Friday, 17 March 2017

Game 71: Habs vs. Sens

Montreal 4, Ottawa 3 (SO)


- So Anderson is a late day start, apparently indicating at the last minute that he felt game ready. We'll soon see if that was a wise decision.

- A brisk pace to start the game, which feels as close to a playoff game as we've had all season. Habs seem to be doing a slightly better job getting the puck into the Ottawa zone, but these are early times.

- Still early to draw conclusions, but Habs defence looks markedly improved tonight. Gosh. Wonder why that could be?

- Jordie Benn just made an excellent backcheck on (guess who?!) Pageau on a breakaway. From supposed #6 plug to arguably 2nd line defender. A tremendous pickup by Bergevin at the trade deadline.

- Anderson looks ... hmmm ... not quite right? Got totally faked out by the play behind his net, Bryon really should have scored bringing the puck in front, as Anderson was looking the other direction. 

- Tomas Plekanec still has the speed and ability to be an NHL forward, but that shot - it's pretty atrocious. The velocity is so low, it pretty much doesn't matter where he shoots the puck, it's going to be stopped by an NHL goaltender. Plekanec's short fallings are really going to hamstring this hockey team (he's owed $6 million next season) unless Marc Bergevin can find another team willing to take him off Montreal's hands.

- Habs the better team, as Pacioretty makes great passing play to spring Radulov all alone on Anderson. Radulov gets too cute, and Anderson makes a relatively easy save.

- Game had fast pace, Habs generating far more high percentage scoring opportunities in that first period, owning more puck possession, and doing a better overall job of setting the tempo. Canadiens also better on the forecheck, the Sens defence, in particular their third line pairing of Wideman and Borowiecki who frequently looked overmatched. Good first road period for Montreal.


- Habs soundly outplaying and out chancing the Sens in that 1st period. Just keep doing that, boys, and all should be fine. 5v5 CF: 57.8%

- Steve Ott a hot mess on the Sens early period powerplay, which begs the question, just what is Ott's purpose on this hockey team? Because I'll be dammed if I can see a net benefit.

- Habs aggressive push into the Sens zone finally pays off, as Danault makes a nice feed to Shaw who's left with a slam dunk shot to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. Key for the Canadiens to score first, since it rewards their dominative play in this game (so far).

- Horrible tripping call on Danault, made by an official who simply can't make that call. Not at the NHL level.

- Sens convert, of course. Mitchell and Plekanec kind of screw up the play by both chasing the puck just outside the blue line, which springs Brassard in unchecked. Tie game.

- Hoo boy, Price can't cover the puck by the post, and Dzingel jams it home. Sens get bottom line scoring support, something the Habs continue to lack.

- It's classic Plekanec. Habs enter Sens zone set up pretty well, four afoot against 3 Sens defenders. Plekanec takes the puck, and instead of dishing it somewhere for a shot attempt, he flips the puck into Anderson's glove for a whistle. We've seen that play dozens of times this season, it's infuriating, and it's why Tomas Plekanec needs to no longer be a member of the Montreal Canadiens after this season.

- Habs got that first goal, but they're still not doing a good job converting opportunities, still needing someone to breakout and take the game by the throat. Sens, meanwhile, even though outplayed, convert, their second goal probably one that shouldn't have gone in. It doesn't matter though, when the margins are thin, your wins and losses depend on players (or a single player) rising to the occasion, or your goaltending carrying the day. Habs didn't have in the 2nd period.


- Habs the better team after 40 minutes, which underlines our criticism this team continues to struggle finishing its opportunities. Sens have the lead because of the bad tripping call on Danault, and iffy second goal that Price probably should have kept out. 52.1% SA CF (5v5) through 2 periods:

- Habs powerplay really struggling - no speed being generated through centre, passing is off, plays are all broken. Almost zero threat to score at the moment. 

- After powerplay expires, Lehkonen and Shaw do a nice job keeping the puck in the Ottawa zone, Danault picking up a loose puck from a Lehkonen shot to tie the game. All very ironic, given how poorly played their man advantage was.

- Hey now, Gallagher with a spin around goal from a bad angle that Anderson simply can't let in, and in the matter of seconds, the Habs take the lead. Two factors at play - the Habs haven't relented pushing the play much like they did through the 1st period, and second, Anderson, as we noted earlier in the night, doesn't look 100%. Certainly not on that shot.

- Julien sends out Ott/4th line, and in an instant, the Sens swarm Montreal in their own zone. Claude, if you're listening, just stop doing that. Okay? 10 minutes left.

- Not a good night for the refs, Petry called for ... being a defensemen? Who knows. Gives Sens an unjust powerplay. Betcha they score.

- Habs playing too much like the old Habs, playing far too conservatively, chipping the puck instead of effectively moving the play forward. Lots of defensive zone face-offs, and the Sens finally capitalize, Karlsson with seeing-eye wrister that ties the game. Now the Habs have to shift into another mode if they want to escape with 2 points.

- Tremendous shift by the Danault line, Habs have all the momentum now, 2 minutes left.

- Overtime, disappointing conclusion. Turning point was the bogus hooking call on Petry, which while Ottawa didn't score on, gave them the needed momentum to find the tying goal. Officiating unacceptably poor tonight.


- Julien starts Plekanec, which is kind of baffling.

- Caution OT - both teams not wanting to make a mistake. 

- Pacioretty nailed for a hold, Habs being way too casual with the puck in OT, and it's likely to cost them the game because of it.

- So, hope for a shootout? That's all we've got.

- Senators with an abysmal 4-on-3 powerplay, very slow with the puck, the passing was slightly faster than a snail. Helps Habs to get to that shootout.

- Ryan hits the post, Julien sends out Byron. Hmmm ...

- Okay, no questions Claude. Byron converts for his hometown crowd.

- Price makes save on second attempt. 

- Radulov buries top corner, and Habs get the extra point. 


This is a pretty big deal, if you're an Ottawa Senators fan. We might win the Atlantic Division! First place!! A BANNER TO HANG!!!

Okay, Ottawa. I'm hoping your team actually does this, so come this October, in the months after your team is invariably eliminated from winning something that's meaningful, that you'll get to have your little banner raising ceremony, proclaiming your Atlantic Division supremacy. We'll let you have that. So ... GO SENS GO!

Of course, the Sens still have a little matter at hand towards claiming first place - and that's beating their highway 417 rivals from Montreal. Both the Sens and the Habs will play 3 times between tonight and next Sunday. Whomever gets the best of this regular season mini-set will likely get the hang that banner (except in Montreal, where the only space left in the rafters are for Stanley Cup banners. Feel our pain, Ottawa. Feel our pain).

The Sens, who once held 3 game in hand over the Habs, have seen that advantage dwindle to just 1 game, as a result of the most recent loss to the Chicago Black Hawks. 

Ottawa enters tonight's game with some key players who are out of the lineup due to injury - most notably Mark Stone, who suffered a leg injury March 9th in Arizona, and is out indefinitely. Also wounded are defenseman Mark Borowiecki and (number 1?) starter Craig Anderson, although both Borowiecki and Anderson are hopeful to return either tonight, or tomorrow night.

So here's the Sens lineup:



Two players to keep an eye out for - Jean-Gabriel Pageau (of course), who's been a Habs killer for most of his NHL career (in fact, there's no team in the League that Pageau's scored against more than the Montreal Canadiens). Also there's Alex Burrows, whom the Sens picked up from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline. Since arriving in Ottawa, Burrows has racked up 4 goals and 2 assists, and while the Sens totally overpaid to land Burrows, the deal (so far) has worked out nicely for Ottawa.

Over on the Habs side, GUESS WHAT?!?! GUESS ... GO AHEAD. GUESS ... okay never mind, here you go:

Thank merciful Greek gods. With Emelin humanely sitting it out, the Habs defence ought look like this:


Ahhh ... that's much, much better. The Habs might even have a shot at winning tonight. 

Hey, it's Mike Condon in goal tonight for the Sens (2.49/.914) vs. Carey Price (2.41/.920). Something to keep in mind, Price hasn't been stellar against the Sens the past while (except playoff starts). Over the past 4 seasons, Carey has put up a sub .900 Sv% against Ottawa. Just something to keep in mind.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Hey, it's St. Patrick's Day. And it's a Friday. Ooomph. Potent combination. Deadly. Tonight unlike the rest of you alcoholic degenerates, I'll be referring a hockey game.

Speaking of hockey, hoo boy have we got a great weekend set with the Habbies taking on the Sens in a back-to-back clash that might well determine Divisional supremacy. I'm still pulling for Ottawa to win the Atlantic, so they can hang a banner up in their ugly arena. Even Senators fans need something to live for, guys.

So after the Alexei Emelin debacle Tuesday night, an event we wrote considerably about (with ample warnings to Claude Julien), what's the verdict for the defensive pairings for game 1 on Saturday night? The answer is ... if you can believe it ... unclear:
Heh. Hehe. Hah. Haha. Really, Claude? You need I shuld get U a map or sumptin? My goodness, if the Habs defensive pairings aren't relsembling something like the following Saturday, I'll be questioning your sanity:


Speaking of Beaulieu, he was asked this morning about how he felt about being scratched for Tuesday's game to make way for Emelin. What say you, Nathan?
Hmm, okay. A little cryptic there. But surely Nathan, you got something out of watching from the press box, right??
So hard to get a read on this guy. I think he wasn't happy? That's my best guess.

Erstwhile, Montreal being Montreal digging out of a snowstorm, there wasn't a lot to talk about on Thursday (so it seems), so a certain guy from a certain local english sports talk radio station said (to paraphrase) that on HIGH AUTHORITY he'd been informed that Alex Radulov was demanding nothing less than an 8 year contract extension (an incredibly insane demand) from Marc Bergevin. EIGHT YEARS OR I'M WALKING MARC.

Radulov wasn't around Thursday because he was (likely) spending most of his day sitting on a porcelain toilet dealing with the flu. When asked about the reports this morning, Radulov's response was more-or-less along the lines of ... WTF?!
Guys, guys, guys. Before you go running off with a "story" about some local hockey player making an outrageous contract demand, consider the source.

Oh, and we have practice lines!!!!


And we have powerplay practice lines!!!


Hrmmm. No Gallagher. Hrmmm.

One more piece of lineup news: Carey Price will start tonight. Usually the Habs trade off tenders in back-to-back games, but coach Julien did not rule out the possibility that Price might play both games this weekend.

More later.

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