Thursday, February 11, 2016

Back on Track?

Date: 09/02/2016
Opponent: Tampa Bay
Location: Montreal
Win: 4-2

Habs Goalie: Scrivens (W)
Opposition Goalie: Bishop (L)

Habs goalscorers: Gallagher, Plekanec (2), Smith-Pelly
Opposition goalscorers: Filppula, Hedman

Pre Game

Montreal was fresh off the worst stretch of hockey in franchise history.  One of the remedies fans are crying for is a new coach.  I'm personally okay with that, but it won't help.  I'm not a fan of Therrien and I don't believe he's the man to take us to the Stanley Cup, but this is beyond anything he's done and beyond anything a new coach can fix.  Besides, Marc Bergevin has gone on the record as saying that he's standing behind Therrien and that the Hab's coach won't be going anywhere anytime soon.  I heard that in the midst of our slump and immediately thought, "bring on Auston Matthews."  I don't think I was alone in believing that this season was a wash.

So with the team struggling (putting it mildly) Bergevin tells us there will no changes at the helm.  This past weekend something clicked.  Was it just a reversal in "puck luck"?  Was there a curse broken?  Who knows?  But it was only after their 5-1 drubbing of Edmonton that I hear that Bergevin is now actually actively searching for a new coach.  The names of Marc Crawford and Guy Boucher are mentioned (both decent options in my opinion) and a three hour meeting between management and Guy Carbonneau throws him into the mix as well.  Here we are, currently trying to shake a coach who didn't work the first time and is not working out the second time (fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me) and we're considering a coach who didn't work out the first time for a second go at things.  We need a coach with some pedigree.  We need a coach who's got more than just a history with the Canadiens.  We need a coach who has a history of success while coaching in the NHL.  It troubles me to see that Bergevin isn't learning from his mistakes.  A man who doesn't learn from his mistakes is doomed to repeat them, and we are doomed to watch the Canadiens flounder.  Perhaps it's time for Geoff Molson to step in and right this ship.


The plays of the game that helped sway things in our favour, even if they didn't stay that way.

Hits/Hab of the Night

This was an important game for Montreal.  A win over a team with shoddy defense and a shoot out win over Carolina (really a tie) were a welcome relief from the past two months but a playoff team it does not make.  This is a legitimate playoff team and last year's Stanley Cup finalist.  Montreal would need to step it up another notch to just compete with the Lightning... and that they did.  The Habs came out flying and part of that early energy were two big hits by our two best hitters.  14 seconds into the contest Subban leveled J.T. Brown.  It was barely caught by the camera but it was solid and it sent a message; the Habs are a much better team than the last two months would suggest.  A little less than 3 minutes later Emelin pasted Ondrej Palat.  Our defense can move the puck and are, for the most part, as offensively gifted as any D-core in the NHL.  Far too often over the last 2 months our defense was too easy to play against.  Hits are important.  No one likes being hit, especially not the way PK and Alexei hit.  When forwards start worrying about getting hit, they stop focusing on scoring goals.  Montreal, normally not a team know for its physical play, out hit Tampa Bay 35-26.  That's an indication that they were into this game from the get go and is, hopefully, a sign of things to come.

The Hab of the Night has to be Tomas Plekanec who has thrived with his new linemates.  2 goals, an assist and an all around solid night.  Tomas seems to be really benefiting from the extra space created by the two dogs on his wings.  7 points in the last 3 games and Tomas Plekanec and his two young bucks are leading the Habs back into respectability.  Perhaps honorable mention should go to Ben Scrivens.  As much as our goal scoring woes seem to have been remedied (at least for the short term) by Pleks and his new linemates, so to has the below average net minding.  Scrivens made some dandy saves, flashing out the glove on more than one occasion.


PK Subban (should change his name to Superman) was one of the few shining lights through the last two months' doom and gloom.  So why shouldn't he continue to shine in the win?  Down in the corner he spun sharply back towards the net and lost his mark.  It looked to me as if he intentionally passed it off Smith-Pelly's skate for the goal.  Even if he didn't, he certainly did all of the hard work putting the fourth Canadien goal of the night on a platter for Devante.

Late in the third period Scrivens found himself out of the net... again (he's a right little wanderer isn't he).  His previous attempt at sweeper keeper resulted in the Lightning's second goal.  The puck was attempted to be passed out in front of the net, but Andrei Markov had enough sense to get back and hug the post, blocking the attempt.  If that puck got by Markov we might have had a very different result.

Breaks/Blocked Shots

How hard do you have to punch a guy to break his visor?  The Canadiens were buzzing right from the get go tonight.  They were skating hard and fast.  They were backchecking and forchecking.  They were hitting.  I can take or leave a scrap but I have to admit, this further set the tone tonight.  This game, and the rest from here on out, are playoff games for Montreal.  If you're gonna fight, you better win.  I'd say a broken visor is a win on points.  The Tampa Bay player is quite lucky Nathan didn't connect square with that one.  Hope his hand is okay.

Two minutes in we got a blocked shot from Pacioretty.  Big hits from Subban and Emelin, a big blocked shot from our sniper.  A scrap which I give the decision to Nate.  All we needed was an early goal to seal the deal.


All we needed was a goal to cap off a brilliant start for the Habs tonight, and what a shot it was.  A slash and some lumber to the back, a puck up on it's side and Gallagher still managed to put it top cheese on big Ben Bishop.  That got us out of our seats didn't it?

About halfway through the first period we thought we'd made it 2-0.  The Canadiens were a bit scrambly, probably thinking they'd scored.  A defensive miscue allowed the puck to squirt out to Matthew Carle.  I thought it was a non issue as I believed we'd scored.  After the reply I was very thankful that Scrivens didn't share my opinion.  That save is indicative of how well that man has played the last three games.

Post Game

The Good News is Montreal is back to playing respectable hockey.  This was a solid win over a solid opponent.  Albeit the Lightning played the night before in Ottawa and got thumped.  Back to back games are not an excuse for losing the second of the two, they're a reason.  Still, we'll take it.  Over the last three games the scoring has woken up (10 in the last 3).  Scrivens is giving them the goaltending they need to compete (1.33 GAA over the last 3).  This is the team we all fell in love with in October and November.  Let's hope it's for real this time and that we're not just being strung along and set up for more disappointment down the road.

The Bad News is we're still 3 points behind Pittsburgh for the final wildcard spot; and they are hot; and they have 2 games in hand; and between us and them are the New Jersey Devils.  Even if we continue to play solid hockey this is an uphill battle.  We'd all rather playoff hockey over a high draft pick, no matter how good that pick is, but I fear this run might be too late and we'll end up with neither.

There are more than a few Habs up for grabs.  Talks about Nathan Beaulieu being involved in a trade for Jonathan Druin have petered out but I heard from Oiler fans that his name has been brought up regarding a trade for Nial Yakupov.  I'd take either young player, or both really.  Adding some of this young blood with potential, I'd like to be a higher priority than a new coach.  Sticking to the bilingual rule (as Geoff Molson is reported as saying) there's really not much out there.  Not enough, anyway, to be worried about or debate which B level coach will come in to replace our current B level coach.  If we're not going to win games with superior coaching, we're going to need some more horses and Drouin, Yakupov, and Nugent-Hopkins are available for the right deal.

Last week there was a video released with Carey Price limping through some simple crossovers. This week he's skating around quite unencumbered and I heard he donned the gear for a skate.  Scrivens is playing well right now, but how long can he keep it up?  Carey is still trying to get back for this season, but with 27 games left and him still not practicing yet, how much longer before it's pointless to bring him back?  How is Bergevin supposed to gauge whether to buy or sell with the most important piece to our puzzle still in limbo.  It's not easy, and with the futures of players like Dale Weise, Tom Gilbert, and Tomas Fleischmann hanging in the balance, Montreal brass need to come up with a day of no return for Price.  Let's keep our skate laces crossed he makes it back before then.


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