Thursday, 26 January 2017

Game 50: Habs vs. Islanders

New York (Islanders) 3, Montreal 1:


- By now you've probably heard about the little trade the Habs made this afternoon, picking up defemsenan Nikita Nesterov from Tampa Bay for a low level draftee and 6th round pick. I can see the rationale here - the Habs have seen what Zach Redmond and Ryan Johnston have been offering since Andrei Markov went down to injury, and they're not pleased. Adding depth to the 3rd line as insurance policy, I suppose would be the best way of explaining the deal.

- The Weber/Emelin pairing aren't exactly enthralling me with confidence the way they've been guarding their crease the past couple of weeks.

- This arena the Islanders play in is so substandard as a hockey venue, it's embarrassing. The backboards, obviously not placed correctly, grab Price's stick, and refuse to let go.

- Good sign for the Habs, bad for the Islanders, but it looks like Carey Price is continuing the fine play from Tuesday night right into Brooklyn:

- Bad news for the Habs, this has been a pretty bad start to the game, first 10 minutes almost all the play in the Canadiens zone, Montreal mustering up two very nothing shots on Weiss.

- Head standing not enough, as Ladd beats Price 5-hole to open the scoring, the Habs again struggling to make simple zone exits, which has only intensified the pressure this period. Really, really bad period by the Canadiens so far.

- Okay, not sure what's been happening in Brooklyn lately, but this Islanders team is playing far, far more organized hockey tonight than at any point I saw them this season. Maybe mid-season coaching changes really do work after all?

- Habs pretty badly outplayed in that first period, credit to the Islanders who look a whole lot better than they did earlier this season. New York's defence looking far more organized, while the Habs made some poor choices in how they constructed their attacks, not only failing to consistently gain the zone, but overemphasizing on feeding the line for shots, which were mostly easily blocked by the Islanders defenders. Habs will need to go back to the blackboard and come up with a different plan, or this could be a long night ahead.


- Islanders dominating the Habs 14-4 SOG in that period, 54.2% CF - a bit misleading. Eyeball test told you New York more or less manhandled the Canadiens first 20 minutes:

- Respec da udder guy':

- Weakest part of Zach Redmond's game is moving the puck forward, which more often that not, he can't, beyond just firing it at open ice. It's not doing the Habs any favours with constructing anything resembling a transition game. When Redmond is on the ice, the Canadiens' offence basically grinds to a complete halt.

- Habs on pace for a pathetic 14 shots tonight, their gameplay clearly wasn't adjusted  between periods, and it's show in 14 million colours so far. Canadiens have almost zero forecheck happening, too many players are going through the motions. 

- Price doing more headstands again, keeping the score manageable. But the Islanders are still dominating this game so much, seems almost inevitable they'll (eventually) extend their lead. 8 minutes left.

- Habs tie the game. Couple of observances. First Lehkonen makes a fantastic play driving to the net, forcing Seidenberg to take a hooking penalty (if not, likely giving up a very high percentage scoring chance). Then on the powerplay, Weber with quite possibly his hardest shot as  Hab that literally goes through Greiss (or his glove anyway) to tie the game.

- You know what? Best just keep Zach Redmond off the ice. Preferably just out of the lineup entirely, but there aren't a whole lot of other options available. Ryan Johnston? No thanks. Sigh. 

- Habs are Habbing the Islanders so far tonight, getting pretty much trounced both ends of the ice, but not losing on the scoreboard. That's two periods where the Islanders soundly outplayed, out-forechecked, outskated, and outworked the Canadiens. If not for Carey Price, New York ought have at least a 2 or 3 goal lead.


- Avert your eyes, kids. Just ... look the other way. This is scary, scary, scary stuff:

- How bad have the Habs played tonight? Here are the heat maps for even strength shot attempts:

- Crazy great scoring chances for the Islanders to start the period, including a powerplay, posts hit, loose pucks in front of empty nets barely cleared, Habs are clinging to a tied score, but only barely because of luck and great play by Price.

- Ladd puts the Islanders back in front while teams are 4-on-4. Mystifyingly, the Habs send out their defending forwards, the Islanders say "hey thanks for being stupid and sending out the wrong guys, we'll just score here."

- Alexei Emelin. The suckage has been bad tonight. That pattern has been on the incline for about a month so far. Might be time for Therrien to reconsider his pairings and give Weber a more competent mate to work with.

- Well how 'bout this? Weber just got a new partner, it's Beaulieu. Emelin now paired with Petry. 

- Andrew Shaw making his contribution, taking a late period interference penalty. Thanks, Andrew (in his modest defence, it was clearly embellished, but still, there was interference).

- Bailey right off the bat makes it 3-1, and that should do it. Oh well, it's hard to be upset about the result (beside the Habs being terrible) - the better team is winning and will win.

- Abysmal. Just abysmal. I'd be inclined to revoke everyone's vacation pass this weekend, except for maybe Price, Beaulieu and Barberio, pretty much the only 3 who showed up tonight for the full 60:

- Habs with a pathetic effort tonight, basically dominated from the first puck drop to the final buzzer. Dreadful outputs by most of the Habs offence, poor decision making by Therrien sending out the wrong guys during a 4-on-4 which gift wrapped the Islanders game winning goal - about the only players who showed up tonight were Price, Beaulieu and Barberio. Otherwise, everyone else was either going through the motions, or stumbling through their shifts. Thankfully the All Star break has arrived. It'll give this team five solid days to shake its collective head.


Hey, it's All-Star Weekend! Are you excited? Yes? Then please go away and never come back.

The rest of you who consider this four day period of unnecessary and avoidable hockey exile, you can stay.

The Habs travel to Brooklyn to finish up the unofficially first half of the NHL season, as they take on the suddenly "good" New York Islanders.

The Islanders have won 4 of their past 5 games, with one of those wins coming the day before New York unceremoniously fired head coach Jack Capuano and replaced him with former NHL tough-guy Doug Weight.  In any case, New York has a couple of impressive victories during this little run, with wins over the likes of the L.A. Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Islanders are dealing with some minor injury issues, with regulars Anders Lee and defenseman Thomas Hickey out of the lineup. Scott Mayfield will fill in for Hickey. Otherwise, New York is pretty healthy.

Same can't still be said about the Habs, with Alex Galchenyuk again being a scratch tonight after aggravating a knee injury. It's a good decision regardless of how Galchenyuk feels at the moment - an extra week of rest might hopefully get him back into game shape. So with AK27 out, the Habs will play the same lines as they did in their 5-1 win against Calgary on Tuesday night, with Phillip Danault, Thomas Plekanec and Torrey Mitchell your top 3 centers.

Okay, back to the Islanders. While they have been winning of late, it's all likely inconsequential, at least as far as their hopes for post-season qualification. A very poor start to the season, largely due to an ineffective defence (32.6 SA/60 3rd worst in the NHL, 2.84 GA 21st ranking, 46.1 CA/60 worst in the NHL) has made Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube two of the busier goaltenders this season. To their credit, Greiss (2.31 GAA, .927 Sv%) and Berube (2.82, .916 Sv%) have performed admirably - Greiss especially so, with some of the top stats in the League this season, there's a decent argument to be made for him being a Vezina Trophy candidate this spring.

The Islanders' defensive woes have mainly been systematic and structural - New York has done a very poor job coming back to defend their zone, with their forwards often leaving both defenders (and netminder) hung out to dry, especially on plays down low. If the Habs have done their homework, they ought to be emphasizing the cycle tonight in an attempt to exploit this weakness.

So enjoy the game tonight, because of this silly weekend on the way, it'll be the last game involving the Habs until the middle of next week.

It's Greiss vs. Carey Price. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

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