Monday, 18 January 2016

Game 47: Bruins vs. Habs


- Habs and Bruins after two periods:

- Quiet night for the Plekanec line. If their main responsibility is checking, then fine. Check. But don't do with the Max Pacioretty on the wing. 

- Byron appears to be another casualty tonight. Still in the dressing room as we progress through the 3rd period.

- So with Byron apparently injured, the door opens to reunite Galchenyuk with Eller. Therrien, however, elects to put Weise next to Lars. Sigh.

- Another dumb penalty by Marchand, Habs powerplay blue line is Subban and ... Barberio, interestingly. 

- I'm not saying the players have given up, but with the period half over, the effort out there is lacklustre at best. There is no urgency to the Habs game, their pace, their skating. It's as though the team is playing the first period. It's very strange. 

- Eller gets a nice shot off with Rask making a glove save. Apart from that, Habs haven't threatened to score this period. Not once.

- Yeah. That's it. Condon can't move across the net as Pastrnak wraps the puck in. Desharnais, for whatever reason, on Condon's back. Dead silence in the Bell Centre. 

- Marc Bergevin, our sad eyes turn toward you. It's in your hands.


- Habs and Bruins through 20. CF percentages are even, but don't account for some pretty bad mistakes, mostly by the defence, in that period. Bright spots for Habs was the Eller line, and Barberio and Petry on defence. Condon was also solid. Everyone else? D+ at best.

- Looks like Beaulieu is done for the night. Laugh. Cry. I'm not sure which to choose. 

- We've been on Therrien like a wet rag most of the year for his deployment choices, but functionally speaking, there's no way a Habs defence with this much talent and experience, Subban, Markov, Petry, Beaulieu, Barberio - should be so structurally horrid as it has been for most of the season. Clumsy passes, deep zone turnovers, poor slot coverage, you name it, this defence has done it wrong. That's a definite symptom of a team that's practicing poorly guided by very little structure. If Therrien is to die as head coach, it should mainly be on that hill. 

- Markov gets nabbed for a vicious elbow. That's one very frustrated Russian out there. 

- Oooh, nice. Desharnais to Subban and the line who feed Barberio for a beautiful one timer that left Rask with zero chance. Brilliant shot by Barberio, who's arguably been the Habs best defenseman the past 3 weeks.

- Markov is a mess right now, can barely handle the puck. Clearly exhausted. Maybe even trying to play through an injury. Whatever. He needs rest. He needs a game or two off.

- Subban with a near 4 minute long shift. I don't think I've seen anything like that before. Thing is, it was a great shift. Every second. The guy is amazing.

- Habs have Bruins on the ropes, and then Emelin bodychecks Condon into his net, Bergeron easily deposits the puck in. Words escape me. 

- Habs with a little push after the Bergeron goal, but it's futile. Really feeling the doom settle in here. Team must be ready for the insane asylum, given how absolutely nothing seems to ever work out. 3rd period may very well determine the future of this team, not only for this season, but years down the road. A loss tonight would be absolutely devastating.


- So Barberio starts tonight, his 10th game of the season, meaning he can't be sent back to the Ice Caps without clearing waivers. Which means the Habs have likely chosen to stick with him from here until the end of the season.

- Well, if the first shift is any indicator, the players aren't tossing this one away to get their coach fired.

- Eller line is flying tonight. Two shifts so far, both of them excellent, really working forecheck hard.

- Another fine shift by Eller and his line mates, Lars denied an empty net goal by an overly anxious referee who blew the whistle with a lose puck right in front of him.

- Classic examples. 3-on-2 break, Desharnais carries the zone, passes over to Weise, who immediately floats a useless slow weak shot 20 feet high and wide of the net. Then Subban dances in all alone on Rask, and instead of shoot, passes off to nobody. We wonder why this team can't score? That's way.

- Hoo boy. Sloppy Habs D springs Talbot in alone, Condon a great save, and then Markov inexplicably passes the puck right back to Talbot, who buries it. 1-0 Boston. Hoo boy.

- That Bruins goal appears to have had a significant impact on bench moral. Habs now getting overrun by Boston, where moments before, they were dominating.

- Bruins to the powerplay, last 10 scoring chances in this game, all taken by Boston. Ouch.

- And Beaulieu heading to the dressing room early, apparently injured. Make. It. Stop.

- Habs started strong, and seemed to be going well enough, but then the Talbot goal, and everything just fell apart. This Habs team is ridiculously mentally fragile, every little mistake gets magnified 10-fold. And so the Bruins dominated the period. Looks like another same-old tonight for the Canadiens.


The Montreal Canadiens host the Boston Bruins tonight in a game that some believe, will be Michel Therrien's final broken straw if the Habs, mired in a near two month long losing streak, go down in another defeat.

Yesterday the speculation about Therrien's future heated up following an interview with Francois Gagnon of RDS, who stated that it's likely Therrien would be dismissed if the Habs were unable to beat the Bruins tonight.

Funny how things change. It was just two months ago that Habs fans, specifically yours truly, were counting down the days remaining in Claude Julien's tenure as head coach for the Bruins. Back in those days, Boston, who started the season badly, looked destined for a near last place finish in the Eastern Conference, while the Habs looked like a cinch not only to make the playoffs (which at the time was a foregone conclusion), but as the probable Eastern Conference first place team.

Then December came, and the world, at least for Habs fans, began to crumble.

It's been a remarkable fall of grace for Therrien, who not so long ago, appeared a coaching genius, commanding a team that for a few fleeting weeks, looked unbeatable. But then, suddenly, injuries, something the Habs had been riding a near two year streak of good fortune, started happening. First Carey Price stepped on a puck during a game warmup in Edmonton. Then three weeks later, Brendan Gallagher had his hand broken off a slap shot. 

And the Habs, who knew in advance their early winter schedule, went into a tailspin to beat all tailspins. The past 50 days for the Canadiens have been the worst period of losing in 80 years, since Adolf Hitler was in power. This being, except for the injury of two key players, the same team that had only weeks previous, gotten off to their greatest season start in the 106 years of franchise history.

Therrien's reaction to the Price and Gallagher injuries did not inspire confidence among his directors, who focused on his deployment decisions. Specially, Therrien's willingness to give players who struggled to produce, namely David Desharnais and Dale Weise, top line minutes, while scaling back minutes of players who, statically speaking, were far outproducing, name Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. 

The net effect, of course, was a near dead-stop, team wide, goal drought. From positing easily the best GPG averages through the first two months, the Habs have tumbled all the way to the League's basement in most offence categories. 

And the losses mounted. And still, Therrien refused to change course. When he wasn't mixing and matching a dizzying assortment of line combinations, he was continuing to give favourable time to unproductive players.

There comes, of course, a breaking point. A team can lose only so many times, fall down the standings so far so fast, before actions are taken. Ergo, the speculation about a major shakeup has really gained traction this week, with rumours (mainly baseless) that the Habs were in hot pursuit of Tampa Bay Lightning's Johnathan Druoin. Complicating the Habs ability to make a bold move, is widespread knowledge among everyone around the League that the Canadiens are a desperate hockey team. Other team G.M.'s are fully aware of the crisis in Montreal, so any trade offers that Marc Bergevin might want to enter would come at a very steep price tag.

Which is to say that trades aren't particularly realistic for the Habs- at least, not ones of substance. Assuming a "shakeup" isn't possible via the trade front, the only other recourse is to look internally. That usually means a management shakeup. More often than not, it means the replacement of the head coach.

So tonight, the Habs, who just three weeks ago manhandled their Boston rivals at the annual Winter Classic, could, quite literally, be playing for their coach's future.

The question is begged. Does this hockey team want to continue full steam ahead with Therrien behind the bench, or does it want to take itself in another direction?

The answer may lay in the hands of 20 hockey players over the span of 60 hockey minutes.

Puck drops at 6:40 EST.


Take it for what it's worth, but Francois Gagnon thinks Therrien's down to his very last chance - tomorrow night against Boston.

Me? I'm surprised it's taken this long, and gone this far.

Do we cheer for the hated Bruins tomorrow night?

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