Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Habs/Wild Post Game November 19th 2013

Max Pacioretty spoke out before the game and responded by taking the team on his back and scoring a hat trick in the second period to lead the Canadiens to a 6-2 winning effort against the Wild.

The Wild came in as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. 8-1-1 in their last ten, and the winners of 4 straight.  They are living up to the expectations the fans in Minnesota had hoped would come a year ago. Zach Parise and Ryan Sutter are the stand-outs on the roster but would not be in the position they're in without an excellent season from their goaltender Josh Harding who has 12 wins in 17 games. While the Wild have been successful on home ice, they've had trouble on the road only putting together 3 wins on 8 tries, struggles which were evident on this Tuesday evening.

The Canadiens are having trouble scoring goals as stated by Max Pacioretty who spoke to media and said the team should be finding more ways to score instead of being a team that is strong defensively and plays on their heels. He in particular lived up to his comments by scoring three times for the Habs and the team responded by playing with a style that attempting to generate more scoring chances which made for some exciting hockey throughout sixty minutes.

The first period was good for the Canadiens who pressured the Wild offensively. They were on the powerplay near the midway mark when Pacioretty was tripped going towards goal. Not much was generated a man up against a team that is 24th ranked on the PK.
A fight between Brandon Prust and Zenon Kenoptka left Kenoptka bloodied going to the box. Both teams seemed to be in fighting spirits as a lot of face washing was going on between the clubs throughout the first although nothing transpired throughout the remainder of the game.
Harding shocked everyone with a stunning save on Pacioretty when a cross ice pass from Desharnais was redirected towards goal but kept out by Harding's glove with the puck just inches from crossing the line.

Pacioretty, fittingly, was the one to break the deadlock in the second period when he tipped in a pass by Desharnais that got by Harding's glove.
The Wild got on the power-play moments later when Emelin went to the box for a high stick. The Canadiens killed it off, and proceeded to go right on the power-play for themselves. Being unable to score or generate good pressure the first time the Canadiens now had a goal on the board and had strung together some momentum. While there was a sequence that ended with a shot by Pacioretty, who stood-out the most at this point, Harding kept it out and eventually ended the shorthanded threat.
Pacioretty scored the second goal of the game when a gorgeous behind the back assist by David Desharnais, his second assist of the night, landed right on Pacioretty's stick and was able to beat Harding with a stifling wrister glove-side.
From this point on the Wild were playing on their heels, under pressure they took another penalty and this time the Habs made no mistake. A shot by Subban from the point was tipped in by none other than Pacioretty, who recorded the natural hat-trick and his first hat trick since February 9th 2012.
That was the end of the night for Harding who let 23 year old prospect Darcy Kuemper finish the night. The Habs jumped on the chance to test the youngster and got by him when the Michael Bournival went five-hole with a wrap around goal. This goal by Montreal's fourth line could clearly be seen as a team response to the play of Pacioretty that sparked the entire lineup.

The Canadiens came out in the third with the same jump they had in the second. Refusing to let up and allow Minnesota to comeback they played well in front of Price who had was not tested often in the first two periods.
Briere scored a goal from a feed by captain Brian Gionta who found the winger coming down from the left side. The shot beat Kuemper five-hole giving the Canadiens a short-lived 5 goal lead.
The five goal lead, and Price's shut-out bid, ended when Nino Niederrietter scored for the Wild moments after the Briere goal.
The Wild weren't able to bring any more back for them. They took another penalty and on it Galchenyuk took a wrist shot that beat Kuemper glove side.
His goal meant that every line contributed offensively for the Habs. A result that none are more happy about than Michel Therrien who was looking for that spark to his lineup's scoring.
Penalties by both teams in the dying minutes of the third and a Dany Heatley goal with 1 second left were the last bits of action in a game in which the Canadiens emerged victorious.

Having this game under the belt is important for the Canadiens who were hungry to prove they were not simply a strong defensive club. With strong opponents waiting for them on the weekend, the Habs will likely keep the same lines in their match-ups against the Capitals and Penguins on Friday and Saturday nights respectively.

The long lay off is good for the Canadiens since that the players can use practice to keep the chemistry going and will give Price some rest. Expect Budaj to get a start in one of the two games this weekend, he is playing great when called upon and does not cause worry to the Habs faithful when he goes between the pipes. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

At The Quarter Mile: Analysis After 20 Games

Greetings Habs Addicts!

This is my first post since my "Five Burning Questions" prior to the season starting, so needless to say its been a while.  We're now a quarter of the way through the 2013/14 season and the Montreal Canadiens record stands at 10-9-2.  Currently sitting 7th in the Eastern Conference, this start is a far cry from the team we witnessed at the beginning of last season.

Whereas average-at-best goal-tending was an issue last year, Carey Price has been amongst the top goaltenders in the league this year.  The Habs sit 3rd overall in the NHL allowing only 2.0 goals against per game.  On special teams, Montreal continues to put up points on the power-play (23.1% PP rate; 4th overall in the NHL) and penalty killing has been strong this year as well (85.7% PK rate; 6th overall).  The biggest reason Montreal is playing like a playoff bubble team would be a lack of offense. Even strength scoring has been a serious issue for the Habs.  Montreal currently sits 21st in the NHL, averaging 2.4 goals per game.  The Habs have been consistent in their performance regardless of location, sporting a 5-5-2 record at home and a 5-4 record away from the Bell Centre.

Positive (The Kids)

The 'EGG Line' combination of Lars Eller with Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk burst out of the gate offensively before slowing down.  They've come on as of late, but while Gallagher has been noticed on the score sheet consistently (team leading 8 goals; 3 on the PP) both Eller and Chucky have disappeared for stretches.  Such production should be expected from the talented, but relatively inexperienced trio.  While all three are certainly on pace for breakout years offensively, the veterans need to step up and support them when their sticks go cold for stretches. Scoring has been by committee this year, just rarely in the same game.  Rookie Michael Bournival earned a roster spot out of training camp and hasn't disappointed, showing grit and speed and has contributed offensively with 5 goals/9 points in 18 games, with 3 points coming on the power-play.  The kids are a combined +11 at even-strength. 

Negative (Veteran Performance)
While the kids are proving their worth, the veterans have failed to show up this year.  Aside from Tomas Plekanec, who continues to play a solid two-way game while filling out the score sheet (6 goals/13 points, 7 on the PP and a +3 rating), veterans have failed to contribute much of anything this season.  Captain Brian Gionta is continuing to show his age and has posted just 4 goals/9 points in 20 games.  Rene Bourque has had games where he's shown an ability to play physically and get to the net, but has disappeared for stretches and sits at 5 goals/6 points in 21 games. 

Much has been written and spoken about David Desharnais' performance this season.  After signing his 4 year/$14 million dollar contract extension last season, DD has basically taken a long sabbatical from hockey. Except he's done so in uniform for 19 games while averaging 15 minutes of ice-time per game.  I won't beat a dead horse.  DD has 1 assist for the season and has been benched in recent games. Abysmal is an understatement. 

Max Pacioretty suffered a knee injury early in the year and missed 8 games, but has not shown an ability to drive to the net and has disappeared for stretches as well.  He's sitting at 2 goals/4 points in 12 games and is on pace for his lowest offensive output since his rookie & sophomore seasons.  While Patches can and will get hot at some point, thus far the first quarter has been a wash.  Veteran defencemen Rafael Diaz has 7 assists in 21 games, but is still looking for his first goal of the season. Frankie Bouillon has 2 assists in 21 games, but is also a team-worst -10 at even strength.   

Positive (Subban continues to shine)
PK Subban has continued to put up offensive numbers and quarterback the power-play (9 points). Coming off his Norris Trophy winning season, PK has continued where he left off with 3 goals and 17 total points in 21 games, leading the team.  While his shooting percentage is down (4.2% compared to 8.7% last year), he's on pace for 12 goals and 66 points.  He's also sitting at a +4 rating at even strength play.  His 24:57 of ice-time per game trails only workhorse Andrei Markov's 25:14.  The only knock against PK this year is lack of time on the penalty kill, which says more about coach Michel Therrien's decision making than it does about Subban's level of play. Subban is playing for a contract and we all know he'll receive it. Marc Bergevin would be wise to consummate this deal early on in the new year to allow PK to focus on the stretch and playoffs.  Expect him to received a Drew Doughty-ish deal around 8 years/$60 million. Deservedly so.

Negative (New Additions)
To say that Marc Bergevin's new additions haven't quite worked out thus far is basically the nicest way to phrase it.  Signed to add secondary scoring and help on the power-play, Daniel Briere has missed time after suffering a concussion and is currently sitting at 2 goals/5 points in 11 games, with one of those goals being an empty-net goal.  He has failed to make an impact thus far, but will receive a mulligan for this quarter because of the time lost to injury.  Another veteran addition who has missed time is Douglas Murray.  Signed to help minimize the loss of Alexei Emelin, Murray suffered an upper-body injury to go along with a lower-body injury (You got to love the NHL's injury disclosure policy) and for the season has only appeared in 9 games.  He has failed to record a point, but does own -5 rating and has earned the ire of the fans with terrible play with the puck in his own end. Not signed to be an offensive weapon, aside from blocking shots with his sheer size and a few thundering hits, he has not contributed much of anything that we couldn't get from Jarred Tinordi or Nathan Beaulieu, both of whom appeared in games while Murray was out.  George Parros made headlines by knocking himself out in the season-opener against Toronto and has dropped the gloves in almost every game he's appeared in. However that game total stands at 5 and his -5 in the stretch is not good for a player who sees only 4:13 seconds of ice-time per game. 

Positive (Elite Goaltending)
Goal-tending has been outstanding this year.  The addition of goal-tending coach Stephane Waite from the Chicago Blackhawks has helped get the best out of Carey Price.  With the Olympic games being held in Sochi in February, talk of Price being a potential goalie for the Canadian Olympic team has been on the lips of analysts all over hockey.  But coming off an average season with a below average finish in 2013, Price needed to lift the club on his shoulders and carry the load, something he has shown flashes of doing in the past.  So far, he has certainly done plenty to show he deserves consideration to lead Canada to Olympic gold.  For the season, Price's numbers show a 2.05 goals-against-average (GAA) and a dazzling .936 save-percentage (PCT) despite a mediocre 7-8-2 record.  Backup Peter Budaj has continued his sparkling play in relief of Price, with a 1.48 GAA and .945 PCT to back up a 3-1 record.  Both goalies have recorded 1 shutout.

The biggest difference between the two is that the team tends to tighten up defensively in front of the Budaj, allowing an average of 27.5 shots-per-game with a season high of 30 just once.  Price has seen his defenders leave him to fend off the wolves himself and the cowboy from Western Canada has done just that.  Price has faced 30+ shots in 11 times in his 17 starts; twice above 40.  For the season, he's seen an average of 32 shots per game.  Of his 8 losses, all but one (a 4-1 loss to Ottawa) have been by 1 goal, including 2 shootout losses. Whereas last year Price's detractors could say the Habs were winning despite having Price in goal, this year they would be rivaling the Edmonton Oilers in futility if they didn't have Price in goal.

Negative (Decision Making)
Montreal is a pressure cooker for any coach and general manager.  While the hot start to last season may have been a mirage, it has surely increased the expectations of the team in the eyes of the fans.  Montrealers expect more out of the team and the franchise in general and so far this team has not delivered on those expectations.  Marc Bergevin has failed to make an impact acquisition aside from the drafting of Alex Galchenyuk and while his other draft picks show potential, none are close to making an impact of the Habs.  The Desharnais extension will continue to be a black mark on his track record and while some argue that signing Subban to a 2-year bridge contract instead of a long-term extension prior to his Norris trophy win was a bad move, PK was and is going to get paid regardless of when we signed his long-term pact.  Maybe he'll get some extra money now, but he's always wanted Doughty money and has shown he's worth it.

Michel Therrien comes across as a passionate and knowledgeable coach on 24-CH, but his decision making has been extremely questionable this season.  Sure Subban is not paid to kill penalties, but he's more physical and better with the puck than Rafael Diaz.  Ryan Ellis doesn't replace Shea Weber on the penalty kill in Nashville, but we do the equivalent here in Montreal with PK Subban.  The constant line-juggling has not allowed any of the players (EGG line aside) develop any sort of offensive chemistry.  And it took 18 games of trotting out Desharnais to the tune of 15 minutes per game of ice time; including power-play time before Therrien finally scratched him.  As much as the fans love Frankie-Boo, the AHL trio of Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn have been shuttling back and forth from Hamilton to basically watch the games from the press-box. All three of these players possess more size and upside than the 38-year old Bouillon.

The season is 82 games long.  The Habs have played 21 games. There is still a lot of time for the negatives to turn around and the positives to continue.  I'll be sure to look back on this piece at the half-way point of the season and provide an analysis of the state of the Habs at that point.  The season is a marathon and not a sprint. There is plenty of time to turn things around. Certainly not time for anyone to enter the panic room -- unless you're David Desharnais.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Habs/Rangers Post Game Saturday Nov. 17th

The Habs were shut-out by the Rangers 1-0 who visited the Bell Center Saturday night.

The Canadiens who are currently 4-4-2 in their last ten games were coming off a victory in a shoot-out against the struggling Blue Jackets but looked lost against a rising New York team.

With Price in nets, the Habs were unable to get anything by backup goaltender Cam Talbot. Talbot has only appeared in a hand-full of games this season but has put up good numbers in those efforts, after the game Saturday night he is posting a 1.58 GAA and a .943%. The Canadiens shot 22 pucks in his direction but still weren't able to get any scoring done in front of the home crowd.

What is worrisome about the inability for the Canadiens to score is that in consecutive games they have played against the oppositions backup. There should have been extra incentive to get those pucks on net and test these goalies who are not regularly between the pipes. The Rangers blocked 21 shots to help their goaltender's work load.

While there was a lot of reaction from the media and the public with regards to the David Desharnais shoot-out winner against the Jackets. It appeared to only gave him a boost in the first period, the following two periods were filled with more of the same from the center-man who has been struggling progressively for the better part of the last calendar year.

Alexei Emelin made his Habs debut this season. While he has yet to play a game his play over the years has earned him an extension in the eyes of general manager Bergevin. In his first game back, he appeared a little rusty but did manage to log over 16 minutes of ice time. Given the severity of his injury, he will take a few games to fit into the line-up as the effective hard hitting presence he is famous for in the city. He came in replacing Douglas Murray who was benched for a large portion of the previous game.

The game for both teams was sloppy. Neither team was regularly finding a groove to challenge the other. The Rangers, one of the leagues hottest teams of late, played a physical, heavy hitting game against the Habs. They let Montreal come to them and waited for mistakes before reacting to them. They were playing their first game of a back-to-back and are playing against the strong LA Kings squad on Sunday.

Subban logged the most time on ice for the Canadiens again. The night before he had put up 29 minutes and Saturday he was on the ice for a little over 25. He and Markov were the team leaders in that category and while they are very good at producing points, especially on the man-advantage. The Rangers were disciplined and only took two penalties limiting those chances for the Canadiens.

The Rangers on the other hand used their power-play to score the only goal of the game. Pacioretty went to the box in the second period for tripping, and captain Ryan Callahan tipped in a Brad Richards shot which eventually became the game winner.

The efforts of Carey Price were rewarded with a third star selection. In his last two starts he has allowed 2 goals against but the team in front of him just cannot put it together and score to give him the win. Earlier on in the season he was able to keep them in games long enough for the Habs to generate the one important scoring chance that they capitalized on to get the win. Lately though, the Canadiens are not making the most of their chances.

Perhaps their success on special teams has left them searching for answers five-on-five. They are a middle of the pack 5/5 scoring team but have used their 4th ranked power play to compensate for that short-coming.

The lines for the Habs may need a shake-up. While the Eller/Gally(s) line was doing very well in the beginning they seem to be finding themselves in a short term rut. Their production was heavily relied on in the early goings but has since been lost. Maybe it's time for Coach Therrien to juggle the lines and see if there are new combinations that will produce goals.

The next three games are all big match-ups for the Habs. First they take on the Minnesota Wild who are quietly posting one of the better records in the west. Then they see Ovechkin and Crosby in consecutive nights as the Capitals and Penguins are on the docket.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Fall of David Desharnais

David Desharnais' on-ice production has dropped faster than Nortel's stock a few years ago following a career-best (by far) 60-point campaign alongside Max Pacioretty and former-Hab Erik Cole back in 2011-12.

Midway through last season, new General Manager Marc Bergevin rewarded Desharnais with a lucrative four-year contract extension that will pay him $14 million (an average of $3.5M/year). The diminutive pivot's offensive production has since gone downhill to the point where he will be made a healthy scratch for the second time this season on Tuesday night. Desharnais will receive $42,682 to watch the game from the press box.

In his first complete season with Montreal, Desharnais centered the Habs' best line, potting 16 goals and 44 assists for 60 points with a +10 rating in 81 games despite playing for one of the worst teams in the league under Jacques Martin and Randy Cunneyworth.

While Desharnais' production slipped a little bit during the lockout-shortened season to a 48-point pace over a full season (he had 28 points in 48 games), things went bad to worse this season, as the Laurier-Station , Québec native is not the shadow of his former self.

Through 17 games this year, the 5'7'', 170-lb center (soaked wet) has only recorded a single helper despite playing on average 15:06 per game, 1:33 of which are on the power play. What is even more alarming is that Desharnais can't see to produce with anyone in spite of playing a regular shift with talented wingers.

Heck Desharnais has not even taken a shot on goal in his past five games! Even former Hab forward Scott Gomez was not that invisible. Desharnais has only taken 17 shots on goal this year, but instead of scoring at his career-pace of 14.3% he has yet to find the back of the net.

With the return of Daniel Briere in the line-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the emergence of rookie Michael Bournival, there is simply no more room for Desharnais on the team's top-three lines. His lazy hooking penalty in the third period that led to a New York Islanders' goal on Sunday might have been the final nail in Desharnais' coffin.

With Brandon Prust and Alexei Emelin slated to return in the next week or so, the organization will have to make important roster decisions as to which players will remain with the team and which players will head to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.

Since the 27-year-old center doesn't kill penalties, he needs to contribute offensively to be an effective forward in the NHL. As a result, the best course of action would be to send him down to the AHL as Montreal's new mayor, Denis Coderre, said on Twitter on Sunday night. Desharnais, who looks lost on the ice most of the time, needs to go back to the basics to regain his confidence and start producing again on offense.

Desharnais will have to battle harder along the boards to win his battles for the puck and play a more aggressive game in front of the opponent's net in order to succeed in the short term. A short stint to play in the AHL for a few games could help jumpstart him and make him the player he once was for the Canadiens. While he will have to go through waivers, it is highly unlikely that another team would claim him due to his massive contract (see John-Michael Liles).

Do you think the Canadiens should keep Desharnais around, trade him or simply demote him?

Habs/Lightning Post-Game November 12th 2013

The Canadiens fell to the Stamkos-less Lightning on Tuesday night in a shootout as the Canadiens have only been on a skit recently only having won 1 game in their last 7.

With their missing star in Steven Stamkos it should have been a game the Canadiens have won on paper. In Tampa Bay, John Cooper has done as good a turn around for the Lightning as Patrick Roy has done for the Avalanche this season.

It was a low-scoring game and it seemed as though the Lightning should have been credited with a goal but the review showed that there had been incidental contact on Carey Price and that negated the goal for the Bolts.

Daniel Briere made a return to the ice after missing 10 games due to a concussion. He scored a goal in his return and seemed to find his stride in the later parts of the game.

It was very disappointing to see that the EGG line did not pick up where it left off from last game. especially given that this team was ready to be had. Despite the outstanding play of Ben Bishop this season alot of credit should be given to how coach Cooper has instilled a more defensive focused system with his players that the whole team has bought into.

The Canadiens did look sharp on the penalty kill especially in the later parts of the game when they killed off three in the third period alone and were able to hold back the Bolts short-handed during overtime, which lead to a penalty shoot-out.

The Canadiens had very little opportunities to score in the early going against Bishop only taking 13 shots towards goal, but were able to get 10 shots on goal in the third which helped break the shut-out bid for the netminder.

Price looked good for the Canadiens as he stopped 44/45 shots he faced and really did not seem to have mch help from his teammates who are usually lining up to stop shots in front of him. The Lightning were a good puck moving team but that should not mean that on home ice the opposition outplays them especially being short their super-star.

The Canadiens need to find their rhythm before they dig themselves a hole they will come to regret. Especially in these very significant division games that make every point count. The shoot-out point should not be taken as a moral victory. They shouldn't have been outplayed on home ice that much and needed a far better outing than the ones they have given their fans of late.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Habs/Islanders Post-Game November 10th 2013

Galchenyuk kisses the logo after scoring the final goal
The Canadiens got a spark from a line that dominated the early going of the season for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. The EGG line combined for a total of 8 points in a 4-2 victory against the Islanders who have now lost 4 straight.

Sitting in 5th place in the Atlantic division at this point in the season is a hard task. One of the more competitive divisions in the league could easily boast 5 playoff bound teams, 2 wildcard spots up for grabs, should the season remains as is. Every point earned now will make a difference in the back end of the season during the playoff race.

Like the last game against the Sens the Canadiens had the upper hand in the first. They controlled the game and set the pace early on. A few scoring chances highlighted the first period for the Canadiens  but weren't golden opportunities that posed much of a threat to back-up Kevin Poulin.
There seemed to be an extra jump in the step of the kids line, for a few games now they had been on the decline and while they weren't a detriment they definitely were not playing at the same level they did earlier in the season.
The Canadiens were the first to go to the box and killed off the man-advantage for the Isles who established some solid possession but only generated shots from the perimeter. The Habs received a power-play soon after and it was at this point they had their best scoring chance of the period, a wrap around by Galchenyuk never made its way to the back of the net.
The period finished nodded at nil-nil, the Habs had the better showing and to avoid a breakdown like the Ottawa game, needed to score and forbid the Isles from gaining any sort momentum.

The Canadiens wasted no time coming out of the intermission to put a goal on the board. The Canadiens would score three in the second and from there didn't give the Isles any opportunity to mount a comeback.
Brendan Gallagher got sprung on by a feed from Galchenyuk that he needed to kick to himself to set up a wrist shot that beat Poulin blocker side. It was the 10th time this season the Habs scored the first goal of the game.
Price came up big on a save against Matt Martin a few minutes following the goal and kept the lead alive, but not for long.
The Islanders did tie the game on the power-play. After Tomas Plekanec went to the box for a face-off violation, they killed it off but immediately shot themselves in the foot and took another penalty for a hold by Bouillon. Pierre Marc Bouchard scored his first goal against the Canadiens with a shot from the point that beat Price glove-side.
The teams exchanged chances until the Isles took a series of penalties that allowed the Habs to score a pair of goals to end the second. The last ranked team on the penalty-kill, the Isles, should of been wiser knowing they were facing one of the leagues stronger power-play teams in the Habs.
The first goal on the power-play was scored by Eller who released a one timer from a cross slot pass by Galchenyuk that Poulin had no chance saving.
The second power-play goal was a tip in by Bournival, his fifth of the year deflected a point shot by Diaz to beat the Isles goalie top corner.

Despite allowing a power-play goal in the third period to Brock Nelson, who was left alone in front of Price to slam the puck by and cut the two goal lead the Canadiens managed to play a very safe game with the lead. Price, who didn't seem phased to be dealing with the added pressure of a one goal lead, saved 24 of 26 shots in the game.
The Canadiens eventually sealed the deal when Galchenyuk finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal. His third point of the night, along with Eller's third and Gallagher's second topped off a heroic outing for the young trio that desperately needed to be reignited.

Despite the recent acquisition of Thomas Vanek, the Islanders are not as successful as many would have thought. The high cost to acquire such a renowned sniper has not generated any kind of significant return as they fall to 2 wins and 5 losses since the trade.

The Canadiens hold onto the 5th place in the Atlantic. The next matchup is against the shocking Lightning who sit on top of the division. Playing at home for the Canadiens is a significant advantage, they will need to rely on of the loudest crowds in the league to rattle the cage for the Bolts. All 4 lines will need to roll on all cylinders. Price and his defencemen will be tested by the leagues top scorer Steven Stamkos and his set-up man Martin St-Louis. Expect the Tuesday night affair to be a big one for both clubs.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Habs/Sens Post Game November 7th

Lehner stops Gallagher up close for one of his thirty-three saves
A second period glitch in which the Habs conceited a pair of goals cost the Canadiens the game against their division rival.

It was the first meeting between the two clubs this season since their playoff matchup last season. Taking into consideration the amount of times the gloves were dropped in last year's playoffs. It wasn't farfetched to think this game would have more fights than goals scored, this game did produce its fair share of matching minors but nothing major. Tempers did flare during certain moments throughout the game and this division pairing could soon become a marquee matchup in the Atlantic
The Habs have had good success this season while the Sens are off to a rough start. The Sens looking to get back on track could use this game as a stepping stone in the right direction.

The Senators were very luck to come out of the first period tied with the Habs.
The Canadiens came out of the gate at Canadian Tire Center with all the energy. They were putting the pressure on the home team during the first. Had it not been for Robin Lehner, who was tested much more often than Carey Price, the Sens would have been climbing out of a deep hole early.
Gallagher was in the box twice in the first period. Despite these penalties, the Habs showed a lot of promise. It was clear they were the ones in the drivers seat. Even while up a man, the Sens failed to establish any kind of zone possession, meanwhile the Canadiens were able to generate some odd man rushes short-handed.
On the flip side, the Habs wasted no time scoring on their powerplay opportunity when a shot by Markov was deflected off of Zach Smith, this was the only time the Habs scored on the powerplay finishing one for five.
The lead was short lived, moments later Bobby Ryan scored the tieing goal for the Sens with a wrist shot from the high slot.
Ryan has been riding a hot streak lately as he had 6 points in his last 4 games. Definitely a dangerous player on this Sens team, he added two assists and extended his streak.
One concern in the first for the Canadiens would be their inability to win off the draw, something that stood out as well during the outing against the Blues. they were 16-5 favoring Ottawa in the first and ended up 38-23 by the end of the game.

A 37 second span in the second period in which the Sens scored two goals was the turning point in the game.
The first half of the second period was split between the clubs. The Canadiens were controlling the pace of the game for the most part. The Sens did remain the more physical team, they out-hit the Habs by a 38-20 margin.
The first goal came when a rebound given up by Price failed to be cleared by Markov who put the puck right on the stick of Marc Methot who let go of a wrister in the net.
The third goal was a stoppable shot by Mark Borowiecki, a first in his career, but Price did face a screen that may have caused him to misread the shot. It could of been worse had a following shot a few moments later hit the post.
No momentum was generated in the remainder of the second period. Power-plays for the Canadiens were unsuccessful and a goal was taken back due to a goalie-interference call by Gallagher.
Lehner stood on his head and made all the necessary saves to keep the Sens ahead.

In the third period, neither team was significantly more dominant than the other.
Many players in the NHL will state. Through an 82 game season there are games that you will deserve to win and lose and games you should have lost but won. This game will go down for the Canadiens as one which they should have won but lost. It really was the Canadiens who seemed to be better team at the start.
They did try to crawl their way back into the game but couldn't. Not capitalizing on their power-play opportunities is a big factor in the loss since they could have been able to to get the Habs back in the game. Also playing short-handed during the third behind by a pair of goals is no way to set yourself up for success.

Overall the pace for the Canadiens was quite good, the result will say the Senators played a far superior game, however the fans watching the game will be disappointed to see the outcome was determined by a momentary lapse in play.
In other Habs notes, it's rather puzzling to see that comments have been made about the play of Subban recently. As far as any player goes, he contributed as much as anyone could. He logged over 27 minutes and lead all players with 9 shots. He is always a factor in the oppositions game-plan and while the power-play only scored the one goal it was clear they were marking him the entire time.

The Canadiens will have a few days to forget about this loss. They will be playing their next game against the New York Islanders on home ice Sunday evening.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Habs/Blues Post Game November 5th 2013

Oshie scores the lone shootout goal against Price
It was a back and forth game between the Blues and Canadiens which needed a penalty shoot-out to settle the score. The Blues eventually won the game when TJ Oshie, who scored the only goal in the shoot-out, put one by price with a forehand top corner.

The Canadiens came off of back to back losses against west coast teams and were facing a team that some voted as the cup favorites going into the season in the St-Louis Blues. In a very strong central division they sit 4th. They have a few games in hand against their opponents and were eager to gain ground with the red hot Avalanche. The Blues rank 7th in goals against per game, the Canadiens sit 4th in that category and needed to hold down the NHL's 2nd ranked offense.

The Blues got on the board 2 minutes into the game when David Backes outmuscled Douglas Murray behind the net and fed Alexander Steen in the slot who sent a wrist shot by Price. Steen has been on a torrid pace this season scoring his league leading 13th goal. 

The Blues maintained pressure and strong passing against the Canadiens throughout the first. Being under constant pressure, they forced the Habs to take four penalties throughout the game to send the Blues on the man-advantage. The Habs killed all four penalties and after each kill attempted to use that momentum to gain the Blues zone but didn't generate many scoring chances in the first.

With nearly five minutes in the first George Parros wanted to spark the team by getting into a fight against Reaves. This gave the Canadiens an emotional boost. Offensively they started to get more pucks on net and while they didn't score in the first they got their best opportunity to score when a shot from Markov gave way to a  juicy rebound that no one was able to put by Halak. 

The Canadiens got off to a good start in the second period and eventually took the lead with a pair of goals.

They tied the game with a drive by Andrei Markov to the front of the net that left a puck wide open for Rene Bourque who put the rebound off of the pad of Halak to the back of the net.

The Blues jumped right back onto the attack and had it not been for some timely saves by Price the Habs would have been down in the minutes following the tieing goal.
The rest of the period the Canadiens elevated their rate of play. Though many of the odd-man rushes were broken up by the Blues back-check.
Max Pacioretty was attempting to be a catalyst for the offense and despite coming off of an injury was getting back into his role as a top line player for the Habs. While there was still rust showing in his game, he showed a ton of determination that seemed to inspire the younger players like Gallagher and the goal scorer, Bournival.
Bournival's goal was scored all thanks to strong pressure put on Jay Bouwmeester by Brian Gionta. The puck was coughed up right onto the stick of Bournival in the slot who ripped a slap-shot by Halak.
The Canadiens held back the Blues attack and had a majority of the puck possession to end the period.

The Habs didn't let up in the third. They came out with the same intensity that they finished with in the second. A lot of pressure and puck control, a role reversal from the first period. That extra step to push the Blues into their zone, beating them to the puck and while the Habs are not typically a physical team they were forcing the Blues to make awkward passes and turnover the puck, despite having a lackluster night off the face-offs finishing with only a 36% success rate.
When it looked like the Habs had all the momentum, the Blues took a point-shot midway through the third by Kevin Shattenkirk and wound up making a series of deflections before hitting Chris Stewart and beating Price.
The Blues nearly shot themselves in the foot when they took a penalty with less than a minute in the game. David Backes hit the net off and the Habs received a penalty shot for delay of game. Tomas Plekanec was called upon for the penalty shot but Halak came up big and stopped him to preserve the game for the Blues.

Ultimately the Canadiens proved to match-up well against the Blues who have seen a lot of success this season. Positives included the ability to not let-up the pressure, while a bad bounce could have cost the Canadiens two points. They came away with one on a night that many may have believed they'd fall short. A big game by Price and the Habs shot blockers prevented more dangerous goal scoring chances from being a determining factor.

While the shooters in the shoot-out were questionable by Therrien it was the first time the Canadiens were in a shoot out this season so it was a test to see where his shooters stand.