Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Game 41: Habs vs. Flyers


- Habs and Flyers after 40. Yes, the Habs lead 5v5, believe it or not. But they're getting killed by the Desharnais line, the aforementioned clocking in with a dismal 31.3% after 2 periods. Therrien, again, must recognize which players are failing to deliver, and scale their times back accordingly, especially in the 3rd period trailing by one goal.

- Clean sheet of ice to start the powerplay, Plekanec is put at the line, forgets that he's supposed to be on the line, and accordingly skates into the corner, leaving the left point completely vacant. Hoo boy. This unit is totally lost.

- Still, good solid start to the period by the Habs, Galchenyuk line really working the puck well towards the Flyers net.

- And all that momentum taken away, with Emelin taking a stupid roughing call. 

- Maybe not. Flyers with a pretty terri-bad powerplay, perhaps the Habs can maintain the initiative after all. 

- Killer. Carr with poor attempt to clear the zone with a blind backhand, shot is fired at Scrivens wide, but rebound off the boards goes right to Couturier who tucks it home. Petry soft around his crease, fails to pick up his man, making that goal, which half resulted from a lucky bounce, a possibility. 4-2.

- Habs 4th line with not a lot to offer - even loss so with Smith-Pelly being demoted there. Still seeing Therrien giving them shifts, but with less than 8 minutes left, Habs need to more-or-less go for broke if they hope to somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat.

- Naw. Not gonna happen. This Habs team is just a functional mess tonight. Looks like a team that hasn't practiced, no intensity, and very little energy. Surely a game like this must concern Bergevin. Surely.

- Carr with less than a minute to go, but it's too little, too late. 

- 30 seconds left, Therrien calls time. Then stands with hands literally in his pockets while assistants draw up a plan. Doesn't something seem wrong with that picture?

- So all that stuff about the Habs turning their season around after the Boston game? Looks like rubbish to me. Pretty woeful display by this team tonight against what was supposed to be a far inferior opponent. Habs continue to be hampered by ineffectual play by forwards receiving too much ice time, and player deployments that make little sense. Maybe this means a return of Andrighetto tomorrow night? Who knows. There's so much wrong with this team, it seems unlikely that any one player could make much of a difference.


- Habs and Flyers through 20 minutes. As you can tell, the SOG really didn't reflect possession in that period:

- Habs TOI leaders continue to be of concern. Galchenyuk scores the goal, but Smith-Pelly gets more ice time. MMMkay then.

- Habs 4th line gets burned, Montreal really struggling in the faceoff circle tonight, with Brian Flynn failing to win deep draw, and Gostisbehere with a big shot that Scrivens whiffs at, blocker side. 2-1 Philly. 

- Okay, SOG isn't a very good indicator, but eventually it's indicating something. Nearly halfway through regulation, Habs have only mustered 6. That's not going to do it. 

- Terrible hooking call on Subban, with Voracek grabbing his stick and tucking it under his arm to draw the call. NHL refs shouldn't fall for that kind of thing.

- And on the powerplay from that bad call, it's Gostisbehere again with a shot point that's redirected in by Simmonds off the right post and into the net. Again, Flynn losing deep zone draw that leads directly to an opposition goal. Therrien needs to recognize these things that are happening in the moment, and adjust. Is that too much to ask?

- Smith-Pelly had two good shift to start the game. Since then? A disaster. How this guy even makes the lineup, while Andrighetto sits, perplexes me to the nth degree.

- Smith-Pelly now demoted to the 4th line. Carr up.

- Habs 2nd powerplay comes up empty, even though the first line shift looked fantastic, with one exception - Desharnais, who is a blackhole out there, never taking a shot, and hesitating forever when making passes. Also, the one timers to Galchenyuk, two clean passes made, and he whiffs each time. Galchenyuk doesn't thrive off those kind of setups. He's always been apt to score off the rush, or on a rebound. Powerplay needs serious rework.

- Gallagher hits the scoresheet again, tipping in an Emelin point shot. and the Habs are right back in this game.

- Habs 3rd powerplay, Plekanec takes the point, Desharnais off. Progress.

- Not a good period by the Habs, showing great inconsistency with their game - which is always a bad sign coming off a game where they dominated their opponent. The Winter Classic game gave many Habs fans reason to believe that the worst was past for this team, but tonight's effort is only going to cast doubts that this team has profound and chronic problems. Scoring, powerplay, and sloppy defensive puck handling. 


- Plekanec line comes flying out of the gate, first shift of this game. Flyers defence, might it be added, isn't very swift. Gallagher might get one or two scrubby goals before the night is over.

- Desharnais line shift, credit to Smith-Pelly, working strong along the boards winning pucks. Time is running out for DSP if he hopes to maintain a regular spot on this Habs lineup, even with Therrien behind the bench.

- Hmm. Galchenyuk carries the zone with plenty of speed, works south-to-north, and dishes off to Markov with the pass just a little bit off the mark, and Barberio, who needs to be somewhere near the play, is nowhere to be found as Schenn waltzes in along and beats Scrivens 5-hole. In the span of about 7 seconds, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. 1-0.

- That's two good shifts in a row for DSP - as he draws a hooking penalty. Habs to the powerplay.

- First powerplay shift looked pretty good - puck movement was crisp, two failed shot attempts by Pacioretty and Galchenyuk was its undoing. Also still am not convinced putting Desharnais at the line really benefits this unit - with Desharnais steadfastly unwilling to shoot the puck. Don't think for a moment the other teams aren't aware of that.

- Flyers like to play a pretty free-wheeling game, which means they generate/surrender a higher than average number of shots. So far they've been moderately successful in this period, generating a pretty split possession game, and the occasional quality chance on Scrivens. Habs doing a decent job gaining the zone, but struggling to complete quality shots on goal.

- Not a stellar period for Markov, Gallagher coughing the puck up along the boards, with Giroux getting a clear chance on goal because Andrei left his area of responsibility (the slot).

- Galchenyuk tips home a Barberio point wrister to put the Habs on the board. Puck luck evens up this period of the Habs, with Fleischmann hitting the post on an open net earlier in the period. This goal is pretty key template for Habs moving forward - they need to generate more offence via their defence.

- With Barberio settling in, the Habs have too many defenseman, which is a nice problem to have. He, Emelin, Tinordi, Pateryn and Gilbert represent Habs #5-9 on the depth chart. One, possibly two, could be moved within the next 30 days.

- Flyers outshooting Habs 3-to-1, but the period wasn't particularly one-sided - Habs defence guilty of making a few sloppy mistakes, and generally not being nearly as aggressive as they should be in clearing the slot. Otherwise, it was 20 ho-hum minutes of hockey, which is fine if you're the road team. 


To readers out there younger than ... oh .. let's say ... 25 ... there was a time when playing the Philadelphia Flyers was like attending a Nickleback concert: A long, brutal, and painful 2 1/2 hour experience, all while being surrounded by some of the most unpleasant an unintelligent people on the face of the planet. That's what it felt like to play the Philadelphia Flyers.

But that was 15 ... 20 years ago. Things have changed. Players have come and gone, Stanely Cup have been won - by other teams. And the Flyers, who once were almost always near the top of the League in goal-scoring, have this year, tumbled off the face of the hockey planet.

The Flyers come into tonight's game with some serious challenges. Philadelphia's offence, at 2.11 GPG, is the worst in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have been hamstrung by a meek powerplay (4th worst in the League). The lack of production starts right from the top - with Claude Giroux leading his team with a mere 12 goals, tied for 54th overall in the NHL. When your team's leading goal scorer can't crack the top 50, you've got problems.

The Flyers' big problem seems more to be a team-wide inability to finish plays. If you dig just a little deeper, Philadelphia's numbers aren't quite as bad as their raw totals. The Flyers have a CF% of 50, which puts them smack dab in the League's middle. Their shot totals per game aren't awful - 30.1, which gives them a 12th overall ranking. Finishing plays however - that's where you see a big dropoff. Philadelphia's shooting percentage this season is a measly 5.8%. Only Pittsburgh and Anaheim have worse percentages.

There is no quick-fix remedy for this kind of problem, as Habs fans who endured December's scoring drought can attest to. If the players paid to score can't score, be it good luck or bad, you're going to lose. A lot.

The Flyers will be tinkering with their lineup tonight, specifically their top line which, as we noted, has failed to produce this season. Girous will centre possible trade-bait Wayne Simmonds along with Jakub Voracek. Meanwhie, defenceman Evgeny Medvedev will be a healthy scratch.

Over in Habsland, as noted, Devante Smith-Pelly will come out of the pressbox tonight at Sven Andrighetto's expense, the later being called up from St. John's on Saturday for what now appears to be for no good reason. Oh well. No firm idea yet who'll be a healthy scratch on the Habs blue line - specifically, whether it will be Alexei Emelin or Greg Pateryn - although Therrien's decision to give Smith-Pelly a start is an indicator of a physical game tonight, which means Emelin will probably play.

Michal Neruvirth will start in goal for the Flyers, Ben Scrivens for the Habs.

Puck drops at 7:40, EST.


- So Therrien has made his decision. Smith-Pelly in, Andrighetto out. Not like we didn't see that one coming.


Is it over yet? Are we home yet? ARE WE HOME YET?!!?

We've reached the halfway mark of the 2015-16 regular season. Seems like only two months ago that every Habs fan from coast to coast to coast was having a grand ol' ball. And then we lost the greatest player in the world. And then we lost the heart and soul of this team. And then December arrived. And then Santa stiffed me (yet) again under the tree. Stupid Santa. Every damn year. Next time around there'll be a big yawning bear trap for Kris Kringle under my mistletoe, you cheap miserable fat old bastard.

Oh right. Sorry. This is a Habs blog. Anyway, TONIGHT THE ROAD TRIP TO AND FROM HELL ENDS. Eight games. Nearly four weeks. Two wins. Two measly piddley wins. Watch out Flyers. We're mad as hell, us Habs fans, and we aren't gonna take this anymore.

Preview later, but Habs news 'n' notes for those who are unemployed and haven't had the opportunity to actually read anything on the web the past 48 hours.

- Sven Andrighetto was recalled from the Rock because as you've heard, Dale Weise is out for 2-3 weeks with an upper body/arm/wrist injury. Which means Sven will play tonight!

- Oh wait, Michel Therrien has no idea whether Andrighetto will play tomorrow, or if he'll start Devante Smith-Pelly. OH COM'ON MICHEL, ALREADY DUDE.

- Want some good news? YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY. Carey Price hasn't even started skating yet, five weeks into an injury that was originally supposed to last around six. Ut-oh. Is it time to run through the streets with our hair on fire?

- Lots of lolz around the Johnathan Drouin demanding a trade out of Tampa Bay, and some Habs fans (we shunt mention who) actually speculating over whether Marc Bergevin should make a move to get Drouin because as you know STEVE YZERMAN IS A TOTAL IDIOT AND WOULD GLADLY TRADE AWAY A YOUNG STUD TO A DIVISION RIVAL. Good grief guys.

- Did I mention that there's just one more game left on this nightmare road trip? Well, there is.

More in a bit.

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