Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Game 80: Habs vs. Sabres

Buffalo 2, Montreal 1:


- Still surprised that Julien is going with Price tonight. Just not worth the risk, even though the Sabres have little history of running opposing netminders. Anyway, Habs fans shouldn't expect a lot tonight, as the team I'm sure will be "don't get yourself hurt" mode tonight.

- Thankfully Steve Ott won't play tonight, Torrey Mitchell gets a start on the 4th line, his first in about 3 weeks. Brian Flynn, in a bit of a surprise, also gets a start tonight, his first in over a month. Martinsen sits.

- Dwight King, who really shouldn't be playing in the NHL, in particular a first place hockey team, somehow manages to miss a totally wide open net from 1 foot away with a backhander. I think that' pretty much sums King up.

- Brutal giveaway, guess who? It's Alexei Emelin rounding into post-season form, Ristolaninen makes it 1-0 Sabres.

- Sabres really aggressive around the Habs crease, bodies not afraid to make contact with Price. Really crazy for Julien to keep in him this game.

- So hard to pinpoint the glaring weak spot for a franchise as dismal as the Sabres, but if I were to start an overhaul/focus, pretty tough to not argue their defence, which currently is incredibly slow and soft around their crease.

- Habs being a little too focused on setting up the perfect play, perhaps in part because of a desire to avoid physical contact. It's made for a relatively quiet period for Lehner.

- Not exactly thrilling hockey, Sabres playing out the string, Habs just prepping up for next week - the Canadiens had balance of offensive pressure in that period, largely because their lineup is vastly superior to Buffalo's slim pickings. Still, at some point the Habs are going to have to drive Lehner with a little more aggression if they want to make any scoreboard impacts - Lehner has always been apt to give up rebounds. More traffic around the Buffalo net ought be the focus from here on out.


- Even split 1st period, Habs CF right at 50%:

- Danault line has been very good gaining and holding possession in the Sabres zone, not so good at taking the damn shot.

- Lehner still giving up those rebounds, Danault line still dominating the Sabres zone, but not enough traffic around the crease.

- Hate playing nowhere teams like the Sabres at this point of the season. Nobody in Buffalo's lineup cares about discipline, so hacks and slashes are the norm, not the exception. Chances of an important Habs forward getting hurt rise exponentially.

- Habs the better team this period, except for finishing plays. Ennis roofs a wrister from 20 feet, as Lehkonen, turned the wrong way, coughs the puck up in front of his net, and Nesterov ... almost appeared as though he forgot which colour jersey he's wearing. 2-0 Buffalo.

- Alexei Emelin, who was mainly responsible for Buffalo's first goal, makes yet another pointless hit attempt at the Sabres' blue line, misses complete, and gives Buffalo big 2-on-1 break, forcing Price to make another difficult save. Emelin just never learns. He keeps making the same stupid mistakes time and again, and never learns, never corrects, never improves. He is the personification of insanity.

- Can't say we didn't warn you Claude. This is crazy:

- Habs again the better team, at least with possession and controlling the flow, but far too casual finishing their scoring opportunities - in particular the Danault line, which is having a field day gaining the Sabres zone, but little to show other than pretty passing plays. Habs also guilty of defensive breakdowns - Nesterov and Emelin the biggest culprits tonight, Davidson also struggling, largely because of his partner's (Nestrov) positional inabilities. Meh. We figured the night might end up going this way - as long the Habs can get through the night without injuries, we'll gladly take the loss and go home.


- Habs might have more puck possession time in the Sabres zone tonight, but where they're taking shots from has been pretty bad. That's been the difference tonight, really.

- Sabres with poor zone coverage off a Habs breakout, with Radolov making a nice feed to Plekanec, who stakes around Lehner to backhand the Habs first goal of the night. Buffalo's defence - a disaster.

- Speaking of disasters, what the heck is Nathan Beaulieu doing chasing over to Jeff Petry's side of the ice to make a useless failed check? With Beaulieu's cardinal error leaves Ennis completely unmarked, meaning Price is forced to make a breakaway save. Beaulieu continues to be an enigma.

- Emelin is apparently hurt - forcing Julien to give extra shifts to Petry, and likely more shifts than he'd like to both Davidson and Nesterov.

- Beaulieu's really struggling - fighting the puck and having a tough time identifying his marks. Habs defence limping to the finish line here.

- Hey, Brendan Gallagher just drew (another) penalty! Did that Tuesday night as well. Habs first powerplay of the evening.

- Emeln out for the night! Lower body injury. Under normal circumstances I'd say addition via subtraction, but not tonight.

- Quiet 3rd period for the Danault line. Sabres have made a few adjustments to keep that line, in particular Radulov and Pacioretty, in check.

- Just over 3 minutes left, Habs pushing the play, but lacking any form of intensity or desperation. Refs also steadfastly refusing to call obvious interference infractions this period, which has also limited Canadiens' ability to convert their chances.

- Just not a good night for the Habs blue line - misjudged plays, poor passing and missed shot opportunities. Hate to say this team really needs Weber and Benn back at this point of the season, but Canadiens not nearly as dangerous at the backend with them out of the lineup. It's also been a significant difference maker tonight.

- Beaulieu misses a pretty pass from Radulov which would have set up a shot into an empty cage. One of those kind of nights for Beaulieu.

- Oh well, Sabres win on fan appreciation night, so happy for them. Habs didn't suffer any huge debilitating injuries, except for Emelin, and who knows if that's really debilitating as far as the Habs defence is concerned. Danualt line just couldn't find a way of converting their opportunities tonight, while fundamental errors confounded the Canadiens, especially by Emelin and Beaulieu, who both struggled most of the evening. Habs now make one final visit to Joe Lewis to play another meaningless game - maybe they can donate another 2 points to help make the hometown fans feel good.


The Habs, in the middle of mopping up the rest of their regular season, take on the Sabres tonight in Buffalo. It'll be the final game of the season for the Sabres, as they wrap up their 4th consecutive season of last-place hockey.

The Canadiens have literally nothing to play for - they cannot finish anywhere other than 1st place in the Atlantic Division. Ergo, it comes as little surprise today that coach Claude Julien announced that both Shea Weber and Jordie Benn, who are dealing with "minor" undisclosed injuries, aren't likely to play again until the 1st game of the playoffs, which start on April 12th at the Bell Centre.

So here are your starting lineups:



And over on the Sabres' side:



It's Roben Lehner (2.70/.920) against (for reasons that I don't quite understand) Carey Price (2.20/.924)

Puck drops at 7:40 EST.

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