Monday, 19 December 2016

Game 32: Ducks vs. Habs

Montreal 5, Anaheim 1.


- Brendan Gallagher. THIS is gonna be his night. Book it.

- Cogliano's opener a pretty good demonstration how over time, taking more defensive zone starts adds up negatively. Habs have been above average this season, 10th most in the League. 1-0 Anaheim.

- Looks like Habs are the faster team, which shouldn't be a surprise since it's been 72 hours since their last game, and 24 for the Ducks. This differing factor tends to reap benefits as a game progresses.

- Following up on that last thought, Anaheim's strongest scoring period this season has been the 2nd, weakest the 3rd. Habs strongest the 3rd, weakest the 1st. 

- Brendan Gallagher centres first line powerplay. A first in his career.

- Meh. An okay first powerplay, Gallagher seemed to do alright. But still, that unit has no drive, very little creativity on its side. Looks more like a unit that hasn't been given full attention by the coaching staff.

- Carey Price is by far the best player the Habs have handling and forwarding the puck, which is as much praise on him as it is an indictment of how woeful the Canadiens' defence can be organizing the transition.

- Byron picks up his 11th off a big-time rebround surrendered by Bernier to tie the game He's small, he's fast, and he's making Calgary Flames management look like complete fools.


- Habs with a solid 1st period, SA CF just over 63%, which is kind of typical for any team coached by Carlyle, if you look at our pregame piece. Plekanec, Gallagher, Lehkonen, Byron and Pacioretty played particularly well in that period, Weber and Emelin were the Habs strongest D pairing:

- Icings-a-plenty this period, indicative of how both teams are poor at controlling the puck. Also makes for a very boring hockey game.

- Yeah, not much happening. Both teams struggling with their passing, Habs doing a better job setting up shop in the offensive zone, which is creating a rather lopsided game, possession-wise.

- Nick Ritche with a stupefying stupid penalty, suckered by Gallagher. Those are the kind of penalties that frequently result in a goal, but then against this Habs powerplay, likely not a big deal.

- Man advantage absolutely brutal right now, little organization, little coherence, they can't even properly gain the zone. Yeah, there have been key injuries of late, but com'on, Alex Galchenyuk wasn't representing an entire speciality unit. Something needs to be done here, and in a hurry.

- Lehkonen with brilliant playmaking to help set up Plekanec for a powerplay goal, Habs take the lead. Regardless, the man advantage has been miserable - sporadic conversions only create a mirage from reality. Fundamentally, a lot of this is Shea Weber. He hasn't been very good lately, in particular, "quarterbacking" the man advantage. 

- Bryon, Lehkonen and Plekanec with another strong period, another lacklustre frame for the Ducks, who are likely dealing with a combination of jet lag and playing the 2nd half of a back-to-back. Apart from the one shot that beat Price, Anaheim has constructed few, if any quality scoring chances at the Montreal net. Looks like the Ducks don't have the horses to compete tonight. 


- That second period was pretty ugly for the Ducks. Real, real ugly. SA CF (5v5) in that period alone the Ducks were 17.4%. That's pretty awful. No scoring chances either. Today is practically an off-day for Price:

- Ducks got a clean sheet and 2 minute powerplay, spent most of it trying to lay hits, instead of score goals. Anaheim getting their clock cleaned.

- Jeff Petry is the Habs' best overall defensman. Recognizes a dozing Bernier, and fires a 60 foot wrister past the Ducks netminder to make it 3-1.

- Part of what makes Petry so good is he plays such a smart game - he recognizes strengths and weaknesses of his opponent, and exploits it accordingly. The shot he took on Bernier was Petry recognizing the Ducks goaltender isn't very good, and has occasional lapses in concentration.

- Pacioretty uses Gallagher as a decoy, fires through Bernier's legs, powerplay goal, 4-1. Habs borderline destroying the Ducks tonight.

- Hard to believe this Anaheim team is in 2nd place in their Division. Yeah, I know they're playing back-to-backs, but wow ... they are just plain terrible. They look very much tonight like the dismal Leafs clubs Randy Carlyle coached a few years ago.

- Shot attempt ration is roughly 4-to-1 in favour of the Habs. They're holding the puck at will, the Ducks are merely observers tonight. 

- How is Ritchie an NHL player? How'd he even make the League? How'd he manage to keep a job? So many questions ...

- Chris Terry joins the party, wonderful to see the kids score. 5-1 icing on the cake.

- Total domination by the Habs tonight. Nearly 75% CF, and that was 5v5. Ducks were completely steamrolled every part of the ice, Carey Price had, quite literally, one difficult shot to handle, and that one went in. Injury riddled, Habs are doing a pretty damn good job of not only keeping their head above water, but are actually thriving. Impressive victory tonight.


The 1st place Habs (Atlantic Division) host the 2nd place Anaheim Ducks (Pacific Division) tonight at the Bell Centre. For the battered and bruised Canadiens, it marks another test for a team trying to keep its head above water, while missing some of its key players - Andrei Markov being the latest casualty after he picked up a lower body injury in the Habs win Saturday night against the Caps.

One bright note for the Habs - they get to take on the team overseen by the worst coach in professional hockey, Randy Robert Carlyle.

Man, how does Carlyle do it? How does this man, who 10 years ago lucked out by riding an overwhelming talented Anaheim team to a championship, the lone highlight in an otherwise dismal coaching career, continue to stay employed in the National Hockey League?

Sure, hockey at the NHL level is still very much an old-boys club, where old-style management tactics are viewed as assets. It's why guys like Michel Therrien, John Tortorella and Carlyle seem to always land on their feet no matter how badly they perform in their duties. Carlyle, though, is a particularly egregious example of a guy who is terrible at what he does, yet still manages to maintain gainful employment in his profession.

The pattern is so well established, as to be laughable. Let's crank up the way-back stats machine and look at Carlyle's greatest inability - to oversee a hockey team capable of possessing the puck. First stop, Randy's first tour of duty with Anaheim, of which he was eventually relieved from in 2012:

                             CF%     LEAGUE RANK
ANA   2009-10    50.9                 10th
ANA   2010-11    44.4                 30th
ANA   2011-12    48.5                 24th

By this time the Ducks front office had finally recognized they had a dud behind the bench, and mercifully let Carlyle go just 24 games into the 2001-12 season. After he was let go, the Ducks put up these numbers: 

                             CF%     LEAGUE RANK
ANA   2012-13    48.0                 22nd
ANA   2013-14    49.8                 19th
ANA   2014-15    51.0                 17th
ANA   2015-16    52.5                 5th

An undeniably steady improvement. Huh. 

Anyway, back to 2012. After Carlyle was dumped in California, the Toronto Maple Leafs, for reasons to this day we still can't understand, snapped him up. The Leafs had just fired Ron Wilson, another old-school guy who was having trouble figuring out the importance of possession. To Wilson's credit, his replacement wasn't better. To the stats machine!

                             CF%     LEAGUE RANK
TOR   2011-12    48.9                 17th

Not great, but not terrible. But then Carlyle really put his mark on his team:

                             CF%     LEAGUE RANK
TOR   2012-13    44.1                 30th
TOR   2013-14    42.3                 30th

And ... that was pretty much all the Leafs could take. 

Astonishingly Carlyle was given another coaching lifeline when he was rehired by the Ducks this past summer after Anaheim turfed Bruce Boudreau. Hey, how's Anaheim doing this year under Carlyle compared to last under Bourdreau? 

                             CF%     LEAGUE RANK
ANA   2015-16    52.5                 5th
ANA   2016-17    48.9                19th

Randy Carlyle, folks. I don't know how he does it, but there he is, in his 24th season of professional hockey coaching.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40, EST.


- It's official. Andrei Markov is out with a lower body injury. That's the bad news. The good news is the injury apparently isn't bad, and he's expected to play again this week, possibly as early as Thursday night.

- With Markov hurt and unable to play tonight, the Habs will be icing the following defensive pairings:


Full game preview in a bit.


A few notes, Habs-related, as we gear up to go duck huntin' tomorrow night:

- Andrei Markov? Yup. Add 'em to the injured list, along with Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais, Andrew Shaw, Greg Pateryn, Sven Andrighetto (and who-knows-else, since apparently the captain played the month of November with a broken foot). Markov is listed as "day-to-day" with a lower body injury, and is questionable to start Tuesday night.

- Hey, hold the phone - Andrighetto played in practice this morning, so maybe take him off that list.

- Starting goaltenders have been announced, it'll be Carey Price (yup) against Johnathan Bernier, who kinda sucks playing against the Canadiens.

- Okay, now for some Ducks-related laffs:
Yup, Randy. It's a mystery why you got turfed out of Toronto. Leading scientists, even to this day, are baffled. Why was Randy fired??!? HE WAS SO GOOD!

That's all we got. It's been quiet today. Quiet is good.

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