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.

THE GOOD

  • 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.

THE BAD

  • 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.

THE UGLY

  • 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”.

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15 Responses

  1. John N

    To be fair, Jordie Benn was injured prior to the playoffs and may not have been 100%. I would add Nathan Beaulieu to the Ugly list. His mistakes were colossal in the series. He and Galchenyuk’s regression was by far the biggest disappointment this year.

    • Mitch Melnick

      You’re right about Benn. Solid addition who admitted today that he wasn’t quite right but wanted to play so badly. A lot to like about him as I pointed out in earlier blogs. This was more a wrap to Game 6 and the playoffs as opposed to the entire season. That one is coming.

  2. Sruli

    Mitch. Thanks for consistently offering what I find the most insightful and balanced and not hysterical analysis available in this city.

    • Mitch Melnick

      Thanks for that. And thanks for taking the time to read.

  3. dra58

    I am very unhappy with how things have played out as well but I am hopeful with a full year of Julien and maybe “IF” we are lucky MB will finally get us a number one center and we will have some offense to support CP because he really has no margin for error unfortunately. As to Beaulieu I still feel like I do with AG and many other of our kids in the AHL that Therriens system stunted their development by years possibly. Maybe with a new system in place we can help the kids become real players and reach their potential here not someplace else. One thing I really wish M/B would do especially next year with the farm team in Laval is have more of their parents come and live with them. Look at where Galchenyuk was when Mom and Sis were here compared to now. I realize kids need to grow up up but a young star in a hockey mad town is often a recipe for disaster. Remember when Price was young he hung with a couple of brothers from and a certain former canuck player who was here at the time. Montreal is a tough place for young men with cash in their pockets and a free evening on their hands as we know when other teams arrive early for games often find out as well. Gallagher was fortunate to have Georges family to start with and he seems to have a more level head on his shoulders but not all kids are so fortunate to be able to turn out the noise and focus on their JOBS. A long summer awaits MB now with very little wiggle room going forward after this year I expect so hopefully he finally sees the need for offense and can somehow make a trade with Las Vegas so they take Plekanec off our hands and free up some much needed cap space. Will miss these for a while but optimistically hope that next year you have to write them into June…..

    • Mitch Melnick

      Thank you for your comments. Much appreciated. Please call Monsieur Drain for all your plumbing needs 🙂

  4. Marco Chioda

    I am disappointed in how the Canadiens’ season ended. I am more disappointed in Alex Galchenyuk’s lack of progress this year. I cannot help but feel that the coaching’sflip-flopping with the will-he/won’t-he play centre hurt AG. I, like Mitch, is not totally blinded by AG’s lack of effort, but I still wonder where he’d be if they’d just let him play centre all along.
    By the way, I would have liked a journalist to ask Julien why, if he thinks AG is a winger, he had him take the 2 most important face-offs of the season? Who drew up that play? Julien? Muller? Perplexing…

    Regarding Pacioretty, I think the problem lies with the fact that he seems reluctant to pay the price. I am sure he cares, but I would like it if he cared as much as Radulov and Gallagher. Those 2 guys are warriors. I don’t think that of the captain.

    If I’m not mistake, Bergevin once talked about guys who “get you there” vs “guys who get you through”. Pacioretty, in my eyes is the former. They traded away a guy who gets you through. But, that guy was a distraction, so…

    It’s funny, Weber was supposed to help Max become a better captain. The former Habs captains I’ve admired, Gainey, Carbo, Muller, Damphousse, Koivu, all paid the physical price to try to take their team to the next level. I wonder if Patches has the fire in him.

    The loss is not completely on Pacioretty, I agree. Bergevin has not been able to address his team’s lack of scoring. I am happy people questioned the development factor. NO one, besides Gallagher, has come up from the farm and had a big impact in the last 5 years. I mean, Beaulieu is talented. He should be better. Is Daigneault part of the problem? Is Lefebvre?

    Finally, I can’t believe some are blaming Price. Yes, he gave up a weak goal. But, no one scored after that! (By the way, why have Tony Marinaro on your show? I’m glad you cut him off).

    Here’s hoping MB gets bitten by the creativity bug and he finally scores a #1 centre.

    Cheers!

    • Mitch Melnick

      I believe those who keep harping on Price allowing a bad goal cannot possibly have watched any other games in the playoffs.

  5. Kostas

    Thank you Mitch for all your thoughts this season.
    I enjoyed every one of your articles.

    See you next season

  6. Rick L

    Kind of looked forward to your postgame rundowns for a few weeks more, Mitch … thanks for another season of good reads … can’t tell you how disappointed I am in this year’s results … that’s odd, because this was the first time in many years that I simply wasn’t pumped for the playoffs … why? Maybe it had more to do with “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” … on another note, I couldn’t remember who it was that rocked Max Pacioretty in Game One, but I thought it might have had a lot to do with Max avoiding the contact throughout the remainder of the series … and so I don’t sound like a hypocrite, I was critical of Max as well but that hit by Dan Girardi might just be what took him out of the series … anyway, there’s a lot of work to do, which seems to be Mr Bergevin’s end-season posture every year … in the nothing-to-do-with-hockey category, can’t make it to Lee Harvey Osmond on the 29th, but we’re looking at Joe Bonamassa in Syracuse this August … anyway, thanks again for maintaining your blog … all the best over the summer, Mitch …

  7. Ian London

    This is for the season/series/team
    Good: Rads, Gally, Leks, Weber
    Bad: Max, Chucky, Nate. Carey’s non-focus on 2-3 goals that could have reversed a loss if he makes the save. Entire team for not being able to bury goals and bury the Rangers when we had outplayed them badly in the 1st period in game 5/6. MB – other than Benn I still don’t get the March trades. What’s this infatuation w/King?
    Ugly: No offensive pressure other than half of game 2 and all of game 3. Not plugging up middle of ice – NY got out w/speed far too easily. Bad exits – how many times did we have a soft pass that NY jumped all over. Officials? you bet. How did they miss the crosscheck to Shaw’s head earlier in series and the high stick that drew blood on Leks at end of 1st period of final game. That could have been a game-changer. We should have had a PP for 4 minutes at beginning of the 2nd period on fresh ice and could have opened a decent lead. Why are they content to let Gally get beaten up every game? Playing hard should be rewarded and not discouraged. Every team hates him. Every team would love to have him.
    Disappointing: we could still be playing if we played with heart thruout but especially during long stretches of last 3 games. We weren’t beaten by a better team. We were beaten by a team that played better than us. Not the same thing. Let’s face it. They didn’t outscore us by very much. Take away the EN goals and we were outscored 12-11. Therefore, Lunquist stole this series. NY plays like that again and they won’t get far. Need more quality shots from Chuck and Max and a little luck (Daneault’s and Weber’s posts could have been goals and then we’re talking about what happened in game 7 worse case scenario).
    Immediate future: for now, let’s all cheer for Edmonton. Love small Canadian markets to piss off Bettman and his american billionaire buddies and afternoon TV games.
    Future: MB has some major decisions to make. Too many to list here so I’ll just say – does he play it safe, take a risk or do something smart? whatever he does, this could be his last year. But who is really out there that can help us reach next level as a GM?
    Wish list: I’ve heard lots of names bandied about but the guy I want is Tavares. Heard he’s a bit of a whiner but he’d look good in a Habs sweater.
    Have a great summer Habs fans. See you in the fall!!!

  8. Robert Monti

    Hi Mitch. Just wanted to thank you for this season. This is the place I always come to when I want to find out what really happened the night before. Great insight without all the melodrama. Keep up the great work!

  9. IMS1965

    Thanks for this analysis, Mitch. I am still disappointed at the way this season played out, but I don’t necessarily blame the players. Did some of them have disappointing playoffs? Sure, led by MaxPac and Andrew Shaw, several of them did. But, the hard facts are that as much as many fans (including myself) despised Michel Therrien and wanted him sacked, his replacement, Claude Julien, was outcoached over the course of the series by Alain Vigneault. As well, the “blame” for the defeat should also lie squarely at the feat of Marc Bergevin. The biggest problem that has existed with this team is nothing new: Lack of offense, especially at the center position. That was a the problem when Bergevin took over, and it’s still a problem now. I think that we can all agree that Philippe Danault, while certainly a NHL-calibre center, should not be lining up at center with the #1 and #2 lines. Tomas Plekanec’s best days are well behind him.

    The team has ONE player who can play at center and produce offensively, even though he was largely invisible in the series against the Rangers (Alex Galchenyuk), and two minutes of watching him showed a player who clearly (to me) has lost his confidence. One such player is simply not enough, and that’s a fact that continues to escape Bergevin, year after year, let alone when you have coaches moving him all over the lineup and shifting him between positions.

  10. SUMO

    Thanks for all the recaps this season Mitch. Always look forward to your write-ups. If you are at all considering a year end review, i for one would certainly like to hear your thoughts. This season, left an empty feeling for alot of people and you more than any other writer out there, have a real good read on the pulse of the Habs. I think its pretty obvious to even the most die-hard fan, this team cannot win it all, as its built.

    I hope they find a way to keep Galchenyuk. Hes only a season removed from a 30-goal season. Would hate to see him blossom into another Tyler Seguin for a different organization. Would like to see him between Radulov and Lehkonen on the top line next season.

    The moves Bergevin makes this off-season will define his legacy with the Habs. He cannot come back with the same team and hope they can win it all. Changes need to be made, on and off the ice.

    Thanks again.