Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
I Get It, French Class: Habs Eyes On The Prize
Once again in the NHL’s infinite brilliance, with the unbalanced divisional schedule in place, they are wiping out an interconference rivalry within the span of 72 hours. And even this time, two teams with ACTUAL history in the Hawks and Habs (apologies to any of the olds now having ’65, ’71, or ’73 flashbacks) as well as some of the most telegenic threads in the sport not getting a national American audience. Better to keep everyone talking about this John Scott waste-of-breath-from-every-conceivable-angle than to actually promote the product using two heritage franchises with history who both have Championship aspirations.
In their one game in between Thursday’s tilt at the Le Centre Bell, the Habs went into St. Louis and actually played as perfect a road game as can be done in that building without winning it. They played nearly the entire back half of the game on the power play and racked up 49 shots, which normally should be enough for Brian Elliott to Brian Elliott all over himself, but he was up for the task last night, and miscommunication both between defensemen and goalie Mike Condon and, well everyone during 3 on 3 allowed the Blues the bonus point in OT. The Habs have lost three straight, and have only one 5 games (4 ROW) since December 1, going 5-13-1 in that stretch. Yes Carey Price is the reigning Vezina and Hart trophy winner, but any team with aims on the Chalice, especially this team, should not have nearly everything hinge on a goaltender. Although their only two Cup wins in the last 31 years (and even those are further and further in the rearview) have come on the backs of goalies. So maybe they don’t know better. And having Michel Therrien grunting behind the bench doesn’t help.
With Condon taking the collar last night in West East St. Louis, it appears The Professor Ben Scrivens will get the start in the crease for the Habs tonight, who is winless in bleu, blanc, et rouge to this point in two starts with an .885 save percentage. It appears that whatever is contagious in Edmonton with their goalies permanently broke Scrivens after his 57-save shutout against San Jose two years ago, but knowing how things usually go against the Hawks against goalies like this, he’ll of course summon those unholy forces once again.
In actuality, Habs GM Marc Bergevin is right to not make a major panic move (orchestrating the John Scott Transfer for the league doesn’t count), as his team is scraping the bottom of the barrel percentages wise now. During the aforementioned stretch since December 1st, the Habs are actually fourth in the league in their share of shot attempts at 54.1%, and have shot the second worst at 5.4% while getting the second worst goaltending at 90.8% at evens. That number drops to 52.1% on the road because Therrien has never been a coach too terribly concerned with matchups or anything other than COMPETE, but it’s still a testament to how fun a roster this is even if it’s being misused. Alex Galchenyuk appears to be never getting a shot at centre despite being drafted as one (sound familiar), and though Tomas Plekanec is a great option to have as a #2, he David Desharnais, and Lars Eller don’t exactly instill terror in the hearts of men from a center standpoint. Max Pacioretty continues to be one of the best contracts in the game even in a down year. Brendan Gallagher is what people think Andrew Shaw is during the good times and they can’t remember the neutral zone turnovers.
The bleu line still begins and ends with PK Subban, one of the most electric players on the ice and one if its few genuinely good guys off it, no matter what old, white, xenophobic Canadians or racist ass Boston fans say. While he only has three goals this year, and only one at evens, he’s putting more pucks on net than he ever has in his career other than maybe his Lockout-abbreviated Norris campaign. For a partner however, the Habs still can’t figure out a better option than Andrei Markov, who has gone from perpetually hurt to now just simply aging out of relevance. He still knows where to be but time and wear have caught up to him to where he can’t do it fast enough, and was victimized on the Blues’ game winner last night. Jeff Petry has excelled after coming over from Edmonton in moving the puck and is tops among Habs regulars in 5v5 share.Alexei Emelin will decapitate anyone who isn’t looking as Paul Stastny found out last night (though the hit looked mostly clean if vicious).
As for the Men of Four Feathers, this will be their penultimate home game before the All-Star break, as well as until about the middle of February with a road swing following right after. So while they do sit in a comfortable spot in within the division and the conference, making points at home count, especially teams on the second half of a back to back trotting out their third string goalie , should be priority number one.
It’s still unclear what Erik Gustafsson actually did to himself, or if he will go today, but in the likely event that he doesn’t, Joel Quenneville should be able to hide Rob Scuderi a bit better than he did on Thursday with last change. And with that advantage he’s also likely to keep his second line away from Subban if at all possible.
Corey Crawford will get his net back after Scott Darling finally looked competent on the road, albeit against a team that can’t really shoot to save its life. Crawford put on an electric display in his hometown on Thursday, and the hope is that he doesn’t have to again tonight.
While the Habs are a good team in the throes of a miserable streak without their best player, the Hawks are in no way responsible for their self esteem at this point. Regardless of what the standings say at the moment, points during a hot streak need to be socked away for safe keeping, especially for a team whose home and road splits are as drastic as the Hawks’ are. So that means putting anything and everything on Scrivens and making him work, as giving up points to a team who have resorted to him in net and are on the back half of a back-to-back is less than acceptable.
It’s too goddamn cold for Sam to risk the digits of himself or his vendors, so tonight will be online only. IT COLD, GET A COAT.