Thursday, 19 January 2017

Game 47: Habs vs. Devils

Montreal 3, New Jersey 1:


- Pretty fast start for the Habs, bolstered by an aggressive setup in centre ice - Canadiens aiming to generate some Jersey giveaways with a tight forecheck there, so far it's working.

- Yeah, gonna be one of those nights. Wrister from the point fired by Santini, defected just under the crossbar height by Zajac to give the Devils the first goal. Danault line wasn't doing a very good job coming back to defend their zone, so Jersey took advantage of the opportunity. 

- What a play by Radulov, carrying the puck and making an absolutely mind-bogglingly perfect pass behind and on Galchenyuk's tape who one-times it in off the post. Goal scoring at its purest and prettiest.

- Galchenyuk goal coming without Andrew Shaw on the first line man advantage - not because Therrien had wised up, but because he was finishing his shift when the penalty was drawn. The gods are practically screaming KEEP. HIM. OFF. THE. POWERPLAY.

- More hard work, Pacioretty draws a trip, Montreal right back on the powerplay. Betcha Shaw starts it.  I'll just bethca.


- No goals scored, but a great looking powerplay. Galchenyuk, Radulov, Pacioertty, Weber and Beaulieu had the Devils pinned hard for the first 90 seconds. Jersey lucky to escape.

- Beaulieu prefers the wrist shot, which is fine for a quick release, but it's simply not strong enough to reach the net with any potential. More often than not it's blocked, because NHL defensemen (these days) specialize in stopping shots before they reach the net.

- Strong period so far for De La Rose - his chances to establish a regular presence on this roster are fast running out, mainly because he's been improperly utilized mainly as a grinder - but that's another topic. 

- Don't see nearly the same chemistry this period with Danault up the middle with Radulov and Paciroetty that we saw with Galchenyuk centering them the Habs first two powerplays. I guess Michel Therrien hasn't realized the hints that the game is dropping him.

- That's a pretty good first period for the Habs, very reminiscent of their December 8th game which they largely dominated from the start basically right to the finish. Montreal with more speed and better forecheck in the frame, Devils had limited scoring opportunities - I counted 2, maybe 3 ... one of which found it's way in. Otherwise, a forgettable period for Jersey.


- SOG were 10-3 Habs, and even more lopsided attempt-wise - Montreal's even strength CF, an eye-popping 81%:

- More good shifts by De La Rose - really doesn't fit the 4th line prototype that Therrien has been trying to push him into for years. His NHL career should have been made (or broken) as a top-9 winger. He'll likely not ever get that chance now.

- Canadiens not showing any let down - dominance continues, Jersey offence looks pretty downright disinterested. Not sure how much longer Kinkaid can hold on before the walls finally cave in.

- 11 minutes left, Habs lowest percentage CF player is Mark Barberio, at an astounding 57%. That's 20 out of 20 which gives you an idea how one-sided this game has been, except for goal scoring. That the Habs aren't already leading this game 3 or 4-1 is another indicator this team might demonstrate some solid possession stats, but they struggle generating shots from dangerous spots on the ice. It's been this way for a good month.

- Habs taking too many low percentage shots from the line - that's fine when you're playing a patient game, or protecting the lead - but not fine when your opponent is on the ropes, and the knockout punches are there for the taking.

- Habs are swarming, not unlike the Pens were doing to Montreal on Wednesday night. The difference? The Pens were finishing their plays. Canadiens just a little bit off tonight, even though they're completely overwhelming New Jersey with ferocious checking.

- Andrew Shaw continues to be a problem, killing the setups, frequently not looking for mates in good scoring positions, and feeding the puck back to the line. It's the "safe" play, utterly uncreative, and totally stifling the Canadiens scoring opportunities. 


- More Habs dominance in the 2nd period, but it's amounting to nothing on the scoreboard because the Canadiens (again) are failing to generate dangerous scoring attempts. Too many pucks fed to the point, too many point shots that are either blocked, or easily turned aside. Anyway, Habs 5v5 CF two-period total is 70.5%:

- Stollery called for a 5 minute major as he blindside boards Beaulieu. Seems to me the NHL is finally taking these checks seriously lately. That's the 2nd 5 minute board I've seen this week.
- Whelp, it's yet another point shot, but this time it's Weber, it's unblocked, and it's unstoppable. Habs finally break through, lead 2-1, and will stay on the powerplay.

- Bit of a broken play springs Pacioretty all alone with the puck in the slot, he slips a wrister though Kinkaid's legs, and it's 3-1, the Canadiens finally breaking through on the scoreboard. Radolov, who did not have a good game Wednesday night, with 3 assists so far. Habs still on the powerplay.

- More lack of Devils discipline puts the Habs right back on the powerplay, which mostly sans Andrew Shaw tonight, has been pretty darned good.

- Habs swarm, come close, but don't extend their lead by 3. Nonetheless, the powerplay unit has looked superb much of the night, and while I'm not suggesting a coincidence, Andrew Shaw has received only 2 powerplay shifts tonight.

- Devante Smith-Pelly. His even strength CF tonight? 0%. How does he still keep a job in the NHL??

- Andrighetto has taken great strides in the right direction this season, especially since his latest callup. But he's still prone to young mistakes, a clear-cut 2-on-1 where the lone defender was basically surrendering a path to the goal to protect the pass, and of course, still learning, he passes, which is easily intercepted. Just little errors, but totally correctable ones. He'll be good, as long as Habs management continues to be patient and gives him a fair chance.

- Meek end to this game, the Devils look utterly defeated, just going through the motions, firing the occasional shot at Montoya, but nothing remotely challenging. Jersey has a bad hockey team. Very bad.

- I think we can file this as another dominating win for the Habs, second time they've done that this season. Powerplay was on fire, while the Devils were, for the most part, pathetic - especially with the puck. Nice "reset' win for the Habs, who now hope to convert the momentum of tonight's win and carry it into Buffalo to face another beatable opponent.


UPDATE: Cory Schneider indeed will not play tonight, so that means Keith Kinkaid is in. Will Schneider be dressed as backup? If not, who? Stay tuned.

UPDATE OF UPDATE: Confirmed, Schneider will dress as backup. Dang. There go my hopes and dreams of a Chris Terreri career revival.

Hey, having a great Friday? Sweet. I've been hiding under my blanket for most of the day, my television switch firmly set to the 'off' position, just hoping that everything that surrounds us is just a nightmare, and like all nightmares, we wake up and everything is good!!

Everything is a nightmare, right? Please tell me none of what is happening is actually happening. It's not happening. Right? RIGHT!?

Well like any bad dream, the Habs always seem to play some sort of a role, especially now with the Canadiens suddenly looking just as bad today as they did one year ago. Tonight, the Habs look to win again against the League's perennially most boring team, the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils, who like the Detroit Red Wings, whom the Habs couldn't score against on Monday afternoon, are also a team that's not going to be in this spring's Stanley Cup playoffs. We say that even though the Devils just came off a win over (arguably) the NHL's best team right now, the Minnesota Wild. So hey, great - the Habs are gonna play against world beaters tonight. Just wonderful.

Ah, but wait. The Devils might not have a goaltender! Cory Schneider, who basically is the only one wearing a horned jersey that's capable of stopping pucks with great consistency, has come down with the flu. Yes, but how sick is he? Well, he's sick enough that he couldn't participate in the Devil's practice this morning.

So if Schneider can't play, Keith Kinkaid will get a rare start tonight. Now, if Schneider can't even dress for tonight's game, then things get really interesting because the Devils will likely have to dress guys who normally stand around the beer stand during games, which means former NHL goaltender Chris Terreri, who hasn't played a game in 11 years and now serves as the Devils's goaltending coach, or Scott Clemmensen, who hasn't played a game in 2 years, might suit up. If for some crazy unforeseen reason neither Schneider and Kinkaid can play, then hey - the Habs have a decent chance!

Anyway, Devils are on a 3 game winning streak, which included that nifty win against the Wild, but also include wins over the so-so Calgary Flames and the awful Vancouver Canucks. So grain of salt this streak.

Anyway, if your memory reaches back far enough, the last time these two teams met, the Habs pretty much destroyed Jersey, coasting to a 5-2 at the Bell Centre. But that was December 8th, before the Habs were besieged with massive injuries from which they still haven't fully recovered from, before the Habs defence decided to take a Christmas break from which it still doesn't seem to have returned from, before when Carey Price's game suddenly went from stellar to ... 'meh'.

But Price won't be playing tonight, he'll be starting tomorrow night against Buffalo, which means it's Tony Montoya time. Mr. Montoya will be backstopping a slightly modified Habs lineup, as Alex Galchenyuk, for reasons that still mystify yours truly, will centre the Habs 3rd line, which means he'll have the wonderful task of trying to make Andrew Shaw not look completely useless. Have fun, Alex!!

Keys for the Habs tonight? Stop with the sloppy hockey, especially in the defensive zone. Far too many times this month the Canadiens defence has left their goaltenders twisting in the wind - especially when the Habs are killing penalties. The Canadiens PK has been, and still is, one of their main weak spots.

One other thing to keep in mind. While the Devils are still the most boring team in the NHL, they're not the same boring team that used to win regularly. This is a team far more apt to give up shots - they currently average 30 per 60 minutes, which puts Jersey in the bottom third of the League. Last year, they were in the top 5. That's a significant difference.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST. By that time, it should be safe to turn on your TV again.


Hey, welcome to Thursday. The day before the American inauguration. The last sane, and for all we know, relatively safe day as a member of the human race. Good times. Good times.

So with out impending doom officially mentioned, let's talk hockey! Habs stuff today. Never a dull moment.

- Alex Galchenyuk played a bad game Wednesday night. We saw it, we mentioned it - heck, even some guy named Michel Therrien took notice. Action? TO THE DOGHOUSE YE GO!
Ouch. Andrighetto might actually be a pretty good fit, but Andrew Shaw? Talk about screwing around with your best resources. Therrien hockey, eh? That'll improve their "compete"!

- It appears the Barberio/Petry pairing experiment is off. Barberio was back on the Habs 3rd D line at practice this morning drilling with a couple of guys who really shouldn't be playing in the NHL - Zach Redmond and Ryan Johnston.

- Hey Carey Price. Gawd, what is going on there?? Anyway, he won't start Friday night against the Devils, but instead will play Saturday night against the hopelessly hopeless Sabres. More votes of confidence!

- Andrei Markov update! The Habs extra-sloppy defence sure misses this guy, so hey coach, got us a damn update when he's coming back?
Oh, well that seems reassuring.

More posted here if anything happens. In the meantime, enjoy your final day of happiness, freedom and security.

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