Solid 60 Equals a Win for the Habs

What. A. Game. After a few days to get back into game shape, and to practice the new strategies brought forth by Claude Julien, the Habs took on the red-hot New York Rangers last night in what can only be described as a playoff-like game. While both teams took turns carrying the play and momentum, it was clear that the compete level on both sides of the puck was through the roof last night, as fans at the MSG were treated to quite a show. The game started with Andrew Shaw getting his name on the scoreboard for the right reasons as he reached a rebound behind the net and beat Lundqvist to the far post with the wrap-around. New York’s fourth line, who easily dominated Montreal’s 9-12 forwards on this night, got the Rangers back in the game as Fast made Emelin look like a pylon before catching Weber cheating. Lindberg got the tap-in after Fast’s nice play. The second was just as fast with just as many momentum swings. Weber put the Habs ahead with a patented slap shot from the point with full marks going to Gallagher for finding himself in his office after the broken hand. Ryan McDonaugh then caught the Habs D sleeping on two occasions to spring Rick Nash alone in on Price. The first time, McDonaugh caught Beaulieu asleep at the wheel but Price made the save. Petry who was caught turning the wrong way wasn’t as lucky as Nash buried his second opportunity to tie the game. While the third featured as much intensity and high scoring chances, the players on the ice were completely over-shadowed by the stellar play of both all-world net minders. Lundqvist made some excellent saves on Lehkonen and Shaw while Price made a series of saves, notably on Vesey and Hayes. The overtime period proved even more eventful as Price was clearly in the Rangers heads as they missed the net on a few good occasions. Lundqvist was as lucky as Montreal hit the post twice in the extra frame. The most telling sequence here was the Plekanec post with seconds left on the clock that left Price to his highlight reel diving stop with seconds left in the extra frame. After Galchenyuk hit another post in the shootout, it was Paul Byron who beat Lundqvist five-hole to end one of the most entertaining Habs games of the year.

 

Observations

1. Alex Galchenyuk is still trying to do too much with the puck. That being said, this effort was his best in a long time. His feet were moving and he was winning races to puck and puck battles. It helps that while Byron was still largely ineffective, Gallagher likely had his best game of the season.

2. Plekanec also had one of his better games of the season. Ironically, he was caught a couple times losing some defensive zone puck battles that lead to Rangers scoring chances, but he was implicated at both ends of the ice and it created some scoring chances for Lehkonen and Shaw. Shaw also played an excellent game, even if he was guilty of yet another dumb penalty late in the game. Lehkonen must have been relieved to get some help on the line.

3. McCarron-Mitchell-Flynn struggled for most of the night as they were outmatched in the speed department by the Rangers fourth unit. If Bergevin can acquire some scoring help for Julien, playing Byron with Mitchell and McCarron should make for a much more efficient bottom unit for the Habs.

4. While I would prefer to see the Habs D be even more physical, there is no denying that last night was a step in the right direction. Weber and Petry were both more physical than they’ve been in over a month. Pateryn also had a very solid game, meaning that Nesterov should be riding pine for the foreseeable future. Maybe if Julien can see what I see in Pateryn, they can take his name off the trade market and allow him to be the cheap and reliable 3rd pairing guy that provides stability to the weakness that is the right side of this D corps.

5. Carey’s back. That is all. WOW, what a save to end the overtime. If he can play like this consistently, the Habs should remain atop the Atlantic until the end of the regular season with the rest of the team now getting back into shape under Julien.

Habs host the Islanders on Thursday with a 7h30 start time as they try to build on this excellent game.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin Léveillé

Follow me on Twitter: @kev1586