Sunday, 4 December 2016

Game 25: Habs vs. Kings

Montreal 5, Los Angeles 4 (SO)


- Well, well, well ... guess who scored right off the bat? And guess who he was playing with? Alex Galchenyuk and Alex Radulov. Me hopes this ends the silly trade speculation circulating around bored reporters.

- Alex Radulov plays pretty good defence. Maybe that's why the Habs figure he's a good option for playing the blue line on the powerplay (he's not, by the way).

- It's not hard, guys: First line powerplay:


Second line powerplay:


No more Shaw, no more Desharnais. 

It's really not that hard.

- Habs might have the early lead, but they're getting outplayed by the Kings - the Plekanec line, in particular, is getting trounced by the Kings forecheck.

- Doughty with a dumb-ass roughing on Lehkonen. Habs powerplay, it's Galchenyuk/Radulov and, of course, Shaw. Goes nowhere, because zero chemistry.

- Yeah, yeah .. Flynn brings "grit" and according to some, speed. But he's so utterly incompetent with the puck, that I just can't rationalize him being useful beyond filling in 4th line injury caps. But as full-time NHL 4th liner? Nope. Inexcusable. 

- Great to see Pacioretty back with Galchenyuk, and great to see  him hit the back of the twine early, but the Habs did not have a very good period - Kings, being the usual L.A. Kings, controlled possession and tempo, especially from the 10 minute mark forward, where they basically dominated the Canadiens both ends of the ice. Habs need to pick up their game, especially Tomas Plekanec and his line, if they hope to have a decent chance over 3 periods of play. If not, there's little reason to believe L.A. won't eventually overtake the Habs on the scoreboard.


- Habs had some garbage time push late in the period, but it doesn't excuse them from an underwhelming period that they held a 5v5 CF advantage (54.5%). From the 10-18 minute marks, it was all Kings, which is worrying:

- Don't say we didn't warn you. First, Koptiar converts on the powerplay, and then Price gives up a big rebound, with no defensive support around his crease, and Shore swipes the puck home, and in a flash, it's 2-1 Kings. 

- Pacioretty on the powerplay, just tossing a shot at Budaj through a few legs, and the puck finds its way in. That's hockey for you, but are we seeing Pacioretty enter one of his scoring streaks? Habs hopes of somehow winning today are certainly resting on that.

- Desharnais line hasn't had a very good day, but they just had a good shift, their first of the game, halfway through the 2nd. Habs might not look to this line for scoring support, but they at least need more consistency in play.

- Galchenyuk nailed for a pretty soft slash, and the Kings almost immediately convert. Habs taking way, way too many penalties today, and it's killing them.

- And now it's the Habs turn to burn the Kings on the powerplay, with Pacioretty making a sweet blind pass to Radoluv who solo drives the net and slips a backhander past a not-very-sturdy Peter Budaj. Goaltending definitely a factor today.
- The Desharnais line, which was lost in the wilderness first half of this game, is definitely heating up. Generating some pretty nifty scoring chances. Don't be shocked if that line joins the scoring fun before this game is over.

- I know plenty of readers aren't going to like this, but Alex Radulov is my choice for team MVP right now. He's been consistently good each and every game he's played this season. Carey Price has been excellent, but he's had off days. Same for Galchenyuk. But Radulov? Nope. Good, bordering on great, each and every start. Team MVP.

- Massive Habs breakdown, Weber out of position with an abysmal poke check, Galchenyuk caught up ice, and Emelin totally out in la-la land, giving Lewis a red carpet treatment right to Carey Price. 4-3 Kings. Pretty ugly hockey by the Canadiens today.

- Habs coming out of their scoring funk today, but it's pretty much all for not because of some pretty awful mistakes by the blue line, combined with some poor penalties, and the Canadiens are basically throwing good goals away towards another loss. 


- This game won't win any beauty contests. Habs SA CF (5v5) through 40 minutes, 50.9%:

- Barring unforeseen injury, Pacioretty is almost certainly going to score 30+ goals this season, which is exactly who he is, and all that we should expect.

- The goals, they just keep coming, and this time it's Shaw - hey the Desharnis line scored hadn't we mentioned that earlier? Tie game.

- For reasons I can't quite understand, Therrien has placed Gallagher on the 3rd line with Desharnais and Shaw. 

- Galchenyuk hurt. Pretty safe understatement that he's someone the Habs simply cannot afford to lose.

- Replay shows Kopitar with blind knee on Galchenyuk, not 100% if that was intentional, but it most certainly wasn't clean. Galchenyuk in the room, and we all hope the injury isn't serious.

- Both teams really tightening up defensively since the 10 minute mark of this period, which is just fine for the Habs who, I'm sure, would be delighted with coming out of this city with at least 1 point in the standings.

- Uh, so ... Michael Therrien has apparently pegged Torrey Mitchell to fill in for Galchenyuk on the 1st line. I have no words.

- Galchenyuk out for the rest of the game, which is not assuring. Habs do grab a point at least, but the cost, if Galchenyuk, is incalculable. 


- Weber with game-saving block on wrap around attempt. Radulov jusssssst missed on the other end. Quite an OT we have going here.s

- Torrey Mitchell in OT totally, absolutely makes zero sense, but here we are.

- Radulov, who's been a monster today, draws a powerplay with just under 2 minutes left. Fantastic.

- Not fantastic, Therrien puts Shaw out for OT powerplay, which is just insanity. 

- Pacioretty, looking for the hat trick, hits the post. That close. So close. Off to the shutout.

- Gaborik, stopped by cool, calm Price. Flynn (wtf) ... scores (WTF?)

- Jeff Carter, who's been fantastic all day, converts. Radulov who's been even more fantastic, with an incredible backhander on Budaj. Fan freaking tactic.

- Kopitar converts (sigh), Pacioretty denied. And on to extras ...

- Pearson? Hmm interesting choice. Off the goalpost. 

- Byron convers, and lo and behold, the Habs win a game in California.

- Staggering game by Radulov today, which is a great story given how just two days ago, we weren't even sure if he had two eyes left in his head. But like Friday night, Habs fans sit and wonder the prognosis of one of its irreplaceable forwards, and how serious his injury is. 


It's over. Well, it's almost over. Just one afternoon game left to play, and then the Habs can kiss the west coast goodbye for 2016-17. THANK GAWD.

The only team separating the Habs from sweet, sweet relief are the L.A. Kings. Oh, great. The Kings, winners of 7 of their past 8, last won a game in Los Angeles on December 3, 2011, which is, I suppose, much better than their record in San Jose.

The Kings are having another fine season, which is somewhat of a surprise since L.A. lost their number one netminder, Johnathan Quick, to a knee injury in mid-October.

As any Habs fan will tell you, losing your starting goaltender totally ruins your season. I mean, no team could possibly overcome that kind of loss. No team could relay on backup goaltending fodder to muddle their way though a pointless winter of defeat. You couldn't possibly expect someone like Mike Condon, or Peter Budaj to keep your team from falling into the abyss, right?

Well, go figure. The Kings, leveraging the services of former Habs back-up Peter Budaj, who they signed a one-year contract with in October for next to nothing, haven't just kept their head above drowning, they've actually beat just about everyone else in the pool - winning 13 of 24 games so far this season, a pace more than good enough to nab a playoff spot, while Budaj, in 20 starts, has 12 wins and a respectable 2.15/.912 line, far above his career average 2.72/.903.

So yeah, even losing your starting goaltender, you can still save your season. It can be done. With level headed, intelligent coaching and management, it is possible to overcome key roster loses.

But that's the L.A. Kings. Let's talk about the Habs. We've got a feud percolating! Reports are out this morning from NBC and Nick Kypoers that Max Pacioretty is quite unhappy with head coach Michel Therrien, and the way he's been used in the lineup.


Anyway, you can see the article here - I have no idea how "legit" this is, or how serious the spat has become, but it's adding fuel to the unsubstantiated fire that Max has had it with playing in Montreal under Therrien, and that Pacioretty's days are numbered. I'd say even the thought of trading the Habs captain and his bargain basement salary is absurd, but as regular readers of this blog have come to know, there's never a dull moment in Habsland.

Anyway, lineups. What have we got? The Kings:



Peter Budaj

And the Habs, who appear at this time to be going with the same lineup as Friday night's:



Carey Price

Puck drops today at 3:10 EST.

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