Thursday, 29 May 2014

Game Six - EC Finals: Habs vs. Rangers

BERGEVIN PRESSER:

Bergevin presser due to start at any minute now. We'll be posting comments as he speaks and answers questions.

- Dodges question about what areas he's looking to address in the off season. Instead mentions how valuable the deep run in the post season was for the young players (which is true).

- "Leadership is slowly shifting in the room", perhaps an indication that Gionta won't be pursued this summer?

- "I'm happy with him overall". Bergevin on Vanek. Not much of an endorsement, was it?

- Weise had concussion, says Bergevin. To the surprise of ... no one.

- Mentions the team does not yet have the maturity to compete for a championship. Ties in well with his comments about the value of a deep playoff run, but might also indicate that he'll want to keep a few veteran pieces around (Markov? Ugh ... Murray?!).

- Bergevin doesn't think, unlike other certain NHL clubs, that the Habs are a "guarantee playoff team."

- Won't talk about anyone's contract status. End of story. Sigh.

- Man, this guy just doesn't disclose anything.

- Oh, he disclosed this. Michel Therrien will be back behind the bench next season.

- Bergevin getting pressed about how Dale Weise was handled after taking the head hit. Very defensive, borderline testy. His body language was definitely very negative the more he was pressed.

- Mentions leaders in the room - in order of mention: Plekanec, Gorges, Price, Subban, Pacioretty. Not mentioned - Markov, Prust.

- Bergevin on Therrien: "He did an excellent job, I support him. I'm a big believer in team work."

- ANNNNNNNND ... that's it. If you learned anything new from that 45 minutes of nothing, please let us know.




LOCKER CLEAN OUT:


Some impressions after the players talked to the media today (updated as the players are interviewed).

- Andrei Markov wouldn't speak. Make of that as you will.

- P.K. Subban says he wants to play the rest of his career in Montreal. HOLD ON SIGN HERE P.K. .. RIGHT THERE ... ON THAT BOTTOM LINE.

- Carey Price kept towing the line, saying he has a lower body injury. The secrecy is ridiculous - everyone and their goat knows that Price suffered a knee injury, but still, teams and their players (especially the Canadiens) won't disclose. Do the Habs fear that Price's right knee will be targeted next season? Anyway, Price said he was "really close" to returning, and mentioned that he regretted not leaving Game 1 immediately after being crashed by the Rangers.

- Dale Weise was not available to even talk today, which gives you a pretty good idea about the state of his health right now. Terrible. Just terrible.

- Not surprisingly, Thomas Vanek got a lot of attention. He set the record straight about his play, it wasn't because of injury he said, but that he lacked chemistry after being taken off the DD/Pacioretty line. In essence, it wasn't entirely his fault, it was Therrien's. He was coy about next season, saying he's looking forward to choosing his own destination, and wouldn't rule Montreal out as a possible final choice (not gonna happen, though).

- Peter Budaj expressed disappointment at being passed over to replace Carey Price in the playoffs, but said he wanted to come back next year to honor the final season of his three year contract. Budaj's been a well-established great teammate, but the decision to either trade or waive him has probably already been made.

- Frankie Bouillon said he wants to play one more season in the NHL, and he's hoping it's in Montreal. Always great to have aspirations, Frank, but ...


- Brian Gionta used a lot of past tense when talking about playing with the Habs. I guess that's a sign about where things are headed?

- Mike Weaver strongly indicated he'd like to come back. Mike, please come back?

- Doug Murray said he was disappointed he couldn't contribute more. By playing less would have helped.

- Travis Moen was sad. But he said he'll keep in game shape over the summer.

- George Parros knows he's done in Montreal. Said as much.

Truth be told, as these kinds of events go, none of learned anything today we didn't already know or suspect.




THE DAY AFTER:


Bah.

Next year though, different kettle of fish. Lots of decisions to be made coming up in short order. I'll be posting about that soon. DON'T GO AWAY.



New York 1, Montreal 0:

THIRD PERIOD:


- Might as well throw the whole kitchen sink at the Rangers to start this powerplay. Feed the puck towards the slot, and crash Lindqvist and that net like there's no tomorrow. Which, there isn't. Right now.

- Kind of a bad time for the Habs to have their worst powerplay of the season.

- No shots on goal through 6 minutes. Just dismal. Tokarski doing his part keeping this season alive, but he can't keep doing this. Habs offense need to show some kind of life.

- Rangers are just swarming the Habs, in the Montreal zone, and in particular, at centre ice. New York just waiting in the weeds, intercepting passes, and suffocating any semblance of a Canadiens transition/rush. It's not quite desperate mode, there's still eight minutes left, but the Habs, at about the 15 minute mark, will have to start taking crazy chances to tie this game.

- That all said, Habs bench showing not a lot of signs of life. It's as though they're already resigned to their fate. Which is nuts, given it's just 1-0.

- Who woulda figured the Habs needed to send out their checking line tonight to contain the Rangers 4th?

- And ... Prust goes to the box with a suspicious tripping penalty. But still, he shouldn't have had his stick in that position to begin with. It not only puts the Habs down a man with 5 minutes left, it also nullified a breakout play the other direction. Just awful.

- Habs just couldn't muster anything up tonight offensively. The gas tank was empty. And the season comes to an end.


SECOND PERIOD:


- Pacioretty with some poor passing choices kills Habs zone possession and powerplay opportunities.

- Bourque someone misses a soft pass for a clear cut breakaway. That's a huge miss.

- Too many soft and sloppy plays by Beaulieu tonight. If he keeps it up, it could terminally burn the Habs.

- Richards with a sneaky play skating into Subban's stick and toppling over. Fools the official and Rangers go back to the powerplay.

- Holy crap, Habs just barely survived that PK.

- Start of 2nd much like the start of the first, with the Rangers dominating puck possession and generating wonderful scoring opportunities. New York scoring the first goal almost seems inevitable unless something dramatic happens in favour of the Habs.

- Like the first, sense Habs finding some footing here, but still have been unable to generate shots that are testing Lundqvist. They need to look for something dirty and messy before it's too late.

- Brilliant Habs PK off a Rangers dive powerplay. Habs seemingly with the mo' on their side. Can they convert?

- Dominic Moore, Rangers 4th line, take advantage of exhausted Markov and bumbling Bouillon to score the critical first goal. Will that end the Habs season?

- Officials blow Lundqvist playing the puck in the no zone. Rough night for the stripes.

- Tough end of the period for the Habs, who seemed to be poised to take the lead after an excellent penalty kill. But an inability to clear the zone (same old story) and some poor reaction/positional play by Bouillon (same old story) gave the Rangers the open door they were seeking. So it's come to this. Habs a goal down, 20 minutes left. They've got nothing left to do but pour whatever is left in the tank onto the Rangers in the 3rd period. The powerplay has an opportunity. There is, as they say, no tomorrow. So lay it all out, and see if it results in one more game Saturday night.


FIRST PERIOD:

- So Emilin is out, Bouillon and Beaulieu will start.

- Both teams starting their 4th lines. Who wants to bet we have a brawl the first shift?

- Tokarski makes his first huge save in this game and it comes early. Good to get that under his fold. All Rangers so far, as expected.

- That's an inane call on Gionta who takes a stick to the face. Just crazy.

- Rangers set up nicely, but Habs PK defenders able to keep hard shots off Tokarski. Nonetheless, Habs are just barely hanging on here, trying to survive the first 10 minutes without surrendering a goal. If they can get past that mark, they have a fighting chance.

- Well, we're past that point and the Habs still full of jitters. Tokarski holding the fort, but Canadiens need a momentum change before it's too late.

- 5 minutes left, Habs finally find their game, two straight shifts of good pressure in the Rangers zone. Eller line really skating well tonight.

- Habs get late period PP, Therrien sends out Vanek. For some reason.

- Habs surrendering far too many great shot chances. Markov on that powerplay, Vanek much earlier in the period. The Habs apparently have forgotten about game 5 success of getting the puck on Lundqvist.




GAMEDAY GAME PREVIEW:

One more night, one more elimination wall to scale.

We've been here before, three times and counting. This Habs team seems to, shall we say, "respond" to the pressure, outscoring their opponents 14-5 this post-season in elimination games. That's kind of really, really impressive.

Tonight, there's another animal to tackle, and that's supermodel (and also NHL goaltender) Henrik Lundqvist. Now, I don't have to inform the readers that "King" Henrik didn't exactly have his best outing two nights ago, giving up 4 goals, all of them of the questionable variety. In response to that game, which included his removal in the middle of the 2nd period, many from the Rangers camp have pained to point out that Lundqvist has a very good rebound record, when coming off rough single game starts.

Tuesday's start certainly didn't help Henrik's bottom line, his GAA rising from 1.93 this post-season, to 2.36, while his save percentage dropped from .934 to .920. Those two numbers still rank him top of the League at his position, but they also represent a defined irrelevancy - he had a terrible start, predicated on, and affected by, nothing previous to what happened on Tuesday night.

So if Lundqvist's bottom line stats are truly irrelevant, so too, at least in this writer's opinion, are his "rebound" stats after having a rough start. Lundqvist didn't play well, but his teammates didn't play particularly well, either. The Habs had a field night creating multiple offensive zone turnovers, mainly due to sloppy backend puck control and passing. Passive rush positioning didn't help matters much either, witness Bourque's 2nd (and game winning goal) against Cam Talbot:



That's some pretty awful defense by the Rangers, right there. It represents an interest twist in this series, especially in comparison to what we witnessed in Game One, when the Rangers speed demolished the Habs sluggish zone coverage. So trends be considered, there are many key components in how this series has ebbed and flowed. Instead of the Rangers dominating the Habs with their speed, it's now the Habs forwards that have figured out a way to penetrate their way directly through the New York slot.

So what does this all mean? It means the Rangers are now the team that's forced to make adjustments to their game approach. It means it's the Rangers who will now have to make the necessary adjustments to contain the Habs rush. It means it's up to Henrik Lundqvist to find a way to stop the puck.

If the Rangers make those adjustments, this series ends tonight.

But Lundqvist. So much of tonight will be him.

Remember, King Henrik was unbeatable Game Two.

But that was nearly two weeks ago.

Since then, and tonight?

Puck drops at 8:10 EST.



GAMEDAY NEWS 'N' NOTES:


Hey. Happy game day. Another day! Will it be our last for three long, mournful months?

Some game day stuff to pass your way.

- Dale Weise will not play tonight, after sustaining the head shot courtesy the now series suspended John Moore. Brandon Prust, who's served his two game suspension, will draw in.

- Carey Price was on the ice and practicing this morning as MSG, leading to yet more baseless speculation by people who have nothing better to do, that he might play tonight. He, of course, will not be playing tonight. Or Saturday, for that matter.

- With Moore now gone, guess who draws in? Raphael Diaz. How 'bout that? The Habs, as you remember, dealt Diaz off earlier in the season for ... Dale Weise who ... won't be playing tonight because ... man, you can just taste the irony here.

- Alexei Emelin may or may not play tonight. Nobody knows. Nobody is saying. I, for one, am just fine with leaving him out of the lineup if it means that Nathan Beaulieu can get another start. Maybe Therrien would be willing to scratch Bouillon instead?

More, including game preview, in a bit.