Friday, May 30, 2014

Montreal-New York Game #6: The Grind of the Playoffs Finally Wears Through the CH

Date: 29/05/2014
Opponent: Rangers
Location: New York

Loss: 0-1

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

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Moore

Play of the game

There wasn't much pressure in this one, and the refs had decided that Game#4s penalties were enough for the series. So it was something to see when the line of Eller, Bourque and Vanek were hemming the Rangers in just after their goal . Vanek, already looking like a player who realized the gravity of the situation did what all his critics had been calling for after each of his pretty passes to Michael Bournival. he drove the net himself. Lunqvist hauled him down, but Richards got the penalty. It was the glimmer of hope that a Habs fan could hang his hat on for the last time in the season.

Dome hockey team

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


Thomas Vanek

I am not sure why Vanek became a passer when he arrived in Montreal, it probably cost him some respect in the end. His pass to Bournival was the best chance in the game for the Habs. If it had not been cut off, it would have been a tap in that only, well, Bournival could miss. Even cut, it became a threat on goal saved, and following that took an off-screen Ranger to settle the matter for good. He played well in this one, even if he never found others on his wavelength. I suspect this was his last game as  Canadien for a while. He was worth the price paid.

Brendan Gallagher

One has to feel pretty good about Brendan Gallagher on the whole. This playoff experience did showcase all that he can offer. In this game, he fought the best he could. It just seemed that the Rangers defenders would follow him after he slipped their initial traps. He was hindered by the travails of his forlorn linemates in this game. He is one of few players who can say he lasted till the bitter end, one of many who can be proud of his efforts on the season.

Alex Galchenyuk

It is wonderful for him that he could step in and do so well in a pressure cooker. But his fresh legs showed his teammates up at every turn. If you want to talk about possession in this unflattering game, then behold the player who conquered on this night. He can do all this because he has the tools to call on, skating, hands, size, etc. It is now for the Habs to move him into his lifelong position surround him with some of those vaunted draft picks of theirs.


Mike Weaver

The reinforcement he brought to the Canadiens back line was an edifying experience for the general manager that had signed Douglas Murray. Weaver was effective yet versatile all the way to the very end of the season. The defence corps of the next Conference title contenders needs to have a Weaver or two in its makeup.

PK Subban

A valiant effort for Subban. One could tell he'd like to draw more from a well that was dry. We never quite saw his dynamic rushes here. We did see good moments when he was on the ice. My wife remarked that all good moments required a Subban instigation. While Carey Price will continue to give the Canadiens 1% more saves than they could otherwise expect, Subban is the player who will most dictate how far this version of the team will go in the future. He's always given the signal that lessons like this make an impression on him. I expect he'll be ready for 120 games at top speed in 2014.


Dustin Tokarski - Game Puck

Under the pressure of the situation and the efforts of the other team, he performed a marvellous turn. His slapshot save on Brassard near the end spells the kind of warrior he is, and the Canadiens would do well to at least bottle what he has, if not keep in the plans for a while. Tokarski can go home with head held high this summer, and I can't help but wonder if that will come too easily. If the Habs had thought Tokarski should be the netminder of reserve, they should have made the hard call for Budaj earlier and pulled in a little more of Tokarski's commitment all the way through.


I pondered long over my headline. I wanted to give the Rangers the credit they deserve. But you know what, they were negative in this game. They defended when the prize was only there for them and they don't deserve another headline going there way from a Habs site.

The Rangers were certainly the better team on the night, of that there is no doubt. But, the Habs were simply not themselves. They wanted to be competing. Earlier in the season, this was a game they would relish. 6 weeks into this gruelling test, they just couldn't muster it anymore. It's really irrelevant whether that was injuries or simple fatigue. The matter is they were worn down by the tremendous effort they gave and the tremendous efforts they faced from others. Remember after all, the Canadiens playoffs started early (some time in October with their media) and they haven't played a meaningless game (apart from that one behind closed doors after Tampa) since late 2012. Contrasted with LA, who only attract attention after they stumble into the playoffs and it's quite striking.

Nor am I making excuses for the Habs. It simply is what happened here. Subban could barely lift his tree trunk legs if you watched his warm ups, Markov was struggling mightily, Emelin gone just plain tired, I think. And the substitutions the team was forced to make were part of the pain. Tokarski did a marvellous job, but the Habs still missed Price's confidence with loose pucks and dump ins (leading to more skating for a rough team), Beaulieu will be confident one day, but he wasn't in game 6, Bournival gained a heck of an apprenticeship, but was not a contributor, not really. Weise was sorely missed, and one can't help but consider the convenience of this happening.

The Habs need a team that doesn't expend so much energy in getting to this point, especially before April (although Pittsburgh and Boston might advise differently). A fresher team would not have been outskated like this throughout.

The Rangers to their credit detected this, and everything they won can be traced to the advantages they took from this. Don't forget, the Rangers have learned this themselves from being in Conference finals a few times themselves very recently, and demonstrated the efficiency they had learned to exercise.

There is bitterness in this too. The Canadiens apparently wore out their welcome with the NHL and its refs. One would only need to review what happened when goaltenders were touched in this series to get a sense of how the standard was applied with flexibility for context. Last game a Canadiens player was penalized for trying to stop a Ranger from hitting Tokarski, this game a Ranger got a PP for high-sticking our captain into his goaltender. The NHL rule application system is a total nonsense, and I can't see how any player on any team can deal with the persistent variations at this time of year. The players would probably just play 100% of the time if the rules were clear, now the teams that play by the apparent rules find out their interpretation of the standard written only minutes before without distribution were wrong. The Canadiens did not lose for this reason. But the NHL did. They have lost several exciting series over the years at the expense of some nonsensical imperative. I'm sure the Habs would have and the Rangers will enjoy discovering how much a Western team is allowed to get away with from night to night in June. Their discipline department needs to have a good look at themselves too as the head-butting Dorsett was on the ice for the goal that sent his team to the Finals. At least Weise being hunted was punished.

The season that the Canadiens put in was a great one. A great surprise to everyone. The disappointment that we feel now is tempered by a lot of hope. Let's not dismiss this as a disappointment for the team. it was 2 series wins and a lot of regular season work beyond the majority of their Stanley Cups and it should be remembered fondly, if not with a banner (I'm looking at you 1926-27 American division champs). Be proud of this team and the memories you thought were going in a Stanley Cup bank. These are not the Habs of a 3-contender league and runs like this are victories.

Well onto finding a few more building blocks for that regular season cruising team, I guess.



  1. Thanks for coming back for the playoffs. I read them all.

  2. It was this team that inspired me to get on the keyboard again. I had another 8 games in me, so I'm at a loss for the moment.

    I love the offseason part of the game of hockey. It is the one place where coaches haven't come up with traps for every situation. Teams can gain big advantages over sleepy rivals. And Burke is around too, so you never know what he'll gift in a trade.

    1. Surely I speak for most readers in hoping for some off-season content. Thanks for the glorious comeback!

  3. Our young players got a tremendous amount of experience this year. All of them besides Tinordi and a few others now know how it feels to be in the playoffs. This is very good news for the future.

    This series was not won in front of the nets despite Price's injury. It was all about what happened behind and on both sides of the nets... The Rangers would joyfully dump it in the corners, knowing they would come out with the puck most of the time. Even Lundqvist would regularly throw it behind him after his saves.

    Like I said right here before the playoffs began, the Rangers were like a trap for Montreal. Practically everyone thought that because we beat Boston, the Cup was going to be ours and that facing the Rangers was going to be a walk in the park. The Rangers were underestimated, plain and simple. They've been underestimated by many foes so far.

    Vigneault knows both western teams pretty well... He knows how they play. This is going to be very useful for NY.

    This team has something going on... It goes beyond the game. They have an aura around them. I believe this is the year of the Rangers, no matter how strong the opposition may be.

    1. You could be right, but I don't think anyone would have believed you during the regular season or either of the preceding series. It could perhaps be that the Canadiens were just a dream match for the Rangers as the Lightning were for the Habs.

      Neither Kings nor Blackhawks will be pushovers as champions each in the past 2 seasons.

      One thing is certain. If Brad Richards continues to be as invisible and Rick Nash as hodge podge, the Rangers might struggle when Pouliot's luck/discipline runs out.