Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An impossible task?

Do the Habs have what it takes to get the job done? 

The Philadelphia Flyers are looking like the beasts of the east.

Fresh of of their 3-2 victory last night over the Penguins, the Flyers have now gained top spot in the Eastern Conference; and in the process, they ended the Pens 12-game winning streak.

The Flyers are now off to their best start since 1986. The have a goal differential of +30, the best in the league. They've been exceptional on the road, posting a 9-2-3 record, and are riding a 3-game win streak. Their biggest asset is probably their team confidence, which has undoubtedly held over from last year's great playoff run. Being one goal away from elimination and turning it around to being one goal away from winning it all has to lead them to believe that they can beat any team on any night.

The Habs, on the other hand, have lost their last two. They've been off since Saturday, which doesn't bode well; they have yet to win a game after having 3+ days off between games (0-1-2). Their bright spots are their penalty killing, which is at 1st in the league at an 89.3 efficiency, home record (11-2-3, second in the league) and the ability to bounce back after a loss, going 7-2-0 after a defeat. 

Good news for the Habs: they'll have the experience of Scott Gomez and Jaro Spacek in the lineup, both of them returning from injuries. Max Pacioretty gets his first call this season for the Habs, having been called up from Hamilton after the Bulldogs' win on this past Sunday.

2010-2011 Regular Season, Game 31: Philadelphia at Montreal

  • Subban disrespects the Flyers on his first shift by throwing his weight around. Call the NHL!
  • How does a puck cleared over the glass not be a Flyer penalty? Does that mean that the Habs get a gimme for their next puck over the glass?
  • Hey! Subban didn't wind up for a point shot!
  • Price has had to be sharp so far, coming up big on a couple of in-close attempts
  • Damn! Cammy takes a feed from AK46 and comes REALLY close. They need to cash one of these early attempts before they get used to not scoring
  • Ten days out form Christmas, and I'm already tired of the commercials
  • I've liked what I've seen from Pacioretty so far. A line with Pouliot and Eller might be something to watch for
  • That all started from a WEAK clearing attempt by Subban, and Jeff Carter is able to blow by Picard to go in alone in the last minute of the period against Price. 1-0 Flyers

It was a pretty evenly-matched period, with the Habs leading the shot clock by 12-10, and in the faceoff circle 13-11. But P.K. Subban is the goat of the first 20 minutes when he turned a simple zone-clearance into a primo scoring attempt for Jeff Carter, who was able to bury it for the 1-goal lead.


  • Subban on to start the period. A vote of confidence, perhaps?
  • If it wasn't for bad luck... a harmless looking pass into the slot deflects off of Hal Gill and over Price. 2-0 Flyers
  • To their credit, Habs are coming on strong after the Flyer goal. Gionta rings one off the post to come close
  • Gionta gets another chance in close, and his stick breaks. Is anything going to go right for them today?
  • Habs are 0-7-0 when giving up the first goal. Well, that doesn't bode well...
  • Price has to stop a 3-on-1
  • More push-back from the Habs, but nothing to show for it
  • Philly assessed a penalty? Must be a mistake
  • There you go, PK! A one-timer on a 5-on-3 powerplay brings the Habs within one. 2-1 Flyers

Just what the Habs ordered: aside from a fluke Flyer goal, the Habs played a great bounce-back period to pull within a goal, outshooting the Flyers 15-8 (27-18) in the process. And Subban learned that getting his shot past the first wave of defenders pays dividends. Habs are also leading the battle in the faceoff circle 22-19.

  • Habs start the period with the same kind of energy that they used to end the second period
  • Well, they didn't need that. Zherdev walks through all defenders, cricles behind the net, and banks it in off of Price. 3-1 Flyers
  • How about Pleks! A great rush by Pouliot never gets cleared from the zone, leading to an in-close goal for #14. 3-2 Flyers
  • THERE'S the lucky break that they needed! Gomez passes to Gionta in the slot, which manages to find it's way through Bobrovsky's 5-hole. Tied at 3! The place is going nuts
  • Wow... the Capitals have now lost seven in a row. Is this 1977? 
  • Spacek pulls a Subban, and gets caught with a turnover at centre ice. Pleks with the penalty to foil the scoring chance
  • Damn... van Reimsdyk with a powerplay goal, off a rebound, to retake the lead 4-3 Flyers
  • Aaand Subban with another turnover to put the game out of reach. Another turnover sends Giroux in all alone against Price. 5-3 Flyers

Sorry, Hal. No credit for goals scored on your own net. Photo: John Kenney/Gazette

'Tis The season, eh? The Habs led the way against the Flyers in most categories, including mental mistakes. Credit to the Flyers, who were able to cash in on three of their gift-wrapped chances, plus the Zherdev goal that Price would like back.

For the first time this season, the Habs have lost three in-a-row, and gave up more than three regulation goals in a game, minus empty-netters. They were the last team in the NHL to do so, taking until their 31st game for both of those to happen. That's a credit to a sound defensive style that's being preached by Coach Martin.

P.K. Subban. What else is there to say? Moments of brilliance, followed by plays that would be frowned on in a Saturday night beer league game. And too often, those turnovers are turning into the kind of prime scoring chances for the opposition that are ending up in the back of the net. Why is this kid not learning from his mistakes? Take the last Flyer goal: without a passing option, he turned the puck over with a bad pass to the blue line. It then comes back to him, and he makes the EXACT same mistake, 4 seconds later. That time the Flyers make no mistake with the possession, and are able to spring Claude Giroux in all alone for their 5th goal. Get the kid some Ritalin. Geez.

That said, there was plenty of brain-mush to go around this evening; P.K. was only one of the guys that needed their head screwed on a little tighter. It's games like this where they REALLY miss the calming effect of Andrei Markov.

The plus: they're mistakes which are completely fixable. Play smart defensive hockey, and the Habs can beat any team in the league. You couldn't say that about Hab teams from as little as three or for years ago.

Final shots: Montreal 41, Flyers 30. They also led the way in the faceoff circle, 33-28.

At least the Habs will get a chance to bounce back tomorrow night against a strong rival, the Bruins, who also lost tonight.

No comments: