Saturday, 25 March 2017

Game 75: Sens vs. Habs

THIRD PERIOD:

- Overall, game is still being donated by the Sens, but the bleeding was somewhat reduced in that second period. Still, SA CF at even strength just 32% over 40 minutes for the Habs.


- Injuries have no doubt affected the Sens blue line tonight, and at some point, they're going to need to pinch harder, which could spring a few more breaks for the Habs tonight. They've already enjoyed ones from acioretty, Byron and Gallagher, largely because the Sens defence hasn't been terribly aware (also, the Sens blue line doesn't have a lot of speed, except for Karlsson).

- 13 minutes left, fine shift by Galchenyuk generates nice momentum for the Habs. They need all they can get, given how the Sens have owned this period since the puck drop.

- Erik Karlsson embellishes a high stick, McCarron sent to the box for nothing. Them's the breaks.

- Habs PK has been a difference maker tonight - for the most part, they've contained the Sens big guns, leaving the Sens little option than point shots looking for rebounds, most of which have been cleared away from danger. 

- Artturi Lehkonen remeinds me of Gallagher, the effort and determination is very similar, and he brings playmaking and hockey smarts to the table as an added bonus. If he continues to evolve and improve, he'll be a very important part of the Habs top-6 future.

- Here's a gif that nicely illustrates my previous point:

- Wind seems to have gone out of the Sens sails - with around 8 minutes left in the 3rd. Still 4 minutes left on the board, but this doesn't look like a team that feels like it's still got a shot at coming back. Could be a case of the "Carey Price effect". 

- 3 minutes left. Sens left with little choice but a full court press.

- Whimper of a finish for Ottawa, 3rd period was pretty even, which Sens couldn't afford. They needed to dominate the period, and it just wasn't there. Once again, the Habs control their own 1st place destiny, the schedule still favours them from here until the end of the schedule. 


SECOND PERIOD:

- Holy moly, we knew it wasn't good, but we had no idea it was quite this ugly. Habs SA CF at even strength that first period, 26%. Mitchell, King, Galchenyuk, Lehkonen and McCarron all at 0.0%. 

- Tom Pyatt had 3 high percentage scoring chances in that 1st period. He's a guy who's managed to free himself up.

- Hockey is strange, but letdowns are killers. Sense too loosey-goosey in their zone, allowing Markov to march in for a blast that Anderson can't pick up. Habs dominated tonight in every significant category except the one that matters most. 2-0 Canadiens.

- Beaulieu makes a very nice bodycheck on Wingles, and the 2 seconds later, boards him. A really foolish play by Beaulieu that gives Sens the window of opportunity they were hoping for.

- Bryon draws a holding penalty, because nobody can catch Paul Byron. Habs powerplay, which was pretty damn awful the past month, defiantly shifting philosophical approach, relying on shots from the line to generate offence.

- And just as we post that last comment, Markov scores to make it 3-0. Erik Karlsson, who's had a night to forget, with a perfect, and I'm assuming, unintentional feed to Andrei to set up the powerplay goal.

- Definite issues between Karlsson and Fredrik Claesson tonight - we pointed this out as possible issue in our pregame, but even still might have underestimated their frequent miscommunications. Keep in mind, Karlsson had Marc Methot as his defensive partner for most of this season until Methot's brutal injury Thursday night.

- Hoffman makes a nice little move at the line and then a perfect backhand slider right in Pageau's wheelhouse to get Ottawa on the board. 

- Is Artturi Lehkonen the Habs best passer? He's made some incredible plays tonight, including one just now to Beaulieu to spring him all alone on Anderson. 

- Habs late powerplay, will they keep feeding the point looking for more goals?

- Defiantly a better period for the Habs. Not as good as the Sens were in the first, but still good enough to pad their lead, leaning on a the man advantage and a superb performance by Andrei Markov. 


FIRST PERIOD:

- Martinsen out, King in. Lines are officially the same for the Habs tonight.

- Early indications the Habs want to play a more physical game, 4th line, the "big" line, getting an extra shift early.

- Julien make little line adjustments here, Lehkonen now with Shaw and Galchenyuk. 

- Shaw made a nice little pass to Galchenyuk to help the Habs scoring the opening game Thursday night. Since then, be dammed if I can see any good examples of why these two should be kept on the same line.

- Radulov looking much like his former Radulov self tonight. Driving the play, churning his legs, and vernally being a pest against opposing defensemen. Draws Karlsson into a holding penalty.

- Weber with a blast on the powerplay with a shot at 101.6 mph, that almost literally goes through Craig Anderson. Habs take a 1-0 lead.

- Sens doing much better forechecking job, it's helped them tilt the ice discernibly towards the Habs end, the only saving grace has been the Canadiens' ability to block shots and tie up bodies with loose pucks around Price. Still, this has been an impressive effort so far by the Sens.

- If you're going to argue Steve Ott is a better option than Mike McCarron, I'm just going to walk away from your mouth.

- That was defiantly a Sens first period, sorry Habs fans. Occasional good shift by the Danault line, Plekanec line mostly devoted to shadowing the Turris line, with mixed results. No way the Habs can maintain this game flow if they hope to end the night with 2 points. 




GAME PREVIEW: MARK STONE IS BACK AND THE SENS MIGHT BE GOOD

What a difference a week makes. Just under 6 days ago, the Habs were basking in the wwaaass warmth of a weekend sweep of the Ottawa Senators, giving the Habs a nice little 1st place cushion in the Atlantic Division.

And then the Habs went and dropped two eggs (on home ice!) to the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes, two non-playoff teams. The Canadiens' offence, for lack of a better description, is back to its struggling, meandering ways again - the only difference this time is the Habs scoring is not being carried by Alex Galchenyuk, Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty (as it was most of the month of February), but everyone except Galchenyuk, Radulov and Pacioretty. Hockey is maddening sometimes.

Making life just a little more difficult this weekend for the Canadiens is the return of Mark Stone to the Sens lineup. Stone, who's be recovering from an lower body injury the past month, has been a key cog in the Senators' unexpected competition for top spot in their Division this season. Indeed, as Habs fans might have noticed last weekend, Ottawa wasn't much competition. Tonight, that's likely to not be the case.

With Stone playing, the Sens don't have to scratch any healthy bodies because winger Viktor Stalberg won't play tonight due to an UBI.  Ergo, Ottawa's lineup will likely be this tonight:

Smith/Turris/Ryan
Burrows/Brassard/Stone
Hoffman/Pageau/Pyatt
Dzingle/Kelly/Wingels

Claesson/Karlsson
Phaneuf/Ceci
Borowiecki/Wideman

Note the insertion of Fredrik Claesson next to Erik Karlsson. This is, of course, because of the gruesome injury sustained by Marc Methot, who had his (don't worry we're not linking it) finger unceremoniously chopped off by Sidney Crosby this week (no suspension, it's a hockey play!). Needless to say, Methot won't be playing hockey anytime in the near future.

Which is to say if there is a defined Ottawa weakness, it's that blue line. Claesson is an okay NHL defenseman, but it's highly questionable he's top pairing material.

Over on the Habs side, no significant changes to the lineup tonight, meaning Alex Galchenyuk will again play on 3rd line wing, while the Canadiens will hope to see something other than a dreadful performance by Phillip Danault and the rest of the Habs "number 1" line. This also means that Alexei Emelin will get another start, which means someone else more capable will be sitting out tonight.

It's Carey Price vs. Craig Anderson. Puck drops at 7:10, EST.