Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Game #64

Geoffrion's Lineage No Magic Potion for Habs

Details


Date: 28/02/2012
Opponent: Lightning
Location: Tampa Bay

Loss 1-2

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Garon (W)

Habs goalscorers: Desharnais
Opposition goalscorers: Stamkos, Hall



Play of the game

Working alone, a canny Desharnais made a great steal to start a rush down-ice with Cole keeping pace. As a second defender hustled back to get a body on Cole, Desharnais used the struggling pair as a screen and snapped a beautiful shot past Garon.




Dome hockey team


The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
Once again showed his desire to win, his impeccable penlty-killing skills, and some smart drives to the net. He actually beat Garon, but the Tampa goaltender got lucky as he managed to deflect the puck just wide.

Erik Cole
Carried a lot of offensive weight once again. Won battles that seemed already lost, and got stoned by an incredibly lucky Garon in the 2nd. Also sent a defender flying into the Tampa goalie for a comical finish to the 3rd period.

David Desharnais - Game Puck
Scored our only goal and did it by himself. Tied up a game that, despite the shots being pretty even, did not feel even at all. With Cole, again created most of the meager offensive threats we had.


Defencemen

PK Subban
Was hard filling out the defenders this evening, as no one really distinguished themselves too strongly. Subban is one of the few things that keeps our top power play unit looking even vaguely competent, and looked good enough in his own end.

Josh Gorges
A bit of a no-brainer. Gorges knows where to be and when. St. Louis looked like he might be breaking free and turned hard to shake Gorges, who just put the body to his opponenet and neutralized the play completely. Made some smart plays at the other blue line and didn't make mistakes behind his own.


Goaltender

Carey Price
Let down once again by the skaters in front of him. The Stamkos goal was a beauty, and so was the the saucer pass to Hall and his top-shelf marker. Price made some good saves, including a pokecheck to strip Stamkos in a dangerous-looking play in the 3rd. Price kept the team in this one the whole way once again, but there simply wasn't enough offense to cash in on his good play.

Comments


Credit where credit is due: The Lightning did a lot of things right in this game. Garon made some really spectacular saves, and his team did a good job of getting bodies around him to control rebounds, and to limit the Habs' effectiveness in the offensive zone.

It was fun watching Emelin provoke Malone into a total frenzy and not throw a punch back, but less fun watching the Habs being unable to score over the 5-minute power play that ensued. Frankly, we probably had better chances on the PK. Almost every team we play against seems to work harder and have more discipline, and as a result we lose a lot of those games.

Liked what I saw from Geoffrion, he played about 13 minutes, mostly beside Plekanec. I think Price might have tripped 2 or 3 guys tonight, which I almost like to see as I think a lot of teams take liberties with him. All in all, another hard game to watch as it seems we're just limping through the rest of the season.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Game #63

Another Emotionless Habs Snoozer

Details



Date: 26/02/2012
Opponent: Panthers
Location: Florida

Loss: 2-4

Habs Goalie: Budaj (L)
Opposition Goalie: Clemmensen (W)

Habs goalscorers: Desharnais, Subban
Opposition goalscorers: Weiss (2), Bergenheim, Campbell



Play of the game


Desharnais did great work to keep the play alive and then to get into a dangerous position. He ended up scoring a goal, his 12th and the game's first, but it proved, again, to not be enough.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

David Desharnais - Game Puck
He scored a goal and added an assist in the first 7 minutes of the game. There wasn't much more from him after that, but, if everyone was pulling their weight it surely would have been enough. He now has 46 points and leads the Habs. It is a great accomplishment for him, but players like Plekanec, Kostitsyn and Gomez should be quite ashamed. David was undrafted, so maybe that is the way for the Habs to go from now on?.

Erik Cole
Erik played well, but wasn't his best. Regardless, he was a standout on the night. He has a look of frustration on his face, possibly the look of disbelief? Disbelief that he left a bad team for an even worse one, perhaps?

Tomas Plekanec
Why? Because I had to choose someone.

Defencemen

Tomas Kaberle
He got an assist, played nearly 20 minutes and was even on the night. Kaberle has been criticized since he arrived, but his 18 points in 34 games is no joke. That pace is better than that of Kostitsyn, Bourque, Gionta or Gomez - all players that we thought would contribute at a decent rate.

PK Subban
PK scored a goal and led the team is shots by 3. He is ticked at how the season has gone as we all are, but if I were him I would be comforted by the fact that, in his career, it won't get much worse. He is a good player who has been playing better hockey as of late.

Goaltender

Peter Budaj
Can't blame Budaj in this one. Price may have fared a bit better, but this team wasn't going to win tonight, so I can't take this rare dome opportunity away from the Slovak. That said, he looked a bit weak on a couple of the goals and that probably has a little something to do with having not played in three weeks.


Comments


I hope that the Habs don't do anything stupid in the next 24 hours. We have a few players that are key to our future and a few others that should be sold at all costs. So, I don't want to see an Emelin, Plekanec, Price or Subban go, but do think that players like Moen, Campoli, Gomez and Bourque should be moved if possible. There are then players like Darche, Kostitsyn, Eller, Diaz and Kaberle who may very well be part of the future or not. I don't think that now, however, is the time to make the call on players like that.

Kostitsyn, in particular, is a better player than we have seen since January. Early on he was one of the best forwards on the team, but didn't have huge numbers. For some reason he gets limited ice-time and PP time which now proliferates his situation. That said, are we going to get someone better than him or is he someone that, at the right price, we want on our second line? I don't know the answers and, unless those have indeed been answered, I think a hasty move could be regrettable.

Another player that I have an issue with is Bourque. He does not seem to fit into this team, he plays with no passion (granted that no one else presently is, but at least we have see it from everyone else at some point) and does not contribute (6 points in 18 games). This is the problem with trading players like Cammalleri - yes, we shed salary and get a 'similar' player, but at the end of the day this is a player that we did not really want and probably won't really want. If possible he should be moved as I think we'll regret having him as long as he is here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Game #62

Habs in Last; But Rejoice, They Scored On The Caps This Year

Details



Date: 24/02/2012
Opponent: Capitals
Location: Washington

Loss: 1-4

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Neuvirth (W)

Habs goalscorers: Bourque
Opposition goalscorers: Perreault, Chimera, Ovechkin, Ward



Play of the game


You'll only see the type of goal that we scored tonight at the only game more boring than our game was tonight: the All-Star game. Don't expect, however, to ever see multiple Habs at the All-Star game, at least not from this squad. So, tonight's goal was unique, maybe a one-off. On the PK Plekanec started a great tick-tack-toe play with Emelin and Bourque. It was Rene who finished up with his 17th.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Rene Bourque - Game Puck
A goal and two other decent chances was enough for this third-line, mid-season pick-up (slash Calgary cast-off) to take the game-puck. When a bad game by Bourque stands out our problems don't even have words.

Tomas Plekanec
Sadly an assist and only -1 isn't bad compared to the rest. If you don't believe me check the stats or re-watch the game.

David Desharnais
He had a rare sign of passion tonight. What will it take for others to catch this? Ca we build a team that cares? A team where all 20 players care every game? Sadly, looking around the league, I feel that 10 guys caring 50% of the time would be enough in the East to make the playoffs.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
Was solid on the PK and was the best of a bunch that had a few real duds. Is he key to our future though? Will he be here after Tuesday? Does he want to be? I hope that he stays, but it is clear he isn't a #1 and if he is then it is of a 25-30 team. Whether it be Markov or someone else, our D needs help.

Alexei Emelin
Alexei had a great pass on our good play of the night and I certainly took notice (there was little to make me forget that moment). Emelin can be better though, but is still better than we all thought he would be at this point.

Goaltender

Carey Price
No goalie is going to win behind the team that played tonight. It could have been 1-10 and the dome would be his. If Budaj was in and let in 10, likewise, the dome would belong to Peter. I am not one of those who never blames goalies, but come on Habs, how did you think we were going to win this game? Pathetic.


Comments


This was painful. Yes, we needed the points and this was a 4-point game, but beyond the standings it was still not an easy one to watch. That has been the Habs lately, though. They have been a bad team all year and have been hard to watch on more nights than not. I now have a deeper appreciation for real fans of teams like the Islanders and Jackets as those guys must have watched hundreds of games like this over the past few seasons.

We have 20 games to go and a trade deadline. I am not sure what if there will be much excitement left in the season, but it would be nice if we put on a few good shows as it will help keep those of of us who watch 3 games a week sane.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Belated Trade Thoughts

People have been asking me what I thought of the Gill for Geoffrion trade. Being busy, I didn't have time to post. But with a free minute, thought I'd save future questions by providing my answer here.

What to think?

I liked the trade.

What the Canadiens gave up in Hal Gill was little. And, let's be clear, Gill was no longer of great use the team. When he arrived, Gill was a new leader who could be used for a team in pressure games and pressure situations to deliver some impressive defensive minutes.

With his contract expiring, and the Canadiens unlikely to face a game of the magnitude of those from Gill's first season for quite some time, the team gave up a solid penalty killer.

And the timing was good. Because Gill can still be that valuable specialist that he was for the Canadiens for someone else, for a team where one PK makes the difference between winning and losing something important.


The return

I also liked the trade because of the return. I think prior to the trade it would have been sensible to suggest that Gill might land a second round pick plus something else. He did, but then somehow the Canadiens also pried Blake Geoffrion from the Nashville organization.

I think all of us who recently watched the year of ceremonies probably felt a moment or two of nostalgic romance when we heard this trade. Son of a player, grandson and namesake of an all-time hero, great-grandson of one of the first superstars of the game.

Of course, Blake Gefrrion is a player in his own right too. A Hobey Baker award as captain of the Badgers attests to that. It is foolhardy to think he's here to put the Morenz-Geoffrion treatment on the current Habs, yet his play suggest that he could easily make the lineup of the current team.

That's something. And quite something for Hal Gill to return in a trade.


Yes, overall, a good trade. Not the trade that spells massive overhaul, but one of those nice incremental moves that when accumulated show a move in the right direction.


I came across this piece yesetrday on Geoffrion. Many of you will probably enjoy giving it a quick read.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Game #61

Habs Dismantled At Home, Again

Details


Date: 21/02/2012
Opponent: Stars
Location: Montreal

Loss 0-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Lehtonen (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Garbutt, Ribeiro, Wandell



Play of the game

The best non-goal for the home team. Bourque stretched a play down the left wing accompanied by Emelin and Gomez. The pass came and Emelin, who did well just to be there did even better to make a dummy and allow the pass to reach Gomez. Gomez shot nearly right away on a ready Lehtonen.



Dome hockey team


The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Rene Bourque
Hit the cross bar, made that pass (probably hoped Gomez wouldn't be the shooter) and looked threatening on a few occasions. It's a sorry story for a team that claims to be vying for the playoffs that a) this represents one of the best efforts in a late season game and b) represents one of their top 6 forward's best games of the season in the uniform.

Erik Cole
He looked one of the best forwards again. But the season must be wearing on him too, as his moments of threat were less so than we've be used to in the past. Perhaps sick himself, and allegedly playing with ailing players, he at least has an excuse I can swallow.

Max Pacioretty
I guess it has to be Max. He had 4 shots, apparently, and 5 not so memorable hits, so that's something. Really he was as guilty as all the rest of allowing Dallas to defend exactly the way they wanted to.


Defencemen

PK Subban - Game Puck
I liked Subban's game better than most. He was on for the Ribeiro goal, but he had his man covered, and can rightly be upset with his teammates on the play. Overall, he was sound in his coverage of his assignments and played a big role in keeping the anemic home team's hopes alive for as long as they were. He also looked better than he has in the past on the PP. Maybe one day the Habs can look forward to a goal from the point.

Alexei Emelin
The Russian rookie is making his presence felt more and more with each passing shift. This game was not marked with highlight hits. Instead, I noted some more good breakouts and contributions to attempts to break the team's duck.


Goaltender

Carey Price
One can't blame Price for the loss. I could do without another bad goal on what was an unnecessary giveaway. Let's be honest though, better that happens on goal #3 in a game with no other signs of life than a future, potentially meaningful game.


Comments

This was a truly sad effort. Every team that was in a position similar to the Canadiens tonight did better than them. It starts, of course with Dallas. For all to see was another team in a playoff hunt outcompeting their rivals at every position on the ice. All teams apart from the Islanders that matter in the Eastern race also gathered points, and even the Isles made a contest of their game.

It is sometimes nice to fall back on the saying: "it was not for lack of effort". This game was lost because of a comprehensive lack of effort, however. The team came out happy to concede many shots, many chances and with a willingness to drop behind a goal. Given the knowledge that they were without many of their best elements, and were relying on players who have been most often disappointing in generating offense, the strategy must have seemed misguided, even to them. There were a few good chances, but scarcely a great one, and really the Habs could only claim to be pacing Dallas after that first goal, never dominating.

The realization of what it means to watch a bad team is dawning on me now. This team is not an unlucky bunch that deserved a better fate. No, they are one of a number of teams that is good at a few things (ultimately too few) in a fairly well balanced league. They are below average, or bad if you will. If the Habs were in the West, given the defending we have seen on display from the more disciplined teams out there, they might even be giving Columbus a real run for Nail, in my opinion. They're closer to Columbus than to Boston.

So they're bad. He's having a mood swing. Does this mean I have given up on playoffs? Strangely no.

Though I have no illusions of experiencing playoff elation, I am still of the opinion that there will be a couple of pretty bad teams in the playoffs this season. The redeeming feature of this Habs team remains the fact that they are not that different to Toronto, Florida, Winnipeg, Tampa and others who stand real chances of participation.

With the trade deadline coming up, one has to think that the next game will decide a lot. Another loss, particularly one lacking feeling, will be a nail in many coffins, alas unlikely now a Nail in the draft. The worst kind of end to the season is looming. Let's hope we find some enjoyment yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Game #60

Habs Don't Work Hard Enough for Points

Details


Date: 19/02/2012
Opponent: Devils
Location: Montreal

Loss 1-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Brodeur (W)

Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: Parise, Clarkson, Taormina



Play of the game

Working hard up the boards, Pacioretty gained the zone and threw the puck to Desharnais. The feisty centre worked it around the back of the net and got it out front. After Kaberle fanned on it, Pacioretty picked it up right in front of the net and slammed it behind Brodeur.




Dome hockey team


The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
From his play, it's obvious Plekanec still wants to win every contest. He digs deep in his own end, makes timely steals and smart transition plays, and creates in the offensive end. His lost battle leading up to third goal was a shame, but he looked tremendous over the rest of the game and his -3 doesn't reflect his impact on the game at all.

Max Pacioretty
Notched his 25th of the season in another solid effort. Had a couple more promising chances and played a big role in the dangerous stretch of play we put together in the third period. Taking good lessons from Cole in using his body and finding good spots to score from.

David Desharnais
Yet another game where we didn't look fantastic in the offensive zone and Desharnais was key to what little we managed to generate. Picked up an assist and contributed greatly to the surge in pressure during the third period.


Defencemen

PK Subban
Didn't see so many of the same small positional mistakes that I've been seeing lately. Shifted his play towards the offensive when it was required and made sure his spot was covered when he was pinching. Began with solid play in his own end and built some good offense out of it.

Josh Gorges
Always a mainstay of our defensive corps, Gorges really did everything he could to keep us in this one. His play was excellent and he was integral to keeping the Kovalchuck line to only a single, lucky goal.


Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
Carey got pretty unlucky tonight. He made some huge saves and kept the team in the running for the early stretches of the game. His play was outstanding and was beat by 2 lucky tips and a freakish shot that slipped between Bernier and Weber. Certainly wasn't the source of our woes in this one.

Comments


We started with a red-hot shift from Gomez and Kostitsyn, and
then seemed to sit back on our haunches for most of the first period, and the first half of the second. Price made some huge saves to keep us in it, but ultimately New Jersey forechecked very effectively against us and anticipated play very well. They are a fast and well-coached team, and simply out worked us. They won battles, were usually first to the puck, and created good pressure. Even with good play from our defensive corps, getting outshot 12-4 in the first period is a good reflection of how one-sided the contest was.

The pressure we did manage to mount in the 3rd was dangerous, and it looked like we might draw even until Taormina got lucky and stole our momentum. Sadly, it was too little and too late. It looked again like the Hurricanes game in that the effort simply wasn't there early enough. If we could stretch that kind of play over 40, or even 60 minutes of hockey, our playoff hopes might be a little brighter today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Game #59

Habs Use PP And Shootout Luck Store To Down Sabres

Details



Date: 17/02/2012
Opponent: Sabres
Location: Buffalo

Win: 4-3 (SO)

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Miller (L)

Habs goalscorers: Kaberle, Gomez, Campoli, (Pacioretty, Desharnais - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Regehr, Myers, Ennis




Play of the game

Coaches who believe in the passive box must believe that hockey players' innate impatience will will on odds alone. Tonight, the Canadiens very nearly opened their scoring on the PP. Even if it was technically ES, the goal came because of about a minute of PP possession and probably 20-odd straight passes. The play that ended it was signature Markov. Not from him of course, but from Kaberle who snuck in using the Russian route to finish Desharnais' soft pass.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Scott Gomez
I'm somewhat stunned to read the time on ice stats. To me it seemed like Gomez's line was getting prime time minutes. That's probably in most part due to the fact that they caught the eye more than any other. Gomez himself was sharper at things he hasn't necessarily been sharp at in a while - quick passes, battles on the boards, winning races. And to top it off he scored a massive goal when the wind very much needed to be put back in the Habs' sails.

Andrei Kostitsyn
To me, the most dangerous forward all night. For whatever reason he was the forward who escaped the tenacious Buffalo checking best and popped up at least a half dozen times in very dangerous positions. He ended with 3 shots and no points, but there was quality in his attempts.

Ryan White
Using his exuberance to get the two misfits going is proving a minor stroke of genius. Really, it's probably just hitting on some obvious complementary assets that should be well known by now. White makes room and wins loose pucks - something both Gomez the hot potato passer and Kostitsyn the slippery shot maker like to have taken off their own plates. Tonight White looked like a sure bet to be on the team for a while. Not something I ever thought when he was missing for all those games.

Defencemen

Alexei Emelin
We beat up our management a lot, but getting Emelin to come to North America before lapse of his rights was masterful. From learner to reliable to making Gill expendable in less than 60 games. His mark on the game tonight was in scorecard hits and blocked shots. Un-noted were a few good breakout moves and slick passes.

PK Subban - Game Puck
I'm not surprised that the energy of renewed playoff hope is awakening a player within Subban. Being a pro who can elevate his game, he is prone to this kind of effect from pressure. Tonight, he continued to build on what he has been putting together for a few games. We'll all admit that he's not yet found his PP magic. IN the defensive zone, though, the magic is there. A gorgeous 2-on-1 break-up, numerous takeaways, dives for clearance and lots of other good things. Now that his focus is taken from making the highlight hit to matters of the score, he unsurprisingly returns to Game Puck ownership.

Goaltender

Carey Price
The dome was won with a solid recovery from average start. In fact, by keeping the game 3-2 as long as he did, he did the Canadiens a massive turn. He also saved himself an asterisk by being the goalie I'd have in for the dome shootout. The extra point belongs in part to him as he made his saves cleanly and without sliding into the net.


Comments

This is a stats geek's dream come true. Regression to some mean. Players that were barren bore fruit, a PP created goals it's deserved for all the chances that it's had, and a shootout victory was sealed with 2 shots a piece (goals and saves, respectively). Smartly, they did not test their PK luck too frequently on the first game without the human bollard.

What we may also be seeing is the tale of the schedule. A schedule where the Canadiens played most of the games against the teams that are doing well this year first (hopefully not only because they played the Habs more...) and play some of the down and outs more now. If the Canadiens had played more shootouts against Buffalo, would their record be so bare? Their PP would certainly be better against such an anemic defence.

Whatever the explanation, the Canadiens have again given light to those who refuse to pack up for the season. The Habs by statistical likelihood, now have a higher than 10.6% chance (for some reason on writing, the site tells me it's still tied in OT) of making the playoffs when their light schedule is accounted for. It's not high, but it's better than that of NYI, Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa. Winnipeg beat Boston and keep floating a little higher. The better news perhaps that teams that may not belong in the playoffs are the ones perched precariously there. A win on Sunday with some other half-way decent results (sans OT) will put even some of the more cynical back on Windsor station platform awaiting the bandwagon to pass.

Trade Deadline Wish List

Whether the Canadiens continue their push for the playoffs or not, there is good reason for the GM to be active at the trade deadline.

It being the one time of year that the generally conservative group running hockey teams opens their depth chart wallets and takes risks for short-term or long-term gains, it would be silly to stand idly by. opportunity is there for the cunning.

I look at the trade deadline as I look at a game. Yes it is entertaining, but really I want to come out of it feeling that the team I support got the better of it. Thinking about it, I put together a list of what I would consider to make this deadline a success (it need not be all of these things, maybe just a select few):


1) GM in on the conversations

There's no way to know about this, nor is there anyway to predict what will happen if in on conversations. But every year a relatively important piece is moved for little. The mark of a good GM is sniffing those desperate traders out and being ready to offer if not close a deal.

And this isn't just for Nash. I'd keep an eye on Buffalo and what they might do with their players who were coveted talents just a few months ago.


2) Throw out conference trading guidelines

In a year like this, where the Eastern teams in low positions may all play cards to get to the playoff table, it would be silly to discount them for an imaginary reason like "can't trade in your conference".


3) No vet defenders

Please.

With all due respect to Sopel and Mara, I think the team would have been OK without them last spring. At least as good. I understand insurance and all that, but a rational GM would have seen a team without Markov and admitted Stanley was out of the cards and instead let others grab some development opportunity. This season, it's even more clear -- this team, playoffs or not probably isn't a winner. Better to let Emelin and Diaz build through these pressure games for future returns than have them stagnate while Jordan Leopold comes in.


4) Creativity

No Columbus won't give away their 2012 pick for little. But let's get creative. What about Calgary's 2013 pick? By betting on who might fall this year, and in the next few years, a pick's value might be underestimated by that GM. Pick for pick deals can sometimes dupe an overly optimistic GM into doing something really quite stupid (see Brian Burke).

The Habs could use a high pick, any team could. But in the Canadiens case, it's worth looking at the relative age of the team and when its peak might be. The chance to grab a forward that will peak at the same time as Price and Subban is not a window that will stay open forever.


5) Bolster Hamilton

Few look at the lower echelon trades with much enthusiasm. But really, there is a lot to be said for swooping minor league upgrades on a day of distraction.

The well is dry there. Beyond Frederic St. Denis there aren't many players that look to be replacements for NHL level players any time soon.

Upgrades are there to be had, and it wouldn't be a burden to the organization to saddle an already losing team with some 21 year olds that might help at some point down the road.

Is there an ear for such trades at the deadline? Maybe not too much of one amid all the confusion, but important additional players are often found.



I could have said power forward. i could have said Pavel Datsyuk. But let's be realistic, the Habs will not be dealing from a position of strength. The talent that management sees as cornerstone pieces must be as thin as those we see, and trading quality for anything (even other quality) still presents unknowns.

One thing the Habs have actually achieved this season is to increase the value of their draft picks over the expected. And with a tight league, they could shift one way or the other quite drastically from deadline to dead season. I think they should play on this if they can and believe in their own abilities to elevate their rank. Probably better than to subtract known NHL quantities at this point.

I look forward to the day of moves from everyone and watching the Habs fortunes rise and fall in relation to each. In the game of contender building, the trade deadlines can be like a 2 minute PP for or against and the momentum swings that can be found are significant. Should be fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Game #58

Montreal Comes Back, Manages To Get A Valuable Point

Details



Date: 15/02/2012
Opponent: Bruins
Location: Montreal

Loss: 3-4

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Thomas (W)

Habs goalscorers: Darche, Pacioretty, Cole
Opposition goalscorers: Ference, Pouliot, Bergeron, (Seguin - SO)



Play of the game


The Bruins had never lost when trailing after two, and we know what we can be like in third periods. So, it was extra special when Cole capitalized on a Chara mistake to walk in alone on Thomas. He made a nice move in close and put one upstairs on the Tea-Partyer. Embarrassing Chara, after Plekanec smacked him in the face with the puck, was certainly a highlight for me.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Erik Cole - Game Puck
Cole refused to give up, that much you could see on his face. Even though we were down to one of the best team's in the league, by two goals, he still played his heart out. He was in on Max's goal and then scored the tying goal on a very nice play. On a night like tonight, when he is that fired-up it was a mistake not to use him in the shoot-out.

Mathieu Darche
Where has this play come from? A month ago I felt that Mat was playing in his final few NHL games and now he is a resident in the dome. Like others, it could be argued that he is playing for himself, for his NHL-survival, but I don't buy that. Here is a proud Montrealer who seems to be willing to do whatever it takes for his home team to succeed. His goal was fantastic and just gives more reason as to why he should be playing as much as he does.

Max Pacioretty
Max, Max, Max, you have to lift the puck in the shoot-out. This is Tim Thomas here, no goal is a given. He had the keeper beat, but didn't bury it like he should have (I hope he looks at the way Cole finished his backhand goal tonight). Aside from the disappointment in the shoot-out Max was good. He scored his 24th and continues to be one of the main reasons that the Habs are sticking around in this race.

Defencemen

Alexei Emelin
This guy is afraid of no one. Guys like Thornton and Marchand make a living acting like idiots and scaring other NHL'ers. Alex, however, can see through these tools and beats them the only way he knows how - with solid, clean hits. With him on our side I think that Boston now has something to worry about and hopefully pre-occupy themselves with. Teams like that don't like to be shown-up in any aspect of the game, so let's hope that Emelin can continue to act as a distraction in future contests.

PK Subban
PK was another player that got under the Bruins' skin. He played a strong game in both ends and was definitely a force going forward. His play and pass on Darche's short-handed marker was superb. With Emelin, these two are forming the base of our Bruin tormenting for years to come.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Carey was fantastic towards the end of the third and in OT. He was OK the rest of the way and was his usual, sieve-like self in the shoot-out. Without him we don't get the point, but I feel that a little work on breakaways would lead to a few more wins rather than OT losses. Other players have figured out how to beat Price, can't our coaches and he himself work that out too and do what it takes to address it?


Comments


We needed a bounce-back game after the Hurricane loss and I felt that a visit from the hated Bruins would suit us. We played a strong game throughout, I thought, but got into trouble with a few careless mistakes. Their first goal was Gill at his worst and their second exposed the AHL talent hidden inside Campoli. Their third goal was a PP-marker scored after Cole, with the puck, ran into Thomas. Calls like that add up and eventually even the best PK will get scored upon. So, it is simple to say that it would have been 3-0 for us without two bad plays and a bad call. But, the reality is that players like Gill and Campoli play every night and they make many more mistakes than two per game. Mistakes will happen and, so will goals. That is why offence and goaltending are the keys to our wins. When Price is on and we score 2+ we are a great team, but when it all doesn't line up we get 2011-2012.

We knew at the All-Star break that we would lose games, we probably even thought that this one against Boston would be a loss, so by no means is anything over yet. A win against the 'Canes would have been nice, but in the end it is still 9 of a possible 12 points in our last 6 games. We have 24 games left and teams like Toronto, Florida and Ottawa that are generally better at being bad than good, also have a lot of games to go. The slope got a little steeper this week, but it is still surmountable. How about two wins this weekend though, just to make things a little easier.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Game #57

Habs Can't Shut the Door Against Hurricanes

Details


Date: 13/02/2012
Opponent: Hurricanes
Location: Montreal

Loss: 3-5

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Ward (W)

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, Cole, Desharnais
Opposition goalscorers: Tlusty, Spacek, Staal (2), McBain



Play of the game

In a great example of the heads-up hockey that Plekanec can show us, he read the play well and took off down the ice while collecting a smart pass from Campoli. Bourque joined him to create a 2-on-1 break. Pleks cooly hung on, cut inside just slightly, and fired a quick-release wrister under the skates of Cam Ward. It completely changed the tone of the game and ignited a 3-goal outburst from a Habs squad that had looked pretty sleepy to that point.




Dome hockey team


The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
Continued his impressive points streak against Carolina and ignited a sleeping crowd (and team) with his goal after a disappointing 30 minutes of hockey. More importantly, continued to provide quiet leadership by setting the example and touched off the half-period of strong play we did see from the Habs tonight. Played well in both ends and fired 8 shots, 5 of which made it to the net.

Erik Cole
Erik had basically already made the dome before scoring a great goal in the second on the power play. His physical play through the first period was vital in keeping any offensive hope alive, and he followed through on it with a power-play goal in the second.

David Desharnais
Showed us just how good his hands are on our second power-play goal. Played feisty, creative hockey and helped rekindle some hope that maybe we do, in fact, have a power play that can possibly score. Wish he'd shot on that power play with about 3 minutes left, though, looked like he had a lot of net...


Defencemen

Hall Gill
Played extremely well on the penalty kill and broke up some key scoring opportunities early on to keep it close over the first 30 minutes while the most of the team napped or maybe checked their iPhones or something. With Campoli, 1 of only 2 players that ended up plus-anything on the night.

Josh Gorges
Good old reliable Gorges. On a night where Kaberle is even worse than usual and Subban is making more mistakes than he should, Gorges has to be good. He was even on the plus-minus through almost 22:30 and did a lot to keep the team in this contest. I'm glad we can rely so consistently on him to face long, tough minutes and have him do the most important things: not panic, stick to the plan, and not make dumb mistakes.


Goaltender

Carey Price
The only thing that kept us even close for the first 30 minutes, Price did a lot of things right. The Tlusty goal was a lucky redirect, and Spacek's goal was just a great hockey play and Price never had a chance. He seemed almost nervous at times in the 3rd, which is rare; but given the way the skaters in front of him were playing in their own end and allowing second- and third-chance opportunities it was understandable.

Comments


At the end of the first, I was thinking—hoping—to myself that maybe we were up to our old trick of only playing 2 periods of the hockey game. Then the second period started and I started to lose hope for this one.
We seemed to be able to gain the zone, but we never crossed with much momentum and our puck movement was weak. As a result, the Habs mustered few shots on Ward, let alone quality chances. Tlusky's goal was lucky, but Spacek's was a picture-perfect execution of a classic hockey play that it made me wish we'd tried him a couple times as a power play quarterback. That's right, we looked bad enough that I was wishing for the "good old days," when Spacek played with us. I was dreading trying to pick a play of the game.

Then, just after the halfway mark of the 2nd period, Plekanec almost single-handedly turned the game around with a great transition goal. We then proceeded to score 2 goals on the power play, which put us to an astounding 5 goals in our last 13 or 14 power plays. Leading 3-2 going into the dressing room, it seemed like things were looking up.

Unfortunately, we started the 3rd period as if this were a done deal, as if we were up by 4 goals in Toronto on Saturday. We were lazy and overconfident on the power play 3 minutes in, and Kaberle made a soft pass that was intercepted at the blue line. He got caught flat-footed by Eric Staal, who breezed by him easily and scored a short-handed breakaway goal. The wind out of our sails (and Moen for some reason not handing Gorges his stick on a penalty kill), a hard power-play effort secured McBain's game-winner and we never got our momentum back.

Simply put, it was a disappointing effort on a night where we really needed the 2 points. A lot of the team looked flat and just weren't moving their feet or keeping their heads up. The passing was sloppy and we weren't forceful enough in taking and keeping the offensive zone. I think that was a very "winnable" game, but we were completely out-hustled and out-worked by a lowly Hurricanes squad. I get unhappy enough when I see us only playing 2 periods of good hockey, and tonight it felt more like about 8 minutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Game #56

Dominance In TO; Habs Win Big 4-Pointer

Details



Date: 11/02/2012
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Toronto

Win: 5-0

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Reimer (L), Gustavsson

Habs goalscorers: Cole, Bourque, Pacioretty, Eller, Darche
Opposition goalscorers: None



Play of the game


Eller has some serious moves and they never look better than when they are made to embarrass the Leafs defensively-challenged captain. After a good play in the neutral zone, Lars came in and mocked not only Phneuf, but Reimer too. It was a great goal, but, boy, did those three players help to make it look really easy.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks had another great game as he is certainly in that playoff-mode (no, not the girlie type) that we need him to be in. He picked up 2 points again and now has 5 in the 4 wins. This was a good night to have Moen miss as Pleks' unit had little to do, but I do hope he'll be back beside Darche and Tom soon.

Mathieu Darche
The coach likes Darche, that much is obvious. But, what does he bring to the Habs? If anything, he brings passion and a love for the CH more than anyone on the team. This guy plays with all his heart and it makes up for any lack of skill. When you play with that much heart and you get that much ice-time generally things can happen for you and they did tonight with a goal and an assist.

Erik Cole
More of the same from the Habs' top forward. With the Habs playing as well as they did and Toronto playing as bad as they did Cole wasn't needed to be outstanding tonight. He didn't mind though as he still went about his business and notched his 20th of the season (17th in last 40 games). Could it be that Cole's leadership is finally paying off? Have enough of the Habs followed his lead such that we are once again a good team? As of now it looks that way, but let's check back in couple of weeks.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
The Leafs had two PP's before we scored our first goal. Without good penalty-killing this could have been a much different game, but once again we were excellent. Other than Price, no one was better than Gorges. In all he logged 7 minutes short-handed and frustrated the Leafs on numerous occasions.

Hal Gill
This was Mats Sundin night and no Leaf, current or former, was better than soon to be 37 year-old Hal Gill. I am thrilled about that, but one would think that there should be 20 pretty ashamed Leaf players in the dressing room right now. The best part is that Gill wasn't even that good. He was great on the PK and was our second best D-man, but there just wasn't a lot to do for any of the seven tonight.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
Price may have got lucky, thanks to the posts, to get the shutout, but he wasn't lucky that we won. He was so good early on and until it was 2-0 that he made the other players' jobs so much easier. A hot Carey makes this team better and that is exactly what we have on our hands right now.


Comments


Montreal dominated a game that we needed to win tonight. We played a tight first period and relied on some good D and PK'ing to get us there. After that, when the game started to open up, we picked apart their defence and that led to a plethora of goals. They out-shot us, but there was no doubt as to which team outplayed who. Winning, especially in regulation, was huge for us and to win 5-0 makes it that much sweeter. This was a total team-effort which has been the theme of our 4 wins in 7 days week.

2 weeks ago we thought that there was a chance. Last week, there was no way we could even continue to think about the playoffs. This week, what is it? Well, we are 7 points back of 8th and we have 26 games to go. Of course, mathematically, we are still very much alive. But, is this a team that can get another 35 points in those games? Even then, would that be enough? All along I have believed that we may as well go for it and now, of course, there is no change to that. I do think that it is possible, but not because I think that we are a spectacular team or because we were unlucky earlier in the year. No, I think it because, first and foremost, we have a pretty easy schedule till the end of the year (have a look yourself) and the other reason is that we are getting better as a team and, like it or not Ontario, other teams are getting worse.

I have 26 more games to watch this year, and I know what I'll be cheering for. Go Habs.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Game #55

Habs Write Answers to Trivia Questions As They Clear The Isles in NYC

Details



Date: 09/02/2012
Opponent: Islanders
Location: New York

Win: 4-2

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Nabokov (L)

Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty (3), Gomez!!!
Opposition goalscorers: Moulson, Streit




Play of the game


Could it be anything but? The time finally came for Scott Gomez to shoot at an open net from a good position. He was instrumental in keeping the PP play alive and had just set up a few brilliant chances earlier, so when the puck flew right to his waiting stick he deserved the time afforded him to snap his first goal in 12 months and a bit home. Might I say, the goal is also a good example of some PP luck going right, as he scored from Cammalleri's spot, something we know Mike couldn't do for an 11% PP.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
A hat trick from two absolutely fantastic shots beating a good goalie who was ready (ish). These were goalscorers goals, so it's no surprise that Max then is poised to become the first 30-goal man in a little while for the Habs. Apart from the goals he was a threat all night on breaks as he emulated Erik Cole's outside speed and poise. He ended with a ton of shots and attempts (10 and 16, respectively) to show for the fits he gave Islanders defenders.

Mathieu Darche
The very least one can do after calling someone dead wood is admit a good performance when he sees it. Darche has turned his game around of late with some more ice time and is suddenly a noticeably positive force for the good guys. I suspect that this is a good strategy against the Jets and Islanders, but will reserve judgment on its use in Boston games. Nevertheless, he played some good two way hockey while surging for a few chances. Moreover, this pairing with Plekanec has woken the very important player within the turtleneck, a very valuable thing indeed.

Erik Cole
Cole was at ease against the Islanders as he played the sidekick to superhero this time out. Of course, he played that role by doing exactly what he does at his best, creating good chances from almost nothing. It was good to see he and Max find so many openings.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
The Islanders aren't a strong team full of depth, but as Pierre Houde rightly noted, Tavares is becoming a major handful. A testament to Gorges then that he battled with John for most of the night and came out a winner in the end analysis. I fancied Gorges chances to score that goal on another goalie, as well -- I thought the Nabokov save on him was a great glove grab.

Alexei Emelin
Whenever we complain about the Canadiens, there's usually some gripe that they are not very hard to play against (at least to the observer). But to a season's worth of evidence, Emelin offers them a defender to move towards the solution. He looks hard to play against, and the proof is in a lot of puck recovery and broken attacks. I liked him especially tonight as I noticed he was as determined as anyone. It seems like the rookie is finding his KHL form more and more every new game.

Goaltender

Carey Price
This game was a good example of how timing of goals matters. 57 minutes of shutout hockey gives a team a lot of time to build a lead against a team that also has to think attack. Carey was brilliant in allowing the breathing room for his teammates to go three up, and also to hold that as long as he did. The blemish on the record is only personal (lost a shutout he probably deserved most times). He deserves massive credit for backstopping a very important win here.


Comments


The Habs wrote some answers to future trivia questions tonight. Pacioretty scored his first career hat trick and scored possibly the latest third period goal in Canadiens history. I'm not sure if anyone has ever taken 16 attempts on net in the time it's been recorded either. Gomez, of course, broke his year-long duck. Cunneyworth went on his first three game winning streak. A few of these achievements represent some pretty big monkeys being left to stay in Long Island.

Back monkeys off-loaded, it's still hard to see where the team will go from here.

From all signs they look like players who want to make the playoffs today and who will continue to push a bit harder to get there. But we know that even the best efforts could end in tears because of the record compiled over 52 games, and the GM may not share his players' optimism. What we do know is that no one wants the Maple Leafs in the playoffs, not players, not GM, not many people other than Maple Leafs fans themselves, and so the next game will be approached for glory. A win there and things start to get in that deceptively believable realm again.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Game #54

Very Solid Effort Lifts Habs Over Pens

Details



Date: 07/02/2012
Opponent: Penguins
Location: Pittsburgh

Win: 3-2

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Fleury (L)

Habs goalscorers: Leblanc, Eller (1, SO), (Bourque, Plekanec - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Dupuis, Neal, (Malkin, Kunitz - SO)



Play of the game


The play of the game was the shootout, our lowly, pathetic shootout. Price contributed with some big saves and we got 3 goals. The best of the bunch was Bourque's as it put us up right off the bat and gave the team and the fans confidence that a win, against the Pens in this fashion, was indeed possible.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
He was dynamite on the PK early on and did a fantastic job at shutting down the league's best player all night. In the end he was rewarded for his selfless efforts when he scored the game-winning goal in the shootout. When he plays like he has done the past few games we are a better team. Let's hope that he keeps it up.

Lars Eller
Lars had an up and down game. He wasn't that dominant at times, but still managed a very timely goal and a beauty in the shootout. He didn't stand out too much beyond that, but it is notable that he was our only player that was +2.

Louis Leblanc
The kid scored a fantastic goal to put us up and played a pretty solid game otherwise. He was a threat in their end with 4 shots and played very well along the boards. I hope that he continues to progress, wherever he plays for the rest of this season, as there seems to be hope that he could be a good one in the years to come.

Defencemen

PK Subban
He was in their top players' faces all night and you could see the frustration building within the Penguins. Tonight he did everything right and was at his best. It has been a long season of realizing that he isn't a PP specialist, but it has been a thrill to watch him excel in our own end. He made the save of the game in the second when Price got caught; it was an impressive sliding stop.

Josh Gorges
Like PK, Josh was outstanding in our own end. He played the type of game against Malkin and Neal that Spacek and Hamrlik did two years ago in the playoffs vs. Ovechkin then Crosby. Josh is a coach's dream in the way that he works and follows the plan; is it just me or are more and more people following him?

Goaltender

Carey Price
Carey's weak aspects were on display tonight, but boy, so were his good ones. He made poor choices with the puck a couple of times and was almost caught way out for a goal. In the shootout he could have easily let him his usual 50% (4), but thanks to two posts only let in two. He also made 4 very good saves. Throughout the game, however, he was alert and was a huge reason why Pittsburgh never had a lead. Are he and his team heating up at the same time? Surely it is too late, right?


Comments


This was a fantastic game to watch and may have been the closest thing we'll have to a playoff game all year in Montreal. The fact that it was scorelss for so long made things get really intense and really exciting. Our PK generated some serious chances that got the fans into it and so, there was a great atmosphere in the building. We scored a very good goal and then a very lucky one thanks to a bit of cheating by Fleury. We didn't have too many offensive chances beyond those, but we kept it close. That is because our defensive play was spectacular. The short-handed goal was another demonstration of how bad our PP is, but otherwise our play was sound as we respected the gameplan.

Cunneyworth impressed me a few weeks ago when he started using 7 defenceman all as D rather than putting one on the 4th line. I like that concept and am happy to see it is still in effect. Another concept that I really like is the creation of a defensive line. Tonight Plekanec (probably our best all-around player) skated with Darche (who played 21 minutes; second amongst the forwards) and Moen. Having such a solid defensive unit which can shut-down the opposition's best is genius. Yes, Tomas is 'wasted', but we are then able to slip a 3rd and 4th liner on there and get better results than if we had Bourque or Kostitsyn on that line. This then frees up the Desharnais line and players like Eller, Leblanc, Kostitsyn and Bourque to play more freely. I liked what he did as I always am for new thinking in the game. You never know, the concept of having your top centre play with your two bottom wingers on a checking line is something that just may catch on!

Why The Canadiens Lose

I don't know the definitive answer to this question. But I do have a feeling it is a little more subtle than two too many games in September.

Did the Canadiens preseason hurt the team? It's conceivable. But one then thinks back two years earlier, when even more players had to be integrated and a new coach had to set up a new system and notices a team that battled, had two centres scoring and a defensive scheme that put their goalie in the elite of the stats class.


Generally, I think we as fans have to take a cold shower and admit some things about this group of players that the organization has assembled:


1) They are not good enough to play the systems they have been asked to play
When they are asked to play with more energy than the other team, their lack of physical fitness is visible. Line changes are slow as exhausted players walk to the bench. This fitness thing takes a long time to correct, but how long?

Also, let's admit that they can't make up for fitness gaps with skill. There are now players that try on some moves, but just as often as not the puck is lost in the process. And game in, game out, we see how the key to the slot scoring positions elude the forwards on the ice.


2) The systems are stock systems, not custom

It's easy to lay all the blame at the players' feet. But the fact of the matter is that a coach, with a shelf life of two to three seasons, has to face up to the reality that over a tenure, 70% of the players he inherits will make up his core.

We talk about the coach's system and how the coach is trying to impose the way he thinks on the team. But have we yet seen a coach figure out a smart way to use Kostitsyn's slow, big frame with heavy accurate shot? Have we seen in two years a coach who takes advantage of Gomez's zone gaining ability, or Subban's? No. Not fully.

Rather we see the coach restraining or reforming these pieces in order to fit a set mould.

It can work, but it's the more difficult way to do things, and it takes time, and it results in seasons like this one.


3) There's not a star in sight

With all due respect to Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price, PK Subban and Erik Cole, the Canadiens simply do not possess the star power that probably a fair 20 teams in the league do (16 make the playoffs...). There's no natural goalscorer, there's no clutch playmaker, there's no one who turns a game with any regularity, there's no showstopper.

It's worse when one looks through the list of futures. It's possible that Gallagher is a diamond in the rough, but beyond him, it seems like a long list of "more of the same".

What's there is a lot of competent players who are willing to work hard, but who are prone to losing if a bounce goes the wrong way.


4) There's a lot of dead weight

A team of hard working competent players can win many Cups in a row with the right coach. But something that will limit these efforts (and would even limit a Gretzky led team) is players who don't really contribute.

For me, there are too many players for whom you could say a good game is getting more attempts (on net or not) than their equivalents on the other team and just mitigate the damage. I don't need to name the players, we've all got a feeling for this.

Having too many players that are net equals at their best asks those with more skill and talent to outdo their counterparts (the skilled and talented of the other teams. And remembering that some other teams have legitimate superstars, over a season this becomes a very heavy burden for the players it's being asked of.


5) Not enough commitment to development

This is probably the most unforgivable aspect of their neuroses. It is free to develop players well, it costs nothing towards the cap.

The Canadiens, with their warped vision of how much they stand apart from the other 29 franchises in the league make things awfully complicated for themselves when they jettison players for reasons not related to hockey.

A commitment to development for me would mean investing in those players the organization has invested their scouting and picks on. Not only on-ice development, but also off-ice. And importantly, not to expect that minimal effort will achieve enormous changes. One need only think of Mike Ribeiro to understand my meaning. A clear talent who liked to party and was acting up. Too much trouble for the team he was shipped out. And while the addition by subtraction probably paid for short term gains, the loss in quality could be seen as soon as months later.

Through some miracle, the Canadiens have managed to pick a lot of the pieces they needed to compete over the years. But a fear of hard work, or whatever it is, on the part of the organizations overall development mechanism has stripped it of scorers, playmakers and gamesavers over the years.


6) The goal is set too low

Playoff participation? Then anything can happen?

The margin for error when the goal posted on the locker-room wall is playoff participation is harsh. If you come within two points of the 94 you aimed for, you can be on the outside looking in. Teams that aim to win 60 games can fail and still cruise through the last ten games as they ready for April.

For too long the Canadiens have been too satisfied by just making the playoffs. For a while this was reinforced behaviour, because the team did indeed beat unlikely paths to higher rounds. Over the long run, this strategy is bound to turn up a few losing seasons, though.



From the looks of this, it seems that I am being pretty negative. But I prefer to say realistic.

I guess the important distinction is that winning more the 40 games in a season does not necessarily make you a winner. The Montreal team that made the playoffs and were swept aside by Boston in four a few seasons back were certainly not treated as such.

The silver lining is that there are probably fewer than a handful of teams at the moment who don't need to admit to one or all of these flaws. In a league where a small relative gain means leapfrogging over 10 mediocre franchises, the ground to cover isn't immense, at least for playoff participation.

But, as you know we dream of the highest standards on this blog. We fantasize about a time when the Canadiens, inspired by their great past (managerially speaking) will outstrip their rivals in every allowable department not directly related to restricted spending limits. In the realm of the salary cap, I think this is how a dynasty would have to be built, to get out of the Oiler-Penguin cycle of lottery luck.

Sure, we can paper over the cracks and say there was some bad luck, a few injuries and a busy fall. It is factually accurate. But in your heart of hearts, wouldn't you admit that even a team that started 5-3 with Andrei Markov was never going to post a 120 point season?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Game #53

Habs Win On Gomer's Anniversary

Details


Date: 05/02/2012
Opponent: Jets
Location: Montreal

Win: 3-0

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Pavelec (L)

Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty, Emelin, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: None




Play of the game

The whole drama around the third goal was intriguing. Yes, it was a nice enough play. Subban did what a PP Dman should do and stopped only to lay off a pass. Pleks did what a #1 centre should do and walked in a scored. But the aftermath, the clear demonstration of hope that Gomez may have just tipped it, that he may have scored a goal on the very anniversary of the last time he did that. That was good stuff. Those minutes between the goal and the goal announcement were the best of the game for me.



Dome hockey team


The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
I believe this is the second game in a row for Pleks. Yesterday was a bit of a hollow honour, but today he won it from stiff competition. What he is known for doing best, he did best today. That goal he scored was why anyone thought he could play the point in the first place, and that Emelin set-up (sublime pass, btw) is why he's the best PK player in the league.

Max Pacioretty
The guy plays the Corsi game lie that's all there is. Many times to my frustration it's just shots from anywhere. But because Max can actually put some weight behind his shots (unlike today's honouree) he gets goals from it, so I can't hold him at fault. His goal (gamewinner and gamechanger) came from the classic throw the puck on net play. But other than that, he seemed to thrive against a hodge podge Winnipeg D.

David Desharnais
It wasn't as thrilling as his game against Detroit, but David was nonetheless quietly effective. He has stolen his place on the depth chart form a few red-faced players, and continues to cause blushes with his constant dome selections.


Defencemen

PK Subban
I have him in the dome in a game like today's because he managed to use all the tools at his disposal in this one, and he has more than anyone out there. While the HNIC analysts were drooling over Bogosian, it was Subban who scared forwards from entering the zone, it was he who set up a goal, it was he who played on the shutout garnering side. That's not to say he didn't leave anything to be desired. As usual, he did. But that's only a longing for the fan who can see and remember his own potential.

Alexei Emelin
With Desharnais, Alexei must be the most positive story of the season. Coming over from Russia he too some time to adjust. Half a season in, he's nailed his name to a locker room stall and advertised to the league forwards that the Habs zone won't be soft=play land anymore.


Goaltender

Carey Price
He got the win as part of the team effort, but you could tell he wanted this shutout for himself. And rightly. 0.913 doesn't mean what it used to and in a salary negotiating position, he needed more ammo. Well he got it with determined play and full concentration throughout. A thoroughly deserved shutout. I'd love to see a few more.


Comments


I'm not afraid to say I was dreading watching this game. As a rule, I hate losing. I don;t mind supporting a losing team, but not the one of this week that showed how many ways they miss the point of winning hockey. I'm not sure they have found the answer, but they did manage to entertain for long stretches and to be fair, they did everything that was required to win this.

The implications of this win are interesting. Because of the way things have been happening, all but one team in the league has decided the season is not over. So interestingly, the second to last place is in play. Rightly, I feel, the team, however, is talking about winning for the pride of the sweater and the city. A GM can't dispose of an entire young stable, so a culture of pride and winning may probably be as important as a prospect. What's more, the standings are stranger than they've been in years and there are three weak links in playoff positions in the East at the moment. If 85 points can make the playoffs, it wouldn't do to end with 83.

Speaking of pride. Can Gomez have any left? While the fans sort of, kind of, ironically willed him on, his coaches couldn't have cared less about his goal total. He played the least minutes of any player at ES. With all the injuries there have been, only 11 forwards, and some teammates little deserving of ice time as well, it's a matter of shame to this player with his stature and contract to say that the coach's got that dead right.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Game #52

Washington Capitalizes on Lazy Habs Performance

Details


Date: 04/02/2012
Opponent: Capitals
Location: Montreal

Loss: 0-3

Habs Goalie: Budaj (L)
Opposition Goalie: Vokoun (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Wideman, Hendricks, Semin (PS)



Play of the game

Concentrating hard, Josh Gorges uses a Jedi mind trick to convince Alexander Ovechkin that he is actually wearing a Washington jersey. At the end of a long shift, a tired Ovie succumbs to Gorges' will and passes him the puck rather then finding some creative way to score after falling on his arse or something. It was that kind of game.




Dome hockey team


The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
A hard night to choose a game puck. Plekanec is really focusing on his back-end play this season and this has been contributing to his offensive drop-off. I really liked his play in our end and some of the great breakout passes he makes. His rush at the net off a great Subban exit pass in the last 30 seconds reminded me of what a competitor he is and how hard he works every shift, even if it doesn't necessarily show on any given scoresheet. One wonders why he wasn't matched more consistently against Ovie.

Erik Cole
One of those nights where you're stretching to fill the dome. Once again, the Cole/Desharnais/Pacioretty line provided the grand majority of our offense. I love the way this line starts periods with huge intensity, and Cole uses his size and speed to create a lot of the chances they get. Bourque can start taking notes.

David Desharnais
Could just as easily have been Pacioretty, but I liked Desharnais a little more. He's a fun player to watch and he goes hard to the net. He's got good speed and great sense, and I hope we can continue to watch him develop over the coming years.


Defencemen

PK Subban
One of Subban's major assignments was to stay on Ovechkin and not let him have a big night. The two were in each others' faces all game, and in my opinion PK definitely looked like the winner in terms of having a greater impact on the game. He seemed like one of the only Habs actually fully awake and into this contest.

Alexei Emelin
I love this player. He brings so much to the back end and really has great hockey sense. His -2 is a little unfortunate, as 1 was the Wideman goal and the other he was actually putting a body onto Laich, who was getting his stick on a rebound right in front of Budaj (while Kaberle disappeared behind the net). Made a lot of great neutral zone plays and took some well-considered shots while posting another 4 hits.


Goaltender

Peter Budaj
Again, a more than satisfactory performance from our backup in just his 3rd appearance in 17 games. The Wideman goal was a bit of a freak occurrence, and the skaters really hung him out to dry by leaving Hendricks all alone. And it doesn't matter who you are, Semin is going to score on a lot of his penalty shots. Of course, I wasn't too impressed with him drawing a penalty shot by throwing his stick at the puck, but at least he came up with the save on Brouwer.

Comments


What a sleeper. Some parts felt a bit like a soccer game, with prolonged bouts in the neutral zone that featured few scoring chances. I would have predicted that circumstances like that favour us, but instead we looked flat and lazy at times: Kaberle being out of position to allow Semin's breakaway and disappearing behind the net on the Hendricks goal, Bourque's lack of physical engagement and being a step or 3 back from Hendricks, Kostitsyn seeming to forget that offense can happen outside a power play...

You have to give the Caps credit for collapsing responsibly around their net and Vokoun for directing the rebounds very well. We never really established any kind of offensive presence despite outshooting Washington, especially through the 2nd period. Instead, Washington shut us out through the 10th consecutive period in our own building, and we frankly looked a little lazy and lackluster.

Some interesting moments, even if they weren't great. I can't remember ever seeing a goalie actually throw his stick at a puck before. The crowd was erupting into cheers every time Gomez laid his stick on the puck—tomorrow marks one year since he last scored a goal (against the Rangers). He looked more than a little embarrassed, I actually felt a little bad for him.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Game #51

Refs Blow It Again, Cost Habs Again

Details



Date: 02/02/2012
Opponent: Devils
Location: New Jersey

Loss: 3-5

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Brodeur (W)

Habs goalscorers: Desharnais, Kostitsyn, Darche
Opposition goalscorers: Parise (2), Clarkson (2), Zubrus



Play of the game


I am mad that we lost, but I will try and save that for later. In here, I will be serious when I say that the play of the game was Darche's goal (Kostitsyn's a close second). After New Jersey made a mess of it at our blue-line on their PP Pleks started skating up in the hopes of getting the puck. Gill read it well and found Tomas with a great pass. Plekanec made a great move that wasn't quite enough to beat Brodeur, but was enough to seriously trouble him. Darche supplied the support and notched his third of the year.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Forwards

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
Not sure why one of our top forwards of the season started on the 4th line and got only 2 minutes in the first, but it didn't seem to bother him. He was the most dangerous Hab all night and scored a very nice goal to give us a two-goal lead.

Erik Cole
Don't let the two pathetic penalty calls confuse you as Erik, once again, had a good game. He played a good, hard, clean game tonight, but that didn't matter to the refs. They see a head-jerk here or a plea to the ref there and it is to the box for our top player. The rest of this season is his opportunity to get more players playing like him as he knows he is here to stay (does he wish he wasn't?).

Max Pacioretty
Max competed again tonight and should be pretty happy with his game. I am not worried about the -2 when one is an empty-netter and another should not have ever happened.

Defencemen

Yannick Weber
I thought that Kaberle, Diaz and Gill were below what we need tonight and Subban and Emelin weren't at their usual high levels. One player that played above his usual, however, was Weber. He picked up an assist, was a +1 (only Gill, of the D, was also a +) and led the team in shots in a D-low 11 minutes. Whether he gets moved or will be back next year is the question; games like this help to improve both scenarios.

Josh Gorges
Our makeshift #1 was our best again tonight. I do miss a world where Gorges, a natural 3/4, could be playing on a second pairing. Let's hope that next year Markov and Subban live up to their bills.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Not the best game from Carey with 4 goals on 21 shots, but things may have been a lot different with better reffing. The first goal was weak, but after that there were two deflections and one shot that he couldn't have predicted. Tonight he wasn't any worse than Brodeur, the difference was that the luck was in Marty's corner.


Comments


The Canadiens played much better than they did on Tuesday and I think deserved to win this game. Players like Plekanec and Kostitsyn were better which added some punch to our attack. The plan, however, got derailed with poor decisions that favoured NJ. The team that can never do any wrong in the eyes of refs league-wide capitalized on a couple of those calls/non-calls and that is that.

The two worst calls of the night were the high-sticking call on Cole and the non-call on hooking against Cole. The 'high-stick' (or should I say stick accidentally to head, no matter the height of the head) call was brutal. Brodeur's head was below Erik's waist and was out of the blue plaint. The blade of Cole's stick made contact, Marty threw his head back and the ref bit. Can the NHL just change the rule and say if a stick touches a player in the head it is a penalty (if Brodeur's mask bled would it have been 4 minutes?) because they are not calling anything near what the rulebook says is a high-stick. The Devils scored a crucial goal on that PP.

The second incident involved Cole again. This time. late in the third, with the game tied at 3 (the time/situation of a game when we are told that refs can't make calls else lose their jobs) Cole was hooked badly coming out of the zone. Unlike most hooking calls, which are made to keep TV viewers happy with PP goals, this one actually had an effect on the play and on the player being hooked. Cole was unable to clear the zone. The puck was kept in, the game-winner was scored and the horns sounded. A perfect scenario for the NHL and fans in New Jersey who need wins as incentive to pump time and money into a foreign sport.