Monday, 27 February 2017

Game 63: Habs vs. Devils

Montreal 4, New Jersey 3 (OT):


- Al (Tony) Montoya gets the nod for the Habs in goal, saving Carey Price for tomorrow night's inevitable start against the Blue Jackets. It was Montoya who endured all 10 of Columbus's goals that infamous night last November.

- Gallagher with a fast and physical start to the game - another Habs player who like Galchenyuk, seems to be rounding back into form.

- Galchenyuk line also with gusto to start the period - good forecheck tilting the ice towards Jersey's direction when they hit the ice.

- Devils look so much like the Habs were during the worst dumb-and-chase days under Michel Therrien. Makes for some pretty unwatchable hockey, nevermind a rather meek attack.

- Mentioned this in passing in the pregame piece, but would really like to see Julien give Andrighetto a legitimate chance on the 3rd line, and demote Byron to the 4th. Andrighetto is playing a far more aggressive and creative game.

- Habs with far more speed entering the O-zone, Danault line giving the not-so-good Jersey defence all it can handle. Still, the Canadiens aren't converting on their opportunities, which for an inferior Devils team, is exactly what they'd be hoping for.

- While it takes Petry out of the picture, would really like to see Emelin sent out not during either a Galchenyuk or Danault line shift. Because he's such a terrible puck passer, Emelin really hampers what strengths those two lines bring to the table (skill and speed).

- There it is - opportunities missed and then given. Weber with a poor play, attempting to pass the puck up the boards from behind his net to Plekanec, but the pass is far too hard and high for Plekanec to handle, and the resulting turnover to Palmeri is buried past Montoya. 1-0 Devils.

- Frustrating end to a period that was definitely favouring the Habs - but again, it's the defence more than anything that tends to let this team down, and this time, it's Weber with an error that he ought never make. Montreal is still probably mentally fragile, so we'll soon find out whether they'll find a way of bouncing back from that play, or folding up their tents for another day.


- Slight possession edge to Montreal, but the Weber mistake looms large - at least at the moment. Habs CF (5v5): 51.5%:

- Emelin is a wreck. Aimless in his own zone, unable to make even the most basic plays, and now a terrible trip to put New Jersey on the powerplay. Can't help but wonder how much longer Julien can tolerate the intolerable. 

- Fortunately, this Devils powerplay is mediocre at best. New Jersey on the whole has played unimpressively tonight, and somehow, the Habs are finding a way of letting their opponent and this game pass them by.

- Habs are trying to bump and grind their way to victory tonight - and it's failing. Miserably. 

- So, Desharnais promoted to 2nd line, and Galchenyuk is shifted over to the wing. Michel Therrien was fired, right? Asking for a friend.

- If Julien wants to shake things up, he could start with the so-called top line. After a decent 1st period, the Danault line has gone into total hiding. Would it kill this team to at least try Galchenyuk up the middle there for a few shifts?

- Nobody stepping up for the Habs. Nothing certainly from the deemed leadership - Pacioretty, Weber, Plekanec, Markov. Totally uninspired effort by a team that simple can't afford to keep losing.

- Plekanec and Gallagher with what one might call a very good shift for the Habs. That's the period highlight right there.

- Mortifyingly mediocre, borderline poor, imminently uninspired period by the Canadiens, who far more resemble a team playing out the string then their actual opponents, who at this point, are playing out the string. Inexcusable stuff.


- Two uninspired periods down, one more to endure. Habs just not showing up. What else can you say?

- Is there a team more burned by losing D-Zone faceoffs this season than the Habs? Moore with a point shot that goes through about 14 legs and between Montoya's legs to make it 2-0. That might just be the killer blow.

- Hold that thought - at least for the next few minutes, as Radulov quickly replies with a snap shot that beats Schneider clean. It's 2-1.

- Schneider isn't elite - but the Habs approach to playing him is treating him as such. That Radulov goal is a good illustration that if you get shots on goal from decent scoring positions, good things can happen.

- Radulov certainly seems to be more inspired this period - one might think if anyone is likely to score a tying goal for the Habs, it'll be him.

- Markov with a poor play, trying to play the puck up the boards (a relic of the Therrien era), which generates a turnover breakaway, Danault forced to take a hooking penalty, and the Devils concert on the powerplay seconds later. That should do it. 

- Whelp, it ain't quite over yet, as again the Habs respond in a matter of seconds, Pacioretty with his 30th, Schneider again not looking very good. 

- Habs get their first powerplay of the night, 11 minutes left, an actual chance of tying this game. Hold on to your hats.

- Pretty good powerplay, the best chance being Pacioretty alone with the puck 20 feet in front of Schneider, but instead of shooting, he passes off (fruitlessly). Always the shots you don't take that kill you.

- Lehkonen, obviously trying hard to impress the new coach, rag-dolled most of the game. Tough night for him has resulted in limited minutes as the game has progressed.

- Habs pushing hard, really hard, knowing the desperation of the situation. As the clock winds down, sinking feeling it's all too little too late.

- PATCHES STEPS UP TO THE PLATE AND DELIVERS. With 52 seconds left, the Habs fight their way back to tie the score.

- Well, Habs needed a leader, someone to elevate, and the captain came through in spades, scoring two late goals to give his team at least one precious point in the standings. An overtime point will be critical towards getting this team back into a good position for making the playoffs, so buckle up.


- Radulov and Galchenyuk go out together, and look fantastic. Claude Julien, take hints when they're handed to you.

- Beaulieu dumped and the Habs get an OT powerplay. Hold on.

- Galchenyuk. One timer. The Habs, incredibly, win the game. What a gutsy comeback. A massive victory. Maybe even their biggest of the whole damn season. More importantly, this team's most important players delivered when it was needed - Pacioretty, Radulov and finally, Galchenyuk. 



Woah, are the Habs on the cusp of winning TWO games in a row? Is this possibly possible? In this crazy ol' world where they can't give out the right envelope for Best Picture, maybe just maybe, the Montreal Canadiens are about to accomplish what once seemed improbable - nay, impossible - an actual "winning streak".

The chance of winning consecutive game won't come much better tonight, as the Canadiens take on the Devils in New Jersey (Donald Trump's secret favourite team, if you wanted to get a little hate going). In any case, the Habs will be seeking to sweep the season series against Jersey this evening - in their two previous meetings, Montreal handily beat the Devils 3-1 and 5-2.

Tonight's contest might be the last for the Habs, at least, as we know them - with the trade deadline coming up in just two days. Lots of speculation going around about the Habs looking to bolster their top 6 forwards, or bottom 3rd pairing (although what Montreal really needs to focus on is finding a way of not having Alexei Emelin play, full stop).

What Marc Bergevin does, be it trading away the able Greg Pateryn, or David Desharnais (please let that be so, PLEASE), or finding someone to take away Tomas Plekanec (very unlikely), or somehow making a meaningful addition without trading away a blue chip prospect (of which the Habs don't have many) or high round picks (of which the Habs need to get more blue chip prospects) remains to be seen. I believe, at the end of the day, Bergevin won't make any significant deals because the Habs don't really have anything to trade that other clubs are interested in (other than high level prospects and picks, which Bergevin has already categorically stated he's not willing to move).

Anyway, back to tonight's game. Here's the Habs' supposed lineup tonight:



Subtle adjustments by Claude Julien, both agreeable. First, putting the more capable Lehkonen next to Galchenyuk (who's rounding back into form), and moving the less capable Byron next to Plekanec. It helps move the Canadiens offence into more of a traditional approach - the first two lines more focused on scoring, the 3rd on checking. That 4th line though - who knows? It's been such a dog's breakfast this season, it almost seems on most night's it's a compilation of spare parts. David Desharnais gets favoured over Michael McCarron, Sven Andrighetto arguably could do better with a top 9 placement, moving Byron down to the 4th. Oh well. At the very least, we don't have Brian Flynn playing tonight.

Okay, let's check out the Devils. With Jersey essentially out of the playoff hunt this season, they're sellers for the trade deadline, and today announced that Kyle Quincey will be removed from the lineup, likely because by the end of the day, he'll be traded. So, with Quincey out, expect to see this formation:



Starting goaltenders haven't been announced, but we're guessing it's Cory Schnedier vs. Carey Price.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

CNN BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Habs have traded Greg Pateryn and a 4th to Dallas for defenseman Jordie Benn. I think this qualifies for a "hmmm".

UPDATE TO UPDATE: Benn's numbers (49.3% CF) this season stack up less than Pateryn's (52.7%) - so that Bergevin traded the better player away and added a pick, no question the deal was a win for the Stars. Not an overwhelming win, but still - they're a small step forward, Habs a small step back.

Another point of consideration - with today's trade, the Habs suddenly find themselves overloaded with left handed defencemen (Markov, Beaulieu, Nesterov, Emelin and Benn), with only Weber and Petry the righties. Someone on that left side hasn't got a future in Montreal. 

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