Thursday, 23 March 2017

Game 74: 'Canes vs. Habs

Carolina 4, Montreal 1:


- I happened to see the 'Canes have a pretty good PK this year, 3rd best kill percentage in the League. That's likely because Carolina has for the most part, stayed out of the box this season. Just 311 shorthanded minutes, just a shade under 5 per 60 minutes.

- Quite the start for Galchenyuk. Two brilliant scoring chances early (and still counting). Seems rather determined to make a statement tonight.

- A lot of "controversy" yesterday over Galchenyuk's switch to the wing, but it's hard to argue with the results, as Shaw feeds AK27 who roofs it past Ward. 1-0 Habs. Galchenyuk skating like a man possessed.

- Still not a fan of the 4th line, but anything is better without Ott and King in the lineup.

- Jordie Benn, sneaky physical because he hits smart, following through on his checks only if they don't compromise his defensive responsibilities. Which someone else on the Habs blue line tonight could follow this example.

- And of course, Emelin makes a bad "physical" play, losing his stick, and taclking anybody with a white shirt in front of Price, and easy interference call for the refs. Sigh.

- And of course, the 'Canes convert on the powerplay, because of this stupid penalty by you-know-who:

- Yes, it's been a good period for the Shaw line, but it's just one period. The fundamental premise that the Habs could have a ghost of a chance in the playoffs with Danault and Plekanec as the 1-2 centres is absurd.


- Good outing for Davidson so far tonight, certainly above Emelin's replacement level.

- Brendan Gallagher has been rounding into the form we've come to expect the past 6 weeks, and while Tuesday was a bit of a regression, he's been crashing the 'Canes net hard tonight. Others on the Habs might care to follow this example, because other than Gallagher, Cam Ward has had a pretty easy night.

- At some point, Julien is going to have to settle on this 4th line, because the current merry-go-round can't continue. Martinsen has played well tonight, certainly much better than anything we saw from either King or Ott, both of whom have played so poorly as to be placeholders. Moving forward, it's hard to see how the Habs could do much better than Martinsen/McCarron and Mitchell on that line. Something's got to solidify before the start of the playoffs.

- If you blinked you have might have missed the Danault line tonight. This is the newly reformed line, of course, with Galchenyuk bumped down to play on the wing.

- Given the merger shot attempts by the Habs so far tonight, and I'm just puttin' this out there, Julien might want to try Galchenyuk between Radulov and Pacioretty again?

- After more or less skating in a daze for the first 12 minutes of this period, Habs have gradually overtaken this game. Key has been zone entries - Habs seem to have finally discovered the 'Canes don'e like to stack their blue line.

- Byron drives Ward and nearly scores. The 'Canes defence isn't fleet afoot - they can be beaten if there's enough speed generated through the neutral zone. The open ice is there. Opportunities are there.

- Ouch. Elemlin can't handle a loose puck during a broken 'Canes zone entry, but fear not, he still finds a way of setting Carolina up nice, in this case it's Stempniak, who beats Price blocker side with a backhander, and all that momentum is for naught, 'Canes take a late 2-1 lead.

- Same old, same old. Margins for error are thin in the NHL, meaning if you have somebody consistently making bad plays, you're going to get burned, and your chances of winning are going to be significantly impaired. Once again it's Emelin who makes the bad play, once again costing his team a goal, once again putting the opponents ahead on the scoreboard, once again calling into question Julien's insistence that he be played, once again making Habs fans around the world slightly more insane with frustration.


- Habs had the pedal to the metal last half of that 2nd period, but Emelin's flub made their work all moot:

- Right on pattern with their usual pattern of behaviour, 'Canes have stayed out of the box tonight. They might not have a deep lineup, but they're disciplined.

- Stempniak strikes again, as the Habs Danault line, which has not played well tonight, are far too passive letting Carolina gain the zone, while Davidson takes a bad fall helping the 'Canes to get some insurance.

- Danault line has shown some sparks of interest tonight, but for the most part, they've been a write-off. Habs will need to start taking chances if they hope to salvage an otherwise utterly forgettable night.

- Derek Ryan has had quite a night for Carolina at both ends of the ice. Biggest contribution has been shot blocking, and generally screwing up the Habs attempts to set up scoring opportunities.

- If Danault hasn't been doing Pacioretty and Radulov any favours tonight, then it must also be noted that Tomas Plekanec hasn't been helping either Lehkonen or Gallagher either.

- Wowzers, Habs get a powerplay. A must convert, I'd reckon.

- Julien has Shaw up the middle first unit powerplay, which is a mysterious decision. However, Gallagher gets some powerplay time, something we haven't seen in awhile. Anyway, same old - Habs can't gain the zone cleanly, come away with nothing.

- Habs have one powerplay goal in March. You may not have noticed since for the most part, it's been a good month in the win column, but that man advantage unit is a mess.

- Not enough traffic in front of Cam Ward tonight. Too many clean looks at almost all of Montreal's shots tonight.

- This game should serve, at the very least, severe notice that there's no way this hockey team can reasonably compete with Tomas Plekanec as a top-6 centre.

- Well, credit the 'Canes who played a very good road game tonight for grinding out the win - a reminder that this is a pretty good non-playoff team which hasn't lost in regulation in nearly 3 weeks. All-around disappointing effort by the Habs - the Danault line was largely invisible, Tomas Plekanec's contribution was close to nil, nullifying strong individuals efforts by Gallagher and Lehkonen, while Emelin played his usual negative role, taking a dumb penalty that led to Carolina's first goal on the powerplay, then fumbling the puck which laid out the red carpet for the game winner. A write-off night is a shame given the Canadiens had the opportunity of padding their lead in the Division. Now the gate is ajar for the Sens to get back into the race.


The Habs can take another big step towards clinching the Atlantic Division tonight as they host the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell Centre. To celebrate that I'm too busy to find a goofball picture to head my mediocre postings, I'm going to just point form a game preview.

- Habs lineup switcherros: Here's who's in tonight: McCarron, Martinsen, Davidson. Here's who's out tonight: Beaulieu, Ott, King.

- "Oh, God. Not again?", is what your response might be to sitting Beaulieu while playing Emelin in light of last week's debacle versus the Black Hawks. Coach Claude Julien sez simmer down, guys:
- So what's happening with Alex Galchenyuk? Yesterday being an off day, and being an off day in Montreal, the fans get bored and for funz make a whole lotta something outta nothing - in this case, the announcement by Julien that Galchenyuk would be moved to the wing. Yes, Galchenyuk had a pretty rotten game against the Wings on Tuesday night, and yes, he's been held pointless his last three starts. But in the previous 12 games (marking the start of the Julien tenure) Galchenyuk racked up an impressive 11 points. Which is to say, his production levels, save the past week, have been well above average.

- So what's happening with Carey Price? After being rested Tuesday night, Price skipped practice yesterday to deal with what Julien called a "very minor" injury. Today, Price was announced as tonight's starting goaltender.

- Habs starting lineup:



- Now, Carolina. The 'Canes have been on a nice little streak of late - they're undefeated in regulation the past 8 games, which has helped vault them up towards a weaker 1st round draft pick. The 'Canes, who haven't won in Montreal in 5 years.

- Hot 'Canes hands are Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm, while Paul Bryon and Artturi Lehkonen, while not necessarily racking up big point totals of late, represent the Canadiens' best playing forwards at the moment.

- Carolina's lineup tonight? Something like this:

Aho/Lindholm/di Giuseppe


- Starting goaltenders, the aforementioned Price (2.26/.923) vs. Cam Ward (2.72/.904).

- Non-game-related note: Habs announced Paul Byron as the team's candidate for this year's Bill Masterton trophy. Considering that Byron, who scored his 20th goal of of this season this past weekend, was essentially NHL jetsam just over a year ago, it's a pretty good nomination.

- Puck drops tonight at 7:40, EST.

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