After dropping the third game of the series, the Habs have fought their way back into their second round matchup against Tampa Bay, winning two straight to close the deficit to 3-2. This week’s Cheers and Jeers are highlighted by one youngster picking up his play as of late plus a very curious coaching decision that could have proven costly.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Not quitting. After going down 3-0, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising had the team went down in Game 4 as is often the case when teams lose the first three games to start a series. However, Montreal put forth their best effort with their backs against the wall and have parlayed that into two straight wins. There’s a long way to go yet but they have responded well to adversity so far.
2) Alex Galchenyuk. Last week, I was critical of how he had stopped battling most of the time. That hasn’t been the case the past three games. He’s much more involved in the play and isn’t backing down from the physical side of things either. He still tends to dangle too often but his recent play is a big step in the right direction.
3) More offensive pressure. The Habs find themselves second among playoff teams in shots per game at 36.1. Granted, three games going to overtime (one to double OT) boosts this average a bit but still, they’re well above their regular season pace of 28.5. Keep firing pucks towards the net and eventually good things will happen. Games 4 and 5 were good examples of that.
1) Game 3’s game winner. What makes matters worse is that it was the usually-reliable veteran players who made mistakes whether it was the dump in, the back checking, or the poor defensive zone coverage. A last second goal to lose the game it always a back breaker but when it’s the veterans that made the errors to lead to the goal, it’s even tougher to swallow.
2) Willingly deploying the fourth line against Steven Stamkos. It’s one thing to be forced into that matchup on the road but at home, Jacob de la Rose (57.2% of Game 5 TOI was against Stamkos), Torrey Mitchell (65.8%), and Devante Smith-Pelly (55.9%) should not be playing against one of the NHL’s most dangerous scorers more than half the time. That’s playing with fire.
3) P.K. Subban’s horseshoe comment about Ben Bishop. Making a comment like that when you’re down 3-1 in a series is prime bulletin board material for the Lightning which is something you don’t want if you’re the Habs. Nonetheless, it has been said. Now, he needs to put his money where his mouth is. If you’re going to make a comment like that, you better score before too long. He came close on Saturday (and set up the GWG) but if Subban wants the opposition to really feel those comments, close isn’t enough.
|25||Jacob de la Rose||3||0||0||+1||0||3||36:04|
Goals: Max Pacioretty (4)
Assists: P.K. Subban (7)
Points: P.K. Subban (8)
+/-: Tom Gilbert (+6)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (35)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (41)
– It was originally believed that Magnus Nygren’s deal with Farjestad was for one year. It turns out that the contract is for four years. There’s no word on whether or not there is an NHL out clause at any point in time. Nonetheless, the term of the deal will see the Habs lose Nygren’s rights before the contract expires. They may qualify him to keep his rights but any real trade value he may have had is now out the window.
– Both of Montreal’s CHL prospects are off to good starts in their league finals. Michael McCarron has a point in each of the two games so far (both Oshawa wins) while Zach Fucale is 2-1 to start his series. His loss on Sunday snapped an eleven game winning streak.
A common criticism over the past few years is that the Habs haven’t done a good enough job of integrating their three young defencemen (Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, and Jarred Tinordi) into the lineup to get them some experience. While that may be the case in the regular season, the playoffs have been a whole different story.
Two years ago, Tinordi was a regular in the playoffs against the Senators. Last season, Beaulieu started out as a scratch but was a regular by the end of the postseason, suiting up for seven games. This season, Beaulieu and Pateryn have both seen action, playing four and seven games respectively (and Tinordi’s out for the season due to injury).
It’s likely that these three will comprise spots 5-7 on the depth chart next season and it’s their experiences in the postseason that are going to help make a difference as they transition to full-time players next year. Is there a case to be made that the youngsters should have seen more regular season time? Sure. However, they’ve each had or are getting their experience when the games matter the most. It will be important to keep that in mind come next season when the inevitable complaints start about them not getting enough of a chance in the past. They may not have had it in the regular season but they’ve certainly had it in the playoffs.