Saturday, 18 February 2017

Game 59: Jets vs. Habs

Winnipeg 3, Montreal 1:


- Guys who are likely being "watched" by the new coach (for good and for bad): Plekanec, McCarron, Lehkonen, Shaw, Beaulieu, Emelin. I believe eventually Julien will eventually see that Emelin is more deserved a 3rd pairing assignment. Eventually.

- Well, that's interesting. Habs defence way more active early on - certainly more positionally aggressive. That's a good thing.

- Jets have done their homework - shots have been on Price's blocker side, conventionally thought to be his greatest weak spot.

- Don't like the 4th line dynamics - Mitchell and McCarron looked disorganized - in particular Mitchell who seems inclined to play up the middle, one a couple of occasions, getting in McCarron's way, which generated a couple puck giveaways.

- Poor shift by the Galchenyuk line, which still looks out of synch, Laine with a sparking scoring chance undone by an excellent glove save by Price (who's looked excellent so far).

- Well, there's a bounce-back, Galchenyuk to Pacioretty to Markov for a tip-in to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. Markov (active defence!!!) and Galchenyuk doing a nice job anticipating the play in the Jets zone, Andrei creating the original turnover, Alex making a smart pass to Pacioretty beside the Winnipeg net. That's the kind of play that will please and impress the new coach.

- Habs PK also apparently adjusted, the box appears more traditional in its setup, more inclined to play lower, offering slightly more guard for high-danger shots on Price. Any adjustment to this totally dysfunctional unit is a welcome sight.

- First period in the newest version of the Cladue Julien era is in the books. Mixed bag for the Canadiens (to be expected), with the most apparent adjustments being defensive, which is refreshingly perceptive. First, Julien clearly wants his blue line more engaged in the play, which means more active positioning in the opposing zone. Secondly, the PK seems to have reverted to basics - a clear indicator that Julien spotted the fundamental dysfunctions of that unit and made a very quick adjustment. Both adjustments were in total contradiction to the approach of the person who is (was?) in charge - J.J. Daigneault. It's a clear sign that if any adjustment are to be made to the assistant coaching staff, Daigneault is likely the first to be relieved of his duties.


- Jets played a good period, they generated more than a couple of o-zone turnovers, largely because Emelin and Weber continue to struggle together (when will Julien move those two apart?). 5v5 CF for the Habs, 40.0%. Carey Price saving their bacon.

- Jets had 5 home plate (high danger) scoring chances on Price in that 1st, Habs just 2 (one of which was Markov's goal). That's a stat that Julien needs to address - not only generating more high % attempts, but reducing opposing numbers - a major factor in Price's Sv% decline this season.

- Emelin must be moved off the top pairing. Sooner than later, please.

- Hoo boy, Nathan Beaulieu, far too casual with the puck at center ice on the powerplay, making an absolutely brutal puck turnover to Armia, who has as easy a breakaway as you'll get in the NHL. Game tied.

- Second powerplay, Julien takes a page out of Therrien's book, using Andrew Shaw on the first line powerplay, next to Galchenyuk and Pacioretty. It goes nowhere.

- Beaulieu nearly gives the Habs the lead again, stopped point blank after pinching into the slot on the powerplay, Hellebucyk with an outstanding save. To Julien's credit, he's giving players like Beaulieu the opportunity to prove his worth, instead of punishing mistakes (something Therrien was often guilty of doing).

- Habs slowly taking over the game, even though the Jets have been the only team to score this period. Winnipeg has mostly been a 1st period team this season, which explains why they're rated 30th for GA in the 2nd period, 28th in the 3rd.

- Galchenyuk being far more active and responsible in his own zone. His line has been pinned more than a couple of times this afternoon, but at least the forwards are backchecking and covering the passing lanes.

- Yeah, Emelin needs to be moved to another page in this lineup - not next month, or next week - but this game, next period. Right. Now.

- Paradoxical periods today - Jets out chancing the Habs in the 1st, Habs scoring the only goal. Habs out chancing the Jets in the 2nd period, Winnipeg scoring the only goal. The trend lines are what mater, though - and right now, it favours the Canadiens, not only because they outworked the Jets in that period, but because Winnipeg, as we mentioned previously, has struggled defensively as games have progressed this season.


- After 40 minutes, you can see the Habs bouncing back in the 2nd period, methodically taking the game over, which is rather impressive considering how other NHL teams have struggled significantly this season in their first game back from a bye week. If not for Beaulieu's mistake (and a functioning powerplay), the scoreboard should still be favouring the Canadiens:

- It's likely too early to read much into these things, but Nikita Nesterov's ice time badly 6 minutes through 2 periods. Nesterov went down with a broken blade earlier in the 2nd, so I'm not sure if that's impacted on his deployment (I doubt it had since a blade is an easy fix). Anyway, it looks like Julien hasn't liked what he's seen, and has rotated him away from a regular shift. While the price tag was cheap, it's fast becoming apparent that he's not working out - either under Therrien, or so far under Julien.

- Woah, Galchenyuk removed from the top line, Danault in his place. Not sure what Julien saw and didn't like, but he's made a pretty startling mid-game adjustment.

- An awful, awful, horrible, no good first shift by Emelin to start his 3rd period, guilty of not one, not two, but three poor puck turnovers, and fails to cover, Perreault slamming home a loose puck. Pretty sure Julien can no longer ignore Emelin's poor play.

- Very good day at the office for McCarron - he's really carried the 4th line, which has seen some lacklustre play by both Mitchell and Flynn.

- Emelin, turning pucks over like crazy, making terrible passes. All by his lone self, he's killing his team today.

- 8 minutes on the clock, Habs haven't yet show any indication they are willing or able to shift their game into another gear.

- No reason for Habs to be fading in the 3rd, not on 5 days rest, but that's exactly what's happening. Ice is tilting heavily one direction, and it's not for the team that's trailing on the board. Forget moving up another gear, this team isn't even competing at an even keel.

- Just nothing going Habs way now. Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Radulov all struggling significantly today - and when they struggle, the Habs struggle.

- Disappointing return from the break for the Habs - so many glaring issues - defensive puck handling is awful, Emelin is awful, the offence is awful, the powerplay is awful. Carey Price is just fine. Claude Julien, welcome to Montreal. Have fun!!!


Vacation is over! It's back to the grind of watching Habs hockey, and fretting over their dwindling lead in the Atlantic Division. The dramatics of watching your favourite team's season slowly slipping away were tempered this week after, as you surely have heard, the Canadiens turned Michel Therrien, and brought in ex-Habs coach Claude Julien, who was turfed by the Boston Bruins a fortnight ago.

The Jets, erstwhile, are likely playing out another season that will end before the playoffs begin. The Jets come into Montreal losers of 5 of their past 6 games, sending them further down the standings in the Western Conference. The Jets biggest culprit the season has been (at best) and inconsistent (at worst) incoherent defence, which has resulted in Winnipeg surrounding on average about 31 shots per game (20th rated). Mix that with what can only be described as iffy netminding performances by Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson this season, and you end up with the 3rd worst rated defence in the NHL.

So with that in mind, here's the starting lineup for the Jets this afternoon:



Connor Hellebuyck

Meanwhile the Habs hope to get their lineup into a winning frame of mind under the new coach, who made a significant adjustment upon arrival in Montreal, shifting Alex Galchenyuk from a previously inhibiting role as 3rd line center under Therrien, back to top line duties. Ergo, the Canadiens' lineup today:



Carey Price

Couple of things I'll be watching today: Obviously, Galchenyuk back on the top line (something I was endless ranting about during Therrien's final month as coach), and Paul Bryon on the 2nd line. It's been a rather dreadful season for Byron, who's become more of a forgotten element on the Habs top 6. Bryon's struggle to score consistently has been one of the main reasons why the Habs secondary scoring has troubled this team - especially during its recent slide. A productive Byron makes the Canadiens a far more difficult team to play against.

Puck drops today at 2:10 EST.


- Scratches!! Sven Andrighetto, Greg Pateryn and David Desharnais will be watching from above tonight.

- With those being the healthy sitters, Mike McCarron will get a start - a roster move that is a pretty clear indicator that Claude Julien already has a pretty firm grasp of the Habs's assets.

- Game preview coming up.

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