Saturday, 14 January 2017

Game 44: Rangers vs. Habs

Montreal 5, New York Rangers 4:


- So we got it all wrong about the Rangers starting goaltender, it's Antti Raanta between the pipes.

- Alex Galchenyuk taking short (very short) shifts to start the period - which isn't altogether unusual given how many weeks he's been out.

- Danault scores, Shaw had made contact with Raanta a second before the goal, but it looks like Shaw was bumped into the crease. Close call here.

- Hrmmm ... Shaw was definitely bumped towards the Raanta, but they still waive it off. Oh well. NHL needs to be black and white about this - Klein definitely hit Shaw, which moved him towards the Rangers's crease and into Raanta - and while Shaw made little attempt to avoid the contact, nonetheless he was bumped. If you're bumped or pushed by the defender, it should be fair game. Certainly for a league that continues to be starved for offence.

- Habs first powerplay, and guess who's back as first line centre? Andrew Shaw. His presence there before injury was maddening because the unit was, more often than not, inept. Right back to the same losing formula. 

- Rangers don't look like a team who played less than a day ago, at least not on that PK, where they totally outskated and outworked the Habs PP unit.

- Lots of broken plays so far, not a lot of flow to this game. Rangers are playing a fairly frenetic game, Habs are just kind of stumbling to get organized.

- Price catches a slapper from the line high around the mask or shoulder. Looked stunned a little. More reason for concern.

- So Shaw takes a goal off the board for goaltender interference, then takes a penalty for goaltender interference, which Pirri scores off a very nice one timer, 1-0 New York. Yeah, Andrew Shaw. Welcome back?

- Danault is playing possessed. Man, what when Desharnais comes back, what to do, what to do?

- And now Shaw gets nailed for a 5 minute major for a high hit on Fast.  Good lord. What a catastrophic return.

- One bright spot for the Habs? Shaw is out of the game.

- Shame, real real real shame that Shaw's return wasn't Monday night, because he single handedly took a goal off the board, put a goal on the board for his opponents, then got kicked out of the game and a 5 minute penalty to boot, and yeah - one of the worst periods ever by a Habs forward. And we've got this numbskull for at least another 3 years. Heaven help us all.


- Habs CF (5v5) was 55.6% in that first period, although it doesn't really mean a whole lot since Andrew Shaw was assessed 22 penalty minutes. 

- Rangers with clear sheet of ice to continue the Shaw major, which is always extra dangerous.

- Well, Lundqvist is now in goal, Raanta sustaining some sort of injury during that 1st period, be dammed if I saw anything. Lundqvist's career record in Montreal, for what it's worth, is pretty terrible. 

- Price makes a sparking pad save one end, Galchenyuk a sparking deflection off a Barberio point shot past Lundqvist, and the Habs tie the game. Lundqvist must be wondering if this Bell Centre is cursed.

- More awful Habs defence, a broken play and Emelin with his head in the cloud springs Hayes all alone. Price made the initial save, but then his stake hooked onto Price's pad, dragging him out of the crease. So ... technically speaking, how is that not goaltender interference?

- Unbelievable, Price dragged out of his crease, even accidentally, is not interference, while Shaw bumped into Raanta by a defenceman, is. Have no idea what the NHL rational or logic is, but it certainly is mystifying.

- Flynn scores after Rangers can't defend their crease, and Lundqvist can't cover the puck. And not even the League can take that one away. Tie game.

- Alexei Emelin has been a one-man tire fire tonight. When he's not making awful decisions, Ranger puck handlers are skating (literally) circles around him.

- Radulov is just a little too intense sometimes, firing a puck back to the point on the powerplay that Galchenyuk can't handle, spring Rangers with a 2-on-1 shorthanded break that's finished my Miller. Shea Weber was lone man back, totally misplayed the odd man rush. That didn't help either.

- Where was Weber on this play, and what was he doing? No idea:
- Pretty messy period of hockey, Habs getting outplayed in that period, again failing to generate as many high danger scoring chances, certainly fewer than their opponent. Bright side, Galchenyuk looks right back on form, the kinds are again playing well. Bad news - the powerplay continues to look disorganized, and the Habs defence are making (again) for too many unforced errors that are leading to far too many goals against. 


- Habs shots on Rangers net pretty meek tonight - lots of harmless shots from the point, either easily blocked, or slow, harmless wristers. 

- Nash nearly tips home a pretty passing play, puck hits the post. All started with a bad pass by Beaulieu entering the New York zone. The speedy Rangers will make you pay with that kind of sloppy play.

- Brian Flynn is back, he took a slash on the hand after scoring the Habs first goal, missed the 2nd period. I'm not a huge Flynn fan, as regular readers will know, but Montreal can't afford to be down two forwards for that much of a hockey game.

- Habs zone entries have also grown progressively worse. New York doing a really good job guarding their line, and in the few instances where the Canadiens have any kind of puck control, New York is doing an excellent job checking and tying up Montreal forwards. Scoring chances have become few and far between.

- Habs have got to try some other way of penetrating the Rangers zone - carrying it over the line hasn't been working.

- Emelin ties the game with a shot from the line off the draw. Puck just finds a way into the net, Lundqvist - it's been that kind of year for him.

- Pacioretty gets a breakaway off a broken play, and makes Lindqvist look kind of bad.  Boom, Habs take the lead.

- Wow. Habs crash the net, puck goes in, I think Byron scores, and it's 5-3? Not sure if the Rangers will have this one reviewed.

- Byron indeed with the goal. No review, it was just a defence meltdown, with Clendening crashing into Lindqvist, who's having a nightmare period.

- No real big secret to the Habs turning the game upside down - Emelin's goal just found its way through a maze, Pacioretty off a broken play, and gate crashing to get the floodgates open. 

- Man, the Rangers pass awfully well, zooming the puck around with the powerplay, Habs lucky to have not surrendered another goal shorthanded. I think passing is likely the reason why New York's shooting percentage is so high, they set things up so nicely.

- Ain't over yet. Rangers get their own bounce, with Kreider tipping a shot from the line that goes overtop Price and is then deflected in by Stepan. Fluke goal, impossible to fault anyone.

- Marvellous lead-saving glove save by Price on Grabner on a breakaway (again, broken play, again sloppy reaction by the Habs defence - this time Petry and Beaulieu).

- So who predicted before the season started that both Lundqvist and Price would struggle this season? Anyone? 

- Habs are still being way too soft and sloppy in their zone, and are frequently abandoning slot coverage - too many players chasing pucks, not enough playing their positions and positioning correctly.

- Ranger empty net. Therrien goes with Weber/Emelin. Okay, then.

- Habs hang on for an incredibly untidy win - probably their sloppiest W of the season. This team is clearly eons better with Galchenyuk back in the lineup, Phillip Danault continues to play exceptionally good hockey, solidifying even further his name for 2C. Those are good things. Bad? Generally poor play, in particular defensive zone coverage, and passing, in general, is unsteady and uneven, creating far too many neutral zone turnovers, which are killer against a fast team the Rangers. The Habs are more or less lucky to have come away with the win tonight.


Hey, not that we needed a reason to hate the Rangers, there hasn't been much, if any, rivalry between the Canadiens and New York. Well, now that Donald Trump has arrived on the scene, we've got every reason to hate the Rangers, who shall not forthwith,  be referred to as the New York Trumpers. Tonight, revenge will be ours.

The Habs got two pieces of expected good news today - Alex Galchenyuk, who had been out with a LBI for exactly six weeks (minus one day), and winger Andrew Shaw, who's been out for 4 weeks, will return to action tonight at the Bell Centre. Woah, are the Habs actually starting to get ... healthy??

With both Galchenyuk and Shaw back in, Habs put Chris Terry on waivers this morning for purposes of demotion, and if he clears, he'll return to St. John's tomorrow. So, here's Montreal's lineup for tonight:



One piece of not-so-good news, Andrei Markov, who's been dealing with a nagging groin injury, has been removed from participating in practices, and is strictly on rehab again - which beside Michel Therrien's proclamation this morning that Markov hadn't experienced a setup, is a pretty clear indication that Markov has experienced a setback. This is key, since the Canadiens defence has played some pretty disorganized and soft hockey in their own zone since Andrei was put on the injury list - the Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu have been especially weak the past couple of weeks, their lacklustre performance against the Wild Thursday night serving as another example.

Okay, what's happening with the New York Trumpers?

The Trumpers are coming off a defeat last night at the hands of the (ha ha) The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Good. Too bad, so sad. That loss aside, it's been a decent season so far for the Trumpers - 28 wins so far, which in the crazy hard Metropolitan Division, puts New York in a wild card spot (the Habs with 26 wins by contrast, still enjoy a reasonably comfortable 1st place lead in the Atlantic).

The Trumpers, this season, like before - essentially since Alain Vigenault beacme head coach in 2013, haven't been a very strong possession team. At 47.7% CF (5v5), only the 24th best in the NHL, represents a surprising number because most hokey teams that play sub-par at even strength, tend to win at a .650 clip.

Add in the mix a somewhat disappointing season by New York's blue line - the Trumpers at 2.39 GA60 aren't even in the League's top half for rated defence. While Ryan McDonagh has put together another fine season, the same can't be said for New York's other key defenders Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, whose inconsistent play has given the Rangers fits on some nights (such as last night). Girardi, for example, has a 50.1% SA average this year, which isn't awful. But Girardi is prone to have awful games, a prime example was his effort on December 1st of last year, when Girardi got steamrolled by the (!) Buffalo Sabres, surrendering 2 goals, and a -28 (!!) corsi differential.

The Trumpers blue line inconsistency has made life much more challenging for Henrik Lundqvist, who's also struggling through a sub-par season. Lundqvist's 2.60 GAA (a career high) and .910 Sv% (a career low) has placed additional pressure on the offence, which, for the most part, has delivered. New York's salvation this year has been their ability to finish plays - with a 10% Sh%, a ridiculous number this far into the season, on most nights this year, the Trumpers have, even with poor possession, have managed to score more even strength goals than anyone else in the League.

The key to the game for the Habs tonight? Obviously find a way of containing New York's uncanny shooting abilities by limiting high danger scoring attempts (not easy given the state of the Canadiens' defence of late), while hoping to score a goal or two with the man advantage (perhaps an easier task with Galchenyuk returning to the lineup tonight).

It won't hurt either if Carey Price can have a bounce-back game - if Price's career history is any indication, that will happen tonight.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

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