Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Game 64: Blue Jackets vs. Habs

Montreal 1, Columbus 0 (OT):


- Habs warmup adjustments, Desharnais, Andrighetto and Nesterov are out, McCarron, Flynn and Cornelius (Benn) will start.

- So revised Habs 4th line is Flynn/McCarron/Mitchell, FWIW.

- Hartnell purposefully slews Price, and somehow escapes not only a penalty, but retribution from any Habs player on the ice. 

- Habs with a pretty good start, players seem to be formulating some good chemistry. Passes are crisp, positioning is strong. 

- Habs really outworking the Jackets here, have drawn two early powerplays mainly because the Jackets are being so badly outskated.

- Have I mentioned how bad NHL Gamecenter is? I don't think I've clearly articulated that before. So let me say this: NHL Gamecenter is bad, very bad. Currently locked out of the game stream for reasons unbeknown.

- Game settling in, even though there haven't been very many whistles. Habs doing a pretty good job in their own zone, seems to be more structured tonight - Benn with relatively uneventful shifts, which is just fine if you're a 3rd liner.

- Not so sure about Price - Jackets have hit the post 3 times this period, meaning Price is giving Columbus only exactly what he needs to (or more likely, he's been lucky).

- Yet more poor defensive play by Emelin - he just can't handle any opposing forward who has even average NHL speed. Gets nailed for a hold because he can't adjust to the rush, and sends the dangerous Jackets powerplay to work.

- Julien doesn't mess around - sends out Benn first line PK.

- Columbus's powerplay looks pretty much just as potent now as it did earlier in the season. Passing the puck on a string, Canadiens PK doing a lot of chasing, Price puck blocking. Canadiens must most definitely stay away from the penalty box from here on out.

- Jackets really building off that man advantage. That's the danger - not only do you have to defend against a potent man advantage, you then have to work your pants off afterward to reclaim some semblance of momentum. 

- Bobrovksy very sharp this period. I think we can say with great confidence that 11 goals won't be scored tonight, 10 by Columbus. 

- First period complete, a satisfactory 20 minutes. Habs started strong, Jackets got going later part of the period, aided by a powerplay boost courtesy more bad Alexei Emelin hockey. Even though it's been more than 3 games since Montreal scored at home, it's important to hold a team scoreless the 1st period in light of what happened earlier in the season. 


- Here's the first period, Habs CF% just 42.2 at even strength, but large piece of the start of the game was on the powerplay. So grain of salt.

- Woah, Desharnais has been traded, to Edmonton for defenseman Brandon Davidson. 

- While we mull over the Desharnais trade, which is pretty clearly a Habs win, there are a few ways to contemplate the ramifications. It gives the Habs a little more blue line depth, which means Bergevin might be inclined to trade Beaulieu, or offload Emelin. It also gives the Habs the opportunity of exposing Davidson instead of Benn in the expansion draft.

- Okay, back to the game. Another strong period start for the Habs, Shaw's stick shattering in what likely would have been the game's first goal. Still, Habs containing the Jackets transition, and have distinct edge in play at center ice.

- Galchenyuk misses a great chance in close, Habs should start worrying about converting their opportunities before they eventually dry up.

- Weber, again tries to dump the puck up the boards, which results in a bad turnover, Price bailed out again by the goalpost. We've said it before, we'll keep saying it - there needs to be a culture shift in the way the Habs defence handles the puck in their own zone. Too many giveaways resulting in high percentage opposition chances - come playoff time, assuming the Habs make it that far, that kind of play will kill you.

- Emelin. Hoo boy. At some point you just gotta shake your head and look the other way.

- Habs are the better team tonight, which means this team has taken some strides the right direction, in light of who the opposition is. Montreal much faster with the puck, getting far more high percentage shots and shot attempts. Apart from the posts Columbus has hit tonight, it's been a pretty quiet night for Price.

- Columbus wingers have tried repeatedly to go wide on the Montreal defence, and with exception to Emelin, it's largely failed tonight. Big reason why the Canadiens have been able to contain the Jackets.

- Weber takes Danaut down with a slapper - it baffles me how Habs forwards are putting themselves in harm's way even after what's happened to Gallagher et al.

- Looks like Jenner, who's been a hothead most of this period, is getting nailed for a slash to end the period. Starting the period with clean ice is a big advantage.

- Really solid period for the Habs, they're the better team tonight. Canadiens defence doing a nice job containing the slot, and pushing much of Columbus' attacks to the permitter. Habs again hampered by inability to finish scoring opportunities, but they're clearly outworking and outskating their opponent, which in a close contest, are favourable conditions for victory.


- CF chart is even split, but eye test says Habs have been much better team through 40 minutes:

- Clean ice sheet powerplay miserably wasted. Oh, well.

- Man, Danault. One goal in February. This lack of production also can't go on indefinitely. Not with guys like Pacioertty and Radulov on your sides.

- Habs best scoring chances tonight coming off rushes, Jackets off scrambley shots. Would rather been former than later.

- Pacioretty strong, Radulov strong - the usual suspects. Galchenyuk has quietly played an outstanding game on both ends of the ice. 

- Other the other end of the spectrum, the 4th line not clicking tonight - not sure what the issues are. Likely Flynn's presence, Mitchell still hasn't quite figured out McCarron (and vies-versa).

- Jordie Benn, responsbile, efficient and effective tonight. Solid Habs debut.

- Yikes, Radulov tried to sneak in an interference in the Jackets zone, and got caught. Columbus back to that fierce powerplay. Hold your breath.

- Gutsy PK there, Benn with two key shot blocks. Pinned in their zone, they were exhausted, but got the job done.

- Bobrovsky's had far more difficult saves to make tonight, and he just made a beauty off Pacioretty side of the net, somehow keeping the puck out as Max jammed away with Bobrovsky's flat on his stomach. MVP of the game clearly to the Jackets' netminder. This game should already be over in favour of the Canadiens.

- 2 minutes left, Habs pushing, Bobrovsky's been outstanding. Might need a greasy or lucky bounce to find the back of the net.

- Maybe Bobrovsky in their heads, Habs being a little too passy with the puck, looking for perfect play. 

- Simply outstanding effort by the Canadiens tonight, full marks to the lineup who gave maximum effort. Certainly the most complete game I've seen this season. Another OT, but if you'd offered me at least a point out of tonight's game, I'd have taken it in a heartbeat.


- Woah. What a sequence. Bank pass springs Pacioretty off a break, stopped by Bobrovksy, loose puck and the puck may have just barely crossed the line. But was the whistle blown? Did Pacioretty push it in with his hand? Crazy play.

- Puck clearly drifted over the line. There's white ice. This has got to count.

- For what it's worth, Price could have frozen the puck, but instead dished it off to Danault who made a brilliant bank off the boards to give Pacioretty the breakaway. What a play by Danault.

- Unbelievable. How can that not be called a goal? My god, NHL. Get your act in gear.

- Price brilliant series of saves to keep his team alive. 

- Incredible work by Markov, and draws a holding penalty. Jones to the box. Habs to the OT powerplay.

- AK27 ONE TIMER TURN OUT THE LIGHTS. What a win for the Canadiens. Best of the season. 


Hey, did you hear the latest? Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin totally dumped that freeloadin' Greg Pateryn who so happens to have a wife that doesn't much care for the french people, for the gun slingin' sled dog owner Yukon Cornelius! Now, I'm not exactly sure what Yukon's Corsi percentage is this season in 5v5 situations, or what his average shot block per game averages are, but I do know this: You put an ax in this man's hands, and he'll love you just about as much as he loves that ax:

Mmmm ... yeah, baby. That's some hot tasty ax there.

Yeah, I already hear you fans already complaining. How could this guy with the kink hardware obsession who's spent most of his life riding behind sled huskies made out of plasticine possibly help the Habs defence?

Well I got four word response for you:


Yeah. That shut you up real good, didn't it? No more Emelin! Well, except for tonight, as the Canadiens host the (uh-oh) Columbus Blue Jackets from the Bell Centre. Just in case the trauma of November the 4th of our Lord 2016 caused you a mind wipe, these are indeed the same Blue Jackets who shot 10 cannonballs through the mangled corpse of Al Tony Montoya. Ya know, I think it was that night above all others in this crazy up and down season, that caused Bergevin to seriously reconsidered his foxhole choices.

So, here we go. Gulp. The Jackets' lineup tonight:




Sergei Bobrovsky

Whoops, you might say, you missed a guy. NOPE. The Jackets usual 4th line William Karlsson was suddenly taken ill during practice this morning and immediately sent back to Columbus, which kind of screams mumps, doesn't it?

Oh great. Just what the Habs need. Mumps floating around their hockey rink.

So advantage Habs!! What do the Canadiens have running tonight?



Carey Price

So, what do you need to know leading into tonight's game?

1. Columbus is still a pretty good hockey team. Not sixteen straight wins in a row great, but still good. Speaking of "the streak", the Jacket's record since it ended back on January 5th is 13-10-1. Decent, but not spectacular.

2. The Jacket's powerplay, which was at one point running an insane nearly 30% success clip, has cooled off since the end of the streak. It's now at just over 22%, still very good, but they've tumbled from 1st to 5th in the League.

3. The Jackets still enjoy some pretty healthy puck luck - backed mostly by what one might consider an unsustainable shooting percentage that's currently a shade below 11%.  Then again, the Jackets play a pretty structured game offensively, where a preponderance of their shot attempts are taken from higher percentage scoring positions. Habs will need to play a pretty tight and organized defence, especially around their slot, if they hope to limit Columbus' goal totals tonight.

4. Max Pacioretty's 30th of the season scored last night in Jersey, his 4th straight year of 30+ goals, puts him in some very elite franchise company. Only two, that's right, only 2 other players in Montreal Canadiens history have had more than 4 years of 30+ goals - Guy Lafleur (6 straight years) and Steve Shutt (9 consecutive seasons). Factoring in the dead puck era, folks, Max Pacioretty is already building a pretty good case for Hall of Fame entry.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.

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