Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Habs Hang on to Beat Rangers

Date: 24/10/2017
Opponent: NY Rangers
Location: Bell Centre
Win: 5-4

Montreal Goalie: Price (W)
New York Goalie: Pavelec (L)

Montreal goalscorers:  Byron, Galchenyuk, Danault (2), Pacioretty
New York goalscorers: Buchnevich, Nash, Zibanejad, Skjei

Pre Game

The Los Angeles game was a huge disappointment.  There's been a lot of those kinds of games so far this year, but after their performance against Florida I hoped they'd turned a corner, that something had clicked, and we were about to be treated to a string of better hockey. 

The L.A. Kings are tops in the league right now, though, and were quite dominant in their last game against Montreal, exploding for four goals in the third period.  I did think it was possible for the Canadiens to put together three periods of hockey that could match their first two in L.A. but there was a little something that told me not to be surprised if they get blown out again as that seems to be an all too regular occurrence in this young season. 

Dome hockey team

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


Max Pacioretty

More than just scoring a goal, Max Pacioretty was positive on the puck tonight.  He was defensively responsible and he created space by being a threat that allowed his linemates a little more time with the puck.  This opened the game up to some big things by them.  Max hit more, dug for the puck harder and was better in his own zone tonight.  That's what a leader does.  Hopefully the rest of the team can follow his example.

Philip Danault - Game Puck

Wow.  At the risk of sounding like Pierre McGuire, that was a monster performance.  Is this the Philip Danault that Bergevin saw that I've been missing up until last night?  Sure, he's had some bright spots but mostly average to poor until tonight.  I would love to have to eat my words on this guy.  That was a terrific performance.

Andrew Shaw 

This line was on fire tonight.  Shaw has really stepped up his game playing with these two.  If he can get into the dirty places without taking stupid penalties and dish the puck off to the scoring talent, this line could be the best the Canadiens have to offer this year.


Shea Weber 

A couple of helpers tonight combined with his usual gritty performance on defence has gotten Webs back in the dome.

Brandon Davidson

Kudos to Claude Julien for mixing up the bottom two defensive pairs.  Petry and Alzner just weren't working out and have been much better (maybe only a little better in Alzner's case) since the split.  Davidson has also responded to the switch and looks much more confident in his own zone now.  Tonight he took the body more and didn't get caught puck watching and looked much crisper when moving the puck out of his own zone.


Carey Price

You can't fault Carey Price with the fourth goal but how did the Canadiens get from being up 3-0 to a flook goal tying the game up?  Poor goaltending.  I think Carey could see the first goal.  He looked to have an angel around Nash with a sight line to the shooter.  I think it was poor positioning and slow reaction time.  For argument's sake we'll give him that one too.  He slide over too far and was too slow getting back in the net on Nash's goal and was needlessly over to far on the third goal when it should have been recognised that a pass was a better and more likely option.  He had no chance on recovering to even attempt to save Zibanejad.  Poor positioning.  Due to errors unbecoming of a starting goaltender with Price's experience, Carey Price was key in the New York Rangers creeping their way back even.  We're all very luck Danault decided to play hero tonight.  All I ask for goaltenders to be in the dome is that they find a way to win.  Price very nearly didn't tonight, but he did so we'll keep him. 

Play of the Game

It's 4-4 and we're all thinking, "not this again".  The Canadiens came out flying but shoddy goaltending and some bad luck has things even.  It's been a short season filled with short comings but Mr. Danault came to play with a strong back.

Pacioretty, Shaw, and Danault did a good job getting the puck over the blue line, under control, then got the puck deep.  After winning their respective battles along the boards Shaw found Davidson creeping in from the point.  It was a hard shot from Davidson that could have been handled better by Pavelec but with the goaltending error on the other foot for a change tonight, Danault was lurking in front of the net and quickly swatted home his second of the night.  Not just a game winner but a confidence booster for everyone.  It rewarded the tremendous effort from the entire team and afforded Carey another game to find his.

Post Game

Fantastic start and the Canadiens did well to answer goals from the Rangers on two occasions.  You have to be impressed with Danault.  Obviously 4 point nights are going to be few and far between but if he can play like that more nights than not that second line will be more like line 1B.  That's the second win in three nights and, more importantly, it's hockey worth watching.

The Good News is that it's yet another win where our offensive looked like a juggernaut.  How this team can be so offensively gifted after looking so anaemic is curious.  Good on Julien, too for coming up with the Pacioretty/Danault/Shaw line.  It looked very, very good tonight.  That's too positives.  Something we can take and build on in the coming games.

The Bad News is that they just weren't tight enough with the lead.  Sure, you can blame bad goaltending, I did, but there's 5 more players out there on the ice.  I don't like teams sitting back on a lead for two periods but you have to tighten up a bit.  The Habs didn't and that needs work.  The Rangers aren't a good team right now and playing that loose won't result in points against anyone better.

Carey Price's play right now is just plain ugly.  No sugar coating it.  This is not a defensive problem, it might have originated from the abysmal defence we were treated too earlier on, but this, right now, is a Carey problem.  If the offence kicks in like this every night and the defence tightens things up a bit more, this team is still no where near a Stanley Cup contender without Price playing like Price. If I'm right about that, and Price doesn't improve, this will be a wasted year.

I saw this happen once before.  Jose Theodore had a season like Price did, Hart and Vezina Trophies.  Then something happened.  It wasn't a physical thing, I doubt hair loss can be directly attributed to plummeting goals against or save percentage.  It, coincidentally, was the year after Theodore signed the biggest contract (up to that point) in Montreal Canadiens history.  Theodore was abysmal and eventually lost his starting job to Cristobal Huet.  His story with the Canadiens, that started out like a fairytale, ended badly, traded to the Avalanche for David Aebischer.  With all the trade talk going on and a historical precedent already there, can we expect to see Price in a trade if things don't improve?  It's a sure way to get Matt Duchesne in a Habs uniform and probably Nat MacKinnon as well.

The Senators are up next.  They are well coached if nothing else with a bonafide superstart on the blueline.  It was good to get the win against the Rangers, at this point I'll take what I can get, but we need better goaltending, we need sharper play in our own zone, and we need to string together a winning streak to get back on track.  What better way than to beat the Senators in Ottawa, our home away from home.


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