Thursday, 20 April 2017

Game 5 - ECQF: Rangers vs. Habs


- I've written it before, I'll write it again - having been to Habs playoff games at the Bell Centre, the TV does the actual noise level there no justice. Atmosphere looks particularly electric tonight.

- That was a rousing pregame and anthem. If the Habs lineup wasn't juiced by that, they'll never be.

- An incredible left pad save by Carey Price on Mats Zuccarello right off the bat. Weber and Markov with a big miscommunication there to give the Rangers a sparkling opening minute chance.

- You probably have to bury this chance. This is a significant blown opportunity:

- Alexei Emelin looking ... uhh ... unsteady. Beaulieu's going to have his hands full tonight. Julien might be second guessing his decision.

- Bogus hook on Emelin, Habs kill the Rangers powerplay (again), but it looked pretty good. Habs be wise to avoid the box tonight. Got the feeling New York is finally zeroing in on getting that unit back on track.

- Lot of finger pointing directed at Pacioretty past 48 hours, which given he's a 35 goal scoring captain, is to be expected. But my eyes are firmly on Danault, who's really struggled to generate chances off a forecheck. He's been carried by his wingers most of this series.

- One strategy has become clear early - crash the crease and look for rebounds around Lundqvist. That's all fine and good, since Henrik is apt to give up the puck from time to time, but I'd still like to see more bodies attempting to block his vision. 

- Rangers doing a really good job stunting Habs ability to exit their zone effectively with the puck.

- Lehkonen! What a marvellous story he's turning out to be in these playoffs. Rangers Staal far too slow retrieving a dumped puck in their zone allowing him to muscle in to generate not only a puck turnover, but a quick wraparound that appears to have taken Lundqvist by surprise. That's a goal-scorers goal right there. To think this is Lehkonen's first taste of NHL playoff action. What a huge addition for the Canadiens franchise.
- That play by Staal a weak spot for this team - defensive depth. Their first pairing is excellent, but drill past to the 2nd and 3rd pairings, and there's a lot of opportunity for the Canadiens.

- Habs buzzing on their powerplay. It also looks dangerous. Both team's units might have a say in the final result tonight.

- Oy, Fast with a shorthanded goal. Galchenyuk with a tough pass back to Beaulieu, who in turn, doesn't do a good job retreating to his zone, with Fast beating him hard inside to tie the game. 

- Gallagher responds before the powerplay expires with a ridiculously open shot from the slot. An outstanding response by the Habs to the shorthanded goal. Deflating turn of events for the Rangers. 

- Claude Julien with a surprise move here, Galchenyuk placed between Radulov and Pacioretty. Not only is that the coach saying "don't worry" about the Fast goal, but it might be the first substantial sign that he's running out of patience with Danault, and might be slowly inching towards giving Galcheyuk another shot at some 1st line action.

- Andrei Markov and Rick Nash hate ... HATE each other. Just get a room, guys. 

- Speaking of hurting, Gallagher gone to the dressing room before the period expired. Ut-oh.

- An intense opening period, to be expected since it's the 6th game and the series is on the line. I was surprised by how wide open the game became, both defences have (for the most part) played pretty responsible hockey. Not tonight - the forwards are dominating the tone and pace of this game, which is fun to watch, but not advisable if you're the visiting team. Could be more than a few goals scored to come before this night is done.


- Habs dominating that first period, 66.7% SA CF:

- Heat map also shows Canadiens edge in the 1st period. High danger scoring chances, 6-2 in favour in Montreal:

- Gallagher's status is unknown, but one thing we do know - Mats Zuccarello delivered a very illegal two handed slash to Gallagher's ribs towards the end of the period. At the very least it wasn't on his wrist or hand, but that's still a play capable of knocking someone out for the night.

- Gallagher starts the Habs 2nd period with a shift, looked okay I suppose, maybe a little tentative around the puck?

- 4th line impact! They draw a penalty and it's McDonagh who goes to the box. So opportunity is at hand.

- Zuccarello again with nasty stick play, hitting Byron high and hard in the face. Habs more powerplay time.

- Lots of buzzing in the Rangers zone, not a lot of shots on Lundqvist. Pacioretty is officially snakebit.

- Canadiens kind of turning the tables on the Rangers tonight, with a far more physical game. It's been a double-punch effect because while they're outhitting New York, they're also vastly out-chancing them. As this game progresses, it's going to be increasingly more difficult for the Rangers to compete, they're going to get worn out down the stretch.

- Even during times when the Rangers have the puck set in the Habs zone, they can't get anything remotely dangerous away. Habs defence so fast on the puck, or delivering thumping body checks, that New York just can't maintain the zone.

- Still hard pressed to argue that Emelin is any sort of an upgrade over Brandon Davidson. 

- Hoo boy, Rangers tie it up with more defensive errors, this time it's Shea Weber not picking up the streaking  Skjei, and although vastly outplayed most of the period, the Rangers are going to be the only team who've scored a goal in the period.

- Rangers pretty pumped by that game-tier. How could you blame them? Lundqvist held them in, and they're even on the board. 

- Massively disappointing period for the Canadiens, who routed the Rangers nearly every minute of the period, and the Rangers were the only team that scored, taking advantage of a defensive miscue. For the Rangers, they'll be overjoyed with a tie game result. For the Habs, how could they not be deflated for the 3rd period? They've worked so hard, dominated possession, but don't even have a lead to show for it.


- Kind of astonishing graphic here, but the Habs with 59.2% CF at even strength finding themselves fighting for their lives:

- While the outcome of this game remains a great uncertainty, one of the post-game storylines will be the position that Claude Julien ought consider putting Davidson back in for Emelin. 

- Keep eyes on Kreider, he's had some pretty solid shifts this 3rd period. His game might be waking up.

- Much more of a grinding 3rd period, vastly different than the style of game we saw periods 1 and 2. This is more resemblant a road team period. That's bad news for the Habs.

- Canadiens sure look like a team playing for an OT point in this period. Not happy with what I'm seeing.

- Julien looking for answers here. Danault centering Pacioretty and Lehkonen. 

- Looks like our worst fears realized - Rangers came out of that 2nd period very upbeat, the Habs in the 3rd look pretty deflated. Nothing wrong with dominating your opponent, but if you can't convert that domination into victory in short order, you're far more likely to lose. That might be what happens to the Canadiens tonight.

- Max Pacioretty's intolerable woes continue, as he's stopped off a clear-cut breakaway. 

- Gallagher gets slashed, and this time it's called. With less than 6 minutes left, to say this man advantage is important would be a massive understatement.

- Nada. Safe to say with 3 minute left, next gaol wins the game, and in all likelihood, the series.

- Not that any of us can take it, but we're headed to OT. The Rangers will be very happy about that, not only because they're the road team that's been largely outplayed tonight, but because the Habs lost most if not all their substantive momentum in that 3rd period. Have to figure New York has the distinct advantage in the extra period, or periods.


- Rangers were by far the better team in the 3rd period, again to be expected when you get outplayed for most of the night, and still manage to find yourself tied on the scoreboard. So many reasons to suspect the Habs won't find a way of winning this game tonight.

- Well, here's likely the whole season, and all of it's promise, on the line. Grab a seat and maybe a hanky or two.

- Not an ideal start for the Habs in this OT. Their offence is wildly disorganized, the Rangers with far more effective zone entries. Stomach in sinking here. Just doesn't look good.

- Habs have clearly lost their mojo. They'l need a huge break to win this game.

- Rangers with a couple of icing. Game pace is at a crawl.

- Flip a coin. Habs getting a little more footing as the game has progressed. Rangers chances have been relatively limited from the 5th minute forward.

- Chris Kreider just missed a wide open net. He won't sleep for a week if the Rangers don't win tonight.

- Rangers with some pretty persistent forechecking, you'd have to figure that's eventually going to pay off sooner rather than later.

- Habs basically holding on for dear life. 7 minutes left, shots are 9-2 Rangers. There's just no way the Canadiens can hope to win this game unless something very dramatic happens in a big hurry.

- Can we get to intermission? That's about the only hope left for the Canadiens.

- There you have it. Emelin with a poor turnover at centre ice, Rangers pounce. Mika Zibanejad from Kreider, and the Rangers take game 5. It was but a matter of time, and time just ran out for the Montreal Canadiens.

- Just no way of putting a positive spin on tonight's results. Yes, the Canadiens dominated the first 2/3rds of the game, in particular the 2nd period, but they couldn't finish their opportunities. It's been a story this playoff series, and for that matter, the past few seasons for this organization. Not enough finish. So the bucks will stop at a few places. Danault and Pacioretty have failed to produce. There's no other way of spinning it. While Pacioretty has at least generated his fair share of shots, none has managed to find the back of the net, and for a bottom line sport, that's not going to cut it. Danault, meanwhile, hasn't been doing either of his wingers favours for playmaking. More often than not, he's losing puck battles in the offensive zone. That's not going to cut it.

Besides the guys who are supposed to score, it was another frustrating night for Alexei Emelin, who was easily the slowest defender on the ice for either team, and made far too many errors, including the game-losing goal, for Julien to continue to rationalize his presence. At least Brandon Davidson, who might not be as physical, contained his mistakes to the minimum.

Goaltending, Lundqvist continues to be the story of the series, overshadowing Carey Price who hasn't let in a bad goal this series, but instead has been the victim of mental mistakes by the Canadiens, either in their own zone, or at centre ice.

And so the Habs are faced with the unenviable task of having to win two in a row in order to save their season. It's possible, but it's highly unlikely. 



The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers square off tonight for game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarter final with much on the line. The victor tonight will have a sizeable advantage towards winning the series. For the Rangers, a win tonight means they could wrap the series up on home ice Saturday, for the Habs, a victory means they'll get two kicks at wrapping things up, including another home date, assuming we reach a 7th game.

So in advance of the puck drop, here are some point form things to consider:

- Alexei Emelin will be back in the lineup tonight after missing the past three weeks from a lower body injury. He'll play on the 3rd line alongside Nathan Beaulieu. While the Habs were making do with Brandon Davidson on the 3rd pairing, Claude Julien wouldn't dare keep a veteran like Emelin out. One matter for consideration - both Emelin and Beaulieu are left handed shots, it's expected that Emelin will play the left side, and Beaulieu the wrong wing. That could have an impact.

- Lots of talk amongst the media about the production, or lack of, from captain Max Pacioretty, who's yet to score in the playoffs. Pacioretty addressed the questions yesterday, in a slightly defiant tone:

"That's just the way life goes in the playoffs. I'm trying hard, I feel like I'm playing a pretty strong game right now. My last game wasn't great, but I don't think it was bad. But there are other areas to help the team win; I'm on the penalty kill, I'm playing big minutes. I'll leave the rest up to you guys, I guess, and just worry about this team."

That doesn't sound like someone who's too worried about his play. The fact is, Pacioretty like many other goal scorers, tends to be streak with his production. Pacioretty's playoff performance history also bears a slow start pattern. During the Habs run to the semi-finals in 2014, Pacioretty scored just 1 goal in his first 9 playoff games, but tallied up 4 over the final 8 before the Habs fell to the Rangers.

So the captain says not to worry, because he's not worried.

We're fine with that position, but the Habs do have a rather important matter at hand, and that's beating the Rangers at least 2 out of the next 3 games. Otherwise, his goal scoring, good or bad, becomes a moot subject.

- Apart from Emelin starting (and Davidson sitting), Habs are expected to play the same lineup tonight as they did for game 4.

- Over on the Rangers side, many accolades being thrown towards Henrik Lundqvist, whose performance this series has helped to save his team's bacon. While Lundqvist's save style hasn't always been pretty, it's gotten the job done. During game 3 the Habs seemed to crack the code a bit by playing an aggressive drive to the Rangers net, while also getting bodies in front of Lundqvist's vision. On Tuesday night, however, the traffic around the Rangers crease wasn't nearly as busy, and accordingly, the Habs came away with one paltry goal. Expect the Habs to try to create more havoc in the crease tonight.

- Rangers are making no changes to their lineup tonight, which means no Tanner Glass again. Here's how they will likely start tonight:

Jimmy Vesey - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
J.T. Miller - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Michael Grabner - Oscar Lindbert - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Nick Holden
Brady Skjei - Brendan Smith

- Perhaps one of the more astonishing facts that this series is tied, beside the fact that Lundqvist has been standing on his head, is the Rangers have managed to win 2 of 4 games while batting 0.00% with their powerplay. While it's anyone's ball game as to who wins this series, if New York can't produce offence with the man advantage, it strikes a significant blow to their overall chances of winning the next 2 out of 3.

- It's Carey Price vs. Lundqvist. Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome, even anonymously. All I ask is that you behave, and in support of good taste, avoid the use of course language, or express opinions that are just plain silly (racist, sexist, etc.)