Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Game 61: Habs vs. Caps


- So what chances to the Habs have, realistically? Condon has the game of his life, Habs stay out of the penalty box, Caps can't stay out of the penalty box, Habs score on the powerplay. And one or two other miracles tossed in to help push them over the top.

- Caps, no surprise, more or less overwhelming Habs first three minutes, Justin Williams misses a wide open net off a juicy Condon rebound. This game might get ugly before it even really begins. 

- Hmm ... well, hmm. Habs seem to be hanging in so far. A stupid boarding penalty by the stupid Tom Wilson seems to have given Montreal a little momentum here.

- Well, well. Alex Galchenyuk drives the net and picks up a sweet rebound for an easy mark, 1-0 Habs. Caps look very much like a team that assumed tonight's game would be a gimme, maybe? Let's see how they respond.

- Eller/Galchenyuk line by far the best the Habs have put out this period, doing a particularly good job with the forecheck, zone play has been mainly in the Caps zone.

- One moment I think there's no way this Caps team won't be in the Stanley Cup Final, and then I see guys like Tom Wilson making stupid play after stupid play, and doubts emerge.

- Off a dumb Wilson penalty, Gallagher picks up a rebound off a Markov shot, and puts the Habs ahead 2-0. Caps, I'm assuming, are slightly stunned by what's transpired. 

- Huh. Go figure. One of the better periods of hockey played by this Habs team in three months. I'm sure Barry Trotz will read his troops the riot act during intermission, and expect the Caps to come out full guns blazing in the 2nd period. 


- Habs and Caps after 20 minutes. As you can see, Habs hung in there pretty good, putting out a 56.1% CF (5v5): 

- Um, okay. Another big rebound surrendered by Holtby, this time its Fleischmann who cashes in, and it's 3-0. Holtby yanked. Crowed stunned. I'm stunned. Hey, Victor Bartley with an assist! Nice!

- Chris Lee with a terrible interference call on Subban, probably because it's Subban. Draw your own conclusions. 

- Except for the first three minutes of this game, Caps lacking the kind of intensity we've seen from them all season. They've had trouble finishing plays (Justin Williams the culprit there), and don't seem to be taking advantage of Condon's weakness in handling the puck (surrendering rebounds, covering the puck). 

- Welp, there it is, point shot, relatively harmless, that Condon can't control, surrendering the puck at the side of his net, and Chimera easily tucks it home to make it 3-1. We've still got a lonnnng way to go.

- Gallagher isn't the guy you want to go to bat on a penalty shot, but you don't turn down the opportunity. Anyway, Brendan, stay in front of that net.

- Alex Galchenyuk, he can play hockey. So can Lars Eller who sets him up beautifully off a two-on-one. Habs lead by 3 again. The kids are putting on an outstanding demonstration of hockey tonight for the Canadiens.

- Condon with a ridiculous, if not incredibly lucky right toe save to keep the score 4-1. Seems like the bounces are all Habs tonight.

- Caps all over the Habs during a powerplay, Condon with some nice saves, a couple of the desperate variety, to save the bacon. Caps, however, seem to be feeling it here. Definite momentum swing in their favour. Clock can't tick down fast enough for the Habs.

- Here's that ridiculous save by Condon. I was wrong about it being his toe, it was his arm reaching back to save a goal. So awesome:

- Habs taking advantage of their opportunities tonight, their powerplay chipping in, Galchenyuk and Eller looking awesome, and the Caps, for the most part, doing a lot of puck chasing. Habs with a big lead with 20 minutes left in a game virtually nobody thought they had a hope in winning. Tonight's effort, helped greatly by a fine performance (so far) by Condon, has been a group one. Canadiens getting rewarded richly.


- Habs and Caps through 40 minutes. Late push in the 2nd period helped to boost the Caps numbers a bit. 

- Habs playing very cautiously the first five minutes. Not exactly a sit-on-it approach, but very tight, especially in the neutral zone. Attempting to trap their way to victory, no doubt.

- We're not quite done here, as the Caps make it 4-2 off a shot that Condon plays far too deep in his crease (beating him over the shoulder, sharp angle). For the most part, the Habs have been doing a fine job protecting their zone, but not burying some pretty good odd-man break chances. That's the difference between a winner and a loser I suppose. Can this loser team hang on to a (now) two goal lead?

- Now Mitchell gets nailed for a pretty clumsy high stick. We sit, and grow restless. This game could unravel very quickly. 

- Habs survive the PK, but can't fight another iffy goal surrounded by Condon, through the legs off a Burakovsky wrister. Nearly three minutes left on the clock, and the lead is down to one. Hoo boy.

- Empty net, Caps calling time, still think the Habs are gonna find a way of blowing this.

- Still kind of pathetic that the Habs are having to cling to dear life to win this game. No way the Caps should even be whiffing at pulling this out.

- Habs win, barely. The plan for tank is pretty much toast now, but still, it's nice to beat the best team in hockey. Sooooooo ... I guess we'll take it. Sparkling night by Galchenyuk and Eller, Condon, save a couple of lapses, was excellent. And for once, the Habs 4th line looked pretty decent tonight. 


Hooboy. We saw this coming down the calander, and now the day has arrived. The Montreal Canadiens, the worst team in the NHL (by a large margin) since December 3, against the powerhouse Washington Capitals, who haven't lost two games in a row this season.

Still not frightened? The Caps own the League's best offence (3.29 GPG), 2nd best defence (2.28 GAPG), best powerplay (23.2% efficiency), 4th best PK. Alex Ovechkin with 39 goals. Evgeny Kuznetsov with 64 points. Braden Holtpy with 48 wins on the season and a .924 SV%. Oh gawd, oh gawd. It's going to be a massacre.

What are the Habs going to do? VICTOR BARTLEY TO THE RESCUE! Yeah, Bartley, who was recently acquired as part of the abysmal John Scott deal which cost the Habs Jarred Tinordi, will make his Habs debut tonight because ... why not? Well, mostly because the Habs are now missing three defencemen from injury - Nathan Beaulieu is day-to-day, Jeff Petry is gone for who knows how long, and Tom Gilbert is done for the whole damn year with a broken leg. Soooo ... enter Bartley.

Also, for reasons that I can't quite understand, the soon-to-be traded Dale Weise will be in the lineup at the expense of Lucas Lessio. Why the Habs are willing to even risk Weise's health over a meaningless game that the Habs stand almost no chance of winning is baffling, But there you go.

Anyway, puck drops tonight at 7:10 EST. Mike Condon will start for the Canadiens.

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