FIRST PERIOD LIVE GAME THREAD:
- Redmond in, Ryan Johnston out, which is most definitely a move in the right direction.
- Habs getting "network" coverage tonight, as the game has been picked up by NBC (for what it's worth).
- Folin scores early, 1-0 Wild. Habs were not very good last night in their own zone, in spite of the victory over a relatively meek opponent. The Wild are a different kettle of fish, so it's more bad omens that Minnesota opens the scoring with a pretty easy goal, with the Mitchell line coasting in their zone, and Weber/Emelin playing pretty soft in front of Price.
- Gonna be one of those back-to-back game efforts tonight, I can just see and feel it coming. Unless the Habs start moving, and so far they're not, this game could get ugly fast.
- Too much open ice in the Habs zone - Price is headed for a busy night.
- 9 minutes in, game settling down a little, after a pretty craptaculour start by the Habs. Seem to be tightening up their play in the neutral zone, which is always a good fallback if you're hoping to slow down your opponent's attack.
- They had an excellent game last night, and so far, pretty decent game tonight. That's Plekanec/Byron and Lehtonen, whom appear to have found a little chemistry lightening in the bottle.
- Lehkonen - a forward whom you can visually see is taking strides forward every game he played. How good is this kid gonna be in a couple of years?
- Wowzers, Habs have played a pretty decent game since the Folin goal - they've definitely tilted the ice towards the Wild's zone. Sometimes these poor game starts can rattle a team into gear. Might be what's happening tonight.
- Habs stumbled out of the period, just 30% CF the first 5 minutes. The last 15? Almost 75%. That's a pretty impressive turnaround, and while the Canadiens might be down by one on the board, they have been the better team. So lots of hope still left the Habs might squeeze some points out of tonight's game.
SECOND PERIOD LIVE GAME THREAD:
- Habs started poorly, but as we mentioned earlier, actually started taking it to the Wild at about the 5 minute mark, finishing the period with a 57.6% CF (5v5). Habs top two lines (Danault and Plekanec) were especially good:
- Habs start the period pretty well, seem to have picked it up where they left off, Plekanec line looking sharp, McCarron line just had their best shift of the night.
- Habs get caught off a bad change, with Petry caught out with Beaulieu. Petry overplays Beaulieu's side, springing Stall free down the opposite side, snapshot beats Price high, and it's 2-0.
- Woah, Carey Price. Schroeder with a deflection that somehow squeaks through, at boom, it's 3-0.
- To be fair, the Schroeder goal was off a pretty incredible deflection, but then Staal goal might raise a few eyebrows and questions about Price's lacklustre play of late. Maybe something isn't right, health-wise. Maybe it's just a cyclical thing - even superstars have slumps. Still, I'm sure questions and musings are going to start in earnest after tonight's game.
- Radulov's gets nailed for a 4 minute high stick, Wild a chance to bury this thing well beyond 6 feet under.
- Habs survive the 4 minute penalty, but Niederreiter has all day and night to stickhandle around a flailing Carey Price, eventually finding the back of the net to put this game on permanent ice.
- Period started well, but more or less ended up a disaster for the Canadiens, who have again been guilty of some questionable defensive zone play, haven't done much to test Dubnyk, and with Price having what can only be described as a forgettable night, the Habs are getting trounced. One of those nights, I suppose.
- One of those nights were possession doesn't mean a hill of beans. The Habs just haven't mustered very many quality shots on Dubnyk, the Wild continue to get some excellent puck luck, which they've enjoyed much of this season:
- More back-to-earth fodder, Habs scoring chances through 2 periods are signified by the two blue dots on the right side. Which is to say, Carey Price's performance tonight is largely irrelevant.
- Zucker, 5-0. Beaulieu and Petry have been as a defensive pair, and let's been perfectly forthright here, pretty wretched not only tonight, but for the past couple of weeks. Andrei, are you ready?
- 6-0. Is there a reason why Price is in net? Is there a reason why he started this period?
- So file this one in the books under "F" for Forget It. No point in dwelling, and by no means trying to make excuses, but the Habs are injury riddled, and likely very road weary, given that 9 of their past 10 games have been on the road. The team just waved the flag to start the 3rd, and the Wild are just padding their lines. Stuff happens.
GAME PREVIEW: ARE THE WILD REALLY THIS GOOD, OR JUST LUCKY?
The Montreal Canadiens finish up a very quick back-to-back games road trip tonight as they take on the top-flight Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.
The Wild have been one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League the past few weeks, most recently coming off a franchise 14 game winning streak, which has boosted Minnesota to elite heights in the NHL point standings.
That the Wild are a winning team isn't much of a surprise - they were roundly pegged by many entering the season to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. But at 25 wins in 39 games, a pretty impressive clip, are they really that good?
The jury, as they say, is out. The Wild have been getting some pretty solid goal production from a lineup that was thought to be more defensively oriented (although the addition of Eric Staal to the team during the offseason was a terrific pickup), which is great if you're a Wild fan. However, some of the underlying numbers strongly indicate that while this Minnesota team is good, they're likely not .641 winning % good.
The first warning sign that the Wild might be overachieving are their possession numbers. Their 48.3 CF (5v5) is only 22nd ranked in the NHL, behind much lesser light clubs like the Flyers, Jets, Panthers and Canucks.
Second warning? Unsustainable production levels. The Wild have a 9.18 Sh%, 2nd only in the NHL to the NY Rangers, further supported by a lights out .940 SV% behind the likely Vezina Trophy winner next spring, Devan Dubnyk. There's nothing wrong, as many Habs fans can attest, to having your goaltender carry more than his fair share of the load, but that's only an advantage as long as your other stats are above the mean, or at a sustainable level.
So when your key forwards like Mikko Koivu has a 20.45 shooting percentage at even strength, well - that's simply not sustainable.
But hey, neither are 14 game winning streaks.
So tonight the Habs take on the suspiciously good Wild. Again, the Habs will be parsing together the same lineup that pretty much walloped the Winnipeg Jets last night, hoping for more production from the likes or Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault and Sven Andrighetto. The Habs will be facing off against this expected Wild lineup:
Hey, Carey Price, he of the .904 Sv% since the beginning of December, will start for the Habs tonight.
Puck drops at 8:10, EST.