Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Game 55: Habs vs. Avs

Colorado 4, Montreal 0:


- Uh, that's not a good start. Rantenen with a snap shot, Weber slightly screening Price, and in just a few seconds, it's 1-0 Avs.

- Lol? Martinson off a two-on-one beats Price clean 5-hole, the result of a broken play at center ice, and it's 2-0 Colorado. We're not even 3 minutes into the game. 

- Habs are just abysmal so far defensively. It's hard to point the finger at home person, everyone shares the blame, but no one person is so bad that you could rationale having them ash canned. I think the issue is more systematic - this team's blue line does not positionally play well, with too many bodies (either their own or an opponent) crowding the view of their netminders. Also a big issue is forwarding the puck. Five years of Therrien puck dump hockey has gotten a few defenders into bad habits - Markov, Beaulieu, Emelin. Poor passing is frequently leading to turnovers at centre ice, generating additional opposition zone pressure. In other words, Houston, we have a problem, and it's mainly defence.

- Galchenyuk/Byron/Lehkonen not clicking. So far, at least. But time and a little bit of patience is what's required. Nobody has played more different line combinations this year than the Canadiens (granted injuries have played a role), but that aside, Therrien tends to be overtly impatient - if he doesn't see immediate chemistry, he's more inclined to scrap the combination rather than seeing it through. 

- I guess things more or less settled down after the quick goals by the Avs, the Habs managing to outshoot Colorado, although I'd rate only one, maybe two shots as challenging for Pickard. Canadiens have to do a better job driving the net if they hope to work their way back into contention tonight. If not, we'd might as well head to bed and get our 8 hours.


- Habs ES CF in that first was 54.3%, but as mentioned previously, not a whole lot was shot at Pickard that gave him much trouble:

- 4 minutes in, Galchenyuk line with a very good shift, probably Habs best of the game. Canadiens are generate more scoring chances this period, but the offence continues to appear a bit snakebit.

- Nate MacKinnon just decided he was going to skate through Weber and Emelin, and went right ahead and did it. More troubling signs for the Habs defence.

- 7 minutes into the 2nd, Habs more or less dominating the period, but like all teams with slumping offences, they're finding ways of not scoring. Gotta ride this thing out, hoping the dam will break.

- Zone entires, be they even strength or the powerplay, continue to be poor. Another significant factor in the Habs scoring slump.

- LOL. Barberio? He who was mismanaged into waiver fodder, snapped up for nada, a snap shot from the line that's deflected by Rantenen, and it's 3-0. Sweet, sweet asset mismanagement irony.

- Habs looked good first 7 minutes of this period, and then went into something resembling a grizzly bear hibernation since. Team's a mess.

- Another night, more struggles for the Emelin/Weber pairing, who've played questionable defence together for at least a month. Still confounding why Therrien doesn't try someone else next to Weber, and shift Emelin, who's been very weak defending the rush, to 3rd line duties.

- Powerplay is  a mess. What is the deal with Desharnais being used as 2nd unit center? Good lord. Defence isn't helping much either - struggling to make passes, shots are coming from bad angles. 

- Two periods done. Whelp, what do you say when're you're losing badly to the worst team in hockey? Better luck next time? Or do you start reaching for the panic button? Still think the offence funk will eventually stop funking, but the defence is just drifting nowhere in particular. That's gotta be a huge concern for this team if they hope to compete for anything worthwhile this spring.


- Yup, Habs are officially being outplayed by the worst team in hockey. And that's not even considering the scoreboard. 

- Therrien is back at it again. Danault and Pacioretty with ... Andrew Shaw. Sigh.

- Ratenen with a hat trick goal to salt this away. Barberio with an assist, his 2nd point, for good riddance. 

- Dunno what to say. This team is not only in danger of letting 1st place slip away, it's actually in danger now of maybe even letting a playoff spot slip away. The phones will be buzzing tomorrow, especially in light of Claude Julien's dismissal today, and the Canadiens playing some bad hockey with a healthy lineup. Avs were, even by far the 30th place team, the better club tonight - they outskated, outworked, and converted their opportunities. Habs were (and have been) very dysfunctional - the powerplay, the defence and their plan of attack - which seems to have gone astray from an offence that tries to carry the zone, to dump and chase hockey. That's a losing formula, and now the pressure is ramped up as the team heads to Arizona in desperate need of a victory. Hold on to your hats - the drama is only starting.


To prep up for tonight's clash, here's nifty little graph from Micha McCurdy of Hockeyviz.com:

See those two teams way, way, way down in the bottom left corner? Those are very bad hockey teams. They just so happen to be the next two teams our beloved Habs are playing this week, first tonight in Denver, and Thursday night in Phoenix.

The Avs are mired in the middle of one of their worst seasons in franchise history. In fact, you have to travel all the way back to 1990, when the team resided in Quebec City (and won an astoundingly bad 12 games that season), to find a worse year.

The Avs are firmly placed in the bottom 5 of virtually all significant statistical categories. 5th worst in possession (47.2), 30th in offence (2.01 GF60), 30th in defence (3.39 GA60), 5th worst in shots (28.0 /60), 3rd worst in shots against (32.1 /60), 4th worse in dZone faceoffs (they happen more than 36% of the time), 2nd worst save percentage (.894), 30th in shooting percentage (7.18), 30th rated powerplay (14.1%), 6th worst PK (77.9 efficiency). You add 'em all up, you have a team 14 wins in 49 games.

Even though tonight's game is on the road, there is no excuse, zero, zilch, nada ... none ... for the Canadiens to not come out with 2 easy points in the bag. Not with a healthy roster (Gallagher back this weekend???), not with Alex Galchenyuk back at centre, not with David Desharnais back on the 4th line, not with Carey Price between the pipes. This is unfair hockey, and as such, the Habs must show no mercy in thrashing a club who on December 10th, they destroyed 10-1.

Now that we have all the pleasentries out of the way, here are the lineups for tonight's game. First, the Avs:


Beauchemin/Barberio (HEY I KNOW THAT GUY)

Calvin Pickard (8W 14L 3.05 GAA .903 Sv%)

And over on the Habbies side:



Carey Price (23W 12L 2.35 GAA, .922 Sv%)

Many eyes will be focused on Matt Duchene, he being the latest Montreal media wet dream trade-deadline acquisition. Sorry Habs talking heads, Duchene ain't coming here - the pricetag on his head is way beyond reasonable, or for that matter, within the means of what Marc Bergevin has to offer. Temper your fantasies a little - maybe Jaro Jagr or ... dare I say, Jarome Iginla (ah, but would he be willing to play for Les Canadiens?).

Puck drops tonight at 9:10 EST.


Practicing, practising. Just practising. Not close to return. Just with the boys in what is supposedly now the best city in America to live in. Really??

What else? Well at that practice this morning, Alex Galchenyuk played centre, with Artturi Lehkonen and Paul Byron on his wings. Maybe Therrien's insanity lasted just the one game.

HEY, speaking of Michel Therrien, the guy we'd love to be his replacement? Wellllll ....
Julien can pretty much chart his own course. Speculation has already begun he'll be the first coach of the Vegas franchise, while delirious Islanders fans think all New York (Brooklyn? Hartford?) has to do is pick up the phone to hire him. Uh, sorry guys. Nobody good wants to coach your team.

The boys are in Denver tonight. Game preview in a bit.

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