Monday, 19 May 2014

Game Two - EC Final: Rangers vs. Habs

A few bullet point thoughts about last night's loss.

- I've had a night to sleep on it, and have modified my impressions about the two goal loss. The Habs very much outplayed the Rangers, but New York was saved by some remarkable goaltending. Any game that you've managed to direct 41 shots on net, you should win. Last night, it just didn't happen. Lundqvist was in the zone. Puck luck. That's hockey.

- Michel Therrien has been getting a lot of flack about choosing Dustin Tokarski over Peter Budaj, but even in light of the loss, I think he made the correct choice. Yes, Budaj posted a shutout win over the Rangers earlier in the season, but in that game, the Rangers barely registered a scoring chance. I think Therrien rightly looked at Budaj's performance in period 3 of game 1, and rightfully came to the conclusion that 2 of the 3 goals he surrendered in short order, weren't very good. With Tokarski giving the Habs excellent performances in his regular season starts, and of course, the lure of a the possibility of a miracle performance by a young goaltender, a la Steve Penny in '84 and Patrick Roy in '86, it was worth a shot.

- The Desharnais line was simply outstanding last night. He, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, were giving the Rangers defense all kinds of headaches in their own zone just about every single shift. That line could have easily scored 10 points last night. But ... Lundqvist.

- The Habs also had some quality bounce-back performances last night, most notably Alexi Emelin, who was far more consciousness about protecting his line. The Habs defense as a whole did a far better job stifling the Rangers speed-based rush (save New York's second goal, granted), which also helped reduce the number of breakaways to zero.

- Tough loss, but not a series-ending loss. My initial rant was the mission ahead was impossible, but I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel. The Habs simply must repeat the same performance on Thursday night, and surely, surely they'll win in New York. I'd make a couple of adjustments. First, I'd pull Brandon Prust from the lineup, and insert Michael Bournival, who was one of the Habs few bright spots in game one. I'd also push my forwards to be even more aggressive in crashing the Rangers crease. The Habs need to get bodies around, and even into Lundqvist's face. Take a couple of goaltending interference penalties if necessary, but do whatever is required to get Lundqvist off his game.

This thing isn't quite over yet, you guys.

New York 3, Montreal 1:


- Well, if there was ever a time when scoring on the powerplay was a must, this one to start the third probably qualifies. Hell hill to climb here.

- Nope. Decent try, some crease crashing but desperation just not there. Habs need to be desperate, starting now.

- No way Bergevin tenders Vanek a contract this Spring. Not after this post season performance.

- Habs defense with what could only be qualified as an indifferent effort tonight.

- Habs with zero sustained pressure in the New York zone this period. Given the situation everyone knew heading into the frame, that's a pretty dismal result.

- Trying to turn up the meter a bit, but it's all too late. Habs headed into New York down two games. The mission is now truly impossible.


- Imperative the Habs stay out of the box. So far, they haven't.

- Vanek with a clear cut breakaway and he ... passes the puck? Clearly Lundqvist has taken a firm seat in the Habs' heads.

- Terrible tripping call on Galchenyuk. Just terrible. Officials making too much of a presence here. And the Rangers capitalize. Sigh.

- Habs hangin in, but the energy isn't there. That third goal was a back breaker. That second goal probably broke a lot of spirit. It's not gonna happen, I'm afraid.

- Still a lot of open ice out there but Habs unable to string together a rush. Last pass is either off the mark or just a hopeless bomb.

- down two goals with 20 minutes left, Habs will need the period of their lives to come back. Offense has gone stone cold, mainly because everyone is looking for the perfect play. Habs should remember how they scored the only goal tonight. Forecheck, and a garbage redeflect. Seems like the entire team forgot.


- So Galchenyuk draws in, disappointingly for Bournival who's one of the Habs' speedier forwards, and has been doing a fine job forechecking and puck retrieval. He matches up well against this Rangers roster. Should have been been Prust or Bourque, really.

- Well, Dustin. Opportunity of a lifetime. You started the season nowhere. You could end it as a legend in the most important hockey centre in the world. 

- Nash barrels into Galchenyuk, who hits Lundqvist. Here we go.

- Habs with a ferocious start. All over the Rangers. 

- Rangers overwhelmed so far. Desharnais line with incredible shift keeping puck in the zone, Patrieotty redeflects it in. 1-0.

- Well that didn't last long. Plekanec weak clearance up the boards, and McDonagh ... ugh. 1-1. Anyway, with the rookie in net, Plecks oughtta know better and do better.

- Normally that's a deflating type goal but to the Habs credit, they've mostly maintained intensity, and have really upped their game at centre ice, which has significantly muted the Rangers' speedy transition. Now headed to the powerplay, it's critical that Montreal build a lead to help give Tokaraski some room to breath and relax.

- Habs seem to be stronger working puck out of their zone. Shorter passes, maybe more north/south focus than east/west stuff?

- And Nash off a soft 3-on-2. Gorges probably could have poked the puck forward at centre ice but instead chose to retreat thereby surrendering the break. A terrible goal to give up in a period you've dominated. Tokarski just not fast enough moving right to left to get his body on the snap shot. Sigh.

- Habs just plain flat had almost all of that period, but end up down on the scoreboard. Disheartening to say the least. This team will really need to dig down deep to find a reserve of motivation and confidence to see their way through to continuing the same play in the 2nd and 3rd. They can still win this. It won't be easy, but it's possible.


This is the end. 

This is the end, my only friends.


- Dustin Tokarski, home also of yours truly, will start in goal tonight. He's the annointed saviour for an entire province and hundreds of thousands of others across Canada. No pressure, kid.

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