Saturday, 26 November 2016

Game 22: Habs vs. Wings

Montreal 2, Detroit 1 (OT)


- In case you hadn't heard the bad news, Charles Hudon is out long-term from a sternum injury sustained from a puck during practice. Talk about hard luck, considering how hard Hudon worked to make it back to the big team's lineup last week. Artturi Lehkonen, who's been out for a few weeks from injury, will start tonight, as will Daniel Carr.

- Andrei Markov is nearly 40 years old. And having one of the best starts to a season, ever. Just a reminder about that.

- First 4 minutes, almost all play in Detroit's zone. Habs being pretty aggressive with the forecheck early.

- How'd Lehkonen miss that opportunity? Sure, it was a great save by Mrazek, but still, if you're wanting to crack a sustained spot in an NHL lineup, you have to finish those plays with goals.

- Habs totally dominating the puck first 6-7 minutes of this game, but unable to put the puck into the net - it's a double edged sword - you can trounce your opponent for only so long without scoring before demoralization begins to set in. Increasingly critical the Canadiens are rewarded for their efforts.

- Petry/Markov pairing have had an excellent half to the period. Really pushing the puck forward, and very sound defensively in their zone.

- Every passing game, the concern meter increases on Plekanec. Habs are playing a pretty flat-footed Wings team in the first period, and are manhandling Detroit - except for one Habs line led by Plekanec.

- Wings are 10-10 on the season, which keeps them on the cusp of a playoff spot. That said, given what I've witnessed this period, I cannot fathom how this team qualifies for the post-season next spring. They simply don't have the horses, in particular defensively, to have much of a hope.

- Bad period for Plekanec line, otherwise, Habs dominated, but didn't score. That may very well come back to haunt them in the 2nd and 3rd periods.


- Habs with 63% Corsi in that period, double the shots 10-5. Again, shame they didn't score.

- 4-on-4 first 2 minutes of this period. When this situation arises, it's standard operational procedure to send out your fastest and most talented forwards. Therrien elects to use Torrey Mitchell for almost all of the two minutes.

- Bad centre ice turnover by Barberio gives Abdelkader a pretty good chance on Price. That's a poor mistake, but Barberio is still imminently better than anything we saw out of Joel Hanley.

- Gallagher pretty much snakebit - his Sh% is just above 6, which is poor compared to previous NHL season, where the median is around 8.5 (about the NHL average). So given his attempts, he'd likely have double his goal totals if he shoots his average.

- There is no better PK player in the NHL than Carey Price. Whomever is runner up is a very, very distance 2nd.

- My fears have more or less come true - the Habs failure to score while dominating is hurting them this 2nd period, which has been mostly Detroit. Once again, its the players who are paid to put the puck into the net that have failed to deliver for the Canadiens.

- That said ....

- Habs way sloppier with the puck this period than they were the 1st, especially in their own zone. forcing Price to make more than a few tough saves. Canadiens will be fortunate to end the frame still even on the scoreboard.

- Period ends on a chippy/physical note, good rebound period for Detroit, Canadiens definitely not starting out this long road trip on the offensive note they were hoping for. The Galchenyuk line has been pretty involved, on the flip side, the Plekanec line continues to struggle to find consistency. I'm not sure how long Michel Therrien can keep trying the same thing and hoping for a different result - at some point, he's got to consider moving either/both Pacioretty and Gallagher to another centre. It's just not happening with Plekanec.


- Habs and Wings after 40 minutes. After posting a 63% 1st period corsi, Canadiens 2nd period was much poorer - just 38%, for a overall grand total of 50.9%:

- Wings loss of Bertuzzi and Smith in the 2nd period shortens their bench significantly - so there's some pressure on them to establish a scoreboard lead sooner rather than later. Tough orders when it's Price you have to beat.

- Gallagher caught up ice, Plekanec loses his check Abdelkader, who snaps a slot shot over Price's shoulder, and the Wings finally light the red lamp.

- First period definitely haunting the Habs now. So too have been the Plekanec line's letdowns.

- Habs buzzing the Wings zone on the powerplay, but unable to generate high grade scoring opportunity. Jeff Petry 2nd half of the man advantage, really struggled with the puck - it's been that way for him the past few games.

- Price robs Zetterberg to keep it 1-0. That might be a turning point in the period, assuming the Habs are able to actually score, that is.

- Price doing acrobatics to keep the Wings to just 1 goal - basically begging and pleading for his teammates to answer.

- And there it is. Brendan Gallagher. Finally. More than a month without a goal, finally he finds the back of the net at a huge time.

- So that's what world class goaltending does for you. Keeps your team in the game, gives your outplayed team a shot virtually every night.

- Pretty fun period of hockey, Neilsen somehow missed a totally wide open net from 25 feet, with Price totally out of the play. How big will that miss prove to be?

- Entertaining, even, might we say, intense 3rd period of hockey. Habs played a pretty typical road game, but with exception to the 1st period, were outplayed tonight by Detroit - so we'll take the single point, at least. Gallagher gets the scoring monkey off his back, which might be a critical factor during this road swing - especially the California swing.


- 3 period totals, you can see Detroit's edge from start of 2nd period, forward:

- Weber with a brain cramp slash that puts the Wings on an OT powerplay. Oy.

- Wings have had their fill of opportunities tonight, but somehow have failed to capitalize. Terrible 4-on-3 powerplay there. Weber then leaves the box, finds himself on the 2-on-1, and hits the goalpost. Wow.

- Radulov, who is second-to-none passer, to Galchenyuk, and the Habs, unbelievably, win the game in OT.  Those saves by Price in the 3rd period making all the difference tonight, there's simply no way the Habs had a hope of getting two points if he doesn't keep the Wings to 1 goal.


Meet Mike Illitch. He's the guy pictured above. I know, you're thinking, wow he looks good! Appearances, however, can be deceiving.

Illitch is the very, very long-time owner of the Detroit Red Wings. He bought the Wings back in 1982 for the paltry sum of $8 million, which, if you consider that Illitch had accumulated by that time, nearly $2 billion in personal wealth from selling terrible pizzas, was a pretty sweet deal.

Back in those early days, the Wing were playing out of the Olympia Stadium, a ramshackle old barn of a hockey facility that barely sat 13,000 people. Opened in the mid 1920s, the arena was, by the 1980s, well past its expiration date. So in 1979, Illitch and the Wings packed up and moved over to Joe Louis Arena, which has since been updated to seat just over 21,000 spectators, making it one of the larger hockey arenas in the NHL.

For most normal-thinking people, owning a hockey team, not to mention also owning a major league baseball team (the Detroit Tigers), and having billions of dollars in your bank account would be more than enough to call it a day. But no, in 2014 Illitch and his Little Caesars billions took their plight to Detroit City Council, which was dealing with an unprecedented financial crisis, a depressed economy, an overworked an understaffed police and fire service, and entire neighbourhoods comprised of ramshackle abandoned houses that made large portions of the city resemble earthquake zones.

So the City of Detroit, which only a week earlier had filed for bankruptcy, approved $280 million in public financing to Illitch, to build a new arena, which will be known as Little Caesers Arena, which will have its grand grotesque opening in 2018.

So let's get this straight. A billionaire sports owner receives hundreds of millions of dollars from a city that's declared bankruptcy, to build a new arena that's not really needed for his own hockey team that's now estimated to be worth $500 million, which will then be named after the same business that's made him a billionaire, all at mostly taxpayer's expense. While the ink was drying from this sweetheart deal, the city of Detroit's Institute of Arts, meanwhile, was forced into auctioning their collection, just to help the city pay off some of its debt. Priorities!

Stuff like this would be enough to make most people cry, or maybe laugh? It was certainly outrageous enough of a deal to gather the attention of John Oliver, who did a segment that was devoted in part to the atrocious agreement made between the city of Detroit, and Illitch:

Just remember all of this while you watch the Habs take on the Red Wings tonight at Joe Louis. Remember how this Wings organization and its tales from the crypt owner, built from serving up incredibly unhealthy food, took hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of some of the poorest people in North America, just so one guy could top off his already estimated personal fortune of $3.2 billion.

Also remember that the Wings haven't missed the playoffs since 1990 - and if there's a team that's well overdue for a good sit on the NHL post-season sideline, it's Detroit.

Puck drops tonight at 7:10 EST.

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