Call of the Wilde: In the nick of time
CTV Montreal Published Saturday, April 15, 2017 9:16AM EDT Last Updated Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:04AM EDT
- What a bonus for the Habs that their best line is Gallagher-Plekanec-Byron. Two of the three players had rough seasons offensively at times but all are giving the Rangers fits. Gallagher seems to have great wheels since Julien's arrival in Montreal. Julien wants neutral zone speed and Gallagher is the beneficiary of this new style. He was a sitting duck target waiting at the blue line for a pass. Plekanec is digging, complimenting the mad speed of Byron, who scored the second goal and also had a breakaway in the first period. Plekanec, then, with the marker that forced overtime. On that shift, he was winning puck battles all over the place and then was in the dirty zone for the tip-in to force overtime. Maybe the best playoff game I have ever seen Plekanec play. He was 15-4 in the dot after three periods.
- The first two pairings are working for the Habs on defence. Petry and Benn are strong together. They complement each other's styles perfectly. Petry the puck mover and first passer, Benn the stay at home and clear out bodies guy. Excellent partnership. Petry right back in the playoff form that made him the best of the Habs defenders last go round.
- Weber and Markov are a perfect pairing considering their skill sets too. Weber destroys people and could be the best shut down guy in hockey. Slow your roll! I didn't say best defender. I said best shut down guy. If you don't agree with me, then take it up with Mike Babcock. Markov is an outstanding compliment as he has that first pass and amazing vision for the game. He also puts passes on the stick for Weber in perfect spots. Weber absolutely destroyed Grabner with a vicious crosscheck on the tying goal by Plekanec. Shocking what he gets away with – it's that he crosschecks guys so effortlessly. The Rangers are going to feel they've been in a series win or lose. Weber has been the best Habs player for two games. They rested him down the stretch. How smart is that looking?
- The Habs have a team toughness I am completely not used to. Weber absolutely tore apart JT Miller, who I imagine wondered what the hell he was thinking dropping his gloves. Steve Ott had a crushing hit on Zuccarello. The Habs were throwing it around instead of being thrown. Now, I don't know if that puts pucks in the net, but many players assure me that these things matter in the long run. We shall see if it makes a difference to be the more intimidating. Weber's moment of intimidation cost the club in the end as the Habs really missed Weber the 5 minutes he was in the box. That isn't a criticism of Weber whatsoever, by the way. It isn't a criticism, either, of how big the Habs are playing in this series. Look at Plekanec on the tying goal. He was getting chopped down like a tree and didn't flinch one bit.
- Galchenyuk is back. That is all. You saw it. He's back. The coach acknowledged that he was so good that he rolled with the hot hand. He even played center and Shaw moved to the wing.
- The first line didn't have a good start but wow, did they finish with a roar. Pacioretty, Radulov and Danault were dominant in overtime. Pacioretty would not be denied when he was hungry on the winner. He showed that powerful skating stride and big body to win the zone then fed Radulov. Radulov would not be deterred, fighting for position in front of the net. The Habs fired 58 shot and they did deserve the win. They were the better team. This was the just result.
- Now, about the third pairing. On the Rangers tying goal, Beaulieu gets the bad bounce and leaves his feet trying to keep it in the offensive zone. Hard moment. He's gotta start playing defence in that moment and not worry about offence. Nesterov too sees that his mate is in trouble and he needs to immediately start playing defence instead of staying square on the blue line. Forget the blue line. Defend. Grabner scores on the breakaway. On another goal, Beaulieu leaves his spot and goes to his wrong side to try to break up the play. Beaulieu and Nesterov were broken up and then Beaulieu had some much better shifts late in the game and overtime.
- The Lehkonen-Shaw-King line could not get anything going and it was good to see Julien give up on it in the third period. The line simply did not have a playmaker. King is a grinder. He will win pucks. Shaw is a grinder. He will win pucks. Lehkonen is a finisher and looks ready to be a star in the playoffs too. He will score goals. He needs a playmaker like Galchenyuk and got it in the second period. Galchenyuk does not have the coach's confidence defensively but he belongs here on this line. I argued Friday morning on TSN 690 that Galchenyuk needs to play with two guys who play a strong 200 foot game and Shaw and Lehkonen are. They can, as a line working for each other, be what the Habs need, I believe. That pushes King to the fourth line or, let's be honest, maybe McCarron Mitchell or Flynn can bring more in that spot. Julien is fond of the rotation. It's time to rotate.
- Can't agree with a couple things structurally. Shaw on the first unit power-play is not my first choice. Pacioretty behind the net on the power play doesn't work either. He is a shooter. Put him where he can shoot. Nesterov in for Davidson also seems a good idea.
- Price had no chance on the three goals. None. You can't say he didn't make the big save either. He made a ton of big saves. He was beaten by a world class move; a world class shot and a billiards carom. Other than that, he saved the game and no one talks about it. The hardship of being so damned good so consistently is that you're not the story unless you have a 40-save shutout.