Saturday, November 04, 2017

Early Deficits Are Tough to Overcome

Date: 02/11/2017
Opponent: Minnesota
Location: Xcel Energy Center
Loss: 6-3

Montreal Goalie: Price (L)
Minnesota Goalie: Dubnyk (W)

Montreal goalscorers:  Gallagher (2), Shaw
Minnesota goalscorers: Cullen, Niederreiter, Ennis, Suter, Spurgeon, Foligno

Pre Game

I had a good feeling about Minnesota after playing a game where everything clicked.  Good defensive coverage (at least better than what we've been seeing), excellent breakouts from their own zone, some grit when needed, precision scoring, and improved goaltending.  It was a game where a lot of things that were going wrong for Montreal suddenly went right.  I assumed that with the confidence they showed in the game against Ottawa that something would carry over into Minnesota.  I wasn't expecting another blow out, but I was expecting a win.

Price playing in net was worrisome.  In all my years as a Habs fan I never suspected I'd ever be worried about him playing in net, but the best goalie in the world has taken the season off and sent this useless doppelganger in his place.  This version of Price wouldn't stop a beach ball.  I hoped the extra few days helped settle Price into a groove, but who really knew.  

Dome hockey team

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


Brendan Gallagher - Game Puck

It was easy to quit after Carey let in those two softies within the first five minutes and most of the Canadiens did.  Brendan didn't.  He plugged away and with effort and talent he managed to get Montreal close enough to nearly make a game of it.  If you could only bottle the essence of Gallagher and feed it to the rest of his teammates this season might be very different.

Thomas Plekanec

Yet again Thomas Plekanec quietly went out and did his job.  He's such a good skater with a high hockey IQ.  He gets the puck into dangerous spots, he is very rarely caught out of position defensively, and he is by far and away the best Canadien at winning faceoffs.  He doesn't get nearly enough credit for what he does on the ice, but I like to have someone so consistent in the dome.  I like knowing what to expect from players so you can work around them accordingly.

Andrew Shaw

Andrew has surprised me the last couple of games.  Part of that success is him staying out of the penalty box.  He's got grit in bucket fulls.  If he can combine that with discipline it seems he has the ability to play on a top line.


Shea Weber 

Solid again as he is every night.  On the ice for a  goal early on (only Carey could have prevented it from going in) he was calm with the puck and put his body on the line when called upon leading the team with six blocked shots.  I know Weber already plays a lot but you think we could stretch another five minutes out of him to try and get Alzner off the ice?  Another solid effort by Shea on a night when anything more than consistent just wasn't there.

Victor Mete

Mete played a good game himself and he is so unique to watch.  Using his size coupled with agility to his advantage instead of letting his stature be a hindrance is enjoyable to watch.  It's getting to the puck quick before the opposition even has a chance to forecheck and moving it accurately to forwards is what's keeping this young man out of trouble in his own end and on the Canadiens roster for his rookie NHL season. 


Al Montoya

Carey Price lost this game singlehandedly.   He looked like he was an ECHL call up on the first one, then passed the puck to Matt Dumba on the second before sliding far too far over to have a chance to save it.  I know Niederreiter tipped it but it barely changed direction and a goaltender in position would have still saved it.  I feel like the Canadiens would have had a better chance to win this one if Montoya was minding the net.

Play of the Game

This is a tough call.  I'm between minds on a play that gave me fleeting hope that Montreal might actually make a comeback in this one and one that defined the entire game.

At 4:46 of the first period, Matt Cullen was in the right place at the right time when a rebound came right to him.  He then proceeded to fan on a wrist shot and banked it in off the inside of Carey's left skate for the opening goal of the game.  Las year you could have said that it was very uncharacteristic of Carey to slide over so awkwardly but this year it's the norm.  It's a goal Carey should have had. 

Not 10 seconds later Carey was picking the puck out of his net again.  After corralling the puck behind his net (it was dumped in off the faceoff from the previous goal) he wristed the puck over Pacioretty's stick and right to Dumba on the point.  I don't know why Carey thought he had to slide over to cover the far post but he was cleanly beat (I think the tip only knuckled the puck, not changed its direction) by a wrist shot from the point.  Neither one of these goals should ever have been scored on an NHL goaltender, forget about both of them occurring 10 seconds apart.  It killed the Canadiens and any chance they had of actually winning this game.

I've gone with the game defining play.  This series of plays occurring within 10 seconds of one another ended the game, whether I wanted to believe it or not.  Sure, we got to within two goals and the Habs' second goal was a very well executed play by Pacioretty, Danault, and Shaw but it was never consequential.  No matter how much we wanted to believe the Canadiens were one good surge away from being back in this one, the reality is that the Canadiens checked out at 4:56 of the first period and never really checked back in.

Post Game

These games are so hard to watch and so disheartening to die hard Habs fans.  To see Carey struggle the way he is, is painful.  I don't know if he needs to play through this or have some games off.  I don't know if he needs to sit down with a sports psychologist.  I guess if I knew the fix I'd be getting a call from Canadiens management for the answer.  I do know this, playing Carey Price is not providing this team with their best opportunity to win hockey games.  The Canadiens need to string together a bunch of wins together in the near future and Carey can't even string together a bunch of saves.

They played good hockey with Montoya in.  There's no reason to believe they can't repeat that performance with a goaltender who will make stops when he's expected to.  They don't need a game stealer, they just need a puck stopper, someone to give them a fighting chance.  Right now, Carey can't even do that.

As much trouble as Carey is having right now their defence is still not doing him many favours.  I wonder what Bergevin saw in Karl Alzner to sign him for five years at $4.6 million per.  Is he really an upgrade from Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu, or Andrei Markov?  Karl Alzner has 4 assists but is a -6 and has caused everyone of those 6 goals and then some.  He's a defensive nightmare for coughing up pucks at inopportune times and as he's a defenseman this poses a problem.  He's seemingly had some good years with Washington but this year he's a giveaway machine.  At what point do you drop him to the third paring or even the press box?

In case you're wondering how Alzner stacks up against the men he's replacing; Markov has 4 goals and 11 assists in 27 games for Kazan Ak-Bars, neither Emelin or Beaulieu have giveaway differentials in double digits yet (-8 and -7 respectively vs. -12).  Alzner has lower Corsi and Fenwick (50.0, 48.4) percentages than Beaulieu (51.8, 53.8) as well.

What about his teammates?  We'll leave Weber and Mete out of this.  I think the talent possessed by these two skaters puts them both in a league ahead of Alzner.  Petry has a lower giveaway differential and higher Fenwick and Corsi (-5, 54.2, 55.4) Brandon Davidson is the same (-8, 59.1, 60.8), and Jordie Benn is better than Alzner (-2, 56.9, 55.4).  With better defensemen all around him internally in the organisation why then continue to utilise Alzner so heavily?  Is it worth throwing away games for Bergevin to justify this signing?  Terrible disrespect to the fans and city of Montreal if this is the case.  I certainly hope management's patience with Alzner runs out before this season does.

Winnipeg is next and I'm not optimistic.  Our starting goaltender has lost his way, the Montreal management seemingly has a love affair with Alzner who hasn't been much better than a traffic cone, and I don't know how much more this team can take and still keep their spirits up.  At least the media is ignoring the fact that Sidney Crosby is 44th in league scoring now.  Lucky him.


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