Friday, 3 March 2017

Game 66: Habs vs. Rangers

Montreal 4, New York Rangers 1:


- Martinsen with a rough and tumble first shift, obviously trying to make the impression that aligns with the rationale for why Bergevin brought him over in the first place.

- No doubt about it, the Habs identity now is bigger and tougher - at least the first 10 minutes of the first period.

- Steve Ott brought over in part, so it was explained, because of his faceoff prowess. He wins a draw deep to Weber, whose snapper somehow finds its way home, and it's 1-0 Canadiens.We mentioned puck luck as a factor in our pregame, and early it gives the Habs a big break.

- King crashing the Rangers net hard, once again, the Habs newest acquisitions are trying their best to make a name for themselves.

- Alex Galchenyuk - if he was feeling the effects of that knee injury after his return, I'll be dammed if I can see any tonight. Looking stronger with each start.

- Strong period for the Danault line - Pacioretty continues to dominate with his speed, and Gallagher giving the line some grind and a spark.

- Rangers like to run and gun with the puck, long outlet passes to the wingers to catch opposing defences napping. Canadiens, forward and defensive lines, very focused on covering the outlet passing lanes so far. It's nullifying a pretty potent arrow in the Rangers' quiver.

- Solid, solid first period for the Habs, especially strong with the forecheck, and being more physical than the Rangers likely anticipated - with a particularly strong showing by Martinsen (whom, admittedly, we haggled in the pregame). Whether this kind of play is sustainable over 3 periods is yet to be seen, but it's hard to argue with the early results.


- Yup, pretty good period for the Canadiens, SA CF at even straight was 55.2%:

- Gallagher suddenly becomes as dangerous as we've seen him all year long, next to Pacioretty and Danault, instead of Plekanec. Isn't that interesting?

- Canadiens continue to be relentless, a large part because the defence has (this is new) done a good job feeding the puck ahead. Habs are entering the Rangers zone with speed and authority.

- Price continues to play some marvellous hockey, making stops that average NHL goaltenders aren't likely to make - and it's giving the Habs a major trump card in their arsenal.

- Aside from Price's brilliance, Habs are doing a good job clogging up the shooting lanes, many key shot blocks in this period containing the Rangers' chances.

- Price with a specular save one end, Pacioretty with excellent forechecking and a perfect pass from Danault to a streaking Lehkonen on the other, his one-timer making it 2-0. Players who struggled to score are finally hitting the sheet, and when the Lehkonen's, Byrons and Gallaghers are hitting the back of the net, the Canadiens are pretty close to unbeatable against any opponent.

- Watching the replay of that 2nd Canadiens goal, exceptional adjustment by Lehkonen to kneel while releasing a perfect shot. That's not something you can learn - pure skill and talent made that possible.

- It wouldn't be a Rangers game without someone taking a run at Carey Price. Tonight, it's Rick Nash who accidentally-on-purpose runs into Price.

- Real jump in Bryon's step. He had a good game Thursday, of course scoring the game winner. Tonight, more of the same. Maybe his season is taking a turn for the better.

- Price is just zoned tonight. Rangers are going to need something special, greasy or lucky if they hope to get on the scoreboard.

- 5 minutes left in the period, chaotic shift and defence by Petry/Emelin (especially the later) who can't clear the zone, and get trapped deep for well over a minute. Canadiens very luck to maintain the shutout.

- Not sure what adjustments Julien will make for the Habs next game, but I'd be surprised if Gallagher is taken off the Danault line. There is obvious good chemistry between these three.

- Canadiens kind of holding on here in the dying minutes of the period, perhaps intent on going to the room with a 2 goal lead.

- Big break for the Habs, Shaw with a high shot that leaves Lundqvist seemingly dazed, Shaw picking up the puck and wrapping it into an open net to make it 3-0.

- Not sure if there's an issue with Lundqvist tonight, but he hasn't looked anything like Thursday night's brilliant win over the Bruins. The Canadiens are more than happy to take what's given, their hard work generating offensive rewards, and a more-or-less commanding lead headed to the final period.


- Great pass by Gallagher to spring Pacioretty on a breakaway, Lundqvist forced to make two difficult saves.

- Save on one end, score on the other. This time it's Kreider, who outmuscles Jordie Benn rather badly to pick up a rebound off his shot and bury it past Price. The whole play happens because, as per usual, Emelin can't make a simple zone clearance. Julien surely won't like what he sees when they look at the video tomorrow.

- Rangers really motoring this period, Habs probably need at least one more to feel comfortable about their lead again.

- Really troubled by the shifts Emelin continues to receive - the Rangers have had a handful of momentum changing shift tonight, including their lone goal, largely because of Emelin's poor puck handling and decision-making abilities. Still mystifying how Julien never seems to loose confidence in his shakiest defender

- Habs 4th line hasn't been as much a defensive liability as we expected headed into the game, and have actually been an overall asset leveraging their physicality to grind Ranger forwards down.

- Oh my god, Emelin is just awful. Chasing the puck carrier playing on Petry's side off a 2-on-2 zone entry by the Rangers, which springs Lindberg for a breakaway, with Price forced to make another difficult save. Abysmal. Just abysmal.

- Another good shift for Martinsen. Be certain he's pretty energized tonight, this being his first game in a Habs uniform. He's certainly earned himself another start to prove tonight's solid performance wasn't a fluke.

- Oooh, another weak goal for Lundqvist, Benn scores his first as a Canadien off a face-off draw, a shot along the ice that somehow Lundqvist doesn't pick up. 4-1.

- This Jordie Benn guy might just work out after all. Aside from the goal scored, he's been very disciplined in his own zone, providing the Habs 3rd line with stability. One could argue the Benn/Beaulieu duo has usurped the Petry/Emelin pairing to become the Habs 2nd line.

- It's an adventure every time Emelin hits the ice. Yet another bad turnover generates yet another excellent Rangers scoring chance, Price yet again forced to make a difficult save to bailing out his inept defensemen.

- Surely Claude Julien has seen the light, and will either bench, or reduce the number of Emelin shifts the duration of this period. Surely.

- 9 minutes left. More regular shifts for Emelin. Oh well. I guess Julien has decided to maintain the rotation - one big difference we've seen under his tenure is a more balanced approached to ice deployments. Under Therrien, it was common for the Habs to overdeploy their first two defensive lines, and limit the 3rd pairing to around 8 minutes a night. That's not Julien's style.

- Gallagher runs into Lundqvist, although he was tied up by Staal, making it difficult for him to avoid hitting the netminder. Gallagher draws the interference, Stall a roughing. Anyway, Gallagher with more signs of a return to form - post return from injury, it was rare to see him make strides towards the opposing goal, perhaps that hand wasn't as healed as we were led to believe.

- Even sans Radulov, a solid win for the Canadiens tonight, who were much more physical and much more disciplined than their opponent tonight. Funny this game - in the span of two weeks, this Habs team went from being completely lost in the wilderness as fragile as a faberge egg, and now they're clearly brimming with confidence - an obvious effect from the coaching change, and the changes he made that have helped provide this team with structure and stability. Canadiens definitely improving their lot solidifying a playoff spot, 82 points with 16 games remaining. That's a pretty solid position.


Let's get the bad news out of the way. Alex Radulov won't play tonight due to an undisclosed LBI (possibly courtesy a P.K. Subban shot on Thursday night). Also, Mike McCarron is a healthy scratch. So, guess what? We have Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen will start. Have to go back a lonnnnnnng time to see a Habs 4th line so dearth from talent.

With those changes, the lineup will look ... well ... rather different:


Alright, a few notes leading up to this evening's Habs/Rangers match, focused on some interesting similarities the two teams share:

- Rangers are winners of 3 of their past 5, Habs winners of 4/5 (and 5/6). Over the past 5 games, Rangers have scored just 11 goals, Habs just 9.

- Both starting goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price had exceptional games their previous start, Lundqvist stonewalling the Bruins in a 2-1 Rangers win, while Price was the difference maker in the Habs dramatic 2-1 win over the Predators on Thursday night. Since Claude Julien started his tenure, Price's save percentage has been .947, which are MVP-type numbers.

- If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, many, many people would be confused. Also, the Habs and Rangers would play in the 1st round, with the Habs hosting the series, even though New York has the better record.

- As mentioned previously, Habs are dealing with Radulov's injury, while the Rangers have their own issues, with winger Jasper Fast out until late March with an upper body injury. Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi are out indefinitely, while the Rangers' top point getter this season, Michael Grabner, is a question mark. It's little wonder why New York has struggled offensively of late.

- Puck luck is strong with both teams - the Rangers carry the League's 4th biggest PDO total 102.1 (NHL's 4th largest) the Habs not far behind at 100.6 (7th largest).

- Rangers are, as per usual under Alain Vigneault, not a strong puck possession team. They're sub 50% this season (49.1), but that's been par for the course in each of Vigneault's years as New York head coach.

- One other note - the Rangers powerplay is in a deep funk, having gone 0-for-the-last-18, while the Habs man advantage has been playing above average the past 10 days, going 4 for their last 16.

Puck drops tonight from MSG at 7:10, EST.


We traded away an actual draft pick for ... this:

No idea if Ott plays Saturday night. If he does, I'm hoping Saturday never comes. Or Sunday. Or Monday, Or Tuesday ...

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