Thursday, 15 October 2015

Game Five: Rangers vs. Habs


- Habs and Rangers through 40 minutes: 

- Price levels Kreider behind his net, how awesome is that?

- DSP, who's had a pretty strong game, is on the second line, at Semin's expense. That leash was pretty short.

- Gallagher, not for lack of effort, has had more than fair share of scoring chances is season - eventually they'll start going in.

- Wonderful work by Semin, now back on his line, feeding Desharnais who's robbed by Lindqvist. That's the kind of play the Habs need more of from Semin.

- Very slow and shaky shift by Habs 4th line, the Rangers quickly seizing on their shift by sending out their top line, and totally hemming Habs in their zone. Therrien must be cautious as we get to the later stages of the 3rd.

- I fear, with 5 minutes left, Habs will try to sit on this. Must maintain string forechecking mindset because the Rangers can score one in a hurry.

- Habs with good pressure, 4 minutes left. This is a more aggressive late lead team than I remember compared to last season.

- Habs by far the better team in the 3rd - game would easily be long over if not for Lundqvist's heroics.

- Habs justly rewarded. Weise with a weakish goal past Lundqvist, but his shot never happens if not for some outstanding work by Desharnais who out fights two Ranger defensemen for the puck to feed Weise. Desharnais demonstrating hockey excellence.

- Plekanec with the empty netter, and for the first time in their 106 year history, the Habs start the season 5-0. A well deserved victory. Montreal really dominated the Rangers from the start of the second period forward. Now the conversation begins - is this Habs team elite? They've got the record so far to prove it.


- First period chart, note how at about the 12 minute mark, the Rangers essentially took over the game. That's the trend the Habs need to worry about.

- Habs not coming out as aggressively as they need to be. Rangers are going to continue to dominate this game if Montreal doesn't step up.

- Habs powerplay zone entries are a tire fire tonight. Their zone exits too. Shield the eyes of your children. 

- Habs are only, and I repeat, ONLY generating shot attempts by carrying the zone. Can somebody behind the bench please notice this?

- Subban/Markov guilty of some pretty sloppy turnovers tonight. Fortunate that the Rangers haven't scored one or two off their giveaways.

- Habs gamble a little bit, Subban going in very deep to keep the puck in the Rangers zone, and Fleischmann cashes in off a point shot. Habs with an unexpected 1-0 lead.

- Lundqvist showboats with a glove save off Gallagher. Thing is, his team is still losing. 

- Beaulieu misses an empty net on the powerplay. Now wondering how much of this futility is snakebite. Any way, Habs defence certainly needs to be more engaged with the man advantage - Markov used to come up off the line all the time, he rarely does that any more.

- Habs have slowly but steadily improved their possession as the period has continued - mainly because they're winning puck battles at centre ice. 

- Markov showing his age a bit tonight, has struggled to adjust to the Rangers speed and forecheck.

- Emelin, who still really should never be on the PK, with a clunky chip of the puck over the glass, giving the Rangers a very long 5-on-3.

- Price doing a remarkable job killing off this 5-on-3, notwithstanding Kredier barreling into him in the crease. 

- Carey Price is a freak of nature. The saves he's made in the past two minutes have been ridiculous. Everyone on their feet in the Bell Centre.

- After a pretty ho-hum first 15 minutes, things got pretty interesting pretty fast. Habs with crucial two man kill thanks to Price's heroics, which might end up being the difference tonight. The Canadiens did a much better time with transitions in the 2nd period, which helped them even the possession scales a bit more towards the mean. Third period should be plenty of fun, Lundqvist vs. Price.


- So what's the "big thing" the Habs are promising for tonight's game?

- Players are just starting their warmups at the top of the hour, so fair to assume this game won't start until at least 7:30 local time - maybe even later.

- Guy Carbonneau, who I assume was the only one available to represent the last Habs captain, hands it off to Pacioretty. Now everyone is getting a chance to carry the torch. Hopefully this game starts by Friday afternoon.

- That's a dirty, dirty hit from behind on Pacioretty by McDonagh. This League really ought to look at implementing automatic 5 minute majors on those kind of hits.

- And the Habs powerplay off to a craptaculour start, completed by silly tripping penalty committed by Gallagher.

- Apparently, it was Dan Girardi who did the check from behind, not McDonagh. Brad Watson having trouble reading sweater names and numbers.

- Pretty tight first half to the period - both teams pushing forwards back quickly into their own zone during transitions. Lots of open ice in the neutral zone, but things get pretty busy.

- Pacioretty with partial break, got a backhander away on Lundqvist, but was clearly tripped.

- Awful, awful embellishment call on Emelin, who got hit in the mouth by Nash. Nullifies an aggressive roughing penalty on Nash.

- Let's see how the Habs can muff up a long 4-on-3 advantage. They'll find a way.

- Habs will need to adjust to playing against a team with a very good defense. They've been spoiled by their experiences in Boston and Pittsburgh, whose defenses were guilty of some pretty awful giveaways and zone transitions. Rangers' blue line is very disciplined. Will be a tough two points tonight.

- Rangers doing much better job with passing and puck control. Their possession numbers are pretty dominant this period.

- Man, Rangers east-west are just so fast, so clean. This will be a team to reckon with.

- Habs were reactive for most of the last half of the first period, Rangers really seemed to find their legs as the period progressed, and had the clear overall edge. Lundqvist with some tougher saves than Price, but from a big picture perspective, Habs will need to be far more aggressive with their forecheck in the 2nd period for a reasonable chance of victory.



Ah, home sweet home. Actually, do we even want to not stop playing on the road? Four-fer-four, including a couple of pretty impressive wins over the Sens and the Pens to end the season-opening road trip. Now, suddenly, the Habs find themselves owning the title for best start to the 2015-16 NHL season.

So tonight, the Habs take on the Rangers, whom we still haven't forgiven for targeting our franchise goaltender for the sake of eliminating the Habs from Stanley Cup contention two seasons ago. Nope. Never gonna forgive, never gonna forget.

The Rangers had an offsesaon that was not dissimular to the Habs. Like Montreal, New York was active in making moves necessary to keep their roster pretty much in tact.

The Blue Shirts, as good responsible teams must do, kept an eye on their cap, necessitating a few moves to keep their payroll under control. Carl Hagelin and backup netminder Cam Talbot were shipped out of town in return for a handful of draft picks,

The Rangers were pretty quiet on the free agent front. They signed forward Viktor Stalberg and ... well .. that's pretty much it.

The message sent from the Rangers' front office this summer was pretty clear - they still believe the roster they've assembled is a winner. Not unlike the same message the Habs front office sent - with the Canadiens adding Alexander Semin via free agency - their only "big" roster addition before the season started.

The teams are the same.  A year old, mind you, but fundamentally unchanged, and as hopeful as ever that this will be the year the Stanely Cup is finally raised in their cities.

Habs and Rangers lineups tonight are unchanged. Lundqvist vs. Price, to the shock of no one. Puck drop will be ... who knows?  Probably around 7:20, after all the pregame ceremonies are done.

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