Friday, 8 January 2016

Game 43: Pens vs. Habs


- Habs and Pens after 40. Pretty much more of the same, only not quite as bad as the 1st period:

- Lars Eller getting lots of ice time tonight, since being moved to the Desharnais line, and it's certainly helped that 3rd unit improve possession numbers. Meanwhile, the 4th line is just a black hole. 0% CF (5v5) over 40 minutes. That's ... well ... they really shouldn't be getting very many shifts for the rest of the night.

- If Therrien is going to start spouting out line combinations with the ol' blender, would it hurt to maybe try 67/27/11? Just a little bit? Or maybe 27/81?  Eller is carrying Desharnais at the moment, so put him with someone capable of scoring. Just thinking out loud.

- Pretty listless period so far, 7 minutes in. Pens not really gunning hard for an insurance, Habs not really playing with any sense of urgency. Both teams trading mild punches. 

- Well hey there, Eller is with Galchenyuk. Just like we asked for? Annnnnnd .. first shift Eller nailed for a trip (head on desk).

- Mike Condon doing a very good Carey Price impersonation tonight. Might bail Habs out of another poor PK again.

- Why is Therrien putting Smith-Pelly out on the PK? If not for Condon, it would be 3-1 (actually, 5 or 6-1).

- Habs showing some push here with 7 minutes left in the 3rd. Eller/Galchenyuk reunification looks good. Really good.

- Subban playing the left side of the powerplay tonight, and he looks great. It's kind of crazy that it's taken half a season for the braintrust behind the bench to figure this out, but here we are. Game 43.

- Pens basically hung on for the final 5 minutes, and hang on they did. Excellent start by Condon wasted, because this team has reverted right back to December's form - unable to put the puck into the net. It wasn't a complete whitewash tonight, but the game is a pretty stern indication that the Habs are no longer icing a competitive hockey team, even though, sans Price and Petry's day-to-day injury, they have a healthy lineup. Something's gotta give. The situation is now getting serious. 


- So just how bad was that first period for Montreal? This bad:

- Habs 4th line, which has been a disaster zone since Therrien cobbled together Mitchell/Flynn/Smith-Pelly, was 0.0 CF% in that period. They were absolutely owned by the Pens every time they stepped on the ice. Therrien cannot, and must not, put that unit out against either the Malkin or Crosby line, AGAIN. 

- Crosby gets nailed for an early trip and while it (again) does not result in a powerplay goal (Therrien steadfastly refusing to not remove Desharnais from that unit), it does appear to have given the Habs a little momentum. Canadiens are at least competing with the Pens now with their legs. That's something.

- The tire fire that's passing as the Habs 4th line gets nailed for a penalty, and the Pens (finally) strike with the man advantage, some slopping PK zone coverage, and Hornqvist with an easy shake and bake around Condon to make it 1-0. In light of how one-sided this game has been, I suppose that goal was merely inevitable.

- P.K. Subban. It finally goes in for him. Subban almost looked in disbelief as he raised his arms down on the ice. Tie game.

- The shocker Subban goal seems to have energized the troops. Habs are actually competing right now. Who knows? This game might not end up as a disaster after all.

- Uh, maybe hold that thought. Monumental defensive breakdown between Pateryn and Beaulieu, with both defenders going left, leaving, well, pretty much the entire ice in front of Condon completely wide open. Pateryn, perhaps inspired by the foolishness of Emelin, tries for a big hit, instead of making a responsible play. Brian Rust, an unlikely candidate, scores to make it 2-1. That was pretty awful. 

- Habs can't afford to keep taking penalties. The Pens powerplay has been dangling the puck on a string tonight. 

- Well, I guess that was something of a better period for the Habs, which still isn't much. Pittsburgh isn't playing a particularly extraordinary game, it's just that Montreal looks completely disorganized, as though they've only just strung together a roster. No rhythm to their game, the breakouts have been pretty awful, and now the team seems to be more inclined to dump and chase pucks, which is a bad strategy against Pittsburgh's skill-based offence. Sure, it's only 2-1, but I can't fathom for a moment this Habs team getting anything but an L tonight.


- Obvious key for the Habs tonight will be keeping guys out of the penalty box. Also, deployment. Doing it well, for once.

- So Michel Therrien, the luxury of last change, sends out Emelin against the Pens top line, and within seconds, he hooks a speeding Crosby in the Habs zone. Oy.

- Pens definitely outskating Habs early, the loss of Petry is also having an impact on Montreal's ability to make effective transitions. 

- All Pens in this one, shot attempts are nearly 4-to-1 ratio, as the Habs haven't had much of a forecheck going. This could be shaping up to be a long night for the Canadiens.

- Desharnais is so easily worked off the puck, even the defence-thin Pens line has little difficulty stripping him. This is a big problem, because it's constantly surrendering zone puck possession. 

- So the Habs powerplay appears to have taken a step backward, if such a thing was possible. Instead of carrying the zone, unit appears to be reverting to last year's strategy of the dump-and-chase. Looking forward to seeing team ranking to soon be amongst the bottom five.

- It's a disaster zone out there, if you're a Habs supporter. 4th line with a wretched shift against the Malkin line, Condon forced to make two very difficult saves to keep this game scoreless. It's a minor miracle right now that it's still 0-0.

That. Was. Awful. No other way of describing how the Habs played in that first period. The only glimmer of positive light was Mike Condon. Otherwise, not much. The Pens totally owning both ends of the ice, outskating, hitting, shooting, attempting, and possessing. One of the worst periods of hockey the Habs have played in a very long time, while still managing, somehow, to come out of it still even on the scoreboard.


Yay. The Pens are in town. That means Phil Kessel! Hands of a master, body of a mushy hot dog. Phil represents the aspirations of every socially awkward, physically questionable hockey fan: HEY, if THAT guy can play hockey well heck, maybe I can too!

Sadly, it's not been a bed of roses season for Phil. Since arriving from Toronto, Kessel has bounced back and forth between the Pens first and second lines. For a good chunk of October and November, Kessel played along side Sidney Crosby, which not only resulted in the Pens sputtering out of the gate offensively, but inevitably cost Mike Johnston his job as head coach. Another Kessel coaching victim! The Habs REALLY needed this guy. Oh well.

Since then, Kessel has settled in nicely on the Pens second line next to Evgeni Malkin, while Crosby has readily started to change his season around. The Pens are now a better team than what they were to start the season, although their defence remains as immmobile as ever. Pittsburgh is facing an uphill battle to get a playoff spot this year, and even if they do manage to sneak in to the post-season, they'll be facing some big "?" marks surrounding how far they'll end up playing, given the poor shape of their blue line.

So tonight, the Pens, who can't afford to lose many more if they wan't to play in April, shall put forth the following lines:

1: Kunitz/Crosby/Perron
2: Hornqvist/Malkin/Kessel
3: Rust/Bonina/Kuhnhackl
4: Porter/Cullen/Fehr


Marc-Andre Fleury.

Over in Habsland, with Jeff Petry out for who-knows-how long, Greg Pateryn will get a start, and will play next to Nathan Beaulieu, behind the following forward lines:

1: Pacioretty/Plekanec/Gallagher
2: Andrighetto/Galchenyuk/Carr
3: Eller/Desharnais/Byron
4: Flynn/Mitchell/Smith-Pelly.

Mike Condon will start in net for the Habs.

Puck drops at 7:15 EST.


Okay, I've been away for LESS than 48 hours. Fourty-eight hours. What's GOIN OWAN?

Uh. So .. let's get this straight. Alexei Emelin, who would on a normal night would have a tough time cracking a lineup spot on a normal NHL team, was being played WITH A BROKEN FOOT over the perfectly healthy Greg Pateryn and Jared Tinordi?  Yeah. That one got me shaking my fist. Heaven help us. Anyway, what happened this morning? Let's see what the ol' Twittersphere is telling us.

Great. Our second best defenseman out. Well, at least that's not a Therrien-stupidity thing. Anything else?

LOL. Wait, Therrien is again sitting the guy who's the 5th leading goal scorer on an offensively-starved team? What other madness awaits us?

Byron with Desharnais?? Good. Lord. Well, at least practice is over. We can at least carry on with the rest of the day. Hold on. What's that, John Lu? You have one more thing to tell us?

Anyone got a gun I could borrow for 10 seconds?

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