Thursday, 2 February 2017

Game 52: Habs vs. Flyers

Philadelphia 3, Montreal 1:


- Habs kinda swarm out of the gate, and hey now, Nikita Nesterov scores his first as a Hab with a beauty slapper top corner, 1-0 Canadiens. Nikita, with Barberio gone, it's kind of on your shoulders to fill the gap. No pressure, or anything.

- Still kinda mystified Flyers scratched Gostisbehere. No way you'll convince me Schultz makes this Flyers team anything other than an easier opponent to play. Same goes for having Weise in the lineup. Always prefer playing an opponent with deadweight in their lineup.

- Radulov off and flying again tonight, which is almost become old hat this season. But keep an eye on him to maybe have another big night.

- Simmonds is such a tremendous, but wasted hockey talent. Anywhere else but this nowhere Flyers organization would be wonderful not only for him, but the game of hockey.

- Flyers play a pretty untidy game - little flow and chemistry, zone entires look more improvised than organized. It's almost amazing they're still fighting for a post-season spot.

- Flyers outshooting Habs 10-5, but to be perfectly honest, it really wasn't much of a period for Philly - the Habs utilizing their speed to keep the Flyers mostly contained to their zone. The only big criticism for the Habs was their inability to generate more scoring chances, an issue that's dogged this team most of the season (and appears to be rearing its head tonight). Still, solid period for the Canadiens against a pretty lacklustre opponent.


- It's always telling when a team has double the registered shots on goal, but is behind in even strength possession. That's the Flyers in the 1st period - simply putting (mostly) meek shots on goal doesn't cut it in the NHL:

- Not predicting the gates will open in this period, but Flyers have been a good 2nd period scoring team this year - 58 goals, 5th best in the NHL (Habs are 9th with 54).

- Habs have to do a better job getting the puck on Mason, who we mentioned isn't having a very good season. When you're facing an opponent whose netminder has only stopped on average 9/10 shots, priority one is getting shots away, forget the pretty stuff.

- First powerplay is kind of a total mess, zero clean entires made, zero puck control in the Flyers zone, and zero game momentum generated.

- Predictably, the Flyers have gained a little hop in their step after killing their penalty. Habs getting pressured significantly in their zone.

- We surmised the 2nd might be a little more open. We were wrong. Both teams finding ways of muffing up scoring plays. Mason and Price little tested this period. It's rather dreadful hockey.

- Gudas is a piece of junk hockey player. Good riddance here:

- Flyers have attempted to generate some offence by intensifying their O-zone forecheck - it hasn't really paid off, as Habs are bottling up the middle, and Price (once again) is playing very sound goaltending, really square to the puck.

- Habs zone exits have been pretty wretched tonight. Flyers aren't doing anything extraordinary in the neutral zone, Montreal just can't complete relatively simple passes.

- Andrew Shaw has arrived, and has taken his usual dumb-assed penalty for the evening. Here's hoping it's contained to one.

- Shaw's stupidity means, of course, Price has to carry the water by bailing his team out on the PK. Ain't fair.

- Oh well never mind, Giroux ties the game. Thanks again, Andrew.

- Habs are sucking out the joint, the Flyers are playing bad hockey, and ought to be easy pickings. But a passive offence that seems intent on finding ways of not generating quality shots against a goaltender that's been bad most of the year, combined with the usual stupid plays of Andrew Shaw, and voila - two easy points are going past the board.


- Even split after 40 minutes, a total wasted opportunity of a game for the Habs tonight. Maddening.

- Galchenyuk with Pacioretty and Radulov? I think it might be ...

- Weber makes a poor attempt to keep the puck on Flyers half of centre surrendering a 2-on-1 break which Emelin plays far too passively, Read with a nice slap shot that Price likely would want a 2nd try, and boom, it's 2-1 Flyers. 

- What is Emelin doing here, apart from (I guess?) making himself appear as though he's trying by flopping on his belly? Abysmal:

- This from Twitter (h/t @SColemanCTV), Habs PK when Andrew Shaw does something stupid is just 70% this season. So yeah, his decision making and discipline has hurt his team this season, including tonight.

- FWIW: Andrew Shaw update since that interference penalty: 0 shifts, 0:00 TOI. Thank you, Michel Therrien.

- Almost zero urgency from this team, and there's barely more than 2 minutes left in regulation. 

- Now Pacioretty is stuck with Desharnais, oh god, make it stop. And Brian Flynn sent out with 2 minutes left. Kidding, right??

- It's time to seriously start considering moving Weber and Emelin apart, permanently. Weber with ... Petry or Markov, fine. Emelin down to the 3rd line, even better. But they need to be separated.

- Do the Habs know this is the 3rd period? They're playing as though it's 2-1 with a minute left in the 2nd. Just abysmal. 

- Don't even know where to start with how awful the Canadiens were tonight. Just a pathetic passive effort against a sub-average hockey team. Very few if any highlights, apart from Andrew Shaw rightly getting benched for the night after taking a selfish and stupid penalty which directly contributed to his team's loss. Anyway, how can this team possibly excuse such a performance with a nearly totally healthy roster? One of the worst collective performances by this team this season.


Okay, before we get into the game tonight, a little bit about losing Mark Barberio, who was claimed off waivers this morning by the god-awful Colorado Avalanche.

First thought - I cannot fathom that Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin actually thought that Barberio would clear, not with teams with defences that resemble war crimes (i.e. Colorado's). I watched some of the Avs/Kings game last night. Good lord - how have the Avs even managed to win 13 games this season? Anyway, Bergevin had to know that Barberio was going to get snapped up, which leads us to point two:

Why would you willingly just surrender an asset? We've been down this road before with Bergevin. We only have to turn the clock back a few months to find another example - specifically, when Bergevin took a young (albeit struggling, but still), big defenseman in Jarred Tinordi and gave him away to Arizona in return for the absolutely useless body of John Scott. Now, setting aside the issue of Tinordi's recent issues with doping, the fact remains that Bergevin simply gave away an asset without receiving any return. Just like what happened with Barberio this morning.

Thing is, one could even rationalize the Tinordi giveaway - the Habs needed to clear a contract, or for that matter, a spot that could go towards signing someone else to a professional contract. With Barberio, however, there is no rationale for losing him because, and this is the key point - he didn't have to be put on waivers in the first place. Instead, Bergevin could have sent two forwards back to St. John's (Daniel Carr and Jacob De La Rose would have sufficed). Like Carr who was sent down Tuesday, De La Rose didn't need to clear.

Instead, for reasons that I cannot understand, Bergevin chose keeping De La Rose up, and putting Barberio on waivers.

Point being here - this is bad asset management.

Anyway, there's a game to be played tonight, and it's against the Flyers, who we hate, but not as much as we used to. You remember what it used to be like 20 years ago after Serge Savard handed Philadelphia all of our best players. The Flyers sadistically beat us like stuffed doll for 10 straight years, and oh - we hated every minute. But now? Meh. The Flyers are a mediocre team who the Habs, on most given nights, usually don't present too much of a challenge. The rivalry just ain't there any more.

The Flyers are currently clinging to the 2nd wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and haven't exactly been lighting the League up since the start of the new year, with 5 wins in 12 games, the latest a 5-1 loss at the hands of the sneaky good Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. In response to that drubbing, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is scratching youngsters Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere for deadweight "vets" Nick Schultz and (drum roll please) Dale Weise!!

Oh, Dale Weise. The Flyers signed Weise this summer to a 4-year contract, a decision that I'm sure has cause significant buyer's remorse amongst the Philadelphia front office suits. Weise has a paltry 5 points to show for his 41 games played this season - a production level so dismal that up until tonight's game, he'd been a healthy scratch since January 14th.

Anyway, big issue with Philadelphia is, as it has been since the early 1990s -  (taa daa!) goaltending. Number one guy Steve Mason has some pretty weak numbers - 2.90 GAA and a .900 Sv%. That save percentage is the 2nd worst among goaltenders who have played at least 30 games this season - only Jake Allen has been more terrible, and Allen is a bar that's currently buried 6 feet underground.

Other than their putrid goaltending, the Flyers play a pretty decent game - good possession stats, they generate decent shot totals, play fairly well on the backend. But put pucks on their net, and watch out.

The Habs, meanwhile, carry an almost totally healthy lineup into Philly tonight - everyone except for Brendan Gallagher, is game-ready, including Alex Galchenyuk, who returns to action after sitting out more than week after "re-aggravating" his knee injury. Galchenyuk will center the Habs 3rd line, alongside Sven Andrighetto and Andrew Shaw.

It's Mason versus Carey Price. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

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