Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Pittsburgh Breakdown!!!

I've started this article 4 or 5 times already.
Really. I have.

I've been having a problem recently. I don't know if it's because I have been ill, or if the Canadiens are turning me an unhealthy shade of green.

One game the Canadiens come out play a strong chip & chase style, but lose due to a flukey goal(Boston). The next game, they take the same style into another rink and get stoned by a hot goalie (Ottawa). Then they come home to play the same chip & chase style and they make a superior opponent look inferior (Rangers) before abandoning the style completely. They looked horribly flat against Washington, and then they went to Pittsburgh.

This is where I start to have a problem. All season long, this bunch of Canadiens has shown enough pride in itself to not put up two stinker efforts in a row, and yet the loss to Washington looked so bad most fans and media were forecasting the end of the season.

After the loss to Washington CTV/TSN 990's Randy Tieman tweeted "like a scene out of ER. i'll make the call. 11:30 pm. turn out the lights, the fat lady has sung, the party is over. sorry." When the eternal optimist Randy Tieman  is calling the end, as a viewer, listener and reader - you can take it to the bank.

What then to expect in Pittsburgh? Do the Candiens go back to the chip & chase that I liked so much? do they phone in another flat performance? The fact that the answer to both questions is "no" is, I think, what has had me stuck here for days.

Much of the media has discussed PK Subban's gaffe with a puck on Habs power play and his ensuing argument with Randy Ladouceur as a turning point in the game. Maybe it was.

After a solid effort against the Rangers, and games on back-to-back nights, Peter Budaj was given the task of handling the Penguins. "He earned his start. His last start was a great effort" were the words of encouragement for Budaj from head coach Randy Cunneyworth on TSN's pre-game and I found it hard to disagree.

The Game notes: 

First Period:
19:38 - 2nd quick freeze by Marc-Andre Fleury. No shots on goal, plenty of puck flurries around the crease.
19:26 - Eller Scores! Lars Eller dumps the puck in around the back of the goal. PK Subban picks it up on the opposite boards, shoots it in on goal, the rebound bounces onto Eller's waiting stick who tips it into the gaping cage. 1-0
18:20 - Gomez actually backchecking.
17:19 - James Neal in on a 2 on 1...shoots...hits the post.
17:03 - Kunitz and Pacioretty fight after Kunitz levels Erik Cole. The Penguins Kris Letang missed 21 games as a result of a hit by Pacioretty the last time these teams squared off. Pacioretty gets an extra 2 minutes for instigating, Pens to the Power Play.

16:44 - Steve Sullivan called for intereference on Moen. Power Play negated. 4 on 4.
15:58 - Letang scores! Letang walsk in, skates around 3 Habs, send the puck in front of the net...and it just trickles in. Budaj will want it back. 1-1.
14:19 - Cole Scores! Tomas Kaberle springs Cole into the offensive zone. Cole & Kostitsyn have a nice quick give n' go, Cole 1-times to back of the cage. 2-1.
13:38 - Neal can openers Hal Gill, goes to the box for tripping. League's worst Power Play goes to work. Gomez easily enters the offensive zone...and does absolutely nothing. The last 15 seconds or so of the Power Play, the Habs finally set something and have 2 attempted shots on net to show for it.
10:22 - Eller does some good digging work to get to a puck, but not much comes of it.
8:21 - Subban is called for roughing, Penguins (0/1) go back to the PP.
7:30 - Plekanec gets a short-handed breakaway (does he get one every game?) Letang catches up to him on a backcheck and cleanly swipes away the puck before it can reach the goal.Excellent play.
6:15 - Habs Penalty Kill a success, there's a scramble at the end in front of Budaj, but he stands strong and the play is whistled down.
5:02 - Subban loses a puck. As a result, the Pens walk in on a 3 on 1. Adams is robbed by Peter Budaj who "flashes leather". - Marty Turco
2:21 - Shots 9-5 in favour of the Penguins. A pane of Glass falls down behind the Habs goal, there's a long delay for repair.
0:47 - Erik Cole breaks free and creates a 2 on 1, he sends a pass over to Max Pacioretty, but the pass goes through his skates.
0:43 - Brooks Orpick gets 2 mins for hooking. Gomez has 2 excellent chances but can't bury them.

Second Period:

19:04 - Andrei Kostitsyn cuts in down low through the crease, but Erik Cole can't get a puck through to him. Best puck movement in the offensive zone yet on a Habs Power Play. "Fresh ice makes a big difference. Flatter passes. Big advantage for a team on the Power Play." - Turco
18:51 - Kostitsyn Scores! Kaberle sends a gorgeous blind pass to Kostitsyn who buries an excellent shot. "A few encouraging plays. The Power Play looks much more lively. Habs are playing great." - Turco
17:08 - Decent defensive block by Kaberle.
16:43 - shots 12-7 Penguins.
15:43 - Kunitz with a decent shot on Budaj, Gorges snuffs him out for the rebound, which sails wide.
14:45 - Adams holds up Erik Cole, Habs back to the Power Play for two minutes.
14:28 - Subban whips a blind pass around in the defensive zone on the breakout, it's picked off by Brooks Orpick who passes to Jeffrey. Jeffrey one-times into an open net. 3-2. 
Subban and assistant coach Randy Ladouceur would have a heated debate about this play on the bench afterwards. Eventually Randy Cunneyworth would step in and tell the young defenseman to shut it.
12:46 - Good puck movement again on Power Play, no shots on goal though.
12:18 - good stop by Fleury off of Plekanec.
12:02 - tip by Malkin hits the side of the net. Penguins buzzing.
10:25 - Dupuis takes a rocket shot right on - Budaj is there for the stop.
9:44 - A solid save by Budaj off a 2 on 1 with Alexei Emelin out of position looking to clobber someone.
9:26 - Budaj catches the Penguins on a line change and springs Erik Cole at the far blue line. Cole and Pacioretty on their umpteenth 2 on 1 of this game. Cole sends to Pacioretty who scores. 4-2
7:04 - Gomez with a slick pass to Darche.
6:46 - 22-13 Pens outshooting the Habs.
5:02 - Erik Cole stopped in the slot by Fleury.
3:08 - Andrei Kostitsyn with strong positioning on Letang, leads to a blocked shot.
0:18 - Moen picks up an errant pass and sends it to Plekanec. Fleury stacks his pads to make a safe, the puck sails high and hits the crossbar. Letang slashes Plekanec on his way in and gets called. Habs go back to the Power Play.

Third Period:

18:47 - Erik Cole hard on net, stopped by Fleury. "Love the way Gomez gains the zone." -Turco
17:10 - 23-19 Penguins lead shot totals.
16:28 - Subban high sticks Steve Sullivan, referees miss it, but karma bites PK a little as he accidentally screens Peter Budaj, allowing Dustin Jeffrey to score his second of the game. 4-3
15:19 - Cole creates traffic in front of Fleury while David Desharnais makes a great feed to Pacioretty, but his shit is stopped by Fleury.
14:26 - Kaberle puts a nice give n' go in motion with Matt Darche, but Darche misses the net.
13:22 - Desharnais and Pacioretty on a 2 on 1, Pacioretty takes a shot, stopped by Fleury. The Penguins immediately scurry back down to the Habs end where Budaj makes an excellent save off James Neal, who takes a slash from Erik Cole sending Pittsburgh back to the man advantage.
11:40 - Great work by Plekanec in the Canadiens half of the neutral zone digging for a loose puck.
10:55 - Penalty killed successfully.
7:48 - Pascal Dupuis in all alone, his backhander is stopped by Budaj.
7:19 - Cole back to the sin bin for interference on Kris Letang. Pittsburgh goes to their third Power Play. Habs playing with fire.
6:35 - Josh Gorges is hammered by Chris Kunitz who gets two minutes for boarding, negating the Penguins Power Play.
5:18 - Penguins continue to press. Nel's shot is stopped by Budaj, but the Pens bang away at loose pucks. Budaj stands strong, preserving the 1 goal lead.
4:00 - 33-23 shot edge for the Penguins.
2:43 - Malkin scores! James Neal who has been dangerous all night sends great pass across the ice to a waiting Malkin who rips a one timer into the net to tie the game. "Great position by Budaj. Better shot by Malkin" - Turco. 4-4

0:01 - Fleury makes a buzzer beating save off of Chris Campoli to send the game to overtime.

3:24 - Malkin and Neal barrel in on a 2 on 1, but Emelin makes an excellent defensive play to break it up.
2:29 - Subban springs Pacioretty who gets a shot on Fleury, but no one is around to pick up the huge rebound.
1:12 - Desharnais centers a pass to Emelin, but his shot is stopped by Fleury.
0:08 - Gorges battles in the dying seconds to try and create something in the offensive zone, but he runs out of time, the game goes to a shootout.

No need for me to describe. Here's the video:

A heartbreaking loss for the Canadiens who need as many points as possible in their quest to make the playoffs. It's a huge mountain to climb, but players like Hal Gill (who expects to be traded if things go sour) and Andrei Kostitsyn (who doesn't want to test free agent waters) who want to remain in Montreal need the team to win games if they expect to continue their careers here.

The Canadiens step on a plane for Toronto and a meeting with the Maple leafs who are trying to stay afloat in the playoff race as well.

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