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Canadiens vs Rangers 2014 playoffs Game 5 preview

With their playoff run hanging by a thread, can the Canadiens start their comeback with a win on home ice?


The Canadiens needed a bounce. For the first time in a long time, when the stakes were high, they didn't get it.



If Alex Galchenyuk's laser of a wrist shot goes an inch higher, and doesn't catch the knob of Henrik Lundqvist's stick on its way to the crossbar, we're talking about a different series. Instead of the Canadiens owning the momentum in a best-of-three series, however, we now have to face a stark and uncaring reality. Against a team that, at times, seems to barely give up a zone entry, the Habs need to find three straight wins.

Once one sets aside the daunting nature of the Canadiens' task, it quickly becomes clear that a come-back isn't out of the question. Four teams have come back from a 3-1 series deficit to move on, including the 2004 and 2010 Canadiens. Three game losing streaks aren't new to the Rangers, who reached that milestone three times during the regular season, and then against Pittsburgh just over two weeks ago. Montreal, meanwhile, earned five five-game winning streaks in the 2013-14, not to mention that time they swept the Lightning. Is a come-back the logical, or even likely, outcome? Negative. Is it possible? Absolutely.

In his game recap yesterday, big bad blog boss Berkshire booked Les Boys breaking the Blueshirts, in three easy steps. The issues addressed in the linked piece vary, covering both personnel and systems problems. While I would highly recommend perusing Andrew's piece, a brief summary:

  • Michel Therrien needs to maximize the talent at his disposal. That means more Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, and Nathan Beaulieu, and less Thomas Vanek, Francis Bouillon, and Alexei Emelin
  • The players Therrien deploys need to be put in a position to succeed with coaching and systems. Opponents clogging the boards? There must be another way! Trying to enter the zone, or execute a powerplay? How about, I don't know, skating?

When the same play, or player, fails continually, the coaching staff are responsible for adapting. Michel Therrien, Gerard Gallant, Clement Jodoin, and J.J. Daigneault have had 48 hours to figure out how to do that, not to mention attending to a laundry list of other concerns (disorganization in defensive zone coverage, poor line changes, etc.) that require their attention.

The Canadiens have had ample opportunity to be playing in a tied series, or even possessing the same lead that the Rangers do now. The refs have made the calls. The Habs have wrung every last drop out of Dustin Tokarski. It's time for the Canadiens, as an organization, to be better.

When time runs short and pressure high, there's no easy path toward that lofty goal, but if the Habs are to find the three consecutive wins they require, they need a plan. Thankfully, one member of the organization has a suggestion. For a team now playing for their playoff lives, it might be the best advice they can take.