Monday, 31 October 2016

Game 10: Canucks vs. Habs


- Habs/Canucks after 40 minutes. Habs CF (5v5) just 35.5%, Fenwick 36.4%. The score is Montreal 2, Vancouver 0.

- During the intermission, Habs announced that John Hanley and Andrew Carr as callups. Now the Habs finally have full roster of bodies. Elected, for whatever reason, to leave two slots unfilled for tonight's game.

- Habs being very cautious and conservative in their zone, a whole lotta chips and dumps to repress any sustained Vancouver pressure. Canucks are generating plenty of shots, now up to 37 with 8 minutes gone in the 3rd, but noting especially dangerous, and rebounds have been few and far between.

- 5v5, the Sedin twins are +15 in SA tonight. And that's not even among Vancouver's best.

- Ericsson golden chance, stoned by Price. Against a mere mortal, the game would be 2-1. But against Carey Price, whatcanyado?

- 4 minutes left, Canuaks have hit a wall, haven't generated a shot on Price the past four minutes.

- Canucks will have to start taking huge gambles here, somehow find a way of beating Price. Opportunity may be around the corner for the Habs.

- Habs get empty net goal credit after Canucks interfere with a break by Radulov. Lights out.

- Shutout for Price, an absurd win for the Habs, who were out-shot by 2-to-1 margin, the possession stats were even worse. Okay, go watch the baseball game. We'll talk more about the Habs rocky road ahead which starts after Saturday night's game, when they start playing good teams.


- Habs and Canucks after 20 minutes. Keeping in mind that Vancouver has one of the thinnest lineups in the National Hockey League, the Canadiens CF (5v5) in that period was 34.9%, fenwick 26.7%. A nightmare:

- I suppose the upside for the Habs in the 2nd period is that it couldn't possibly be any worse than the 1st. Right?

- Pretty bad night for Habs defence, Weber excluded. Canucks are being allowed to crash Price with relative ease, and little price (pun alert!!!) to pay.

- More aggressive attacks by the Canucks, Petry, who's really struggled tonight, gets nailed for a hook in front of Price. Penalties like that from defensemen a sure-fire signs that they're overwhelmed.

- One area the Canucks have not done well tonight is their powerplay. Their dump and chase setup is predictable and easily defended.

- 6 minutes into the 2nd period, the Canucks have seven, yes, SEVEN times the SOG than do the Habs. SEVEN.

- How's the baseball game tonight? At this point I'm feeling a little embarrassed spending time blogging this hockey game.

- A weak wrist shot from the point by Weber is caught by Miller. Habs register their first shot on goal in the period, with 12:28 left. Total shots are 24-4 Vancouver.

- Desharnais is ripe for demotion - right out of the hockey arena.

- Absurd. Just absurd. Habs score first. Galchenyuk with a load of speed with shot on Miller that's totally misplayed creating a huge rebound and open net for Nathan Beaulieu. Incredibly, the Habs lead 1-0.

- Habs with absurd demonstration of being totally outplayed virtually every square foot of the ice surface, except in goal, and still finding themselves ahead on the scoreboard. This cannot continue if the Canadiens hope to maintain a winning record this season.

- Canucks are bad, but they're still a mystery. To be this bad at shooting, even though we're only 10 games into the season, begs questions. Selection? Position? Setup? I have no idea - but they're horrible at it.

- Canucks defensive breakdown, Torrey Mitchell chips home a Danault pass, and it's 2-0. Just, wow.

- I can't explain it. Habs are getting out chanced nearly 2-to-1, but are winning the game. Canucks seem to make poor choices in taking shots. They have volume, but little quality. That's all I've got. Otherwise, Habs in the 2nd were much like they were in the 1st. Dominated.


- Is anyone watching hockey tonight? We are, So yeah, forget baseball (peeks over at Fox).

- Hey, Shea, that's Carey's trophy. Hands off.

- Radulov takes a very very nasty slash from 4th liner Derek Dorsett. Radulov is fuming, and rightfully so. Hopefully he's okay.

- Doresett will never amount to anything as an NHL player, so I guess he's trying to "leave his mark", on Radulov's wrist.

- Habs look pretty listless tonight, not a whole lot of energy in their legs - first powerplay was aimless. Hope this doesn't bode for the rest of the night.

- Carey Price, is per usual, sharp. Keeping his otherwise aimlessly playing team even on the scoreboard.

- Even with Dorsett's cheap shots, Canucks 4th line looking pretty effective so far. Doing good job forechecking, keeping Habs anemic period even more anemic.

- Just a horrible, horrible period of hockey by the Canadiens. Therrien, if there was ever a time to shake up your lines next period, this is it.

- Desharnais/Pacioretty/Shaw ... whatever they had going the past 2 games has completely left them tonight. Utter lack of communication and chemistry out there tonight.

- Just a wretched period of hockey for the Habs - they were outskated, out chanced, out-hit, out-everything ... except, as usual, in goaltending, where Price has done everything possible to keep his team in the game, while Ryan Miller was given a 35 minute siesta.


- Lines, lines, lines. Vancouver's lineup same as their practice lines yesterday (see below. Habs, same as below.

- Mike Condon! He's likely now the main reason why U-Haul is profitable. Mike was traded this morning from the Pens to the (haha) Sens. Too bad Mike. You were for once, a member of a good hockey team - for about 3 weeks. That's all been taken away from you.

- Alright, in anticipation of tonight's game between the Canucks (4-4-1 - 4th Pacific Division) and the Habs (8-0-1 1st Atlantic Division), let's dig into the stats:

CF (5v5): Vancouver: 46.6% (25th), Montreal: 49.5% (15th).
GF60: Vancouver 0.87 (30th), Montreal 2.97 (4th)
GA60: Vancouver 1.56 (5th), Montreal 1.25 (1st)
PP%: Vancouver 10.7 (26th), Montreal 21.9 (14th)
PK%: Vancouver 81.0 (18th), Montreal 88.6 (6th)
PDO: Vancouver 98.2 (21st), Montreal 105.7 (1st)
Sh%: Vancouver 38.2 (30th), Montreal 9.69 (8th).

These baseline stats tell you:

- Vancouver's had a dreadful time offensively, not even scoring 1 goal per game per 60, yet somehow winning 4 of its first 9 games. How is this possible? Well, mainly because the Canucks have enjoyed some very good goaltending from Jacob Markstrum (.952 SV%), and tonight's starter Ryan Miller (.939). Without those two, this Vancouver team could actually still be winless.

- Habs continue to enjoy the luck of puck, although at a slightly more sane 105.7 PDO (still way too high - much will adjust there still). Canucks relatively low PDO reflects their pathetic shooting percentages, sub-4%.

- There is no good reason for the Habs to lose tonight's game, other than the puck luck bites them squarely from behind. Then again, if this season is just a mirror of last, where the Habs bulldozed their opponents up until the end of November, losing only their first regular season game to ... taa daa - Vancouver, then a loss tonight to the Canucks would only make perfect sense.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.


Hey, it's November! How was your Halloween? I was completely overrun by candy-starved kiddies last night - TWO big bulk boxes of chocolate I picked up at Costco GONE before 7 p.m. Some of the trick-o-treaters were suspiciously tall, if you catch my drift. Hey people who should be in College: TRICK OR TREATING IS FOR KIDS. Get a life already.

Lineups! We have practice lineups today! First, let's start with the Canucks:

D. Sedin/H. Sedin/Hansen


Ryan Miller 

That, folks, is a destined-for-last-place lineup. Still trying to figure out what Loui Eriksson's thought processes were this summer. He could have gone *anywhere* at what he's being paid for playing in Vancouver, yet he still signed on with the hopelessly-going-nowhere Canucks.

Meanstwhile over in Habsland, they're holding steady with:



Carey Price

Other newsworthy stuff:

- NHL announced their players of the month for October, and guess who's one of them? Shea Weber! Yeah, yeah ... it's still a terrible trade. Anywho, Weber was runner up, not too shabby, to Connor McDavid. Florida's Jonathan Marchessault was named the other start for October.

- The League also announced the October rookie stars, and HAHAHA Toronto, Austin Matthews didn't win!! HAHAHA .. the honours went to William Nylander of the .... oh ... hmmm. Well I'll just leave now.

To be serious for just a moment, as we noted during the live game blog Saturday night, Nylander looked faster, more agressive and more aware than did Matthews. The Leafs have got a pretty sweet thing going on right now. Except they have almost no defence. We think Toronto might end up becoming Edmonton 2.0.


This announcement at noon today:

Bonne chance, Mikhail! See you at training camp next September.

Habs are likely to recall Mark Barberio sometime before Wednesday, possibly even today.

Also, it's Halloween!! Be generous handing out the candy.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Game 9: Leafs vs. Habs


- Big off season acquisition Frederik Andersens' SV% line in his 2016-17 starts:


Pretty sure the Leafs brass was hoping for more consistency. ICYW, Andersen's two strong outings were against Boston and Florida, he bombed the joint against Tampa Bay.

- Line matching watch - Weber and Plekanec line put out against Kadri line, 4th lines against each other.

- Therrien puts out Mitchell line to check Leafs Matthews line. Within 20 seconds Hyman hits the crossbar.

- Pretty good looking first powerplay by the Leafs, puck movement was good, Habs were a bit soft covering the passing lanes, just that nobody was able to finish with quality shots.

- Yum, yum, Galchenyuk and Radulov sure look a match made in heaven early in this game. More, please.

- Gears shifted at bit, Plekanec line put out to check the Matthews line. He and Nylander look awfully good tonight.

- Soft hook call on Emelin who gets called for doing his job, in this instance, guarding a streaking Mattchews as he crashed the Habs net. Zach Hyman totally overreacts, pummels Emelin, and gets nothing for it.

- Ice looks to be not good tonight, puck bouncing a lot, which didn't help either team to generate high danger scoring opportunities. Leafs look like they came to play tonight, Habs were given all they could handle by the super-duper fast Matthews line, which is strides quicker than slow footed defensemen like Emelin, Weber and Markov. Habs will need to adjust their neutral zone forecheck to at least try to slow down the Leafs young speed. Otherwise, the Leafs might be tough to beat.


- Habs 1st period possession numbers weren't very good. 5v5:

- Plekanec line took a real hammering that period, with Pleks and Byron both with 25.0% CF while 5v5, largely because they were assigned checking roles, and largely because the lines they were assigned to more or less dominated them. That line will need to pick up its game immediately.

- Habs defence also was taken to the cleaners in the first - playing most of it on their heels, and doing a fairly poor job feeding the puck out of their zone, mainly because they had trouble containing the Leafs young speedsters, in part because the Leafs were being pretty aggressive checking in the Habs zone.

- Habs first powerplay looks really good, Therrien putting out the Canadiens best playing line in Radulov/Galchenyuk/Gallagher. Pinned the Leafs almost their entire shift with excellent puck control along the boards, and creative shot attempt setups.

- A ridiculous play by Radulov on a broken play, picks up a loose puck deep in Leafs zone, fakes a shot and makes an absolutely pin-perfect pass to a streaking Galchenyuk coming down the left wing, who slaps it home. No chance for Andersen. That's pretty much as good as it gets. 1-0 Habs.

- Habs getting sloppy, Leafs coming really close from the 10 minute mark, but Carey Price is, as usual, coming to the rescue. Byron, who's struggled tonight, with a bad giveaway at centre ice that creates a Leafs breakaway, while the 4th line is, like the 1st period, getting destroyed by Leafs speed and aggressive forecheck.

- Leafs continue to apply some pretty aggressive forecheck in the Habs zone - it's been ongoing the past 4 minutes. Canadiens need to slow this game down, and find a way of reducing the pressure. Otherwise, it's going to be 1-1 very soon.

- Babcock doing his best to match lines - sending out either Kadri or Matthews line every time the Mitchell line steps on the ice. Leafs have been generating tons of shot attempts because of this.

- Polak with clear-cut check from behind on Shaw draws a 2 minute boarding  penalty. I'm of the opinion it's not nearly enough - the League must start handing out 5 minute majors and game misconducts for this kind of dangerous garbage. Babcock, as much unsurprisingly as unbelievably, acting incredulous over the call.

- Habs the better team first half of the 2nd period, Leafs the much better team last half. But Carey Price just makes it look so damn easy - I can't even begin to fathom how frustrating it must be to play against him. Given his age, this might be peak Price. One of the greatest goaltenders in history at the height of his professional playing career. It's a marvel to watch, and it might just get the Habs another 2 points in a game they've clearly been outplayed.


- Habs and Leafs after 40 minutes, Canadiens were again outplayed in the period, the CF dropping more to 39.1%, Fenwick just barely above 41%. Those are bad numbers, but ... you know, Carey Price.

- First shift of the night by the Plekanec line (matched against Matthews line) that results in scoring chances. A good sign for the Habs where there's little margin for error.

- Soft hooking call on Radulov, and Kadri redirects a point shot past Price to tie the game. Canadiens bench still fuming about that penalty.

- Carey Price being ridiculous again, flashing out the glove and keeping the Leafs from grabbing the lead. At least for now.

- Habs 4-on-3 powerplay, beautifully controlled by the Galchenyuk line, with Weber added in. One timer shot by Weber simply unstoppable. Montreal takes 2-1 lead.

- Emelin caught out of position is forced to take an interference penalty. The Leafs powerplay is 25% this season, which is awfully good. And it's looked particularly dangerous tonight. Habs making this game much more difficult than it need be.

- 7 minutes left in the 3rd, it's been a better period for the Habs, certainly not getting as badly dominated by possession, a good part because of improved play by the Plekanec line.

- Plekanec line has really contained their assignment, mainly the Matthews line, this period. It's made a huge difference in helping the Habs to guard a narrow lead.

- Leafs are really blessed. Some shifts it's hard to tell who's better. Matthews or Nylander.

- 1:40 left, Leafs have been pressing here, but Habs have contained the slot pretty effectively this period, the only big let down being the Kadri goal. Leafs should be crashing here, looking for a late tie.

- Habs hang on Leafs last minute push to complete an almost-perfect October. 17 out of a possible 18 points. Habs outplayed as usual, Carey Price steals two points. You've read it before, you've seen it before, this is just same old same old.


Lines lines ... we got game day lines:

- Radulov/Galchenyuk/Gallagher (looks good should be very fun to watch)
- Pacioretty/Desharnais/Shaw (uhh, DD and Shaw as a top 6 line? Oy).
- Lehkonen/Plekanec/Byron
- Danault/Mitchell/Flynn

- Weber/Emelin

- Markov/Petry
- Pateryn/Beaulieu

Carey Price

Meanwhile on the other side of the rink:

- Momarov/Kadri/Brown
- Hyman/Matthews/Nylander
- Van Riemsdyk/Bozak/Marner
- Martin/Smith/Griffith



Frederik Anderson

Okay, with that out of the way, check out this little gem quoted after Habs practice this morning:

And here I thought all this time that professional coaches of professional teams actually do research to help prepare their teams for upcoming games. What was I thinking?!?

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Ah, Toronto. Ahhh, Leafs fans. We've missed you so. It's been 245 days since we've met. That's a very, very long time. So long, I think it's probably time we do a little refresher about how wonderful it must feel to be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. TO THE TIME MACHINE!!!

Remember this goal?? It happened a certain night in May.

Remember that? No?? Well these fans haven't forgotten:

She looks nice. How about this couple?

They look happy. They must be thinking about how the average single ticket price to watch a Leafs game is $377.71. In American dollars. Plus parking. Plus beer. Happy fans!!

Let's head outside for a while:

Awe, they're hugging! They must like each other. I think we need some crowd shots.

They're clearly all thinking about how great it is to be fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, or as the common folk like to say, proud members of LeafNation! (all rights reserved). Let's get another angle of their joy:

I sure wish I was a Leafs fan. It seems like they have so much fun together. Oh well.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Game 8: Bolts vs. Habs


- Holy moly, do the Habs have some last minute lineup shuffling:

- Byron/Galchenyuk/Gallgher
- Lehkonen/Plekanec/Radulov
- Pacioretty/Desharnais/Shaw
- Danault/Mitchell/Flynn

Hoo boy. Byron is apparently this season's Dale Weise. And yup, it's Pacioretty next to Desharnais again. Oy.

- Really not happy with the line combinations. Sure, it's early season, and it's the time for experimentations, but these are worrying early trends - overvaluing Byron's offensive abilities, and slowly working Desharnais into a top-6 assignment, when he's done fine this year as 3C.

- Weird deployments on Habs first powerplay, which goes nowhere. Therrien puts out Andrew Shaw for lion's share of the man advantage. He has nothing close to the skills required to be a positive contributor to this unit.

- Almost half done the first period, Tampa hasn't registered a shot on Price. Safe to say their chances of winning are fairly limited if this doesn't change.

- Habs really doing a lot of line matching in attempt to contain the Stamkos and Johnson line. It's pretty hard to argue with the results, as Carey Price has had little to do but stand in his crease the first 12 minutes of this period.

- Carey Price makes his first legit save courtesy a great glove pass up ice by Ben Bishop to spark a Tampa 2-on-1. Habs have had defined edge in the period, so it's essential that they be the first to score.

- Just like last night, not an enthralling first period of hockey - Habs did a decent enough job gaining the Tampa zone, but couldn't generate sustained pressure. Meanwhile the Bolts seem intent living (or dying) off the rush - they are the anti-Habs in that they prefer to carry the zone. So far, the Habs have done a relatively good job coming back to intercept their attacks. Net result is a scoreless period.


- Wow, Nathan Beaulieu. Gloves dropped, one shot at Paquette and down. Sneaky tough is Beaulieu.

- Johnson line has not been good both ends of the ice for Tampa tonight, as he gets nailed for a trip.

- Apparently Desharnais is now the 1C for Habs powerplay, and his shift is, predictably, totally ineffective.

- Therrien is clearly trying to sneak Desharnais back into unearned minutes. Starting the season, Desharnais was barely getting 10 minutes a game. Now he's very close to having most time among Habs centres. Can you feel that 2015-16 magic?

- Pretty much a slog period of hockey - both teams are stacking their blue line, which has resulted in a good number of shots coming from 50+ feet. Price and Bishop are simply too good to be even remotely challenged.

- You might have thought Therrien might have shaken things up a little bit, just a little bit, to get something on the scoreboard. Nope. Still running the same lines he started with, with 5 minutes left in the 2nd.

- Alex Galchenyuk is one very frustrated hockey player right now. Seems like nothing he tries is quite working out. Still stuck on 1 goal for the season.

- Alex Emelin again fails to do the basics of guarding the slot, allowing Killorn to skate in unmolested to tip in a slap pass by Hedman and Tampa takes a 1-0 lead. Emelin has been guilty more than once this season making boner mistakes deep in his zone, but doesn't seem to face any consequences.

- 2nd period winding down, Therrien stubbornly sticking to obviously dysfunctional line combinations. Maybe the 3rd period will bring us something new.


- Habs and Tampa after 40 minutes. Habs SA CF (5v5) 50.0%, 51.2% Fenwick:

- First line shakeup, Galchenyuk back to centring Gallagher and Radulov, and within 20 seconds, Habs go on the powerplay, thanks to Gallagher's mucking in front of Bishop.

- Therrien sends out Shaw *again* to start the powerplay, which is all kinds of madness.

- Ah, now we have the right players on the ice, Markov pin perfect pass to a streaking Galchenyuk working from the off wing, a one-time shot beats Bishop to tie the game. Frustration finally ended for AK27.

- Using them on the first line powerplay is indefensible, but the Pacioretty/Desharnais/Shaw line has been pretty damn good tonight, Pacioretty snapper, with Shaw putting on the screen, beats Bishop to give the Habs a 2-1 lead. As long as they produce, it's hard to second guess the line combinations.

- Habs 4th line has been pinned deep in their own zone wayyyy too much tonight. With 7 minutes left, Montreal might be wise just to shelve that line for the rest of the night.

- Tampa befuddled by Habs neutral zone pressure, unable to generate much more than long distance shots on Price. They'll need to start taking chances with just over 5 minutes left.

- There we have it, Tampa pushing forward taking chances, and seconds later, Radulov finds himself all alone in front of Bishop with both Tampa defenders well up the other side of the ice.

- Habs trapping the Bolts to death here. Tampa simply unable to gain control in the Habs zone. Price facing the occasional shot, but nothing sustained or dangerous. 2 minutes left.

- Fierce forecheck by Habs in the neutral zone causing chaos. Tampa has no apparent solution.

- Therrien sends out 4th line with a minute left.

- Mitchell empty netter. Habs still undefeated this season. Wowzers.

- Well, well, well. Habs beat their arch rivals from Tampa, and remain still the only team in the NHL undefeated in regulation. Carey Price was solid, as usual, and the Desharnais line, newly formed (reformed) created excellent sustained offensive pressure. Is this Habs team as good as their record suggests?? Maybe, just maybe it is so.


Okay, fine. We'll do more today than just make fun of Leafs fans. Here are tonight's lineups, starting first with the visitors:

- Kucherov/Stamkos/Namestnikov
- Drouin/Johnson/Palat
- Killorn/Filppula/Point
- Paquette/Boyle/Brown


Ben Bishop

And Les Habs:

- Pacioretty/Galchenyuk/Gallagher
- Lehkonen/Plekanec/Radulov
- Byron/Desharnais/Shaw
- Danault/Mitchell/Flynn

Emelin/Weber (for how long?)
Markov/Petry (for how long?)
Beaulieu/Pateryn (for how long?)

Carey Price.

Also, are we going to see more of 51 with 67? Please, stop this from being a regular occurrence. PLEASE.

Puck drops 7:40 EST.



Happy gameday! It seems like we were just watching the Habs win ANOTHER game. Oh right. We actually WERE just watching the Habs win another game. With less than 24 hours between games, we now feature an early season showdown between the two best teams (currently) in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League. Our Habbies, and the Steven Stamkos led Tampa Bay Lightening.

Normally we'd do the same old same old 2-3 paragraphs about each team, and maybe toss in the starting lineup, mix in some advanced stats to make myself look knowledgable about hockey, and maybe put up a video of bears in a paddling pool, and be done for the day.

Not today, though. No, no, no. Not today. Instead of giving you meaningful information, today I figured I'd give loyal readers (all 7 of you!) a special treat:

Toronto's Pathetic Fantasies About Steven Stamkos!

First let me say this about Leafs fans. They're hard freakin' core. When they get an idea in their heads, it's staying there 'till the bitter end. Which is why the Maple Leaf faithful were confident ... nay ... 100% iron-clad certain, that Stamkos was going to be "back home" this July 1st after signing a mega-million $ contract to join the Blue and White. Many became delusional with fevered fantasies that the Leafs Stanley Cup parade was just around the corner, and it would be led by one Steven (no middle name) Stamkos.

Just how hardcore are those Leafs fans? One fan, and this is actually true, snuck into the Leafs dressing room before Steve-o broke their hearts, and hung this baby up:

That's a personalized Leafs sweater. That's a $300 touch.

Ah, but that's just one measly sweater, you respond. Sure, it's stupid, but it's just one! Haha. I'm afraid not. You see, they were selling these all around Toronto. Top dollar. To wit:

People, actual mouth-breathing people, paid actual hard-earned cash for very, very expensive personalized jerseys. You might say "naw, I don't believe you. No way a fan base is THAT stupid." To which I say, THEY'RE STILL SELLING THEM.

Ah, but it didn't end with fools-and-their-monies. The photoshopin' nerds were out in full force, cranking out gems like this one, with Stamkos meeting the media (with Brian Burke???) as a newly signed Leaf:

That's adorable. It has the Rogers propaganda and everything. Here's a good one from some terrible publication called The Hockey Press:

Pretty decent Photoshoppin', admittedly. At least The Hockey Press was only reporting speculation that a Stamkos signing was imminent. TSN, who, the last time we checked, is still clinging to broadcast rights to Australian Rules Football, went one step further, and proclaimed "FOR SURE HE'S SIGNING WITH US!". They even did some horrible photoshopping just in case followers weren't 100% convinced:

Too bad TSN. Maybe in 2024? That's assuming, of course, that you still exist as a network.

At least they didn't make this mistake:


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Game 7: Habs vs. Islanders



- A spirited start to the game, both teams look like they have plenty of legs - both netminders could be busy tonight.

- Desharnais line continues to surprise with their strong performance - chemistry continuing to build between DD and Shaw and Byron. Meanwhile, we're still waiting on Plekanec to make an appearance this season. Hasn't been very good getting himself into good shooting/scoring positions.

- Emelin falls down along the boards trying to retrieve the puck. We've mentioned the awful ice conditions at the Barclays Center - the worst areas of bad ice are most often found along the boards.

- If you watch closely, you'll notice the puck on edge quite often, which is a sign the ice is too soft. Makes passing and stick handling very difficult. 

- This hasn't been an issue that's gained much notice, but Habs are having far too many faceoffs deep in their zone this season, in part because the defence hasn't done a good job in transitioning the puck, in part because this team ices a lot, in part because Montoya likes to freeze the play. So far tonight 13 faceoffs, 8 deep in the Habs zone. Only 3 have been on Islanders' side of centre.

- So I predicted a busy night for the goaltenders. Yeah, that's really working out brilliantly. 

- The first 3 minutes of the game were pretty intense, very fast, and then the game just kind of fell off the cliff. Really think the ice conditions are playing havoc with both team's ability to organize effective rushes - shot totals were just 8-6 for New York, with maybe 1 or 2 of those shots remotely posing scoring danger. Looks like this game will be a grind to the finish. Grab a pillow and sneak some Z's. 


- Habs CF (5v5) after 20 minutes was 51.5%. To sum up a pretty bad period of hockey, here were the scoring chances:

Do you see them? Yeah I know, it's hard to tell. But there were two. That's all, folks.

- There's a good case to be made that Radulov removed, Paul Byron has been the Habs best playing forward this season. So it only seems fitting he opens the scoring off the rebound of a Gallagher shot. 1-0 Habs.

- Just not happening for Plekanec. But he's doing the right things. Puck luck has been dreadful.

- Galchenyuk line, it appears to have risen. Habs are dominating this period - Islanders are very fortunate to be only trailing 1-0.

- He's been turning heads for his scoring, but one of the real talents, if not his biggest hockey skill, is Radulov's passing. So sharp, so often pinpoint accurate. We knew his signing was important, but so far, it's looking huge.

- Islanders are getting destroyed in the neutral zone. It's allowing the Habs to carry the puck in flying. Montreal firing all cylinders this period, but still only lead 1-0.

- If Greiss doesn't bring is A game tonight (as he has), the score might well already be out of reach. Habs pluggers have been delivering on the scoresheet, while the big guys, Pacioretty, Galchenyuk and Plekanec, can't seem to finish.

- Hoo boy, Islanders get first powerplay in the game, have only scored once with man advantage this season, and tie the game after Emelin flubs an easy clear in front of Montoya. 

- Well, the Habs are getting Habbed tonight. Totally dominating the 2nd period, and all they have to show for it is a 1-1 tie, mainly because the team hasn't finished (bad puck luck - it had to come the other way!), a great performance in net by Greiss, and simple mistakes - Emelin's poor puck play on the PK. What goes around, comes around, I guess.


- Ah, the hockey gods be cruel to the Canadiens in that 2nd period, where they had 80+% SA CF (5v5), 2 period total of 67.9%:

- Greiss doing a most excellent Carey Price impersonation, robbing Beaulieu off a Weber rebound. Seconds later, Beaulieu hits the goalpost. Literally five seconds after that, Gallagher hits iron. Habs puck luck has been atrocious. Their PDO is going to tumble after this one is done.

- One could easily argue the Habs almost certainly don't deserve their 5-0-1 record, because they've had exceptional goaltending and an unsustainable shooting percentage. Tonight, though, they deserve a much better fate. Hockey is like that. Impossible to figure out.

- Beaulieu might have had a little taste of the doghouse the past week, but tonight he's been pretty much spectacular. Therrien appears to have recognized that, and has him top pairing.

- Well, since the big guns can't seem to do the job, it's up to the 4th line. Fine grinding work by Mitchell to push the Islanders zone, working the puck on goal, and Danault picking up a juicy rebound to drill it home past a sprawling Greiss. Habs, mercifully, justifiably, take the lead. 

 Lousy, lousy shift by ... guess who, the Habs 4th line, and also Emelin, who was in a daze leaving his goaltender out to dry. Seidenberg with a one-timer through a screen to tie this game. Glaring mistakes, just a few here and  there, killing the Habs.

- Shaw, two breakaways in the 3rd, zero shots on goal. Yeah. Never use in the shootout. Ever.

- What a crazy 3rd period. Weber with an absolute howitzer from 45 feet that Greiss could only wave at. Annnnnnd the Habs take the lead again. 3 minutes left.

- Islanders haven't been able to muster much of an attack since the Weber goal, but now Gallagher takes a high stick penalty with 25 seconds left. Sooooo .... we're not quite there yet.

- Habs kill the clock, and pull out a win that they richly deserved. SA CD (5v5) for this one was 59.2%, the 2nd period one of the most one-sided frames you'll see in hockey. Habs powerplay converted their only chance to win the game, which will be a huge confidence boost to that unit. Meanwhile, Habs saw fine performances by Beaulieu, Byron and Weber, and Montoya was steady and sturdy when needed. Habs head home to face their eastern rivals, the Lightening, tomorrow night, looking to improve on what has been a very impressive start to their regular season.


The Montreal Canadiens are hitting the road to play the first of back-to-back games, starting tonight in Brooklyn, where they'll face the New York Islanders, and tomorrow back home, against the Tampa Bay Lightening.

Speaking of Brooklyn, the Barclays Center is the brand-spankin' new home for the Islanders, the greatest, most wonderful sporting arena in the history of sporting arenas. Check out those sight lines! Look at centre ice. How it glows! For whatever reason, some of the paying customers are complaining! Yeah, I don't get it either - you can see more than half the ice! That's like ... more than 50%! Yet still the locals moan, moan, moan. Joe Swicicki of Levittown complains "I didn't know it would be this bad. They need to do something about it". Yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before Joe. Why don't you do us all a favour and knock off an "ick" or two from your name? It's way too hard to type. Let's let "cdenigris" take the microphone. She'll set you straight. Cdenigris? Floor is yours:

I've been to arena's all over the country. I live on Long Island and used o drive to NJ for Nets games. I was looking forward to this place for the Nets but it is horrible. The Islanders are now moving there and it is even worse. Not only do I have to shell out 43 bucks for an off peak train for me and my fiance to get to the arena on the railroad but it is DARK, CRAMPED and downright unpleasant with the worst angles ever! Especially for Hockey, half of the arena is obstructed view. It hurts me cause she hates it so much she won't even go and this is where my teams play now. I am going to miss my 15 min drives to Nassau Coliseum where I could park my car. The good days are surely over in NY and I am inline for the move to NC between losing my team and the jobs here. The Prudential Center in NJ is much nicer and wider. Everyone moved out of Brooklyn in the 50's and honestly they should have stayed out unless they planned on bulldozing it and building some parking lots and nice modern facilities.
Okay, never mind. That one kind of meandered ... but wow. WHAT AN INGRATE. You people are awful. Let's let Barclays Centre CEO Brett Yormark set you proletariats straight:

Our seating capacity is over 15,700. Within that capacity there's a lot of great seats. Do we have some obstructed seats? Yes we do. Are fans aware of those obstructed seats before they purchase them? Yes they are. There's really nothing we're going to do from a capital improvement standpoint. You can watch the game on your mobile device. 


Oh yeah, Yormark has one other thing to say about actual playing conditions at this awesome new venue:
"We've brought on board an ice technician to really manage the ice. I think we're getting really good marks from the players."
Ahhh ... kay? Well ... just to be sure, let's ask the players. Hey, Cal Clutterbuck? How's the ice surface at your home rink?



So maybe they'll have ice tonight - or maybe not. Regardless, the Habs are going to rest Carey Price, which means it's Al Montoya!! BRING ME HIS HEAD.

Puck drops on ice - or maybe hardened grey surface concrete ... whatever, at 7:10 EST.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Game 6: Flyers vs Habs


- Habs and Flyers after 40 minutes of play. Habs CF dropping all the way down to 45.2%. 

- As we mentioned earlier, the Flyers defence is not fleet afoot. Surprised the Habs gameplan didn't take advantage of this by carrying the puck in more than their usual dump-and-chase strategy.

- As the period progresses, it appears more and more the Habs are attempting to play for at least a point. Taking few offensive chances, lots of icings, and defence is really playing positionally cautious.

- Flyers shot attempts first half of the period better than 4-to-1 ratio more than the Canadiens, which is all kinds of bad if you're Montreal. 

- Radulov, holy crap. What a blast. One time pass from Weber (irony!) to set up a cannon slap shot that Mason probably didn't even see. Habs powerplay connects, and Montreal leads 2-1 with 7 minutes left.

- Apparently, Gallagher deflected that Radulov shot in, which was all kinds of amazing.

- Carey Price time to shine. Flyers are seriously in tough. They'll need something like that Gallagher goal to salvage at least a point.

- We puzzled about it when the shift was made to start the 2nd period, but the Weber/Emelin combo has easily been the Habs best pairing tonight. 

- Habs really retreating hard to their own zone, shutting down Flyers ability to organize a half-decent shot attempts. Flyers are opening up now, Desharnais just missed a glorious chance in front of Mason.

- Carey Price as per usual, does the Carey Price thing, and tonight's big start, Radulov, puts it into the empty net. That's your difference as we anticipated. Any game up for grabs with Price in the net provides an inherent advantage. Habs keep the wins going. 


- A little news was mentioned this morning about the Habs making some tweaks to their powerplay, in which they'll switch out Markov to add another forward, specifically Radulov. The Habs did this last year, using Plekanec, to mostly unsuccessful results. It really doesn't matter who the Habs send out there, if their powerplay doesn't have their forward pushing the slot, they'll continue to get mediocre results.

- Both defences aren't exactly Speedy Gonzalez, which means guys like Byron and Galchenyuk might get their share of chances tonight.

- Oooh, Habs first new look powerplay. Here we go.

- Let's not be too harsh here, but safe to say Radulov stumbled out of the new look powerplay gate.

- Anyway, unless and until the Habs modify their approach, they'll still be bottom third in the League with the man advantage. This means being more efficient gaining the zone, not being so emphatic with perimeter passing, and not obsessing over point shots from Shea Weber, who struggles with accuracy.

- Wayne Simmonds with a clear check from behind on Markov, sending Andre head first into the boards. Once again, this is the crap the NHL must eliminate, and whose officials refuse to penalize. Anyway, where's Andrew Shaw? We might seem him have more than a word with Simmonds before this night is over.

- One explanation is one of the refs, Chris Schlenker, is officiating his first NHL game. Having been in the system, I can tell you that minor league officiating does a very poor job preparing officials for making tough, but necessary calls - like checking from behind. Focus is far too much on game management (not making calls), and far too less on protecting the safety of its players.

- Kirk Muller was just interviewed at the bench by RDS, said he didn't like what he saw from the first powerplay (well, that's not a stretch), and that he's wanting "more shots". That sounds rather simplistic to me, but then again, it was just a 20 second interview.

- Ho-hum period of hockey, both team offences weren't very organized, speciality units were pretty bad, both Price and Mason faced virtually nothing of difficulty. Mostly a period of attrition by two teams that have enjoyed an early season of favourable puck luck. When teams like that face each other, the net result is usually bad and boring hockey.


- Nobody would fault you for nodding off during that 1st period. Anyway, Habs had slight puck advantage, 5v5 CF was 56.6%

- Habs 3rd line, the Desharnais line, continues to be a pleasant early season surprise for the Canadiens. Perhaps, just perhaps, Desharnais is thriving more not having to deal with the assumed pressure of being a top-6 forward. He's shown good chemistry with Byron and Shaw.

- The 2nd period has been the Flyers period this season - 12 of the 19 goals they've scored has come during this frame.

- Blue line shakeup! Weber paired with ... Emelin? HRMMM.

- No idea what's happening with Habs defence, except that it appears that Beaulieu has possibly entered Michel Therrien's doghouse.

- Habs powerhouse line tonight has been their 4th line. Which is all you need to know about how good (or terrible) this game has been.

- Excellent hustle by Radulov to win the puck behind the Flyers net, feed the line to Weber for a one timer that changes directions, and beats a blind Mason. Habs puck luck continues to dazzle this season.

- Not sure what Radulov ate for breakfast, but he's been a monster this period. Flyers would be best to just step out of the way.

- Habs 2nd powerplay, again Radulov at the point, but Galchenyuk is yanked for Desharnais. Uhh ... kay?

- Flyers tie it up, Voracek deflectng a Giroux point shot, Habs Petry and Markov not doing a very good job defending the slot.

- At this point, I think Muller is just tossing out different player combinations with the man advantage - trying to find something of a spark. That's fine early in the season, the best time to experiment. Still, this team has to do better gaining the zone. Fundamentally, that's where the dysfunction originates from.

- A slightly less awful period of hockey, but still, full sympathies to anyone who paid to see this game live. Both teams struggling to generate anything resembling momentum - passing has been poor, translation game has been disorganized, and zone entries ... mainly dump and chase affairs. This game is pretty much up for grabs - probably favouring the Canadiens with Price in net, but that aside, whomever wins tonight, it won't be a stellar 2 points. 


Alright, first let's get the lineups taken care of. Here's the Flyers:



Steve Mason

And the Habbies, same as the lineup Saturday night against the Bruins:



Carey Price

Alright, bad news. No Dale Weise! In case you hadn't seen or heard, Weise is in the middle of serving a three game suspension for this:

Oh, Dale. We love ya, but you never were the sharpest tool in the hockey shed. Anyway, since Dale isn't playing, it freed up time for him to give interviews, including one to Montreal reporter Amanda Stein, when he was quoted saying this:

An interesting perspective, but nothing we didn't already suspect. In a season that was full of Habs management pointing fingers at everyone else but themselves, you know - all part of the "no excuses" culture, it follows that the likes of Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien would ostracize Subban to shade their own failings.

Anyway, tonight's game. The Flyers are coming off a win Saturday night against Carolina, which broke a 3 game losing streak for Philadelphia, who've struggled early out of the gate. But then, just look at that lineup. Sure, the Flyers have an excellent first line, a midling 2nd line, and studs like Gostisbehere on their blue line, but after that, things really go down a steep hill. The Flyers are putting up early numbers that indicate wins will be tough to find this season - ranked 24th in EV Corsi, a passive offence with a 26th ranked S/GP, and a weak PK, something the organization has been struggling with for the past few years, still ranked near the bottom of the League in effectiveness. If there is one saving grace for the Flyers it's been their PDO, 5th ranked at 103.1, largely because of the Flyers' ridiculous shooting percentage early in the season - 13.9% - by far the best in the NHL. If it wasn't for the Flyers knack for finding the net, they could easily be 0-5, instead of 2-2-1.

One interesting stat to take note of - the defensive zone starts. The Flyers have been excellent here - just 25% of their faceoffs have been in their zone this season - likely in part because Philadelphia likes to play an aggressive forecheck, in part because their defence does a pretty decent job initiating transition.

Over in Habsland, it's full steam ahead, with the Canadiens now the only NHL team that hasn't suffered a regulation loss. As we mentioned yesterday, the underlying numbers so far indicate the Habs have enjoyed the benefit of significant puck luck, in combination with very good goaltending. It's not a matter of if, but when, the Habs luck will regress to the norm. Likely sooner rather than later. Whether the Canadiens can still muster up victories without the bounces is a looming question.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Game 5: Habs vs. Bruins


 - As I mentioned immediately after the conclusion of last night's game, the Habs win, their 4th in 5 starts this season, was an uneven victory. What I meant exactly by that was this. Once again, the Canadiens found a way of claiming victory in spite of the underlaying numbers favouring the opponent. The Habs were soundly outplayed in the first period, barely registering a CF% over 41, although the final shot totals in the period were 13-6 in favour of the Habs. Yet, somehow they were able to hold the line, and find their way to victory. It's been like that since game one - and beyond the fact that the Habs are consistently losing the battle for puck possession, the Canadiens are winning because of two basic reasons: Exceptional goaltending (Al Montoya was outstanding backing up Price for the first 3 games), and puck luck. The Canadiens currently hold the League's largest PDO (108.0), with the Detroit Red Wings ranked 2nd - at 104.2. It's not only goaltending that has helped the Habs to find ways of winning games - their shooting percentage is a sky-high 12.7%, 3rd highest in the League. A typical average NHL Sh% over a 82 stretch is usually between 7-8%. Bottom line here - the Habs have been beating the averages, enjoying the benefits of good bounces. But they never last. They won't last. When the Canadiens revert to the average, this team, unless it starts changing its puck possession approach, will start losing.

2 - One area that did show improvement for the Habs were their faceoff percentages. Entering the game, the Canadiens were ranked 26th overall, but that number improved last night with the Canadiens winning 57% of the drops. Perhaps most critically, the Habs won nearly 60% of the faceoffs in their zone, which certainly helped them to mitigate the puck possession advantages the Bruins enjoyed through most of the 1st period, and at certain points in the 3rd.

3 - Another solid game for Carey Price - not sparkling - but solid. He wasn't overtly busy last night, in part because the Habs were doing a better job winning faceoffs, in part because the Habs defence was doing a reasonable job at shot blocking, in part because the Bruins' powerplay was exceptionally inept. But Price did make key saves at key times scattered throughout the evening, which is all you can really ask and hope for from your number one goaltender.

4 - The Habs powerplay continues to underwhelm, as indicated by a couple of graphics. Here is the Habs high danger scoring chances last night (5v5):

So 14 chances there - a pretty ordinary chart for any given night. Now let's look at the Habs high danger scoring chances with the powerplay included:

The differences are hard to discern, but the arrows point at the 3 danger shots that were generated during the 8:18 of Habs powerplay minutes. When you enjoy about 15% of your game with one extra player on the ice, you ought to also enjoy more high percentage chances than the measly 3 the Canadiens generated. The answer is most likely because the Canadiens continue to follow the same losing strategy - lots of crips perimeter passing, and frequent shot attempts from the point, but very few attempts from anywhere in the slot, and virtually nothing near the crease. This powerplay continues to obsesses over feeding the puck to Shea Weber for one-time shots, which makes sense enough if only Shea Weber were capable of delivering shots on target. With exception to the one goal he's scored with the man advantage this season, Weber's accuracy has been wildly off target - in part because opposing defenders have been blocking shooting lanes, in part because Weber simply isn't very good with his shot - velocity removed from consideration.

5 - I've seen praise heaped on Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu for their work clearing the puck, but the bottom line stats bear out that the Habs best defenseman last night was Greg Pateryn. In addition to doing a fine job feeding the puck to his forwards from his own zone, Pateryn posted the best shot attempt difference last night - a plus 5. 



- Keep an eye on Habs faceoff performance tonight - it's been kind of not good this season, just 45%.

- Gallagher gets 4 minutes for careless use of his stick - Habs PK has been very good so far this year - it'll need to be to handle the Bruins powerplay, which hasn't been particularly effective this year (just 7.1%), but with guys like Bergeron and Marchand and Krejci, watch out.

- Pretty much all Bruins so far, Julien doing some apt line matching, putting his big guns out against the Mitchell line - which has been overwhelmed by Boston's forecheck and speed.

- Carey Price looks pretty sharp, but even he can't sustain the one-sidedness of this game and keep his team's head above water. Bruins gaining Habs zone with ease. That's a huge problem.

- With 7 minutes left, shots are 4-4, but brother, no way it's even out there. Habs have been wretched, the Bruins seemingly unstoppable. Carey Price remains their biggest obstacle.

- Just no way this game is sustainable for the Habs. The Bruins have to score eventually.

- Habs zone starts this season are just over 56% their side of centre, which is the 5th worst in the NHL. It's a big issue for any team when they start most of the play in their own zone. Puts a lot of tough pressure on their defence, even more on goaltending. You cannot hope to win regularly with that kind of weight around your neck.

- Habs 2nd powerplay, good puck movement and passing, but most of it perimeter, and all shots coming off tries from the line. Looks great, but effectively - I'm not convinced this will provide the positive man advantage results the Habs are hoping for.

- If Marc Bergevin wants to win with grit, his players need to start demonstrating grit - including on their powerplay. Greasy goals are still goals. Won't happen if nobody is willing to crash the crease.

- Habs got a couple of decent scoring chances late in the period, but it was still grotesquely one-sided period in favour of Boston. Carey Price will have to pull more than a couple of tricks out of his bag tonight, otherwise, this could be an ugly result.


- Habs somehow outshot the Bruins 13-6 in the first period, even though their CF was barely over 41%. What a weird 20 minutes:

- Habs powerplay goes pretty much nowhere - adjustments made emphasizing dump and chase approach to gaining the zone. Predictably, they fail to register a shot on goal.

- Khudobin has been very solid tonight for the Bruins, but he is giving up some pretty choice rebounds. Problem is, Habs have been so tentative in crashing the slot, that few, if any rebound chances are being taken advantage of.

- Gallagher does a nice job keeping the puck in the Bruins zone, and snaps a shot blocker side past Khudobin to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. The Canadiens being rewarded here by a pretty strong period of hockey - doing a decent forechecking job in the neutral zone, and the Bruins zone entries, where were unchallenged in the 1st period, have hit a roadblock in the 2nd.

- Bruins haven't scored first in a game this season, which always puts you an inherent disadvantage. Boston really outplayed Montreal in the first period, but couldn't finish their chances. Of course, there's the Carey Price factor to consider ...

- Greg Pateryn doesn't get nearly enough credit for his transition game. He's one of the few Habs defensemen that does a half decent job feeding the puck forward. It's played a role this period in helping the Habs to find their game, and mitigate the Bruins' momentum.

- Shea Weber is getting a honeymoon treatment in Montreal, which is to be expected. But unless and until he's actually able to put his powerplay shots on goal, it matters not whether that puck travels at 95 mph, or 495 mph. The results are going to be the same.

- Although, a 495 mph slapshot would be terrifying, as the NHL notes the uptake of on-ice fatalities.

- Bruins taking a few chances here to try and get their offence moving again, get caught up ice surrendering a 2-on-1, with Radulov feeding Danault, who's had an excellent game tonight, to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead.

- Weber gets nabbed for a clunky trip. It would be nice if he took "good" penalties once in awhile.

- Quite the turnaround in fortunes that period, the Habs deftly outplayed the Bruins, really shutting down the Bergeron line as the Habs 4th line finally found a groove. Carey Price hasn't been tested hard, but he has made more than a couple tough saves to keep the Bruins scoreless. I'm expecting the Bruins to come out hard to start the 3rd - Habs need to maintain their discipline and solid forecheck, maintaining good play in the neutral zone, to increase their chances of winning this game.


- Habs and Bruins after two periods, Montreal nearly 60% CF (5v5) in that second period:

- Remember the days when Zdeno Chara used to dominate this game on the blue line, striking fear into the eyes of his opponents? Man, those were the days. Long past. -5 on SF even strength tonight, he looks old and slow, most likely because he's old and slow.

- Big factor tonight is improvement by Habs in the faeeoff circle. Entering tonight's game with one of the worst percentages in the League, they've won 67.5% tonight. Significant improvement.

- Emelin with a very dumb pinch at the Bruins line to serve up a 2-on-1 break for Boston, Schaller to Moore to put the Bruins on the board. It's foolish plays like Emelin just made that quickly turn wins into losses.

- And now Emelin follows up that bonehead play on his next shift by taking a bonehead delay of game penalty. Stupefying stupid.

- Bryon to the rescue, blocking a point shot, and scoring on the break. 3-1 Habs. Emelin breaths a sight of relief.

- Oops, maybe not. Spooned cashes home a nice cross ice feed from Krug, assist to Markov and Weber for some pretty awful coverage, and it's 3-2. Back to the bench for you, Alexei. Just. Stay. There.

- Weber really struggling with Bruins rushes into the Habs zone, getting beat wide badly, having trouble adjusting to forwards coming hard towards the net. He and Emelin aren't doing Carey Price many favours this period.

- Chara and Markov. Personification of hockey from another time that's long passed them.

- Great forechecking effort by Torrey Mitchell in the Bruins zone, battling for the puck and backhanding the puck past Khudobin. Morrow, meanwhile, gives Mitchell a high stick to the face, a 4 minute minor that gives the Habs a bonus 2 minute powerplay.

- Weber takes a late interference call, again because he's caught flat-footed trying to react to the speed of an opposition rush. Get used to it Habs fans, you'll be seeing much more of this.

- Another delay of game penalty. And now Boston goes on a 6-on-3 powerplay. Yeeeps.

- Horribly executed powerplay. Just. Horrible.

- An untidy win, but a win nonetheless. Habs played poorly in the 1st, very well in the 2nd, and more more less hung on in the 3rd. This team's powerplay continues to look inept, so all the hopes and dreams that Weber was going to turn this unit around don't seem to be panning out - at least so far. Yes, again, it's too early to draw firm conclusions, but the signs aren't looking good that this Habs team isn't anything different than it was last year, except that it has Carey Price in goal. Not exactly reassuring.


Hey, it's the weekend! And it's the first game of the year against the Bruins! What more could anyone possibly want? HOW ABOUT BEARS IN A POOL??!?

A few notes, in point form:

- The Bruins are off to a pretty decent start to their season, winning 3 of their first 4 games. Brad Marchand, who had a tremendous World Cup, has continued his scoring ways early into the season, scoring 9 points in those first four games. While Marchand has been racking up the points, the Bruins have also received excellent support from their so-called 2nd line, Heinen/Krejci/Backes. After so many up-and-down hears, Krejci finally seems to be getting his form together, which could give the Habs defence plenty of headaches tonight.

- While the Habs do have 7 out of a possible 8 points to start the season, there are worrying signs about whether this team has overachieved. In the four games played, the Habs have a League-leading 108.8 PDO, largely because of Al Montoya's insane .962 SV%.  We've noted since the start of the season how much this team looks like the 2014-15 edition of the Montreal Canadiens - one that not so much thrived, but was reliant on goaltending in order to put together a winning record. Maybe that will change as the season progresses, but so far, early signs are reassuring.

- The Bruins winning record has come from the fine performance of their top two lines, centred by the always excellent Patrice Bergeron, and Krecji. There are ongoing concerns about the health of starting goaltender Tuukka Rask, who's dealing with, to use the words of head coach Claude Julien, "general soreness". So, with all that soreness going on, Rask won't start tonight. Anton Khudobin will start for Boston.

- Habs-related lineup decisions, Mikhail Sergachev and Daniel Carr will be healthy scratches tonight - Brian Flynn and Greg Pateryn will draw in for the Canadiens.

- Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Game 4: Coyotes vs Habs


- For 330 days, we've waited for this moment, and now it's arrived. Hello, Carey Price.

- Keep an eye on Sergachev's time tonight - he didn't play 10 minutes against the Pens. That's not enough. If this time is part of his learning experience, then play him. Otherwise, send him down to get decent time, if even in the minors.

- Slow start for the Habs, Arizona looks to be the faster team - Galchenyuk line looks good early, though.

- Ryan White mucking it up, which is par for his course. Never thought he got a fair shake in Montreal - even today he'd be an upgrade over the guy he was agitating, Torrey Mitchell (or Brian Flynn, for that matter).

- Radulov was brought in for his scoring ability, but he's arguably an even better playmaker, based on the excellent shifts we've seen this season.

- Habs powerplay getting closer, but still just not quite clicking. Perhaps too focused on pretty plays, this unit would be better served to just get a greasy one in, and build from there.

- Emelin shows Weber how it's done with a goal from a point shot, his first in nearly two years. 1-0.

- Since about the 5 minute mark, Habs have dominated puck possession - also doing line matching in an attempt to mitigate the Hanzal line (so far, so good).

- Solid period of hockey for the Canadiens, adjusted CF over 60%. Petry and Beaulieu with a particularly strong period - same could be said for the Desharnais line (yes, believe it or not) for the second consecutive game. Coyotes had a fast, aggressive start to the period, but seemed to get stuck on 2nd gear by some good line matching by the Habs, and pretty good zone coverage. Price didn't face more than one difficult shot the whole period.


- Adjusted CF (5v5) in the period, favouring the Habs 61.8%.

- Sergachev got just 3:43 of ice time in the period, which as expected, is the least among blue liners, but less then I'd like him to receive. If Habs are able to pad their lead, there's no good rationale from keeping him from getting anything less than 12 minutes.

- Galchenyuk with a totally unnecessary high stick in his own zone to kill the Habs powerplay just as it started. 

- Coyotes guilty of some pretty lazy zone coverage, as Beaulieu carries the puck in, and makes a beautiful pass on the tap of Torrey Mitchell's stick, a one timer blast that puts the Habs up 2-0. Arizona is a young team, full of potential but more apt to make those kind of preventable mistakes.

- Ryan White, who I complemented just 30 minutes ago, tries to troll the Galchenyuk line into take retaliatory penalties. Ends up getting 4 minutes, and luring only Emelin into the box. That's not what he's supposed to do.

- And finally it happens. Off the White penalty, the Habs and Shea Weber finally strike, with Markov setting him up for an absolute howitzer that Domingue can only wave at. 3-0.

- Habs have padded their lead. Now would be a good time to loosen the reigns on Sergachev's shift restrictions.

- Galchenyuk dances in, 35 wrister than Domingue must stop, and it's 4-0 Habs. Justin Peters now in goal for Arizona. Habs can pretty much cruise home from here.

- Hrm .. Sergachev with an unforced error, giving the puck away behind his net placing the puck right in the slot, and following a mad scramble, Chychrun scores his first NHL goal. 4-1. That play, of course, won't help the case for giving the young Habs defenseman more ice time, alas.

- Great shift by the Mitchell line, not only hemming the Coyotes in their zone, but able to do an entire line shift without surrendering the zone. That's hockey at another level of excellence.

- Sloppy, sloppy d-zone puck control - with Beaulieu coughing up the puck in front of Price, and Dauphin tucking in a rebound. That seemingly unassailable Habs lead isn't so safe any more, it's 4-2.

- Habs had this game pretty much salted away, and then started getting lazy, making unforced mistakes deep in their own zone - there's still no good reason for Montreal not to win this game relatively easily, but with Price working off some rust, the Canadiens will need to be a little more aware in the 3rd if they want to make sure they get 2 points. Another excellent period for the Galchenyuk line, while Radulov continues to impress. Easily the best game the Habs have played this season - at least the first two periods.


- Habs and Coyotes after 2 periods, with Habs CF (5v5) at 58.6%

- Not sure what Radulov has more of - strength or speed, but whatever it is, together they give opposing defensemen fits.

- Credit to Peters for at least keeping his team in this game - it really ought be a three or four goal lead for the Habs right now.

- Habs certainly more aware first half of this period than they were last half of the 2nd - being cautious in their own zone, but not turtling their way through the period, either. Pretty good balance. 11 minutes left.

- Habs for sure salt this game away, Lehkonen with a wrister off a nice pass from behind the net from Plekanec to make it 5-2. As we mentioned, Habs have had a nice blend of playing cautiously in their own zone, but not so much as to stunt their offence. Very impressive display tonight all around.

- Relatively uneventful 3rd period, which is all the Habs wanted and needed - an impressive win tonight, with many fine performances, including Galchenyuk, Radulov, Petry, Plekanec, Desharnais, Pacioretty and Markov (among others). Price was fine too, even though he wasn't really tested often - which is exactly what the Canadiens would have wanted - a straightforward game to ease Carey into the regular season. Habs get a well-earned day off tomorrow, after a couple of solid wins to open their season at home.


Hey everyone, we have some news for you:


 Lines, lines. We got lines:

- Pacioretty/Galchenyuk/Gallager
- Lehkonen/Plekanec/Radulov
- Byron/Desharnais/Shaw
- Danault/Mitchell/Flynn

Mikhail Sergachev, he who was benched for a good portion of the 2nd and 3rd periods during Tuesday night's win over the Pens, thereby raising speculation that he'd be returned to riding the busses this week, is back in the lineup tonight.

Meanwhile, on the other side:

- Duclair/Hanzal/Domi
- Rieder/Strome/Doan
- Martinook/Richardson/White
- Crouse/Dauphin/Vrbata



That's a pretty decent Arizona lineup. More about them in a bit.