Firstly, let’s make it clear that none of us know what we’re talking about when we make predictions. It’s a silly game that we’re expected to play.
Habs in six? It sounded right. Perfect payback for what happened the last time the teams met in the playoffs. As close as they were during the regular season the Canadiens seemed to have a big advantage in goal while the rediscovered commitment to sound play in their own end should have cancelled out the clear offensive advantage owned by the Rangers.
But two games into the series it was obvious the edge in goal did not exist, at least to the point that it was expected to tip the scale. By Game Six it was just as obvious that the Habs were going to need a minor miracle to advance to the next round.
A team that has struggled to score started (and ended) an elimination game down the middle with Phillip Danault, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Flynn and Steve Ott.
So they got their one goal from Alexei Emelin.
- Artturi Lehkonen. A star is born.
- Alexander Radulov. Constantly feeding teammates only to see them (mostly) come up empty. Except for Emelin who beat Lundqvist high glove, perhaps an area the Habs didn’t go to often enough. Finished the series with 7 points.
- Tomas Plekanec. Proved he still has something left. Easily the Habs most effective centre in the series. But in the end, with perhaps the game – and the series – on his stick, he coudn’t replicate his late game heroics from Game Two.
- Brendan Gallagher. Too bad a couple of his bigger and stronger teammates can’t seem to summon up the energy or desire to play every shift as he does.
- Jeff Petry. Habs’ best defenseman.
- Shea Weber & Andrei Markov. These guys were good too. They made it awfully difficult for New York to score when they were on the ice. Any concern about the Rangers being too fast for them was dispelled in a hurry. Habs could have used another goal from Weber in the series but his low perfect blast from inside the blue line during a late second period power play was snared by Lundqvist’s glove.
- Brandon Davidson. Not once did he appear to be out of place or overwhelmed, especially considering it was his first exposure to the playoffs.
- Jordie Benn. Tough ending to what was a terrific stretch of play after he arrived from Dallas. For the second straight game, Benn watched his check score the winning goal. Plus, the Habs appeared to be in good shape until Benn lost the puck off a defensive zone face off then lost his man (Pavel Buchnevich) and took a holding penalty even though the Habs were not in any trouble defensively. Perhaps the added workload caught up to him. Because when they got him he was supposed to be part of a third defense pair while helping out the PK unit.
- Phillip Danault. Worked hard. Hit a bunch of guys. But clearly in over his head playing alongside Radulov. Found himself alone in the slot during a first period power play but after Radulov set him up but he whiffed. There’s a lot to like about this player but not as a #1 centre.
- Paul Byron. Much less effective as the series went along. Opened the game on the third line.
- Power Play. As much as the Habs struggled to score they needed their power play to be better than just ok. It was far better than the Rangers’ PP during the series (15% to 6.7%) but when New York absolutely needed a goal they finally got one to help win the series. The Habs again were given opportunities to either add to their lead (Derek Stepan holding the stick penalty in the first) or tie it up (JT Miller high stick on Davidson in the second and a dumb high sticking penalty by Chris Kreider midway through the third) but couldn’t generate much other than strong shots from the outside, mostly from Weber and Petry.
- Carey Price. Normally a 1.82 goals against average and .933 save percentage will get you to the next round. But Price was outdueled by Lundqvist who’s save percentage jumped 37 points against Montreal shooters (.910 regular season to .947). Price normally stops the Zuccarello one-timer on the power play. It’s a shame he has to operate with an almost non-existent margin of error. A newer spin on plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
- Claude Julien. With every mistake magnified it’s only fair to point out that Julien seemed to be outfoxed by Alain Vigneault prior to the winning goal. There was a TV time out just ahead of a face off deep to the right of Carey Price. Julien decided to go with his 4th line and third defense pair. Vigneault countered with Kevin Hayes, Miller and Zuccarello. Game over.
- Max Pacioretty. It’s going to be a long summer. I give him credit for coming out and competing hard. True, you don’t want him in the penalty box for 7 minutes but shit happens on the ice. Pacioretty had been chirped relentlessly by Jimmy Vesey (Total number of games in the NHL – 86) so decided to try to shut him up with a cross check to the mouth. But if he was hoping the incident and subsequent scrap would fire himself up for the rest of the game he was mistaken. There was barely even a sizzle. Maybe he was hurt early in the series by Dan Girardi (How’d Erik Karlsson look playing injured against Boston?) but in addition to firing blanks there were other elements of his game that just weren’t good enough for playoff hockey. Poking the puck forward or backwards with one hand on the stick while it is lying against the boards is not winning hockey. Going after the puck and taking control while knowing you’re going to get smacked is winning hockey (See Brendan Gallagher). Time and again Pacioretty seemed unwilling (after the hit by Girardi in Game One) to pay a physical price. Maybe if there’s a Game 7 he breaks his drought. But we’ll never know. Some of his post-game comments (dragging Petry into the discussion following his own misplay on McDonagh that led to the Rick Nash winner in Game 4 and then blaming the OT loss in Game 5 on “the change game”) were simply not cool. If the Habs trade Pacioretty they are going to have to spend a lot more than 4.5 million dollars a year for 30 + goals. So maybe they take the heat off and do what probably should have been done to begin with – remove the ‘C’ and give it to Weber.
- Alex Galchenyuk. Terribly disappointing series. Moved from 4th line LW to (momentarily) 1st line C to 3rd line RW with a couple of other pit stops along the way. Seemed strange that he was taking important offensive zone face offs with time running out on the season (he was 0-5). I think the Habs badly mucked up his development as a centre. But I’m not so much of a fanboy that I fail to recognize that he often appears lost without the puck. And the drive and determination needed at this level at this time of year was simply not there. This is a black mark on Galchenyuk the player. But it’s even worse for the guy who drafted him 3rd overall.
- Marc Bergevin. The last time Bergevin’s team was eliminated in the spring he looked at the total number of goals scored by his centremen (Plekanec 1 goal in 12 games, Torrey Mitchell 1 goal in 12 games, Lars Eller 1 goal in 12 games, David Desharnais 1 goal in 11 games) against Ottawa (W6) and Tampa Bay (L6) and dramatically improved the situation by…by…by….I believe the term is “whistling past the graveyard”.
#Canadiens set new franchise record for the fewest goals in a 6-game playoff series, scoring just 11 times (on 206 SOG for a 5.3 shooting %)
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) April 23, 2017