Tells the official the call was bullshit. He's right about that. Professional referees should never be making calls like that.

- Credit to the Habs defence, they're largely doing their job guarding the rush, and covering passing lanes. Devils really haven't challenged Condon in the period.

- Apparently the Devils outshot the Habs 12-6 in that period, although I'd be dammed how that result was calculated. NHL stats, I guess. Anyways, another tight checking sleeper of a period, the Habs got their lucky bounce, and the Devils ... well, they're just not able to generate any sustained momentum. Yeah, they're getting a few pucks on Condon, but very few are coming from close distances. Basically a game of attrition. At times, unbearable to watch.



FIRST PERIOD:

- So Christian Thomas gets his first start of the season, with Holloway being the healthy scratch tonight. All for having the (younger) kids get a chance to demonstrate themselves. So far Andrighetto has produced an "A" performance, let's see what Thomas can do.

- Also interesting to note that Pateryn gets another start, Emelin is again a healthy scratch. Emelin isn't really a movable asset this year, but Gilbert certainly is.

- Early on, Habs defence really struggling to move the puck forward successfully, a lot of pucks being turned over in the neutral zone, producing odd man breaks for New Jersey. Sloppy start.

- Another poor puck turnover in the neutral zone, leading to odd man break for the Devils, Condon forced to make an excellent pad save off the pass to keep the game scoreless.

- With New Jersey really producing significant puck pressure, Galchenyuk line hits the ice with 9 minutes left, and promptly force the Devils into a couple of puck giveaways. That line be human'.

- Devils powerplay is a real hot mess. Puck movement is simply not fast or accurate enough.

- Habs first powerplay was "okay". Had decent zone control, but the Devils PK really collapsed nicely around their slot and blocked most shooting angles. Habs must adapt. If the Devils are intent on cramming their own slot, then the Canadiens could try working the puck deep. Perimeter passing simply won't amount to anything.

- 1st period looking much like it did last night - very tight checking, Devils really stacking up aggressively at centre ice. Habs simply couldn't get their speed into gear, which resulted in very few good scoring chances on Schneider. Meanwhile, apart from some sloppy transition passing, Habs were, for the most part, disciplined in their own zone, containing the slot and preventing the Devils from reaching any rebounds. Condon played pretty solid. Looks like this will be a low scoring game.


GAMEDAY NOTES:

No real "preview" today. We saw the Devils last night, and we know the important stuff. They struggle with scoring, they play really good defence. Nothing has changed in 20 years there.

One thing to note about last night's comparables (see below) was how well the Plekanec and Galchenyuk lines (again) were with puck possession. The Devils' offence is pretty top heavy - it relies much on the Henrique/Cammalleri/Stempniak line. If they don't produce, the Devils' odds of winning any given night are pretty close to zero (that the Henrique line did produce last night gave New Jersey a fighting chance).

The Desharnais line, as per usual, struggled defensively, getting soundly outchanced by an inferior opponent. We put up with their shaky zone defence because, for the most part, they've been able to hold their own in producing the necessary goals. But if that line ever starts to faultier offensively, watch out.

The big Habs question heading into tonight will be their defensive pairings. Will Greg Pateryn, who had an up-and-down evening, get another start in place of Alexei Emelin? Or maybe Therrien might consider giving Tom Gilbert an evening off?

Cory Schneider had a very good outing last night - whether that means he'll get consecutive starts is yet to be seen. The Devils do have a more than capable backup in Keith Kinkaid. It's a near certainty that Mike Condon will get the nod tonight for the Habs.

A win tonight will get Montreal to the 40 point plateau, a point reached before December even begins will be an outstanding accomplishment. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.




THIS ALEX GALCHENYUK FELLOW CAN PLAY

That's a wowzers goal from last night - and set the Habs up for an eventual shootout victory.

We'll have more as the day progresses, including a little preview of tonight's game. In the meantime, here's a breakdown of last night's game, which was a very good one for both the Galchenyuk and Plekanec lines:

Friday, 27 November 2015

Game Twenty-Four: Habs vs. Devils

OVERTIME:

- Habs and Devils through 60 minutes:



- Schneider holding his team in this overtime. Where's Galchenyuk??

- Brad Watson with an awfully soft holding call on Andrighetto. In overtime. Hoo boy.

- Petry with brilliant work on the PK, Plekanec sprung loose and draws a hook. Habs back on even terms and might pull this one out yet.

- One OT shift for Galchenyuk. That's crazy.

- Galchenyuk on. Watch him.

- Schneider robs Pacioretty with only seconds left. Full credit. Fantastic save.

- Shootout. Habs need a miracle here. Can't see Condon beating Schneider at this.

- Condon just doesn't move enough on these. Gets fooled badly.

- Condon makes second save, and pumps his arm as though the game was won. Not yet, Condibear. Not yet.

- Andrighetto!!!! On his first ever NHL shootout attempt. Wowzers.

- CONDIBEAR!! Howz about that. Habs win.


THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Devils 5v5 through 40 minutes:




- Canadiens 4th line really not doing much of a job creating energy during their shifts throughout the night. Torrey Mitchell probably didn't/doesn't get enough credit.

- Pretty flagrant high stick to Desharnais's face, somehow not called by the officials, one of whom is Brad Watson. So ... yeah.

- Habs struggling to find a spark as this 3rd period progresses, but for whatever reason, Therrien seems to be leaning on the Plekanec line instead of the line that's actually bringing energy tonight - the Galchenyuk line.

- Anyway, Habs powerplay here. Let's see if it can't be as terri-bad as it was during the first and second periods.

- Actually, that powerplay was pretty much excellent. Everything but a goal. Habs held the puck in the Devils zone for every second of the man advantage, but couldn't quite find a clear, clean scoring opportunity on Schneider. Still, good progress.

- Seems like the Devils are just trying to hold on to this one goal lead, which is usually a bad strategy. Habs are really taking it to New Jersey, you have to wonder if, failing a bad bounce, a game-tying goal is inevitable.

- Alex Galchenyuk. Incredible speed. Just incredible. And then a beauty move on Schneider. Tie game. There ya go.

- Grats to old man Markov, who collected his 400th career assist off that wonderful Galchenyuk game tying goal.

- At this point, Therrien can no longer continue to give the Galchenyuk line, which has easily been this team's best forward line for more than two weeks, 3rd line ice time.

- Well, Therrien's answer to that - he's taken Galchenyuk off his line, and put him on the Plekanec line, demoting Smith-Pellly. Eller now on the 4th line. Juggling all over the place.

- Excellent period for the Habs, mustering up the needed goal to at least claim a point. Really dominated most aspects of the 3rd, with the Devils seemingly over focused on protecting their zone. The Habs have 5 minutes to pull out a win, because if this goes to shootout, the Devils will almost certainly win since Mike Condon has struggled badly with the shootout format.



SECOND PERIOD:

- Turnover at centre ice gives Devils clear zone entry, give and go finished by Henrique. 1-0.

- Montreal's second period pretty much a disaster. No offence generated, unless you count the two 2-on-1 breaks the Devils had while shorthanded. Habs seem to be more or less in a daze tonight.

- If there's any clear indication that the Habs are missing the presence of Brendan Gallagher, tonight's game so far in New Jersey would be it.

- Habs defence is pretty disengaged tonight. When they aren't making poor pass attempts, they're pretty much stapling themselves deep in their zone. Which means the Devils are largely controlling centre ice.

- Lars Eller not having a good night. Fails to make a very straightforward zone clearance on the PK, which results in Condon being left completely out to dry with Stepniak allowed to jam the puck home. 2-0 New Jersey. Awful night so far for the visiting team.

- Habs getting called for penalties initiative of a team being skated into the ground. Pateryn, who's really struggled tonight, gets nailed for a hold.

- Habs offence just barely showing a sign of life, with 7 minutes left in the 2nd. Devils seem to be more than willing to allow clean zone entires, with Schneider playing very well.

- Andrighetto! Kid is making a statement, isn't he? That Devils passivity burns them, as Galchenyuk allowed a clean zone entry, and a nifty pass over to Andrighetto with a wrister that somehow eludes Schneider. Game isn't quite over yet.

- Seems to be a pretty good formula - team lacking spark? Send out the energy makers. Galchenyuk and Andrighetto more than happy to fill the void.

- Well, I suppose that period could have been a lot worse. Devils dominated first 13 minutes, and could have easily scored more than two, to put this game away. Habs seemed to find their legs as the period came to a close, but still, this isn't nearly the same team without Gallagher in the lineup. Nonetheless, the Habs at the very least retain a shot of getting a point (maybe even two) out of tonight's game. We'll see what they're made of in the 3rd.


FIRST PERIOD: 

-Interesting. Emelin is a gametime scratch for Pateryn. Don't think it's injury related.

- Pretty sloppy first powerplay for the Habs, with Markov saving Subban's bacon (and a Jersey goal) after a terrible turnover by P.K. deep in his own zone.

- Habs defense being very sloppy in their own zone, really struggling to feed the puck to the forwards. Devils with a fairly aggressive forecheck which is creating problems.

- Devils just don't allow anything. Habs having fits simply carrying the zone. New Jersey with a big focus on shot blocking, while forcing opponent forwards to the outside. Habs yet to generate a quality scoring chance on Schneider the first 12 minutes of this game.

- Pretty soft interference call on Smith-Pelly off the faceoff - officials very aggressive calling these interferences so far.

- Habs PK looks excellent again tonight, Devils could get nothing going, their offensive thinness really on display.

- Schneider's first big save of the night off Plekanec off a sweet pass from Pacioretty. Took nearly the entire first period to test the Devils.

- Habs offence finally locating 2nd gear, although they continue to struggle registering shots on net. Can't win if your opposing goaltender doesn't have to stop anything.

- Pretty meek first period of play - both teams playing classic trap game, offences really struggling to generate any kind of momentum through centre ice. Quite possibly the most boring period of hockey I've seen this year. In other words, classic New Jersey hockey. No wonder they can't sell out even half the building.



WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY, WHERE HOCKEY CAME TO NEARLY DIE















Hey, we're in the middle of a swamp tonight! Yeah, normally I'd use every opportunity whenever the Habs go to New Jersey to mock their frenetic Devils hockey fans (all approximately 400 of them!), or that the Devils franchise nearly single-handedly destroyed the game of hockey in the 1990s by playing a (winning!) game of boring their opponents to death. Or that New Jersey itself is pretty much humanity built on a toxic waste dump. NOPE. NOT GONNA DO THAT TODAY.

Instead, let's be nice, and just make fun of the New Jersey Devils. They're not very good! 23 points in 21 games, puts the Devils on a pace for about 87 points, which won't be nearly enough to make the playoffs.

The issue with the Devils? Pretty much goal scoring. Coming into tonight's game, New Jersey has just the 23rd rated League offence, with an average just over 2.3 GPG. This anemic production puts considerable pressure on Jersey's netminders, in particular Cory Schneider, who's very capable, but is by no means elite. In games this season where the Devils have scored 3 or fewer goals, their record isn't good - 3-5-1. Contrast that with the Habs, whose record is 5-2-2 when they score 3 or fewer goals, and you begin to get the picture.

The Devils are led by ... well ... how do we put this gently. Old guys. Yeah. Old guys. What do Mike Cammalleri, Ryane Clowe, Patrik Elias, Stephen Gionta, Tuomo Ruutu, Lee Stempniak, and Jordin Tootoo have in common? They're all on the Devils offence, and not a single one of those players are under age 32. Yeeks! Otherwise, New Jersey does feature a younger, shall we even go so far to say, good defence? Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, and the big-bodied Eric Gelinas are the Devils' blue line foundation. With younger bodies like Jon Merrill and John Moore up-and-coming, at least New Jersey can be a challenging team to score against. At least.

It's not all doom-and-gloom though. The Devils will be taking on the suddenly injury-ridden Habs team in back-to-back night-to-night games. The Habs are hobbling, now without the services of Carey Price for at least a week (ain't no way Carey is coming back in a week, for what it's worth), and the also irreplaceable Brendan Gallagher, who's out until January (at least). Toss in Torrey Mitchell, and now Alexander Semin, and the Canadiens are getting their first rigorous depth test of the season.

With all these bodies out, Bud Holloway (gawd, that name is fantastic) will get his first ever Habs uniform start tonight - he'll be placed on the 4th line in place of Semin. Otherwise, the Habs will be going status-quo with the lineup - Sven Andrighetto will play on the Galchenyuk line, while Devante Smith-Pelly will start again on the Plekanec line.

Game time tonight is 7:10 EST. It's Mike Condon against ... we're not sure. Either Schneider, or Keith Kinkaid.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Game Twenty-Three: Habs vs. Rangers

THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Rangers through 40 minutes:




























- Is it time to panic? Carey Price is out for the night. Mike Condon comes in to start the 3rd.

- Well, how about that. Rangers turn over the puck in their zone, Smith-Pelly goes to the net unmolested, and Plekanec with a nice backhand pass to set him up all alone in front of Lundqvist. 3-1 Habs. A critical goal, given that Price is no longer in the game.

- Wow. Habs, who we've talked about all night about winning the neutral zone, intercept the puck at centre ice, and Galchenyuk beats Lundqvist from an incredibly narrow angle making it 4-1.

- Rangers have looked terrible since the start of the period - you would have figured they'd come out storming seeing that Price was no longer in the game. But nope, they're flatter than a pancake so far.

- Price apparently out with right leg injury. I'm guessing it's the same injury that kept him out for nearly a month. Was he brought back too soon? Sure looking that way.

- Rangers look just awful this period - getting manhandled in just about every department, and have played some pretty atrocious puck control in their own zone. This is the best defensive team in the NHL? Really finding that hard to believe.

- That dangerous looking Habs powerplay with its excellent passing, finally strikes. Brilliant pass by Galchenyuk on Pacioretty's tape for an easy goal. Lundqvist yanked. We're nearly entering route territory.

- Rangers just taking numbers now, which is a shame. Lose with dignity, guys.

- Apparently Alex Semin is hurt, and out for the night. When it rains, it bloody well pours.

- So we're down Price, Gallagher, Mitchell, Semin ... this Habs team is deep - very deep ... but you can only go so deep before bad things start to happen.

- An important win tonight for the Habs. Maybe the most important regular season win as this franchise has had in the past 15 years. Habs totally dominated the Rangers tonight, and can rightfully take the mantle as the best team in the Eastern Conference. At least, right now.

But ... at what cost? What happened to Carey Price? How long will be be sidelined? Regardless of how big or important these wins are, this team can't proceed to the next level if Price isn't the Habs full-time netminder.



SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Rangers through 20 minutes:



























- Even though Habs were credited with only one more shot on goal in that first period, if you need any more convincing how well Montreal played, check this out - in particular, the left side of the graphic.























- Max Pacioretty has one of the most feared snap shots in the NHL. But this year, it seems like that shot isn't nearly as dangerous. I wonder if he's lost velocity due to the knee injury and recovery?

- What a play by Max Pacioretty to spot and set up Smith-Pelly right in front of Lundqvist, with DSP finishing with authority. Habs excellent play carrying over, and now really paying off on the scoreboard. 2-0.

- Another fine Habs powerplay, more creative and fast puck movement, good quality scoring chances, Lundqvist making a couple of nice saves. Get the feeling a third Habs goal would be a game killer.

- Habs complete game continues to roll well into the 2nd period, the Rangers really struggling to carry their own zone. New York attempting way too many long-bomb passes, simply because Montreal doing an excellent job containing centre ice.

- Rangers with very good 2nd powerplay, really applying pressure and forcing Price into make two big saves. Even though they failed to score, remains to be see whether it will provide them with game momentum.

- Carey Price still looks like he's fighting the puck, but only a little bit. Slowly returning to form, has made some very good saves in this game, even though on the whole, he's faced pretty limited action.

- Rangers definitely thriving off the powerplay, Rick Nash has looked very good tonight, very involved close to the Canadiens' net, and now Markov has been called for a hooking penalty, which is merely symptomatic that New York is outskating Montreal at this stage of the game.

- Brutal giveaway by Gilbert in front of Price. Pateryn doesn't make that play, I'm just sayin'.

- Horrid interference call on Galchenyuk, and of course, the Rangers score on the resultant powerplay. Officials seemed to be going out of their way to call just about anything and everything on the Habs, and now the Rangers are back in this game. Maybe, hopefully, the officials will go back to calling a good game.

- It stands to reason that if you call enough penalties, especially soft penalties, on any given team, their opponent, no matter how badly outplayed, will eventually gain game momentum and control. The Rangers were the recipients of some very, very generous calls in the 2nd half of the period. It's resulted in the game going from in total command for the Habs, to anyone's game. Shame.


FIRST PERIOD:

- Really disappointed to see Pateryn getting scratched tonight in favour of Emelin. I think that's a big mistake by Therrien. Pateryn has been a defensive rock since getting put into the lineup after Emelin's injury.

- Habs playing a pretty tight defensive game first four minutes of the period. They appear, at least from that, to be playing classic road strategy.

- Welcome to the season, Sven Andrighetto, who beats Lundqvist off a nifty pass by Eller. Galchenyuk line continues its excellent possession play, and the kid, who looked so great last season but never landed a regular spot, makes another positive impression. 1-0 Habs.

- Good shift by the Desharnais line, pinning Rangers in their zone, and if not for a very lucky bounce in favour of the Rangers (I guess that trend continues), it would be 2-0. New York seems to be having trouble adjusting to Montreal's forecheck and speed.

- Not sure if this first half of the 1st period is so much the Habs playing so well, or the Rangers so poorly. Really expected to see a whole lot more from this New York team. Colour me underwhelmed. At least, so far.

- Wowzers. Andrighetto is really clicking big time on the Galchenyuk line. He's only in his second game, but it looks like he's played on that line all season long. What a magnificent bonus for the Habs.

- Habs are just plain outworking the Rangers so far. Shots and possession may be fairly even, but it's been pretty one-sided so far in favour of Montreal.

- Might as well keep heaping on the praise well the going's good - Habs are totally dominating the neutral zone. Puck movement has been very fluid, checking has been generating a significant number of puck turnovers. If the fast Rangers are contained at centre ice, they have nowhere to go.

- Habs come up empty first powerplay, but puck movement, as it has the past month with the man advantage, was as fast as it was fantastic.

- Rangers' powerplay also comes up empty, but it does register one good scoring opportunity, which was their first of this game. It came with just 2 minutes left in the period.

- That was an excellent period, from the Habs perspective. Much strong checking, much better with transitions, and way way better winning the neutral zone. With exception to one powerplay, which gave the Rangers the opportunity to set up in the Habs zone, New York had pretty much nothing to show for the first 20 minutes. 




























OKAY PEOPLE, IT'S TIME TO TAKE HENRIK LUNDQVIST AND THE RANGERS SERIOUSLY

Hey, it's arrived. It's what we've been waiting for. A showdown between the top two teams in the National Hockey League, the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers have a great record. They're really GOOD! Right?

Well. I think they're really good. I think?

The Rangers are riding high. 16 wins in their first 21 games, tied with the Habs for first overall with 34 points. They're on a crazy hot streak, having won 12 of their past 13. But ... even with all that considered, I'm not quite convinced their the class of the Eastern Conference.

Heading into tonight's clash, the Rangers have a PDO of 107.4, which by PDO standards, is ridiculously high. New York has strung together win after win after win bolstered by an incredible shooting percentage - 11.1%. To give you some perspective, last season's Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Black Hawks, had a 6.87 Sh%. The year previous, the L.A. Kings had a 6.51%

But that's not all. The Rangers have a save percentage right now at a mind-boggling 96.25%. That means the Rangers, on any given night where they might surrender 50 shots on goal, are allowing, on average, barely 1-and-a-half goals. This is to say, at their current level of performance, if you want to beat New York 2-1, you'd have to register at least 51 shots, to give your team a fighting chance.

Are you gettin' at what I'm hitin' at here? The Rangers rate of success is completely and utterly unsustainable. When the law of averages finally arrives in the Big Apple, watch out - because this team is due for a major readjustment.

I'm not suggesting that New York is a bad team. Far from it. They're the number one rated defensive team in hockey - it's not unusual for a team with a strong blue line to withstand the law of averages. But, at lot of that credit has to go towards Henrik Lundqvist, who's having himself one heckova 2015-16 ... at least so far. A 1.74 GAA and a .946 SV% - these are Vezina trophy stats. Heck, these are Vezina and Hart trophy stats - assuming Henrik can sustain that level of performance.

So ... we observers, who observe the laws of averages ... sit. And we wait for the corrections.

Might it start tonight against the Habs? Maybe ... but ... likely not. The Habs, as you're probably, are dealing with an injury bug which has taken out Torrey Mitchell, Alexei Emelin, and most critically, Brendan Gallagher, who sustained two broken bones in his hand on Sunday night against the Islanders. Gallagher, who is most certainly not a player easily replaced, will be replaced by Devante Smith-Pelly, which is to say, it's not much of a replacement.

This mean, the Habs will have to play an excellent road game tonight. Tight checking, hard hitting, and patient. An strong emphasis on forechecking, all towards hoping that somehow, someway, the Rangers will screw up. Or maybe, the puck will bounce against them.

On that later point - it may happen. It's certainly overdue to happen.

Puck drop tonight is at 7:10 EST. Lundqvist vs. Price.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Game Twenty-Two: Islanders vs. Habs

THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Islanders through 40 minutes:



























- And Gallagher is done for the night. This is obviously the news we were not wanting to hear.

- If Gallagher is gone for any extended period of time, the gate of opportunity has now opened for George Holloway.

- Alex Galchenyuk continues to shoot pucks off target. I still think he tries too hard looking for corners, which results in a pretty poor shooting percentage.

- Islanders pressing as we near the halfway mark of the 3rd. Habs playing an increasingly passive game as the frame progresses, which means the Islanders are getting more and more scoring chances.

- Islanders with a terrible powerplay, but somehow manage to score as the man advantage ends, as Markov and Subban get all kinds of messed up in front of Price. Game tied, and Dale Weise, who took a terrible penalty, can sit on the bench and think it over.

- Another symptom from playing a passive game. Your feet stop moving. When your feet stop moving, you take more penalties. Habs with three minors this period alone - one costing them the lead.

- ALEX GALCHENYUK. FINALLY.

- Habs powerplay strikes, a beautiful cross ice pass by Subban to Galchenyuk who finally, FINALLY scores. Habs take late 3-2 lead.

- Andrighetto given late game shift, with Habs leading by just one. Clearly, Therrien has been impressed.

- Islanders get nailed for too many men, with just 83 seconds left. An astounding stupid penalty at this stage in the game.

- Pacioretty. Empty net. Game. Set. Match.



SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Islanders through 20 minutes:



























- Man, Alex Galchenyuk. Fires puck wide on a totally wide open net. At some point, this will go beyond snakebite, and he'll start to see his time dramatically reduced. Actually, that's already starting. The Galchenyuk line got least amount of ice time in the 1st period.

- Can't figure out the deal with Price - he's having an awful time controlling the puck, resulting in numerous rebounds off relatively simple shots. It's easy enough to write this all off as rust, but it's still very unusual.

- Based from what we've seen the first half of the game, I can't fathom how Therrien wouldn't be anything other than pleased by what he's seen from Andrighetto.

- Greg Pateryn is having another excellent game. He's in the lineup because of Emelin's injury, but he's been so good since getting the call, it's going to be awfully difficult, maybe impossible, for Therrien to take him out. This could make Gilbert the odd-man out.

- Habs 2nd powerplay clicks, as Weise does a nice job moving the puck tight before dishing off to Desharnais for an easy goal. Habs puck movement while on the powerplay continues to look excellent.

- Semin making hay since getting promoted. As long as he continues to generate scoring opportunities, he will get to play. Maybe even regularly.

- Oh dear, Gallagher takes a blast off the hand from short range. Looks bad. Really bad.

- Fleischmann, shorthanded. Vicious snap shot, Greiss with little chance. What an incredible pickup for the Habs. At $750K, possibly the greatest bargain in the National Hockey League.

- Gallagher's hand after that shot. I'm no doctor, but that thing sure looks broken.

















- With Gallagher done, Semin has been promoted to the Plekanec line. Started the night buried on the 4th line, had a couple of good shifts, got promoted to the 2nd line, and now on the top line. Quite a night.

- Good period for the Habs, but possibly very costly, depending on Gallagher's status, which doesn't look good. Habs continue to outperform the Islanders in transitions, which has helped them generate far more scoring chances. As we said at the end of the 1st period, Habs simply needed to continue to play the way they are. Same applies for the upcoming 3rd period.


FIRST PERIOD:

- Rock solid first shift for Semin buried on the 4th line, good forecheck, and nearly tipped a Beaulieu point shot past Greiss.

- Habs doing a good job with zone pressure, another fine shift for Glachenyuk, who just misses off a rebound. If good scoring chances were goal, he'd probably be leading the League in scoring.

- Habs way faster than the Islanders early on. New York basically just in reaction mode, transition game sputtering so far.

- To be perfectly blunt, I don't quite understand all the hype around Hamonic - sure he's fast, yes he's young, but he's awfully sloppy with the puck at times. I don't think the Islanders are gong to nearly get the returns they're hoping for if/when he's eventually moved out west.

- Pretty good looking first Habs powerplay, puck movement was crisp, a couple of decent scoring chances - impressive considering how the Islanders PK is currently rated top of the League.

- Islanders look an awful lot like last year's Habs - lots of puck dump-and-chases, while the Habs have been almost entirely carrying the zone. Guess who's had almost all of the scoring chances so far?

- Still don't think Price is 100%. Gives up a huge rebound off a very routine shot from the line, and Tavares pokes in the loose puck. 1-0 Islanders.

- Hockey is like that. Habs controlled most of the period, but Islanders the only goal, in part because Price couldn't handle a simple shot, in part because Therrien put out the defensively weak Desharnais line against the Tavares line, which is just asking for trouble. That said, Habs just need to keep playing as they are. Eventually the bounces will start landing their way.


GAMEDAY GAME NOTES:

No detailed preview today - we're all familiar with the Islanders, having just played them a couple of days ago. That said ... here's a few points for consideration:

- Habs have a minor case of the injury bug. Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly are out with unspecified injuries. Sven Andrighetto, who will play alongside Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk, will get his first start of the season. Also called up for the Habs is George Holloway, a career minor-leaguer, who was a pickup from the L.A. Kings a little while ago. He'll likely not play tonight, but is up "just in case".

- Carey Price will start - will he look better than Friday? Price looked a little bit rusty at times, especially moving laterally in his crease.

- Speaking of netminders, it's unclear who'll start for the Islanders tonight. Jaroslav Halak struggled Friday, eventually getting yanked in the second period. Thomas Greiss came in on relief, and was solid.

More later, if there's anything post-worthy. Puck will drop tonight at 7:10 EST.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Game Twenty-One: Habs vs. Islanders

THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Islanders scoring chances through 40 minutes:


















- With Price in net, do the Habs attempt to do a lead sit for 20 minutes? There really shouldn't be any good reason to even think about trying.

- I suspect Therrien's rationale for putting Gallagher back with Eller and Galchenyuk is to get the later on the scoresheet. There comes a point where you have to give the damn a poke to get it broken.

- Save for the Islanders'  second goal, sure doesn't look like there was much rust on Price tonight. The guy is astounding.

- Habs are playing a sort of lead-sit game here, zone dump and puck chips a-plenty, it's giving the Islanders a fair amount of open ice between their zone and the Habs blue line. Montreal seems comfortable just trying to block shots. Don't think this is a very good strategy.

- Well, there you have it. Nelson's second goal of the night, as the Habs inevitably get pinned in their zone because their tired line got pinned off an icing call. 4-3.

- The consequences of that blown call by the referees, even with the luxury of a replay. The Islanders are given a goal they didn't deserve, and because of that, Therrien not only loses his ability to make another challenge, he loses his timeout. Galchenyuk line gets stuck on the ice, and the Islanders score to make it 4-3.

- Okay, I'm totally perplexed. Petry flips the puck out of his zone, lands in the Habs bench, and Petry is called for delay of game?? Therrien holding the puck IN HIS HAND and slamming it on the boards, all to no avail. Astounding.

- Habs dodge the penalty, and the Islanders nearly tie it up as Price struggles to get across to stop of soft wrister. Puck goes through his legs and literally across the line. Huge bullet dodged, but more importantly, it's another example of a play you'd never see Price make. At least, not a healthy Price. Anyway, Markov saves the day and (for now) the game-tying goal.

- Less than 5 minutes to go. Can that Habs scratch their way to a victory? I have severe doubts that won't win without a 5th goal, but stranger things have happened.

- Not a great night for Price, at least by his standards. I guess there really is some rust with his game, or he's not 100%. His mobility certainly not nearly as crisp as usual. At times he's looked downright awkward moving side-to-side.

- Price tackled, and I mean, literally tackled in his crease by Nelson, helmet send flying - but the officials make no call.

- As I was saying, Habs are gonna need a 5th. Gallagher the empty netter. Two points in the bag. But only barely.

- Hard-earned victory of the Habs tonight, nice to have Price back in the net, which I'm sure gave his mates a shot of enthusiasm, as Montreal came strong out of the gate. Canadiens mostly dominated the first two periods, before settling into a protective shell for most of the 3rd.


SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Islanders through 20 minutes. That was a pretty solid period for Montreal, as the chart illustrates.


























- Well, hey there, Halak gets the hook, and Greiss is put in.

- Hamonic makes it 3-2 with a 60 foot slapper that, shall we shockingly, beats Price easily glove side. Price might have been screened, but it's still not the kind of goal that he normally lets in. That's concerning.

- Dang, Semin stopped on a breakaway, glove save. He and Galchenyuk, just not being rewarding on the goals sheet.

- Greg Pateryn. Certainly an upgrade from Alexei Emelin. And Tom Gilbert, for that matter.

- So ... Therrien puts out Smith-Pelly with Plekanec and Pacioretty, for reasons that are beyond my ability to comprehend.

- EGG line is back together again, and even though Semin has been generating scoring chances (and actually scoring points), he's being buried again.

- Petry again? Shot from the line during the powerplay eludes Greiss, with traffic in front. As we noted in period one, the Habs were getting pretty good slot penetration, off some soft Islanders defending. 4-2 Habs. It is a Petry goal - first time in his career that he's scored two in a game.

- Still trying to figure out Therrien's thought pattern with DSP on the top line. I know it's always good to do the occasional experiments with line combinations, but what exactly is to be gained? DSP is not, and will never been, a top line winger. So why waste his time (or Pacioretty and Plekanec's?). Makes no sense.

- Plekanec and Desharnais line have been surrendering more than average scoring chances, the only responsible lines tonight have been Galchenyuk and Flynn (who both have the least amount of ice time). Therrien's deployment continues to be mystifying.

- Habs maintain two goal lead headed into the 3rd period, but that 2nd period was very strange, in particular Therrien's deployments and line combinations. Gallagher with Galchenyuk, DPS with Plekanec, Semin buried, Byron still fruitless not playing on the 4th. Some strange moves that are usually made in games where you are winning easily or losing badly. But not in the middle of the 2nd period of a one-goal game. Therrien "gut-based" strategies rears its ugly head.


FIRST PERIOD:

- Alex Semin. First Habs goal tonight. BANK IT.*

- *conditional that Therrien actually gives him a shift.

- Semin is slotted on the 4th line (yeah okay Michel, whatever), first shift, produces!!! Petry banging home a loose puck, assisted by nice forechecking by Semin who picks up the assist. Did the Habs actually score the first goal? YUP.

- Petry nearly scoring his second before the game is even 6 minutes old. Habs with plenty of intensity to start this game, Galchnyuk looks, as he did last night, terrific. He WILL score tonight.

- Islanders with a very slight possession edge, but their shots have been pretty meek, at least through the first half of the 1st. They'll need to do much better than taking permitter shots on Price. Like, way way way better.

- Therrien putting Byron on the 2nd line, but IT'S NOT WORKING. Plugging 4th line guys on the 2nd line, and 2nd line forwards on the 4th line is stuuuuuupid.

- Nelson pokes home the loose puck, but it sure looks like Nelson pushed Price before the puck was shot in. I think this could/should be overturned.

- Unbelievable, it's a goal. The National Hockey League is fast becoming a joke over what does and does not qualify as interference.

- Fleischmann (righteously) puts the Habs right back into the lead 35 seconds later, Halak looking sluggish moving to his glove side off a perimeter shot. Desharnais line looking very slick so far in the period, passing the puck extremely well.

- Habs really getting good penetration moving into the Islanders slot, which has helped them generate some quality scoring chances this period. Overall, the Habs are way ahead on quality shots, even if their raw totals are fewer.

- Problem with this League's approach to determining goal interference is that they're leaving the decision up to the on-ice officials, instead of going to a central location where, AT LEAST, the decisions could have some consistency. The officials tonight don't appear to be very good (terrible holding call just made on Subban), so if you have bad referees, you're going to have bad decisions made. Exasperating.

- Galchenyuk might be snakebit scoring goals, but it's not going to stop him from making sweet rushes with the puck, as he dishes off to Beaulieu who snaps a shot past Halak blocker side. Another "iffy" goal against the Islanders netminder. 3-1 Habs.

- Very, very good period for the Habs. Passing was crisp, speed much faster than their opponent, Islanders really struggled to contain Montreal's rush, and it's helped to generate a solid scoreboard lead. Halak looking a little off, Carey Price looking very on. Islanders shouldn't even have a goal, but that's the NHL for you.


LAST MINUTE UPDATES:

SEMIN WILL BE ENTERING ... the lineup. Tonight. SO ... watch out.

- While it's good news to see Semin back in the lineup, it's only because Torrey Mitchell is out due to injury (unspecified). But, we'll take what we can get.


TONIGHT, WE FINALLY GET THIS BACK:



So Mike Condon. Hey bud. Thanks for coming out. You looked fantastic for a good solid month. You helped this team get (once upon a time) to the very top of the National Hockey League. FANTASTIC.

But then, about 10 days ago, something went "crash", and I think that might have been the sound of your confidence shattering. Or mabye it was your body breaking in two from the intense strings of games rarely experienced by someone who's been a career-long backup
. Over the past four starts, your SV% is less than .850, which is ... sorry to say this, kind of putrid.

At ease, Mr. Condon. At ease.

So all hail the return of the greatest hockey player on planet Earth. I think it's safe to say, the Habs, at least if they had any aspirations of maintaining their comfortable lead in their Division, needed Price back and between the pipes.

So tonight, a significant challenge. The Habs face off against the New York Islanders in their terrible new hockey arena in Brooklyn. The Islanders have just finished up a west coast sampler, putting together relatively impressive wins against the Sharks, Ducks and Coyotes. Actually, the Islanders handled Arizona with relative ease on Monday night. I wonder what that must feel like?

Speaking of Monday night, that was the last time this Islanders team played - so they're rested. Very rested. The Habs, who played less than 24 hours ago - not as rested.

Over in Habsland, the drama continues over the decision to mothball Alexander Semin, which continues to look like the wrong direction with every passing game. Last night, Torrey Mitchell gave his hand a try next to Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk, and for the most part, looked completely out of place - playing more a witness to the fabulous efforts by his linemates - in particular Galchenyuk, who's come down with a serious case of goal-scoring snakebite. Something's gotta give there - either with Semin returning, Galchenyuk scoring, or SOMEBODY shoving Therrien aside, and putting an actual 2nd line winger on the ACTUAL SECOND LINE.


There's also drama with the Islanders this week, with young start defenseman Travis Hamonic formally demanding a trade to Islanders G.M. Garth Snow, to a western-based team (including Winnipeg!! He really REALLY must want out).  So now the Islanders find themselves saddled with a disgruntled piece of their blue line - which is about as un-ideal a situation as you could wish for.

This should be a pretty good game. Two young, very talented, very deep hockey teams - two of the best teams in the entire National Hockey League, with the very best hockey player back on the ice.

Oh yeah, and Jaroslav Halak will be playing as well. Wearing the Islanders awful, awful, awful all black jerseys. Cockroaches on skates. It's a New York thing.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Game Twenty: Coytes vs. Habs

THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Coyotes through 40 minutes of play:

- Habs powerplay has grown progressively less effective as the game has progressed. Coyotes do a nice job adjusting. Dave Tippett deserves credit.

- Habs are pressing to make the lead just one, but too many shots are going glove side on Smith, and he's good there. Did the Habs not do any advance video scouting???

- Jason York: "very surprised Michel Therein wasn't selected to coach the World Cup". Yes, that was actually said by an "analyst" on live TV. 


SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Coyotes after 20 minutes. Let's just say, Mike Condon: regression.

- Speaking of Condon, since November 7, Condon's SV% is .842. That's a big case of coming hurtling back to earth.

- Habs powerplay isn't being rewarded so far tonight. Arizona very, very lucky Montreal still has nothing on the scoreboard.

- Eller with a dumb puck handing penalty, and Larsson beats Condon blocker side from the slot on the powerplay. 3-0 Coyotes. The gods be with the Desert Dogs tonight.

- Montreal's energy level is pretty much nothing right now. That 3rd goal just seemed to take everything out of them. 

- Habs are making this not-very-good Arizona defence look much better than they actually are. Looking at many passing hesitations, forwards holding on to the puck way too long.

- Served on a sliver plate for Smith-Pelly, he, as per usual, is unable to simply lift the puck off glorious rebounds in front of empty nets. But he's Therrien's kind of guy, so this will continue unabated. 

- Habs finally find the scoreboard. Paciroetty off the backhand that seems to catch Smith by surprise. 3-1. Cue another Vancouver-esque comeback? I won't be holding my breath.

- Ah, I see via the replay that the Pacioretty backhand changed direction off Stone's leg. Nothing Smith could do to stop that puck. 

- Mike Smith hunched over in a lot of pain. Not sure what happened but he's in a lot of discomfort. 

- Smith is clearly in a lot of trouble, I'll be surprised if he comes back for the 3rd. Beside that, Habs at least have a glimmer of hope headed into the final frame, even though their attack has been tonight, to put it generously, uneven. Arizona does very well it building plays offensively, which has helped them to attain a better-than-average offence in the League this season. Whatever the result tonight, from what I've witnessed, I'd be very surprised if the Coyotes finish in last place this season. They're a pretty decent hockey team.


FIRST PERIOD:

- Therrien does a line change 17 seconds in, which is kind of strange considering he had last choice for the game's starting line. 

- 30th rated powerplay goes to work early.

- One successful long pass, which set up a perimeter slapper. Otherwise, that man advantage looked very much like the worst in the game.

- Wowzers, P.K. Subban with a zippitdy doo first shift, he's flyin'. 

- Another early game goal surrendered by the Habs, with Hanzel with an easy one off a broken play that had Condon totally confused off a Duclair wraparound attempt. Play all started off a sloppy neutral zone turnover. And off we go already behind the 8 ball.

- Wasn't this the Habs' big issue last season? Seemingly aways surrendering the game's first goal via slow starts??

- Good first powerplay for the Habs, good zone possession. And then Arizona makes it 2-0 off a badly handled shot by Condon, setting up a perfect rebound to Doan. 2-0. Therrien, I'm sure, is thinking about putting Dustin Tokarski in. He hasn't, but he might soon.

- Can't say Alex Galchenyuk hasn't shown up tonight. Staking and puck handling brilliantly, but continues to be undone by some poor shot attempts. 

- Habs defence doing a lot of long-bomb passing to their forwards, which doesn't seem like a very good strategy against the defensively-thin blue Arizona possesses. Habs could very easily be carrying the zone with every possession.

- I think we can safely file Galchenyuk under "S" for Snakebit. Creating great scoring chances left and right, but the puck doesn't seem willing to enter.

- Safe to say the Habs owned most of that period, zone and possession time, but two weak goals, one directly attributed to Condon, has Montreal in a relatively challenging hole. Condon needs to figure whatever is troubling him, out. 




GAME PREVIEW DOG MEAT:Okay, not much of a contest tonight, at least as far as matchups are concerned. So some free-thought notes heading into the game:


- Carey Price doing a full practice. Excellent sign, of course, but any hopes that he'll be playing again before the end of next week are unlikely. Which is fine. The Habs record, even with Condon in the net, is good enough to withstand any dips before Price's return.

- The 'Yotes, who many predicted would finish at or near the bottom of the West this season, are on a two game losing streak heading into the Bell Centre, having been outscored 10-4 over those two games.

- Big guy in Arizona is rookie Max Domi, who has 16 points in 18 games. We assume that coach Therrien will be matching the Plekanec line up against the 'Yotes Brad Richardson line, of whom Domi and Mikkel Boedker play along side.

- Arizona has a couple of capable defensemen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Michael Stone. Beyond that ... yikes.

- The Coyotes have a respectable 11th rated League offence, even though they're bogged down by a 30th rated powerplay, which checks in at a paltry 12% efficiency. Again, it's their defence which makes competing difficult for the Coyotes, giving up an average of 3.00 GPG, which against a defensive-first team like the Habs, makes winning pretty difficult.


- Puck drops at 7:40 EST.



Monday, 16 November 2015

Game Nineteen: Canucks vs. Habs

OVERTIME:

- Therrien puts out Plekanec and Fleischmann to start the OT.

- Therrien clearly has no idea who his best playing forwards have been tonight. Neither Eller or Galchenyuk have received an extra time shift.

- Desharnais!! Habs with a fantastic, well-earned two points. Subban with a fine play shuffling puck over to Subban off the usual OT odd-maned break.

Canucks had an excellent first period, but after that, it was all Habs. Montreal's possession-emphases style really demonstrated its superiority tonight, as Vancouver couldn't withstand the ongoing pressure that mounted from the five minute mark of the 2nd period forward. The victory tonight is the kind that can really propel a team towards a solid winning streak. We'll see what happens over the next week, hopefully with a date forthcoming of Carey Price's return to the lineup.


THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Canucks through 40 minutes. See where everything went full throttle the other direction? That was the Eller goal. Hockey is a funny game sometimes.


























- Habs deployment this evening has been all over the map. Mitchell taken from the 4th to the 2nd line, at Semin's expense, even though as a unit, Galchenyuk/Eller/Semin have had excellent possession.

- Another Habs powerplay, looks pretty good, but can't score. Canucks have dodged some pretty big bullets tonight. This game really ought be at least tied.

- Subban, for whatever reason, has struggled this year taking shots off clean passes fed to the point. Another big whiff tonight.

- Semin with a pretty bad holding penalty away from the play. That might just seal his fate in another return to the press box.

- Saw the Semin penalty replay. It was bad. Really bad. He might not see another shift tonight.

- Canucks are playing a pretty good one goal lead 3rd period. Doing good job containing breakouts and centre ice, and hustling back to their zone to break up Habs possession. Things settling in a bit.

- Semin now benched. He may never play another shift in Montreal again. Given how he signed, he may never play another shift in the NHL again.

- Habs freewheeling more through centre, but so far, haven't been able to solve Markstrom. Time running down, Canadiens will eventually have to get its defence more involved if they hope to tie this up.

- 4 minutes left, Canucks in full puck dumping mode. It's insane, but it's paying off. They might just hang on to this.

- Fleischmann scores!! But will it be challenged??

- Nope. Weak goal surrendered by Markstrom. Canucks tried to Hab their way to a win (ca. 2014-15), but couldn't run the clock out.

- Well, giving up the tying goal at least has shaken the Canucks offence back to life. They realize they'll have to earn a win by having to, you know, try to score.

- And overtime we go, against a Canucks team that 0-5 in extra time this year. Well-earned comeback for the Habs tonight.


SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Canucks thorough 20 minutes of weird hockey:



























- Just a weird period, hampered by the feeling that Mike Condon, whom just a few days ago seemed like no puck could get past, doesn't seem to be able to make those "big" saves any more. At least, that's my perception at the moment.

- Condon gives up a weak one off a 50 foot shot, puck going right under his pads. Another powerplay goal given up. This game is pretty much toast.

- Amazing how the season has just turned completely around for Condon, on a dime. He could do no wrong just three days ago. That's how quickly it can go wrong.

- Habs 4th line Mitchell/Flynn/Smith-Pelly are having a disastrous evening. You don't even want to know what their fancy stats look like, except they bear an uncanny resemblance to a black hole.

- Canucks make an atrocious line change during a powerplay, giving Eller free reign right through centre ice, a snapper beats Markstrom cleanly, and suddenly the Habs have some life? 3-1.

- Great snap shot by Eller, but Markstrom did look a little sluggish in reacting to the play. Habs would be wise to test his glove side a few more times.

- Well hey now, we have ourselves a game. Pacioretty with pressure behind the net generates deep zone turnover, Gallagher feeds the puck back to Patches, who scores his first non-empty net goal in 10 games. 3-2 knuckleheads.

- Now Vancouver is nailed for too many men - and the Canucks are reeling. Habs with big opportunity to, believe it or not, tie this game.

- Markstrom with a fantastic glove save off a Subban howitzer. What I said about Markstrom's glove hand? Forgetaboutit.

- Habs don't tie the game with the man advantage, but oh boy, does it look like one hummin' unit right now. Amazing they haven't scored tonight. They might still. Lots of hockey to be played.

- Galchenyuk continues to buzz around the ice, but he's having a very tough time getting recognition from his coach. Barely 7 minutes played as the 2nd period winds down.

- Lots of officiating inconsistency from Tim Peel tonight, which is pretty much the norm for him. It is, however, creating lots of frustration amongst the players on both benches. Nobody really seems to know what the penalty threshold is because it's been a moving target.

- Another weird period. After the Canucks took a 3-0 lead off a weak goal surrendered by Condon, the air totally end out of the Bell Centre. Habs looked like they'd given up. Then Eller scored a shorthanded goal off a bad Canucks line change, and everything changed 180. Montreal still with lots of momentum they've generated since the 5 minute mark of the period, and have firmly taken control over puck possession and game tempo. Makes for a very compelling 3rd period.


FIRST PERIOD:

- ANNNNNNNND we're off, anddddddd it's a terrible start, as Petry going back into his own corner, passes behind to Chris Higgins, who stopped playing for the Habs about 7 years ago. Condon basically left to his own. 1-0 Canucks!!

- Habs are very much puck handling team for zone entries, Canucks are very much dump and chase. That's worked once for Vancouver once, but only because of Petry's error.

- Habs look like a team riddled with rust - which is kind of perplexing. They're having regular practices, but like Saturday night, Habs guilty of making a variety of very avoidable mistakes. Very weird.

- Habs pretty awful handling the puck in their own zone, and the Canucks are dominating neutral zone play. It's combined to produce a very one-sided first 8 minutes of this period, in favour of Vancouver.

- Missed passes, fumbled pucks, players caught offside. This Canadiens' team looks punch drunk. It's all very odd.

- Habs first powerplay looked fantastic, Canucks very fortunate to still be leading 1-0. Hopefully that two minute advantage gets the Habs' gears turning again.

- Galchenyuk is moterin' tonight. He, like Pacioretty, is way overdue for a scoring eeksploshun.

- Brendon Gallagher with a not-very-smart high stick on Daniel Sedin, trying to bat a puck high in the air. Sedin on the ice, blood pouring off his face. 4 minutes for Gallagher, every second deservedly.

- McCann makes it 2-0. Habs PK not a very good job watching the passing lanes, McCann with one of the easiest goals he'll ever receive. Condon no chance.

- Half of McCann's goals this season have been against the Habs. Three of them. In less than four period of play. Habs killer.

- Habs 2nd powerplay also looks pretty decent, but it just feels like the puck luck gods have their scopes firmly planted on this Montreal team. Bounces seem to be all going the other direction. PDO numbers are nearly 100, but what do stats mean, anyway?

- Strange period. Canucks started strongly, benefiting off a mistake made by a Habs player who rarely makes any kind of egreious errors. Habs seemed to have trouble adjusting to Vancouver's neutral zone play, and looked like a team having trouble shifting out of second gear - at least until their first powerplay. Then Gallagher's high stick, and Montreal downshifted once more. This team is clearly in a bad funk, and only time and perseverance will get them out of it.




GAMEDAY GAME PREVIEW:

HAI!! (waves).

Hey, in case you follow this blog (and you probably don't), I haven't changed my position from two weeks ago when I wrote about how terrible the Vancouver Canucks are as horrible a hockey team as the jerseys they wore in the 1970s and 80s, and then watched as they soundly beat the Habs 5-1. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

Since Vancouver's resounding victory over our hopeless Habs, the Canucks have gone on to lose to the Dallas Stars (okay, fine), the Pittsburgh Penguins (sure, that's possible), the Ottawa Senators (I just giggled), the New Jersey Devils (haha .. oh yeah?), the Buffalo Sabres (lolz), and the Toronto Maple Leafs (BIG LOLZ).

I repeat, this Vancouver team is going nowhere, in a very very fast direction. Are we good now?

Tonight? They're really screwed. Not only will Vancouver be missing the services of one Brandon Prust, who haunted the Habs last game, but they're also missing Luca Sbisa and Brndon Sutter because of injury, AND Alexandre Burrows, whose wife is apparently in labour.

In other words, this terrible team is playing with nearly half of their terrible roster. Not good!


Meanwhile in Habsland, Mike Condon, whom apparently forgot to bring his eyes along to Saturday's game vs. the totally awful Colorado Avalanche, will get an opportunity to redeem himself. Condon, as well as Alex Galchenyuk (beside Alex Semin!), and Max Pacioretty, all of whom haven't scored in about 17 years, are just ready to burst out with a pile o' goals against a terrible team like the Vancouver Canucks.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST from the lovely warm confines of the Bell Centre. REVENGE IS OURS.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Game Eighteen: Avs vs. Habs

THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs and Avs through 40 minutes. It's one of those nights where you throw everything out the window.

- Tokarski will start the 3rd period. Condon can only hope that tonight was an aberration. His save percentage tonight was .636. Ouch.

- Therrien would be a fool to not give him another start next to Galchenyuk next game. This line has had excellent chemistry tonight, more so than any game where Smith-Pelly, Flynn or Byron was on the line.

- Methinks frustration is beginning to settle in with Pacioretty. He's gone from sniping to just hammering the puck at the net. Besides empty netters, it's been a while for patches.

- Berra with a A+ performance tonight. The Habs have fired more than a few howitzers at him during the evening, but he's been there every time - excellent, fearless positioning, and very good rebound control. Frustrating to play against.

- Duchene on the powerplay. Tokarski gives up the rebound(s), puck is roofed. 5-1. As write-off a night of hockey as you'll ever witness.  

- Attempts tonight are ridiculously one-sided. Might even up a bit now that we've entered the garbage phase of this game, but there's no way Colorado can expect to win many games this season if they continue to follow this formula. 

- Garbage time, garbage goals. 6-1. Tokarski just hung out to dry. Nobody is really bothering at this point. Just get the rest of the period over with.

- Well, what can you say? Awful game, at least as far as the scoreboard and goaltending was concerned (from the Habs perspective). But there was a lot of good in the game - Habs had resounding puck possession and zone pressure, the Galchenyuk line, even sans a point, looked revitalized with Semin back in the lineup. Habs just need to forget about tonight, and look forward to the future - possible with Carey Price back at the controls. 


SECOND PERIOD:

- I don't think the formula is very complex. Habs need to keep doing what they're doing. Berra is human, and hopefully whomever is in net for the Habs can actually stop the puck.

- Habs come out strong again, but just can't seem to find the right combination to solve Berra. Still think something eventually has to give here.

- Habs continue to apply tremendous zone pressure on the Avs, who are being badly outskated. Just waiting for the shoe to drop.

- Finally! Plekanec to Gallagher who banks in a rebound. Habs are finally on the board and back in this game.

- Momentum continues to heavily favour Montreal, Galchenyuk line really impressing tonight. And now the Canadiens get another powerplay opportunity. Could close to within one.

- Annnnnnnnnd .... wow. Habs swarming on the powerplay, Avs come out on a 2-on-2, and Comeau beats Condon on the wing. A terrible goal. Condon having a nightmare of a night.

- One of those nights. Can't really say anything different than I already said before about the first. The Habs totally domiating at both ends of the ice except in one critical area - goaltending. The Avs with Berra have been terrific, the Habs with Condon have been awful. Montreal with nearly 70% possession through 40 minutes, but it don't matter a wink if your goaltender has trouble handling beach balls.

FIRST PERIOD:

- Here's the Avs lines for tonight:

1: Grigorenko/MacKinnon/Duchene
2: Comeau/Soderberg/Iginla
3: McLeod/Mitchell/Martisen
3: Everberg/Street/Skille

Beauchemin-Johnson
Holden-Barrie
Gormley-Guenin

- Roy goes with Reto Berra, for whatever reason.

- If first three minutes is any indicator, this Avs defence is ... uh ... not good. Ooodles of open space in the slot.

- Grigorenko opens the scoring off s bit of a softy. Desharnais loses deep zone draw and the entire line has a total defensive meltdown checking their man. Yet another example of why this line is easily the weakest on this team in their own zone. 1-0.

- Habs first powerplay doesn't show much, but Avs defence continues to play pretty passively with their slot. Seems like the ideal scenario for Pacioretty to snipe a couple of goals tonight.

- Avs might have the only goal, but the Habs are skating circles around them in the period. I cannot imagine how Denver stays ahead for much longer.

- I can't ... wow. Avs score two more, the first off a crazy puck bounce off a draw, second off a weak backhander that beats Condon. Totally stunned. Habs were in full control, but somehow now trail 3-0. 

- So the Habs outshot their opponent 17-8, and trail .... unbelievably ... trail 3-0. Berra was excellent, Condon came completely unravelled. I guess that sums it up?

The upside? There are two periods left to bail this out. Will Tokarski start the 2nd? It's not out of the question.


GAMEDAY PREVIEW:

We'll keep this short, simple and to the point. The Colorado Avalanche are a terrible hockey team. They have an even worse coaching staff, headed by one Patrick Roy.

The Avs, at least on paper, aren't a terrible group. They have star centre Nathan Mackinnon, the young sniper Gabriel Landeskog, possible future trade bait Matt Duchene, the dependable Tyson Barrie - heck, we can even count in old-man Jerome Iginla. The Avs are by no means, full to the rafters with talent, but they've got a fairly decent base.

The way in how the Avs play, however, is dreadful.

Heading into the night, Colorado has, by far, the worst possession numbers in the entire League. A 5v5 Corsi percentage of 43. A 26th ranked 5v5 Fenwick percentage of just 46. Their inability to maintain simple puck possession has resulted in a 16th rated offence, and a 26th rated defence. These are bad numbers.

It's not as though this is some kind of seasonal aberration. The Avs were just as terrible last year, when they finished the season with a 5v5 Corsi percentage of 43.1%, which (somehow) led to modest offensive production (10th rated offence), but still poor defensive figures (22nd rated).

So one year on, with a roster of more seasoned young guns, the Avs are actually receding. There's only one way that happens - by playing a poorly organized game. There's only one main reason for playing a poorly organized game - coaching.

Surely, by now, the higher-ups in the Avs organization have recognized the problem. The big question is, when (or even if) will they take action by dismissing Roy? Speculation has been swirling this week that a firing might be coming as soon as next week, although the Avs win last night against the equally hopeless Bruins might have kept the flames away for a few more days.

Anyway, tonight the Avs, on less than 24 hours rest, face the daunting task of visiting the Bell Centre to take on the League's best team. The Canadiens have a significant lineup adjustment tonight, with Paul Byron getting scratched in favour of Alexander Semin, who will get a big chance to prove his wares. I've been a pretty big advocate for Alex since he was removed from the lineup last month - and hopefully, just hopefully, he plays a game that meets the expectations of his coach.

Puck drops tonight at around 7:10 EST. There will be a moment of silence before the game in recognition of the events overseas. Semyon Varlamov starts for the Avs, Mike Condon for the Habs.


Game Nineteen:


Hey guys, it's kind of a crappy day in the world, with everything that's been going on the past 24 hours or so. Going to lay low a little bit, will put up a blurb about tonight's game later Saturday afternoon. Probably something about how terrible Patrick Roy is as a head coach. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of Mr. Roy listening to his General Manager about his employment future.

GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

- Looks like Alex Semin will return to the Habs lineup tonight, as Paul Byron is a no-go. So the whole "Semin is done in Montreal", as reported by Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette is ... well, why does the Gazette still employ Mr. Hickey?

- Alexei Emelin is a "?" for tonight. Will this give Jarad Tinordi a start?

- Who'll lose his coaching job first? Claude Julien, or Patrick Roy? Either is fine for me.