Monday, 29 February 2016

Game 63: Habs vs. Sharks


- 17 years since the Habs last won in San Jose. Seventeen. Years. Odds of them breaking that woeful streak tonight? Not good.

- Peel and Luxmore are the officials tonight, two of the League's less compentent officials. So that could make the game interesting.

- Two shifts in quick succession for the Plekanec line - we could see extra extra duty for them tonight, especially if Pacioretty is now shooting a hot hand.

- Ick Ick Ick zone coverage - Bartley way out of position and Danault leaving Joe Thornton completely unmarked beside Condon, and it's 1-0 early.

- Martin Jones gifts the Habs one back, Gallagher from an impossible angle, Jones failing to cover the post. Tie game.

- Barberio/Bartley pairing really struggling so far, Sharks with firing line on Condon with both defenseman getting caught totally out of position around their net. That needs to be sorted out quickly or Therrien might need to shorten his bench.

- Bartley given a pretty terrible tripping penalty by Peel. The Habs are tonight's first victims of this dubious officiating duo. Poor officiating is especially impactful because of the Sharks' already very good powerplay.

- Habs zone exits have been pretty awful so far, it's leading to near zero offence, save the one semi-fluke goal. Also generating way too many turnovers deep, Condon forced to make some pretty good saves to keep the score even.

- McCarren doesn't hold anything back. He's 6'6" and he uses every inch of that frame. Really like what I've seen since his latest call-up.

- Therrien rewarding McCarren with shifts, unfortunately his linemates - Mitchell and especially Brown, are glaring defensive liabilities. Too much play in Habs zone when those three are on the ice.

- Thornton again, Habs again with some wretched zone coverage. So undisciplined, so lacking any structure or coherence. Montreal has little chance tonight if they're going to continue to be so disorganized. 2-1 Sharks.

- Torrey Mitchell is a train wreck tonight. His line is getting slaughtered.

- Pretty ugly period for the Habs - the combination of injuries and necessary player selloffs has made this roster pretty thin - especially on the 3rd and 4th lines, where Montreal is getting trounced. Could be a very, very long night ahead for the Canadiens.


- Pacioretty is an excellent hockey player, but one time shots are not his thing. Odd the Habs powerplay seems to strategize towards setting him up for the cross ice pass and shot. But then there's a lot of things I don't understand about this team.

- Barberio can really drive that puck, if you allot him time and space. Could be a useful future asset to the powerplay, if he's able to stick with the team.

 - Burns with a wrister that Condon doesn't quite cover short side, and it's 3-1. Game headed towards ugliness, as Habs 3rd and 4th lines continue to be turned into mincemeat by this San Jose offence.

- Eller line easily Habs best tonight, which was to be expected. Sharks somewhat slower-than-average defense really struggling to contain that line's speed and skill.

- Therrien really giving 1st and 2nd lines a lot of time tonight, which I suppose is understandable given how poorly the 3rd and 4th lines have played, but is unsustainable over three periods.

- Andrei Markov, whom for two months looked and played rather dreadfully, has really returned to form the past couple of weeks, even thought Therrien continues to wildly overplay him every game.

- Sharks far too many times tonight, getting red carpet treatment carrying the zone. Habs defence doing its best, but forwards the culprit here - too many neutral zone giveaways, not enough hustle back. Habs luck they're not down 4 or 5-1 at this point.

- Oooh another gift goal off a broken play, Torrey Mitchell smacks home a lob shot by Byron that Jones completely muffs up, and the Habs, benefiting some iffy netminding and nifty puck luck, are only down 1. 

- Habs zone exits are just hopeless tonight - it's completely hampering their ability to generate any kind of favourable momentum

- Great awareness and pass by Gallagher right on the tape of Plekance all alone in front of Jones, who's forced to make a spectacular pad save to keep his team ahead.

- Chickens come home to roost against Habs in the second - you can only play an unstructured, ineffective game so long before it catches up, and that second period, the Sharks started pulling away. Habs likely to play their top two lines heavily in the third in a desperate attempt to get at least a point out of this evening, which means San Jose can expect to receive some pretty good looks at Condon in the final frame.


- Bartley and Barberio both chase a puck along the boards, leaving Condon high,Mary and utterly exposed. Karlsson totally alone in front of the net to give the Sharks another two goal lead. That defensive pairing has been burned numerous times tonight, but with Petry and Gilbert out for the long term, and Tinordi given away to Arizona, Habs are stuck.

- Route is on, again defensive zone coverage is poor, again Habs get burned trying to chip the puck up along the boards instead of passing or carrying it out, again this team's utter lack of structure and competence will cost them another loss they could ill-afford. Again Habs won't win in San Jose. Maybe 18th time's a charm? Anyway, 5-2 the score, it's game, set and match. Road trips headsto Southern California, and looks to be shaping up to be a horrorshow.


The trade deadline!! It's come and gone! All the wheeling and dealing! Incredible!! Dizzying!!

So yeah. Nothing happened. Well, much anyway. Pretty like every other year in the past.

But ... but ... the Habs did make some moves. As in, getting rid of players, including Dale Weise, Thomas Fleischmann and today, it was Devante Smith-Pelly. In return, the Habs got some picks, a marginal winger in Stefan Matteau, and also earlier today, Mike Brown was claimed off ... wait. Who?? Mike Brown the do-nothing goon that's scored 4 goals the past 6 NHL seasons? YES BUT WAIT. He plays right wing!! Exactly the position the Habs had a huge void in! PROBLEM SOLVED.

So yeah. We got Mike Brown. Who'll play tonight, against his former team. So at least the pickup was convienient. Otherwise, um ... Marc Bergevin seems pretty content to just ride the rest of the season, sans a few unproductive regulars, and maybe look at trying to get this franchise back on track this summer.

Until then, there's hockey still to be played. And hey, believe it or not, the Habs still have very faint post-season aspirations, sitting 5 points back of the Pens for the 2nd wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Tonight, it's the Sharks from San Jose, whom themselves are looking to nail down a playoff spot. The Sharks, coming off a pretty miserable 2014-15, have had a nice little rebound season, making a coaching change during the summer (*cough, cough*), which has helped them to play a much more structured game than they had going under Todd McClellan.

How are the Sharks structurally better? Well, this year they have the 3rd rated powerplay, an improvement from last season. Their offence is 4th rated in the NHL, which is way better than 15th from last season. The only area where we've seen some regression is defensively, where San Jose has gone from 7th last year, to 17th this season. This is a team that likes to win via scoring, preferably via their specialty units. And given they're probably going to make the playoffs, who can argue with the overall result?

Meanwhile over in Habsland, in addition to Brown starting tonight (AWKWARD), Torrey Mitchell, who's been out for a bit from injury, is expected to return.

Puck drops tonight at 10:40 EST. I'm going to be in bed, so the blog won't exactly be live. But it will be posted. Eventually. Brew a pot of coffee, and enjoy!!

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