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MHT Post-Game: Habs vs. Hurricanes – Feb. 8th, 2014

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The Montreal Canadiens, despite a slow start, managed to finish their pre-Olympic schedule with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Join Steven Hindle and Coach K, as they welcome Paolo Mingarelli, Andrew Berkshire and Ray Bourcier (a.k.a. @Revengah) as they break it all down.

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montreal canadiens vs carolina hurricanes nhl match-up

Match Up:

The Canadiens (31-21-6) are in Carolina Saturday night to face the Hurricanes(25-21-9) before taking the next two and a half weeks off for the Olympic break. The game starts early at 6:00 pm and can be seen on CBC and RDS.

This is the third and final meeting between the Habs and Canes this season. The Canadiens have collected 3 of 4 points so far against Carolina, but when these teams met on New Year’s Eve, the Hurricanes scored 4 straight goals to nullify a 3-0 third period and put the Habs on their heels late in the game. PK Subban eventually drew the two teams even again but Alexander Semin’s overtime goal sealed the victory for Carolina.

What to Watch:

Ryan White has played two games since returning from injury and was named a Star in each contest. White was the Third Star in Tuesday’s contest against the Flames and again on Thursday versus the Canucks, when he scored his first goal of the season. Max Pacioretty scored his second Hat Trick of the season against Vancouver, the third in his career. Pacioretty leads the team with 26 goals on the season.

Cam Ward’s last start was the New Year’s Eve match up against the Habs. Since then, Anton Khudobin has played all 16 games for Carolina going 11-5-0 and posting a .930 save percentage while Ward was sidelined with a lower body injury. Cam Ward has returned to the line-up recently but that hasn’t stopped coach Kirk Muller from going with Khodobin

What’s at Stake:

What a difference a couple of wins (or losses) can make. The Canadiens are back within striking distance of the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic division heading into Saturday’s game. The Habs are just 1 point back of the Bolts, but Tampa Bay holds a game in hand. Montreal has also padded the lead over some of the playoff bubble teams, but the Maple Leafs are still tied with the Habs, though the Leafs have played one more game.

Who’s Out:

Michael Bournival (head) did not travel with the Canadiens to Carolina, he was forced out of Thursday’s game after getting hit hard in the face by Dale Weise’s stick. Alex Galchenyuk (hand) and Travis Moen (lower body) are also out.

The Hurricanes could be without John-Michael Liles (lower body) but are otherwise healthy.

What Else:

The Olympics have already started and NHL players representing their countries are set to join Zdeno Chara in Sochi after Saturday’s action. Chara was the flag bearer for Slovakia during the opening ceremonies Friday, countryman Peter Budaj is one of seven Canadiens taking part in the Games. Carey Price and PK Subban representing Canada, Max Pacioretty for Team USA, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin playing for the host nation, and Tomas Plekanec set to wear the ‘C’ for the Czech Republic, there could be as many as five medals coming back to the Canadiens locker room at the end of the month.

The Question Mark:

Are you worried about certain Habs risking injury or burning themselves out by playing in the Olympics?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

PostGameFeatured

MHT Post-Game: Habs vs. Blues – Dec. 19th, 2013

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It was another difficult night for the Montreal Canadiens, allowing three goals in the first period, en route to a 5-1 loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. Corey Collard and Nick Murdocco welcome Andrew Bershire and Mike Obrand of Habs Eyes On The Prize to make sense of it all.

Therrien_PanicRoom

Michel Therrien, the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, has made some interesting decisions behind the bench so far this season. With a record of 8-8-1 to start the season, the panic room certainly isn’t a place the Habs’ bench boss needs to be so early in the season.

From the onset of the season, certain lines worked very well. The Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher line came out of the gates like a prized stallion, providing plenty of excitement and production in this season’s infancy. However, due to the lack of production of his other trios, Therrien decided to break them up in an attempt energize his other wards.

Of course, there is the public display of distaste he showed 2013 Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, berating him for all of Habs Nation to see on 24CH. While it seems that Subban has responded well to the public criticism, it still remains a point of contention among many NHL analysts and fans alike, as has his continuous refusal to use

The “overuse” of defensman Francis Bouillon and seemingly eternally struggling centerman David Desharnais has led many to believe that Therrien has an affinity for “les gars de chez nous.” ¬†Wouldn’t “Cube” have been better served platooning with recently demoted defenseman Greg Pateryn in and out of the lineup? Pateryn can provide the secondary offensive push from the back end on the power play, and has the ability to play an aggressive defensive game.

Injuries certainly had a large part to play in their use so far this season, but we have seen recently, with the appearance of Desharnais in the press box, that his patience is running quite thin.

Regardless of the injury situation, or his use of certain players more than others, there are other issues at hand that have Canadiens’ fans questioning where Therrien is leading his team.

Therrien seems to have a propensity to use his fourth line too much after a goal is scored or coming out of a television time out. Granted, in most cases, your checking line is usually there to provide some energy when your team needs it to most, but lack of footspeed from players like Ryan White and George Parros are more of a crutch than a kick in the keester, especially given the combined -6 plus linus rating.

Over the first 20% of the season, we’ve seen the Canadiens refuse to drive the net throught the mid-ice lane. While having diminutive forwards is the root cause of the problem, players still need to engage the opposition’s defensemen. Continually playing around the perimeter without a single player in front of the net or in the high slot makes the Habs uni-dimensional offensively.

Mid-ice play and net drive force opposing player to pay closer attention to those players engaging them in the offensive zone, creating more open passing and shooting lanes to create offense. Is there a fear of injury plaguing the Canadiens’ players or has Coach Therrien instructed them to play that type of game to minimize the likelyhood of injury?

Then, there is their seemingly anemic power play, which doesn’t produce nearly as much offense as it is capable of. Under the watchful eye of assistant coach Clement Jodoin, the power play is rudimentary and simplistic. There is limited movement, and much of the offense is generated from behind the opposition’s goal line or along the half-wall between the hash marks and the goal line.

When two or more players engage the defensive team behind the net, your scoring options become very limited, Only the defensemen remain available for viable opportunities to shoot, oftentimes unable to wait for their forwards to disengage from the defense to take position in front of the net. Furthermore, depending solely on generating shots from the blue line is never a good way to conduct your offense.

Power play rotation is key to success, so no more than one forward should be behind the net unless support is required, in which case a second may come in to help. Creating odd-man situation that favour the defensive team while in possession of the puck on the power play is never successful.

Finally, maintaing possession of the puck, for a team as physically challenged as the Canadiens is paramount. Getting the puck back from bigger and stronger opponents is a daunting task. Instead of simply dumping the puck into the offensive zone, regrouping in the neutral zone, changing skating lanes and re-engaging the defense is the better option. As long as the Habs continue to use an up and down attack based on dump and chase hockey, their success will remain limited.

While in the midst of a four game losing streak, a coach’s mind is filled with limitless questions and scenarios. It remains to be seen how Michel Therrien and his staff deal with the situation, but the simple steps outlined above go a long way to providing some offensive variations.

Take a moment, reflect, and decide, but whatever you do Coach Therrien…

Stay away from the Panic Room !!!

PostGameFeatured

The Montreal Hockey Talk presents the season preview, with Corey Collard, Alex Rabbat, Dave Kellerman and Paul Graif. Special guest Jimmy Murphy joins the conversation as well as they break down the Canadiens and the upcoming 2013-2014 season

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