Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Game 39: Habs vs. Stars

Montreal 4, Dallas 4 (OT)


- Bobby Farnham gets his season debut start for the Habs tonight, he'll slot in on the left side on the 4th line. 

- I trust nobody is watching Canada right now, right? Okay. Good.

- Dallas gameplay apparent early - ice the puck every opportunity. You may have switch over to the team Canada game already.

- Plodding start of the Habs to start this game - likely indicative of playing last night, and this being the 6th game of a very long road trip.

- Gallagher continues to do the right things - much more aggressive positioning in front of opposing goal, something that was very absent during his extended scoring drought. Still hold the opinion that he was playing through an injury and was taking precautions avoiding high contact areas of the ice.

- Danault does the dirty work winning puck battles along the board, Pacioretty feeding Beaulieu who pinches in a beats Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen with a wrister to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. Dallas is the rested team tonight, so there's little excuse for losing battles. 

- Antoine Roussel, who's back from a few days off from injury, is flying for the Stars this period. Habs would be wise to keep a close check.

- So ... Bobby Farnham - yeah ... I'm not sure I'm understand this start he's getting tonight.

- Seguin. We warned you Habbies earlier today, but you didn't listen. Tie game.

- Dallas definitely the faster team tonight - Habs having trouble keeping up while defending their zone. 

- More or less a draw of a period, which for the Habs is an okay result given this is 2nd part of a back-to-back. Canadiens will need to do a better job containing Seguin and Roussel next two periods - because both are clearly on their game tonight. 


- Habs continue to be impressive with possession, 61% CF in that first period:

- If I'm on the Dallas bench, I'm not exactly enthralled with confidence in Lehtonen. Goaltending has been another issue with the Stars this year, whether or not that'll factor into who wins tonight - we'll see.

- Habs fans are fully versed in Alexei Emelin's uncanny ability to do stupid things on the ice, but one area that he's improved on this season are outlet passes to his forwards. Any progression in transition helps significantly with puck possession, of which the Habs have slowly but surely become one of the best in the NHL. 

- Stars smarty get the Spezza line out against Barberio and Johnston, and if not for a couple of good Montoya saves, it would be 2-1 Dallas. Ryan Johnston continues to demonstrate that he's not NHL-calibre or capable. Very soft and shaky in his own zone.

- Al Montoya has been rather lucky tonight, misplayed two shots, one just from Seguin that Montoya wasn't remotely ready to handle, but caught a break as Seguin's shot hit is blocker. 

- Byron out with what we assume is a head injury from a blind hit he took from Patrick Sharp in the 1st period. Habs injury woes might be getting even worse before they get better.

- Soft penalty on Gallagher, Dallas takes advantage off the faceoff, with Klinberg beating Montoya with a 55 foot wrister. 2-1 Stars.

- Habs miffed that Spezza wasn't called for a pick after the faceoff that resulted in the Klinberg goal, and the ref calls Therrien for mouthing off. Stars back on the powerplay. Looking at the goal reply, the Habs have a point - Spezza pretty clearly tripped Plekanec off the draw, which prevented him from covering his mark, which would have been Klinberg.

- Maybe Montoya's all distracted by his newly minted contract extension, but he's just not on his game tonight - very scrambly with saves, mostly unnecessarily so.

- That was not a good 2nd period for the Habs, who I think are just plain out of gas. Montoya looking a little shaky, combined with a couple of questionable calls by the officials that led to Dallas's second goal. Tough road to haul for this team, especially in light of Byron's game-ending injury suffered during the 1st period. 


- Habs 2nd period totals not good. As we mentioned previously, pretty clear indication this team is just plain tired. So much travelling, back to back games - four straight OT games - it's all adding up.

- Habs powerplay going nowhere, until Alex Radulov steps on the ice, splits the Dallas defence, and slips a sweet backhander past Lehtonen to tie the game. As pretty a goal as you'll see in the game of hockey, by one of the League's best forwards.

- Eventually Radulov is going to get talked about for League MVP consideration. He's really been that good. 

- You can't be serious - Weber absolutely nailing Gallagher in the hand with a slap shot - the same hand (I believe) that was broken last year. Good lord. Terrible.

- Pacioretty scores with a brilliant snap shot top corner to give the Habs a 2-1 lead seconds after Gallagher is injured. A hefty price paid. 

- Yup. Same hand. Weber's shot was clocked at 100 mph, and it likely shattered Gallagher's hand into many pieces. That's a massive loss for the Canadiens. Almost certainly long-term.
- Not a doctor, but this looks bad. Very, very bad: 

- Anyway, back to the game. Dallas should be skating the Habs into the ice right now, with the Habs down two forwards, on zero rest, 4 straight OT games on the 6th game of a 7 game road trip. But they aren't. 

- Halfway through the 3rd, Stars have twice as many shot attempts in the period, but two goals scored by the Habs. That's hockey for you.

- 5 minutes left, Habs, maybe because they're road weary, trying to grind this game to a halt, lots of dumping, not much chasing. 

- Just under 4 minutes left - can the Habs cross the finish line with lead in tact? It's going to be very close.

- Dallas applying considerably more pressure here, Habs hunkering down around Montoya.

- Nope. Just not enough juice. Rousell ties it up. Too many bodies in front of the net, too many exhausted Habs players unable to clear the way for Montoya to see the shot.

- I think the Habs would be pretty happy to take the single point. Forget OT. This team is totally spent.

- Wow. Patrick Sharp missing a totally open net with 40 seconds left, hitting Montoya in the head. Incredible miss, and it gifts the Habs at least one point in the standings. Kudos to the Habs for at least picking that up tonight, I have the feeling the OT won't last very long.


- 5th straight OT for Habs. Even more reason why their chances of winning the extra point are almost entirely resting with winning via a shootout. 

- Max Pacioretty after the Stars complete misplay a deep zone faceoff, sprung on a break, and incredibly the Habs win in OT. What an incredible victory, but oh - at what cost?? Now we await the prognosis for both Byron and Gallagher, the later appears to have sustained a long-term hand injury.


Tyler Seguin. Whooot! Aren't you a pretty one? Say, is that how you practice on your off days? Shirtless with those slim fit khaki's? You're so cool. And what's that? When you're not training that hard, greased up bod, you like putting your feet up and crackin open a cold one?? Well, aren't you special. My mom would like you.

Truth be told, with shirts on or off, Seguin likes playing against the Montreal Canadiens. With exception to the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers, no team has been scored on more by Seguin than the Montreal Canadiens over the span of his 7 year career.

Which is to say, the Habs would be well-advised to keep an eye on the Stars's leading point getter this season - 38 points in 38 games. Just your typical production levels for one of the League's best forwards.

So while Seguin continues to do what Seguin does best, it's been a slightly disappointing year for Dallas. The Stars, who have spent the past few years attempting to build from within, this season it's been, Seguin aside, their lack of scoring which has mainly led them to a less-than-mediocre 16 wins in 38 games.

The Stars enter tonight's game with a 1.92 GF60 average, only good for 25th in the League. That contrasts loudly with Dallas' 2.42 GF60 average they spotted last season, which ranked as the League's 3rd best offence.

What's the root of the problem? Likely it's a combination of factors. The Stars have a meagre 6.55 Sh%, 5th worst in the NHL, a stat that tends to become magnified when you're not a very good possession team (the Stars are ranked 18th in 5v5 CF%). Other issues? A disappointing season so far for Jason Spezza, who has just 22 points on 7 goals in 39 games. If you consider that Spezza has averaged around 1.0 PPG in every season since 2005, 2016-17 is the first real indicator that his decline as an NHL forward has begun.

Complicating the Stars offence issues tonight will be the loss of captain Jamie Benn, who's out day-to-day from an ankle injury. With Benn out, the Stars lines will look like this:



No indication yet as to who the Starts will start in goal.

Meanwhile over on the Habs side, no changes in the lineup tonight - it's difficult to argue otherwise, as the Habs have play magnificent possession hockey the past month, rising all the way up to 3rd in the NHL in 5v5 CF percentage. The only difference tonight is that Al Montoya will start in goal, with Carey Price getting a well-earned rest after an outstanding outing last night in Nashville.

Puck drops 8:10 EST.

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