Sunday, 13 November 2016

Game 16: Habs vs. Hawks



- Obvious key to this game is the Hawks penalty kill, the worst in the NHL at the moment. If Habs can use their speed and draw penalties, it might give them an edge.

- Annnnnd ... a minute into the game, it's the Habs who get sent to the box first. Not exactly what the plan should be.

- Can't figure out Beaulieu - he looked so confident with the puck in the preseason, but as the season wears on, he's prone to play hot potato in his own zone, which means more often than not, his presumed strength of being a puck moving defensman is being wasted.

- Hawks strike first as Forsling with a point shot is deflected past Montoya - replay shows that Hanley was not paying attention to his position, bumping into his goaltender a second before Forsling's shot. We speculated last night whether Hanley had played himself out of a start tonight - he obviously hadn't, but he did play a role in that Hawks first goal.

- Crawford seems to be "on" tonight, couple of goal robberies on Pacioretty early in the first, and Shaw late in the period. Habs will need to do a bit more of what we saw against the Kings on Thursday - more aggressiveness driving the net, getting in Crawford's face (and mind).

- Oooh, Hawks shorthanded. Let's see how their PK unit, rated worst in the League, looks.

- Weber with a slap shot that hits Pacioretty in the mouth. Blood all over the ice. Not looking good.

- Habs powerplay not being aided by the presence of Tomas Plekanec.

- Reasonably even period - Hawks, who've currently got the biggest PDO in the League, aided by a bounce to get them on the board, while Corey Crawford made a couple of very good saves to keep Habs off the board. So the luck remains with Chicago, as it has most of this season.  Still, Habs played a pretty good road period of hockey, doing a good job in their own zone. Still, more aggressiveness in the Hawks zone is needed - more bodies in front of Crawford to create some rebounds.


- Not out of line to call that period pretty even - Habs SA CF (5v5) right at 50.0%, Fenwick 35.4%:

- There's that speed factor - Markov with long pass to spring Carr on a break, he takes a slash and puts right back on the powerplay.

- Weber with a weak-ish goal, a simple snap shot carrying the puck deep, that deflects off a defender's stick, and over Crawford's shoulder. Habs get their lucky bounce to tie the game.

- More excellent adjustments by the Habs. They're now driving the net, this time it's Byron getting in Crawford's face to create distraction as Markov wrists a shot top corner, and suddenly Habs take the lead, 2-1.

- Nearing halfway mark of the 2nd, David Desharnais not getting much ice - just 6 shifts in the game so far, barely over 5 minutes total. Therrien is clearly displeased.

- Now it appears Desharnais isn't even getting 4th line duty - he sits on the bench as Mitchell moves back to centre, with Gallagher and Carr on Mitchell's wing. That's a pretty dire sign.

- Schmaltz with a point shot, Montoya surrenders way too much rebound with a pad save, and Hossa, who never misses these chances, jams home the puck to tie the game. Beaulieu and Hanley probably could have been a bit more organized in front of the crease. Those two haven't been clicking.

- Emelin's second penalty has definitely taken the wind out of the Habs' sails this period. They were cruising up until that Hawks powerplay (of which they scored shortly after Emelin left the box).

- Also point of consideration, this is the Habs 4th game in 6 nights. They're battling, but it might be impossible.

- Patrick Kane with a beaut, after an outstanding shot block, and a sloppy turnover by Pacioretty, Kane drives the net with Max basically mugging him, and beat Montoya. Heckova effort, the Hawks take the lead.

- With Desharnais getting almost no ice time tonight, or last night for that matter, Habs have been mostly rolling just three forward lines the past 24 hours. They're clearly having trouble keeping up as periods progress - this 2nd period a pretty prime example.

- 2nd period tale of two halves. Habs dominate first, Hawks the second, with goals split 2-2. Canadiens still have a shot, although considering the number of games they've had to played lately, a victory tonight was going to be awfully difficult. A loss tonight won't be devastating.


- Habs and Hawks after 40 minutes. Keeping in mind this is 5v5, you can see where the Habs basically ran out of steam halfway through the period - a sure sign the team has some tired legs:

- 15 minute intermission break making little difference - Habs are basically spent tonight. Hawks skating circles around them first 5 minutes of the period, Montoya largely responsible for keeping this a one goal game.

- Maybe too much action for Montoya in this period - it might be an equipment issue, but it looks like he's hurt - lower body issue.

- Montoya, who's been heroic this period, stays in. Possible cramping issue? He looks still in discomfort.

- Habs defence also looking very tired, making sloppy giveaways deep in their zone, Montoya just barely keeping his team in this game. Still 10 minutes left, but this team's gas tank is clearly on empty.

- 7 minutes left, Habs making a push but it's really only keeping them on a more even keel with Chicago. Montreal will need some kind of timely scoring by players who are overdue for some goal scoring - Pacioretty and Gallagher are two top-6 forwards that immediately come to mind.

- Crawford robbing Shaw again - the push is on, but Crawford's playing awfully well. Habs will need to look at their goal scoring goal scorers to pull something out (Pacioretty/Gallagher).

- Hawks in shut-down mode, Habs pinching hard, gambling, trying to somehow generate a tying goal.

- Whelp, 4-on-4 late in the 3rd, a bit of an opportunity here for the Habs with ice much more open.

- Therrien smartly takes Montoya out, giving his club a 5-on-4. But sends out Plekanec to centre 1st line non-powerplay powerplay, which is mystifying.

- Great push by the Habs final 3 minutes, but Crawford holding steady.

- Hawks hang on, but it was still a pretty decent effort by the Habs, considering how tired they looked. Montoya was fantastic, Habs gave up far too many shots, Desharanais was lost, Pacioretty still seeking a goal, ANY goal, and Andrei Markov continues to play like he's 26, not 36.


The seemingly undefeatable Montreal Canadiens are in Chicago tonight to take on the Black Hawks. The Habs, coming off their 10th straight win on home ice, a convincing win over the Detroit Red Wings, face a Hawks team that's red hot, winners of 7 of their past 8 games.

Both teams share interesting similarities this season. Both are off to excellent starts, both have enjoyed excellent goaltending (Carey Price, .957 SV%, Corey Crawford, .935), both are shooting the puck well (Habs 9.58% - 4th, Hawks 8.85% - 6th) - and in case you hadn't noticed the elevated goaltending and shooting percentages, both are reaping the rewards of that thing called puck luck - the Habs PDO of 105.1 is 2nd only in the NHL to the Hawks at 105.3.

It's not only luck that's similar. Both have put up very good even strength scoring - Habs are 2nd rated in the NHL, Chicago is 4th. Power plays have been decent - the Habs man advantage, which has only recently turned a corner, is 8th best in the League, the Hawks a respectable 12th. Both teams also have similar numbers for shots, shot attempts, shots allowed ... it's pretty remarkable how the teams stats are so closely aligned.

The similarities extend beyond team stats. Drilling down, both clubs have been significantly aided by secondary scoring, with each club's top lines struggling to hit the scoresheet this season. For the Hawks their number 1 line of Toews/Kane and Hartman have scored just 11 collective goals in their first 15 games, while the Habs Plekanec/Pacioretty top line duo have only found the back of the net 4 times.

Indeed, keep an eye out on both team's 3rd and 4th lines tonight, specifically Richard Panik (6G, 4A) for the Hawks, and Phillip Danault (5G 4A), who's scored twice since being moved to centre Thursday night in the Habs 4-1 over the Los Angeles Kings.

No changes for the Habs lineup tonight, except for between the pipes, where Chicago native Al Montoya will get the start. Tonight's game is the 4th versus the Hawks in Montoya's career - his record 1-1-1 with a 2.92 GAA. Otherwise, here are the Habs lines:

- Andrighetto/Plekanec/Gallagher
- Byron/Galchenyuk/Radulov
- Pacioretty/Danault/Shaw
- Carr/Desharnais/Mitchell


Al Montoya

And for the Hawks, their lineup should look like this:

- Hartman/Towes/Kane
- Panarin/Anisimov/Hossa
- Hinstroza/Rasmussen/Schmaltz
- Desjardins/Kruger/Panik


Corey Crawford

Should be noted that Crawford in playing back-to-back games. Also of note, the Habs haven't won a game in Chicago since 2002.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

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