Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Game Five - EC Final: Rangers vs. Habs


He's also likely to be facing a couple of games in the press box courtesy a head butt. Get these idiots out of the game, already.


- Gotta say, I'm really surprised that Lundqvist didn't start the third. Perhaps Vigneault senses that his goaltender is tiring? Lundqvist has played a lot of games over a pretty short period of time.

- Rene Bourque, with a hat trick? Nobody could write this stuff. Great feed by Weise off another neutral zone turnover by the Rangers, great shot by Bourque into the corner. The Habs have a critical 2 goal lead. 6-4.

- Fans flood the ice with hats, which the Rangers will take, thank you very much. Gives them a free timeout to recompose themselves. And now Gorges takes a dumb penalty. It ain't over.

- Man, you just know the Rangers are going to score on this powerplay. You can feel it all over.

- Absolutely crucial PK for Habs here. The season on the line.

- Rangers allowed to set everything up. Not good. It's unbearable to even watch.

- And now Bouillion gets nabbed for holding. Rangers with HUGE 33 second 5-on-3. Avert your eyes.

- Tokarski coming up huge, here. Habs almost through this.

- What an absolutely massive kill by the Canadiens. Weise, however, hurt by a high hit by Moore. It's a five minute, intent to injure penalty against Moore. That will almost be reviewed by the League for further discipline.

- Habs being ultra careful with the 5 minute advantage. Too careful. One more goal will totally put this game to bed. But they can't get zone possession set.

- Eller called for an incredible hold with 1:30 left in the major. I didn't see the penalty. Amazing call.

- Markov with another poor judgement play, bad pinch creates another odd man break for the Rangers. New York pulls their goalie. Nervous times here.

- Desharnais hits the scoresheet to clinch the game. WE LIVE ANOTHER DAY, BABY.

- Lars Eller kind of goes off the rails, with a brutal board on Zuccarello. The Rangers go back on the powerplay, their net empty. Less than 3 minutes left, though.

- Tokarski has done a pretty good Carey Price impersonation on frequent occasions tonight, four goals in, aside.

- Well, an amazing win tonight. A roller coaster victory, extreme. But a win nonetheless. The Habs face a massive challenge in less than 48 hours, as they battle to force a deciding game at home. But they've somehow clawed their way to stay alive. A win, in this writer's opinion, will give them a significant advantage for a game 7. But they need to win more ... just ... one more.

If you read the pregame preview, you'll see I noted how critical it would be for those who haven't produced, to finally get on the scoresheet. Well, there you have it. Bourque, Plekanec, Desharnais, Gallagher, et al, finally found a way. If they can somehow keep this up ... well ... who knows? Anything is possible.


- Silly interference by Markov. Rangers go to the powerplay, and nearly score because Habs PK continues to play far too passively. This will eventually hurt the Habs if they continue to draw penalties.  

- Brilliant, absolutely brilliant effort and blind pass by Gallagher to Pacioretty, who snaps a shot through Lundqvist's five hole. 3-1. Not the strongest game of the postseason so far for King Henrik.

- Bourque! After Rangers powerplay explores, fine work by Vanek and Eller behind the net, to wide open Bourque. Habs with big 4-1 lead. Key players who absolutely needed to deliver, coming through in aces tonight.

- Lundqvist apparently is yanked, and the Rangers getting very frustrated after the whistle. It's all been going very wrong for New York so far tonight.

- Lundqvist gets the hook before the game is half over. That's sort of incredible, if you think about it.

- Plekanec should have made it 5-1, and seconds later, Gorges makes a careless deflection of a soft pass into his own net. Instead of a four goal lead, it's two.

- I haven't bought into the CW what Markov is playing "tired", but he was completely manhandled going back after a simple chip in. The Rangers narrow the lead to one, and everyone in the Bell Centre gets very, very quiet.

- And now the Rangers go to the powerplay. Plekanec. Oh boy.

- Rangers are gonna score on this. You just know it. They're gonna tie it.

- Yup. Kreider. That passive PK finally burns the Habs. Tie game. Incredible.

- Speaking of incredible, Bourque gives the lead back to the Habs, a fine shot just off the post, Talbot struggling to find depth and angle. It's 5-4.

- These two are just going to slug each other until the death. I'm thinking a 6-5 final. I'm also thinking that Lundqvist will be coming back in to start the 3rd period.

- That 2nd period. I don't even know where to start. The Habs clearly thought the game was won, after Lundqvist was pulled. The bench saw that switch, and read it as though the Rangers had decided to wave the white flag. The following letdown was absolutely unforgivable. In an elimination game, you play to your maximum, regardless if your lead is one, or three goals. These players surely are aware of the blown leads in this post-season. What were they thinking? In any case, look for Lundqvist to start the 3rd, and the Habs to feel the full brunt of Rangers pressure. Canadiens are going to need at least one more goal to have a good chance of sending this series back to New York.


- Well how about this, Therrien shifts the chairs on the defensive deck, bringing in Beaulieu, and sitting Emelin. Goodness.

- Derek Stepan appears to be in playing with Kreider and Nash. Oscar Lindberg is out.

- Mike Weaver gets another promotion - he'll play along side Andrei Markov.

- 22 seconds in Kreider with a slew foot. Because, Kreider.

- Finally. Habs get zone possession on the powerplay, and Galchenyuk tips in a Subban cannon. Habs get critical first (and early) goal.

- Habs way faster, also generating piles of turnovers in the Rangers zone. Very impressive.

- Tokarski with his best, perhaps the best save of any Habs goaltender this spring. Happened all because Markov made a silly, silly pinch. Keeps Habs ahead, while the Rangers seem to be working through early game jitters.

- Beaulieu, cool, calm, collected, and very fast tonight. Such a shame he was a scratch for so many games this spring in favour of Murray and Bouillon.

- Stepan. Really? Ouch. Tokarski whiffs. And the game is tied.

- Plekanec. There you are. 2-1. Lundqvist taken totally by surprise.

- Habs continue to rely on chipping the puck up the boards to clear the zone, the Rangers continue to anticipate this crude approach.

- Questionable roughing call on Desharnias, to say the least. Rangers get late period powerplay.

- New York SO much more effective gaining the zone with the man advantage, Habs PK way too indifferent. They have to make an immediate adjustment, starting first with being far more aggressive in the neutral zone. Make the Rangers shoot, rather than carry in.

- End of the first. Mission accomplished for the Habs. Scored early, have the lead. Nice to see Plekanec hit the scoresheet - his production is an important first step toward the Habs earning some victories. Still waiting, however, for some signs of life from Vanek and Gionta. Also wouldn't hurt if Desharnais and Pacioretty could start clicking again. They most certainly didn't that first period.


It's been quite a journey this year, and tonight, the road towards a 25th Stanley Cup in Montreal might come to a dead end, unless the Canadiens can muster up another elimination game victory against the New York Rangers.

There are few things left to disseminate. The Rangers have beat the Canadiens at their own game, combining speed and a strong forecheck, while limiting defensive turnovers in their own zone. Append a strong and accurate transition game, something the Canadiens don't excel at, and it equals a mostly well-deserved 3-1 series lead.

While hopes for recovery are dim, the Habs do have some shades of hope centered on the arrival of players who have simply failed to produce, not just in this series, but in the playoffs as a whole. We all know about the Vanek story - that's old. But a couple of forwards who haven't received nearly enough attention for their lack of production simply must find a way to start producing. Right now.

Those two? Tomas Plekanec, who's had a dreadful series against the Rangers, and Captain Brian Gionta, who's had .. well ... a dreadful playoffs, period. Both veterans, who've received regular shifts each and every game of this post season, have not lived up to expectation. Not nearly.

Plekanec, who headed into the series with a modest 7 points in 11 playoff games, has scored just one assist against New York, and posted a -3 (for that matter, an accumulative -7 for the post-season, and this for the guy many thought was deserved a Selkie Trophy nomination this season), and an accumulative 43% Corsi (all situation). That's bad for a supposed two-way centre. Meanwhile, the situation for Gionta is even more dire. Just 6 points in 15 games, only one goal.  Now, Gionta wasn't exactly a goal-scoring machine at the best of times, as his age has risen, his production totals have fallen off the cliff - this year, a GPG average of just .22. But to go from scoring a .22, to a .06? That's dismal.

So the situation is pretty straightforward. The Habs badly need the producers to produce. Plekanec, Gionta, toss in Pacioretty, still looking for Desharnais to score, wondering where Rene Bourque has disappeared to .. well, you get the idea.

If ... and this is a big if ... but if those guys, and maybe Vanek, can register some actual offense tonight, the Habs stand a very good chance of extending this series to Thursday night. This means producing on the powerplay, a factor that probably cost the Habs game 4, this means putting more bodies in even tighter against Henrik Lundqvist, and it means a more aggressive contribution from the Habs defense, in the form of pinching the line more frequently to maintain zone pressure against this Rangers team.

Otherwise, this is it. The end of the road will have been reached. It's been a heckova ride, but it doesn't have to end. It shouldn't end.

Puck drops at 8:10 EST.


HEY, guess who was in full gear skating this morning? THIS GUY:

Okay, so it's just part of the whole rehab process, and yes, there's no way in heaven's earth he'll play tonight, or Thursday ... or in this series (we think), but still - his presence surely serves as a positive motivator for his teammates. It's telling them - "hey guys, you can still do this. You can still win this series and get to the Finals, and then have me between the pipes for a championship run."

So that's all nice to see. What else is going on?

- Michel Therrien ran his practice without set lines, for whatever reason. I guess to put a shroud of mystery around a lineup that everyone already knows about?

- Derek Stepan HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE AND WILL PLAY.  Less than 100 hours after MAJOR face surgery after a DEVASTATING hit (not to the head) delivered by Brandon Prust (who's still suspended), Stepan will play! INCREDIBLE!! IT'S A MIRACLE I TELLZ YA!!

More in a bit.

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