Thursday, 9 February 2017

Game 56: Habs vs. Coytoes

Montreal 5, Arizona 4 (OT):


So Hanzal isn't playing tonight, indicating a) he's really sick, b) he's about to be traded, or c) he's about to be traded and he's really sick about it.

- Great first shift by Plekanec line, even better one for Danault, as Pacioretty tucks home the puck off a nice little pass from Danault (Coyotes defence dreadfully soft) for his 200th career NHL goal. Not too shabby. 1-0 quickly for the Habs.

- Max Pacioretty has the same goal production per game (0.37) as Patrick Kane, who was drafted ahead of him in 2007. Kane among the recently announced Top 100 Greatest NHL Players of All Time. So there you go.

- Maybe the players sensed a wake-up call, this Habs team not nearly as passive tonight as they were against the lowly Avs. These losses, especially against bottom-feeders, can present upside. 

- Mike Smith really fighting the puck tonight. Habs forwards would be wise to crash the crease for some loose pucks.

- Makrov with a blast off the post makes it 2-0, courtesy some excellent hard work by McCarron and Carr behind the Arizona net to win the puck battle and get the puck to the line. Habs 4th line already looks much better than they ever were with the Flynn/Mitchell/De La Rose/Desharnais combinations.

- McCarron is doing everything you could reasonably ask of an NHL 4th liner - he's being physical, he's working hard, he's generating puck turnovers, and to boot, he's scoring points. Com'on Michel, give the guy a full-time job already.

- First period in the book, I guess that's more like it?  Very good periods for both the Danault and McCarron lines, Alex Galchenyuk with a so-so period, still not really clicking with Lehkonen and Byron. Greg Pateryn also looks good - he brings a nasty edge to his game that Nikita Nesterov seemed incapable of providing during his few starts in a Habs uniform. Price steady but unspectacular - these are the kinds of games he tends to thrive in. So far, as they say, so good.


- Habs 5v5 CF in the 1st, 55.3%. Solid period. Not dominating, but solid. 

- Galchenyuk's first shift of the 2nd period his best so far tonight. Still, I don't think he's anywhere close to 100% the same player he was two months ago. Knee injuries are tricky to fully recover from. While healed, some players might still lack the same strength and mobility they had pre-injury. Galchenyuk's recovery will take time.

- Habs just manhandling the Coyotes so far, it's not a blitzing, more like a slow, twisting suffocation of their opponent. Arizona spending way too much time and energy defending their zone, barely registering a smite of offence in this period. 11 minutes left.

- McCarron and Byron with gold-plated scoring chances this period, Mike Smith catching more than a couple of huge breaks flailing in his net, while the puck found ways of staying out of the net. Should be a blowout score right now, so technically, the Coyotes are hanging in, but only barely.

- Que Andrew Shaw with dumb-assed penalty, this time a totally unnecessary hook. It gives the opposing team a chance of getting back into this game. If I'm the coach, this thing is driving me totally crazy.

- Danault given a bogus delay of game penalty at the end of the Shaw penalty. Coyotes with a gift powerplay.

- Dvorak converts, of course. Habs get jobbed by a bad call. 2-1.

- Paul Byron, who hit a crossbar, and is mired in a slump that's lasted well over 2 months, joins the stupid crowd, and gets nailed for an interference. All coming apart so quickly for the Canadiens here.

- Carey Price with an insane save off a Peter Holland breakaway. Then Holland digs at what appears to be a frozen puck until it's pushed across the line. Of course, the call goes against the Habs upon review, and the game is tied.

- Haha. Total Habs meltdown here, Goligowski, as Price totally loses track of the puck, not to mention some downright atrocious defence by Pateryn and Emelin. Coyotes take a stunning 3-2 lead, and again, it all started with Andrew Shaw taking a bad penalty. 

- 2nd period complete. Well, what can you say? Repeating ourselves here, but the Canadiens were in total and full control of this game, missing a couple of sure-fire scoring chances that would have salted this game away for certain. Then Andrew Shaw made yet another costly poor decision that gave the Coyotes momentum that turned this game totally on its head, and the Habs went from two points in the bag, to one goal down on the scoreboard. Stunningly bad period that's underscoring some of the more dysfunctional aspects of this hockey team - 1) the Canadiens continuing issues with its defence, and 2) this team being consistently hurt by singular plays by individual players. 


- Habs had a pretty dominative 2nd period, but as we mentioned, it only takes one stupid selfish play by one player for the worm to turn against, no matter how well you might be playing collectively. 5v5 CF in that 2nd period alone was 75%, but it's all for naught.

 Just a reminders, Bergevin brought in so-called "character guys" that were supposed to push this team over the hump during inevitable times of duress. Well, this is one of these times. Let's see how well those moves have paid off.

- Well, that's a good first sign. Pacioretty with his 2nd of the night, 27th of the season (just 3 behind Sid!!) on the powerplay to tie the game. Leaders stepping up to the plate - at least Max is. Will anyone else follow?

- 4th line making a statement tonight, and it reads as follows: "keep Desharnais and Flynn as healthy scratches unless and until the earth ceases rotation on its axis".

- Habs again controlling most aspects of this hockey game extending through the first half of this 3rd period. There is no good reason why they should not come away with 2 points, but one gets the feeling they'll find a way of blowing it.

- Nix that, Pacioretty with another brilliant shift, basically willing the puck to his side, and Radulov doing the usual Radulov thing, which is being great, crashing the low slot to beat two defenders to a loose puck and tuck a shot just under the bar to give the Habs the lead again.

- This ... now THIS is a dominating period, 6 minutes left, Price has had to handle 2 shots, neither being remotely dangerous. Coyotes play a pretty terrible possession game, that bears an interesting similarity to how the Habs were playing two years ago. 

- Unbelievable. Price kinda-sorta misplays a poke of the puck, which hits his shoulder, then off the inside his pad, and into the net. One of the craziest, flukiest goals you'll see, and it burns the Habs who, until this point in the game, had pretty much held their opponent to zero in the period. Game is tied.

- So who had money on Carey Price struggling to keep his Sv% above .900 this season? Anyone? Anyone? Hello?

- Overtime. Well at least we got this far, but with Carey Price playing as he has tonight, and the past month, colour me as lacking confidence the Habs will end up with the extra point.


- Not sure how we even arrived here, but Habs 5v5 CF tonight? A ridiculous 66.3%:

- Radulov and Pacioretty have been on FIRE tonight, a two man demolition crew tonight. So in OT, Therrien splits them apart. Genius.

- Paul Byron. Two month + slump just got a whole lot worse, as he hits his second crossbar tonight, this time with Smith totally down and absolutely out and most of the net a gaping receptor of any pucks offered her sweet, netty embrace.

- Galchenyuk. Sweet, merciful Galchenyuk ends this preposterous hockey game. Max Pacioretty was all world tonight, carrying the team on his back, scoring two and assisting two, including the OT winner. Might have been his most brilliant NHL performance to date - he was that good. Habs just barely wrangle out two points against the League's 2nd worst team, but somehow, that considered, it feels like the kind of win that might spark this team back into a winning mindset again. We'll see, as the Habs have two games to play this weekend before getting their mandated week of rest.


PANIC. PANIC. PANIC. Is it time to panic yet? Hey, let's ask G.M. Marc Bergevin. Hey Marc-o, this is your team, your coach. How's it shakin' over there?
Ah, well ... that's ... interesting? Any other completely baseless speculation you can toss our way, oh great Twitter Gods?

Hey, I'd be just about the first guy to lose my mind in ecstatic glee if Bergevin dumped Therrien for Julien, but com'on everyone. Who actually thinks that Marc "fox hole" Bergevin would fire his guy, HIS GUY, still technically a "first place" hockey team, almost right in the middle of a hockey season? Naw. Not gonna happen.

What's more likely happening here is Bergevin has seen his team, with an almost totally healthy roster, totally stink the joint for more than a week, and is having a few one-on-one chats with the perceived dressing room leadership (it's speculated that he met with Max Pacioretty, Carey Price and Shea Weber) to gauge their opinions about how the team is playing, whether there's some on-ice issues or pieces that he should consider addressing as the trade deadline approaches - Occam Razor's stuff.

The baseless speculation was undoubtably "perked" because this meeting apparently was not attended by Therrien, which shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. Therrien, for those who have watched him closely the past few years, has never been an involved head coach. Behind the bench, he very rarely, if ever, oversees strategy with the players, and never draws up plays (he defers to his assistants - last year it was Gerard Gallant, this year it's been Kirk Muller).

Therrien (I'm guessing) was alerted to the meeting in advance by Bergevin, gave his okay, and it happened. End of (non) story.

Now. If the Habs were to somehow miss qualification for this spring's playoffs, then watch out. Changes would be coming down fast and hard, and Therrien would be first in line as sacrificial smoked meat.

Otherwise, nothing's happening. Sure, this club would realize a huge upgrade if it hired Julien as the next head coach, but timing being everything, it's almost certainly not going to happen.

So, with Michel Therrien still firmly in control of his bench, adjustments, accordingly, have been made. We have healthy scratches tonight! They being David Desharnais (second time in three starts he's been scratched), Brian Flynn (second time in three starts) will also watch from the press box, and Nikita Nesterov, who has, shall we say, underwhelmed his new team, will also sit. Mike McCarron, Greg Pateryn and Daniel Carr, who've been in and out of the lineup for most of the season, will play tonight. Expect to see Carr paired with McCarron and Mitchell on the Habs 4th line (which has been stinking up the joint for 3 solid months).

Over on Arizona's side, the Coyotes haven't played since Sunday, which does not bode well for a Habs lineup desperate to reach their mandated rest period which is coming up next week. Arizona is enduring another disappointing season, their on-ice struggles not being helped much by off-ice drama revolving around ownership uncertainties, ranging from a new arena that now appears to be DOA, to speculation that the franchise is avidly seeking relocation to the northwest, either Portland or Seattle.

Arizona is also being dogged (haha ... dogged ... get it?? ahh ..... okay) by player health issues. Alex Goligoski and Martin Hanzal, the later of which has become the focus of intense trade speculation, are game-time decisions because of the flu. Brad Richardson, whom the Coyotes took off the hands of the L.A. Kings last summer, is still recovering from a long-term leg injury. Don't feel bad for Brad, he's still picking up one hellova paycheck.

Tonight, it's Carey Price vs. Mike Smith (12W, 15L, 5OT, 2.86 GAA, .917 Sv%). Puck drops at 9:10, EST.

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