It may not have been pretty but the Habs are in
a good spot heading home for a pair against the Bruins having split the first
two games on the road. P.K. Subban highlights this week’s cheers while not
surprisingly, defensive zone issues are at the forefront on the jeers side.
Despite the split, there is a lot of negativity from the fans, my Final Thought
discusses why there is still plenty to be optimistic about.
1) P.K. Subban, for two reasons. The
first is the fantastic way he handled the racist tweets issue. It was
professional and to the point, allowing the focus to quickly shift back to the
series. He also has played two strong games this series and is really
taking charge on the ice.
2) The third defence pairing. I know
everyone’s on Francis Bouillon right now for his struggles on Saturday but they
get a tip of the hat here for the fact that both have scored in the series.
With the top line still scuffling, secondary scoring becomes that much more
important and these were two very unexpected (but welcome) contributors.
3) The powerplay which has surprisingly sprung
to life. Over half of their goals so far have come with the man advantage.
It’s not reasonable to expect that to continue but given all the time off that
the Habs had, it’s nice to see that the work they put in on the powerplay has
yielded some positive results.
1) Third period collapses. This isn’t
something that happened a ton of times to the Habs this year and rarely did they
fail to overcome it if it did happen. Blowing 2-goal leads in two games
isn’t going to cut it though. Montreal isn’t going to get too many
opportunities to go up by multiple goals from here on out – Tuukka Rask will be
better than he has been so far – so if they get another opportunity, they have
to take advantage and maintain the lead.
2) Daniel Briere’s usage. This isn’t the
first (and perhaps not the last) time I’ve brought this up this season either.
We’ve all heard about how he’s a proven playoff performer but it’s unrealistic
to expect him to do much when he’s playing with Dale Weise and a
far-less-than-100% Brandon Prust (who quite honestly shouldn’t even be in the
lineup). In his current role, he can’t bring much to the table.
Either play him in a scoring role or sit him and play someone better suited to
play on the fourth line. The team will be better for it.
3) Defensive zone woes. There are two key
areas I’m concerned with – the first is allowing Boston easy access through the
middle of the ice. I presume the idea is to not have Boston’s bigger
wingers pressuring the D as often but it is giving them too much space.
The other is that the Habs are scrambling way too often in their own zone, to
the point where it almost looks like they’re panicking. That’s never a
good sign and is something that needs some tinkering.
Goals: Rene Bourque
Assists: P.K. Subban (7)
Points: P.K. Subban (9)
+/-: Mike Weaver (+5)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (11)
Shots: Rene Bourque (26)
With the AHL season now over, there aren’t many
prospects still playing but a few are still making their mark.
Mike Condon – Wheeling: The Nailers find
themselves down 2-0 in the second round against Greenville. Condon has
allowed 11 goals in those two games which is more than twice as many as he
allowed in the entire month of April.
Zach Fucale – Halifax: There will
be no repeat titles for the Mooseheads this year as Fucale and Halifax lost in 7
games to Val D’Or, ending their season.
Jeremy Gregoire/Charles Hudon – Baie-Comeau:
The Drakkar are in the QMJHL finals and the Habs’ prospects were key cogs in
Game 1 as Gregoire and Hudon were first and second stars respectively. The
series is currently tied at one with the winner moving on to the Memorial Cup.
Robert Mayer – Switzerland: The good
news for Mayer is that he survived a goalie cut as Daniel Manzato was sent home.
The bad news for him, however, is that Reto Berra has been named to the team and
is expected to be the starter. That leaves Mayer battling for the backup
job at best but it seems as if he’ll make the team at the very least as each
country carries three netminders.
Magnus Nygren – Sweden: Nygren was
productive this week in Euro Hockey Tour action, picking up a goal and an assist
in a couple of games. He is still in the mix for a roster spot for the
World Championships but he might find himself on the outside looking in
depending on if they add anyone who was recently ousted from the NHL playoffs.
Martin Reway – Slovakia: Reway was
bumped up into a top six role in the last couple of pre-tournament games
alongside Richard Panik and former Montreal prospect Juraj Mikus. The
Slovaks announced their final roster for the Worlds on Saturday and Reway made
With the way that the Habs lost Game 2, there’s
a lot of negativity from the fan base all of a sudden. It’s understandable
for the most part as blowing consecutive two goal leads, even to one of the top
teams in the league, doesn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence.
But all is not lost here.
Any time you’re the road team in a series, the
goal is to split the first two. Despite their late meltdowns, the Habs
accomplished that. Carey Price, despite some so-so stats, is off to a fine
start in the series and the powerplay is finally producing as well.
They’ve also managed to get home ice advantage with their top six forwards not
contributing much offensively. If they can get going more consistently, it
can only mean good things for Montreal.
This was never going to be an easy series so
it’s not right to get all negative about the team after just one loss, a game in
which they played a fair bit better than they did in the opener. There are
players that need to be better and their track record suggests they can be.
There are strategies that need tweaking and with the two days off, I expect
they’ll present a couple of different looks, particularly defensively.
It’s far from over yet, even if things seem bad right now given how they lost