Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Game 64: Blue Jackets vs. Habs

Montreal 1, Columbus 0 (OT):


- Habs warmup adjustments, Desharnais, Andrighetto and Nesterov are out, McCarron, Flynn and Cornelius (Benn) will start.

- So revised Habs 4th line is Flynn/McCarron/Mitchell, FWIW.

- Hartnell purposefully slews Price, and somehow escapes not only a penalty, but retribution from any Habs player on the ice. 

- Habs with a pretty good start, players seem to be formulating some good chemistry. Passes are crisp, positioning is strong. 

- Habs really outworking the Jackets here, have drawn two early powerplays mainly because the Jackets are being so badly outskated.

- Have I mentioned how bad NHL Gamecenter is? I don't think I've clearly articulated that before. So let me say this: NHL Gamecenter is bad, very bad. Currently locked out of the game stream for reasons unbeknown.

- Game settling in, even though there haven't been very many whistles. Habs doing a pretty good job in their own zone, seems to be more structured tonight - Benn with relatively uneventful shifts, which is just fine if you're a 3rd liner.

- Not so sure about Price - Jackets have hit the post 3 times this period, meaning Price is giving Columbus only exactly what he needs to (or more likely, he's been lucky).

- Yet more poor defensive play by Emelin - he just can't handle any opposing forward who has even average NHL speed. Gets nailed for a hold because he can't adjust to the rush, and sends the dangerous Jackets powerplay to work.

- Julien doesn't mess around - sends out Benn first line PK.

- Columbus's powerplay looks pretty much just as potent now as it did earlier in the season. Passing the puck on a string, Canadiens PK doing a lot of chasing, Price puck blocking. Canadiens must most definitely stay away from the penalty box from here on out.

- Jackets really building off that man advantage. That's the danger - not only do you have to defend against a potent man advantage, you then have to work your pants off afterward to reclaim some semblance of momentum. 

- Bobrovksy very sharp this period. I think we can say with great confidence that 11 goals won't be scored tonight, 10 by Columbus. 

- First period complete, a satisfactory 20 minutes. Habs started strong, Jackets got going later part of the period, aided by a powerplay boost courtesy more bad Alexei Emelin hockey. Even though it's been more than 3 games since Montreal scored at home, it's important to hold a team scoreless the 1st period in light of what happened earlier in the season. 


- Here's the first period, Habs CF% just 42.2 at even strength, but large piece of the start of the game was on the powerplay. So grain of salt.

- Woah, Desharnais has been traded, to Edmonton for defenseman Brandon Davidson. 

- While we mull over the Desharnais trade, which is pretty clearly a Habs win, there are a few ways to contemplate the ramifications. It gives the Habs a little more blue line depth, which means Bergevin might be inclined to trade Beaulieu, or offload Emelin. It also gives the Habs the opportunity of exposing Davidson instead of Benn in the expansion draft.

- Okay, back to the game. Another strong period start for the Habs, Shaw's stick shattering in what likely would have been the game's first goal. Still, Habs containing the Jackets transition, and have distinct edge in play at center ice.

- Galchenyuk misses a great chance in close, Habs should start worrying about converting their opportunities before they eventually dry up.

- Weber, again tries to dump the puck up the boards, which results in a bad turnover, Price bailed out again by the goalpost. We've said it before, we'll keep saying it - there needs to be a culture shift in the way the Habs defence handles the puck in their own zone. Too many giveaways resulting in high percentage opposition chances - come playoff time, assuming the Habs make it that far, that kind of play will kill you.

- Emelin. Hoo boy. At some point you just gotta shake your head and look the other way.

- Habs are the better team tonight, which means this team has taken some strides the right direction, in light of who the opposition is. Montreal much faster with the puck, getting far more high percentage shots and shot attempts. Apart from the posts Columbus has hit tonight, it's been a pretty quiet night for Price.

- Columbus wingers have tried repeatedly to go wide on the Montreal defence, and with exception to Emelin, it's largely failed tonight. Big reason why the Canadiens have been able to contain the Jackets.

- Weber takes Danaut down with a slapper - it baffles me how Habs forwards are putting themselves in harm's way even after what's happened to Gallagher et al.

- Looks like Jenner, who's been a hothead most of this period, is getting nailed for a slash to end the period. Starting the period with clean ice is a big advantage.

- Really solid period for the Habs, they're the better team tonight. Canadiens defence doing a nice job containing the slot, and pushing much of Columbus' attacks to the permitter. Habs again hampered by inability to finish scoring opportunities, but they're clearly outworking and outskating their opponent, which in a close contest, are favourable conditions for victory.


- CF chart is even split, but eye test says Habs have been much better team through 40 minutes:

- Clean ice sheet powerplay miserably wasted. Oh, well.

- Man, Danault. One goal in February. This lack of production also can't go on indefinitely. Not with guys like Pacioertty and Radulov on your sides.

- Habs best scoring chances tonight coming off rushes, Jackets off scrambley shots. Would rather been former than later.

- Pacioretty strong, Radulov strong - the usual suspects. Galchenyuk has quietly played an outstanding game on both ends of the ice. 

- Other the other end of the spectrum, the 4th line not clicking tonight - not sure what the issues are. Likely Flynn's presence, Mitchell still hasn't quite figured out McCarron (and vies-versa).

- Jordie Benn, responsbile, efficient and effective tonight. Solid Habs debut.

- Yikes, Radulov tried to sneak in an interference in the Jackets zone, and got caught. Columbus back to that fierce powerplay. Hold your breath.

- Gutsy PK there, Benn with two key shot blocks. Pinned in their zone, they were exhausted, but got the job done.

- Bobrovsky's had far more difficult saves to make tonight, and he just made a beauty off Pacioretty side of the net, somehow keeping the puck out as Max jammed away with Bobrovsky's flat on his stomach. MVP of the game clearly to the Jackets' netminder. This game should already be over in favour of the Canadiens.

- 2 minutes left, Habs pushing, Bobrovsky's been outstanding. Might need a greasy or lucky bounce to find the back of the net.

- Maybe Bobrovsky in their heads, Habs being a little too passy with the puck, looking for perfect play. 

- Simply outstanding effort by the Canadiens tonight, full marks to the lineup who gave maximum effort. Certainly the most complete game I've seen this season. Another OT, but if you'd offered me at least a point out of tonight's game, I'd have taken it in a heartbeat.


- Woah. What a sequence. Bank pass springs Pacioretty off a break, stopped by Bobrovksy, loose puck and the puck may have just barely crossed the line. But was the whistle blown? Did Pacioretty push it in with his hand? Crazy play.

- Puck clearly drifted over the line. There's white ice. This has got to count.

- For what it's worth, Price could have frozen the puck, but instead dished it off to Danault who made a brilliant bank off the boards to give Pacioretty the breakaway. What a play by Danault.

- Unbelievable. How can that not be called a goal? My god, NHL. Get your act in gear.

- Price brilliant series of saves to keep his team alive. 

- Incredible work by Markov, and draws a holding penalty. Jones to the box. Habs to the OT powerplay.

- AK27 ONE TIMER TURN OUT THE LIGHTS. What a win for the Canadiens. Best of the season. 


Hey, did you hear the latest? Habs G.M. Marc Bergevin totally dumped that freeloadin' Greg Pateryn who so happens to have a wife that doesn't much care for the french people, for the gun slingin' sled dog owner Yukon Cornelius! Now, I'm not exactly sure what Yukon's Corsi percentage is this season in 5v5 situations, or what his average shot block per game averages are, but I do know this: You put an ax in this man's hands, and he'll love you just about as much as he loves that ax:

Mmmm ... yeah, baby. That's some hot tasty ax there.

Yeah, I already hear you fans already complaining. How could this guy with the kink hardware obsession who's spent most of his life riding behind sled huskies made out of plasticine possibly help the Habs defence?

Well I got four word response for you:


Yeah. That shut you up real good, didn't it? No more Emelin! Well, except for tonight, as the Canadiens host the (uh-oh) Columbus Blue Jackets from the Bell Centre. Just in case the trauma of November the 4th of our Lord 2016 caused you a mind wipe, these are indeed the same Blue Jackets who shot 10 cannonballs through the mangled corpse of Al Tony Montoya. Ya know, I think it was that night above all others in this crazy up and down season, that caused Bergevin to seriously reconsidered his foxhole choices.

So, here we go. Gulp. The Jackets' lineup tonight:




Sergei Bobrovsky

Whoops, you might say, you missed a guy. NOPE. The Jackets usual 4th line William Karlsson was suddenly taken ill during practice this morning and immediately sent back to Columbus, which kind of screams mumps, doesn't it?

Oh great. Just what the Habs need. Mumps floating around their hockey rink.

So advantage Habs!! What do the Canadiens have running tonight?



Carey Price

So, what do you need to know leading into tonight's game?

1. Columbus is still a pretty good hockey team. Not sixteen straight wins in a row great, but still good. Speaking of "the streak", the Jacket's record since it ended back on January 5th is 13-10-1. Decent, but not spectacular.

2. The Jacket's powerplay, which was at one point running an insane nearly 30% success clip, has cooled off since the end of the streak. It's now at just over 22%, still very good, but they've tumbled from 1st to 5th in the League.

3. The Jackets still enjoy some pretty healthy puck luck - backed mostly by what one might consider an unsustainable shooting percentage that's currently a shade below 11%.  Then again, the Jackets play a pretty structured game offensively, where a preponderance of their shot attempts are taken from higher percentage scoring positions. Habs will need to play a pretty tight and organized defence, especially around their slot, if they hope to limit Columbus' goal totals tonight.

4. Max Pacioretty's 30th of the season scored last night in Jersey, his 4th straight year of 30+ goals, puts him in some very elite franchise company. Only two, that's right, only 2 other players in Montreal Canadiens history have had more than 4 years of 30+ goals - Guy Lafleur (6 straight years) and Steve Shutt (9 consecutive seasons). Factoring in the dead puck era, folks, Max Pacioretty is already building a pretty good case for Hall of Fame entry.

Puck drops tonight at 7:40 EST.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Game 63: Habs vs. Devils

Montreal 4, New Jersey 3 (OT):


- Al (Tony) Montoya gets the nod for the Habs in goal, saving Carey Price for tomorrow night's inevitable start against the Blue Jackets. It was Montoya who endured all 10 of Columbus's goals that infamous night last November.

- Gallagher with a fast and physical start to the game - another Habs player who like Galchenyuk, seems to be rounding back into form.

- Galchenyuk line also with gusto to start the period - good forecheck tilting the ice towards Jersey's direction when they hit the ice.

- Devils look so much like the Habs were during the worst dumb-and-chase days under Michel Therrien. Makes for some pretty unwatchable hockey, nevermind a rather meek attack.

- Mentioned this in passing in the pregame piece, but would really like to see Julien give Andrighetto a legitimate chance on the 3rd line, and demote Byron to the 4th. Andrighetto is playing a far more aggressive and creative game.

- Habs with far more speed entering the O-zone, Danault line giving the not-so-good Jersey defence all it can handle. Still, the Canadiens aren't converting on their opportunities, which for an inferior Devils team, is exactly what they'd be hoping for.

- While it takes Petry out of the picture, would really like to see Emelin sent out not during either a Galchenyuk or Danault line shift. Because he's such a terrible puck passer, Emelin really hampers what strengths those two lines bring to the table (skill and speed).

- There it is - opportunities missed and then given. Weber with a poor play, attempting to pass the puck up the boards from behind his net to Plekanec, but the pass is far too hard and high for Plekanec to handle, and the resulting turnover to Palmeri is buried past Montoya. 1-0 Devils.

- Frustrating end to a period that was definitely favouring the Habs - but again, it's the defence more than anything that tends to let this team down, and this time, it's Weber with an error that he ought never make. Montreal is still probably mentally fragile, so we'll soon find out whether they'll find a way of bouncing back from that play, or folding up their tents for another day.


- Slight possession edge to Montreal, but the Weber mistake looms large - at least at the moment. Habs CF (5v5): 51.5%:

- Emelin is a wreck. Aimless in his own zone, unable to make even the most basic plays, and now a terrible trip to put New Jersey on the powerplay. Can't help but wonder how much longer Julien can tolerate the intolerable. 

- Fortunately, this Devils powerplay is mediocre at best. New Jersey on the whole has played unimpressively tonight, and somehow, the Habs are finding a way of letting their opponent and this game pass them by.

- Habs are trying to bump and grind their way to victory tonight - and it's failing. Miserably. 

- So, Desharnais promoted to 2nd line, and Galchenyuk is shifted over to the wing. Michel Therrien was fired, right? Asking for a friend.

- If Julien wants to shake things up, he could start with the so-called top line. After a decent 1st period, the Danault line has gone into total hiding. Would it kill this team to at least try Galchenyuk up the middle there for a few shifts?

- Nobody stepping up for the Habs. Nothing certainly from the deemed leadership - Pacioretty, Weber, Plekanec, Markov. Totally uninspired effort by a team that simple can't afford to keep losing.

- Plekanec and Gallagher with what one might call a very good shift for the Habs. That's the period highlight right there.

- Mortifyingly mediocre, borderline poor, imminently uninspired period by the Canadiens, who far more resemble a team playing out the string then their actual opponents, who at this point, are playing out the string. Inexcusable stuff.


- Two uninspired periods down, one more to endure. Habs just not showing up. What else can you say?

- Is there a team more burned by losing D-Zone faceoffs this season than the Habs? Moore with a point shot that goes through about 14 legs and between Montoya's legs to make it 2-0. That might just be the killer blow.

- Hold that thought - at least for the next few minutes, as Radulov quickly replies with a snap shot that beats Schneider clean. It's 2-1.

- Schneider isn't elite - but the Habs approach to playing him is treating him as such. That Radulov goal is a good illustration that if you get shots on goal from decent scoring positions, good things can happen.

- Radulov certainly seems to be more inspired this period - one might think if anyone is likely to score a tying goal for the Habs, it'll be him.

- Markov with a poor play, trying to play the puck up the boards (a relic of the Therrien era), which generates a turnover breakaway, Danault forced to take a hooking penalty, and the Devils concert on the powerplay seconds later. That should do it. 

- Whelp, it ain't quite over yet, as again the Habs respond in a matter of seconds, Pacioretty with his 30th, Schneider again not looking very good. 

- Habs get their first powerplay of the night, 11 minutes left, an actual chance of tying this game. Hold on to your hats.

- Pretty good powerplay, the best chance being Pacioretty alone with the puck 20 feet in front of Schneider, but instead of shooting, he passes off (fruitlessly). Always the shots you don't take that kill you.

- Lehkonen, obviously trying hard to impress the new coach, rag-dolled most of the game. Tough night for him has resulted in limited minutes as the game has progressed.

- Habs pushing hard, really hard, knowing the desperation of the situation. As the clock winds down, sinking feeling it's all too little too late.

- PATCHES STEPS UP TO THE PLATE AND DELIVERS. With 52 seconds left, the Habs fight their way back to tie the score.

- Well, Habs needed a leader, someone to elevate, and the captain came through in spades, scoring two late goals to give his team at least one precious point in the standings. An overtime point will be critical towards getting this team back into a good position for making the playoffs, so buckle up.


- Radulov and Galchenyuk go out together, and look fantastic. Claude Julien, take hints when they're handed to you.

- Beaulieu dumped and the Habs get an OT powerplay. Hold on.

- Galchenyuk. One timer. The Habs, incredibly, win the game. What a gutsy comeback. A massive victory. Maybe even their biggest of the whole damn season. More importantly, this team's most important players delivered when it was needed - Pacioretty, Radulov and finally, Galchenyuk. 



Woah, are the Habs on the cusp of winning TWO games in a row? Is this possibly possible? In this crazy ol' world where they can't give out the right envelope for Best Picture, maybe just maybe, the Montreal Canadiens are about to accomplish what once seemed improbable - nay, impossible - an actual "winning streak".

The chance of winning consecutive game won't come much better tonight, as the Canadiens take on the Devils in New Jersey (Donald Trump's secret favourite team, if you wanted to get a little hate going). In any case, the Habs will be seeking to sweep the season series against Jersey this evening - in their two previous meetings, Montreal handily beat the Devils 3-1 and 5-2.

Tonight's contest might be the last for the Habs, at least, as we know them - with the trade deadline coming up in just two days. Lots of speculation going around about the Habs looking to bolster their top 6 forwards, or bottom 3rd pairing (although what Montreal really needs to focus on is finding a way of not having Alexei Emelin play, full stop).

What Marc Bergevin does, be it trading away the able Greg Pateryn, or David Desharnais (please let that be so, PLEASE), or finding someone to take away Tomas Plekanec (very unlikely), or somehow making a meaningful addition without trading away a blue chip prospect (of which the Habs don't have many) or high round picks (of which the Habs need to get more blue chip prospects) remains to be seen. I believe, at the end of the day, Bergevin won't make any significant deals because the Habs don't really have anything to trade that other clubs are interested in (other than high level prospects and picks, which Bergevin has already categorically stated he's not willing to move).

Anyway, back to tonight's game. Here's the Habs' supposed lineup tonight:



Subtle adjustments by Claude Julien, both agreeable. First, putting the more capable Lehkonen next to Galchenyuk (who's rounding back into form), and moving the less capable Byron next to Plekanec. It helps move the Canadiens offence into more of a traditional approach - the first two lines more focused on scoring, the 3rd on checking. That 4th line though - who knows? It's been such a dog's breakfast this season, it almost seems on most night's it's a compilation of spare parts. David Desharnais gets favoured over Michael McCarron, Sven Andrighetto arguably could do better with a top 9 placement, moving Byron down to the 4th. Oh well. At the very least, we don't have Brian Flynn playing tonight.

Okay, let's check out the Devils. With Jersey essentially out of the playoff hunt this season, they're sellers for the trade deadline, and today announced that Kyle Quincey will be removed from the lineup, likely because by the end of the day, he'll be traded. So, with Quincey out, expect to see this formation:



Starting goaltenders haven't been announced, but we're guessing it's Cory Schnedier vs. Carey Price.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

CNN BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Habs have traded Greg Pateryn and a 4th to Dallas for defenseman Jordie Benn. I think this qualifies for a "hmmm".

UPDATE TO UPDATE: Benn's numbers (49.3% CF) this season stack up less than Pateryn's (52.7%) - so that Bergevin traded the better player away and added a pick, no question the deal was a win for the Stars. Not an overwhelming win, but still - they're a small step forward, Habs a small step back.

Another point of consideration - with today's trade, the Habs suddenly find themselves overloaded with left handed defencemen (Markov, Beaulieu, Nesterov, Emelin and Benn), with only Weber and Petry the righties. Someone on that left side hasn't got a future in Montreal. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Game 62: Habs vs. Leafs


- WELL ... how about this? Habs defensive pairings for tonight's game:


Still would prefer Beaulieu on that 2nd line, and why isn't Pateryn starting? Oh well. Baby steps.

- So the Islanders, whom the Habs couldn't muster up a single goal against on Thursday night, are losing 6-0 tonight to Columbus. 

- Early penalty to Lehkonen, League's best powerplay goes to work. Did we mention how crucial it will be for the Habs to avoid the penalty box tonight?

- PK looks good ... really good. They're settling into the new formation which formerly used to be diamond positioned. Already we can seen how well that change has worked.

- Galchenyuk makes a poor blind pass entering the Leafs zone, resulting turnover Matthews takes a shot that deflects off Emelin and then Nesterov, past Price. A fluky fluke goal. When things go bad for a team, seems like everything goes right for the other guys.

- This hasn't been an overtly bad period for the Habs - quite the contrary, they've held a distinct edge in play containing the Leaf's more talented forwards. But it's the same story with regards to the offence - they might have the puck more, but struggle to get shots away from dangerous spots.

- Again, Habs are structurally poor with the puck - they pass for the sake of passing, but it's not towards the construction of a good scoring chance. Zone entries have not been good tonight, or for that matter, the past 4 months.

- Pacioretty tips the puck through Andersen's legs, the puck trickles through and hits the post. Puck luck just adding to the woes.

- Two Habs powerplays that period, both going nowhere. Just not enough players on the same page, again, zone entries are pretty bad. Habs weren't bad, per say, but not really overtly dangerous - in particular, the Plekanec line, which looked so good against the Rangers on Tuesday, and so awful against the Islanders on Thursday, again seems to be regressing. 


- Decent opening period for the Habs, with a ES Corsi over 65%. Under normal circumstances, that should translate into goals, but this is no normal Montreal Canadiens hockey team.

- Habs have 3 ... count 'em, 3 back in their own zone with the man advantage, Weber, Markov and Pacioretty. Neither can escape their own zone with 1, count 'em, 1 Leafs forward with shorthanded forecheck. Oy.

- Hoo boy. This really is bad:

- Habs out skating their opponent has resulted in more powerplay draws, they're about to try their 3rd man advantage. Not that it's going to lead to actual goals, mind you.

- Annnnnnnnd .... Pacioretty scores on the powerplay. This is as good a time as any to declare the Habs will never ever win the Stanley Cup this spring. 

- That Pacioretty goal came courtesy a sustained focus by the Leafs on the other winger, Radulov. That's why Pacioretty has thrived so much this season while playing next to Radulov - he draws so much attention by opponents that it frequently opens up the ice for Max.

- Marginal trip on Petry, Leafs number one powerplay back in action. Habs have actually played a disciplined game - good close checking, but nothing overtly over the line. 

- Nathan Beaulieu really shouldn't be utilized on the PK. He' more productive at even strength, and might actually be a solid asset on the powerplay. Short handed duties though, he often looks unsure and unsteady.

- Leafs all over the Habs on the powerplay, but Carey Price does his Carey Price thing - sure looks like he's in a zone. Has been really, since Julien started.

- Funny how just after your goaltender stones the other guys, the offence responds, and hello, it's Alex Galchenyuk, with a back monkey killin' snapper courtesy a ridiculous pass from Nesterov, that beats Anderson over the glove to give the Habs a 2-1 lead.


- Leafs come out strong, Habs come out flat, and guess who are the culprits - well, culprit in this case, it being Alexei Emelin, who can't find his way back to his bench, gets stuck on a long shift, and lets Matthews get inside in front of Price to easily tip home a pass to tie the game. 

- Here's something go mull - Weber already looks much better with Markov on his side, and you all know why - he doesn't have to deal with covering up Emelin's mistakes. Guess who's struggling tonight? Why, it's Jeff Petry, who's been assigned the unenviable responsibility of being Emelin's partner tonight. At some point you have to listen to the message that's being screamed at you. Get Alexei Emelin out of the picture.

- Andrew Shaw might have faked out a high stick, sending Matthews to the penalty box for 2 minutes. So at the very least Shaw is on the right side of the penalty equation. 

- We gave Shaw plenty of grief in our preview, and I still think his acquisition was a bad move by Bergevin, but he's had a pretty good night - for that matter, a decent week. He's helped more than he's hurt, which for Shaw, is welcome relief.

- Habs have one powerplay goal tonight, but their zone entries are still pretty terrible. If you can't gain ice, it doesn't really matter what your powerplay setup is - you won't score.

- Matthews penalty expires, and then the Habs do a great job hemming the Leafs - Galchenyuk, Radulov and Shaw with some excellent work.

- Great work and smart play by Weber, sending Byron a nifty little shot pass that really should have been tipped home past Andersen. But Byron, being Bryon the past three months, can't finish the play.

- Habs have done an excellent job against the Matthews line - yes, he's scored both of the Leafs goals, but more often than not, the Canadiens have generated more scoring chances while Matthews has been on the ice. 

- Halfway through the 3rd, Habs have still only been nabbed for two penalties, which if they find a way of winning this game, will be a very significant factor.

- Shaw definitely a spark plug for the Canadiens tonight. Setting a very good example with his aggressive play.

- 3 minutes left, Habs should be inclined to just drain the clock and put at least one point in the bag, although this does not help them with the cause of creating some distance between themselves and the Leafs.

- Interesting indicator here - Emelin's minutes have been reduced in the 3rd, but more meaningful, the situations he's being deployed have been with limited responsibility. I'm confident Julien has fully realized what a liability his play has become, and deployments have been mainly to reduce the probability of negative consequences.

- Habs get the point, and again, head to OT. Another significant extra point on the line.


- Leafs are 1-7 this year in the shootout, so it's reasonable to assume they'll take a fairly aggressive approach to 3-on-3 play.

- Game saver by Price, stopping a Matthews breakaway after a bad turnover by Weber (who up until that giveaway had played a very solid game) in the Leafs zone. 

- How 'bout that? Just like in the 2nd period, Price makes the big save, and his offence responds - this time its Plekanec smartly feeding the puck off a rush in front of Andersen, and Andrew Shaw (yup!) breaks through to grab the puck and with a full head of steam, skates past a flailing Anderson poke check to tuck the puck home giving the Habs another huge extra time 2 points.

- A few things have become clear (or at least, more clear). 1. Not playing with Emelin on your side makes you a better player (Weber). Playing with Emelin on your side makes you a worse player (Petry). 2. Alex Galchenyuk with a nice rebound night, collecting two points, hopefully rejigging his season back in order. 3. Carey Price is most definitely back on his game, although one could reasonably argue it never really left him, he's just had to deal with more than 3 months of bad defence, and 4. the Habs speciality teams still dealing with mixed results. The PK has most definitely improved since Julien's return to the bench, but the powerplay, even though it scored once tonight, still falters badly, in particular in gaining the zone. That will somehow need to be put back into shape in short order, or future victories with just 20 games left on the regular season schedule, will be difficult to come by.


1. Nobody wearing a CH sweater can score a goal. Did you know it's been half a year since Torrey Mitchell scored? Not that Mitchell was ever the key guy to helping propel the Habs to greater heights, but he's just one example of the horrid secondary scoring issue the Habs are faced with. Artturi Lehkonen hasn't scored in 12 games. Tomas Plekanec in 13. I mean, just go down the list, and if you're name isn't Max Pacioretty, you're not helping.

2. The "defence' is a mess. How many more games will Claude Julien pairs the bumbling Alexei Emelin with Shea Weber. For most of the season, Weber has carried Emelin along, dealing with his bumbling zone exits, erratic passes to his forwards (read: dump outs along the boards), and generally terrible defence against speedy opposition wingers.

3. The Habs are trying to sail a totally different direction right as the season is winding down. For nearly five years this organization played some of the most insanely conservative hockey you could find this side of the Republican Party.  It took this organization and its general manager nearly five years to finally realize their system wasn't going to win them anything meaningful - if you consider scraping into the playoffs "meaningful". Now that new old blood of Claude Julien is in charge behind the bench, all those bad habits this team has picked up will need to be exorcized. This means no more puck dumps out of the zone, no more ping pong puck passing between the defence, it means an emphasis on meaningful puck possession, it means generating half-decent scoring chances from half-decent shooting spots, it means playing smart, not insanely stupid speciality team setups. We could go on and on about this, but the bottom line is this: Claude Julien might not have enough time left on this season's calendar to set his troops in order. The Habs ideally needed a coaching change last year in order to make the proper transition toward playing competent hockey. Now they're likely to miss the playoffs again. What can ya do?

4. The Habs are a collective mental case. That's what happens when a supposedly "good" team goes through a total meltdown like they did last season, when the Canadiens barely won a hockey game after the beginning of December. When the Habs started losing this season at (hey, now) the beginning of December, you could just see this hockey team slowly but surely devolve into a shivering shrivelling nervous breakdown, where little mistakes piled up like defeats. The Habs no longer play with strut or confidence or even purpose. They have, as Carey Price said last week, lost any semblance of an identity. The exist - seemingly just to offer wins to their opponents.

5. The big guy upstairs may have lost his ability to think. No, I'm not talking about God or Prophet Muhammad (praise be upon him) or Vishnu (what the hell, praise be upon him too). No, I'm talking about Marc Bergevin, who has managed to take a club featuring the best goaltender on the planet (yes, Carey Price), one of the NHL's top 5 scoring forwards the past 3 seasons (yes, Max Pacioretty), and traded off one of the NHL's best puck moving defensemen (yes, P.K. Subban) into a team that can't even muster enough wins to comfortable secure a playoff spot. And then there's the defence. Oh, the defence! Setting aside the infamous Subban/Weber deal, Bergevin has managed to disappear any semblance of a 3rd line defence. It started last year when he shipped Jarad Tinordi away for nothing (John Scott), and then this season, made another baffling decision to put the able Mark Barberio on waivers (something he could have easily avoided). And now, if reports this month are accurate, he's attempting to dump the only remaining "apt" 3rd pairing defender left in the organization, Greg Pateryn. Good lord.

6. The Leafs are no longer a terrible team. Funny things happen when you dump huge, chocking  contracts (David Clarkson 7 years, 36M) from your bottom line, while drafting wisely. You become, in relatively short order, a good hockey team. The Leafs, who tanked last season well enough to scoop up the Austin Mattehews, the second best forward of last summer's draft, have steadily improved as this season has progressed - so much so, they now find themselves just 4 points back of the reeling Habs for first place in the Atlantic Division. Now, why couldn't the Habs have taken the same page as the Leafs by getting rid of awful contracts like David Desharnais' (4 years, $14M), or Alexei Emelin (4 years, 16M), or Thoms Plekaenc (2 years, 12M)?? Who knows? Instead, Marc Bergevin took an opposing tact, hanging onto existing dead weight while added Andrew Shaw (6 freakin' years, 24M) and of course, Shea Weber, who'll be paid more than 7 million smacks a season until the year two zillion.

7. The Leafs have a prosperous future ahead backed by some pretty awesome young forwards. Mitch Marner. Austin Matthews. William Nylanders. All rookies. 142 points this season right there. Over on the Habs side, we have Artturi Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto, Michael McCarron. 29 points this season right there. So you tell me, who's got a more dangerous lineup now, or in the future?

8. The Leafs haven't beaten the Habs in 13 straight games, a streak extending back to January of 2014. All good things must come to and end.

9. Andrew Shaw. "Trust me fans, you're going to love Andrew Shaw". That was said (I paraphrased) by Marc Bergevin last summer. Well, we've seen Andrew Shaw this season, and love isn't the first word that pops into my mind. And he's still got 5 years left on his contract, *after* this season. Instead of delivering "grit", Shaw has been more inclined to take stupid penalties at the worst possible times, making it more difficult for his shell-shocked teammates to go out an actually win hockey games.

10. Remember how 2016 sucked? And then 2017 came along as said "hey guys, you ain't seen nothing yet. Just you wait. We're going to have the Leafs winning their Division. Joke's on you!".

Puck drops tonight at 7:10 EST.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Game 61: Islanders vs Habs


Hey Habs fans, you thinking winning streak? TWO GAME WINNING STREAK!? Man, we haven't had one of those since the Reagan Administration. I might be off a couple of weeks, but you get the point. This team has gone a long time without a sustained string of victories.

Tonight, the Canadiens host the New York Islanders fresh off their dramatic Tuesday night win over the New York Rangers. The Islanders, on the 2nd leg of a massive 9 game road trip, come into Montreal with a slight limp or sixteen. Their victory Tuesday in Detroit came at big expense, as New York lost not only winger Casey Cizikas, but star winger Cal Clutterbuck to an undisclosed LBI. Also out long term is defender Travis Hamonic. The injury woes come at a bad time for a team that's desperately trying to make up ground in an exceptionally difficult Division.

Over on the Habs side, not a lot of changes are expected tonight - there are still rumblings and questions surrounding the long-term status of Greg Pateryn, since Marc Bergevin officially let everyone know he intended on dealing the capable 3rd line defender. The story still makes as much sense as Bergevin's handling of his organization's defensive depth.

After losing Mark Barberio, another more-than-capable 6th defender, to the waiver wire (an entirely avoidable conclusion), the Habs, who just a few weeks ago had good defensive depth, now suddenly find themselves scrambling.  Recent acquisition Nikita Nesterov hasn't shown much since coming to Montreal, and neither has Zach Redmond or Joel Hanley.

So maybe Marc should just take a step back, and be happy with what he's got in Pateryn? Just a wild thought.

In any case, it's likely the Habs will repeat their Tuesday lineup against the Islanders, with coach Claude Julien hoping for another strong performance from the Thomas Plekanec, Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw to help push his teams to (wow!!) another victory.

Puck drops at 7:40 EST. Yours truly is traveling tomorrow, so it's unlikely I'll be able to post live game blogging updates.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Game 60: Habs vs. Rangers

Montreal 3, New York Rangers 2 (SO)

And for good incredible riddance, this, my friends, is a remarkable photograph:


- And, this happened during warmups:
No update as of yet as to whether he's been seriously injured, but this thought which was a daily occurrence during most of last season has started to resurface: Is the season over yet?

- Here's video of the shot, courtesy Paul Byron:
- Okay, as you were:

- Pretty decent first round of shifts for the Habs - good energy, which is to be expected from a team that's played just one hockey game over the span of 9 days.

- Whelp, there it is. Habs strike courtesy some excellent forechecking by Plekanec deep in the Rangers zone, Shaw slamming in a loose puck with Lundqvist caught wide, and it's 1-0. Game plan looks pretty clear right now - high energy game, lots of forechecking by the forwards.

- Another bad play with the puck by Emelin generates high percentage scoring chance for the Rangers. We continue to wait for his inevitable demotion.

- Not sure if the Habs penalty kill will improve much even with a new coach behind the bench, with 60 games worth of bad habits developed, but one thing I know for certain, it's not good when your defenseman knees your goaltender in the head. Shea Weber making this a rough night for Carey Price.

- Habs were in control, at least until Emelin stepped on the ice, and made a mess of everything, getting routinely beat wide side by Fast, allowing for a quick pass in front to a streaking Oscar Lindberg, and the game is tied. My goodness Claude Julien. If you hadn't been getting the hint that Emelin requires a demotion, surely you're receiving now.

- This is what slow, bad defence looks like:

- Pateryn looking good. I mean, really, really strong. Why would Bergevin even think of moving him elsewhere? Are his wife's twitter comments really a deal breaker? Couldn't he find a team interested in Emelin instead?

- Wasted period. Habs got out of the gate strong, took an early lead, were essentially bagging the Rangers in their own zone, and then with one very poor play by Emelin, the lead not only vanishes, but so to momentum. Habs can ill afford to keep giving certain players slack, because it's costing this offensively-starved team goals, which is costing games.


- Solid first period for the Habs, but it only takes one bad play for it all not to matter, at least as far as the scoreboard is concerned:

- Habs (actually) score on the powerplay, although the setup is underwhelming. Markov across to Weber who basically shoots through Lindqvist. We'll take the goal, but the Habs need to up their structure and creativity if they hope to make their man advantage an asset again.

- Rangers catch Habs defence (Beaulieu/Pateryn) napping, feeding puck up the middle to spring Nash on a clear-cut break. Price with an excellent save. But com'on, guys. Understand who you're playing and guard against these preventable breakdowns.

- Rangers turning the table this period, so far outworking and the better forechecking team. Price doing what he can, but it seems almost inevitable that New York will be evening things up in short order.

- I guess my warnings weren't headed, as Nash again exploits a bad Habs defensive breakdown, Markov pinching but unable to get back, Petry just watching Nash skate past to receive another breakaway pass, this time Price does not bail his defenders out, and the game, as we suspected would happen, is tied.

- Old habits die hard. Rangers still running Carey Price. Amazing the chutzpa of this hockey team.

- Unbelievable. Gallagher penalized for goaltender interference only seconds later. Guess who makes the call? Our good friend, Mr. Brad Watson.

- McCarron line has failed to register a shot attempt through nearly 2 full periods of hockey. In any situation. That's ... not ... good.

- Solid, but unspectacular game tonight for Galchenyuk - being responsible in his own zone, but not particularly dangerous in the Rangers's.

- You hate to make generalized and grandiose statements like "the season is on the line", but tonight might actually be that night, even though there are 22 games still to play after tonight. The Habs are team reeling badly from a string of loses, which has taken them from a safe, to a precarious position in their Conference. Tonight is critical for this team to get their season back on track, and they've got one period of hockey to dig deep to win two points, not only precious in keeping them in the playoff hunt, but important in boosting the moral of a team that's still skating with a fragile mentality.


- Habs and Rangers through 40 minutes. Canadiens barely holding on to even strength possession, 51.8% CF cumulative:

- More ominous signs for the Habs, Rangers are the highest scoring 3rd period team in the NHL this season. So place your bets accordingly.

- Habs unquestionably the better team first 5 minutes, Lehkonen breakaway save by Lundqvist. Shaw clearly trying to amp his effort. 4th line continues to be a no show, and still waiting to see something dangerous from Galchenyuk. Early trend, however, looks promising.

- McCarron really struggling out there tonight - not playing anywhere close to his size.

- Rangers turning the tables on the Habs at the 7 minute mark, after a poor shift by the Canadiens 4th line gives New York a spark of momentum. Ice suddenly tilted in Montreal's direction. Price a couple of key saves to keep the score even.

- Habs need someone to step up and deliver here. There are plenty of potential candidates - Radulov maybe a too obvious one - but is anyone capable? That's something we haven't seen- from this team for well over a month (arguably most of this season) - someone, anyone, grabbing the game by the neck and leading his team to victory.

- Excellent backcheck by Shaw to break up a dangerous Rangers rush. Maybe we're finally seeing Shaw rounding into his "playoff form"?

- Julien effect - Habs really keen to stack their blue line guarding the rush. It's always a little risky against a speedy team like the Rangers, but like they say if you can't beat 'em, trap 'em.

- More adventurous shifts by Weber/Emelin. They really put you through the ringer with unstructured, often scrambled defensive zone coverage and passing.

- 7 minutes left in the 3rd. I suppose it's worth holding on for a point, but really, the Habs very badly need a victory. They're seemingly scaling back the attack to guard against coming out of the night with nothing. Lundqvist largely untested since about the 4 minute mark.

- Emelin hit by an errant stick, and the Habs go to an incredibly important powerplay with 6 minutes left.

- Danault/Paciroetty/Gallagher 1st line powerplay. Interesting combination choice. Galchenyuk and Radulov hit the ice 2nd line.

- Good lord. Andrew Shaw nailed for a trip, while don the powerplay, with the puck deep in the Rangers zone. Beyond my ability to comment.

- Julien sends out Flynn and Mitchell during the 4-on-4 time, which is the kind of deployment that Therrien used to do (and drive the fans crazy).

- Habs survive the Shaw penalty. Less than 3 minutes are left. At this point, Montreal might as well at least hang on for that single point.

- I suppose it's a moral, if not impressive victory of sorts for the Habs to keep the Rangers off the board in the 3rd period, which we'd mentioned they've dominated in this season. But now, they must find a way of getting the extra point.


- Heros? If you're a Habs fan, you look for the usual suspects - Pacioretty, Radulov. Maybe Weber can be the person who owns this night in OT. Very, very, very big extra point being played for here.

- Julien sends out Pacioretty, Danault and Petry to start.

- Fierce wrister by Pacioretty snagged neatly by Lundqvist, who we should remind, hasn't seen a whole lot of action the past 30 minutes.

- Radulov declines to go off when he's given an opportunity, and exhausted, gets stuck in his own zone. Rangers nearly capitalize.

- Pacioretty only barely stopped by Lundqvist courtesy a great pass by Markov. Agonizingly close to victory right there.

- Can't believe the crazy good chances Pacioretty has had this OT. Excellent extra frame for him.

- Carey Price has been exceptional - 3rd period and OT especially. This is very good news for the Canadiens - it marks two straight starts of the "old" Price.

- Good god. Plekanec hits the crossbar, resulting in a 2-on-1 Rangers break, and Carey Price makes one of the great saves of the whole damn season, diving to his left to absolutely rob Miller with one second left on the clock. The incredible Carey Price - he's the Canadien who's stepped up tonight to deliver for his team.

- Coin flip shootout. What a shame.

- Flynn? In the shootout? Claude??!?!

- Radulov, a must make, and he's GOOD. What a great backhander. Habs stayin' alive.

- Stepan .... off the goalpost. And now the Habs can win - Pacioretty.

- Great glove save by Lundqvist. What a night for Pacioretty. So close so many times.

- Vesey ... great glove save by Price, returning the favour.

- Galchenyuk for the win .... HITS THE POST. Oh, god.

- Miller ... stopped again. Byron now again for the win.


What a lovely couple, huh? Picture courtesy Google photo search. Thanks, Google!


Hey, it's game day, and it's another stiff challenge for one of the worst teams in the NHL (after 15 games) as the Habs take on the Rangers tonight from Madison Square Garden.

Not a whole lot of news to report, visa vie the Canadiens, except for this:
Now, why Pateryn is suddenly trade bait is a bit of surprise, given that since his acquisition last month, the Habs' other "6th D" Nikita Nesterov has struggled mightily in the Canadiens uniform. Add to the fact that Zach Redmond and Joel Hanley, in their short stints earlier in the season as 3rd line injury replacements also failed to make any impression that either defender was NHL-capable, only adds to Bergevin's puzzling public announcement.

Well, maybe there's other factors at play. Such as, Pateryn's wife, Stefani:

Normally, I'd embed the actual tweet, but since Ms. Pateryn's little pronouncement 3 days online, her account was taken offline. The Internet being a beast that never forgets, and never truly deletes, the damage, as they say, was done. And so, via Ms. Pateryn's rather outgoing opinions about other people, Mr. Pateryn is now awaiting his fate for a one-way ticket out of town (with Ms. Pateryn in tow, no doubt).

So it's showcase time! Greg Pateryn will start tonight it what might very well be his final game as a Montreal Canadien. 

Here's the Rangers lineup Pateryn will be facing:



Henrik Lundqvist

Over on the Habs side, no changes (except for Pateryn, of course), which means Galchenyuk is back on 3rd line duty - at least to start the game. Maybe he'll get a second crack at the first line (or maybe not). Also keep your eyes peeled for how Alexei Emelin (who's been downright awful for over a month) is utilized. Will he continue to be paired with Shea Weber, or will be be shifted next to Pateryn.

Carey Price starts for the Canadiens. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.


Saturday, 18 February 2017

Game 59: Jets vs. Habs

Winnipeg 3, Montreal 1:


- Guys who are likely being "watched" by the new coach (for good and for bad): Plekanec, McCarron, Lehkonen, Shaw, Beaulieu, Emelin. I believe eventually Julien will eventually see that Emelin is more deserved a 3rd pairing assignment. Eventually.

- Well, that's interesting. Habs defence way more active early on - certainly more positionally aggressive. That's a good thing.

- Jets have done their homework - shots have been on Price's blocker side, conventionally thought to be his greatest weak spot.

- Don't like the 4th line dynamics - Mitchell and McCarron looked disorganized - in particular Mitchell who seems inclined to play up the middle, one a couple of occasions, getting in McCarron's way, which generated a couple puck giveaways.

- Poor shift by the Galchenyuk line, which still looks out of synch, Laine with a sparking scoring chance undone by an excellent glove save by Price (who's looked excellent so far).

- Well, there's a bounce-back, Galchenyuk to Pacioretty to Markov for a tip-in to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. Markov (active defence!!!) and Galchenyuk doing a nice job anticipating the play in the Jets zone, Andrei creating the original turnover, Alex making a smart pass to Pacioretty beside the Winnipeg net. That's the kind of play that will please and impress the new coach.

- Habs PK also apparently adjusted, the box appears more traditional in its setup, more inclined to play lower, offering slightly more guard for high-danger shots on Price. Any adjustment to this totally dysfunctional unit is a welcome sight.

- First period in the newest version of the Cladue Julien era is in the books. Mixed bag for the Canadiens (to be expected), with the most apparent adjustments being defensive, which is refreshingly perceptive. First, Julien clearly wants his blue line more engaged in the play, which means more active positioning in the opposing zone. Secondly, the PK seems to have reverted to basics - a clear indicator that Julien spotted the fundamental dysfunctions of that unit and made a very quick adjustment. Both adjustments were in total contradiction to the approach of the person who is (was?) in charge - J.J. Daigneault. It's a clear sign that if any adjustment are to be made to the assistant coaching staff, Daigneault is likely the first to be relieved of his duties.


- Jets played a good period, they generated more than a couple of o-zone turnovers, largely because Emelin and Weber continue to struggle together (when will Julien move those two apart?). 5v5 CF for the Habs, 40.0%. Carey Price saving their bacon.

- Jets had 5 home plate (high danger) scoring chances on Price in that 1st, Habs just 2 (one of which was Markov's goal). That's a stat that Julien needs to address - not only generating more high % attempts, but reducing opposing numbers - a major factor in Price's Sv% decline this season.

- Emelin must be moved off the top pairing. Sooner than later, please.

- Hoo boy, Nathan Beaulieu, far too casual with the puck at center ice on the powerplay, making an absolutely brutal puck turnover to Armia, who has as easy a breakaway as you'll get in the NHL. Game tied.

- Second powerplay, Julien takes a page out of Therrien's book, using Andrew Shaw on the first line powerplay, next to Galchenyuk and Pacioretty. It goes nowhere.

- Beaulieu nearly gives the Habs the lead again, stopped point blank after pinching into the slot on the powerplay, Hellebucyk with an outstanding save. To Julien's credit, he's giving players like Beaulieu the opportunity to prove his worth, instead of punishing mistakes (something Therrien was often guilty of doing).

- Habs slowly taking over the game, even though the Jets have been the only team to score this period. Winnipeg has mostly been a 1st period team this season, which explains why they're rated 30th for GA in the 2nd period, 28th in the 3rd.

- Galchenyuk being far more active and responsible in his own zone. His line has been pinned more than a couple of times this afternoon, but at least the forwards are backchecking and covering the passing lanes.

- Yeah, Emelin needs to be moved to another page in this lineup - not next month, or next week - but this game, next period. Right. Now.

- Paradoxical periods today - Jets out chancing the Habs in the 1st, Habs scoring the only goal. Habs out chancing the Jets in the 2nd period, Winnipeg scoring the only goal. The trend lines are what mater, though - and right now, it favours the Canadiens, not only because they outworked the Jets in that period, but because Winnipeg, as we mentioned previously, has struggled defensively as games have progressed this season.


- After 40 minutes, you can see the Habs bouncing back in the 2nd period, methodically taking the game over, which is rather impressive considering how other NHL teams have struggled significantly this season in their first game back from a bye week. If not for Beaulieu's mistake (and a functioning powerplay), the scoreboard should still be favouring the Canadiens:

- It's likely too early to read much into these things, but Nikita Nesterov's ice time badly 6 minutes through 2 periods. Nesterov went down with a broken blade earlier in the 2nd, so I'm not sure if that's impacted on his deployment (I doubt it had since a blade is an easy fix). Anyway, it looks like Julien hasn't liked what he's seen, and has rotated him away from a regular shift. While the price tag was cheap, it's fast becoming apparent that he's not working out - either under Therrien, or so far under Julien.

- Woah, Galchenyuk removed from the top line, Danault in his place. Not sure what Julien saw and didn't like, but he's made a pretty startling mid-game adjustment.

- An awful, awful, horrible, no good first shift by Emelin to start his 3rd period, guilty of not one, not two, but three poor puck turnovers, and fails to cover, Perreault slamming home a loose puck. Pretty sure Julien can no longer ignore Emelin's poor play.

- Very good day at the office for McCarron - he's really carried the 4th line, which has seen some lacklustre play by both Mitchell and Flynn.

- Emelin, turning pucks over like crazy, making terrible passes. All by his lone self, he's killing his team today.

- 8 minutes on the clock, Habs haven't yet show any indication they are willing or able to shift their game into another gear.

- No reason for Habs to be fading in the 3rd, not on 5 days rest, but that's exactly what's happening. Ice is tilting heavily one direction, and it's not for the team that's trailing on the board. Forget moving up another gear, this team isn't even competing at an even keel.

- Just nothing going Habs way now. Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Radulov all struggling significantly today - and when they struggle, the Habs struggle.

- Disappointing return from the break for the Habs - so many glaring issues - defensive puck handling is awful, Emelin is awful, the offence is awful, the powerplay is awful. Carey Price is just fine. Claude Julien, welcome to Montreal. Have fun!!!


Vacation is over! It's back to the grind of watching Habs hockey, and fretting over their dwindling lead in the Atlantic Division. The dramatics of watching your favourite team's season slowly slipping away were tempered this week after, as you surely have heard, the Canadiens turned Michel Therrien, and brought in ex-Habs coach Claude Julien, who was turfed by the Boston Bruins a fortnight ago.

The Jets, erstwhile, are likely playing out another season that will end before the playoffs begin. The Jets come into Montreal losers of 5 of their past 6 games, sending them further down the standings in the Western Conference. The Jets biggest culprit the season has been (at best) and inconsistent (at worst) incoherent defence, which has resulted in Winnipeg surrounding on average about 31 shots per game (20th rated). Mix that with what can only be described as iffy netminding performances by Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson this season, and you end up with the 3rd worst rated defence in the NHL.

So with that in mind, here's the starting lineup for the Jets this afternoon:



Connor Hellebuyck

Meanwhile the Habs hope to get their lineup into a winning frame of mind under the new coach, who made a significant adjustment upon arrival in Montreal, shifting Alex Galchenyuk from a previously inhibiting role as 3rd line center under Therrien, back to top line duties. Ergo, the Canadiens' lineup today:



Carey Price

Couple of things I'll be watching today: Obviously, Galchenyuk back on the top line (something I was endless ranting about during Therrien's final month as coach), and Paul Bryon on the 2nd line. It's been a rather dreadful season for Byron, who's become more of a forgotten element on the Habs top 6. Bryon's struggle to score consistently has been one of the main reasons why the Habs secondary scoring has troubled this team - especially during its recent slide. A productive Byron makes the Canadiens a far more difficult team to play against.

Puck drops today at 2:10 EST.


- Scratches!! Sven Andrighetto, Greg Pateryn and David Desharnais will be watching from above tonight.

- With those being the healthy sitters, Mike McCarron will get a start - a roster move that is a pretty clear indicator that Claude Julien already has a pretty firm grasp of the Habs's assets.

- Game preview coming up.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Habs Special: Therrien Fired


At the practice venue in Brossard, they're stacked standing room 7 deep. Only in Montreal, only in Montreal.

Yes, but what about the practice itself? This should pretty much sum it up:
Music to the ears. Sweet, sweet competent hockey coaching music. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THESE YEARS?


- Marc Bergevin held a press conference late this morning, and being Marc Bergevin, revealed very little. Among the things he did say that were worth remembering, Bergevin affirmed that under no circumstances would he entertain any trade offer that involved the Canadiens' future talent, which means you can cross Mikhail Sergachev off the endangered list.

- Although not really asked a direct question about his status, Bergevin did say he was "expecting more" out of Alex Galchenyuk, who's been the face of many Canadiens-related trade rumours the past couple of days.

- Again, Bergevin refused to directly answer why he chose to fire Michel Therrien, other than he wanted his team to head in a winning direction. Maybe dropping an unintentional hint, Bergevin indicated that the team had stopped playing "responsibly", which one could perceive as an indicator that the players were no longer listening to their coach, which stoked the decision to make a change.

- Coy comments about Carey Price, other than he still is a "world class" goaltender, and that he's hoping to see Price's game improve over the coming weeks/months.

- After the press conference, a few Habs players held what appears to have been an informally arranged practice at Brossard, and guess who showed up?
Oates' participation is interesting - because a) he's currently an unemployed (and one would assume looking) coach, b) he has significant ties to Boston, and c) Julien's almost certainly going to make adjustments to the assistant coaching crew, might Oates be part of those changes?


Yeah, it's hard to even believe it, but the day has finally arrived. And almost exactly 8 years since Michel Therrien was let go by his former, former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. That day was February 15, 2009. Astonishing.

Truth be told, this firing shouldn't come as a shocker, at least among those who have been close followers of this hockey team. The final nail was likely this comment on Sunday night:
Price's identity statement was as close to any comment you'll get from a player that his coach has lost the room. That's essentially what happened - the players, at some point the past two months, totally tuned out from listening to Michel Therrien. It explains his termination today as much as it explains the inconsistent, often chaotic display of hockey by this team since early December.

This is an incredibly important moment - because it not only turns a chapter in a coaching era that was doomed from the very beginning, but it also allowed the Canadiens, for the first time in recent memory, to hire a bonafide top-notch hockey mind, that being of course, Claude Julien.

Boston's loss will almost certainly be Montreal's huge gain. This is something to celebrate.

And so we breath a sigh of relief - the deed is finally done, and now the fans can watch hockey without fret. Sure, the team will lose again, it may even continue to slide all the way out of a playoff spot, but at least the focus of tension and frustration won't be directed at the man standing behind the bench, frenetically cranking out illogical line combinations, and reserving himself from finding scapegoats to excuse his own poor performance.

It's a new day. It's Valentine's day. It's finally time to celebrate.