Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Flyers keep Canadiens grounded

Date: 05/01/2016
Opponent: Flyers
Location: Philadelphia
Loss: 3-4

Habs Goalie: Scrivens (L)
Opposition Goalie: Neuvirth (W)

Habs goalscorers: Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Carr
Opposition goalscorers: B. Schenn, Couturier, Gostisbehere, Simmonds

Play of the game

Not a goal, not a save, but a willingness to continue to play smart hockey despite the fact that not all the players, or coaches for that matter, were on that page tonight.  In the first period the first goal was a result of Markov stepping up into the play.  Not entirely his fault, but a result of that action (and a cascade of others that followed and preceded).  Early in the second period Gallagher gained the zone, passed it back out into the open ice Markov was skating into where the puck was directed on the net by our wily veteran.  The fact that his shot was on net was a feat in and of itself on a night when a magical vortex deflected Montreal shots wide all night.  It is this commitment to smart hockey, largely ignored by others on this night, that make Markov so important to this team still.  I was worried that after the breakaway goal, Markov would become gun shy and play a more conservative game.  Perhaps a less experienced player would have.  Thankfully Markov shares my mentality that the best way to play defense is in the other team's end and he continued to attempt to do just that.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Daniel Carr

In the third period with the score 4-2 it was the line of Eller/Galchenyuk/Carr that seemed to step it up above the others.  It was their enthusiasm and hard work after the game was put out of reach that rubbed off on some of the others heading down the stretch.  It was this line, in my opinion, that finally opened the game up into some exciting end to end hockey.  It's when the Canadiens get to trading chances like this that they are most exciting to watch, and most successful on the game sheet.  Carr gets the nod by scoring a goal that gave us some fleeting hope, that maybe, just maybe we might be able to come back here.  Unfortunately that was not to be but those were some lightning quick hands by Daniel there.

David Descharnais

I would like to put Alex Galchenyuk here.  After all, he had a hand in that enthusiasm that Carr helpd bring late in the third and he did well to tip Barberio's shot into the net to tie things up heading into the second period, but the big story on Alex here where his misses.  His pass to Markov was off the mark, causing Markov to bobble the pass leading to Brayden Schenn's breakaway goal and he was missing the net all night (or missing the puck).  His effort was there but he just wasn't sharp enough to make the dome.  David, however, was sharp.  No goals but he did nicely to dig the puck out from behind the net for Carr's goal and he quarterbacked a nice powerplay in the first period that gave good looks to Subban, Pacioretty, and Galchenyuk.  Their shots weren't on net, mind you, but David can only do so much.

Brendan Gallagher

There were a few guys who could have gotten here with their solid play.  Fleischmann, and Eller for instance.  They didn't score though.  Brendan had a solid game.  Nothing spectacular but nothing catastrophic either and he did what he's paid to do.  He got to the front of the net and tipped one in.  If more guys just did what they were supposed to do tonight, this would have been a much more enjoyable to watch and to write about.


Alexei Emelin

Emelin seems to be our only blueliner that enjoys taking the body.  You need someone like him to keep opposing forwards looking, especially against teams like Philadelphia.  He stepped up in the play well and got a good shot on net for Gallagher's goal.

Nathan Beaulieu

After the first two periods I had Nate with the game puck.  How many times did he sprawl to break up an odd man chance?  I counted at least 3.  Tonight he certainly put to rest any questions about his defensive ability or his belonging on the first defensive pair.


Ben Scrivens - game puck

I think maybe he could have had the second goal.  It was a hard shot, no question, but the screen (and I think it was only a partial screen on the opposite side that the puck was shot in) was out pretty far and NHL goaltenders should make that save on shots from the blueline.  After looking back on it, it may have been tipped by the defender reaching for it.  Regardless, how many Flyers found themselves open in a high percentage area only to be denied by Scrivens?  Too many!  This defence looked slow and disorganized tonight and were it not for the play of Scrivens this could have been ugly.


One of the stories coming into tonight's game were how the Habs were playing better since the return of Gallagher.  It had only been one game and I think that was a little premature, especially looking at tonight's beyond lacklustre effort.  For the majority of tonight's game, Montreal looked like a team that just wasn't interested in playing hockey.  Was it a hangover from the massive hype of the Winter Classic?  I sure hope so.  I know early on in this slump, Montreal was still playing good hockey, just not getting the results.  They were still out shooting and out playing their opponents for large portions of games but just not getting pucks in the net.  That's tough mentally.  It is tough to keep grinding and giving that kind of effort night in and night out without any reward for your effort.  If they don't find a way soon, and I'm not positive the return of Gallagher will be enough, they will be in the midst of a playoff push with other teams, scraping and clawing for points that aren't coming so easily to Montreal right now.

Since the arrival of Scrivens, Condon has picked up his game.  Thankfully, since the arrival of Scrivens, Scrivens has picked up his game as well.  How many times did a Flyer find himself far too open in a dangerous scoring position only to be denied by Scrivens?  Too many!  We had a breakaway goal, a tipped in point shot, and a cross ice pass to a Flyer who had beaten his mark (Petry) to the net for three of the four goals.  Thankfully Scrivens had Giroux's number or it could have been 5 or 6 tonight.  The defensive zone coverage for Montreal was terrible to non existent.  I don't know if this is necessarily a new problem.  I'm starting to believe that Price's out of this world ability covered up these glaring flaws in Montreal's defensive game.  Price's injury is obviously severe.  I suspect it's complications from the injury sustained at the hands (or skates) of Chris Kreider.  Ligaments are buggers to heal properly and I suspect our netminder is headed for offseason surgery.  But that's beside the point.  Montreal hasn't played good defense; quality defensive zone coverage, making teams pay to gain our blue line and gain position in front of our net, high percentage low risk decisions in our own zone, consistently in over a month.  The fix?  Repetition, drills, and hard work.  I'm not sure switching up the defensive pairings (tonight it was Subban/Beaulieu, Markov/Petry, Emelin/Barberio... most of the time) consistently is helping and perhaps the coaching staff needs to be taken to task for their part in this.

For instance, when Markov stepped up into an errant Galchenyuk pass the other D-man should have been cheating over to cover just in case.  If you're not used to your defensive partner, however, you may not read this.  Petry is new to being Markov's defensive partner and so surely isn't used to playing alongside the veteran blueliner.  Petry wasn't sharp last night and got beaten to the net for Philadelphia's fourth goal; out of sorts, perhaps, trying to get comfortable with a new partner.  The thing is, Petry wasn't even on the ice for the first goal.  It was Barberio that was sharing the ice with Markov at the time.  It was Barbario who was speeding towards the goal when Markov received the errant pass and while Barberio should probably not have in the position he was in, Markov also needs to recognize where his partner is before he jumps up in the play.  Both mistakes might be due to not being comfortable with their partners.  I could go on about the woes of changing up lines and defensive pairings on a regular basis but I will leave it at this.  In this area, in my humble opinion, less is more and right now it looks like Therrien is lost with the direction he is taking the team.

Allowing 4 goals is a recipe for disaster in the NHL.  You can't realistically expect to score 5 goals a night, even against teams like Philadelphia.  Aside from the glaring defensive breakdowns last night, Montreal just could not hit the net.  2 posts, open shots on the PP not hitting the net and how many times did players just whiff on shots tonight?  By the end of this game I was actually baffled by how many times Canadiens either missed the net from open shots or missed the puck all together.  The best example of this was Byron being set up by Barbario with most of the upper portion of the net open to shoot at which could have made it 4-3 a little earlier than Carr did, and he missed the net.  Notables like Pacioretty and Galchenyuk just missed far too often tonight to be as effective as they could have been.

Terrible in our own zone and terrible offensive execution coupled with a team that looked to be playing on an empty tank don't bode well for Montreal's return home face to New Jersey tomorrow night.  This 8 game road trip (longest by any team in the NHL this season) has not been kind to the big club.  The last back to back games saw Montreal running out of gas against Florida after a hard fought win over Tampa Bay the night before.  If there's anything we can take out of tonight is that the Habs should have plenty of energy for the Devils after expending very little tonight.  Fingers crossed.


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