Monday, May 26, 2014

Montreal-New York Game #4: Montreal Must Forget Mistakes That Weren't Forgiving

Date: 25/05/2014
Opponent: Rangers
Location: New York

Win: 2-3 (OT)

Habs Goalie: Tokarski (L)
Opposition Goalie: Lundqvist, (W)

Habs goalscorers: Bouillon, Subban
Opposition goalscorers: Hagelin, Brassard, St. Louis

Play of the game

It was about 8 minutes left in the second period and the Canadiens had just tied it up on a wonderful play by Bouillon. One of the defenders had just flipped it casually out after some previous pressure and NYR reloaded. Zuccarello sped around Emelin and the net to put it through a crowd of almost all the Canadiens. The puck came to Derrick Brassard with a bit of time and no pressure and he got off what everyone thought was a goal shot. Somehow Tokarski makes the save. It saves his team from a backbreaker a few minutes before they would do it to themselves anyway.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Rene Bourque

Rene Bourque put in his most visible effort in a few games in this one. I think he gets unfairly onto some people's radar these playoffs, all now expecting him to score 5 goals a series. On the line he is on, and with the ice time he is getting, he is doing fine. IN this game, he did more than fine and was one of the main reason the Canadiens can come away saying they got more shots from close in than the Rangers  He was very visible when the tide seemed to turn as he and his line were on the ice for a few shifts of sustained pressure, much thanks to his effort. His shrewd between the legs pass (shades of Rangers) finally broke the defence and sent in his players clear and on the front foot for once. He can be so effective when he lets loose a little abandon on those big skates. I hope to see more.

Alex Galchenyuk - Game Puck

I have secretly been harbouring a bad feeling about Galchenyuk. I understand his youth and inexperience is impediment, but I feel even young players need to show me a glimpse of something if they wish to break into superstar territory one day. I think this Game Puck is being given for that as well as his very effective game. Since his return, the Plekanec line has been a steady, building flame and towards the crucial last moments, they were really building some heat in this game. Clearly, the gamewinner off his chin the other night helped his confidence. I hope the crossbar on the would-be gamewinner here added fuel to his flame as well. I looked up some stats on him and the rest of the habs and Alex stands out in one incredible way: when the team is down, he ratchets it up by a long margin. I think if there were ever a time to loosen the leash, it would be with a season on the brink. There is no lesson so hard for him anymore that can't be outbalanced by the success he drives.

Brian Gionta

Another forward I have been anxious about. Gionta came to play just when he always seems to, at the 11th hour when his team is in need. He generated a lot of shots for himself and pressure for his line with some improved forechecking. Every minute to the end of this series is now the 11th hour, so I hope and expect to see more of Brian.


Mike Weaver

The shotblocker makes it in as the trusty standby in this one. While I do think the Canadiens did well in this game, well enough to be winners, I can't hide my worry about the way they choose to defend. It makes me uneasy to watch the absorption of so many open shots with faithful shot blocking. Weaver is starring in this defence right now. While he does alright in other aspects, it is his fearless defence of shooting lanes that stands out. In this one, he saved a few good shots from getting through to the net (maybe in it).

Josh Gorges

Gorges has seen his situation steadily deteriorate over the past few games. In the Boston series, he was merely watching the best defender in the world do his thing. Now he is following around a tired young Subban and cleaning up where he can. He was part of a bad line change that made no sense (he had only been on for at most 15 seconds when they started doing it), but otherwise in this one was as good as any other option for this dome. A lament with Gorges will always be his shot. With the plum opportunities he gets, it's a shame he can't do much more than he does.


Dustin Tokarski

He made a few unlikely saves to go with the three goals he allowed. No one would fault him for any, but if the team wants to go to the Stanley Cup final with this defence corps, it will need a stop on one of those. Still, very impressed by his composure and technique. I would be confident as his teammate for Game 5.


Montreal sent themselves into the territory without margin for error with some very costly errors in this game. Heartening is that even amateurs could identify some corrections to prevent those goals. Anxiety comes from the search for a time when Montreal has been error free.

One of the simple explanations for this defeat that I would be keen to dismiss is that the Canadiens lost because they did not score on the PP. While there is some truth to this, it ignores a couple of things: first they did score, and; second they improved their PP immensely throughout the game. If I had to guess the cause of Therrien's ire for Rangers coaches attendance at his practices, I would suggest that PP strategies would be close to the top. The Canadiens have had trouble all series with the very aggressive PK from the Rangers that differs so drastically from the Bruins and what most teams apply all season. If he was making adjustments, it seems fair that the Rangers should not get first view. Anyway, that is behind now. And whatever adjustment they thought they had was either going nowhere or cancelled by a counter-adjust, so it took some more thinking. Once the team started carrying the puck over the line, it was clear they would hold the zone so long as they could receive the simplest of passes.

I am hoping the Canadiens uncomfortable position brings out the best in more of its players now. After all, the best we have seen thus far has come in Games of highest pressure. It will not be easy, but if the Habs can establish a strong early surge and come out with something to show for it (a lead) then they will do two things: give themselves a much better chance of winning, and reminding the Rangers that their success mostly also depends on early leads. One can't really control goals, so all the team can do is bring forth that effort. A buzz around the Rangers net in Period 1 on Tuesday will tell everyone, teammates, fans, Rangers that the series will not be over until the score says it is.

There are some adjustments that Therrien could make, but I'd be careful at this stage. The top line had a bad game here, but were the best by far in two previous displays. The Plekanec line is starting to tick and he must not again be sacrificed without serious consideration. Vanek, for all the criticism had a statistically marvellous game. We want him to be the star to carry the team, he doesn't seem able against this defence, so instead let's hope he can find better touch on a makeshift lower line. The defenders all look tired, but what options would anyone suggest for a do-or-die game now? Only Beaulieu has the measure of the Rangers, but he doesn't have the trust of his coach. Then there is Price. As he practices, t is conceivable he could be risked. To me Tokarski is holding this thing together, so he should be the trusted man.

It's white knuckle time all the time now.



  1. A few thoughts to add:

    - Emelin is not looking effective anymore and needs his minutes to be dropped. His pivot is looking slow, and creative forwards are exploiting his poor gap control upon zone entry.

    A consequence of not playing your rookies much in the regular season is that they can't have gained anybody's trust - through no fault of their own - come playoffs, nor will they have gotten themselves up to speed come elimination time.

    I guess that's my main problem with therrien, but I suppose I can't fault him that his vets haven't succumbed to injury.

    - Habs look their best these playoffs when they are connecting passes in zone transition, from D to neutral to offensive zone. They've gotten away from that for large swaths of the games in this series.

    - The dump-in isn't looking too effective, particularly not on the power play. This isn't mtl-boston, and I don't really see the team adapting to counter NY.

    -Most egregious lack of adaptation? See the three goals rangers got 1 on 1 vs. Tokarsky. The team should be embarrassed for leaving their rookie goalie out to hang like that.

    1. They are trying to pry open the Rangers defence in ways it is not ready to be pried: with a lot of long hopeful passes. I think a more patient approach to make the Blueshirts make a move would open better seams. Not a slow team, the Rangers aren't as prone to the instant counter attack as previous opposition.

    2. That's right. In fact the roles seem reversed compared to last series. Mtl is now falling victim to the long stretch pass, rather than victimizing with it.

      For me it's short passes through the neutral zone that will allow the team to gain entry with the speed needed to back up nyr's talented defenders.