1. Defensive questions
This will not go down in history as one of Nathan Beaulieu’s favourite games.
The absence of Alexei Emelin has, perhaps shockingly, thrown the 2nd and 3rd defensive pairings into a bit of disarray. Claude Julien has chosen to pair Jeff Petry with Jordie Benn, removing the stabilizing presence from Nathan Beaulieu’s side. With Nikita Nesterov drawing in for the injured Emelin, he and Beaulieu have combined for the third pairing and it has been, shall we say, an adventure.
Heading into game three in Madison Square Gardens, where the Rangers will be afforded last change, it will be interesting to see if the coach makes a change, perhaps bringing in Brandon Davidson to give the defensive pairings a new look or if there is maybe a mostly-healed Emelin available.
2. Galchenyuk resurgence
On a fourth line who struggled against a quick New York team in game one, Alex Galchenyuk looked like a new player. He continued that play into game two - quick to the puck, making sharp passes, taking quality shots - and was rewarded for it. Mid-game, Julien moved Galchenyuk to a line with Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw.
The line clicked and the combination of their skills put pressure on the Rangers over the final two periods of the game. Shaw and Lehkonen are both defensively responsible players and, in theory, time on this line can only improve Galchneyuk’s comfort level with that style of play.
"I thought Alex had a real good game tonight. You need to reward guys who are having good games." - Julien on Galchenyuk #Habs— Kyle Bukauskas (@SNkylebukauskas) April 15, 2017
The coach’s comments post-game directly correlated the improvement in Galchenyuk’s play with the change in linemates. The difference in Galchenyuk has been noticeable in the post-season and if he can contiue on this trajectory, we’re in for treat this spring.
3. No quit and a full team effort
Down a game, down a goal, the Habs kept playing their game. This team has faith in themselves and their system. They know they can win if they play their game.
It would be easy to panic after being shut out game one. And it would be easy to panic after giving up a lead and heading into the final minute of the game down by one. And it would be easy to panic or get frustrated when you dominate an overtime period and can’t get a bounce to go your way.
Radulov finds Plekanec for a huge goal. We're going to overtime. pic.twitter.com/mat4WXbtTV— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) April 15, 2017
These Habs don’t. They work together as a cohesive unit, trusting in each other and in the process to get the job done.
4. Bodies to the net
After failing to score in game one, with their shots easily seen and subsequently stopped by Lundqvist, the Canadiens knew they needed to make an adjustment. The coach had the team focus on going to the net, putting bodies in front of the goaltender to both take away his vision and to take advantage of the second opportunities he was so generously providing.
The message was received loud and clear. The Canadiens spent 78 minutes making Henrik Lundqvist miserable. They paid a price for it, with a red jersey being mauled down by a white one after nearly every whistle in the Rangers’ end. But they kept at it And the game-tying goal and the game-winning goal were both direct results of this adjustment in strategy.
5. Stellar in Overtime
The Canadiens dominated the 4th frame. They took the momentum from Plekanec’s goal and carried it right in to OT. If they can manage that for the next three games, we won’t need a Game Six.
Alex Radulov wins it in OT for the Habs. And has an amazing celebration, as is tradition. pic.twitter.com/wuZRMcL8c4— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) April 15, 2017