Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Game Twenty-Three: Habs vs. Rangers


- Habs and Rangers through 40 minutes:

- Is it time to panic? Carey Price is out for the night. Mike Condon comes in to start the 3rd.

- Well, how about that. Rangers turn over the puck in their zone, Smith-Pelly goes to the net unmolested, and Plekanec with a nice backhand pass to set him up all alone in front of Lundqvist. 3-1 Habs. A critical goal, given that Price is no longer in the game.

- Wow. Habs, who we've talked about all night about winning the neutral zone, intercept the puck at centre ice, and Galchenyuk beats Lundqvist from an incredibly narrow angle making it 4-1.

- Rangers have looked terrible since the start of the period - you would have figured they'd come out storming seeing that Price was no longer in the game. But nope, they're flatter than a pancake so far.

- Price apparently out with right leg injury. I'm guessing it's the same injury that kept him out for nearly a month. Was he brought back too soon? Sure looking that way.

- Rangers look just awful this period - getting manhandled in just about every department, and have played some pretty atrocious puck control in their own zone. This is the best defensive team in the NHL? Really finding that hard to believe.

- That dangerous looking Habs powerplay with its excellent passing, finally strikes. Brilliant pass by Galchenyuk on Pacioretty's tape for an easy goal. Lundqvist yanked. We're nearly entering route territory.

- Rangers just taking numbers now, which is a shame. Lose with dignity, guys.

- Apparently Alex Semin is hurt, and out for the night. When it rains, it bloody well pours.

- So we're down Price, Gallagher, Mitchell, Semin ... this Habs team is deep - very deep ... but you can only go so deep before bad things start to happen.

- An important win tonight for the Habs. Maybe the most important regular season win as this franchise has had in the past 15 years. Habs totally dominated the Rangers tonight, and can rightfully take the mantle as the best team in the Eastern Conference. At least, right now.

But ... at what cost? What happened to Carey Price? How long will be be sidelined? Regardless of how big or important these wins are, this team can't proceed to the next level if Price isn't the Habs full-time netminder.


- Habs and Rangers through 20 minutes:

- Even though Habs were credited with only one more shot on goal in that first period, if you need any more convincing how well Montreal played, check this out - in particular, the left side of the graphic.

- Max Pacioretty has one of the most feared snap shots in the NHL. But this year, it seems like that shot isn't nearly as dangerous. I wonder if he's lost velocity due to the knee injury and recovery?

- What a play by Max Pacioretty to spot and set up Smith-Pelly right in front of Lundqvist, with DSP finishing with authority. Habs excellent play carrying over, and now really paying off on the scoreboard. 2-0.

- Another fine Habs powerplay, more creative and fast puck movement, good quality scoring chances, Lundqvist making a couple of nice saves. Get the feeling a third Habs goal would be a game killer.

- Habs complete game continues to roll well into the 2nd period, the Rangers really struggling to carry their own zone. New York attempting way too many long-bomb passes, simply because Montreal doing an excellent job containing centre ice.

- Rangers with very good 2nd powerplay, really applying pressure and forcing Price into make two big saves. Even though they failed to score, remains to be see whether it will provide them with game momentum.

- Carey Price still looks like he's fighting the puck, but only a little bit. Slowly returning to form, has made some very good saves in this game, even though on the whole, he's faced pretty limited action.

- Rangers definitely thriving off the powerplay, Rick Nash has looked very good tonight, very involved close to the Canadiens' net, and now Markov has been called for a hooking penalty, which is merely symptomatic that New York is outskating Montreal at this stage of the game.

- Brutal giveaway by Gilbert in front of Price. Pateryn doesn't make that play, I'm just sayin'.

- Horrid interference call on Galchenyuk, and of course, the Rangers score on the resultant powerplay. Officials seemed to be going out of their way to call just about anything and everything on the Habs, and now the Rangers are back in this game. Maybe, hopefully, the officials will go back to calling a good game.

- It stands to reason that if you call enough penalties, especially soft penalties, on any given team, their opponent, no matter how badly outplayed, will eventually gain game momentum and control. The Rangers were the recipients of some very, very generous calls in the 2nd half of the period. It's resulted in the game going from in total command for the Habs, to anyone's game. Shame.


- Really disappointed to see Pateryn getting scratched tonight in favour of Emelin. I think that's a big mistake by Therrien. Pateryn has been a defensive rock since getting put into the lineup after Emelin's injury.

- Habs playing a pretty tight defensive game first four minutes of the period. They appear, at least from that, to be playing classic road strategy.

- Welcome to the season, Sven Andrighetto, who beats Lundqvist off a nifty pass by Eller. Galchenyuk line continues its excellent possession play, and the kid, who looked so great last season but never landed a regular spot, makes another positive impression. 1-0 Habs.

- Good shift by the Desharnais line, pinning Rangers in their zone, and if not for a very lucky bounce in favour of the Rangers (I guess that trend continues), it would be 2-0. New York seems to be having trouble adjusting to Montreal's forecheck and speed.

- Not sure if this first half of the 1st period is so much the Habs playing so well, or the Rangers so poorly. Really expected to see a whole lot more from this New York team. Colour me underwhelmed. At least, so far.

- Wowzers. Andrighetto is really clicking big time on the Galchenyuk line. He's only in his second game, but it looks like he's played on that line all season long. What a magnificent bonus for the Habs.

- Habs are just plain outworking the Rangers so far. Shots and possession may be fairly even, but it's been pretty one-sided so far in favour of Montreal.

- Might as well keep heaping on the praise well the going's good - Habs are totally dominating the neutral zone. Puck movement has been very fluid, checking has been generating a significant number of puck turnovers. If the fast Rangers are contained at centre ice, they have nowhere to go.

- Habs come up empty first powerplay, but puck movement, as it has the past month with the man advantage, was as fast as it was fantastic.

- Rangers' powerplay also comes up empty, but it does register one good scoring opportunity, which was their first of this game. It came with just 2 minutes left in the period.

- That was an excellent period, from the Habs perspective. Much strong checking, much better with transitions, and way way better winning the neutral zone. With exception to one powerplay, which gave the Rangers the opportunity to set up in the Habs zone, New York had pretty much nothing to show for the first 20 minutes. 


Hey, it's arrived. It's what we've been waiting for. A showdown between the top two teams in the National Hockey League, the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers have a great record. They're really GOOD! Right?

Well. I think they're really good. I think?

The Rangers are riding high. 16 wins in their first 21 games, tied with the Habs for first overall with 34 points. They're on a crazy hot streak, having won 12 of their past 13. But ... even with all that considered, I'm not quite convinced their the class of the Eastern Conference.

Heading into tonight's clash, the Rangers have a PDO of 107.4, which by PDO standards, is ridiculously high. New York has strung together win after win after win bolstered by an incredible shooting percentage - 11.1%. To give you some perspective, last season's Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Black Hawks, had a 6.87 Sh%. The year previous, the L.A. Kings had a 6.51%

But that's not all. The Rangers have a save percentage right now at a mind-boggling 96.25%. That means the Rangers, on any given night where they might surrender 50 shots on goal, are allowing, on average, barely 1-and-a-half goals. This is to say, at their current level of performance, if you want to beat New York 2-1, you'd have to register at least 51 shots, to give your team a fighting chance.

Are you gettin' at what I'm hitin' at here? The Rangers rate of success is completely and utterly unsustainable. When the law of averages finally arrives in the Big Apple, watch out - because this team is due for a major readjustment.

I'm not suggesting that New York is a bad team. Far from it. They're the number one rated defensive team in hockey - it's not unusual for a team with a strong blue line to withstand the law of averages. But, at lot of that credit has to go towards Henrik Lundqvist, who's having himself one heckova 2015-16 ... at least so far. A 1.74 GAA and a .946 SV% - these are Vezina trophy stats. Heck, these are Vezina and Hart trophy stats - assuming Henrik can sustain that level of performance.

So ... we observers, who observe the laws of averages ... sit. And we wait for the corrections.

Might it start tonight against the Habs? Maybe ... but ... likely not. The Habs, as you're probably, are dealing with an injury bug which has taken out Torrey Mitchell, Alexei Emelin, and most critically, Brendan Gallagher, who sustained two broken bones in his hand on Sunday night against the Islanders. Gallagher, who is most certainly not a player easily replaced, will be replaced by Devante Smith-Pelly, which is to say, it's not much of a replacement.

This mean, the Habs will have to play an excellent road game tonight. Tight checking, hard hitting, and patient. An strong emphasis on forechecking, all towards hoping that somehow, someway, the Rangers will screw up. Or maybe, the puck will bounce against them.

On that later point - it may happen. It's certainly overdue to happen.

Puck drop tonight is at 7:10 EST. Lundqvist vs. Price.

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