Sunday, 27 November 2011

Habs/Pens Quick Hits

I will do a breakdown in the A.M. Just finished watching the game now.

Quick hits:
- Habs best night on faceoffs since Yanic Perrault was on the team.
- Carey Price was "Sharp" - in case you didn't know, Bob Cole mentioned it so many times "it was like a broken record".
- Erik Cole was a beast, with multiple chances. After so many great games in a row, is it too ealry to call him Habs best forward?
- Kostitsyn looked like he hadn't missed a game.
- Habs seemed to experiment at times using a two-man fore check (as opposed to their usual one man). Call me a fan.
- Pacioretty probably has a suspension coming his way.1-3 games is my bet
- Where was the whistle in OT. Hasenfratz was out of position and didn't see the puck? Pretty sure its supposed to be automatically whistled down if a ref loses sight.

I will post a full write up tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Snapshot Preview: Habs vs Penguins - November 26th 2011

Montreal Canadiens (10-10-3) VS Pittsburgh Penguins (13-6-4)
Puck drop is at 7:00pm EST

Sidney Crosby takes his show on the road. Crosby, who has 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his first 3 games - all at home takes on his boyhood team for his first road game of the year. Crosby has owned the Canadiens putting up 26 points in 19 games against them over his career (11 goals).

Both teams played yesterday, The Habs for the most part put on a  dismal effort vs the Flyers in Philly, while the Penguins played host to the Senators and trounced them 6-2. Crosby had 3 points in the Penguins victory.

The Habs and Pens have already met once this season, with the Pens coming out on top 3-1 with neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin in the lineup.Malkin for his part has put up 9 goals and 23 assists against the Canadiens in 19 meetings.

Carey Price is expected to get the nod in goal for Montreal again today and he sports 7-6-0 record with a 2.68gaa and a .916 sv%. Brian Gionta tends to show up for meetings with the Pens and he's potted 15 goals and 35 points in 45 meetings against them.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves earlier this season in the Penguins victory vs Montreal, but he has been spotty against them in his career, going 11-8 with a 3.32gaa and an .888 sv%.

If both teams come out with a similar effort to last night, this will be a one sided affair, I expect the Canadiens to come out with a much better effort at home.

Friday, 25 November 2011

BLACK (and Orange) FRIDAY

The Habs came into Philadelphia facing a flyers team without James Van Riemsdyk, Chris Pronger, and Jaromir Jagr. A Flyers team starting it's backup goalie - Sergei Bobrovsky - all things that Randy Tieman described on TSN 990 AM's "Tieman Show" as good things.

Coming into the the game, the Flyers led the NHL with 77 goals for, so the losses of Jagr and Van Riemsdyk wouldn't be as difficult to absorb as the loss of Pronger - a defenceman who regularly plays half the game. As Marc Denis proclaimed in the RDS pre game, The Canadiens needed a "Full 60 minute effort". The Canadiens needed to attack a weakened Philly defense.On the TSN regional feed however, John Bartlett interviewed Coach Jacques Martin and before the puck was dropped his plan was flawed.

"The Flyers have 3 productive lines with good depth and a very mobile defense", the coach would say. With 2 of the top 9 forwards out of the lineup, it's more like the Fylers were playing with 2 productive lines - the depth would be tested with sustained forward pressure. However, as the Coach would continue to tell John Bartlett, the keys to victory would be to "sustain good back pressure and spend little time in our own end." So basically, the Habs game plan was to not try to take advantage of the Flyers injuries and back-up goaltender, the Habs game plan was to play in-between the blue lines and wait for a Flyers mistake.

Coach Martin's plan actually looked pretty good after one period of play. 13:35 into the period, the Habs had only given up 2 shots to the Flyers and shortly thereafter at 18:14 Petteri Nokelainen would steal a puck of a Flyers mistake, catch Goalie Bob sleeping and the Habs would head to the dressing room with a 1 goal lead. The Candiens Penalty Kill continued to be perfect, led by Josh Gorges shot blocking - he would add 4 to his already team leading 53. Alexei Emelin was everywhere in the period rubbing out Wayne Simmonds along the boards, and waiting out Bobrovski before missing wide. Emelin would finish with 6 hits on the night, bringing his total to 55 on the year. Erik Cole was everywhere in the period with 2nd and 3rd efforts trying to get to loose pucks whenever he was on the ice, including leveling Andreas Lilja - while Lilja threw a pick on him. The Habs would end up with a power play as a result of the play. It wasn't all roses in the first for the Habs though, they had 2 power-play opportunities on which the Flyers Matt Read had the best scoring chance - hitting a post.

The second period would be a different animal entirely. The Flyers realized the Habs were sitting back and decided to be as aggressive 5 on 5 as they had been on their own Penalty kill. It started with Claude Giroux. Earlier in the day, Brian Jennings who covers the Flyers for Pro Hockey News told Randy Tieman that Pronger was the Captain of the team, buy that the Flyers should "sew an 'L' on Giroux's jersey for 'leader". He proved it with his second period performance. Giroux would have 2 goals, would be instrumental in the Flyers 2nd goal (even though he didn't get an assist) and would have 5 shots in the period. The Canadiens held on to their 1 goal lead through most of the period mainly due to Carey Price. The Flyers would have 10 shots in the first 6:10 of the period and save for a great pad save by Price and a fantastic PK shift by Brian Gionta earlier the Habs looked to be listless. The referees seemed to help out the Canadiens with a chincy hooking call on Claude Giroux with 9:12 to go in the 2nd - but the Canadiens seemed disinterested in taking a 2 goal lead. Raphael Diaz looked scared to make a mistake on the point - as he had already given up a shorthanded scoring chance to Matt Read in the first. The Flyers successfully killed the Penalty and with 6:49 to go in the period Claude Giroux scored his first of the night to tie the game. Giroux took a wide shot right off an offensive zone faceoff, the puck would hit the end boards and go back to a waiting Matt Carle at the point. Carle took a wide shot which careened off the end boards to a waiting Giroux, alone (missed Hal Gill assignment) at the side of the crease. The Flyers kept pressing with another scoring chance barely a minute later. M.A Bourdon would do the Habs a favour chopping at Brian Gionta's stick (while he was on a 2 on 1 with Max Pacioretty) to send the Canadiens to a 5th power play. The Habs looked way too tentative - Diaz looked more scared than before now having given up 2 shorthanded scoring chances. The Canadiens would have another uneventful listless power play (think they could use Andrei Markov??). The Diaz-Weber pairing would be stuck on the ice too long unable to change while Claude Giroux ran around the Canadiens zone just as the power play ended - Jakub Voracek would score a goal with them on the ice to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. As Daren Eliot would point out on the TSN regional broadcast the Canadiens forwards changed while Giroux was running around and they got caught of defensive positioning.  With just 2:15 to go int he period, the Habs seemed content to just get out of the period down by one - but Giroux wasn't content and the Flyers continued their aggression. The Habs would ice a puck with 30 seconds to go in the period, resulting in a defensive zone face-off. The aggressive Flyers would pounce on the stagnating Habs and Giroux would pot his second of the game with 5.9 seconds left in the period. The Flyers would head to the dressing room with a 3-1 lead over a Habs team that had come back just once in 11 tries this season when trailing after two.

The Game was ugly from start to finish.The 3rd period looked like 2 teams just going through the motions. Brian Gionta, Lars Eller, Carey Price, Josh Gorges, and Alexei Emelin showed many moments of compete. Cole had a great first period, and Plekanec was solid on the PK. The rest of the Habs were mainly absent. As a Habs fan, one would hope for a better effort Saturday night at home against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, but its a tall order. Crosby has been dynamite thus far this season - but the Habs usually have a way of playing themselves up to their opponent. They didn't this afternoon.

Snapshot Preview: Habs vs Flyers - November 25th 2011

Montreal Canadiens (10-9-3) at Philadelphia Flyers (12-6-3)
Puck drop is at 3:00pm EST

The last time these two teams met, Montreal put on a pretty dominant performance at home winning 5-1.

Jaromir Jagr had Philly's only goal in that game - but he's unlikely to play this afternoon. Jagr has looked like an older version of one of the most dominant players to ever play the game thus far in his return to the NHL. After a three year absence and at his advanced age it has come as a surprise to most casual and non casual fans that Jagr 17 pts in 19 games. (6 goals, 11 assists). What hasn't been surprising though is that he has been hampered by a groin issue in recent days. He hasn't played such a compressed schedule in three years and at 39 years of age it's a tough physical change to re-adjust. Should he play, Jagr has historically been a Habs killer amassing 81 points in 68 games. (40 goals, 41 assists).

Both Flyers goaltenders have had 4 career meetings vs the Habs and their career stats seem to be mirror opposites. Ilya Bryzgalov (0-3-1, 3.75gaa, .862 sv% ) has never beaten them, while Sergei Bobrovsky (2-1-0, 2.68gaa, .920 sv%) has put up some decent numbers. Bobrovsky with his .892 sv% hasn't exactly set the world on fire this season, and the Flyers cleared house to be able to sign Bryzgalov this summer. While he also hasn't been a vezina candidate, I'd look for the flyers to start their number 1 at home.

Carey Price (7-4-0, 2.22gaa, .931 sv%) has thus far had a pretty strong career vs Philadelphia. In the only other meeting between the two teams this season he made 21 saves en route to the victory. Price had 2 shutouts last week and was named the first star on the National Hockey League. Expect him to the the start in goal.

Max Pacioretty had a 3 point night (2 goals, 1 assist) when the teams last played and has put up 4pts (2 goals, 2 assists) in 5 career games vs Philly. Pacioretty has cooled some after getting off to a hot start this season, while his linemate Erik Cole (6 goals, 6 assists) has looked like the Habs best player on most nights over the last 15 games.

Both teams had come from behind victories on Wednesday night with the Flyers taking out the Islanders 4-3, and the Canadiens beating the Hurricanes by the same score in a shootout. The Flyers are 6-2-2 in the month of November but they have been outscored 8-2 in the first period of their last three games. Montreal meanwhile is 6-4-1 in Novemeber and has seen them very impressively not surrender a goal on the penalty kill since Nov.5th in New York - a string of 42 consecutive PK's. I hate to dump on ex-Habs assistant coach Perry Pearn, however, the Penalty Kill which he used to run has killed 52/54 penalties since he was fired (a success rate of 96.3% - after a success rate of only 80% under Pearn (28/35).

Scott Gomez will not play for Montreal, while Chris Campoli, Andrei Kostitsyn and Andrei Markov continue to rehab their various injuries. With no call up by Montreal, look for Frederic St-Denis to get back into the lineup this afternoon, with Yanik Weber dressing as a forward.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

First Posting

Hello readers - both of you.

This will be my first official post on the blog. There is nothing pertinent to say, just a welcome. I hope that people actually read what I put here and that it isn't just effort for efforts sake.

Below, I posted an article I wrote a year back when Scott Gomez decided to take on Saku Koivu's number.At the time younger hockey fans in Montreal were in an uproar and the older generation just didn't get it. I tried to summarize the situation as best I could, and emailed it out to anyone I thought might be interested. A number of people wrote back and I have included their comments in the comments section - I hope they don't mind.

Please feel free to add to their comments. My first post-game breakdown will arrive shortly after the Habs/Flyers game on Friday November 24th. Puck drop at 3:00pm.

Saku Koivu: By the Numbers

(Written on July 7th 2010)

Earlier this week, abit of controversy arose when Scott Gomez decided that beginning with next season he would wear the #11 for the Montreal Canadiens.
Some feel, like the GM, "why not", and some feel "how dare he" - in an oversimplified manner.

I am 29 years old. I remember the Stanley Cup run in 1993. I have a vague recollection of the runs in '89 and '86, however I was quite young then.

For me, and for those younger then me certainly, Saku Koivu was not only the best player we saw in our generation. He is the ONLY player we saw. Was he as good as we may think? maybe. Was he as mediocre as others think? perhaps.

Memory is a funny thing, people remember things how we want to. The only accurate record's are numbers. So, let's take a look, how does Saku Koivu stack up?

With 641 points, Saku Koivu ranks 10th on the Canadiens all-time scoring list. His 450 assists ranks him 6th. Whereas his 792 games with the Habs drops him down to 19th on the list of most games played.

It's very hard to compare eras, but that's what the numbers do. If you look at points per game, Koivu averaged 0.81 Points per game. The closest comparison to him in points-per-game would be "The Roadrunner" Yvan Cournoyer who averaged 0.89 Points per game. Those aren't identical numbers, but they are fairly close. I never saw "The Roadrunner" play, so all I can look at are numbers and contemporaries. I may be mistaken, however I do believe that Cournoyer played with multiple future hall-of-famers in his career, whereas no offense to Brian Savage, Richard Zednik, Dainius Zubrus, Juha Lind and Xavier Deslile - none of them will be mistaken for Hall-of-famers. In fact, Mark Recchi and Alexei Kovalev aside, I'd argue that Saku Koivu was never given first line talent to play with in Montreal. (Does Pierre Turgeon for 1 game count?).

Koivu was an undersized centreman charged with being the teams' #1 option on Power Play, Penalty kill, 5-on-5 offense AND often was asked to keep the other team's best forwards in check as well. In being asked to fulfill all of these roles Koivu was a target for other teams, leading to multiple injuries. After his first knee Injury (in his sophomore season, while leading the NHL in scoring) Koivu was asked to forego surgery and just re-hab the knee because the team needed him.

From 1995-2001 (with the emergence of Jose Theodore and Doug Gilmour filling in admirably) there was no player more important to the franchise than Saku Koivu. He often led the team in scoring - even while missing massive amounts of games.

Koivu made the players around him better. Brian Savage (0.62 Points per game with Habs, 0.35 PPG with others) Michael Ryder (0.66 PPG with the Habs, 0.55 PPG with others) Richard Zednik ( 0.57 PPG with Habs, 0.46 with others) Christopher Higgins (0.54 PPG with Habs, 0.25 PPG with others) and the list goes on.

Koivu's 7 Overtime game winning goals ranks 1st on the team since the league started tracking the stat.

Koivu's tenure as Captain is tied with Jean Beliveau as the longest in the 100 year history of the team.

Was he the greatest player the team ever saw? No. His contributions on and off the ice however show him to be the best player of his generation - bar none. The only thing missing from his resume is a Stanley Cup, and I do believe it could be argued that had he won that prize just once his number would be hanging in the Bell Centre rafters along with the other greats.

Should it be retired? maybe. Will it be? probably not.

For the people under the age of 30 however, Koivu's the best player we ever saw represent the team, so Scott Gomez has alot to live up to by comparing himself.