Monday, 28 November 2016

Game 23: Habs vs. Ducks

By just about any standard, this is unacceptable behaviour by a "professional" hockey player:



Anaheim 2, Montreal 1:

FIRST PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

Hey, we got lines. Let's check 'em out. First, the Ducks:

Rakell/Getzlaf/Perry
Cogliano/Kessler/Silfverberg
Ritchie/Vermette/Kase
Shaw.Garbutt/Wagner

And the Habbies:

Radulov/Galchenyuk/Bryon
Pacioretty/Plekanec/Gallagher
Lehkonen/Desharnais/Shaw
Danault/Mitchell/Carr

Third line D pairing for the Habs will again be Barberio with Pateryn.

- We were led to believe Bernier would start tonight. We were incorrect. It's John Gibson, who has weaker numbers than Bernier, but ... that's Carlyle's call.

- Well, that was quite a start for the Habs, totally pinning the Ducks in their zone for essentially the first 3 minutes of this game, highlighted by a very good shift by the Desharnais line. Anaheim lucky they're not already down on the scoreboard.

- Habs incredibly fast start might not have netted actual goals, but unsurprisingly, it nets them an early powerplay for hooking (a pretty good sign the other guys are having trouble keeping up to you).

- Habs 5v5, look far more dangerous than they ever did 5v4, which makes no sense, of course.

- Habs 2nd powerplay really humming, fast crisp passing, good zone setup, and very nearly a highlight reel goal after a sweet Radulov/Weber to Galchenyuk at the side of the net, tic-tac-toe setup that worked brilliantly, except that Galchenyuk whiffed at the puck with a totally gaping net. Habs still dominating here.

- Plekanec line looks really good, so too does the Desharnais line. And the Galchenyuk line is always looming there, dangerous.

- Andrew Shaw brings "grit" (apparently), and yes, physicality, but fighting - he's not very good at it. Andrew, just step away.

- Habs losing their smarts as the period draws to a close. First, Shaw gets into a stupid fight with Corey Perry, and then Shea Weber gets nailed for a very stupid roughing, and the Ducks convert. Habs were totally owning the period up to the Weber stupidity, and now find themselves down on the scoreboard.

- If Galchenyuk finishes that setup on the powerplay earlier in the period, I'm guessing Habs are likely up 2, maybe even 3 gaols by this point.


SECOND PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

- Habs dominated the 1st, 65.7 SACF (5v5), but dumb decisions combined with Galchenyuk missing an open net helped put them down on the scoreboard:


- Desharnais line continues to be the best for the Habs tonight, generating more good scoring chances, and likely working the hardest. But it still consists of guys who have trouble finishing scoring plays.

- Wathced Plekanec lead a 3-on-2 break, nothing special, including the way the play finished, with Plekanec weakly shooting the puck that was easily deflected away. This might, more than anything, give us a hint as to what is Plekanec's biggest issue in a year that's been pretty disappointing - his shot. It looks weak, and if you examine the percentages, they're telling. It's only 3.2% for Plekanec, which is way down from last year's 8.3%.

- Ducks having a much better 2nd period, which is to be expected. Typical rebound period, bolstered by the fact they scored the only goal in a period that they were otherwise trounced. Hockey is like that, sometimes.

- Radulov with a breakaway, foiled because he was hooked hard from behind, and yet, somehow, it wasn't called. Refs are lettin' 'em play, I guess.

- Gonna be one of those nights. Ducks have been better team this period, and have capitalized, with Fowler beating Price blocker side with a 40 foot wrister, a shot that Carey would readily tell you he'd like another shot at. 2-0.

- I guess that Fowler shot was slightly deflected by Galchenyuk, so hard to criticize Price. Bounces just ain't happening tonight. Hockey is like that.

- Many are making good point on Twitter that nobody on this Habs roster should be trying to block unobstructed shots from 30 feet on Price. He's going to stop those pretty much every single time. Yet that's what Galchenyuk did - push the tip of his blade out to redeflect an otherwise easy shot by Fowler, into an impossible save.

- Daniel Carr with a stupid trip, right beside the Ducks' goal as the 2nd period winds down. Just a dumb, dumb, dumb play. Habs have been their own undoing tonight from lack of thinking. Weber with a rough in the 1st leading to Ducks powerplay goal. Galchenyuk with deflection of relatively harmless Fowler shot - Canadiens simply can't afford to play unintelligent hockey in California, a place they've had a horrible winning record the past few years.



THIRD PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

- Habs recoiled substantially in the 2nd period, CF barely above 50% now. It's only 2-0, but if we're honest, the odds of the Habs coming back in this game are pretty much slim-to-nil.


- Unless it's a fluky and/or greasy goal, Habs aren't going to snap the twine tonight. They put it all out the first 17 minutes, got nothing, and pretty much gave up.

- Galchenyuk again misses glorious scoring opportunity. Just not gonna happen for him tonight, or, seemingly, for anyone else wearing the same jersey.

- I mean, Habs are at least giving it this 3rd period - they're looking much more the same collection we saw in the 1st period. But there's just no finish - Gibson is playing strong, but the best playing line, the Desharnais line, is riddled with players that don't quite have the abilities required to score.

- Radulov backhander, misplayed by Gibson, Byron a wide open net, nobody around, somehow misses. I think it's time to go to bed.

- Would it kill this goal-starved team to try putting Pacioretty next to Galchenyuk? At least a few shifts? I mean, what harm could possibly come of it?

- Tomas Plekanec is killing Pacioretty's season. It's not that Plekanec is playing poorly, it's just that he's not a good fit for Max. He's a two way, defence-first centre - basically the kind of guy you want up the middle on your third line. But next to one of the top scoring snipers in the League? Bad, bad, bad fit.

- Habs with late, absolutely must convert powerplay, and Therrien puts out Andrew Shaw. Man advantage goes completely nowhere.

- Horrible man advantage. Absolutely horrible. Therrien refusing to use his best assets when they're required most. It's baffling decision-making.

- Hold the phone a little bit longer, Habs actually score, and it's Shaw (go figure) with Price pulled. Two minutes left.

- Only fitting the Habs final nail is self-inflicted, with Shaw getting nailed for a hook while the Canadiens are pushing deep in the Ducks zone. He goes nuts, and is tossed from the game.

- Habs somehow fluke out Ducks zone possession with 20 second left, and forget that the clock is running, not even taking a shot on Gibson. Bzzzzt. Game over.

- Well, Habs made it interesting, at least? Crucial turning point was likely way back in the 1st period, when Galchenyuk missed an empty net while Habs were on their 2nd powerplay, which would have opened the scoring, and likely changed the entire complexion of the game. Instead, Habs made poor decisions that resulted in Ducks getting a couple past Price, and the rest is history. Now on to San Jose, with the Habs probably at this point just hoping to get a point out of their California swing.


__________________________________________________________
GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

West coast swing! This means at least two nights of having to stay up way past our bedtimes. Tonight, it's Anaheim.

- No lineup changes tonight for the Habs. That means no Zach Redmond, and also Chris Terry is a healthy scratch.

- Habs are facing a team that's unquestionably got the worst coach in the NHL (which is saying a lot if you're the Montreal Canadiens) -  Randy Carlyle! Since somehow getting rehired, Carlyle has taken the Ducks to 19th ovearll CF% (their current standing), from last year's 17th overall standing, to 2014-15's 17th overall standing, when Randy wasn't coaching the Ducks, to 2013-14's 19th overall standing - and ... you know what? The Ducks are, and have been, pretty mediocre for a long time.

- So what are the Ducks good at? Uhhhmmm .. offence? 24th rated, so nope. Defence? 9th rated .. so ... kinda yeah? Anaheim plays a pretty boring style of hockey, lots of trap action, lots of dependance on goaltending, which this season, has actually been pretty decent. Specifically, it's been Jonathan Bernier (another Leafs cast-off that found a life in California), who's put together a +.500 record this season backed by a .933 SV%. Yeah, he hasn't started a ton, just 9 so far, but he's still been a pretty good reclamation success story this season. Anyway, Bernier starts tonight. He'll be a key to this game.

- What are the Ducks bad at? Well, there's the anemic offence, no surprise given who the coach is.  Also because Anaheim's top line of Rikard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, haven't been producing many goals this season. Otherwise, their powerplay is pretty good, 6th rated, PK is "okay", 18th rated. If you go down the list, they're pretty much in the middle of the pack in most major categories - shots taken and allowed, 5v5 performance. Etc., etc. This is the quintessential mediocre NHL hockey team.

- Puck drops tonight at 10:10 EST. Fire up the coffee maker, and curl up for some late-night hockey!


MONDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

Hey, happy start of the week, everyone. We have a few bits of hockey info today, mostly Habs-related (in present or past):

- Zach Redmond. Hey, remember him? Well ...

Redmond was a free agent pickup this summer, a defenseman signed to bolster an otherwise thin 3rd line pairing on the Habs blue line. Well, Redmond sustained a broken foot in mid-October, shelving any aspirations that he'd join the big team for opening night. Now, it would appear, Redmond will get his first Habs action tomorrow night in Los Angeles, as the Canadiens take on the Ducks. With 7 D now on the roster, this means either Mark Barberio or Greg Pateryn will be a healthy scratch.

- The Florida Panthers, who, despite having a mediocre record barely above .500, have been playing some pretty good possession hockey this season, even while deal with a rash of injuries. In case you hadn't heard, the Panthers unceremoniously fired popular hard coach Gerry Gallant immediately after last night's 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh, leaving Gallant literally stranded on a street curb after literally being tossed from the team bus. Photographers were there to document the event:


Classy job, Florida. Very, very classy.

Anyway, Gerry will be fine. He was in just year 1 of a recently signed 3 year contract extension, so he'll be collecting paychecks from the Panthers for awhile yet. It's now largely assumed that Gallant will be the lead candidate for consideration for the new team in Vegas.

More in a bit.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Game 22: Habs vs. Wings

Montreal 2, Detroit 1 (OT)

FIRST PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


SECOND PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

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


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

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

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

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

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

- That said ....

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

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


THIRD PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OVERTIME:

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


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

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

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




IN CASE YOU HADN'T HEARD, THE DETROIT RED WINGS ARE JUST THE WORST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Puck drops tonight at 7:10 EST.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Game 21: 'Canes vs. Habs

Montreal 2, Carolina 1

FIRST PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

- Habs making lineup tweeks for warmups, specifically the 3rd/4th lines:

Hudon/Desharnais/Shaw
Danault/Mitchell/Terry

- Welp, 10 minutes in, not exactly frantic action. Habs a bit faster tonight, but generating few high grade scoring attempts. Carolina with only 1 decent attempt so far. Both teams very guarded, tight checking.

- Another surprisingly weak goal surrendered by Price off a sharp angle wrister by Lindholm. That's two very, very iffy goals by Price in two periods, extending back to the game winner scored by Ottawa in the 3rd period on Tuesday night.

- Habs might be the faster team, but they're defiantly not the best team with the puck. Canes doing a much better job gaining the zone, while the Habs guilty of far too many puck turnovers while on the attack.

- A softie goal in the Habs favour, Andrew Shaw courtesy some excellent work by Hudon, who continues to make a bigger case for staying with the team. I sadly suspect, however, that Hudon is destined for another trip to the rock once Brian Flynn is healed up.

- Scoreboard might be square, but this is shaping up to be an ugly period of hockey for the Habs. Very little flow to their game, puck advancement looking particularly dreary.

- Habs about to tackle Carolina's League-best PK (92% success rate).

- "meh" powerplay. Don't see anything special about Carolina's PK, except that they like to drape their blue line with their four skaters during opponent zone entries, thereby making it hard to gain the zone by carrying the puck in. The only viable alternative is the dump-and-chase, which is not preferable since the success rate for those isn't even 40%.

 - Uninspired period for the Habs, who seemed to get little momentum as the period finished. Still, the  'Canes are playing better fundamentals with the puck, while the Habs, apart from little bright spots here and there, are having a tough time setting up quality scoring chances. Fortunately Shaw converted one chance because of Hudon's hard work, but if they can't figure this issue out, a win tonight won't be easy.


SECOND PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

- Habs and 'Canes after 20 minutes. Habs SA CF (5v5) was 46.3%:


- 7 Minutes into the 2nd, Carolina continues to be the better team - they're far more aggressive in the Habs zone, and as the game has progressed, the faster team. It has not been a good night for the Galchenyuk line - they're getting badly outskated.

- Pacioretty and Gallagher are clearly getting nowhere, either together, or with Plekanec up the middle. Maybe give Galchenyuk a shot with one (or both) of the two, see if that gets something, *anything* sparking.

- Comments are sparse tonight, because for the most part, so is the hockey action. We're 12 minutes into the period, and we've had 3 shots on net. Total. Pretty dreadful hockey being played.

- 'Canes tossing checking kitchen sink at Galchenyuk line, and it's worked brilliantly. So you'd hope for the guys who should have been scoring a long time ago, and who haven't been scoring this season, to step it up. So far the call has not been answered.

- Kind of annoying - whatever the Habs have going, it isn't working. So this seems like the ideal time to try a couple of new line combinations - maybe slot Pacioretty next to Galchenyuk. Something. Anything. But Therrien is sticking with the starting lineup. Kind of bewildering.

- Habs come to life. With 40 seconds left in the period. How convenient.

- Terrible period of hockey. Unwatchable. Habs with paltry 5 shots on goal, Carolina basically suffocating their opponents to death, assisted by Montreal's already dysfunctional offensive attacks. Canadiens have been totally stymied not only in gaining the zone, but for simply reaching the 'Canes blue line. Carolina has their trap running on overdrive, and the Habs simply have no reply. At this point, it'll be up to Price to find a way of preventing Carolina from scoring again, because all indications point to the Habs only getting a victory via extra time.


THIRD PERIOD LIVE GAME BLOG:

- Habs dreadful sub-40% CF, just to give you a good idea of how poorly they've executed play tonight:


- Max Pacioetty, finally. We talked about either he or Gallagher stepping up, and he's delivered. Gallagher getting the puck to the net, and Max jamming it home. Habs take 2-1 lead.

- Maybe, just maybe, that goal (and points to Gallagher and Plekanec) will break the logjam.

- Galchenyuk might own the team scoring lead, but there is nobody else on this roster that passes the puck better than Radulov. Nobody.

- Would it be ironic to note that Weber, the guy with hardest shot in hockey, is kind of not good firing the puck out of his zone?

- I've said it before, I'll say it again, hockey is won in the neutral zone. Classic example is the Galchenyuk near miss, off a sweet pass from (of course) Radulov. Play all began with Byron intercepting the puck pretty much on the red dot - feeding it forward to Radulov, high grade scoring chance realized. That's where you win (or lose) hockey. At centre ice.

- 5 minutes left, looks like Habs are attempting to execute a sit-on-it strategy. It's not going well, as Barberio gets called for a slash because he fails to properly cover the slot. Carolina gets big powerplay chance.

- Price comes through in the final minutes to secure a narrow victory. Again, it's not overwhelmingly impressive, or for that matter, even just impressive. Carolina was the better team, outshooting the Habs rather badly, and finishing with 60% possession. Positives?? Well, Pacioretty actually scoring is a start, but apart from the goal, he, along with Gallagher and Plekanec, continue to underwhelm. I'm not exactly sure what the issue is here - perhaps it's Plekanec losing a step in his game - he is nearing his mid-30s, after all. Meanwhile, Desharnais continues to contribute little to nothing to this roster, which is negatively impacting those who are saddled next to him - specifically Hudon, who had another strong game in spite of being shifted with Desharnais.

One thing is very clear - the Habs must clean up their game, and figure out a way of improving their puck movement, or they're going to be eaten alive in their upcoming road trip, including a visit to California, which if history has shown us, has been death to this organization.



HAPPY THANKSGIVING, TRUMP LOVERS

Hey, it's American Thanksgiving. Which for Canadians, means little except for Thursday afternoons filled with unwatchable American football. But let's not be cynical. In tribute to our friends south of the border, and given the celebration, we present this oldie but goodie:


Anyway, turkey killings aside, we do have hockey to watch, and tonight the Habs take on the red-hot ... Carolina Hurricanes? Yup. Believe it or not, the 'Canes are playing some pretty fine hockey, winners of 5 straight (one of those 5 a win over the Habs last week in Carolina). So first, let's get the lines out.

Habs first:

Byron/Galchenyuk/Radulov
Pacioretty/Plekanec/Gallagher
Danault/Mitchell/Shaw
Hudon/Desharnais/Terry

Weber/Emelin
Markov/Petry
Barberio/Pateryn

Carey Price

Noteworthy is that tonight's game will be the first of the season for Mark Baberio, who was called up yesterday after Joel Hanley, who played a week of dreadful defence, was sent back down to the isolated iceberg also known as Newfoundland. Also noteworthy is the latest on the health of Nathan Beaulieu, who took a puck to the neck Tuesday night. He was released from hospital yesterday, but there's no timetable for return - which means he's likely out for awhile.

Alright, how about those 'Canes?

Skinner/Staal/Aho
Teravainen/Rask/Lindholm
Stalberg/Ryan/Stempniak
Nordstrong/McClement/McGinn

Gainsay/Faulk
Slavin/Pesce
Hannifin/Tennyson

Cam Ward

Things to watch out for - the 'Canes PK has been running at an insanely with 92% kill rate, which is the best in the League, but likely due for some correction. Meanwhile, Cam Ward is quietly having one of his better career seasons, with a save percentage this month that'a actually better than Carey Price.

Meanwhile, the Habs will be hoping that three of its key forwards, which just so happen to all play together on the same line, will finally start producing actual goals. Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher have had poor starts to their season, combined they've scored just 18 point combined since October 22nd, which works out to a meager 1.12 PPG combined, a production level that can be basically summed up in one word: atrocious.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40, EST.



WEDNESDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

Let's see ... there's a little bit of player movement and other assorted shenanigans happening today:

- Joel Hanley, who barely, just barely played all of 7 minutes in Tuesday night's loss to the Ottawa Senators, was mercifully demoted to the neitherlands of Newfoundland this morning. Mark Barberio has been called up, and will play tomorrow night.

- Nathan Beaulieu, who took a nasty shot to the neck last night resulting in a stay at a local hospital, is okay, thank goodness. Beaulieu is out of the Habs lineup indefinitely.

- Also on the injury front, Michel Therrien said this morning that Artturi Lehkonen and Zach Redmond are close to rehabilitation from recent injuries, and that Brian Flynn is expected to be in game shape in about a week.

- ICYMI, Vegas unveiled their team name last night in what could only be aptly described as an example of how not to hold a high profile event. The NHL's newest team will be known as the Vegas Desert Golden Knights, a terrible, terrible name which will almost certainly change within 5 years (likely to just "Knights").

- We like to make fun of the Ottawa Senators on here and how terrible a team they are because they mainly consist of a roster made up of terrible human beings, but today we have a documented study that shows the Sens' fans are just as horrible. Why does Ottawa even have a team?? Ship 'em west to play in a place that actually appreciates hockey, like Saskatoon I SAY.

- Shenanigans!!! Habs MVP (not named Carey Price) Alex Radulov and the other Habs MVP (not named Carey Price and also with the same first name) Alex Galchenyuk had a little shoot off (sounds kinky, I know) contest at practice this morning. Guess who won? Why, Alex, of course.

More later.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Game 20: Sens vs. Habs

OTTAWA 4, MONTREAL 3

FIRST PERIOD LIVE BLOG THREAD:

- Well, we see Max Pacioretty now playing with Plekanec and Gallagher. At least he isn't having to deal with David Desharnais.

- Both teams appear to have their legs - both are working off some decent rest, so while goals might not come fast and furious, this might actually be an entertaining game.

- Byron streaks in alone off a nifty 4-on-4 passing play. Senators other weak spot is beyond the Karlsson pairing, there's not a lot there defensively. 

- Man, Habs should just try and aim for being one short, send Byron out there, and rack up some Grade-A scoring chances.

- Is there a whinier team in the NHL than the Ottawa Senators? It's been this way with them for years. Must be part of their culture.

- Joel Hanley, I'm assuming is a nice guy, but he just can't cut NHL speed. Habs need to just move on - there are other options - Redmond, Barbario, Pateryn. 

- Early returns on this Plekanec line are not promising. At some point, Therrien, if he's trying to spark some scoring from Pacioetty, is going to need to pair him next to Galchenyuk.

- Speaking of, and on the other side of the coin, the Galchenyuk line is flying tonight, so far responsibly for pretty much all of the Habs high danger scoring chances.

- Yeah, the Sens are not a very good team shooting the puck, if this first period is any indicator. They're doing "okay" generating shot attempts, but far too many are missing the mark. 

- Brendan Gallagher hits the crossbar. An the eternal struggle to find a goal, any sort of goal, from any direction, in any way, continues.

- Poorly played period of hockey, offensively both teams did a pretty poor job passing, defensively, lots of blown assignments and poor positional play generating far too many breaks (which weren't converted). Galchenyuk line was strong, Plekaenc line was not. Sens' Pageau line had its moments, but like Gallagher, they're struggling to finish plays. Also of interest, the Phaneuf/Ceci pairing was pretty much abysmal - if the Habs bench is paying attention, they'll match Galchanyuk against them each and every opportunity that's presented.


SECOND PERIOD LIVE BLOG THREAD:

- Habs and Sens after 20 minutes, Habs Corsi almost 70%, which is as good a sign as any why this Senators team is kind of terrible at scoring goals:


- Joel Hanley got 2 shifts, grand total of 2:05 playing time in the 1st period. Why bother putting your 6th defenseman in the lineup if you're essentially not even going to play him? Search me. But the Habs, whatever their rationale, are racking up unnecessary ice times on their blue line, specifically the wildly overplayed Markov, who's having a great season so far, but at 25+ minutes a game, it's going to take a toll as the season progresses.

- Another powerplay goal for Weber, his 7th of the season on the man advantage. Just to rub it in a little, the Sens have 5. As a team. Ouch.

- Ottawa just can't deal with Montreal puck possession, getting nailed for hooks and trips, giving Habs powerplay opportunities left and right.

- Weber scores on the powerplay, makes terrible giveaways on the powerplay. Sometimes you just gotta take the bad with the good. 

- Hoffman for the Sens on the powerplay, after Emelin makes a pretty lacklustre puck clearing attempt under zero pressure. Tie game.

- Still think Emelin is a terrible option on the PK - out there because he "hits", which is not what you want anybody to be doing killing a penalty 

- Incredible effort and goal by Radulov, basically handling the puck past all 5 Sens players, driving the net, and scoring off his own rebound. He's (in my mind at least) the Habs best player this season not named Carey Price:


- Pretty dreadful night for the Desharnais line - down a ton in possession, all while the rest of the Habs lineup are dominating. You're telling me having DD play is a better option than someone like Charles Hudon, I'm going to beg to differ.

- Weird goal for Sens Derick Brassard, tucking in a puck that's revealed to be a goal only after it's caught by NHL control in Toronto. Tie game again.

- Habs might be getting another PDO comeuppance tonight - pretty much dominating either end of the sheet, but no ahead on the scoreboard. 

- Chris Neil. Idiot extraordinaire. 

- Nathan Beaulieu took a pretty hard wrist shot to the face earlier in the period, and is now done for the night. With Hanley essentially not being played, Habs now down to four defense. 

- Habs getting Habbed again tonight, dominating the game, but even on the scoreboard. With Beaulieu out and Hanley not being played at all, it sets up a difficult 3rd period for the Habs, who ought be winning this game handily, but because of some questionable lineup and deployment decisions, are facing an uphill battle in the 3rd period.


THIRD PERIOD LIVE BLOG THREAD:

- Habs winning the game as far as fancy stats are concerned. But those don't always equal 2 points in the standings:


- And this is noteworthy, we've been on about it all night long:

Markov (22:28)
Weber (18:47)
Petry (17:15)
Emelin (10:39)
Beaulieu (8:00)
Hanley (3:03)

Reminder, Beaulieu is out for the game, so unless the Habs are willing to start giving Hanley shifts, keeping in mind they scratched other players in order for him to play, then the Habs are going to try to go through the rest of this game with just 4 defensemen. 

- Holy crap, Habs just had a powerplay to end all powerplays. Radulov and Weber brilliant with the puck, and on his 3rd one-time try, Galchenyuk finally strikes. Absolutely brilliant man advantage right there.

- Sens flip puck in, Emelin does horrible job retrieving, puck is centred, Stone slams it home, and the Habs again cough up the lead. Also totally MIA on the play, Tomas Plekanec, who missed his mark. 

- Beaulieu was apparently rushed to the hospital. That's pretty horrible news. Hope everything is okay.

- Habs again do sloppy job clearing the puck from their zone, Hanley far out of position at the blue line, and Karklsson with a softie shot that Price somehow fails to pick up, and suddenly the Sens take the lead. The Habs PDO correction continues unabated. 

- Hanley gets a shift half way through the period, but really, the damage has already been done with ice allocations. Sens 4th goal could very much be attributed to a Habs defense that was bagged, because Therrien has been double shifting some of his players. 

- Habs really pushing the puck hard into the Ottawa zone, but aren't generating very many high quality scoring chances, at least not yet.

- Byron has had a pretty strong game, with at least three glorious scoring chances. Anderson just a little bit better.

- Plekanec line really good strong shift, he and Gallagher really pushing the crease looking for the loose puck, which Anderson, who's been really strong this period, barely manages to cover before it's fired in. So close.

- Pacioretty sprung loose for a break, Anderson makes the save (I'm sure much to Pacioretty's unbelievable drought frustration), and then takes a suspect goaltending interference penalty. Hard to tell for certain, but sure looked like he was (at least partly) tied up on the back check by Methot. Tough call.

- Nifty save by Anderson on Radulov backhander to keep the Sens ahead. Anderson the difference maker in this period, and really for that matter, the big reason why Ottawa is likely to win this game. 

- Montreal more or less peters out at the end, losing with much more of a whimper than a bang. Tough loss for the Habs, who outplayed the Sens, a team that for whatever reason, seems to have Montreal's number of late. Carey Price was good, but not great - which is kind of what we've come to know this Habs team to be - when Carey isn't great, the Habs are more likely to lose than win, which means that the team is likely fundamentally flawed. The scoring slumps for both Gallagher and Pacioretty continue, which is also concerning, because when they're not producing, it makes winning even more challenging. Habs big home stand is winding up before they hit the road for a huge, extended trip, where the losses might really start piling up, if some of these troubling issues aren't resolved, and quickly.



GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES

We have little bits and sorts of news and facts and stats and whatever else required to prep for tonight's game. Attention class, they are as follows:

- Charles Hudon. SCRATCHED. Sigh. Daniel Carr will get a start tonight. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

- Bobby Ryan. SCRATCHED (A kind reader has pointed out to me that Ryan is injured - so never mind HIS lack of scoring. The same criticism of the Sens, however, still applies). Woah, what's happened with Ryan? It was just a few years ago that Ryan was a premier goal scorer in the NHL, and now he's being removed from the lineup? I suppose this is a bottom-line issue, since Ryan has only scored 3 times in 17 games for the Senators, which brings us to the next important point:

- Here are the November results for Ottawa, which this month, have posted an "ok" 5-4-1 record:

Ottawa 2, Carolina 1 (OT)
Ottawa 1, Vancouver 0
Ottawa 1, Buffalo 2
Ottawa 1, Minnesota 2 (OT)
Ottawa 3, Philadelphia 2 (SO)
Ottawa 1, Nashville 5
Ottawa 1, Florida 4

Spot the trend? In case you hadn't, I'll spell it out that you're not going to win very many games when you're averaging 1.1 GP60. So while head coach Guy Boucher might feel inclined to send messaged to Ryan that he expects better production, Ryan is not the problem in Ottawa. Their problem is systematic:

- CF (5v5): 48.7% (22nd)
- GF60: 1.65 (28th)
- SF60: 31.2 (4th)

WHOOP. Hold on there. 4th overall in shots taken, and 28th overall in goal production? I think we've found our problem.

SH%: 5.31 (29th).

Against a Carey Price, this lack of deliverance will not favour the Sens tonight.

- Senators lineup tonight:

Dzingel/Turris/Pyatt
Smith/Pageau/Stone
Hoffman/Brassard/Kelly
McCorminck/Lazar/Neil

Methot/Karlsson
Phaneuf/Ceci

Borowiecki/Wideman

Craig Anderson

- Here's a cool stat to wrap your mind around about how badly the Senators are struggling in the goal-scoring department - Shea Weber has scored 6 goals this season for the Canadiens. The Ottawa Senators, as a team, have scored 5.

Speaking of defence, Joel Hanley will play 6th D tonight, in place of the scratched Greg Pateryn.

Puck drops at 6:40, EST.



MONDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

Hey, the Senators are in town! Relive their glorious Stanley Cup history - because they were winning a bunch of those back before the Titanic was being built (actually true). If you want to be all nit-picky and technical about it, the Senators, when they were a completely different franchise, last won the "championship of the world" way back in nineteen ought twenty and seven. The good ol' days!

Anyway, we have some Monday stuff for you, so get ready.

- Habs practice lines this morning - and just to let you know totally in advance, these were the actual lines:

Bryon/Galchenyuk/Radulov
Danault/Plekanec/Gallagher
Pacioretty/Mitchell/Shaw
Hudon/Desharnais/Terry

Lolz. Torrey Mitchell is centring one of the fastest, most productive scoring wingers the Habs have owned in a generation. Lolz.

Oh, but there's more. Oh yes my pretties, there is more:


Ah, pass-the-buck Therrien is back to his good'ol'ways again today. GEE COACH, THAT'S SUCH A PENETRATING OBSERVATION.  Your star winger isn't scoring. WHY DON'T YOU TRY GIVING HIM A CENTER WHO CAN SKATE MORE THAN 5 MPH, AND, YA' KNOW, STICK WITH IT?

So far this still short season, Pacioretty has been centred by Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Phillip Danault and now, Torrey-0.24-PP60-0.012-GP60-Mitchell.

Yeah, that'll get your problem solved. For sure.

Has Kirk Muller finished his french lessons yet?

More, later.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Game 19: Leafs vs. Habs


LIVE GAME STREAM:




LIVE GAME BLOG THIRD PERIOD:

- Remember last year, when Michel Therrien drove many a Habs fan insane by constantly deploying players who weren't performing more than he was deploying the players that were contributing most? Well, take a lookie here after 40 minutes:

CF (5v5)
Shaw (36.4%) - 10:52
Pacioretty (44.4%) - 11:05
Danault 62.5% - (8:29)
Gallagher 66.7% - (9:30)

Spot the pattern?

- Joel Hanley is not having the night he needed or hoped for to make the case that he should stick with the big team as the 6th defenseman. Will Barbario get the next shot?

- Alex Galchenyuk has been doing all that centre is supposed to do, and more, scoring in 15 of 18 games this season. But he needs to get off the setup train, and be willing to shoot the puck when the opportunity arises. There's selfless, and then there's smart.

- Leafs defence much more involved this period, pushing the puck deeper than they were able to the first two periods. It's generating more puck possession events in the Habs zone, which is not a thing you want if you're holding just a one goal lead.

- 10 minutes left, it's a nasty storm brewing, with the Leafs being more aggressive in Montreal's zone, and the Canadiens being much more defensively passive. Makes for a very, very tenuous one-goal lead. Don't be surprised if Toronto manages to find the back of the net at least once more before the final siren is played.

- 8 minutes left, a thought occurs - maybe the Habs' legs are just giving out, since they played last night, took a late plane back to Montreal. That could be the factor.

- Joel Hanley loses a foot race and an icing, because of hustle. Leafs very nearly score on the resulting blow play. This will not help him earn a spot back in the lineup any time soon.

- Matt Martin with uber-ugly and dangerous blindside board on Beaulieu. This is the kind of play that should be 5 + game. One day the League will (hopefully) wake up and make it so:
- Hudon nailed with a questionable interference penalty with just under 4 minutes left. Hang on to your hats, Leafs might tie this thing up after all.

- Habs do a pretty good job killing the penalty, Andersen out of the goal. Now it's hang on for your lives.

- Therrien burns his timeout, for reasons that can only be described as puzzling ...

- Empty net, maybe Gallagher can end his drought??

- Habs hang on, barely. Leafs with a very good 3rd period where they totally outplayed their opponent, but it isn't quite enough. At least the losing streak is stopped at a manageable 3 games, but the Habs will still need to sharpen their efforts in the coming week, and clamp down on not making the same avoidable mistakes committed tonight. The Leafs, with all that talented youth, are still not a very good team, so positivity from tonight's win is reserved.


LIVE GAME BLOG SECOND PERIOD:

- Habs and Leafs after 20 minutes, with Canadiens SA CF (5v5) at 62.1%:


- Did we mention enough how badly that first period went for the Leafs' Hunwick and Polak? If the Habs are paying attention, they're matching up the speed of the Galchenyuk line against Toronto's more glaring defensive weakness tonight.

- More poor defensive play by the Leafs around Andersen, they barely escape as Emelin fails to put the puck into a pretty much gaping net. Bozak gets a penalty, Habs to the powerplay.

- Takes Habs 4 seconds to score on the powerplay, another sweet pass by Radulov on the tape to Galchenyuk who, unlike Emelin moments earlier, does not fail to miss open nets. 2-0.

- Leafs with a nice push here, but they have another problem: Carey Price.

- Not an hyperbole here - I cannot think off hand of any Habs in recent memory who passes the puck as efficiently and accurately as Radulov has demonstrated this season. Maybe Saku Koivu? It's pretty heightened company.

- Bad holding penalty by Pacioretty. Hockey can switch on dime, which means it's critical that avoidable mistakes are avoided.

- Carey Price is simply brilliant handling the puck - so much so it's almost not a PK when it's a PK.

- Nylander scores off a failed Price poke check, and Pacioretty's dumb penalty hurts the Habs, losing half their lead in an instant.

- Pacioretty stupidity has a two-fold effect. First, Leafs score, and second, they generate momentum that up until that dumb hold, they didn't possess.

- Radulov - an incredible season so far. A game-changing player. Having a monster game tonight. When he's not making perfect passes, he's hustling back to break up the Leafs transition. This Habs team is unquestionably completely different, for the better, with him in the lineup.

- Credit where it's due, Emelin takes a puck to the face off a point shot, goes to the bench, refuses assistance. Won't miss a shift. That's pretty hockey tough.

- More even period, largely because Habs, who were controlling this game, made too many avoidable mistakes, the most glaring was Pacioretty's holding penalty which lead to a Leafs PP goal, and gave Toronto desperately needed momentum. Then Danault with a bad hooking call in the offensive zone. These are easily avoidable plays. So here we have a game that the Habs ought be comfortably ahead, but instead, find themselves ahead one tenuous goal. Not good.


LIVE GAME BLOG FIRST PERIOD:

- From 4th liner to healthy scratch and then all the way to 2nd line centre, I have no idea how David Desharnais manages to defy the laws of hockey gravity, but that's where he's playing tonight, with Pacioretty and Shaw on his wings.

- Radulov is confirmed to start, so the Habs lines will be as thusly:

Bryon/Galchenyuk/Radulov
Pacioretty/Desharnais/Shaw
Hudon/Plekanec/Gallagher
Danault/Mitchell/Terry

Daniel Carr is the healthy scratch, to make way for Radulov.

- As we boldly predicted last night, Greg Pateryn will be a healthy scratch, which means Joel Hanley slots back into the lineup. He'll pair up with Nathan Beaulieu.

- Ah, Saturday night Leafs and Habs hockey, we can't get enough of you. Really nice hard, fast start to this game.

- A return to sanity? Habs first powerplay line, Galchenyuk/Radulov/Gallagher.

- Pretty good first attempt, Habs puck movement was good, but that's in large part because the Leafs defence is so green. They're struggling to keep up with the speed.

- And Chris Terry draws a hooking penalty, in large part because Leafs defence can't react quickly enough as Terry carries the zone. Habs right back on the powerplay.

- Torrey Mitchell just got a shot on goal. So what, you might ask? It's his first registered shot since early November.

- 2nd powerplay a bit of a mess, mainly because Habs were very poor simply gaining the Leafs zone. That's a sure sign the unit is heading into a funk.

- Anderson can't handle a Weber bomb from the point, which one can fully understand and sympathize with, Byron tucks in the big rebound. Habs rewarded for having held the bulk of opportunities this period.

- Habs getting back to a better formula this period - more bodies to the net, working to expose the mostly inexperienced Leafs defence. If Andersen gives up more rebounds, there could be more good scoring chances ahead for the Habs tonight.

- Leafs weak link defensively is clearly Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak. They're getting roughshod by speedy Habs attack.

- Considering this is the 2nd of back-to-back for the Habs, that was a pretty good period - perhaps aided by the Leafs defence. Regardless, Habs controlled much of the period's tempo, pushed the net, and used their speed much more effectively than they did earlier this week against the 'Canes and Panthers.


GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' GAME PREVIEW:

- Habs announced this morning that Sven Andrighetto has been banished back to the rock that passes for Newfoundland. That means 1) Charles Hudon impressed enough last night to keep from being banished himself again, 2) Alexander Radulov is probably gonna play tonight.

- Lines, lines, lines. We got lines for tonight's game. First, da Leafs:

Komarov/Kadri/Nylander
van Riemsdyk/Bozak/Marner
Hyman/Matthews/Brown

Martin/Smith/Soshnikov

Rielly/Zaitsev
Hunwick/Polak
Gardiner/Carrick

Frederik Andersen

And over in Habsland - we're not sure, tbh. Radulov isn't confirmed at the time of this posting, so the final forward lines are a total guesswork.

- Here's a nice little bit of CF% from last night's losing game against the 'Canes:

Galchenyuk, Alex: 65.9
Gallagher, Brendan: 67.7
Byron, Paul: 58.1
Shaw, Andrew: 53.6

So, who got the most ice time?

1. Shaw, Andrew: (19:45)
3. Galchenyuk, Alex: (16:38)
6. Gallagher, Brendan: (15:03)
7. Byron, Paul: (14:50).

Folks, those are poor deployment choices.

- Okay, it's mid-November, which means we're well overdue to REV UP THE EXCUSE MACHINE:
HAHAHA ... Michel Therrien is complaining about puck luck. HAHAHAHA ...


Yeah, the Canes scored a couple of nifty goals off some pretty crazy deflections, and yeah, Al Montoya let in a softy that proved to be the game winner, but really now - you're complaining about the lack of breaks? YOUR TEAM'S WINNING RECORD HAS DEPENDED ALMOST ENTIRELY ON THEM.

- Okay, other side of the ice, hey remember that first round pick that media, which just so happened to all be located in the centre of the universe better known as the Greater Toronto Area, were falling all over themselves in hailing as hockey's second coming?

Remember that guy? Austin .. somebody or the other. YEAH. THAT GUY.

He hasn't scored in a month.

- Andrew Hammond. Remember him? He was riding the wave less than two years ago, leading the Ottawa Senators' charge against the Habs in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Anywho, Sens waived him this afternoon.

- Puck drops tonight at 7:10 EST. Special note: refs are wearing head cams!!!

- UPDATE: With just over 2 hours before puck drop, Radulov is not confirmed to start. Apparently he'll be a game-time decision. So lineups still pretty much impossible to determine in advance.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Game 18: Habs vs. Canes




Carolina 3, Montreal 2:

FIRST PERIOD:

- Hudon in the lineup!!! Good news. Andrighetto out. Hmm ... not so good news. Desharnais in. Yeah, what can ya do?

- Fast paced start to the game, very few whistles. Could be fun to watch.

- Wow, Jeff Skinner. Did everything right, putting Montoya on his belly (tsk, bad form), but somehow failed to flip the puck into the empty net. 

- Puck luck is not strong with this 'Canes team - 24th overall PDO, mainly because of below average shooting percentage, and sub-par goaltending. 

- Definite Weber weakness, he's slow on his feet, and gets nailed for slash because he fails to reach quickly enough to Lindholm driving the net. 

- Carolina has defect powerplay, 12th ranked this season, but you wouldn't know that from that first man advantage. Habs doing pretty decent job containing Canes in the D zone - passing lanes to high danger zones have been well protected. 

- Gallagher does not look like a confident player right now - definitely goal weary, it being nearly a month (October 24th) since he last scored a goal. He'll need to get something greasy to break this drought. 

- Markov now with Weber. Not sure why of the shakeup. Possibly an injury or benching (Pateryn?)

- Pretty even period of hockey, both teams not really putting together very many good scoring opportunities - 'Canes with a couple, Habs were pretty passive. Pretty good period for the Galchenyuk line - they had some very strong shifts. Not such a great period for the Danault line - they struggled to gain puck possession. 


SECOND PERIOD:

- That opening period, which had a sprite start, really ground itself down as the 20 minutes progressed. Scoring chances were pretty limited:


- Habs first powerplay, they buzzed Cam Ward, but couldn't finish - in particular Beaulieu, who somehow missed scoring from 10 feet away with the top half of the net basically free for the picking. He's struggling, and Gallagher is struggling. These funks are clearly getting in the heads of both players.

- Greg Pateryn, unless he's hurt and his time is being limited, seems to have arrived in Therrien's doghouse. Joel Henley, start warming up your skates. You might be going back in tomorrow night.

- A Habs team with a Gallagher and Max Pacioretty producing points is a very hard team to beat. A Habs team with those two producing almost 0 points is very hard not to beat.

- Hudon hasn't had many opportunities tonight, but he just had a very good shift, including a very hard wrist shot on his off wing that tested Cam Ward. At least the kid is producing some scoring chances. Others on his team are failing even that bar pretty miserably tonight.

- Habs continues their strong play - in their own zone. 34 minutes into the game, 'Canes have just 6 shots on Montoya. Canadiens doing very good job shot blocking and covering the passing lanes.

- Controvery. Petry scores into essentially empty net after Daniel Carr runs into Ward, with Ward falling on his back. Replay shows that Carr was hit into Ward, although was it hard enough?? Close call:


- Good goal, says NHL control in Toronto. Habs take 1-0 lead. Hudon (!!!) picks up an assist. 

- Looks like Pateryn getting very minimal shifts. Weber paired with Beaulieu, as Therrien switching pairs up to even out ice time to his defence with Pateryn stapled to the bench.

- Andrei Markov, par excellence tonight. 

- Pretty Habs dominated 2nd period - excellent defensively, and while the offence isn't exactly running on all cylinders, they did manage to crank out a goal. Just 4 shots for the 'Canes in that period, Habs lead 21-8 all. That's pretty one-sided.


THIRD PERIOD:

- Habs pretty good effort tonight, CF (SA 5v5) over 60% through 40 minutes. The Galchenyuk line has been excellent, with Alex a 85.7%, Gallagher 84.2%. Better than excellent. That's outstanding.


- Definitely better start for Canes in this 3rd period, and they tie the game with Hainsey a wrist shot that goes off Skinner's foot. Sure looked like a kicking motion to me, but it's ruled a good goal. Tie game.

- Not sure if it's Carolina making a push, or Habs not showing up for the period, or a combination of the two, but 'Canes dominating first 5 minutes of this 3rd period. Most of the play has been entirely in Habs zone.

- Habs with a little pushback here, which isn't a big surprise. That it came from the Mitchell line, is. 

- It's all coming undone for the Habs, here. Replay of their first goal, Hainsey a point wrist shot, crazy skill deflection past Montoya, this time it's Teravainen with an incredible deflect, and it's 2-1.

- Tres implosión, Rask a very simple wrister that Montoya totally muffs, and in the span of less than 5 minutes, Carolina scores 3. 

- Therrien, realizing these are not good times requiring urgent measures, finally caves and puts out a superfine - Galchenyuk/Gallagher/Pacioretty. They come within 2 inches of scoring. Gotta roll the dice, at this point.

- Obviously Habs were due for a correction - three losses in a row is a sure sign this team has begun its return to earth, not to mention with it, the puck luck. Tonight Carolina reaping that benefit.

- Now Therrien pairing Pacioretty with ... ugh ... Desharnais. Yup. He never learns. 

- Another hard wrist shot by Hudon off the wing - Ward forced to make another good glove save. 

- Habs make it interesting, Markov shot deflected by Shaw to make it 3-2. More than 4 minutes left. Plenty of time.

- Habs pouring it on. Gallagher hits the goalpost (unbelievable), Ward with a sparkling desperation save off Markov, who's been outstanding tonight. Hang on to your hats.

- Habs pushing incredibly hard for the tie, all ended with an absolutely brutal hooking call on Shaw to end the game.

- Stop me if you don't want to think about last year, but Habs dominate puck possession, shots, zone play, have to incredibly fluky goals scored against them, one bad goal let in, and lose the game. Nightmares? I'm having them already.



HABS - 'CANES GAMEDAY GAME PREVIEW

Don't look now, but the Montreal Canadiens are in some injury trouble. They've been without Brian Flynn for a week, which no offence to Brian or the Flynn family, isn't a very big deal when you're talking about someone that barely cracks the 4th line of an average NHL team. Since then, however, the Habs have had to add a few more names to the sick and wounded ledger, including Alexander Radulov, who's out again tonight from the flu (thanks, Carey), and of course, Artturi Lehkonen, who's been on injury reserve with an upper body injury, and isn't expected back until at least next week, at the earliest.

So with all of these missing bodies, the Habs lineup will look tonight much like it did Tuesday night in an overtime loss to the Florida Panthers:

Bryon/Galchenyuk/Gallagher
Pacioretty/Danault/Shaw
Desharnais/Plekanec/Terry
Carr/Mitchell/Andrighetto

Weber/Emelin
Markov/Petry
Beaulieu/Pateryn

Al Montoya.

Now, I don't want to make a huge deal out of this, but with Radulov, Lehkonen and Flynn unable to play, this seems like a perfect opportunity to give Charles Hudon, who was leading the AHL in scoring before his call up a couple of days ago, the perfect opportunity to slot at the expenses of say, Desharnais or Chris Terry. Hudon, however, will have to sit and wait and hope that his number somehow comes up, so that he might once and for all prove he's ready for the big club.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the rink, the 'Canes will stack up like this tonight:

Skinner/Rask/Lindholm
Teravainen/Staal/Aho
Stempniak/Ryan/McGinn
Nordstrom/McClement/Stalberg

Hainsey/Faulk
Slavin/Pesce
Hanifin/Tennyson

Cam Ward.

Carolina made some unfortunate news this week, specifically forward Bryan Bickell, when it was revealed that Bickell had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and is now on long-term IR. 

Otherwise, the 'Canes are currently on a 2 game wining streak, both impressive victories over good teams, the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals. So like Tuesday night struggle against the Panthers, the Habs might have their hands full against Carolina.

Carolina players to keep an eye on: Cam Ward, who did post a nifty 1-0 shutout against the Sharks Tuesday night, hasn't exactly stormed out of the gate this year between the pipes - mustering up a 4-4-3 record with a 2.51/.908 split, which amongst goalies that have had at least 10 starts this season, ranks Ward 15th/19th out of 30 in the NHL. Ward is, as he has always been, reliably mediocre. If Ward is off his mark tonight, it could give the Habs a window of opportunity.

The other Carolina factor is their speedy second line consisting of Jordan Stall, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Stall, in particular, is having an excellent season, posting a team-high (and nearly League high) 5v5 CF of 65.8%, which is the best of career. The Staal line, in combination with the Rask line, should give the Canadiens defence and their starting goaltender Al Montoya, plenty of headaches to deal with tonight.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.



HE'S BAAAAAAACK. FINALLY. 



I mean, com'on. This was long, long overdue.



GOD BLESS YOU KIRK MULLER FOR EVEN JUST TRYING



I still say he's auditioning for the top bench job. Keep working on it, Kirk!!

Meanwhile, in case you were pining for the good ol' days of the 2015-16 season, we have good news for you from Tuesday night's game!


Mmmmm yeah .... that's the stuff. Give me more of that sweet, sweet David Desharnais top line deployment. I can almost see that Cup presentation.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Game 17: Panthers vs. Habs


Florida 4, Montreal 3 (OT)

FIRST PERIOD:

- Habs make line adjustments, with questionable results:

Byron/Galchenyuk/Gallagher
Pacioretty/Danault/Shaw
Andrighetto/Plekanec/Desharnais
Carr/Mitchell/Terry

Emelin/Weber
Markov/Petry
Beaulieu/Pateryn

Soooooo ... yeah. Danault has unquestionably been a very positive surprise for the Habs this season, but he doesn't have the speed required to make someone like Max Pacioretty productive again. That's just a poor deployment decision. Also, Desharnais on the 3rd line wing - that he's even in the lineup is a questionable decision, never mind that he's hardly the solution to Tomas Plekanec's big scoring problems.

- Scoring problems extend well beyond Plekanec, of course. Gallagher hasn't scored in 10 games, Pacioretty has only 2 goals the entire season.

- Weak hooking call on Jagr gives Habs early powerplay. Therrien sends out Chris Terry to start the man advantage.

- And there, finally, is a goa for Max Pacioretty - classic Max, he picks the top corner with a ferocious snapshot, and Habs grab 1-0 lead off the powerplay. Max tends to score in bunches, so that might not be the only time we hear from him tonight.

- Poof goes the lead, as Danault makes bad hockey mistake of trying to clear his zone by blinding firing the puck up the middle, it's picked off by Petrovic, who fires a shot likely screened, past Price.

- Kind of the issue with Danault - he often doesn't make the best decisions under pressure - not really the kind of guy you want centring wingers who are struggling to score. Danault's big improvement this year has been positioning - he's putting himself in places to produce scoring. But he's not a quick on his feet thinking type of player.

- Two Habs powerplays, two questionable deployments by Therrien - first powerplay sending out Chris Terry to start the man advantage - 2nd man advantage sending out Desharnais. Both players produce underwhelming results.

- One think is fast coming clear - this Habs team is not nearly as dangerous without Alexander Radulov in the lineup.

- Kyle Rau scores to give Panthers 2-1 lead. Totally unchecked in front, because Byron, who's not a first line winger, but is playing on Habs first line, loses his assignment. It might be presumptuous to draw conclusions, but this Habs team, sans Radulov, ain't nearly the same.


- That as a very bad, no good terribly awful bad bad bad ick ew yuck 20 minutes of hockey by this Habs team, certainly one of their worst all season. The line combinations Therrien has chosen are clearly not working - in particular the Andrighetto/Plekanec/Desharnais line, which was more or less a disaster in that period. Paul Byron also struggled, which should surprise no-one since he's not a first line winger, and never will be a first line winger. In any case, whatever "gameplay" Therrien devised heading into tonight's game is an awful one - some serious adjustments must be made or the Panthers are going to waltz their way to victory.


SECOND PERIOD:

- How bad was that first period of hockey by the Habs?? This bad:


A 29% corsi, and 22% (!!!) fenwick. Yeah. That was bad, bad, bad, bad.

- Desharnais scored? Well, that's not part of the adjustment plan. Markov doing the hard work, though - winning the puck in the corner and making a sweet pass to wide open Desharnais, who beats Luongo top corner. Tie game.

- Roberto Luengo, whose best days are long passed, can still catch a 95 mph puck pretty damn well.

- 8 minutes gone, 2nd period markedly better than the 1st for the Habs - puck possession numbers are beginning to level up a bit.

- Habs dominated first 11 minutes of the period, but since then, Canadiens defence has been guilty of many very sloppy plays with the puck and positioning, giving the Panthers some golden scoring opportunities, stopped only by the usual Price heroics. This has not been a stelar night for the Habs blue line.

- Luongo one big reason why the Panthers aren't trailing right now. Also, Tomas Plekanec continuing to struggle through an atrocious start to his season isn't helping much.

- Hrm, this is concerning. Malgin with a totally routine wrist shot from 45 feet from the off wing that Price fails to even react to with the left pad, and the Panthers are gifted a 3-2 lead. Been a very long time since I've seen Price give up such a soft goal - and it makes me wonder if he's feeling 100%.

- Big rebound period for the Habs fails to pay off on the scoreboard, as goaltending weighs in - although not the way you'd expect it to, with Luongo making many very good saves to keep the Habs from grabbing the lead, while Carey Price lets in an unbelievable softie. Net result, Habs fail to make up any ground headed to the 3rd period.

THIRD PERIOD:

- Pretty good 2nd for the Habs, shame they couldn't make up any difference on the scoreboard:


- Now it's Luongo's turn to make a bad play, Gallagher with a soft shot from along the boards is misplayed by the Panther's netminder, Byron puts home the loose puck to tie the game. Both netminders with some mental letdowns tonight, perhaps wise to just get the puck on net whenever the opportunity arises.

- Yandle suckers the refs into calling Chris Terry for a phantom high stick - he might get a nice little fine from the NHL later this week for the fake.

- So, 10 minutes left, game up for grabs. Not a lot of intensity between these two teams, both teams being rather cautious with the puck, taking few, if any chances, while attacking.

- 8 minutes left, it's been a pretty solid period of hockey by the Habs - they've firmly gained an edge in possession and shot attempts, Price has had little to deal with this period - Canadiens again need some support from players who are overdue (Brendan are you listening?) to maybe get 2 points out of the night after all.

- This has not been a great night for Petry - specifically forwarding the puck to his forwards. Passes have been elected, or just plain off the mark. It's resulted in far too many neutral zone turnovers that should actually be easy Habs zone entries.

- Another strong period for the Habs, good enough to earn them the tying goal and at least a point in the standings.


OVERTIME:

- Habs and Panthers after 60 minutes. Really has been mostly Habs since start of the 2nd period:



- Oy, Jeff Petry. This is not your night. Best to just keep him off the ice, especially in OT.

- Bad breaks for the Habs, as Galchenyuk's stick breaks while the Panthers control the puck in Habs zone, thereby giving them essentially a 3-on-2. Galchenyuk gambles, scurries to the bench, and in the meantime, Ekblad scores the winner on a shot that Beaulieu slightly redeflects, and the Habs home winning streak comes to an end, as does Carey Price's quest to tie a club record for consecutive wins. We said the Habs could have their hands full in the pregame, and that turned out to be the case, even though on the whole, the Canadiens were the better team tonight. That's hockey for you. Good breaks and (literally) bad breaks.


GAMEDAY GAME PREVIEW:

Jaromir Jagr is in the building!! Everything is wonderful again!! Let's put up some stats comparisons to give you an idea that the Habs are going to be facing a pretty decent opponent tonight:

CF% (5v5):
Montreal 48.8 (22nd)
Florida 53.0 (5th)

SF60:
Montreal 29.2 (14th)
Florida 29.9 (11th)

SA60:
Montreal 32.7 (28th)
Florida 28.3 (10th)

PDO: 
Montreal 104.6 (3rd)
Florida 98.7 (21st)

PP/PK:
Montreal 22.9 (7th)/81.3 (18th)
Florida 16.7 (19th)/82.2 (15th)

So if you were a gambling man, who'd you put money on tonight? Carey Price is, of course, starting - but still, significant underlaying numbers give the Panthers an edge in just about every category. But yeah, goaltending - Price's line (10-0-0 .957/1.40) versus Roberto Luongo's (5-5-0 .916/2.30) is pretty lopsided, but still, with Alexander Radulov out of the lineup tonight due to injury, don't be surprised if Florida gives the Habs all they can handle, and stop Price in his quest to make Canadiens goaltending history by tying an 89 year old record currently held by Geroge Hainsworth for most consecutive wins.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40, EST.



GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:

A few kitty-sized morsels:

- Alexander Radulov will not be playing tonight because he's caught the flu. THANKS CAREY. Habs have recalled forward Chris Terry, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes, who was a free agent pickup this summer.

- Greg Pateryn will play tonight, meaning Joel Hanley will be scratched.

- Even though Radulov's absence kind of throws a wrench into the Habs lines, and even though Max Pacioretty is mired waist-deep in a scoring slump, we have this from John Lu:


- Habs 4th liner Brian Flynn is still out with an upper body injury. No timetable on his return.

- Meanwhile, the Panthers will play Seth Griffith tonight. Griffith, who formerly played with the Toronto Maple Leafs as recently as 4 days ago, was claimed off waivers by the Panthers on Saturday.

- We get to see Jaromir Jagr play. Yay!!

Game preview in a bit.