Saturday, March 19, 2011

Canadiens-Rangers: New York Scores Six, Chases Carey Price in Big Win

by Kamal Panesar

Last night's match between the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers was not exactly what fans were expecting. With their three previous matchups this season being tightly contested and decided by no more than a two-goal margin, you expected more of the same last night.

Well, that was not to be.

The Rangers set the tone early, and I mean real early, when Brandon Prust challenged Travis Moen to a fight with both dropping the gloves off the opening faceoff.

In the scoring department, New York got on the board first when Yannick Weber's point shot was blocked by Artem Anisimov, who skated in for a clear break and a 1-0 lead. Montreal got that one back less than two minutes later on a seeing-eye blast from the point by P.K. Subban.

After that the Rangers blew the doors off the game scoring four more goals in the first, and driving Carey Price from the net in favour of Alex Auld.

Montreal looked slow, tired and demoralized for most of the first period and with nine regulars on the sidelines and two games in 24 hours, I guess that was to be expected.

The Habs had a little more oomph in the second and third periods, making things interesting on goals by James Wizniewski and Brian Gionta, before the Rangers put the game away with less than three minutes to play.

Final score: Rangers 6 - Habs 3

Habs scorers: P.K. Subban (8), James Wizniewski (9), Brian Gionta (25)
Rangers scorers: Artem Anisimov (17), Dan Girardi (4), Ryan Callahan (22), Marian Gaborik (21), Brian Boyle (21), Vaclav Prospal (5)

Game Notes

1. Habs showed toughness around their net.

Well, at least in the first blush of the game they did.

There were several plays early in the match where the Habs defense showed some rare aggression around their net.

Subban got the party started by tackling Prust after he was pushed into Price. Next it was Weber cross checking a Rangers player who got too close to Price after the whistle. Paul Mara too—a player who seems to habitually abuse opponents that stray too close the net—got into the action pushing, shoving and otherwise letting the opposition know that the blue paint was a no-fly zone.

These are actions which while sometimes earning your team a penalty, protect your goaltender and give him more room to operate. In addition, they send notice that your team won't be pushed around.

So as much as you expect it from a player like Mara, when you see smaller players like Weber get into the action, the words "team toughness" suddenly jump off the page and into reality.

2. Pop goes the bubble.

Did you hear that sound? That popping noise? That was the sound of the Canadiens bubble finally bursting.

This is a team that has gotten it done all season despite being weighed down by a truckload of injuries but last night it all caught up to them.

Playing without Brent Sopel, Jaroslav Spacek, Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, Max Pacioretty, Mathieu Darche, Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern, inevitability finally caught up to the Habs.

The Canadiens, whose roster reads like an AHL lineup in recent games, played like an AHL team on the ice.

But again, given all that's going on with this team it's certainly not the end of the world. The only real surprise is that the Habs didn't fall apart sooner!

Last night's game goes under the "file it and forget it" category.

3. Subban is the Habs best defenseman.

With the Canadiens down by four goals in the second period and all hope seemingly gone, P.K. Subban carried the puck up the ice, through the neutral zone, past a maze of Rangers' defenders and straight to Henrik Lundqvist.

While he didn't score on the play he did plow right in Lundqvist, bowling over the Rangers netminder and drawing the ire of Michael Sauer. After a bit of posturing both players dropped the gloves but the linesmen stepped in before any punches were thrown.

I won't question the fact that Subban played "the game" a little there, waiting for the linesmen to show up before dropping the gloves. It was pretty clear that he didn't want to fight Sauer.

That aside, it was a great move by Subban to try to spark his team and it was the first time that last night that any Hab crashed the Rangers' crease, a favour they did not return in chasing Price from the game.

So while his move only served to make Subban even more hated by opposing players, his ability to agitate while skating with the best in the league is something the Habs have not seen since the days of Chris Chelios.

4. Brian Gionta is playing his best hockey in a Canadiens uniform.

With injuries to mainstays like Pacioretty, Plekanec and Halpern, the Canadiens need the rest of their veteran forwards to pick up the slack. Unfortunately for the Habs, aside from Brian Gionta this has simply not been the case.

With Michael Cammalleri continuing to look unhappy and frustrated on the ice and Scott Gomez continuing to look like he forgot how to play hockey, the Canadiens are ridiculously thin up front.

That is except for the captain.

Gionta scored the Canadiens third goal last night at a time when the Rangers were back on their heels. If Montreal had been able to capitalize on any of their subsequent power plays there would have been a very real chance of a comeback.

You could see that before Gionta's goal his teammates didn't seem to believe. After it, however, they played their best hockey of the game.

With a goal last night, Gionta now has nine points (5G, 4A) over his last 12 games. In addition, he leads all Habs with 26 goals this season and looks like he should hit 30.

So while players like Cammalleri and Gomez have been ridiculously disappointing this season, the captain continues getting it done with or without help. Just imagine how many goals he would have if he hadn't been stuck playing with Gomez for the first 15 or so games of the season!

5. The team is Price and Price is the team.

I'll make this short and not so sweet: the Habs go as Price goes. If Price doesn't play lights out, the team has almost no chance of winning on any given night.

This was the case at the beginning of the season and it still stands true with 10 games to play.

Last night, Price was certainly not to blame for the loss as the team in front of him, and in particular his defense, simply did not show up for the first 20 minutes. The Habs' horrendous defensive coverage and terrible turnovers meant that Price was pretty much a sitting duck.

Unlike he has done on so many other nights this season, Price was unable to bail his team out as they fumbled and bumbled in their own end.

So the Habs lost and lost badly and this is exactly what will happen come playoff time if Price doesn't stand on his head.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Montreal will go exactly as far as Carey Price can carry them this post season.

Standings and Next Game

Fortunately for Montreal they had a seven-point lead over the Rangers before last night's game. As such, the loss leaves them in sixth in the East with 85 points, five up on the seventh place Rangers and eight up on the Sabres.

Montreal missed an opportunity to inch closer to the idle Lightning and Bruins both with 88 points.

The Canadiens now enjoy a rare Saturday off before traveling to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Sunday evening.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images North America)


I imagine this was the simplest game Tortorella ever had to plan for. Knowing that the Habs were ridiculously thin, and very tired from a hard game the night before, it couldn't have been simpler: attack, attack, attack.

They told the Habs from the opening faceoff that they were ready to fight. In crashing the crease they told the Habs that they were going to make their lives miserable, especially Price's.

The Habs were not able to bring any serious compete level until the Rangers put the game on auto-pilot. I still admire the Habs for not giving up but the camel's back was broken last night.

The good news is that the while the Habs aren't a terrific road team, the Wild are really not a very good home team.

Well said Kyle.

The Rangers came to battle and win and the Habs, well, while their effort was pathetic in the first can you really blame them?

I am still shocked that they played such a solid game against Tampa with this same AHL lineup.

The Wild are a beatable team and with a little regrouping the Habs should come out with two points on Sunday.

My big concern for this team right now, is Cammalleri and Gomez. Gomez is a lost cause, imo. He has been horrible all season save for maybe 10 games.

Cammalleri, on the other hand, looks more and more like a player who does not like the system and the coach that is implementing it.

It's amazing, because he actually looks like he is sulking out on the ice. He is not producing offensively and dogging it defensively. That is not a good combo and the Habs need his stick to be working come playoff time.

I have a question. Why did Martin start Price in this game? Could he not see this coming? Wow! Talk about feeding him to the sharks.

Don't get me wrong, I am and have always been, a huge Price fan. I also am not worried about this effecting his confidence, as he has shown this year he's got a duck back. (everything rolls right off it)

My concern is with the rest of the team. Everyone knows a team plays tighter defensively in front of their backup goalie, and if any game screamed for a defensive approach, it was this one.

Price should have been rested yesterday, and then ready to go on Sunday. I don't understand it at all.

As far as Gomez, I might be the only one on the planet not hating on him right now. Sure I wish he was putting up more points, sure I think he should be on the third line and Desharnais or Eller should be in his spot right now. Sure he has been disapointing this year, but I think Gomez does a lot more for this team on the bench and in the dressing room than he gets credit for. He is wearing an "A" right now, isn't he?

He was also the only one on the ice who confronted Chara about the "hit heard around the world" He is also, quite often, the only one sticking up for teammates in the corners in after whistle scrums.

I think the problem lies in Martin. I do like his system and his defense first mentality, but the man is so set in his system, it has become too predictable for opposing teams and boring for the Canadiens players.

On the Cammalleri front, I was disgusted with him last night. For a guy who sits on the bench pretending he's stick handling through defenders, you'd think he'd be a little better at it on the ice! Give away after give away, and it's been the same thing all year! No toughness in the corners, and his shots rarely are finding the net. This is a 6 million a year guy? He better get it together, or the boo birds are gonna find him VERY quick.

Excellent comment Marcus! Thanks for posting!

Re: Price, I too thought that yesterday would be a prime opportunity to start Auld. That being said, I can understand why JM chose Price only because it is a conference match...a four-pointer, as it were....whereas on Sunday it is inter-conference and so that points, IF lost, don't hurt as bad.

Re: Gomez, there is no disputing what he brings off the ice. None. He is a leader in the room pure and simple. My problem with Gomez is that he has to produce on the ice too, regardless of his salary. I just wish that JM would treat him fairly and not favourably. He is in desperate need of a shakeup and the Canadiens desperately need him to produce.

Re:'ll get no argument from me on him! I have said since his signing that I am not a fan of JM. He is rigid and old school and does not deviate from his plan, winning or losing.

That being said, you have to give him a lot of credit for the success this team has had this season with all the injuries. After Price, JM is the second reason for the team's success.

Re: are SO right. But there are two things with Cammy...first, he is not 100% right now...not even near it actually. The other is that he just seems to be sulking, upset, frustrated and has looked this way all season long.

I really think he is not a fan of JM's system and or the coach himself.

Like Gomez, this guy needs to start producing on a regular basis. Montreal can't just rely on Plekanec and Gionta to be the only one's pulling any weight in the top-6.

But again, despite all of these VERY obvious problems with the team, they are still in sixth overall...that is simply amazing to me!

The problem is that, right now, that would mean facing the Bruins in the first round.

Despite owning them this season, with the lineup so depleted, do you think Montreal can take Boston right now?

Great insight about the Habs!

I am starting to agree with you that without a healthy, rested defense, the Habs have to rely on a spectacular Price to win. You can't second guess JM for starting Price against the Rangers. That's like saying if the fox hadn't stopped to shit, he would have caught the rabbit!

They simple aren't getting enough offense from their stars except Plekanec and Gionta. The captain is a great example for the rest of the team, he just never gives up and the effort is there every game.

Subban loves to stir things up, very much like Chelios but he has to be careful of when to drop the gloves. When you play that way you make yourself more of a target for other teams which Subban is already because his skill level is so high with the puck.

Gomez is a leader on & off the ice so JM has to be careful with him. Gomez needs to get it going now for the playoffs because the Habs will need him to step it up big time in the playoffs. I expect that to happen because Gomez loves the playoffs. If Pacioretty could actually return for the playoffs without risking his future health, it would be a huge boost to Gomez and for the Habs.

Cammalleri is a worry. I know he has been playing hurt for a good part of the season but his "ME" attitude will not help the team. He too, must bring the "A" game for the rest of the season and into the playoffs or the habs simple won't have enough offense. I expect him to step it up and lead the way in scoring in the playoffs.

Jacques Martin has done a great job with all the injuries. He has helped the Habs defensive game to improve compared with the past but his system needs some adjustments for the offense. It is possible this is why Muller is leaving but he is also ready for a head coaching job. Alot of the ups & downs has to do with the personnel he has been given. The Habs are a very skilled, speedy team when healthy. The forwards have to use that entering the opposing team's zone and the players without the puck must drive the net to push back the opposing D-men. Too often this is not happening but when they do play like that they can give any team in the league alot of trouble. The Habs just don't have the size to play dump & chase or the cycle game like some experts think they should.

If they are close to fully healthy in the playoffs, then watch out because they can and will beat any team East or West. Like I always say "you can't hit what you can't catch" just ask coach Tortorella what he thinks of the Habs' speed. They are dangerous from their blueline out so keep them deep behind their own net if you want to beat them.

Thanks for the articles,
Ref Whistle

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