Well... That didn't go as planned.
After sweeping the regular season series against the New York Rangers, the Canadiens dropped game 1 of their first round playoff series, 2-0, in Montreal on Wednesday evening. Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers silenced the deafening Centre Bell crowd, withstanding a strong first period by the Canadiens, then nursing a 1-0 lead until Michael Grabner scored into an empty net with 1:10 remaining.
The unexpected goal scorer in the first period was none other than New York’s 4th line agitator, Tanner Glass (15), who beat Carey Price cleanly with a backhand off of a face-off 9:50 into the contest.
It’s an interesting goal. It happens to be a beautiful backhand by Glass.
As the face-off is set, Price takes his usual position at the edge of the crease.
He retreats, though, as the puck is contested next to the face-off dot. By the time Glass gets the puck on his backhand and releases his shot, Price has given up a good portion of his depth.
At this point, Price is doomed if Glass gets off the shot that he does. I’ve been critical of Price for adopting a passive, static butterfly at times, but that isn’t really what happens here. When Glass has released his shot, Price is still engaged on his skates.
Price does minimally rock his shoulders back and slightly drop his glove as he moves into his butterfly, but those aren't the reasons Glass is able to score. When the puck passes Price it is well above his hand, and well wide of his left shoulder.
This is a rare positional mistake by Price. As with his occasional static, blocking butterfly technique, it appears that it results from a moment of indecision as the puck is contested after the face-off. During that brief period of uncertainty, he allows himself to drift backward and open up the net to a brilliant shot by an unlikely goal scorer.
Having said that, now let’s take a look at an equally interesting face-off play that occurred in the 2nd period, with a better result.
Mika Zibanejad (93) lines up for the face-off at the left dot, with Rick Nash (61) at the inside top of the left circle. Price takes his usual setup position at the corner of his crease, and scans the ice.
Price, clearly anticipating a draw back to Nash’s forehand, then resets his position just before puck drop. Rather than align himself to the face-off, he sets himself square to Nash’s forehand, and remains with his head clearly focused on Nash, only briefly glancing at the face-off when he sees the puck drop.
When Nash receives the puck and releases his shot, he is shooting against the flow, expecting that Price will have to be rotating to his left, and hopes to sneak one past Price’s right toe. Price is already square to the threat, though, and doesn’t need to adjust his angle. He makes an excellent save on a low shot heading for the short side post.
One caveat, though, as nifty as Price’s anticipatory realignment is before the puck drops. Watching the play again, Price retreats slightly along his angle just after the draw, then takes additional depth as the play develops.
Is this nit-picking on an otherwise brilliant play? Absolutely. But, everything is different now that it’s the postseason. Habs fans certainly don’t need any more reminders of that, after watching Tanner Glass score a game-winning goal on Carey Price off of a clean shot in the first period of Game 1 in the Centre Bell. If the Rangers see Price in a post-draw retreat consistently, it’s not unreasonable to expect that they will try to take advantage of that by tying up the puck in the face-off circle and looking for quick shots from the scrum. In other words, nitpicks matter from here on out.
It’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs, after all. Some games are decided by heroes like Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, and some are decided by Tanner Glass.