Saturday, 22 April 2017

Game 6 - ECQF: Habs vs. Rangers

New York 3, Montreal 1:

FIRST PERIOD:

- No lineup changes tonight for the Rangers. Can't be blamed for trying what's been working.

- Man, could be a bushel of "last games" tonight for many Habs players. Galchenyuk. Radulov. Markov possibly. Beaulieu might have played his last Thursday night. Team dismantling may begin in earnest over the next few weeks.

- To a certain extent, Max Pacioretty's reputation is on the line tonight. He's already gained the rep of being a "slow producer" in the playoffs. That might grow to "non-producer" if he's not able to make a direct impact tonight that produces a Habs victory.

- Heckova first game shift by the Plekanec line. Hoping that sets some of the tone.

- Pacioretty inexplicably fights Vesey, which is a trade the Rangers will gladly take. Why is Max fighting? To inspire his bench? Has it really come down to this? That's desperation.

- Whelp, that first shift from Plekanec looked really good. I guess that's when everyone else punched out for the night? Little to nothing to speak of since, including two poor shifts by the Danault line which was spent mostly in the defensive zone.

- Habs offence very much dump and chase, and a strong forecheck from Radulov results in a turnover, with Emelin driving close and firing a great shot that gives the Habs a 1-0 lead. Alexei Emelin. That happened.

- Pretty significant contrast in the appoarch to gaining puck possession in the offensive zone. Habs almost entirely dump and chase so far, the Rangers almost entirely carrying the puck into the Canaadiens zone.

- Galchenyuk makes a possibly significant contribution, drawing a tripping penalty. Habs powerplay, which this team desperately would like to see some goal production tonight, goes to work.

- That was a zero powerplay, not aided by lines featuring King/Ott/Bryon. What is Julien doing?

- Brendan Gallagher is in warrior mode again tonight. Danault and Pacioretty nowhere to be see. At least for the first 15 minutes.

- Habs doing a better job this period on the forecheck, even though the Danault line is really struggling to get their legs moving. Danault continues to be very passive with the puck, and Pacioretty has been largely isolated. If that line doesn't get it going, and in a big hurry, it's going to be lights out for the season.

- Lundqvist is giving up some rebounds tonight - there's been more than a couple of loose pucks off shots in high danger areas. More net crashing might produce more Habs scoring. Might.

- First good shift featuring sustained pressure by the Danault line. Comes with just under 2 minutes left in the period. Lots of work down low around Lundqvist, but in so tight that nobody can really push the puck in a dangerous way.


SECOND PERIOD:

- Possession stats were very positive for the Canadiens in that 1st period, 64.3% at even strength:


- Scoring chances in that 1st period were 15-5 Habs. That's pretty impressive. But is it sustainable? We saw on Thursday night that playing hard (and well) out of the gate is only a good model if you're able to build a maintainable lead on the board. Habs' goose was cooked when they came out of the 2nd with only a tie score. Sooooo .... this period will be mighty important - the Canadiens must hold if not, extend their lead if they hope to play again Monday night.

- Benn for holding, Rangers 0-percent powerplay goes to work. Would hate to see if finally click here.

- And it clicks. Habs PK just not fast or aggressive enough, Zuccarello with a snap shot that Carey Price likely should have stopped. Anyway, the streak is over, the Rangers have scored on the man advantage, and the game is tied.

- Rangers are pretty inspired now - maybe it's because Price let in a weak goal (by his standards). Any perception of weakness, can make an opponent play well above his shoulders.

- Habs again not putting enough bodies in front of Lundqvist tonight.  Unless it's Shea Weber from 20 feet, this man will not be beaten if he sees the shot.

- End to end action going here, which is the kind of hockey the home team loves to play. Habs still searching for a leader here, somebody to rise to the occasion. No sign of that in sight.

- Galchenyuk with some lost shifts this period. But that's often what happens when you force a centre out on the wing. Flynn isn't doing anything up the middle, more often than not this line has been a defensive liability.

- Rangers dominating this period, and not by coincidence, putting plenty of bodies in front of Price. Why the Habs aren't willing to do the same to Lundqvist is an eternal mystery to me.

- Huge mistake by Julien, who puts out the 4th line for a d-zone face-off, with the Rangers dominating the period and all the momentum. Shockingly, Ott and King don't know what to do, fail to cover the passing lanes, and Zuccarello is sprung totally wide open for a slam dunk 2-1 lead. That's a killer mistake that may very well cos the Habs their season.

- Habs late period powerplay. Sure, it's just the 2nd, but these are desperate moments for the Canadiens, who've been hammered throughout the period. Scoring here would surely be a deflating moment for the Rangers.

- Habs got hammered in that period. Blitzed. Dominated. The Rangers have all the momentum, and are absolutely pounding this team out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It'll take a minor miracle for this series to go back to Montreal for a 7th game.

THIRD PERIOD:

- CF breakdown doesn't look horrible for the Canadiens, except that they're getting outplayed, especially in that 2nd period:



- The big bad news for the Habs tonight is the poor performance by the Danault line - each has been under 45% CF, Danault the worst at just over 41. That's pretty terrible for what's supposed to be your number one unit. Their total inability to make a goal scoring contribution this series is obviously one big reason why the Habs find themselves firmly on brink of elimination.

- Just keep the damn 4th line off the damn ice. It's killing this team. Fine, rotate McCarron into some 3rd line shifts, maybe give Flynn a breather. But no more 4th line. They're awful. It's done. Just stop this.

- Oh, speaking of Flynn. His play at centre isn't helping. Hasn't helped. Must be stopped. We have 15 minutes left. Stop doing losing things.

- 12 minutes left. At some point Julien has to play just two lines of his big guns. That time might just about have arrived.

- Kreider high sticks, Weber. 11 minutes left. This might be it, right here.

- Just pass the puck around the permitter on the powerplay with your season just about out of time.  That'll show 'em!!

- Just sag right now. I think this team, even though just behind a single goal, knows it's beat. 6 minutes left.

- 5 minutes left. Habs haven't even had a sniff of a quality scoring chance this period.

- 4 minutes. Still no scoring chances. No 1st line threat. It's dismal.

- First great scoring chance goes to Plekanec, but Lundqvist makes a great left pad save, less than 2 minutes on the clock. Now 1:17 left, Price on the bench. This is really finally it.

- Empty net, and the season is over. Lot's of post-game, post-series, post-season thoughts, but I'll take a little while to let it all settle out. One this is sure, there's a lot of responsibility to go around, players and management. More on that later.





NHL media. Better days for the Habs, when they properly utilized Alex Galchenyuk
THIS IS (LIKELY) THE END, MY ONLY FRIENDS, THE END

Enjoy the game tonight, it might be the last game you'll see with Alex Galchenyuk in a Habs uniform. Or Nathan Beaulieu.

Oh, wait. Beaulieu isn't playing.

Nope, he's a healthy scratch for the do-or-die game 6 tonight at Madison Square Gardens. Also Torrey Mitchell, who at this point is leading Max Pacioretty in playoff goal scoring. Also Andrew Shaw, not because he's largely been ineffective offensively, but because he's out from an upper body injury.

So who is playing? Brandon Davidson is back. And Mike McCarron. And Brian Flynn, who'll centre the Habs 3rd line, putting Galchenyuk out to flounder on the wing.

For a do-or-die game.

Enjoy it. It's like the last Habs game we'll see for 5 months.