Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Game 76: Stars vs. Habs

Montreal 4, Dallas 1:


- McKenzie picks up a the rebound off his own shot off the backboards, and slips the puck past a somewhat slow-moving Price to give the Habs the early lead. Goal originated from a broken play, with Beaulieu making a poor outlet pass from his zone. 

- Habs utterly chaotic to start this game, the Stars with plenty of zip and flow you sometimes see from teams that have nothing to lose. 

- Jamie Benn appears to be the early centre of attention, insofar as Habs checking and hitting is concerned.

- Rough 1st half, much better 2nd, the Habs finding their forecheck footing, giving Dallas headaches escaping their zone. Good shifts by the Shaw and Danault lines.

- Arttrui Lehkonen, as per usual, sneaky good so far in this 1st period. Seems to always be at least 1/2 step ahead of the play. One of the most hockey-smart guys to suit up in a Habs uniform in a long time.

- Habs swarming the Stars net, big rebounds being surrendered, Dallas incredibly fortunate to still be leading this game. 

- First 5 minutes were awful, next 5 minutes were "okay", last 10 minutes were total domination by the Habs over the Stars. So, more of that next 40 minutes or so, and the Canadiens should eventually overtake Dallas on the scoresheet.


- Kari Lehtonen earning his pay check tonight, in particular from the 10-minute mark forward. Habs SA CF (5v5): 53.7%. But in the last half, it was 88.4%. Wowzers.

- Shot heat map right now heavily in favour of one team - that's trailing on the scoreboard.

- Hab might be pelting Lehtonen with the puck, but they haven't done a good job at making shot attempts while creating traffic, the strategy so far has been mainly looking for rebound attempts. That's not working, Lehtonen is easily handling everything he sees.

- Stars are rag dolling this period, just waiting in the high weeds for a Habs defensive mistake (there have been a couple of biggies this period, but Price has shut the door). Got the feeling this might be one of those nights - outplay the opponent in every way possible except on the scoresheet.

- Just not enough traffic bothering Lehtonen. Habs are aggressively pursuing the puck around the crease, but most NHL goaltenders are going to make primary and secondary saves if they have clear sight of the puck.

- Finally, it's Pacioretty with a backhander after Radulov makes a nice zone entry that handcuffs Lehtonen to get the totally-dominating Habs on the scoreboard.

- Carey Price doing his Carey Price thing - making saves on shots that are usually goals surrendered by mere mortals. Having Price on your side is a competitive edge that's impossible to calculate.

- Anther outstanding period for the Habs, picking up where they left off from the 1st period, Lehtonen the difference maker tonight. Habs bolstered by strong performance by their 1st line, which hasn't had much of an impact the past two weeks, and yet another excellent effort by Artturi Lehkonen, who's been all around Lehtonen most of the evening, but has (just barely) been foiled from hitting the scoresheet. One more period like that, and the Canadiens ought come away with a victory. 


- Habs SA CF (5v5) in that 2nd period was 72.0%, which is not sustainable (or even advisable) if you're the Dallas Stars. Kari Lehtonen has been giving up plenty of rebounds, but has managed to find a way of keeping his team in this hockey game.

- Check out the shot heat map through 2 periods. It's a bit extreme, but it underscores one area of improvement under Claude Julien that doesn't get nearly enough attention - the Habs have vastly improved in making shots from high percentage scoring areas. Under Therrien, on most nights, the Habs were badly outplayed in this area. Now the reverse is true.

- Habs start the 3rd period much like they started the 1st - running amuck in their own zone. Canadiens very fortunate not to be down again on the board, with Andrew Shaw lending a goaltending hand to keep the puck out of the net.

- Well, these aren't the Dallas Stars we've come to know - at least tonight. Big push out of the gate this period, Habs reeling in their own zone.

- Woah, what a shot by Brendan Gallagher, under the bar from a seemingly impossible angle along the boards, Lehtonen might have done better, but still, what a play - what a shot. 2-1 Habs.

- It's been an up and down night for Lehtonen, but he's still making difficult saves to (only barely) keep his club in the game. Lehtonen again buzzing the Stars zone, and the Danault line easily having its best game in nearly a month.

- Plekanec gets caught, forced to take a hold. Stars get first powerrplay of the game, 10 minutes into the 3rd.

- Price holding the fort this period. Not bad for a guy who woke up this morning thinking about how he was going to pass the time sitting on the Habs bench.

- Stars make a bad pass up the middle, picked off by Markov, who passes to Lehkonen whose knuckler fools Lehtonen to make it 3-1 Canadiens. Lehkonen has been working his butt off all night long, and richly deserves a goal.

- Andrei Markov, future Hockey Hall of Famer, gets standing ovation from the crowd. 2nd all-time in points among Habs defensemen. An incredible career.

- Stars know they're stuffed. Nobody is beating Carey Price 3 times tonight. Just going though routines now as we kill the clock to end the night.

- Stars throw in the town, Alex Radulov says thanks I'll score too. 4-1. In addition to Markov's watershed night, and Lehkonen's excellent performance, Radulov's goal finishes a very successful evening for the Danault line. If they're scoring again, watch out.

- Habs mop up in a game that really wasn't much of a contest, with the Habs mostly dominating this game from half way through the 1st period forward. Canadiens had a few shaky moments in their zone, but Carey Price made the necessary saves at the necessary times to allow his team to eventually overtake the Stars on the backstretch, and eventually pull away. With the Sens losing in a shootout tonight, the Canadiens increase their lead to 4 points, which means assuming At Montoya is healthy again, he'll start Thursday against the Panthers (who had a tough loss in Toronto tonight). That aside, the Canadiens surely will be happy with their top point producers scoring again - you get the feeling that Claude Julien's work on ridding his team from 4 years of bad habits leaned during the Therrien years are starting to pay off. The next week should give us a good idea whether or not this team has finally righted their offence in the right direction.



Magnificent. Those golden locks nearly reach his clavicle. Neatly trimmed and rounded, soft yet intimidating. We are in awe.


Uhm, WHAT in the hell is that? It looks like something you might grow coming off a weekend bender in Vegas. One of the shameful, pathetic growths we've seen in a long time. Sorry Dallas, we got the best Benn you had to offer. We can't hardly wait to see Jordie bury his burly bush in Lord Stanley's mug this coming June.

Anyway, before any marches on St. Catherine's, we've got a game to play tonight, so here are the necessary notes:

- Dallas is playing out the string of what has been a very disappointing season. The Big D were reckoned to be a competitive force in the Central Division this year. Instead, they're hoping to get a decent pick in the upcoming entry draft. Not helping their cause of late has been two wins over the Devils and Sharks.

- Habs hoping to do the Stars a favour tonight by handing them a loss, while maintaining their 1st place edge in the Atlantic Division. While tonight's game marks the end of a 5 game home stand for the Canadiens, the remainder of their schedule is still favourable - Montreal will not face another playoff team this year until, well, the playoffs.

- News out of practice this morning, Al (Tony) Montoya went down with a lower body injury during skating warmups (huh??), so the Habs have made an emergency call up with Zach Fucale (remember him??) to back up Carey Price tonight.

- Habs lineup tonight:



Carey Price

- Stars lineup tonight:



Kari Lehtonen

- Yeah, it's pretty cheeseball, but we'll leave you with this:

- Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.

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