Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bent, but not broken... hopefully

For the Habs, there's only one question to answer tonight: how will they respond after last night's emotional game against the Bruins? 

Regardless of the answer, tonight promises to not be an easy game. While still nursing their bruises, they have to come back tonight and face an Islander team that's rested, and quite frankly, has nothing to lose. My guess? It'll take the Habs a bit to get going tonight.

After an eventful evening last night in Boston, Carey Price gets the night off as Alex Auld gets the start. Sadly for the penalty kill, Hal Gill gets the night off to rest a lower-body injury. Ryan White, called up earlier today from the Bulldogs, will be in the lineup.

Of note, The Senators officially pull the plug on the season and deal Mike Fisher to Nashville, who announce the trade as the team picking up "Carrie Underwood's husband". Ouch!

2010-2011 Regular Season, Game 56: New York Islanders at Montreal

  • Kind of surprised to see Gomez starting after getting benched for most of the 3rd period last night
  • Habs are facing a goalie whose NHL experience I could practically count on one hand. Not pumping a few by him might be bad for their collective psyche
  • Not a great start, as Pouliot takes an offensive zone penalty. Still feeling a little frisky after his one-punch fight last night, perhaps?
  • Well, they passed their first test and killed it off. But now Pacioretty's off for holding... and another offensive-zone penalty, which means that they might be trying a little too hard to prove themselves from last night
  • Good: Wisniewski draws a penalty with his speed. Bad: early into the ensuing powerplay they turn the puck over at the Islander blue line, forcing Subban to take a tripping penalty, already their 3rd penalty of the game
  • Martinek gets called for running Plekanec from behind into the boards. I wonder why that wasn't called when it happened to Subban earlier in the game?
  • Subban with another tripping call to prevent a breakaway, though it sure looked like he touched the puck first. And not Tavares is going off for goalie interference. Are these refs trying to out-call the crew from last night against the Bruins?
  • You just knew that one of those penalties would eventually turn into a powerplay goal. Pacioretty takes a cross-ice feed from Desharnais, and his one-timer makes it 1-0 Habs.
  • Ugh... in close Tavares is able to lift one over Auld's left pad. Game tied at 1.
  • So far, Gomez, Eller and Kostitsyn are having a better game than last night... which unfortunately isn't saying much.

Well, not a horrible first period, but it still would have been nice to see a little more bounce-back after last night. Still, it would be tough to get up for the Islanders. At least they got their feet wet and came out of the first tied at 1. If they had been trailing... yikes. As it was, the Islanders had the lead in shots 12-9, but the Habs led in faceoffs, 11 to 8.

  • Hey... Auld is sporting a new mask! The artwork is VERY reminiscent of Dryden's bullseye mask, with an additional large CH painted on the right side
  • Bacon pancakes for dinner... yummy! Now if the dog would stop giving me the evil eye...
  • Habs have started showing some nifty passing in the Islander zone, but noting to show for it. The Koskinen kid is looking solid in nets for the Islanders
  • A Gomez turnover turns into a break for the Isles. That won't curry him any favour from his detractors
  • Man, I'd take a team full of Giontas any day
  • Sweet! White digs a puck out from behind the net, then finds Pouliot in the deep slot who one-times it 5-hole. 2-1 Habs!
  • Some territorial presence; I think that Gomez/Eller/Kostitsyn just played their best shift in a couple of games
  • Auld has had to sharp a little too often tonight, which isn't good when you're playing a team that has 13 fewer wins and 9 more losses than you on the season
  • Wisniewski absolutely ROBBED on the goal line
  • Not good. The Isles split the defense, then split Auld's legs for the tying goal. 2-2.
  • The guy is money... Pleks and Kostitsyn break in on a 2-on-1, and Pleks fakes to Kostitsyn before rocketing one home from the right hash marks. 3-2 Habs!

An much more solid period from the Habs against a team that they SHOULD beat, taking the territorial advantage and a 20-10 lead on shots in the second period (29-22 overall). Faceoffs are now even at 21, though the Isles have laid on the body a little more, with a 16-10 lead in that department. To this point, Wisniewski leads the Habs in ice time (18 shifts for 18:43 of ice time).

THIRD PERIOD/Overtime/Shootout:

  • Isles have yet to come back to win when trailing after 2 periods. Hopefully tonight doesn't break a trend
  • A little too close, as the Isles ring one off of the left post behind Auld
  • What a clusterf***. No backcheck turns a harmless-looking play into a 3-on-1, which after some pinball action finds the puck behind Auld. Tied at 3.
  • Rough shift for Ryan White: accidentally bowled over by Subban, then nailed with a hooking penalty
  • Man, Desharnais looks small out there. Doesn't play like it, though
  • Just saw a closeup of Spacek. Nice shiner he's sporting from last night's festivities
  • A GREAT backcheck from Gio sends Pleks in on a breakaway, who's tied up and can't finish. So close!
  • The Habs continue to let Isles players sneak behind their defensive coverage. That'll burn them if they're not careful
  • Note to refs: if a guy puts up his hands as if to say, "I didn't do it"... he probably did
  • Wisniewski passes into Plek's skates which turns it over to a shot off the post for Matt Moulson. Way too close of a call for the Habs so late in the game
  • Overtime. Well, at least it's a much-needed point... and hopefully more
  • No-go in overtime. We get to see how Auld does in a shootout
  • Shoot To Thrill on the Bell Centre PA. Good choice
  • Aaaand... Kyle Okposo snaps a wrister past Auld for the only goal of the shootout. 4-3 Isles, final.

Well that was... anticlimactic. Habs end up with 40 shots (to the Isles' 33) but can't get the winner past the rookie Koskinen. The also won the faceoff circle, going 52% on the night, but the Isles had a big lead in hits, at 24-14.


 Well, in hindsight, I guess that it could have been worse.

Coming off their most emotionally-charged game of the season, playing a well-rested (although inferior) team that had nothing to lose, the Habs came away with an all-important point for getting to overtime. The Habs were also understaffed, without Price, Gill, Darche, and long-term injuries Markov and Gorges in the lineup.

Still, when you're playing a team like the Islanders that is so far below you in the standings (and icing a rookie goaltender, to boot), it's vital that you find a way to end the night with two points in your back pocket.

The best news of the night is that the Habs best players (Plekanec and Gionta) played like their best players. And Pouliot, Pacioretty and Desharnais are looking like they're keepers, too. Subban? Not his greatest night, though he looked out-of-sorts with his steady defensive partner out of the lineup.

Thankfully, Andrei Kostitsyn looked to be finding his way out of the fog that he had been skating in. Coach Martin rewarded his effort with some late-game shifts, which is a big step up from his 3rd period benching last night in Boston. The Habs need to get this guy back on track; his explosive shot, a potential gamebreaker, is going to waste if they can't get him to find the back of the net with any regularity. A shot in the shootout might have been the confidence boost that AK needs.

Hey, at least the Leafs lost tonight, via the shootout, too. The Habs meet up with them on Saturday night to try to break up their three-game slide.

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