Monday, 17 October 2016

Game 3: Pens vs Habs



- Habs PR full throttle fan-first tonight for homecoming ceremonies. They're not dumb. They know there's a lot of hurt out there about Subban's departure.

- Huge applause for Shea Weber. Huge.

- Oh, wow. Jacques Demers. That's heartbreaking.

- Let me grab a drink, whoops, 1-0 Habs. Max Pacioretty picks up a lose puck in a very loosely defended Pens zone, a shaky start for Andre Marc Fluery (shoulda gone with Mike Condon, guys), and zoom, it's 1-0.

- More soft slot defensive coverage, Weber caught out of position, but Montoya is able to cover up. That's something we saw quite a lot of the first two games - Habs inability to prevent high danger scoring chances - and one of the major reasons why, so far in this young season, the Habs are getting out chanced quite badly.

- That said, Pens aren't exactly clamping down in front of Fleury either, Max coming within a couple inches of making this 2-0.

- So this Al Montoya, sure looks like a pretty good off-season pickup. Making his team look way way wayyyyyy better than they actually are. At least, so far.

- Phantom penalty on Pacioretty for ... skating? Not sure what that's about, but it puts the Pens on one of their dangerous powerplays.

- Pens really owning the puck this period, Habs just too tentative, choosing to play their usual chase system that we saw so much two years ago. Looks like the period will end at about a 60/40 split, which means holding a slim lead is practically impossible.

- Malkin and Kunitz have been monsters this period - you think it's only a matter of time before their names start hitting the scoresheet tonight.

- Meanwhile, Plekanec line is really struggling - more fodder for the argument that Radulov and Lehkonen would benefit playing beside Galchenyuk.

- Habs play so fast an loose in front of their net, very poor coverage, and its giving the Pens tons of high quality chances from the slot. Montoya handling at lest three shots from 20 feet or under the past 5 minutes.

- TVA showing how Habs have been focusing hard on faceoffs during practice this week, which truth be told, is one of their lesser issues.

- Habs finally getting some shots on Fleury again with 5 minutes left in the frame. They've been pretty much an invisible team unit since the 2 minute mark.

- Andrew Shaw totally robbed by Fleury on cross ice one timer. I'd say a first or second line winger would have probably buried that puck.

- Pens puck dominance simply unsustainable, as the Habs wind down the first period with more than a couple good scoring attempts.

- Another puzzling penalty, this time Galchenyuk for interference. Pens outskating the Habs, which usually draws those kinds of penalties, but at least call 'em if they're committed, guys.

- Habs came out storming, looked great first 2 minutes of the game, and then just kind of got overwhelmed by the Pens forecheck and speed. Same problems hampering the Habs tonight as they had the first two games. Poor-ish zone coverage surrendering too many high quality scoring chances, while the offence continues to play too much of a system that doesn't utilize some of the skill that the younger players bring to the lineup. Meanwhile, Al Montoya keeps playing better and better and better. No criticism for Montreal's goaltending so far, to be sure.


- Habs defence really slow to react to speed along the wing. Too many opposing wingers are driving the net without obstruction.

- Not very many bright spots for the Habs offence in this game, Pacioretty has been very involved, and uhhhm .. Andrew Shaw? I'm kinda at a loss.

- More bad Habs habits, getting pinned in their zone, not being able to work the puck out properly, instead relying on low percentage long bomb passes that 9/10 result in icings. This is a very losing formula.

- Radulov with a very careless high stick that sends Sheary sprawling to the ice and eventually to the dressing room with a face injury. 4 minute infraction.

- Halfway through the 2nd period, Habs have but one shot on goal, which gives you a pretty accurate picture of how this game has gone.

- Shea Weber has delivered some thundering checks tonight, but positionally, he's been very poor. Habs are getting soundly out-chanced just about every shift he's had.

- Habs just defying gravity, as Desharnais is left all alone in front of Fleury, and puts home a very nice feed from behind the Pens net courtesy of, go figure, Max Pacioretty. 2-0 Canadiens.

- One big weakness for the Pens tonight not unlike the Habs - zone coverage has been pretty sloppy, and it's cost them two goals.

- Hey, believe it or not, Habs get a powerplay. And it looked pretty hopeless. AND DRINK.

- Habs arguably outplayed even more in the 2nd period than they were the 1st. Same old issues, but it all matters not as the Canadiens play Therrien possum hockey. Play like their dead, and put it all on the shoulders of their goaltending. If Montoya isn't excellent tonight, as he was the two games previous, the Habs would most certainly be starting down the throat of an 0-3 start. Coach Therrien continues to get lucky at the right time.


- Has Sergachev found himself in the Therrien doghouse already? He's had a rough night, wasn't great agains the Sabres - not much ice time in this game.

- Habs with two man advantage powerplay, their passing is fine, but player movement is relative stagnate, which makes it easy to defend.

- That advantage ... gone, as Weber is nailed for tripping. Sigh.

- Pacioretty appears to be seriously hurt, specifically his leg. That's potentially pretty awful news.

- Festival of penalties here. Looks like we have some 3-on-3 hockey. Yum!!

- Radulov with a pretty, pretty, pretty goal hanging on forever with the puck, and turning Fleury all inside out. Problem though - Gallagher, maddeningly, bumps into Fleury before Radulov releases the shot. Another goal denied because of Gallagher's aggression?

- Good goal. Gallagher might have dodged a bullet. Habs take stranglehold lead, and Radulov scores what might still end up being the best goal of the Habs season.

- Pacioretty back on the bench. I'm wondering if he had a skate blade issue?

- Twitter message suggested to me that he had a muscle cramping issue, which I suppose makes sense. Max, listen to you mom and hydrate often!

- Sergachev clearly done for tonight, more than half of the 3rd played, and he hasn't seen a shift. Likely will be sent down tomorrow.

- Sergachev just getting a shift, I'd imagine it's to just keep the rotation fresh for the final 5 minutes of the period. While this might be his last game in Montreal for awhile, no point in benching him for the sake of sending an obvious message.

- Pens with complete zone meltdown, Keystone Cops would be embarrassed, with pretty much everybody with a red sweater getting a shot on Fluery in the span of 10 seconds, mercifully Desharnais finishing off the play, and the Penguins tonight, and it's 4-0.

- Pens' forwards were miles better than the Habs', but not being able to play in your own zone properly will cost you games. Tonight, the Pens got stomped by it.

- Habs remain undefeated in regulation because, let's face it, Al Montoya. Otherwise, the Canadiens seem to have good fortune on their side early, getting outplayed each of their first three games, but finding a way of getting at least a point because of netminding. Long-term problems and challenges face this team on road ahead if they continue to allow themselves to be outplayed and out possessed. Sure, on the short term you can duck the percentages, but over a season, it invariably catches up. Sorry folks, but colour me unimpressed by what I've seen so far.

For the umpteenth time, Phil Kessel is the best.


Okay, a few things in point form.

- It's ridiculously early in the season, but head coach Michel Therrien is up to his old antics again, making lineup changes that have cause a few double-takes amongst closer followers of his team. Today Therrien announced that Daniel Carr will be a healthy scratch tonight to make way for Brian Flynn, who on pretty much any NHL team, would qualify as a marginal 4th liner. With Flynn in, Paul Byron, who is, in fact, a qualified 4th line NHLer, will be moved up to play the Habs 3rd line, along side of David Desharnais

- Ah, speaking of the coach's favourtist player of all time, DD got some speciality line work tonight - centring (get ready for it) the Habs 2nd powerplay unit. Wait, you might ask, are you talking about the same David Desharnais who was ranked 2nd worst in the entire NHL last year among powerplay forward productivity, and looked utterly terrible the powerplay time he received the first two games of this season? THAT David Desharnais? YUP. THAT David Desharnais.

- Ominous signs for the Habs? In the season's first two games, and this is against opponents who likely won't qualify for the post season, the Habs scoring chance ratio was 2 to 1 ... against. Unlike the previous opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are talented, can score, and will score - a lot, are far more likely to take advantage from having twice as many scoring chances. 

- Speaking of the Penguins, who'll start in goal? What will be the lines? Nobody knows because Pittsburgh didn't have practice this morning. Conventional wisdom would dictate that Mike Condon will get the start tonight, given that the Pens played last night (and lost) to Denver. But it being so early in the season, the Pens might take some liberties and give Marc-Andre Fluery a back-to-back start.

- One other lineup change that we mentioned yesterday - with Mikhail Sergachev getting a spot back in the lineup tonight, they drew sticks and Greg Pateryn will sit.

Puck drops (likely around) 7:20 p.m. 7:50 EST while Habs ownership lets Shea Weber skate around the rink with a torch, while half the stands revisit the trauma they felt that late June day. ENJOY!


YAY IT'S MONDAY! THE PENS ARE IN TOWN! That means I get to use my most favouritist Phil Kessel picture. WE STILL  LOVE YOU PHIL.

Okay, let's do a few Habs-related bits of news to help gear you up for tomorrow night's season opener at home:

- Carey Price? He lives! Yup, Carey was on the ice this morning for practice, and this time, no intervenes tube was attached! That's the good news. Not so good news? He won't start tomorrow because, according to coach Therrien, Carey lost about 90 pounds during the week he spent hacking up his lungs.

- So Al Montoya one more time! That's not a bad thing, considering Al's SV% the first two games is .942. Here's an even cooler thing: The Pens are playing tonight, and Andre Marc-Fluery will start. So if the Pens decide, as most teams usually do these days, to avoid playing their 1st string on back-to-back nights, this means tomorrow the Habs might see ... Mike Condon! Coolness.

- Habs practice lines: Hey, remember that thing where Therrien put Radulov next to Galchenyuk mid-way through the Ottawa game Saturday night, and then moved Gallagher next to Plekanec, and then benched Lehkonen, who had just scored a goal and was generating scoring chance after scoring chance, and then he demoted Galchenyuk to centre the 4th line? Remember that? Well, guess what? The forward lines are right back to where they used to be:

- Pacioretty/Galchenyuk/Gallager
- Lehkonen/Plekanec/Radulov
- Carr/Desharnais/Shaw
- Danault/Mitchell/Byron

Meanwhile on defence, the Habs announced that Mikhail Sergachev came back from Russia and will be starting tomorrow night, which begs the question, Mikhail Sergachev WENT TO RUSSIA?! He was just here ... with the team ... playing (?!?). I'd love to see his frequent flyer points.

More Habs stuff if we get anything.

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