Monday, October 25, 2010

Coyote (not so) ugly

Ugly?! They're kind of cute! Photo courtesy National Geographic

Tonight, the Habs begin their busiest week of this young season.

It'll include tonight's game against the 2-2-2 Winnipeg Jets Phoenix Coyotes, that rarely-viewed, endangered breed that makes its home by scavenging for scraps on the outskirts of desert cities. Tonight's game will be followed up with a Wednesday/Friday home-and-home against the surprising New York Islanders, and the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on Saturday, which could mark the return of Andrei Markov.

That squeal you just heard was the Montreal powerplay jumping for joy.

Though the Habs' power play currently sits last in the league (30th, at a measly 4.2%) the 'Yotes efficiency with the man-advantage isn't much better: they're tied for 27th in the league. Could be a rough night at the rink if neither team fears plating shorthanded.

Speaking of rough, Phoenix captain Shane Doan won't play tonight; he continues to serve a three-game suspension for a blindside hit on Anaheim's San Sexton. Interesting fact: Doan is the last active player to have played for the Winnipeg Jets, having played all 14 of his seasons with Winnipeg/Phoenix.

On the road, Phoenix is playing .500 hockey, while the Habs are an average 1-1-1. at home. They'll need to bolster that record if they want to do more than just fight for 8th place in their conference. Their 3-1-0 record, good for 2nd in the conference, it's what's bolstering their ranking of 1st in their division and 3rd in the conference.

I'm really liking what I'm seeing of Carey Price, Andrei Kostitsyn, and P.K. Subban. To this point Carey's played every minute in goal (I wouldn't be surprised to see backup Alex Auld play Friday night in Long Island), AK46 is making use of all of his assets by leading the team in goal  scoring, and Subban is starting to focus his enthusiasm on the ice, more often than not making the right play instead of having to use his natural talents to dig himself of holes. He's also chipped in with 3 points in his last 4 games. Unfortunately, a streaky Mike Cammalleri is heading in the wrong direction. He's only been good for a point in his last 4 games. Tonight would be a good time to turn that around.

On the home front, my better half is off to Calgary for a two-day conference, which means that I get to watch tonight's game in my underwear. Hopefully the dog won't stare and make me self-conscious.

2010-2011 Regular Season, Game 8: Phoenix at Montreal

  • Hate that commercial. If I ever Double Down, please slap me. Then pump my stomach.
  • Coyotes/Jets haven't fared well here over the years. Let's hope that trend continues.
  • I love Gionta's 3rd gear. Forced the Yotes into a penalty to prevent a breakaway
  • Great hustle as Lapierre's speed generates another interference call. Sadly, a lot or razzle, no dazzle on the ensuing powerplay
  • Some dude in a neon yellow shirts keeps standing up and waving when the camera pans across him. If you're at the game, please slap him for me.
  • Habs seem to go into goal prevention mode in the last minute of a period a lot. I know that you don't want to get scored on late, but that system tends to generate scoring chances for the opposition

A fairly evenly split first period, though Phoenix probably had the better scoring chances. Both Price and Bryzgalov had to be sharp. But man, both teams' powerplays are struggling. Habs now 1-for-27 on the season. The Coyotes had a slight edge in shots, 11 to 10.

  • Bad defensive coverage leads to a Kyle Turris shot from point-blank range. Price gets a piece of it, but not enough as it slided through his pads. 1-0 Phoenix.
  • Heavy pressure in the Coyotes' zone has them running around in their zone, and Pleks cashes from 15 feet. Tied at 1! And a quick powerplay to follow...
  • Hey... a powerplay goal! Cammy all alone in the slot, wrist shot, blocker side. 2-1 Habs!
  • Great stuff! Habs' speed (this time Pleks) nullifies another Phoenix powerplay
  • I can't say that I mind hearing english interviews on RDS. It gives my french a break
  • Aaaand... Moen takes a boarding penalty late in the period. 'Yotes'll start the 3rd period on the powerplay

Habs finally score their second powerplay goal of the season not long after Plekanec (who's having a great game, IMO) ties the game. Habs take a 2-1 lead into the third, but will start on the penalty kill. Considering how good that part of their play has been, that might not be such a bad thing. Shots that period: Coyotes 7 (18) and Habs 8 (18).

  • Moen's dumb penalty costs them. Morris smokes one from the point on the powerplay into the top corner; Carey completely screened. Tied at 2.
  • Habs looking a little haphazard in the early part of the period. Phoenix coming on a little here.
  • Price has had to be sharp this period.
  • Spacek hasn't been his best this game. Markov back to take some of the high-pressure minutes will help.
  • Definitely more energy in this period than in the first two
  • Puck went into the crowd. I'm glad that the dude in neon didn't get it
  • 2 minutes left. We're essentially in overtime
  • At least a point!

Shots through 3 periods: Phoenix with a 29-28 edge. The game has been as evenly-played as the shots would indicate.

  • Neither team has won in overtime this season (Montreal, 0-1 and Phoenix 0-2)
  • Andrei flies! (literally). Doing his best Bobby Orr impersonation, AK46 cashes a rebound 1:25 into overtime to send everyone home happy
  • Kostitsyn gets the 1st star selection, then takes a tour of the ice tossing a few pucks into the crowd.

Getting ready for takeoff: AK46 nets the OT winner just before Derek Morris (#53) gives him the Bobby Orr treatment. Photo courtesy Habs Inside/Out

Fantastic! These guys are really coming together, and it's nice to see it happen in the first month of the season instead of the last. :) 5-2-1, won four of their last five, at the top of the conference... and all without Andrei Markov available to quarterback a powerplay that up until now has only potted two goals in their first eight games.

And who's leading the way? The guys that you want to see: the core of the team for years to come: Kostitsyn, Price, Plekanec, Cammalleri, Gorges. Subban has been evolving every game, and even Lars Eller has been doing the little things right. The kid's got some good hockey sense; the goals and assists will come in time as he earns himself more minutes with the top-six forwards. Scratch that... he got an assist--his first point as a Hab--on AK's overtime winner.

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