Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Game 70: Hawks vs. Habs

Chicago 4, Montreal 2:


- Julien with warm up switch, Plekanec takes the second line centre position between Lehkonen and Gallagher, Danault down to the 3rd lind.

- 7 minutes in, couple of observances. First, Habs are starting strong, doing a nice job maintaining puck possession, and applying majority of offensive pressure. Secondly, Habs are holding on to the puck too long - seeking to set up an open shot. The Hawks are an excellent backcheking hockey team - you're going to have instances of opportunity, but nothing more. Habs need to drive the net more aggressively, put pucks towards Crawford. Nothing pretty. You can't score against Chicago this way.

- Andrew Shaw getting is mind numbingly stupid penalty of the night, out of the way early. 

- Jordie Benn continues to demonstrate his excellent value, doing excellent work on the PK. That looks more and more to be Bergevin's best trade deadline move (although the others, admittedly, underwhelm without comparisons).

- Kane scores. Guess who completely muffed up the play? One Alexei Emelin. My god. The madness continues.
- Surely Claude Julien realizes that against a team like the Black Hawks, you have to get things almost exactly right to beat them on any given night. Surely. So starting Emelin, which inherently catapults risk through the ceiling, seems like an extraordinary misjudgement. 

- Habs actually played a solid first period, holding their own against a much deeper Hawks lineup. The period not unlike the game against Edmonton, followed the same pattern; outplaying the opponent, but those efforts undone because of a defensive error - by the same player. 


- Did I say the Habs outplayed the Hawks in that first period? I was wrong. Should have used the word dominated. 5v5 CF: 74.1%. That qualifies for a big ol' wow.

- Anisimov's apparent knee injury (which looked serious) at the end of the 1st period won't be easy to replace. Hawks' scoring punch is significantly lessened without him in the lineup (not to mention it dilutes their main strength - their top 3 lines are very balanced and dangerous).

- Habs first powerplay, which as a whole, has looked pretty bad the past two weeks. THey'll need it to produce some scoring tonight, or the chances of victory will be limited at best.

- Crawford with top class save on Galchenyuk wrister, otherwise, not much to show on that man advantage. Still, the Habs are hanging in there - the Hawks are going to have to work 3 periods for the 2 points.

- Oduya, 2-0. Emelin with more terrible decision making, playmaking, leading directly to the Hawks goal. Sigh. 

- Here's the Emelin check ... of his own guy, which created the Hawks break the other direction, leading eventually to their 2nd goal. Abysmal. 

- Big winner tonight is obviously Nathan Beaulieu. He gets the night off from having to play the Hawks, and Claude Julien dares never scratch him again to create space for Emelin.

- Habs 2nd powerplay looks awfully good, highlighted by a scary save off the mask from a Weber bomb from only 25 feet away. Galchenyuk two more great scoring chances, looks skyward in disbelief. Hawks hanging on to the shutout, but just barely. 

- Monitoring Emelin's usage, Julien is putting him out for tough minutes, including against the Kane line, which is simply baffling to me.

- 2nd period not unlike the first, slightly more evenly played, but the Habs were the better team. Like the first, it's all or nothing, because of an Emelin mistake leading to the other Hawks goal. And so we rinse and repeat.


- Better 2nd period for the Hawks, just under 58% CF - but still, the only difference in this game has been two magnificent errors by Emelin which led to Chicago's scoring, plus Corey Crawford has been, as per usual in the Bell Centre, playing out of his mind. What can ya do?

- I ... I ... I ... I don't even know what to say any more, so I'll just read out the play. Emelin chases over to Petry's side in Habs zone, for reasons that are ... unknown. Middle of the ice left completely open as a result, Panarin with about as easy a goal as he'll have in his NHL career to drive the dagger home. 

- The horror. The horror. The horror ...
- Four days to contemplate tonight's loss, how it happened, and who plays this weekend in a 2 set that might very well decide who wins the Atlantic Division this year. I cannot even fathom Claude Julien entertaining sitting Beaulieu out for either game. I also can't fathom how he can still rationalize putting Emelin back into the lineup, other than he has a steadfast belief that Emelin is capable, that he's in a funk, and he just needs to play through it. What Julien might not understand, since he's new to the Habs history, is that Emelin the past while is the Emelin we've seen for the past 4 years - only on a more specular scale of failure. There is no "playing through". Claude, what you 're seeing is what you get.

- Ah, Byron at least puts the Habs on the board, his 19th of the season. Still impossible to believe the Flames just gave him away. 7 minutes left.

- Well, now. Weber with a point shot that finds its way past Crawford, and it's 3-2. More than 3 minutes left. Hold on to your hats.

- It's gonna really suck if the Habs lose this by one. To think of what could have been, had someone not been put in the lineup tonight.

- Toews with the empty netter. That's all she wrote.

- One of those games you feel you might have actually won, so there's plenty of regret to go around. What might have been if Julien hadn't put Emelin in the lineup, we'll never know.


Look at that police station face. Isn't he handsome?? No?! Well then have a few drinks. Patrick insists.

Ooookay, then. The Chicago Black Hawks, this decade's version of the 90s Philadelphia Flyers to the Montreal Canadiens, invade the Bell Centre tonight to take on the Habs. As we hinted, the Hawks have not been kind to Montreal this decade - the Canadiens haven't beaten Chicago since early 2014, and have only won twice against the Hawks this decade. Hoo boy.

Given how Chicago has steamrolled the Habs over the years, and given that Chicago is has about at 50/50 shot of winning this season's President's Trophy, you'd want to put your absolutely bestest best hockey guys into your lineup. To the twittersphere!!!!:
Uhhhh ... kay. This doesn't mean what I think it means ... does it?

Nope. Still not buying it. Still not convinced. Sure, rotate some guys out like Beaulieu for lesser opponents - the Habs have games coming up against terrible teams like Detroit, Carolina and Dallas. Against Chicago? Emelin dealing with Richard Panik, Marian Hossa and Kane? Folly. Pure folly.

Oh well. Can't criticize Julien for not giving his guys a shot (that's my positivity - that's all I've got).

So here's what Emelin will be facing tonight:


Campbell/Van Riemsyk

Yeeks. Good luck, Carey Price.

Meanwhile on the Habbies side, Tomas Plekanec, whom you may (or may not) have noticed has been missing from the lineup the past week because of injury, will return tonight. Montreal's lines stack up like this:


And ... that defence ...


It's Corey Crawford (2.54/.919) against Carey Price (2.26/.923). Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

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