Monday, 3 April 2017

Game 79: Habs vs. Panthers


- Charlie Lindgren is, at least at the present, the only viable goaltending prospect in the Habs system. No pressure or anything, kid.

- Reto Berra starts for the Panthers, contrary to our statement earlier that James Reimer would get the start. An interesting choice, given how much Berra has struggled this week, including the blowout loss in Montreal last week.

- Nesterov ... a little sloppy and casual in his first shift. Sure looks like Jordie Benn, and maybe Davidson, were the only beneficial trade deadline pickup by Bergevin. The rest, Ott, Martinsen, King and Nesterov - write-offs.

- That Plekaenc/Gallagher/Byron combo continues to roll along nicely. Line has been on fire for well over a week, as well as a strong start tonight.

- Danault/Pacioretty/Radulov joining in on the fun, Panthers are having a tough time winning puck battles in their own zone.

- Alex Galchenyuk - might he be rounding back into form? He looked great handling and dangling the puck behind the Panther's cage before eventually feeding the puck which finds its way onto Andrew Shaw's stick, a slam-dunk shot and a 1-0 lead. Both Shaw and Galchenyuk have shown little chemistry, perhaps due to a lack of communication, since they were placed together two weeks ago. Looked very good there.

- Plekanec and Danualt lines, all the Panthers can handle this period.

- Canadiens owned the period, although I'm not sure how much of that was Florida seemingly going through the motions. Don't see anyone on that Panthers side of the ice attempting to prove themselves for the next season - it's a pretty sad state of affairs. Anyway, hard to envision the Canadiens not causing their way through the next 40 minutes if this is all their opponent is offering as resistance.


- Pretty meek, Florida. Pretty meek. Habs SA CF (5v5): 64.5%:

- 6 minutes gone, low event period so far, Panthers can't get much of anything going, except for the occasional long-range shot at Lindgren. Florida's only real sniff at scoring tonight has been during Ott line shifts. Otherwise, virtually nada.

- 2nd pair defeseman Jason Demers having a rough night 2/14, and we're not even at the half-way mark. He's been matched against the Danault line, and he's had his hands full.

- Gallagher virtually tackled from behind carrying the puck through centre, somehow it's not called.

- Hate to see a team dominate and then give up a sloppy goal, and hey, it's our old friend Emelin making an awkward and failed checking attempt, which frees up Marchessault, Lindgren making an awkward belly flop save attempt, and the game is tied.

- They've been buzzing the Panthers zone all night long, if anyone is most likely to get the Habs the lead back, it'll be either Gallagher or Byron.

- All of the sudden, the refs are calling penalties, even after earlier letting the Gallagher mugging go uncharged. Panthers with an extended 5-on-3.

- Panthers powerplay is horrid. Putrid. Tres terrible.

- Not a very good period for the Habs, whom I think might have taken their opponent's lacklustre, go-through-the-motions play too lightly, and while the officiating was, at best, uneven, it still doesn't excuse them for not putting this game away.


- When you're outplayed in any period by the Florida Panthers, you have not played a good period. In that 2nd, Florida's SA CF at even strength was 53.3%.

- Julien mixing things up a little, as he moves Byron next to Galchenyuk and Lehkonen, and it pays off their first shift, as Lehkonen fires a blazing wrist shot that Berra might now have even seen, to give the Habs the lead back 2-1.
- Still view this game as an inevitable Habs win, although Lindgren still looks a little nervous (it's hard to blame him). He's very much a stay-at-home goaltender. I've barely seen him move outside the blue paint tonight. Also wary of handling the puck. But he plays the angles nicely, very much like Carey Price.

- Panthers really stepping up this period, Lindgren doing an excellent job making the primary save, and covering up loose pucks.

- Well, we predicted either Byron or Gallagher would win, would Byron off a breakaway, Lehkonen blasting home a rebound be close enough? Insurance goal all but puts the wraps on this game.

- Rough night not only for Demers, Matheson and Petrovic. Just a rough night in general if you're a defender for the Panthers. Not fast enough to pick up the Habs speedy wingers tonight, Berra again mostly hung out to dry.

- Radulov with the empty net to finish the game, and the Habs officially cinch the Atlantic Division title, which is a wonderful luxury to own 10 games in advance of the playoffs. Can now rest bodies for the rest of the week without consequence. Very good performance tonight from Charlie Lindgren, Gallagher, Lehkonen and Byron another sparking night, and while they didn't tally points, the Danault line looked dangerous most of the evening. Everything coming up roses for the Montreal Canadiens, who can celebrate their excellent 1st place achievement.


Hey, Habs play tonight with absolutely nothing on the line. Ziltch. The Habs cannot go up or down in the standings. So the rest of the regular season schedule are basically glorified scrimmages. Which means, it's time for "important" guys to get pulled from the lineup. First up? Shea Weber:
Yeah, yeah. The ol' LBI trick! Except that ... hrmmm ...
Hrmmm. We'll see where that goes. Heck, if I'm pulling guys out of the lineup, let's give Andrei Markov a couple of days off. Or Max Pacioretty. Or Alex Radulov. Heck, let's just bring up the Ice Caps for the next week (yeah, yeah ... I know that's not possible, but still ... wherever possible, rest and heal).

As you might have caught from the first tweet, Charlie Lindgren will be the Habs starting netminder tonight, with Carey Price getting a well deserved night off, and Al (Tony) Montoya still recovering from whatever injury he has. This will be Lindgren's first NHL game in almost exactly 2 years. His last (and only NHL) game was April 7, 2015, a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

It's not only Weber who's out tonight - Jordie Benn continues to recover from another undisclosed injury, and will also not play tonight. So, the Habs' suddenly thin defence will look something like this:


Meanwhile, on the forward lines:


Meanwhile the Panthers, who are also playing out the string with nowhere to go in the standings, have a few lineup changes tonight. Sitting in the press box will be Shawn Thronton (AWWWW!),


James Reimer will start tonight for the Panthers, against Lindgren. Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

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