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Friday, December 16, 2011

Canadiens - Flyers: Andrej Mezaros' Third Period Winner Drop Habs 4-3

It's hard to figure out these Montreal Canadiens.

Just when you think they are about to get blown out by the opposition they play one of their better games of the season.

And that's what happened last night against the conference Philadelphia Flyers.

Philly had won six in a row prior to taking on the Habs. Make that seven in a row this morning.

The game was extremely exciting with goals and chances at both ends of the ice. Montreal held a slight edge, dominance-wise, but it was mostly a very even match.

What was impressive was that the Habs were able to overcome one-goal deficits three times during the game. The Flyers fourth marker however, by Andrej Mezaros, proved to be their undoing.

It was a good effort but, as they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenade.

Final score: Flyers 4 - Habs 3

Game Notes

Bad news for Philly - Just a few days after NHL offices said that they had cut the incidence of concussions by half, it was announced just prior to the game that "severe post-concussion syndrome" has brought an end to Chris Pronger's season.

We're talking regular season and playoffs.

Wow. Horrible.

How long until the league finally gets tired of losing their star players to concussions, before they admit there is a problem?

It's bad enough that the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, is out with concussion problems. How foolish and short-sighted do you have to be to refuse to protect the players that are the marketing faces of your league?

I don't get it. But I guess Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and Brendan Shanahan know better.

Emelin-boom - Alexei Emelin continues to impress with his physical play. But what is more amazing, is that he can be extremely methodical with his hits.

The perfect example was when Emelin hit Maxime Talbot on a dump-in, short-handed.

The timing of the hit allowed P.K. Subban to pick up the puck and ice it, unmolested, nullifying any chance of the Flyers setting up on the PP.

That's the type of play that could be easily overlooked because the play just kept going. But Emelin's timing and ability to use the body check for what it is actually intended—to separate the man from the puck—meant no time in the offensive zone for the Flyers.

Let's just hope that after having a tough night defensively—he finished the night a minus-2—he doesn't get scratched again. The minus aside, Emelin had six body checks and played 12:37 with 2:49 short handed.

The 12:37 is nothing to write home about, but the short handed time shows the coaching staff has faith in his defensive abilities, despite his lapses.

Emelin's six hits put him at 85 for the season (in 23 games), 14th overall in the league.

Louis-Louis - Hometown hero, Louis Leblanc scored his first NHL goal against the Flyers. And he did so in nifty style.

Not only did he win the offensive zone faceoff, but he slipped his cover—Daniel Briere—got open and fired the rebound off a P.K. Subban shot past Sergei Bobrovsky to make it a 2-2 game.

And how did he react to his first NHL goal? A brief stick raised to the rafters, a fleeting smile and some helmet taps with his teammates.

Does this kid have 'pro' written all over him or what?

A French-Canadian rookie from Montreal, playing for his boyhood idol Canadiens, scores his first NHL goal in his hometown and reacts like a seasoned veteran?

This kid is all business and like when Michael Cammalleri scores—which unfortunately Habs fans haven't seen for a while—he reacts like he's done it before and will do it again.

Nice.

Here's video of him, post-game, talking about his goal:


Calm, cool and collected.

What a goal! - With the Canadiens down 1-0 about five minutes into the second period, David Desharnais scored what is undoubtedly his most beautiful NHL goal to date.

Linemates Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole were jostling for position in the Flyers crease as Desharnais skated behind the net with the puck. DD did a quick spin to evade his defender, swept around the net and out front, waited, waited and fired the puck past traffic and in.

The goal illustrates Desharnais incredible patience but it also shows how difficult it is to defend against bigger players. And by bigger players I'm referring to Pacioretty and Cole.

With the two power-forwards parked in the crease Philly's defenders had their hands full. As a result, there was a ton of that oh so famous time and space for DD to do his thing.

I still maintain that, given his small stature and weakness on the defensive side of the puck, Desharnais cannot be a long term top-six solution for the Habs. That being said, until something better comes along, he is being well insulated by his hulking linemates and the three form quite the dynamic trio.

Cole's contributions - Eric Cole's prolific speed and drive to the net has been on display all season long. But one aspect of his game which sometimes flies under the radar, is his toughness.

Cole is a big guy, checking in at 6'2 and 205 lbs, so when he goes into the corners he's difficult for the opposition to handle. Moreover, when people get in his face he gets right back in theirs without a moments hesitation.

Cole did just that against Maxim Talbot near the end of the second period last night. Talbot started pushing after the whistle and Cole pushed back, not giving up an inch to his Flyers counterpart.

While Cole is not about to drop the gloves—nor should he—he has a fearlessness backed up by physical strength that's in short supply in Montreal's lineup.

Cole finished the night with one goal (his 12th), three shots on net, four hits, one takeaway and 19:10 of ice time. He has now scored one goal in each of the last four games and is on pace for just over 30 goals this season.

Cole is, without a doubt, the best Canadiens forward right now.

Stat of the night - Three. That is the number of consecutive games in which Tomas Kaberle has at least one point—he has four points in three games since joining the Habs.

Question of the night - If Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Travis Moen are not in the lineup, does anyone notice?

They weren't against the Flyers, with all three injured, and Montreal was no worse for wear. To be honest, out of the three Moen has probably brought the most to the table this season.

Gionta has been trying but not succeeding and Gomez, well, his struggles are well documented.

When a team is missing players and plays well they get a glimpse of what life would be like without them. I have been saying for a while now that I wouldn't hesitate to trade Gionta, and Cammalleri for that matter.

But will Habs GM Pierre Gauthier think the same thing?

Up Next - The Canadiens home-stand continues with a Saturday night visit from the New Jersey Devils. Montreal defeated the Devils 2-1 last Saturday in New Jersey so Martin Brodeur and co. will be eager to return the favour.

After that, the Habs head out on what could be a season determining six-game road trip.

Their next home game, after Saturday, will be January 4th against the Jets.

---
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America)

6 comments:

Let me be clear: The Canadiens lost because of their own mistakes. Lack of opportunism on the Powerplay, AK46's failed scoring chance, Carey Price dismal puck handling.

But the whole no-goal / allowed goal connudrum still is a head scratcher to me. Cole's presence in the crease is unacceptable, but Rinaldo's and Simmond's contact is? Why?

@Louis: Very good point. The Habs did themselves in with mistakes. And, the Flyers being an elite team, were able to capitalize.

That was a winnable game by Montreal.

As for the refs, well, there were blown calls both ways...but a little consistency would be nice...

Has anyone else noticed that Plekanec has been invisible on offense? I mean he had another breakaway in the game and there was no doubt in my mind he was going to miss. He is just not performing anymore. Like Gio, Cam and Gnomez, these guys all need to go for one big fast hard skating Goalgetter.
IMHO

Pleky is not known for his breakaway skills but he has to put those in once in a while. The game was very sloppy indeed. Whatever the game plan was last night, it was not defense. PK is way over played...leading to mistakes that are costing them. The fourth goal was Price's fault. What was he thinking. What are the chances that his clearing pass would lead to a scoring chance. Most goalies will play the percentages and cover the puck or put it behind the net. But no, I'll clear it myself because I'm a good puck handling goalie. It was a 3 3 tie, you need to play smarter and safer.

The synergy of the DD, Cole, and Pats line is great but beyond that, no other lines are a threat to score on a consistent basis.

In summary, better decision making on the ice and on the bench is required inorder to give the them any chance of winning.

@HfxHabby: With the exception of Cole, Pacioretty and Desharnais, none of the Habs top-line players are getting it done.

Look at Kostitsyn...he was ripping it up on the third playing with Eller. Now, due to injuries, he plays with Plek and Cammy and is completely invisible.

Not a good thing.

Plek looks tired. Cammalleri looks disinterested. Gionta looks frustrated.

This is not a good things.

TSN 990's Tony Marinaro was saying on air today that the vets are not happy with Martin's style. He said that this is not his opinion but it's from the room.

That's not a good thing.

@anon: Good stuff and you nailed it! The Price thing, in a lot of ways, is a microcosm of the team overall. Too many people pulling in different directions.

How many brutal missed assignments are we seeing where the puck always ends up in the Habs net?

The mistakes that are being made are of the house-league variety and I it is looking more and more like the message is not getting through.

It seems that Martin has the same thing to say, loss after loss, since he took over the team. Mistakes, indiscipline, we're learning...

How long can it continue?

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