Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Game 38: Habs vs. Preds

Montreal 2, Nashville 1 (OT):


- Apparently Max Pacioretty is okay, and will be playing tonight.

- So with Pacioretty starting, Habs lines will be:



Carey Price

- Here's the Preds lineup:



Pekka Rinne


- If I were a Preds fan, I'd boo too every time Radulov touches the puck - at the Nashville front office for their decision to walk away from him.

- Nice little video tribute to Shea Weber during a commercial break, Weber looking pretty emotional.

- It's been a pretty good start for the Habs, they're doing a better job pressuring the puck, also getting good speed carrying the play through the neutral zone.

- Habs are going kinda crazy with shot attempts from the right side so far tonight:

- Habs might have possession edge, but the Preds have had the much tougher shots on Price, who's made at least 3 big-time saves to keep the Preds off the board.

- Ryan Johnston is doing what he's able, but just isn't NHL-calibre. Too many little mistake - passes slightly off the mark, shot selection unwise, not keeping his head up in his own zone - isolated they're not big errors, but the totality of mistakes does add up and takes its toll over a 60 minute game.

- I mean, the only reason Johnston is playing is because Markov and Pateryn are injured. So a relatively healthy Habs lineup, he has little or no hope of making a lineup.

- Solid first period for the road Habs, did a nice job feeding the puck to the offence, the Pacioretty late period breakaway a good example. Quite simply appears as though the Habs have more legs tonight than their opponents. One failing - quality of shots on Rinne wasn't fantastic, more bodies need to be driving the Preds net if the Canadiens hope to light the red lamp.


- Habs with pretty good period, possession-wise, 67.7% CF (5v5):

- Preds clearly super concerned with Weber on the line during a Habs powerplay, which is opening up all kinda of open passing lane ice. Canadiens would be wise to exploit them with any future man advantages.

- Habs again the better team tonight - they've soundly outplayed their opponents most nights for well over a month, which has seen their possession stats rise to a top-5 position in the League, but they're still giving up too many high danger shot attempts - Price has had to make quite a few difficult stops so far, certainly many more so than Rinne (who's also been very good).

- Nashville has made a pretty significant adjustment this period - much more aggressive forecheck in the neutral zone, generating some juicy turnovers and odd-man rushes. Price really upping his game tonight because he's needed to.

- Nathan Beaulieu needs to tighten up his game in his own zone, simply because he shouldn't be making the same mistakes this year that you'd expect from someone just breaking into the League.

- Halfway through the 2nd period, Alex Radulov is +15 Corsi, which is all kinds of incredibly good.

- Habs 3rd powerplay, 2nd wave Therrien sends out McCarron line, which predictably, was a poor decision resulting in nearly zero attempts on goal. Therrien often treats powerplays like they're infinite - when in reality, they're rarities that need to be treated as such. Put out your best guys for 2 minutes or less. It ain't complicated.

- One way Petry has really advanced his game this year is carrying the play deep into the opponent's zone - which has made him a real offensive threat, and has bolstered the Habs 5v5 play, which has been among the League's best this season. Petry is playing with tremendous poise and confidence, really stepping up his game since Markov's injury.

- Nathan Beaulieu with a terrible pinch from the line which springs a 2-on-0 break on Price. Beaulieu is no longer a rookie - he can't continue to make these bad decisions and hope to retain the confidence of his coach.

- Tough night for Beaulieu continues, as he own-goals a harmless Fiala backhander behind Price.

- Puck luck definitely not on Habs side tonight - they've dominated most of the night, a mad scramble at the end of the 2nd with a wide open net that the Habs somehow can't convert, symptomatic of the problem. Another night where the Canadiens are outworking, outskating and out-posssessiong on the ice, but struggling to get leads on the scoreboard, perhaps a symptomatic side-effect from the Habs losing some of their better players to injury.


- Habs dominating tonight, 67% CF (5v5). Shea Weber is playing out of his goddamned mind - 95.0% CF ... yes, 95%, through 40 minutes, while at even strength. Incredible.

- Still remain cautiously optimistic for the Habs in this game, they've outplayed the Preds, Price has been great, just a single lousy bad break has put them down on the scoreboard.

- Torrey Mitchell makes a very nice play keeping the puck in the Preds zone, and seconds later, Radulov with a sweet pass on the tape to Weber, who beats Rinne top corner to tie the game. My optimism is rewarded, as are the Habs who tie the game.
- While Weber has been fantastic tonight, Radulov hasn't been much worse - he's certainly someone who richly deserves to be rewarded with a goal - maybe a game winner?

- Preds 2nd line, the Fisher line, really struggling tonight - getting badly outskated and outshot.

- Tomas Plekanec really struggling tonight - his shot is pretty much atrocious, not that it was ever great even during his best years - it's just not fast or dangerous enough to challenge an average NHL goaltender. Upon Galchenyuk and Desharnais' return, don't be surprised if talk is ramped up about him being moved before the trade deadline.

- Mark Barberio won't be winning any shot accuracy contests anytime soon - and by soon, I mean anyone's lifetime.

- Habs justly getting at least 1 point out of a game they've mostly owned - with distinct advantage of play in each period. Radulov clearly wanting to put his mark on this night with a goal, and with OT on the way, maybe he really actually will score that game winner after all??


- Here's how the Habs stacked up through 3 periods, a very good road game effort:

- Habs had total possession of the puck the first 2:42 of OT - which is kind of remarkable. Couldn't generate any high grade scoring chances though.

- Radulov was screaming to come off the bench for OT, and was finally sent out with 2:20 left, and incredibly, stays on the ice the rest of the way, eventually making an unbelievable play handing the puck behind the Preds bench while his teammates make a change, Pacioretty streaming in to receive the pass, and beat Rinne through the legs. What an incredible play by Alex Radulov. Gobsmacked. Marc Bergevin, sign this man. Whatever it takes. Get it done now.


Hey, Happy New Year! So, so, soooooo good to see 2016 begone forever. So a new calendar, new resolutions and for the Montreal Canadiens, a new page turned towards a .... sorry ... what's that? We have some video from this morning's practice? Okay:

Oh. Well. I see. Isn't that ... nice. And it was Shea Weber who hit Pacioretty's. Even better. And this just a month after Max had recovered from a foot fracture. That's just perfect.

Hey, maybe I'm out of line for posing the question, and by all means, slap me down if this goes a little too far over the edge, but why would you be conducting any sort of practice drill where you have your most valuable forwards standing directly in front of the guy who's probably got the hardest slap shot in the game of hockey?

See, to me, that seems like folly. But hey, what do I know, right?

Anyway, with or without the captain, the Habs enter Nashville tonight for what was one of the most anticipated games on this season's schedule. That was, of course, until P.K. Subban, whom the Habs unceremoniously chased out of Montreal last summer, went down with a back injury this week, which has put him out of the Predators's lineup for an indefinite period of time.

For Nashville, it's been an up and down season. They came into the year favoured to be a contender for a championship next spring. October, though, put a severe dent in those glimmering aspirations, as the Preds won only 2 games during that first month.

Since then, things have settled down - the Preds are putting up defensive and offensive numbers that have them flirting with the League's top 10. Which is to say, statistically speaking, the Preds have been a pretty good team this year, but not a great team.

Beyond the (mostly) positive numbers, perhaps Nashville's biggest question mark this season has been goaltending, which has been at best, inconsistent, at worst - an albatross. Pekka Rinne, who had a very good 2010-11 season, was given (at the time) a massive contract extension by Nashville - 7 years and $50 million. Since that time, Rinne has had one very good year - 2014-15, where he won 41 games, had a .923 SV%, and was a Vezina Trophy finalist.

Apart from that '14 season, Rinne's numbers have been pretty mediocre - a .908 SV% two years ago, .915 last season, and this year, .917, which among goaltenders who've had at least 15 starts this season, puts Rinne just barely into the top 25. He's not horrible, but truth be told, Rinne hasn't and isn't very good.

There are few solutions for Nashville with Rinne because of that huge contract which will keep him nailed to the Preds organization at least until the end of next season. So while Rinne might be a lost cause, Nashville might have a saviour in their own possession in Juuse Saros, a 21 year old native of Finland who the Preds drafted in the 4th round 3 years ago, Saros, albeit with limited starts this season (only 7), has put up some pretty good numbers: a 1.43 GAA and .947 SV%, with victories over some pretty decent opponents including the St. Louis Blues three nights ago.

As of the writing of this post, the Preds have not announced tonight's starter - it's likely Rinne, but if he continues to struggle, don't be surprised if Nashville starts giving Saros more chances as the season progresses.

Puck drops tonight at 8:10 EST.

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