Weeks 8 – 10: Streakiness

2017-18 Week 8-9

First of all, I apologize.  It’s been three weeks since my last post, and, well, lots has happened in the last three weeks and I should be writing more regularly.

The Canadiens started this latest sequence on a losing note but quickly leapt into a five-game winning streak after Carey Price returned from injury.  Carey Price was back to his old self.  He was consistent, he was making big saves, and he was giving his team the chance to win every single night.

The team responded accordingly.  Over the course of the five-game winning streak, the team scored a grand total of 24 goals, including 10 in that game against Detroit, though things have gone sour in the past week.  The Habs had a good outing against the Blues, but ultimately fell short in a game they could have won.  Against the Flames, they were leading and were pretty much on top of things… until things unravelled when the refs allowed a goal that perhaps should not have counted.  Demoralized after two questionable losses, the Habs folded it in a mere few hours ago at home against the Edmonton Oilers, dropping the game 6-2 and seeing Carey Price getting chased…

A few things to talk about here.

First off, Carey Price.  For better or for worse, he has been the story of the past few weeks.  First, it was his injury.  Then, it was his heroic comeback, and now we need to ask ourselves what is with his poor week.  He played well against St. Louis and Calgary, but wasn’t as dominant as he was the week before.  Edmonton was a debacle, which we saw as of the second goal of the game.  Here’s to hoping this five-day break serves him well and he can come back to form on Thursday.

Next, we have the streakiness.  This is not the first time this season that we see the Canadiens embark on a losing streak after losing a couple of close games.  This team’s confidence is so fragile and frail that when bounces don’t go their way they just seem to collapse.  Had they, for example, won that game on Thursday against Calgary, which they should have done, by the way, then I believe they would have come into tonight’s game against the Oilers with a lot more energy, but alas, it was not to be.

The team has shown what it is capable of.  The win streak should, by no means, be diminished.  Overall, this season, it seems as though the key has been to score goals in rapid succession, or have that same fate befall you.  The Canadiens were the victim of this “two-quick-goals” fate at the beginning of the season, and when they were winning games they were the one inflicting this same poison on their opponents.  As a reference point, take a look at every single victory over the course of that win-streak.  Particularly in the tight games, the Canadiens were able to overcome adversity and propel themselves to victory by scoring two goals in rapid succession, like during the game vs. Ottawa, vs. Columbus and when they were down 2-1 in Detroit.  This past week, both the Blues and the Oilers have iced the Canadiens this way.  It’s rare we see a season go like this, where this underlying reality seems to just follow a team around.

Another factor that I’ve noticed: the frequency of games.  Whenever the Canadiens have a charged schedule, for some reason they elevate their game.  Their win streak came over the course of eight days, during which they won those five games.  As soon as their schedule eased up, AKA this week, their performance was less consistent and started to falter.  Take a look at this: even earlier in the season, when they went to Winnipeg and Chicago on back-to-back nights, the Canadiens won both those games as well.  I’m not saying this is a favourable schedule, to be playing two of the league’s best in their own buildings on back-to-back nights, but the Canadiens have been able to overcome it.

Alternatively, you can look at this as the amount of motivation needed.  While winning games, the Habs were beating direct divisional rivals for a spot in the playoffs.  The three games they’ve just lost were against western rivals with no direct playoff implications…

In terms of the schedule though, if indeed I am correct and they play better when they have it a little bit more packed up, then this upcoming seven-game road trip should serve them well.  In fact, I believe this road trip will yield a lot more success than these homestands have been yielding, but we’ll see, that’s just my prediction.

At the end of the day, however, when we glance at the standings, we can see that the battle is over that elusive third position in the Atlantic Division.  I believe that the Canadiens have the capability to attain that position, and frankly, I certainly hope they manage it.

Go Habs Go! – Daniele


Weeks 6 & 7: Downward Spiral

2017-18 Week 6-7

Had you asked me one week ago how things looked for the Canadiens, I would have told you I was quite optimistic.

In fact, even during my previous blog post, I was praising the team on some spectacular performances against the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawk, on the road, on back-to-back nights.

The Canadiens took this momentum home with them.  They easily disposed of the Vegas Golden Knights on home ice to kick off this six-game homestand; they then lost to the Minnesota Wild in a game in which they played well, but were missing Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin.  Following that, the Canadiens came out flat against the Buffalo Sabres but won in overtime regardless.  In a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, a game that greatly resembled the one against Buffalo, the Habs fought valiantly, but were flat for the majority of the game, and fell in overtime.  That’s when things started to unravel…

Against Arizona, the Canadiens were dominating and heading toward easy victory, but the Coyotes fought back to win the game and score their first regulation victory of the season, leading to Claude Julien claiming public humiliation, and rightfully so.

Finally, against the Leafs on Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens hit rock bottom.

To be honest, I think the Canadiens played well to start the game.  They were intense, they applied some strong pressure and, frankly, the Canadiens were better than the Leafs until the first goal against…

But, in typical Habs fashion, the Canadiens allowed a second goal almost immediately thereafter, which led to a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc…

It stings, it really does, when your team had an advantage, was heading in the right direction, and then things just shifted.  During the six-game homestand, the Canadiens accumulated only five out of a possible 12 points, and this despite being handed a golden opportunity to really propel themselves back into the playoff picture for good.

So what went wrong?

First off, the offence ain’t clicking.  Though they mustered three goals against the Golden Knights and another four in that losing cause against the Coyotes, the Canadiens scored a grand total of 10 goals over the course of the six-game homestand.  That is simply not enough.

In terms of goals allowed, things clearly aren’t going as well.  I want to even put aside that humiliating 6-0 rout to the Maple Leafs for a second.  In the first five games of the homestand, the Canadiens allowed 13 goals.  And it’s not as if we were playing elite teams either.  The Leafs were the most formidable of the six opponents, and we lost to teams such as Minnesota, Columbus and ARIZONA…

Some patterns: lack of consistency, drop of morale when falling behind, very poor penalty-killing and no defensive support to a third-string goaltender who’s trying his very best.

So what’s the solution?

It’s hard, truly, to find a remedy here.  Charlie Lindgren has been playing his heart out and we can’t allow ourselves to afford him even one criticism, despite his ten goals allowed over his last two games.  Carey Price will return to action eventually, and given the Habs’ dire situation, he will need to be all-worldly from the get-go and remain as such until the end of the season, and the playoffs if we’re so lucky.

The powerplay needs to be reignited.  We’ve seen them pot some goals as of late, but we need more.  The offence needs to avoid losing confidence while falling behind in a game, and for that, the leaders need to be leaders.

The defence needs to reawaken.  While Shea Weber is playing excellently, the likes of Jeff Petry and Jordie Benn, who are supposed to be solid on the back end, are struggling.  With them struggling Weber has no real support and it all falters.

With all of that, I offer you all a slight glimmer of hope.  Please take a look at the current Eastern Conference Standings:

Standings 2017-11-19


Now, you’ll notice that the Tampa Bay Lightning sit atop the Atlantic Division with 25 points.  I think it’s safe to say that it’ll be difficult for the Habs to catch them, and that’s OK.

The New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with 25 points apiece, but they are in the Metropolitan Division and therefore they do not much matter to us Habs fans.

This brings us to the Wild Card slot.  As we know, for the Habs to make the playoffs they will either need to qualify as one of the top three teams in their division, or qualify as one of two teams that are “best of the rest,” in the sense where they qualify among one of the two wild-card teams.  The Canadiens sit five points behind the Washington Capitals in the final wild-card slot, however, as the RDS panel so correctly pointed out, they need to pass six teams in order to get there, and most of these teams have a game in hand on them.

There is a simpler way, however, and this, the Antichambre team seemed to gloss over.

Most of the teams vying for a wild-card spot are in the Metro Division.  Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators sit a mere four points in front of the Canadiens, and occupy the third position in the Atlantic Divison.  To catch the Senators, the Habs simply need to overtake the Bruins and the Red Wings, which is not impossible if the Canadiens can win all the head-to-head matchups against these teams.

All I’m saying is that I believe it will be easier for the Montreal Canadiens to qualify in third place in the Atlantic Division than as a wild-card team, where there is significantly more competition.

Let’s see how the next weeks go.

Go Habs Go! – Daniele.

Weeks 4 & 5: Goals Galore

2017-18 Week 4-5

Well, it’s nice not to be the bearer of bad news… for once this season.

Since the last time I updated this blog, the Canadiens have put an end to their seven-game slide and have actually displayed a winning record.  This team has actually won five of their seven games since said slump, most impressively winning out over the weekend against teams that all would have predicted them to lose.

Yes, the Habs’ success over the past weekend against the soaring Winnipeg Jets and the always-impressive Chicago Blackhawks has, what some would say, saved their season.  What’s most impressive is that they did it without Carey Price… oh, wait…

Perhaps some stats to illustrate what these past two weeks have been like:

First off, to illustrate how the goal scoring has picked up.  The Montreal Canadiens have scored 23 goals over the course of their last five games, going 4-1-0 in that span.  This can be compared to the Habs’ 18 goals over their first 10 games, a span in which they went 2-7-1.  Over their past five games (four of which were disputed on the road), the Canadiens’ lowest-scoring output was Sunday in Chicago when they only scored two goals in a 2-0 win.  Even in their loss against the Minnesota Wild last Thursday the Canadiens managed three goals in a 6-3 loss.

Here’s another stat that may be alarming.  In that same span; over the course of their last five games, the Canadiens have only marginally outscored their adversaries.  While putting up 23 goals, the Canadiens have allowed 17.  Of those 17 goals, none of them were allowed by Charlie Lindgren, seven of them were allowed by Al Montoya and TEN of them were allowed by Carey Price.  To make matters appear even worse, Price was in nets for only two of those games, while his backups backstopped three of them.  With Price, the Canadiens won 5-4 against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre, and then lost convincingly to the Minnesota Wild 6-3.  Thus, statistically speaking, in their last five games, the Canadiens are 1-1 with a minus-2 differential with Carey Price, and 3-0 with a plus-8 differential without him… just saying.

Now, I’m not trying to bash on Price, not by any means; I still believe he is one of, if not the best goaltender in the league right now, however his stats so far this season are horrendous, and even though I believe he can’t be deemed the prime culprit for the Canadiens’ initial struggles, he certainly has not been helping the cause… let’s just say that.

Interestingly, however, it was announced last Friday that Carey Price is suffering from a lower-body injury and that he’ll be out day-to-day as he attempts to recover.  Some funny-guys on RDS have insisted that the injury was definitely upper-body (insinuating that it’s all in his head, of course).  Others, meanwhile, are musing that he wasn’t really injured at all, but simply instructed by the team to take a break and figure himself out so that he could come back and be ready to be the Carey Price that we all know.

Regardless of what is actually plaguing Carey Price, if, of course, it is anything at all, I truly believe that we’ll never know.  Habs fans have gotten used to an extreme lack of transparency from this organization (even though we think it will get better with every change in management…), though I believe that if Carey really isn’t injured, better not tell the press that he’s just taking a rest.  We all know how tough Montrealers can be on their team, right!?

At the end of the day, however, in regards to Carey Price, we need him to be at the top of his game at all times, and up until now he has not been at the top of his game, so we can only hope that this improves, and if a rest is what he needs, a rest is what he shall get.  Al Montoya, and probably to a greater extent Charlie Lindgren, are perfectly capable of getting the job done, but please, please don’t insist Price get traded, he’s still got it I assure you.

Carey Price aside, we need to be asking ourselves, in which aspects did the Canadiens find success in the past two weeks in order to start righting the ship?

Well, simply put, the Canadiens have been scoring goals.  Led Jonathan Drouin and (yes!) Alex Galghenyuk, the goals have been pouring in much more efficiently lately.  Drouin, Galchenyuk, Max Paciortetty, Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber and even Tomas Plekanec have all been major contributors on the scoresheet, among others.

The powerplay has been firing, not on all cylinders, but it’s been effective, particularly in the Winnipeg game when it netted three key goals, including Max Pacioretty’s game winner.

The defence has been more solid, led by Shea Weber’s elevated play and some more consistency across the lineup.  This said, the penalty-kill has been quite poor, and even when it looks like they’re having a good kill, the opposition tends to sneak one by.  In Winnipeg, the PK failed to kill off even one infraction…

Despite the continuing defensive and goaltending struggles, however, we have seen the players more motivated for games.  We are now consistently witnessing the Canadiens approaching and playing their games with more heart, driving the net, creating opportunities, drawing penalties and more efficiently overwhelming their opponents.  I don’t think that any game epitomized this more than the game in Winnipeg on Saturday night when, despite dominating, the Canadiens found themselves two goals down in the third period.  Instead of just relenting, the Canadiens fired a barrage of shots at the Jets, took good advantage of their powerplays and found a way to win.

The next day, against the Blackhawks, in a game we were all nearly certain the Canadiens would lose, the Habs found a way to make it work, and not only did they win by playing the perfect road game, but Lindgren earned his first ever NHL shutout.

Will the Canadiens make the playoffs?  Will they sustain this positive momentum that they’ve now generated?  This remains to be seen, but clearly, the players and management have shown that they do have what it takes to win games, what we need not is sustained consistency.

Go Habs Go! – Dan.

Week 3: An Epic Seven-Game Slide

2017-18 Week 3

Any believers still in the house?

Look, the reality is that the Canadiens are not as bad as their 1-6-1 record suggests.

The Habs should have won the game against Toronto last Saturday.  They held their own against the Los Angeles Kings until running out of steam with ten minutes left in the third period, and they actually showed a fair amount of grit and resiliency in trying to come back from an early 3-0 hole in Anaheim.

The result, however?  Another 0-for-California, and this time around it’s serious.

I’m no statistician, and frankly, this season it’s a lot more difficult for me to compile stats than before, so I can’t give you any real data, but logically speaking, I don’t think many teams in the past have turned such a dreadful start to the season around to make the playoffs, let alone make a real run.

The fact of the matter is that this team is not a contender.  Is this team strong enough to make the playoffs? Sure, I believe that they’re a bubble team, at best, with hope to make it in.  But this team pales in comparison to the likes of division rivals like the Tampa Bay Lightning or the (and it pains me to say this) Toronto Maple Leafs.

Let’s take a closer look:

In goal, Carey Price is not getting the job done.  His stats are among the league’s worst and his poise in nets has very clearly been rattled.  When Carey Price gets frustrated and willingly snaps his stick, well, that’s a problem.  Carey has not been making that key save that can change the course of a game.  He could have made it a couple of times this season to completely change an outcome, such as against Toronto, but he has not.  This said, the vast majority of goals that do go in are not Price’s fault.  For that, we need to take a look at the DEFENCE!

Admittedly, Victor Mete has been the revelation early in the season.  His poise alongside Shea Weber is quite strong and he has many-a-times broken up some offensive threats from other teams.  It does indeed appear as though Mete has booked his ticket to remain in the big leagues.  My concern, however, is that the Canadiens make the same mistake with Mete as they’d made with other young D-men like Nathan Beaulieu, Jarrod Tinordi and Greg Pateryn, to name a few.  I once read a comment from another fan claiming that the Canadiens have failed to fully develop a potent NHL-level defenceman for over a decade.  This is to say that they have failed to draft a D-man, raise him in the farm system, transition him into the NHL and have him become a force in the league.  The only exception to this, of course, was P.K. Subban, but P.K. would have thrived in pretty much any environment.  Marc Bergevin and Claude Julien need to be careful with Mete.  He has the potential to be great, but so did the three aforementioned D-men.  I, personally, believe that this season is a write-off anyways and feel that Mete would be better served on a competitive team in the minors where he can really be a star and develop properly.

Alongside Mete we have our return for P.K. Subban (no, I’m not here to discuss the trade).  Shea Weber is undoubtedly this team’s #1 defenceman for years to come, and he will be effective in future seasons as well, I have no doubt.  Weber, however, has not necessarily been dominant in the early going.  He is a minus-5 on the season (not one player is a plus…) and, though he is playing well, could be doing better.

Funnily enough, Jordie Benn leads the team in the +/- category with a minus-1… and he’s been struggling pretty badly.  Benn has not been imposing his body in the early-going this season, and just seems to make bad decisions with the puck.  I like Jeff Petry, but he hasn’t been too stellar, nor have the rest of the defence corps.

Honestly, I don’t think we need to look too deeply into these +/- stats, though, since it’s clear which of these defencemen are playing more and which are playing less.  And when we take a look at the amount of goals that this team is actually scoring, well, it comes as no surprise that not one player on the team has been on the ice for more goals for than against…

Which brings us to… the OFFENCE.

I think the critics who are blaming this faltering start to the seaon on Max Pacioretty are being a bit harsh.  Sure, he’s not doing much, but he didn’t do much to start last season, nor the season before, and yet they burst out of the gates with an overwhelmingly positive record, so clearly all pieces have to be fitting together, it’s a matter of person.

Pacioretty has one goal this season, and he’s one goal shy of the team lead (another pathetic stat…), so clearly other players also need to score more goals, right?

Jonathan Drouin is being dubbed by some francophone media as the revelation on offence of this young season, and, well, let’s not be ridiculous.  Sure, Drouin leads the team in scoring with two goals, three assists and five points, but he’s not exactly inciting fear in the opposition on every shift.

Overall, there seems to be no real synchronization between the four offensive lines, nor the offensive players, and this lack of communication and structure is certainly not helping.

Which brings us to… COACHING.

I personally really like Claude Julien.  I think he did an absolutely brilliant job with the Boston Bruins, leading them through many successful seasons, playoff runs and even to a Stanley Cup.  I believe he is an intelligent and capable coach, and, frankly, given the right pieces, I am even convinced he can do the same with the Canadiens.  This said, Julien seems as though he is struggling with the pieces the Canadiens currently have in operation.  The Bruins of the early 2010’s had offensive weapons and a deep offensive lineup, defensive pillars (notably Zdeno Chara) with strong defensive support and two strong goaltenders.  The Canadiens lack the majority of those resources.  I obviously do believe Carey Price is able to provide stable goaltending and Shea Weber, when on his game, is that defensive pillar, however there is little to no offensive and defensive support for these two to thrive.

If Julien is struggling to succeed with the pieces he currently has to work with, however, we need to look even higher, to MANAGEMENT.

I don’t think I’m wrong by stating that good old Marc Bergevin probably doesn’t have too many remaining fans in Montreal.  MB inherited this Habs team over five years ago now, and though initially he seemed to be moving this team in the right direction, his unwillingness to pull the trigger and bring a true scorer to Montreal seems to have finally led this team to start sinking.  Lack of scoring has been plaguing this team since the day he took over, and though he has beefed this team up throughout the bottom of the lineup, he never addressed the real issue, and this lack of scoring has been getting mentioned on all forms of media throughout the great city of Montreal on a daily basis for over five years straight.

In my opinion, this team is no better today than it was on the day Bergevin took over.  And to make things sound even worse, if the Habs “peaked” over the last three years by winning their division and making an attempt at a decent playoff run, and now need to rebuild, well, I, as a fan, am just not satisfied with that.

This team can do better, but hell, this management needs to do better as well, and someone (looking at you Geoff) needs to realize that and make the appropriate decisions.

Go Habs Go! – Daniele

The Habs Review: Weeks 1 & 2

2017-18 Week 2

I think we can all be in agreement that the 2017/18 edition of the Montreal Canadiens is inferior to the edition we saw last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…

As I’ve already mentioned in my previous blog post, this season’s team is weaker on offence, weaker on defence and overall not as effective a team.  The losses of key players, such as Andrei Markov and Alex Radulov are certainly not helping this weakened team in their bid for a playoff spot and ultimately the ultimate prize, but that’s a long way away I think.

Marc Bergevin took over this team over five years ago at this point, and he’s not doing too good a job.  He’s had a few good pickups, and the Habs actually thrived for a while, but he ultimately was never able to pull off that token move that would have propelled the Habs from division leaders to full-on Stanley Cup contenders.

As Habs fans at this point, all we can do is watch our team play and hope for the best, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing when possible.  I watched the Habs-Leafs game on Saturday night (with the time difference I watched it here in Seoul during the day on Sunday), but unfortunately that’s the only game I’ve been able to watch in its entirety.  Nevertheless, I have indeed been closely following my beloved Habs, and, well, so far it ain’t good.

In their 3-2 shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres in the season opener, the Habs peppered their division rivals with a barrage of shots.  Carey Price played a strong game, and with the help of Jonathan Drouin’s heroics in overtime the Habs were able to pull off a slim victory.

Things did not get better moving forward.  The Habs shot blanks against the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers on back-to-back nights, falling behind 3-0 early against the Caps and never making their way back.  Against the Blackhawks in their home opener, the Canadiens got off to a strong start and actually opened the scoring early, only to get shut down and drowned out.

So scoring is an issue, right?

To think that this team only mustered four goals in is first four games (the shootout notwithstanding) and was slumping right out of the cage is haunting.  Gone are the days of the hot starts, it’s time to play some desperate hockey NOW!

And, fortunately, that’s what we saw from the Canadiens last night in Toronto.  The Habs did lose 4-3 in overtime to a Leafs team that definitely has more reason for optimism than we do.  The Habs lost, yet we saw the entire team participating and being involved.  We saw Alex Galchenhyuk coming out of his shell to score an impressive goal, and we saw flashes of the brilliance that Drouin could bring to this team if he were on his game every night.  We saw Paul Byron once again take over with speed.  We saw Victor Mete and Jeff Petry play solid games defensively, and we saw the offence overwhelm the Leafs and pepper nearly 40 shots on Frederik Andersen.

The Canadiens played a good game against Toronto.  The Canadiens need to keep up the momentum, despite the loss, but it’s hard not to be a bit concerned.

The powerplay has scored once since the beginning of the season.  Now, the PP has not exactly been stellar in past seasons either, but when a team struggles this much to score, the PP becomes a key, game-changing factor that needs to function.

The defence corps is fragile, and despite a strong pillar in Shea Weber, even seasoned veterans like Jordie Benn and Jeff Petry can be a little bit inconsistent, but hey, at least we got rid of Marc Streit, he would have been even more disastrous going forward.

And then there’s the question of Carey Price.  Now, I’m not currently in Montreal so I don’t know if there’s widespread panic or not, but all I’ve gotta say is this:  He’ll be fine.  His defence is a bit weaker, and we shouldn’t expect him to pull a rabbit out of his helmet every single night, but he will continue doing what he does best, I can guarantee you that.  Has he been weak on some goals (such as the tying goal vs. the Leafs)?  Sure, he definitely has, however he will recover and re-establish himself as the dominant goaltender in this league.

It’s up to the team to give him the support he needs, and up to Claude Julien to push the right buttons.

It’ll be a tough one, but hey, you never know.

Go Habs Go! – Dan.

Cue 2017/18!


As the new season dawns and the Habs get ready to face off against the Buffalo Sabres in just under 48-hours time, it’s quite hard to not be realistic about this upcoming season.

I honestly hate to sound negative, but it’s hard to imagine the Habs’ season going as well as last year’s.  Even if they were icing the same team as the one that took the ice one year ago, it’s impossible to deny that the Canadiens are facing stiffer competition within their own division.  The Tampa Bay Lightning were uncharacteristically poor last season, and you can expect them to bounce back.  Additionally, many experts are predicting a strong season from the Toronto Maple Leafs – though to be honest I expect them to suffer a bit of a sophomore slump.  Even the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres are on the upswing, and you can’t expect the resilient Ottawa Senators to shift aside too easily.

All this to say that it won’t be easy.  Will the Canadiens make the playoffs?  Probably.  But don’t expect them to run away with their division, and definitely don’t expect them to be Stanley Cup contenders.

But hey, never say never, after all, this is the team that is lives and dies with Carey Price, and don’t expect this to change much.  Price will once again be leaned on as the backbone of this team, and if he falters or struggles, well, the team follows.

If you think about it, what plagued the Habs most last season?  The Habs primarily struggled due to lack of scoring, and their lacklustre powerplay didn’t work in their favour.

Over the summer, the Canadiens lost Alex Radulov to the Dallas Stars, but they gained Jonathan Drouin.  Will Drouin be as dynamite as Radulov was last year?  Will he even live up to all expectations of him and be a consistent force on this team?  All this remains to be seen, but I predict that the scoring woes will continue, and there’s nothing much that can be done about that…

Defensively it’s not looking too good either.  Sure Shea Weber is still the rear-gunner and will surely be consistent once again, however the loss of Andrei Markov hurts.  Markov was a pillar on the back-end, and Bergevin’s inability to sign him really raises some questions.  Word on the street is that Markov was asking for too much money, though you’d think there’d have been a way to make it work…

The addition of Mark Streit is hardly consoling, as he does have a good view of the game, though he lacks the speed and finesse of Markov.  But hey, at least we still have Jeff Petry, who can be very solid when he’s on his game.

Price, again, will be the backbone of his team, though the Canadiens are lucky to have one of the best coaches in the NHL behind the bench.  Unlike Michel Therrien, Claude Julien serves as a calming presence instead of an aggressor, and his structural approach will certainly aid a team that desperately needs a functional system in order to succeed.

So what will happen? No one knows, though I predict the Habs finish third in the division, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators, and face another first-round playoff exit.


A quick word about this blog.  So as many of you know, though some of you might not, I am not currently living in Montreal.  In fact, I am living in Seoul, South Korea, teaching English (an experience you can read about HERE if you’d like).  Given this, it will be impossible for me to be as involved and invested in my beloved Habs as I was in years past, and as such I will not be writing game reviews following every game.  Instead, I will do weekly reviews (hopefully every Sunday), with the intention of discussing the previous week’s highs and lows for the Habs.  I will, of course, watch as many games as possible and I remain a die-hard fan, just, it’s difficult sometimes from the other side of the world.  I’ll even be missing the first few games as I’ll be travelling through Vietnam for a week.

With that said, however: GO HABS GO! – Daniele

Game 6: Montreal Canadiens 1 @ 3 New York Rangers

Playoffs Series 1 Game 6 at Rangers

Killer instinct.

The Canadiens lacked it.  Throughout this series, and in particular throughout the past three games, the Montreal Canadiens had ample opportunities to impose themselves and put themselves in an advantageous position, yet they failed to do so.

Where was the killer instinct in game 4 when the Canadiens could have taken a 3-1 series lead?

Where was the killer instinct in game 5, when Max Pacioretty had a late breakaway, which was shortly followed up by a powerplay with five minutes left in the game?

Where was the killer instinct in game 6 when the Canadiens had two PPs in which to tie up the game?

Where was the killer instinct in every single game (minus game 3) in the second period.

Where was the killer instinct from key players like Max Pacioretty or Alex Galchenyuk?

As many of you might have noticed throughout the years, I have been a staunch defender of this team for the longest time.  I believed that this team, built the way it is, had the potential of success, assuming all the players were executing to their potential.

I even still believe today that, had this team’s key elements played a little bit better throughout this series that this year they’d be able to go on and win at least two rounds of the playoffs and even skate with potential third-round opponents Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins.

But alas, this team didn’t even get a sniff of the second round.  Perhaps, maybe, just maybe, they sneaked a premeditated sniff at the second round after their dominant victory in game 3, but that was as close as this team would even get to dream of hockey in May.

And this Montreal Canadiens team needs to take a serious look at itself in the mirror and make some major adjustments over the offseason.  Let me explain.

So what happened in this series and why were the Canadiens unable to survive it?

Well first off, let me just say that the Canadiens weren’t bad.  They were good in fact.  I’ll go even further: I believe they played the best they possibly can.

What happened is that they ran into a team, the New York Rangers, who snuffed them out so well that their key elements were rendered completely obsolete.

The Rangers’ defensive game was as unparalleled.  Henrik Lundqvist was better than Carey Price.  The Rangers’ offence was more opportunistic.  And the Rangers did a better job at remaining composed, weathering every single first-period storm, and coming back stronger and more composed.

Don’t believe me? I invite you to take a look at games 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.  In each of the aforementioned game, the Canadiens came out firing.  Only in game 1 did the Rangers take a lead into the first intermission, and only in game 4 did the Rangers come into the intermission with a 1-1 tie.  In games 2, 5 and 6, the Canadiens escaped to the locker room with a lead, and had that lead erased in the second, the second period in which they sucked.  And in game 2 and 6, the Rangers even took over the lead.

The Rangers knew the Canadiens would come out strong, and they adapted their game plan accordingly.  And not only did they take control of the game in the second period, they followed through with a controlled and composed third-period performance to put away the game in almost every situation (except for game two, when they fell 17 seconds short…).

So why, then, did the Canadiens hit a wall?  Because the Rangers were playing physical, so the Canadiens had to stray a little away from their speed game to match the Rangers’ physicality.  But they couldn’t match their physicality, and as the series went on, they ran out of steam earlier and earlier into the game, at which point during these last two games even sustained pressure beyond 20 minutes proved difficult.

This Habs team is good, but the Rangers made it glaringly evident that this Habs team is not elite.  This Habs team is not able to win a Stanley Cup as is, and the only glimmer of hope they’d ever have of achieving that feat would be if Carey Price stood on his head night after night after night.  Or is that really the case?

Carey Price?

OK, let’s open that can of worms.  This is not at all a knock on Price, who was as solid as ever in this series, but notice how even he wasn’t able to make the difference?  Because the Rangers’ style of play did not put such a heavy emphasis on shots, in fact, I believe the Rangers purposefully strategized in order to not allow Carey Price to get “in the zone.”

How does Caery get “in the zone?”  Simple: bombard him with 40+ shots and force him to make several hightlight-reel saves.  The Rangers never did that, notice, they didn’t shoot the puck very often, they even let the Habs handle the possession and the shots.  No, the Rangers shot only when necessary, only when they saw an opportunity, and Carey Price struggled with that strategy, because Carey Price wasn’t seeing an overabundance of action, he was seeing just enough.

And when the shots did come, he was equal to the task, sort of.  The Rangers scored 14 goals over the course of this series, two were in an empty net, so the Rangers essentially scored 12 on Carey Price.  That’s 2 goals per game, that is not bad by any means, but in a series that’s so tight, Price let in a couple of goals too many.  He never got “in the zone,” but again, the Rangers played so well that they never let him to get into it.  Price’s only bad goal during the entire series was last night, in game 6, when Mats Zuccarello scored in the opening minutes of the second period on the powerplay when the puck sneaked in between Price’s glove and pad.  It’s a shot he stops 99% of the time, but hey, bad goals happen.

That goal, however, changed the entire outlook of the game.  The Canadiens were rattled, the Rangers started taking over, and Zuccarello’s second goal would ice the game.

As Price enters a contract year next year, everyone is asking: will he opt to remain in Montreal, or will he seek employment elsewhere, perhaps in a city where he has a better opportunity to win a Stanley Cup?  A good question, and while I hope and have some belief that he will remain, well, we also need to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that the only reason this team even has the slightest success is due to Carey Price himself, and perhaps he’d fancy going somewhere where he’d be a piece of the puzzle instead of the key to an otherwise mediocre team?

At the end of the day, what I’m trying to say is this: even when every single key player of the Canadiens is trying his best, there are some other strong teams out there that are capable of matching, if not beating the Montreal Canadiens.  That’s what happened against the New York Rangers, and that’s what would undoubtedly happen against other, stronger teams.

The Canadiens are lacking key pieces, and without these key pieces they will never have success.  Additionally, some players have clearly not developed as we’d hoped, and thus this team has actually taken a step back and not a step forward.  I’m referring to, primarily, Nathan Beaulieu, a healthy scratch during such a crucial game and a trainwreck in games 4 and 5, and Alex Galchenyuk, who failed to even win one faceoff in game 6, including two crucial ones near the end of the game.

Maybe we need a management change, because this team is clearly incapable of properly developing its players, right?

I don’t know, I’m not expert, but let me just say that throughout this series, while watching this team try and try again to get a goal against the Rangers, that it dawned on me that it’s not for a lack of effort that they’re not scoring, it’s for a lack of volatile weapons, and this team needs a few player upgrades if they’re going to get to the point of being an elite team.

And, truthfully, in my opinion, they need to expedite that process and convince Carey Price that we’re close to achieving this goal if we want him to return.  If not, we’re in for a massive rebuild, which might not necessarily be a bad idea.

We just need to admit to ourselves that this team might not be as elite as we believed it to be.

Dark days in Habland, dark days in Habland indeed.

With that, I bid you all adieu for the season.  I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my blog, I truly do enjoy taking the time to write it following every game, and we can only hope for some progress throughout the offseason and into next season.

Go Habs Go! – Dan.