PUCK DROP: 6:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN for the locals, NBCSN for the outer rim, WGN Radio
THE QUEBECOIS: Habs Eyes On The Prize
The Hawks will take their scorching performance art piece on the road the next two nights, and into the cradle of hockey. If you don’t believe it is, just ask the citizens of Montreal and Toronto. It’s an Original 6 week for the Hawks. What they’ll find when they get to “The Keg” is a team and fanbase that’s been pulling it’s hair out for so long and so aggressively parts of their brain are flicking out of their scalps. No one does panic quite like the Canadiens.
And it was all going so well. The Habs won their first nine games of the season. Coach Michel “Let’s Win This Thing Before My Nose Eats My Face” Therrien actually seemed like he was turning around his tactics, as last year the Habs were a terrible possession team bailed out by Carey Price to his year when they were actually one of the better possession teams around. They were miles ahead of everyone in their division and conference. #25 looked as likely as it ever has since St. Patrick turned back the Kings (and Kerry Fraser kept the far more imposing Leafs at home) in ’93.
Then Carey Price got hurt. Then Brendan Gallagher got hurt. To say it’s all gone to shit since would be giving shit the best of it.
Since December 1st the Habs have gone 5-13. They’ve gone from first in the division to barely clinging on to the last automatic spot in the Atlantic, eight points behind the Panthers. This has caused everyone to go downright ape-y up there, demanding Stamkos or Drouin or Stamrouin, the lovechild clone of both, be immediately acquired for Alex Galchenyuk, because it’s always Alex Galchenyuk they want to trade for some very strange reason.
In reality, things aren’t as bad as they seem for the Habs, if they could just look a little deeper. Even during this terrible stretch over six weeks, Les Canadiens are the 5th best possession team at 53.9%. They’ve just had awful, awful luck. They’re shooting 5.7% at evens, while getting a simply homeless .908 SV% at evens. Mike Condon and whatever dude with a bindle they found outside the Molson Centre simply couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain. When you’re trading for Ben Scrivens, you know there’s a problem. The process is still there. Perfect example is PK Subban–this blog’s favorite non-Hawk and heretofore probably should be known as “FUCKING P FUCKING K FUCKING SUBBAN”–is shooting less than 2% overall with that boomstick of a shot he has. This can’t all be due to incompetence.
Do the Habs have some holes? Of course. They still play Andrei Markov and his get-about on their top pairing, and that shouldn’t happen on any team that takes itself seriously. Their bottom six is a little too full of grunts or overrated flash like Thomas Fleischman (get it?) and David Desharnais, who is going to either indirectly kill a large section of Habs fans with his pointless wanderings or be directly murdered by them for the same reason. This is also still Michel Therrien who can got total meatball at the drop of a hat (or in his case, a Molson Dry), and the Habs can lose sight of what it is they do well.
But you just watch. Price is skating again. He’ll come back in February, with the Habs still holding onto a playoff spot, they’ll rip off 15 of 20 or something simply because he provides at worst representative goaltending, at best world-class, and everyone will talk about what a miracle it is even though really nothing will have changed outside of the crease. This is a deep team, with a premier scorer in Max Pacioretty and what Andrew Shaw dreams he is in Gallagher. Tomas Plekanec has been an effective #2 center for what feels like 32 years now. They’re like a useful forward or two from being able to run with the Caps no problem.
For the Hawks, bit of a roster shuffle as Erik Gustafsson went boom in the morning skate and won’t play tonight. But Anisimov has recovered from The Goop or whatever he had Sunday and is flying in to play. Hope you enjoyed your brief glimpse of Teuvo at center. That means Rozsival and Scuderi out there together, on the road, against a very quick team. Get the eye-wash ready. Corey Crawford will play the role of HOMETOWN BOY tonight, leaving Darling to get the Leafs tomorrow.
The Habs are more go-go than they have been in the past, and have really favored their d-men chipping the puck out of the zone as a lead pass to streaking forwards behind the defense. They do this more than just about any team in the league. The Hawks’ D will have to be aware of this because giving Patches, Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Fleischman, Plekanec, Wiese, and other space and speed through the neutral zone is going to hurt you. It’ll be interesting to see which line Therrien sends Plekanec out against as he’s their shutdown center as well. Anisimov or Toews?
Should be a good one, with two very fast teams heading in opposite directions. And there’s your NARRATIVE on the broadcast.