Monday, 30 January 2017

Game 51: Sabres vs. Habs

Montreal 5, Buffalo 2:


- ICYDH, Jeff Petry is now on a diet of chicken soup, and won't play tonight. So Habs final final final defensive pairings are ... [drum roll]...


With Markov finally returning after spending a few weeks on the list, it's unlikely he'll see more than 10 minutes of ice time tonight, ergo the 3rd line placement.

- Habs dominate first 2 minutes, hard shots on Lehner, who may or may not have the Habs number this season (it seems as though he does).

- Crazy but true, Habs have the 2nd best powerplay in the NHL right now, and they're again using the flying V their first man advantage, which is all kinds of great.

- Flynn/Mitchell/Weber/Emelin first PK unit, looks pretty disorganized, as per usual. The PK box is disorganized, frequently not resembling anything like a square. Just one of some of the issues this unit has struggled with the season under the eye of assistant coach J.J. Daigneault (who oversaw the powerplay last year, which was 6th worst in the NHL).

- I know he's been out  for 2 months, but wowzers, David Desharnais looks .... not good. Early days, yes, yes, yes ... but his first 4 shifts, just a mess.

- Speaking of uh .. less-than-impressive-returns .. Greg Pateryn isn't having a period to remember, simply pushed aside while carrying the puck near his blue line results in a clear break on Price. That's clinical bad defence right there.

- Carrying the zone is apparently not part of each team's DNA tonight. We're watching hockey at its most inelegant.

- Yup, Robin Lehner has the Habs number this year. Only option left is to fire it through him, which is kind of how the Habs scored their lone goal when they faced him last week, isn't it?

- Blazing breakout by the Habs in their own zone, Radulov with another dazzlingly smart pass to Pacioretty perfectly positioned to fire a puck that's absolutely impossible for Rehner to stop, and the Habs take a 1-0 lead. Go figure, carrying the zone works, eh?

- We already knew on paper that the Habs are the better team, and howboutthat, they were the better team in the 1st period, which while slow and grinding, at least showcased the edge in depth and talent the Canadiens have over the Sabres. Buffalo had some chances on their one powerplay, otherwise, it was pretty much a cruise control period for Carey Price. Big relief in Pacioretty beating Lehner, who for a while there, looked like he wasn't going to give up a goal for the rest of time. Solid period for the Plekanec line, excellent period for the Danault line.


- Yeah, good period for the Habbies, 61.5% CF at even strength.

- Radulov's celebration after Pacioretty's goal. Is there anyone in the League who does this better?

- Habs might be tempted to trade their future to land a big named defenseman at the trade deadline, but with players like Lehkonen in the fold, it's tempting for the Habs to just keep building off the great young talent they already have under wing. Would much rather be perpetually competitive than to give much of it away just for one shot.

- Danault line has been driving the Sabres batty tonight not only with their forecheck, but also the backcheck. It's kept Buffalo often pinned in their own zone for extended periods of time.

- Pacioretty scores again, and again it's Radulov with an absolutely incredible setup pass from behind the Buffalo net. I'm not going hyperbole here because I"m a Habs fan, but dammit, there's no other player in the NHL right now at setting up plays (and goal) than Alex Radulov.

- Recall as you might a couple of weeks ago I (and others I'm certain) were speculating about Carey Price's health. Well, his lateral movement tonight has been pretty darned fast - so I think it's safe to say that whatever was bothering Price to "struggle" through December and the first couple of weeks of January had nothing to do with his knees.

- Habs just pouring it on, the forecheck again producing a turnover in the Sabres zone, Andrighetto feeds Desharnais who wrists one against the grain to make it 3-0. Nice way to return for DD, I'm sure the coach is extree happy.

- Danault, Pacioretty and Radulov are playing on some kind of higher level right now, which means that Galchenyuk will almost certainly be working with new line mates come Thursday night. No way Therrien can split this line apart - not now, anyway.

- Radulov is playing out of his mind tonight. Just about every rush involving him resulting in high percentage scoring chance, the latest being the newly acquired Nesterov.

- More strong forechecking, yet another puck turned over by the Sabres in their own zone, Plekaenc to Markov to Byron, Lehner head on a swivel, it's 4-0.

- That's an outstanding period of hockey for the Habs, most of the play was contained in the Sabres zone, beyond that, perhaps more importantly, the Canadiens have simply dominated the neutral zone, snuffing out any semblance of a Sabres transition, and generating some pretty scoring attempts as a result of essentially owning more than one half of the ice. Just no contest tonight. Total domination.


- Yeah, total domination. CF at 62%, Fenwick 61%, etc., etc.

- Dazzling. Just dazzling. Danault line plays keepaway with the puck in the Sabres zone, with the centre setting up Pacioretty for a hat trick slam dunker. Hey, I don't know if anyone has noticed, but at 24 goals, Max is just 4 behind Sid Crosby for the League goal-scoring lead.

- Both teams more or less going through the motions to kill the clock. Sabres know they got hammered, resigned now. Habs will be more than happy to just coast this one home.

- Well, that's a bummer. Kulikov with a hard high shot that deflects past Price to deny Carey the shutout, something he should have also had last week against the Flames.

- Gionta scores off the Habs lacklustre (as usual) PK. 5-2.

- Anyway, both teams still went through the motions, so not much more to talk about during the period. Price played very solid again (more good news for the Habs), the Danault line was fabulous, and yes, even Shea Weber was extra good tonight. Now, decisions, decisions. What to do with Alex Galchenyuk if he returns Thursday. Does Therrien dare break up the Danault line? (he'd be crazy to do so). Likely, Galchenyuk will be slotted on the "3rd" line with Shaw and Desharnais. Whether or not that'll be a waste of Galchenyuk's 1C talent - we'll have to wait and see how it all shakes down.


Okay, so near as we can figure out at this point:

- Markov was "yeah maybe he'll play" yesterday, but looks good today.
- Pateryn was ruled out yesterday, but is good to play today.
- Petry was doing his thing yesterday, but is "yeah maybe he won't play" today.
- Nesterov is gonna play whether anyone likes it or not.
- David Desharnais is like "hey what about me, I'm gonna play!!" and we're all like "ugh ... right ... Desharnais is back."

More in a bit.


How was your weekend? I certainly hope not a single minute was spent watching whatever little showcase sideshow the NHL had organized. Me? I spent it mostly outside enjoying the rarity of a January thaw.

Anyway, the world is all screwed up, in case you hadn't heard or observed, but we'll keep posting Habs news and blog about their games for as long as we're all still around. So what's up today?

- Walking wounded last week were skating wounded this morning, and are imminent return this week? Andrei Markov, Greg Pateryn and David Desharnais all participated in full practice this morning (Alex Galchenyuk did not), and with Zach Redmond put on waivers this morning, it's all but certain that Pateryn will be playing Tuesday night against Buffalo. Will Markov as well?

- I'm guessing Markov won't play tomorrow, meaning the Habs defence will look something like this:


If Pateryn can't go, expect Barberio to take a spot on the 3rd line. Nesterov is mortal lock start Tuesday night.

- Okay, so Desharnais is back? I guess the party's over. Here's the Habs likely lines tomorrow night.


More in a bit.

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