After the effort last night, some lineup changes were to be expected. These changes did happen as Mark Streit and Ales Hemsky watched the game on this night in favour of Brandon Davidson and Torrey Mitchell. Davidson was a positive change, while Mitchell was as invisible as Hemsky. However, the results were not affected by these changes as the Habs played hard, were unable to finish plays, and fell 2-0 at the hands of the Rangers. For what it’s worth, this supposedly improved team still failed to score more than one goal over the weekend, throwing up a two-game even-strength scoreless streak in the process.
The Canadiens came out hungrier as they quickly got on the Rangers defenders and attacked Henrik Lundqvist as the play was completely in New York’s zone in the early going. A few minutes in, Andrew Shaw clearly kicked a puck into the Rangers net for the first disallowed goal of the night. The Montreal puck domination continued for the most part, though Victor Mete did award a second odd-man rush for the Rangers on another risky pinch.
Near the end of the period, Shea Weber appeared to score to give the Habs a lead for the second time. The blast from the blueline bounced from Lundqvist to Ryan McDonagh to the back of the net. On this play, there appears to be little doubt that the puck is behind Lundqvist before contact happens with Max Pacioretty. Furthermore, with the body battle going on between Pacioretty and McDonagh, refusing this goal is giving defencemen across the league hope that pushing an opposition player into their respective goaltenders could potentially lead to a goal refusal.
This incoherent call did not discourage the Canadiens who continued to create good scoring chances, including a man advantage that never really got going and gave the Rangers some confidence. With just over two minutes to play, Torrey Mitchell lost a defensive zone faceoff (isn’t this why he’d be dressed?) to allow Brady Skjei to skate down and fire a pass to the front of the net that was aimed for Michael Grabner, but bounced off Weber and beat Price. Typical that after two hard-earned goals are refused, the Rangers get a lucky bounce to count.
The second period started much like the first as Montreal won most battles and races to free pucks. This was the case until Paul Byron took a terrible offensive zone slashing penalty. It took a while for the Habs to get their legs back after the kill as the Rangers finally got some zone time. However, by the midway point of the period, Montreal was back into gear and dominating the Rangers winning every race and hemming the Rangers into their zone.
Some frustration started to show as the Rangers ran a few interferences while also managing to land a few big hits, ultimately leading to a comparatively weak holding call against Jeff Petry. The Habs would kill the penalty and actually get the best chance over the two minutes as Byron broke in on Lundqvist before sliding violently into the boards after a late hit by a Ranger defender. De la Rose and Byron would get the next opportunity as they broke in 2-on-1 where de la Rose strangely opted for the shot instead of the pass to the 20-goal scorer on the other wing. The Rangers would receive another power play before the end of the period, to no avail. With no goals, and not many chances, the second period was certainly not as exciting as the first, but a solid period for the Habs nonetheless.
The third period started with the Rangers still on the man advantage where they generated a few good chances on Price. Weber was checked hard in the corner and responded with a brutal crosscheck in front of Price that he got away with. Montreal spent most of the first ten minutes in the New York zone again but failed to finish any plays. It’s only three games in, but talking about good efforts will not be sufficient over 82 games, so the group needs to find a way to start burying some chances.
Before the ten-minute mark, a soft zone clearing attempt by Petry, compounded by a soft board battle by the same Petry allowed a pass from Pavel Buchnevich to Mika Zibanejad who did finish and gave New York a two-goal lead. At the end of the day, Price wasn’t the superstar this team needs him to be this weekend. Even he had been, how can the team win if they can’t score? As much as this D-corps has struggled, my belief remains that Marc Bergevin needs to spend that money on some scoring help as soon as possible. With two minutes to play, Price was pulled for the extra attacker as the Canadiens continued to look dangerous while lacking the necessary skill to finish the plays.
Observations from the Game
1) Powerplay Solution – Three games into the season and this ugly topic has returned to the forefront for the Montreal Canadiens. Some experts will suggest removing Galchenyuk from the power play, others will suggest returning to a two-defencemen approach, allowing young Victor Mete to put on full display his offensive skill. My solution would be far simpler, and far less risky. Claude Julien and Kirk Muller should simply return each forward to the spot on the ice where they’ve had success in the past. Keep the formation in place, but switch Pacioretty and Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk wants to shoot from the far right, and Pacioretty doesn’t look comfortable there at all. Likewise, Galchenyuk’s play from middle has essentially been limited to quickly returning the puck to Drouin. Pacioretty has a good enough release to be dangerous from the middle, he has been in the past. It’s a simple switch and one that should provide some results on a unit that’s otherwise looked very dangerous through three games.
2) Petry Problem – Last season, when a second pairing defender wasn’t properly fulfilling their role, Julien had no issue sending him to the press box. So far this season (three games and preseason), Jeff Petry has looked slow and soft while making some terrible decisions with the puck. This D-corps is already relying on a player that would ideally not be in a top-four role in Mete; they can’t afford a full season of Petry playing like this. Will Julien have the gumption to treat Petry like he treated Alexei Emelin last season? This is much of the same scenario.
3) Incoherent 4th Line – The message being sent by the coaching staff to the fourth absolutely can’t be clear at this point and time. On one wing is Paul Byron, who plays a speed game and creates fast break opportunities. On the other is Jacob de la Rose who is much slower, yet more positionally sound and more physical. Mitchell and Hemsky fit with Byron, while Michael McCarron and Andrew Shaw fit with de la Rose. Shaw and Byron can be swapped from game to game from the 4th to 2nd line. So why not play two different fourth lines according to the opponent? I’ll admit that this much attention to the fourth line may be overkill after two games of complete ineptitude from the scoring forwards, but over the last two games, de la Rose’s lack of speed has thwarted at last five good rushes from Byron. Both players can be effective, but not together.
4) Davidson Shows He Can Play – After a terrible preseason, tonight marked Brandon Davidson’s first regular season game. In comparison with his preseason efforts, Davidson was easily superior. In comparison to Mark Streit’s first two regular season games, Davidson was easily superior. It is important to admit that the two comparatives here are incredibly low, but Davidson’s effort on this night was a step in the right direction as the team patiently awaits the arrival of David Schlemko. At least Davidson looked like he was interested in competing.