Monday, 6 March 2017

Game 67: Habs vs. Canucks

Montreal 2, Vancouver 1 (OT):


- Steve Ott gets a start tonight which is bad. Brian Flynn also gets a start, which is also bad. 

- Wowza, Torrey Mitchell scores a goal, his first in 39 games to give the Habs an early 1-0 win. Dwight King doing nice work along to boards to win the puck against two Canucks, eventually leading to the Mitchell tip in front. 

- Is it sad that Mitchell's raw output with that goal is now nearly as much as Plekanec's?

- One more year left on Plekanec's contract, which in case you'd forgotten, pays him $6 million a year, which if you think about it, is rather insane and must be somehow moved between now and the start of next season.

- Byron, who's been really picking up his game of late, makes a poor drop pass near Miller resulting in Canucks break other direction, manages to skate all the way back to easily break up the play. All that speed can make an average forward above average if it's utilized right.

- Julien has a good finger on the pulse of players who are performing well - Gallagher gets a nice little vote of confidence sent out on the 1st unit powerplay. It's little good coaching moves that add up to much larger benefits.

- Lottta Carey Price fans in the stands tonight, which of course makes total sense given where he grew up. Hasn't been particularly busy this period, but has made a couple of difficult saves to keep Vancouver off the board.

- Where has Mitchell been? He scores for the first time since the Reagan administration, and then doesn't play? I can't recall him being injured.

- Habs soundly outworking and out skating the Canucks this period, two penalties drawn so far a direct result of that. Habs powerplay o-fer, but pretty aggressive in the Vancouver zone. Canucks would be wise to avoid the penalty box moving forward.

- Good first period for the Canadiens, with exception to the 4th line which looked disorganized at best, a significant defensively liability at worst. 


- Corsi aberration in that 1st, Canadiens CF at even strength just 32.0%, a result of the 4th line bumbling, but not factoring in the Habs powerplay time. So proceed with caution:

- Steve Ott gets 1st line PK duties, which is a rather interesting thing. I guess Julien wanted him out there to take the draw (which he won, fine). The only problem is, he's still out there for at least another 45 seconds.

- King isn't the smoothest or fanciest forward you'll see, but you can't doubt his ability to win puck battles. One significant factor in how his pairing with Galchenyuk has generated some impressive scoring chances.

- Andrew Shaw, maybe rounding into post-season form, as per has reputation? Hard to say where the turning point was - maybe the Julien appointment, but the past 10 days, he's been playing his best hockey as a Montreal Canadien.

- Brian Flynn out for the night after he took a hit his first shift of the night. So the mistake of even just starting tonight is compounded significantly. 

- Habs defence looks as well balanced as I've seen them all season. Markov with Weber of course, but Benn and Beaulieu have worked together well, and even though it's just their first game together, Petry and Brandon Davidson, who's making his Habs debut, have been rock solid in their zone.

- I wonder who Marc Bergevin could pillage off the Oilers blue line next season? Feels so good to be better at their expense.

- Ott playing with King and Byron. The (missing) Flynn effect. 

- I don't think I can survive a season of Steve Ott on my team. He's just so bad, it's not only unbearable to watch, it's also nerve wracking because you just know he's going to do something terrible.

- No goals in the period but the Habs dominated, limiting the Canucks scoring chances to almost zero, while playing measured and responsible with the puck. Habs are totally outskating Vancouver, who look rather dreadful - the combination of aging veterans with little left in their legs, with youth, many of whom look unqualified to play in this League, and really, this hasn't been much of a contest.


- Lopsided 2nd period, the tilt heavily in Montreal's favour (65.5% CF):

- It's still way too early to call in the jury, but deadline trade reactions based on what we've seen so far: King/thumbs up, Davidson/thumbs up, Martinsen/push, Ott/thumbs down. Benn three thumbs up. Altogether, weighs out to net positive.

- Habs have been grinding this game out brilliantly, now is the time to go in for the knockout punch. A goal or two oughta do it.

- Canucks, who already are terrible at finishing scoring chances, just can't get anything dangerous on Price because the Habs defence has been so positionally excellent. Shots lanes have been confined, passing lanes for dangerous scoring chances largely contained. Really fun to watch.

- How could Claude Julien even think of playing Emelin after tonight's performance by his defence?

- Carey, Carey, Carey chants the Vancouver crowd. Habs with just a 1-0 lead, but I'm not even remotely worried that this game will slip away. First time I've experienced this feeling in a very long time.

- Habs forwards have come a long way in a relatively short period of time (since Julien took control) in positioning themselves in better places to receive the puck from the defence. It's made this team's transition game, which was a mess under Therrien, a much more effective tool, and it's helping the offence to generate speed for zone entries. It's a relatively simple adjustment that Therrien either couldn't or wouldn't grasp, but it's instantly transformed this team in a very positive direction.

- Whoops, Chabot (of all players) with a pretty brilliant tip off an Edler wrist shot from the point to tie the score. Okay Habs, gloves off. You're gonna have to work up the offence to win this now.

- Woah now, Canucks have the Habs on their heels. This wasn't supposed to happen. Price keeping the puck out, but Canadiens need to wake up, or they might end out leaving the west coast without a point.

- Pretty sure the Habs took some liberties and started coasting halfway through this period, which handed the ol' momentum baton over to Vancouver. Since then, Carey Price has had to rise to the usual occasion to keep his team from fumbling away the game entirely.

- Carey Price bails his team out to at least one point, while credit due to Ryan Miller, his performance tonight gave his team a fighting chance. And for what seems like the umpteenth time in a row for the Canadiens, we're off to overtime.


- As we suspected, Habs were coasting a little at about the halfway mark of the 3rd, and Vancouver finally took advantage:

- Habs have really improved their OT performance this year after struggling with the format past two seasons. They figured out that it all depends on possession - or at least maintaining it.

- And there you have it, Galchenyuk with a shot that takes a ridiculous deflection off Byron, Miller barely unable to adjust to make the save. Habs get their two points after all.


First, news!!! EMELIN IS GONE (tonight)
Ahh, I gets all warms insides when I see those pairings. Anyway, what's happening with the offence?
Woah. We knew Radulov was dealing with a day-to-day issue, but Plekanec missing a start? That's almost unheard of. Since 2012, Plekanec has missed 2 - that's right, just 2 games.

Let's try and break this down. With Plekanec out, and McCarron another likely scratch, the offence might look like this:


That's a rather thin offence.  That said, if you're going to be missing troops, there's no better timing than the Vancouver Canucks, who are playing out the strong of another lost season.

What to make of this hockey franchise? The bottom line isn't pretty. Vancouver, after building themselves into a championship contender at the beginning of the decade, has steadfastly refused to adhere to the cyclical nature of hockey, Over the past few years, the Canucks have made some questionable trades which has created holes in their lineup, especially on defence. More importantly, Vancouver since 2009, has one of the worst drafting records in the NHL.

How bad has the Canucks system been? Well, let me toss some 1st overall draft picks at you. How many of these names do you recognize?

- Patrick McNally
- Nicklas Jensen
- Brendan Gaunce
- Jake Virtanen
- Brock Boeser

Those five 1st round picks have combined for 171 GP, 10 goals and 15 assists. Over the years, the Canucks did draft players who managed to establish NHL careers, among them Bo Horvat and ... uh ... well, that's it, really.

So, sure. If your scouting department is only able to draft one player over the span of 7 years that actually makes it to the NHL, you're going to have significant long-term issues. Which is where the Canucks find themselves today - a team with aging veterans representing a throwback to when the team was championship competitive, mixed with a collection of marginal younger talent that likely has little to no chance of becoming anything greater than lower line plugs.

So tonight, the Habs take on the rapidly declining franchise that is the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place. The Habs are riding a 5 game winning streak which has helped Montreal to reestablish a comfort zone securing themselves at least a decent playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Canucks are actually entering the game riding a 2 game streak, with recent wins over the Ducks and Kings. Still, Vancouver finds itself isolated from any reasonable hopes for a playoff spot in the West, with just 63 points.

It's Carey Price vs. Ryan Miller. Puck drops at 10:10, EST.


Well, happy Monday! Not happy yet? Com'on .. this oughta do the trick:

MMMmmmmm. Music to my ears. Pure, classical harmonic music.

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