- Dubnyk does indeed start tonight for the Wild which is very good news for them. Minnesota has something to play for this season, with Dubnyk an important part of their drive for the post season.
- Everyone seems to be talking about Subban's (former) playing streak, which ended tonight. Funny thing is, it would have been longer if he had not been a healthy scratch (Randy Cunningham) back in 2013. Randy, in case you're wondering, is no longer a head coach.
- First 7 minutes are a big ZZZzzz ... both offences, which aren't exactly elite to begin with, unable to generate any sort of flow. Lots of puck play in the neutral zone.
- What the heck is Mike Condon doing? Coming 30 feet out his net and feeding it up the middle to Neidderider who has an empty net to shoot at, apparently. Atrocious beer league netminding. 1-0 Wild.
- Thankfully Habs respond quickly, Andrighetto leads a rush and Dubnyk provides a generous rebound to the punching Barberio who ties the game. Habs speed generating offence, making things happen. The organization, meanwhile, seems more focused on slowing down their lineup acquiring pluggers and grinders.
- Soft, totally incompentent zone coverage by the Habs 4th line, too many players half heartedly chasing puck carriers, with Granlund cashing in off a cross ice pass from Dumba to give the Wild the lead again. Once again, Habs lack of professional structure kills them in their own zone.
- Habs get the first powerplay. Let's see how good (bad) this Wild penalty kill is.
- Charles Hudon gets a little pp time on the second unit. Good to see.
- Lack of Subban already apparent. Stunted zone exit, rushes aren't nearly as dangerous, and zone coverage is barely able to handle the Minnesota attack. Could be a long night ahead for this team.
- Habs 3rd and 4th line getting curb stomped. Most of the play while they're on has been repelling the Wild attack. Lots of inneffective puck chasing by both lines - expect Minnesota to score some more while each unit is on the ice.
- Habs capitalized off the Dubnyk rebound gaffe, otherwise, it was a pretty slanted period for the Wild. With Subban in the lineup the Habs had some semblance of being able to compete (that's how good a player he is), without Subban, the whole enterprise seems futile.
- Hudon is trying his level best, maybe trying a little too hard out there. Having trouble staying on his feet - I've seen him tumble to the ice (from no contact) three times, and counting. You can only skate as hard as your feet can move.
- If you had told Mark Barberio he'd be a starting first line defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens at the start of the season, he'd have thought you insane, yet here we are. He's done a pretty good job filling some pretty big shoes, being very catious in his zone. Wild wingers have tried more than a few times to beat him wide with speed, but Barberio has managed to keep pace.
- Another Subban effect - Galchenyuk line has been dangerous, but not nearly as they have the past week. Subban played an integral role in feeding the puck up to them, which helped them establish zone puck control (and eventually, scoring). Pateryn and even Markov aren't nearly as good.
- Mike Condon, more puck control issues, unable to handle a simple point wrist shot and cover it up. Puck is banged home. 3-1 Wild. Can't afford to give up these soft scores.
- Habs utterly overmatched, Wild controlling the puck at will, and are poised to blow this game wide open.
- Lessio with a decently strong effort tonight, getting involved creating scoring chances, but not really possessing much of a finishing touch.
- Second period much like the first, Habs with very brief sparks of offence, but little sustained pressure. Wild with plenty of zone pressure, largely due to the reality of 5 of the Habs 6 defenseman being 3rd line players, at best. Also not helping matters was Condon's continuing struggles handling the puck, two of the Wild's three goals tonight largely due to the Montreal netminder's poor reactions and decisions. Almost certainly no way the Habs can battle back down two with a period left. There are no horses to pull the weight.
- Pretty quiet night for the Galchenyuk line - Wild have nullified them with very close checking - an apt strategy. With Galchenyuk and company unable to score, the Habs are offensively punchless.
- Habs doing a lot of goal crashing first five minutes, Markov pinching hard and misses a golden opportunity off a big Dubnyk rebound. Really should be 3-2. Montreal definitely taking an aggressive tact this period. Nothing to lose. Why not?
- McCarron on the powerplay is agreeable - he's doing what he's told standing in front of the opposing net - but he's got to be a little more aggressive and disruptive, and needs to take a page from Gallagher's book if he hopes to become a truly productive NHL forward.
- Halfway through the 3rd, Wild with trap in full effect, Habs simply unable to solve it. Aside from Markov's huge scoring chance, since then Montreal has generated zero scoring opportunities.
- Stone Hands Mike Brown. Shame his scoring chances weren't Galchenyuk's scoring chances, otherwise the scoreboard might be dramatically different.
- 5 minutes left on the clock, a good 3 thousand paying customers have already left the building, no doubt looking for a uncrowded ride home on the metro.
- Wild just methodically strangling this game to death. Habs might have more shots on the clock, but few have presented Dubnyk with challenge.
- Presumptuous to say this, but with Carey Price in net, the Wild would have had to work a lot harder for the two points tonight. The Condon gaffs were by no means decisive, not with the Habs roster so badly depleted. Nonetheless, another loss tacked to the board, the Canadiens take another big step towards official elimination.
So, it's over:
Subban to miss Saturday's home game, snapping his streak of 274 consecutive Habs games #NHL https://t.co/51UvHq9QcF pic.twitter.com/05VDjrHKQ3— The Daily Gleaner (@DailyGleaner) March 12, 2016
Not entirely unexpected, of course. No point in the Habs risking the long-term health of an elite player in a lost season. With P.K. sitting tonight's game out, Darren Dietz will get his very first NHL start. I've seen Dietz play a few games in the WHL during his stint with the Saskatoon Blades. Sturdy, cautious guy - he may, at some point, establish himself as a 3rd line starter. The road, though, is still long for him.
Some other game notes:
- Funny thing about making a coaching change. The Wild did that a month ago, while sitting 7 points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference. Today? They're in a wild card spot. So, yeah. To repeat: the Wild had a coach who had significant personnel and deployment issues, they gave him the pink slip, and they may save their season.
- That said, the Wild enter tonight's game with urgency, having had lost their past two games to the Islanders and Flyers. Minnesota, even with the spark of a new coach, continue to play some pretty questionable speciality team hockey. Their powerplay is a mediocre 16th overall, but even more concerning for the Wild is their penalty killing unit. At just a 74% success rate, the Wild have the 28th ranked PK. When Minnesota draws penalties, they get into big trouble.
- Minnesota's PK woes mean the Habs would be likely inclined to play a physical game tonight, in order to draw the Wild into penalty trouble. If that indeed becomes the Habs strategic direction tonight, expect to see a little more time for the 4th line, and a little more ice time for the big physical Mike McCarron.
- Wild are missing a couple of key players - Jason Pominville (day-to-day) will not play tonight after sustaining a lower body injury last week. Meanwhile number one goaltender Devan Dubnyk is questionable for tonight, he's sick with a flu virus.
- Habs have nothing much to play for, expect some looks at young players, as well as recent trade deadline pickups. The Canadiens, in case you missed it, did get a little news this week that Carey Price (remember him?) may return to actual NHL action as early as next week. I remain catious about this kind of speculation - I cannot imagine the braintrust putting Price out for any kind of game action in a lost season. Bubble wrap, and bring him back in September.
- Mike Condon will start in goal tonight for the Habs, puck drops at 7:15 EST.