Sunday, 25 May 2014

Game Four - EC Final: Habs vs. Rangers


- Subban cracked the half hour mark through 30 minutes. Expect him to play every other shift from here on out.

- What a dumb penalty by Pouilot. Wow.

- All Habs in this OT. Lots of pucks at Lundqvist. Looking for a game winning bounce.

- And there you have it. Habs 4th line unable to clear the zone after multiple chances, and St. Louis finally solves Tokarski at the greatest possible time. Emelin probably the biggest failing culprit. Heartbreak. Pure heartbreak.

- So much Emelin did wrong on that last sequence, but whatever. He is what he is, what's done is done. The Habs ultimately were undone by their inability to capitalize on multiple powerplay opportunities. The game itself really shouldn't have even required an overtime. The Habs forwards, and there were many, just didn't do their jobs, didn't put out their best effort, and didn't deliver a victory that was so hard fought for by the remarkable Dustin Tokarski. That's the real tragedy in all of this. Tokarski has come to the Habs goaltending rescue, but too many of his linemates have failed to hear and respond to his heroics.


- So Pacioretty has 15 minutes through 2 period, Therrien obviously sensing an impending breakout (man, Max .. if there was ever a time ...). Vanek. You remember him? He used to play beside Max. Just over 7 minutes. 

- Here we go. Early powerplay chance.

- SUBBAN. LE CANNON. Tie game.

- Rangers continue to be besieged by penalties, mainly trips, and the officials are calling everything. While they haven't converted in all of the 7 received so far (except 1, of course), it's given the Habs plenty of tempo in this period, the Rangers spending most of the time so far on the defensive. Tokarski hasn't had much work ... yet ... but with the game settling, that'll change.

- Vanek's effort level right now is just slightly that above a sloth. At this point, he's dangerous to even shift. Therrien would be wise just to staple him to the bench.

- Period winds down, mainly controlled by the Habs, but it's a nervous finish. Looks like the game, and quite possibly the series, will be determined by a mistake.

- Lots of warriors out there for the Habs tonight, but also a lot of floaters. The difference is pretty stark.

- Sweet jesus of christ, Therrien puts out Briere, Vanek and Bourque with less than a minute left. What IS HE THINKING!?

- Well, the mission, at least the important part, was accomplished by the Habs. They tied the game, and will get their shot of taking some control over this series if they can score the next goal. But that won't come easy. This has been an extraordinary game with some incredible physical battles for the puck. These teams are pushing each other to their respective outer limits, and for hockey aficionados, it's been a joy to watch. The bottom line is that the Habs have been the better team since the start of the 2nd period, and are on the cusp of making a remarkable series recovery.


- Amother sluggish start to the period for the Habs, their collective legs simply not moving.

- Habs bright spot - their PK. Rangers have decent passing but unable to penetrate the Montreal crease for a high chance scoring opportunity.

- Rick Nash barrels into Tokarski, full speed. When will this madness stop?

- Habs better this frame than last. Still getting outskated, but they appear to be more involved defensively - New York not nearly as free wheeling. Right now it appears the Habs are sticking around, looking for a mistake.

- And there it is, Rangers defense make a terrible pinch given Habs a three on one, and Bouillon, of all the players, beats Lundqvist high. Not sure how Therrien is doing this, but the defensive switch pays off.

- Markov shows JT Miller the consequences of taking runs at goaltenders. Face, meet goalpost.

- Rangers look disorganized, maybe even a little stunned, after that tying goal. Habs getting much more puck possession in New York zone now.

- Huge blocker save by Tokarski, about as good as the two gems against St. Louis Thursday night. He's doing about all you could ask and more.

- Vanek really struggled last shift, be interested to see if we see him again anytime soon.

- Tokarski with a sick glove save on a St Louis break - perhaps the best of the playoffs. Oh yeah. A shorthanded break. 

- Bouillon somehow totally misses a shift call as Habs changed after getting the puck deep. Brassard left wide open to receive a 150 foot pass and blasts a slapper past Tokarski. Unstoppable. Unforgivable, really. How Bouillon didn't go out when he was supposed to is utterly perplexing.

- Bouillion giveth, Boullion taketh away. Really shouldn't be surprised by that, but it's particularly maddening given how well the Habs played in that period, fighting to tie, and then very nearly taking the lead off a pretty good late period powerplay. But Bouillon, his head in the clouds, undoes all that hard work. And now the Habs find themselves down a goal with 20 minutes left in a must-win game.


- Confirming what we've already reported, Stepan is out for the Rangers, as well as Beaulieu for Montreal. Bouillon slots in.

- Big question of the night, is Dominic Moore going to make the Habs deeply regret letting him walk four years ago?

- Crazy soft call on Gorges. Officials setting a very bad tone early.

- Habs defense continues to do a lousy job of getting shots on goal, even with the shooting lanes wise open. 

- Habs powerplay simply unable to gain puck possession in the rangers zone, tonight and the entire series. This team's powerplay units go into dreadful funks at the worst possible time.

- What the hell was that? Markov and Subban completely screw the pooch and surrender a shorthanded goal. Abysmal.

- Habs totally manhandled the first 15 minutes - trying to think of a bright spot, all I can find is Tokarski. Otherwise, nothing. All Rangers. This could be another 7-2 final.

- Rangers putting out top line, as we said earlier, whenever Bouillon hit the ice. New York totally dominating, swarming the Habs like a pack of infuriated bees. Tokarski keeping them in - barely.

Well, we've arrived. The pivotal fourth game of the Eastern Conference Final. The winner tonight gaining a substantial advantage towards determining who will play in the Stanley Cup Final. So a few pregame thoughts:

- By now you've heard about the kerfuffle over the Rangers sending a couple of assistant coaches to scout the Habs practice on Saturday, which is a long established no-no in the NHL playoffs. The coaches were called out mid-practice by Michel Therrien, in a rather loud epitaph containing some rather salty language, as you do if you're Michel Therrien.  The whole incident, including Alain Vigneault's silly expression of innocence today, is pure gamesmanship, mainly on the part of the Rangers. There are, of course, no actual strategic advantages to watching the opposing team practice - both teams know each other inside out, both are fully aware of the other's game plan and their key strategies. Hockey, especially in the post-season, is pure execution. Anyway, the Rangers are clearly doing what they can to get under the skin of the Habs - to that extent, I find attending the Canadiens' team practice totally transparent and juvenile, offering no real benefit, except to tick the Habs off (which might actually backfire).

- More gamesmanship nonsense today over Therrien's comments about being aware of what Derick Brassard's injuries are, the insinuation being that the Habs might try to focus exploiting that injury (upper body, almost certainly a mild shoulder separation). The Rangers took exception, of course, but the bottom line is this: If an opponent has a known weakness, it's your responsibility to focus on that vulnerability to gain advantage. Especially in a seven game series where there are exceptionally narrow differences between the two opponents.

- Although nobody has confirmed, it's a pretty safe bet the reason why Frankie Bouillon is drawing in tonight in place of Nathan Beaulieu is because the Habs rookie defenseman is nursing some sort of an injury. Putting Bouillon on at face value, makes little logical sense. Beside Doug Murray, he's the Habs slowest starting blue liner, which matches up very badly against the Rangers speedy forwards. Fully expect Vigneault and company to do line matching to the extreme whenever Bouillon and his defensive Mike Weaver, take a shift.

- Game Three hero Dustin Tokarski will be asked one more time, to deliver an excellent performance tonight, which is mandatory if the Habs are to stand a reasonable chance of evening the series. Tokarski as we know, was excellent on Thursday night, and his post-game comments were very impressive in how calm he maintained his demeanor. Still, you have to believe that Tokarski, at his age and experience, must be feeling some pretty tremendous pressure - his ability to overcome the focus of five million hopeful fans in Quebec will, more than anything, determine whether he can play the role of hero one more time tonight.

- Michael Bournival also starts tonight for the suspended Brandon Prust, which I think is a significant blessing in disguise. Bournival brings so much more to the table against an opponent like the Rangers, in that he's got tremendous speed, and has proven himself a far more effective checking forward than Prust. I fully expect the Habs to be better in generating more turnovers, and holding their own at centre ice, tonight.

- Speaking of Prust and his suspension, Derek Stepan, who someone sustained a broken jaw after taking a no head contact hit, will not play tonight, which won't be an easy spot to fill for the Rangers offense. They won't be as fast, or as skilled tonight.

- The three day break between games, I believe, were of greater benefit to the Rangers, the extra time allowing them to compose themselves after a disappointing Game Three loss. This is a series very much determined by momentum, and the 72 hour separation didn't do the Habs any favors towards capitalizing against a (somewhat) reeling opponent. If the Canadiens were to win game four, then the Rangers would almost certainly be fit to be tied, the Habs would be heavy favorites to win this series in 6 or 7 games.

Puck drops at 8:10 EST.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, even anonymously. All I ask is that you behave, and in support of good taste, avoid the use of course language, or express opinions that are just plain silly (racist, sexist, etc.)