Saturday, 15 October 2016

Game 2: Habs vs. Sens


- Plenty of post-game musings about some of the line shuffling done by Michel Therrien - a good chunk of it negative. My reactions were mixed. I was fine with switching up Radulov with Gallagher, putting the young Russian next to AK27. It's a pairing that had been advocated by Habs followers long before last night's game. What was puzzling was Therrien's decision later in the game to demote Galchenyuk next to Paul Byron. Don't get me wrong - I like Byron, he brings a good measure of speed and tenacity that makes him a good 4th line winger. But next to the guy who's supposed to be the 1A center? That's just bad deployment.

- Speaking of deployment, more puzzling moves by the esteemed coach. Coming off a very impressive 2nd powerplay, in which the Habs came agonizing close to scoring, on the team's 3rd powerplay, he deployed David Desharnais, who's played two pretty terrible games to start the season. The results were predictable - Desharnais was uninvolved during most of his shift because, unsurprisingly, the Habs were unable to even possess the puck in the Senator's zone. 

- More Therrien criticism was heaved over the player selection during the shootout, which I didn't think was as nearly a big a deal as his regular time and OT player deployment strategies.  Sure, Desharnais muffed up his shot, but he was used during the sudden death portion of the shootout. The shootout by itself is a crapshoot - viewed through that lens, I'd say to Habs fans, chill out. The only reasonable critique would be the order of shooters, the Habs best player in this format is Galchenyuk. But Therrien put AK27 3rd, and instead chose to start with Radulov (who, granted, scored - but that's beside the point). The main point here is in these coin-flip events, you always start with your best. Always.

- After a subjectively so-so performance Thursday night, Shea Weber had a better game against Ottawa. Except for a very ill-advised pinch with just seconds left in the 1st period, which very nearly cost the Habs what would have been a killer Sens goal, Weber did an excellent job shoring up the Habs PK unit - and played a key role in two significant game events - the 2nd period 4-on-3 kill which Weber was out for the entire 2 minute duration, and an even more significant 1:43 second 5-on-3 kill almost midway in the 3rd.

- Yes, it's only two games, but the Habs seem to have made a very good pickup in Al Montoya, who saved his team's bacon more than a few times last night, especially in the 3rd period. The Habs, with Montoya, were able to replicate their winning "formula" of 2014-15, by picking up 1 or 2 points against an opponent who readily outplayed them. Except last night, it was against the Ottawa Senators, a team that probably won't be playoff competitive. Tuesday night, the Canadiens won't have the luxury of playing a lesser opponent, as they host the Crosby-less Penguins at the Bell Centre.


- In case you didn't read the pregame preview, keep an eye on the Senators defence - it's easily their weakest spot. Habs should have the talent to expose and exploit this deficiency  - the only question is, do they have any effective strategy in place?

- Petry will be paired with Markov, not Pateryn as we posted earlier. Okay!

- Fairly physical start to the gam e, Ottawa seems to be wanting to shore up its defensive issues by taking the body early and often.

- That's the downside from focusing mainly on hitting - you start taking penalties. It's Methot who goes for a hit without any puck around, and gets nailed for interference.

- After keeping him on the bench for a good chunk of the first game, Therrien puts Desharnais on the powerplay, and looks utterly lost.

- Turnover on the Sens blue line, Shea Weber gets completely lost on the play, creating a break for 4th liner Dingel, who has the time to tuck in his own rebound, and it's 1-0. That's pretty typical Shea Weber faire. He's prone to getting caught wildly out of position from time to time. 

- Habs a pretty awful so far with 8 minutes gone - passing is poor, speed is lacking. Puck is mostly being dumped and chased, which is the prototypical Therrien losing formula. 

- Not sure if it's a European thing, but Plekanec line is easily the Habs best at cycling the puck.

- Al Montoya looking much more tentative tonight than he did Thursday. Beaten clean by a 45 foot slapper, post saves the day.

- Habs still 0-for on their powerplay, really pushing for Weber one timers. Problem is, his windup is so huge, his shots are getting blocked. When they're not, they're going wide of the target. So far, so futile.

- Bad break, as Zach Smith shot deflects off Pateryn's blade in the slot, and past Montoya. 2-0. Onwards!!

- Weber with insanely stupid pinch to keep the puck in with just second left on the clock, creating a 2-on-1 Sens break that's only stopped by a Torrey Mitchell hold. 

- Habs basically manhandled in that period by a mediocre Sens team. 5v5 - it was nearly total ineptitude for the Canadiens, with only one slight bright spot being their 2nd powerplay in which Weber couldn't hit the net. Have the feeling this could be a long night.


- That early period powerplay doesn't net a goal, but Ottawa has at least carried the resulting momentum. Things continue to be very one-sided.

- Montoya doing a belly flops (bad!!) in a futile attempt to cover the net. If not for a Weber block off a flop, it would be 3-0.  Please tell me Carey is gonna be alright, okay? 

- Alex Radulov looks pretty solid - this time carrying the puck and making a very sweet pass on the open side to Max Pacioretty, who can't bury the puck into a gaping net. 

- Galchenyuk, who hasn't had a stellar start to the season, with an ill-advised hook near the Sens blue line to give Ottawa a dangerous 4-on-3 powerplay.

- Been rough on Weber tonight, so credit on helping to kill that powerplay - out the entire 2 minutes, blocking at least two high danger Sens shots.

- Not sure what Guy Boucher was thinking, but putting out Chris Neil on that 4-on-3 powerplay didn't make much sense. A third Ottawa goal pretty much ends this game. For now, the Habs, as badly as they're playing, still have a hope.

- Therrien making a key adjustment here, taking Gallagher off the Galchenyuk line, and replacing him with Radulov. Gallagher is now playing with Plekanec.

- Habs 3rd powerplay, a mess. I guess the last time out was just a fluke.

- Hey look at that, they moment after I post my previous comment they score. On the powerplay. Petry (yeah, Petry) with a cannon from the line. So anyway, that Habs 24th Stanley Cup. I guess that was just a fluke.

- Habs managing to find some game, seemingly after that big 4-on-3 penalty kill, a large part because of Weber's fine PK work. Canadiens seem to be finding more open ice to pass and carry the puck more easily. Also approve of the move to put Radulov next to Galchenyuk - this was a combination many were hoping for leading up to, and continuing through training camp. Hopefully Therrien will still with this for a little while - I have the feeling he'll see some positive results.


- So after having an excellent game Thursday night, Alexei Emelin has been pretty wretched tonight - Senators outshooting the Habs 8-0 tonight with him on the ice.

- Pretty good start by the Habs, first 2 minutes anyway. Carrying the zone well, passing seems to be more accurate, utilizing speed ... generating decent scoring attempts in higher danger locations.

- And there we go, and it's Lehkonen banging home a loose puck to pot his very first NHL goal. The kid is making quite an impression this week with hard work, and determination to look for pucks in front of the net. Tie game. 

- Pacioretty given an absurd interference call to give the Sens a nearly two minute long 5-on-3. Crazy bad call.

- A magnificent 5-on-3 kill. Habs outstanding job blocking shots and covering passing lanes. And here we criticized them Thursday night for their PK. Fully rescinded tonight. That was excellent. Weber, Markov and Plekanec were beasts.

- Sens play a very loose box on their PK, for fear of a Weber shot. It's opening up a ton of space low in front of Anderson. When Weber is on, that is.

- Petry ... has he been working out this summer? Another absolute cannon shot as the powerplay ends, with Anderson screened, and the Habs take the lead. 

- Such is the game of hockey, the Habs have fed off the momentum not from their powerplay, but from their penalty killing unit tonight. The Canadiens got a huge boost after a key penalty kill in the second that eventually got them on the board, and now feeding off an enormous 5-on-3 kill, the Habs have stormed back to take the lead.

- A shaky first, but Al Montoya has been huge this period. Key saves and key times, shutting the door in the 3rd. That pickup looking better and better every minute played.

- Byron nestled with Galchenyuk, which is either Therrien giving him a promotion, or giving Galchenyuk a demotion. Either way, it makes little sense.

- Radulov might have a reputation, but he can't be criticized for work ethic - at least from what we've seen so far.

- Sigh. Unforced error turnover by Byron at centre ice, gives Sens odd man break, and ex-Hab Tom Pyatt tucks one in under the crossbar. Lead, and possible win, slips away.

- Good question to ask Therrien after this game if anyone cares - why were you putting out your 4th line that late in the 3rd period with a one goal lead?

- The plan was to scale back Andrei's old legs this season. What happened with that? 21 minutes tonight is still way too much.

- So off to OT we go. Maybe let the young kids get their shot? Radulov and Lehkonen have by far been the Habs big offensive spark plugs. 


- Answer to my question is nope, at least not starting off. Therrien puts out Pacioretty, Plekanec and Weber to start.

- Galchenyuk with Radulov!!

- Therrien puts out Markov, which is all kinds of foolish.

- Keeping with that theme, Desharnais gets a shift. It goes nowhere. 

- An entertaining, but frustrating OT ... Therrien had four sets that he was rotating through, one with Desharnais, and also putting out the clearly exhausted Markov. Almost trying for a loss, with that kind of strategy. On to the shootout.

- Turris scores, and a beauty response by Radulov, with sweet soft hands and a backhander to tie the shootout. Pacioretty misses, and ... he's terrible at breakaways. Don't see the logic there.

- Karlsson with the game winner, and the Habs cough up a point. 

- David Desharnais, another lousy choice, fittingly, totally muffs his attempt, and the Sens take the extra point. Oy.


The Montreal Canadiens complete their early season mini-road trip tonight as they take on the Ottawa Senators in Kanata. Both teams are coming off opening night victories, the Sens a 5-4 OT win over the Leafs, the Habs a 4-1 victory over the Sabres.

Tonight's game will feature the season debut of defensemen Jeff Petry. To make way, the Canadiens announced that rookie defensemen Mikhail Sergachev, who struggled in his NHL regular season debut, as a healthy scratch.

Also of newsworthy consideration, Carey Price continues to battle what has been described as a "severe case of the flu" at home in Montreal. According to team doctors, Price is on antibiotics - there's no timetable for his return. Al Montoya will start tonight for the Canadiens.

So here's how the Habs lines break down for tonight's game:

- Pacioretty/Galchnyuk/Gallagher
- Lehkonen/Plekanec/Rudulov
- Carr/Desharnais/Shaw
- Danault/Mitchell/Byron

- Beaulieu/Weber
- Markov/Pateryn
- Emelin/Petry

- Montoya

Meanwhile, the Sens will start the same lineup as they did Thursday in their win over Toronto:

- Hoffman/Turris/Stone
- Smith/Brassard/Ryan
- Varone/Pageau/Pyatt
- Dzingel/Kelly/Neil

- Methot/Karlsson
- Phaneuf/Ceci
- Borowiecki/Wideman

- Anderson

From the Senators perspective, keep an eye on the Phaneuf/Ceci pairing, with Phaneu, who's been awful the past season + (and a terrible acquisition by the Senators last season), being a likely liability. Habs, who saw strong performances by their 2nd line, specifically Tomas Plekanec and Artturi Lehkonen, might attempt some line matching strategies to exploit Ottawa's defensive weaknesses.

Also, while the Senators did manage an extra time victory, it was a shaky night for starting netminder Frederik Anderson. Big question is how he'll fare against a more competitive Habs team.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

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