Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Game 21: 'Canes vs. Habs

Montreal 2, Carolina 1


- Habs making lineup tweeks for warmups, specifically the 3rd/4th lines:


- Welp, 10 minutes in, not exactly frantic action. Habs a bit faster tonight, but generating few high grade scoring attempts. Carolina with only 1 decent attempt so far. Both teams very guarded, tight checking.

- Another surprisingly weak goal surrendered by Price off a sharp angle wrister by Lindholm. That's two very, very iffy goals by Price in two periods, extending back to the game winner scored by Ottawa in the 3rd period on Tuesday night.

- Habs might be the faster team, but they're defiantly not the best team with the puck. Canes doing a much better job gaining the zone, while the Habs guilty of far too many puck turnovers while on the attack.

- A softie goal in the Habs favour, Andrew Shaw courtesy some excellent work by Hudon, who continues to make a bigger case for staying with the team. I sadly suspect, however, that Hudon is destined for another trip to the rock once Brian Flynn is healed up.

- Scoreboard might be square, but this is shaping up to be an ugly period of hockey for the Habs. Very little flow to their game, puck advancement looking particularly dreary.

- Habs about to tackle Carolina's League-best PK (92% success rate).

- "meh" powerplay. Don't see anything special about Carolina's PK, except that they like to drape their blue line with their four skaters during opponent zone entries, thereby making it hard to gain the zone by carrying the puck in. The only viable alternative is the dump-and-chase, which is not preferable since the success rate for those isn't even 40%.

 - Uninspired period for the Habs, who seemed to get little momentum as the period finished. Still, the  'Canes are playing better fundamentals with the puck, while the Habs, apart from little bright spots here and there, are having a tough time setting up quality scoring chances. Fortunately Shaw converted one chance because of Hudon's hard work, but if they can't figure this issue out, a win tonight won't be easy.


- Habs and 'Canes after 20 minutes. Habs SA CF (5v5) was 46.3%:

- 7 Minutes into the 2nd, Carolina continues to be the better team - they're far more aggressive in the Habs zone, and as the game has progressed, the faster team. It has not been a good night for the Galchenyuk line - they're getting badly outskated.

- Pacioretty and Gallagher are clearly getting nowhere, either together, or with Plekanec up the middle. Maybe give Galchenyuk a shot with one (or both) of the two, see if that gets something, *anything* sparking.

- Comments are sparse tonight, because for the most part, so is the hockey action. We're 12 minutes into the period, and we've had 3 shots on net. Total. Pretty dreadful hockey being played.

- 'Canes tossing checking kitchen sink at Galchenyuk line, and it's worked brilliantly. So you'd hope for the guys who should have been scoring a long time ago, and who haven't been scoring this season, to step it up. So far the call has not been answered.

- Kind of annoying - whatever the Habs have going, it isn't working. So this seems like the ideal time to try a couple of new line combinations - maybe slot Pacioretty next to Galchenyuk. Something. Anything. But Therrien is sticking with the starting lineup. Kind of bewildering.

- Habs come to life. With 40 seconds left in the period. How convenient.

- Terrible period of hockey. Unwatchable. Habs with paltry 5 shots on goal, Carolina basically suffocating their opponents to death, assisted by Montreal's already dysfunctional offensive attacks. Canadiens have been totally stymied not only in gaining the zone, but for simply reaching the 'Canes blue line. Carolina has their trap running on overdrive, and the Habs simply have no reply. At this point, it'll be up to Price to find a way of preventing Carolina from scoring again, because all indications point to the Habs only getting a victory via extra time.


- Habs dreadful sub-40% CF, just to give you a good idea of how poorly they've executed play tonight:

- Max Pacioetty, finally. We talked about either he or Gallagher stepping up, and he's delivered. Gallagher getting the puck to the net, and Max jamming it home. Habs take 2-1 lead.

- Maybe, just maybe, that goal (and points to Gallagher and Plekanec) will break the logjam.

- Galchenyuk might own the team scoring lead, but there is nobody else on this roster that passes the puck better than Radulov. Nobody.

- Would it be ironic to note that Weber, the guy with hardest shot in hockey, is kind of not good firing the puck out of his zone?

- I've said it before, I'll say it again, hockey is won in the neutral zone. Classic example is the Galchenyuk near miss, off a sweet pass from (of course) Radulov. Play all began with Byron intercepting the puck pretty much on the red dot - feeding it forward to Radulov, high grade scoring chance realized. That's where you win (or lose) hockey. At centre ice.

- 5 minutes left, looks like Habs are attempting to execute a sit-on-it strategy. It's not going well, as Barberio gets called for a slash because he fails to properly cover the slot. Carolina gets big powerplay chance.

- Price comes through in the final minutes to secure a narrow victory. Again, it's not overwhelmingly impressive, or for that matter, even just impressive. Carolina was the better team, outshooting the Habs rather badly, and finishing with 60% possession. Positives?? Well, Pacioretty actually scoring is a start, but apart from the goal, he, along with Gallagher and Plekanec, continue to underwhelm. I'm not exactly sure what the issue is here - perhaps it's Plekanec losing a step in his game - he is nearing his mid-30s, after all. Meanwhile, Desharnais continues to contribute little to nothing to this roster, which is negatively impacting those who are saddled next to him - specifically Hudon, who had another strong game in spite of being shifted with Desharnais.

One thing is very clear - the Habs must clean up their game, and figure out a way of improving their puck movement, or they're going to be eaten alive in their upcoming road trip, including a visit to California, which if history has shown us, has been death to this organization.


Hey, it's American Thanksgiving. Which for Canadians, means little except for Thursday afternoons filled with unwatchable American football. But let's not be cynical. In tribute to our friends south of the border, and given the celebration, we present this oldie but goodie:

Anyway, turkey killings aside, we do have hockey to watch, and tonight the Habs take on the red-hot ... Carolina Hurricanes? Yup. Believe it or not, the 'Canes are playing some pretty fine hockey, winners of 5 straight (one of those 5 a win over the Habs last week in Carolina). So first, let's get the lines out.

Habs first:



Carey Price

Noteworthy is that tonight's game will be the first of the season for Mark Baberio, who was called up yesterday after Joel Hanley, who played a week of dreadful defence, was sent back down to the isolated iceberg also known as Newfoundland. Also noteworthy is the latest on the health of Nathan Beaulieu, who took a puck to the neck Tuesday night. He was released from hospital yesterday, but there's no timetable for return - which means he's likely out for awhile.

Alright, how about those 'Canes?



Cam Ward

Things to watch out for - the 'Canes PK has been running at an insanely with 92% kill rate, which is the best in the League, but likely due for some correction. Meanwhile, Cam Ward is quietly having one of his better career seasons, with a save percentage this month that'a actually better than Carey Price.

Meanwhile, the Habs will be hoping that three of its key forwards, which just so happen to all play together on the same line, will finally start producing actual goals. Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher have had poor starts to their season, combined they've scored just 18 point combined since October 22nd, which works out to a meager 1.12 PPG combined, a production level that can be basically summed up in one word: atrocious.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40, EST.


Let's see ... there's a little bit of player movement and other assorted shenanigans happening today:

- Joel Hanley, who barely, just barely played all of 7 minutes in Tuesday night's loss to the Ottawa Senators, was mercifully demoted to the neitherlands of Newfoundland this morning. Mark Barberio has been called up, and will play tomorrow night.

- Nathan Beaulieu, who took a nasty shot to the neck last night resulting in a stay at a local hospital, is okay, thank goodness. Beaulieu is out of the Habs lineup indefinitely.

- Also on the injury front, Michel Therrien said this morning that Artturi Lehkonen and Zach Redmond are close to rehabilitation from recent injuries, and that Brian Flynn is expected to be in game shape in about a week.

- ICYMI, Vegas unveiled their team name last night in what could only be aptly described as an example of how not to hold a high profile event. The NHL's newest team will be known as the Vegas Desert Golden Knights, a terrible, terrible name which will almost certainly change within 5 years (likely to just "Knights").

- We like to make fun of the Ottawa Senators on here and how terrible a team they are because they mainly consist of a roster made up of terrible human beings, but today we have a documented study that shows the Sens' fans are just as horrible. Why does Ottawa even have a team?? Ship 'em west to play in a place that actually appreciates hockey, like Saskatoon I SAY.

- Shenanigans!!! Habs MVP (not named Carey Price) Alex Radulov and the other Habs MVP (not named Carey Price and also with the same first name) Alex Galchenyuk had a little shoot off (sounds kinky, I know) contest at practice this morning. Guess who won? Why, Alex, of course.

More later.

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