About a month ago, Jay, a long-time reader on the site contacted me about the site's status. I told him that I had been keeping it ticking over and had plans to one day revive. He challenged me: this year. I hesitated and he offered to help. So here we are, Lions in Winter back for another winter. The plan is to have one tradiational game report a week with summary reports of the interim games to accompany. I have a feeling that when I get reading, I'll chip in on issues floating around the team (Galchenyuk's development, Tinordi's exile).
So now to Jay. Enjoy. Engage. GHG. - Topham
Location: New York
Habs Goalie: Price (W), Condon
Opposition Goalie: Lundqvist (L), Raanta
Habs goalscorers: Andrighetto, Smith-Pelly (2), Galchenyuk, Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: Nash
Max PaciorettyOur captain was very good tonight. He made an excellent pass to Smith-Pelly for his first goal of the night. A quick touch to the tape of SP’s stick and the Canadien’s lead was doubled early in the second period. He cycled well, and found space behind the Ranger defence on more than one occasion. His icing on the cake was his twelfth goal of the year, softly tucking away a crisp pass from Alex Galchenyuk.
Alex GalchenyukHis shooting throughout the course of the game wasn’t super, although you wouldn’t say so by the way he threaded the needle at 1:29 of the third period, but Alex did everything else tonight. His passes were crisp and with vision, he drove to the net with authority on more than one occasion and he was a handful, and then some, for the Ranger defence all night.
Devante Smith-Pelly - Game PuckWho could possibly replace Brendan Gallagher’s tenacity, enthusiasm, and heart on the first line? For such a tiny guy he creates so much space for his linemates who currently lead the Canadiens in scoring with 23 points (Plekanec) and 22 points (Pacioretty) respectively. I’m not suggesting he’s been replaced but tonight, Devante Smith-Pelly made a great opening argument. Two goals tonight is impressive enough but, as they say, timing is everything. 2:25 into the second period, SP gave Montreal the all important 2 goal lead and set the tone for the second period that was only stopped to watch the parade to the penalty box. 0:17 seconds into the third not only restored the 2 goal lead but let Mike Condon and the Rangers know that there’d be no rolling over and dying on this night.
Nathan BeaulieuIt’s the little things that count. No points on the night and didn’t register in the +/- category either, but that’s okay because what I saw was effort and creativity. Nathan put his body on the line in his own end. He took hits to make plays, dove at pucks to clear them and blocked shots (4) to boot. Offensively he can skate. He gained the zone, skated hard to the net, distributed the puck well and added two shots to boot. Potentially, Nate can be very good. For him to be noticed at all behind the likes of Subban, Markov, and even Petry, speaks of this young defenseman’s potential.
PK SubbanSometimes less is more. Not so flashy tonight. No end to end rushes. No howitzers from the point past Lundqvist but he quarter backed the power play brilliantly and was nearly flawless in his own end tonight. He added a quiet assist, but by keeping his game simple, he allowed for the rest of his line mates to fill the net and not worry about odd man rushes catching them. PK had it covered.
Mike CondonCarey Price was solid as usual, played two periods of sound goaltending and got the win. What Mike did tonight though, to me, earns him the nod. Sitting on the bench for two periods and coming into a 2-1 hockey game as the away team with the home team beginning to come to life is not an easy task. You won’t get much praise in the win but you’ll surely be the goat if they lose. Condon did what we’re starting to come to expect from him, now, too and that’s give Montreal a chance to win just about every time he steps in between the pipes.
CommentsWe’ve been waiting for this. On October 15, the Rangers visited the Bell Centre and were shut out 3-0 by the home team. But in the last 10 the Rangers have been hot going 8-2 and climbing up to lead the Metropolitan Division. I’ve heard on more than one occasion (usually from Leaf fans) that Montreal doesn’t have the ability to skate with the better teams in the East. Two years ago the Rangers beat Montreal in the Conference finals. Last year, they were back in the finals again, this time losing to Tampa Bay. Being led by Lundvist, who leads in all three major goaltender statistics, the Rangers have to be considered one of the, if not the, best team in the East.
23 games does not a season make, but over the first quarter of the season, Montreal has earned the right to be considered an elite team. They certainly think so, and started the night like this game meant something. Goals at the beginning and end of periods change momentum. They send a message to the opponent that they’re in for a tough period. That they’re going to have to work for every inch of ice tonight and that nothing is going to be a gimme. Tonight Montreal scored 4:45 into the first period, 2:25 into the second, and 0:17 into the third. With each passing period, Montreal sent a message to the Rangers, “we are ready for you and we are coming with everything we have.” By the third period all the Rangers had in reply was a white flag.
The first period, admittedly, was pretty good hockey. With shots 11-10 and the play just as even, both teams made plays, had chances, and competed just as you’d expect from the two best teams in the East, but it was Montreal who found a way to light the lamp and that means something. As the game went on, however, I got the feeling that the Rangers’ compete level ticked away as the clock ticked on. Their play became lethargic at times and it wasn’t until Alex Galchenyuk took a penalty for interference with three minutes left in the second period that I thought this might turn into a game after all. It didn’t last. 1:29 into the third period, Chucky redeemed himself. With a 4-1 lead and King Henrik now safely seated on the bench, the Rangers did little more that go through the motions before being let off the ice to lick their wounds.
The Canadiens were ready tonight and looked to take this as a challenge for their Eastern Conference supremacy. They were smart getting the puck out of their zone, they were fast in transition, and they were strong to the net. The Canadiens simply dominated the Rangers tonight, but what does that mean? Montreal hasn’t showed up every night. 5-1 to Vancouver, a blown 3 goal lead in the third period to Edmonton, and 6-1 to Colorado come to mind.
Be pleased that the Habs played well and that statistics were padded. Be pleased that a game with no Gallagher and the loss of Price wasn’t more of a battle than it was because those are the times we will need those players. Let’s not pat ourselves on the back too hard for beating a Rangers team who decided to take the night off after the second period. Let’s hope, instead, that Price’s injury looked worse than it was and that Smith-Pelly continues his stellar play on the first line. This team has proven it can handle adversity of which tonight wasn’t. Without Price and Gallagher in the line up over the coming weeks and maybe months, the Montreal Canadiens will come to know adversity intimately. Even so, I still like our chances.