Thursday, 10 November 2016

Gane 14: Kings vs. Habs


- We talked earlier today about Peter Budaj being picked up in late October, and it's just been made official as of a few minutes ago - he will start against his old team tonight at the Bell Centre.

- Danault will get a start at centre, first attempt to demonstrate that he could fill Desharnais' shoes. First real indicator that Habs decision-makers are putting wheels into motion in preparation for post-Desharnais era in Montreal.

- Andrew Shaw on any kind of speciality unit - powerplay or penalty kill, must stop being a thing.

- Kings play the puck so nicely - excellent discipline. Apart from a few instances on the Habs opening powerplay, Canadiens have failed totally in being able to gain control of the puck in the Los Angeles zone.

- Andrighetto with a nice couple of shifts to open up this game - either he or Carr, we've said it before, we'll say it again, are frequently and inexcusably left out of the Habs lineup, to make way for marginal 4th liners like Brian Flynn. It makes little sense.

- It's been a pretty good 8 minutes to start the game for the Habs, all things considered. Radulov, as he's done so many times this year, spark plugs another scoring play, driving the net with the puck, Byron picking up the loose puck and driving it past Budaj. Canadiens with actual defined possession edge on Los Angeles. Very surprising!

- Budaj had a nice little shutout streak going until the Byron goal - just over 7 consecutive periods without surrendering a goal.

- Not sure if scoring all those goals on the Leafs exhausted the Kings, but they're definitely not as sprite tonight.

- 14 minutes into the 1st, Habs have only given up 5 shots, which considering they're the worst in the NHL for this, against the Kings, is pretty remarkable.

- The importance of winning O-zone face-offs, Mitchell with a snapper that Carr deftly deflects past Budaj, and holy moly, the Canadiens have a (deserved) 2-0 lead.

- Not much going well for the Kings in this period, including their powerplay which, at least in comparison to season's past, doesn't look nearly as dangerous.

- One of the strongest opening periods of hockey we've seen this Habs team play in a very long time. Not sure if the Kings are a little leg weary, but Habs did an excellent job gaining the zone as the period progressed, with their forward driving the net, a formula that factored directly into both of their goals. Not sure if this is sustainable over 60 minutes, but if I'm Michel Therrien, I'd tell the guys "what you did that period? Just keep doing that."


- Habs after 20 minutes, how good were they? Dominative: 66.7% CF (5v5). The Kings lead the NHL in this category. Not tonight. At least, not so far tonight.

- Sven Andrighetto had a fantastic first period, putting up a 100% CF (5v5). David Desharnais, who except for the first couple of games of the season, has been a total non-factor most nights, may be wondering what his future is in this city.

- Rare play misread by Price, and Kings register their first real scoring chance of this game, as Kopitar sweeps around Price and slides the puck along the goaline. Habs barely maintain their 2-0 lead:

- Just announced that Leonard Cohen has died. What a horrible year. 2017 can't come fast enough. As we learn that, we also learn that Danault is looking pretty good at centre, as he deposits a huge rebound surrendered by Budaj off a Petry point shot, to give the Habs a 3-0 lead.

- 32 of the game's 60 minutes have been played, Habs have given up 8 .. I repeat, just *8* shots. Incredible.

- Bell Centre PA just started playing "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen. A poignant moment. This is a much a loss for the city of Montreal as it is the world of music and poetry.

- 3 minutes left in the 2nd, pace and tone of the game hasn't really been altered much - still mainly Habs controlled, very strong puck control in the Kings zone, doing an excellent job coming back to cover there line whenever the Kings attempt a transition, highlighted by superb efforts by the likes of Radulov, Andrighetto, Carr, Danualt, Markov and Weber. Really, it's been a collective success so far tonight.

- Another outstanding period of hockey by the Habs. Who wouldathunk? So much faster than the Kings, so much more energy, and so much more desire to drive the opposition goal. L.A. made to look like a sub-average team tonight, which they aren't. A's across the board for the Canadiens tonight.


- Stats indicate another strong period for the Habs:

- Maybe the Kings are road weary. That could be the difference tonight. The weariest appears to be the Kopitar line, who've been badly outplayed both ends of the ice tonight.

- Dustin Brown, representing a clearly frustrated Kings team, with dirty CFB on Emelin behind Habs net. No penalty of course, because the NHL refuses to take these incredibly dangerous plays seriously.

- Carey Price must be pinching himself. This game is almost a night off, compared to numerous 40+ shot games he's had to face this season.

- Kings are playing very chippy now - partly I'm guessing because they're frustrated, partly because at this point, they might as well try and hurt somebody else. Pretty classless.

- Gallagher gets nailed 4 minutes for a high stick. It's not the first time he's been careless, it's an area he needs to improve upon because at minimum, it gives the Kings a slight hope of getting back into this game.

- One big problem for this Kings 4 minute powerplay. The freak of nature that is Carey Price.

- After some incredible acrobatics, Kings finally beat Price, and ruin the shutout. Pin that one on Gallagher.

- Hrm, Habs are definitely attempting to sit on this lead, which is asking for all kinds of trouble. Still 5 minutes left in the 3rd, which, with just a two goal lead, is oodles of time remaining.

- I'm not opposed to switching the lineup a bit (Desharnais is a pretty good example of addition via subtraction), but I'm not altogether convinced from what I've seen tonight that Joel Hanley has offered much that Greg Pateryn wasn't already bringing.

- Another careless high stick by the Habs, this time it's Markov, and it puts the Kings right back on the powerplay. Oy.

- Still not liking this Habs PK - Weber has been fine, but Emelin remains a pretty glaring weak spot, with the success percentages being inflated by Price. Much improvement to be had.

- Galchenyuk turns out the lights with an empty netter. Habs home record improves to 9-0-0, their best start in 63 years. Not too shabby. Apart from the final 10 minutes where the Canadiens got into some avoidable penalty trouble, as good a game as any Habs fan could have possibly hoped for. From start to nearly the finish, Montreal dominated a team that's routinely dominated their opponents all year long. Habs continue to muster their way though a tough part of the schedule, maintaining their winning ways. Excellent performances by Danault and Andrighetto tonight, which will only raise many questions about David Desharnais' future in Montreal. If there is no place for him because of attrition, then the Habs may have to consider moving him somewhere else sooner rather than later. Desharnais will likely get some more starts, but if he doesn't show any sign of improvement, his days with the Canadiens may indeed be numbered.


Uh-oh. After a relatively slow start to the season, where they won just 4 of their first 10 games, the L.A. Kings are good again, and just in time to face a team whom they've pretty much owned the past 6 seasons.

The Kings, in fact, haven't lost in the Bell Centre since March 12, 2011. Actually since then, the Habs have only beaten L.A. once in six games.

Tonight, we've got a sneaking suspicious that needle might move to 1 in 7.

The Kings, who enter the Bell Centre this evening riding a 3 game winning streak, the latest being a 7-0 shellacking of the Leafs Tuesday night, continue to do what the Kings have done best for so many years under head coach Darryl Sutter - own the puck.

The Kings, to no one's surprise, lead the league in CF, a 56.5 percentage (5v5). They're a solid 7th in offensive zone faceoffs (more), a solid 9th in defensive zone faceoffs (fewer), 4th in shots taken, 5th best in shots allowed, and even with their goaltending situation totally up in the air following starting goaltender Johnathan Quick's injury opening night, putting him on indefinite injury reserve, the Kings have still made do with Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj, whose NHL career this season rose from the ashes after the Kings made him an emergency signing in late October.

The Habs have been and are the quintessential anti-Kings team. Currently 24th in CF percentage (5v5), the Canadiens, contrary to their 11-1-1 record, haven't exactly overwhelmed this season. Ranked last place in offensive zone faceoffs, last place in defensive zone faceoffs, 9th in shots taken (okay, that one's not too bad), and 30th in shots allowed (okay, that's bad), it remains a miracle the Canadiens find themselves in such a lofty place in the standings. But for how long? Logic and physics continue to scream this team is still headed for a big-time correction in the win/loss column.

Against a Kings team that knows how to play hockey, that correction might very well start tonight in earnest.

Notable changes for tonight's game: WOAH to this - David Desharnais is a healthy scratch (!!), as is Greg Pateryn. Which means Joel Hanley and Sven Adrighetto, both recent callups, will get their opportunities to shine.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.

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