1. That was the worst game the Habs have played all series
There isn’t any sugarcoating this game. Montreal did not play well, except for parts of the first and third period. The composed and stalwart defence of the previous games was replaced by a jittery, disorganized group of players and it showed on the stat sheet. The Rangers adjusted their game plan, clogged the neutral zone, and the Habs failed to find an immediate plan B.
After making life hell for Henrik Lundqvist around the net in previous games, there was minimal pressure during game four, and Lundqvist wasn’t truly tested until it was too late for the comeback.
2. Despite it being the worst game, the Rangers still eked out a win
Make no mistake, the Habs did not deserve to win in any way.
However, even in Montreal’s worst game of the series, the Rangers managed just a meager two goals against Carey Price. One of those goals came off a terrible bounce along the boards for Andrei Markov, a rare occurrence.
Factor in that Shea Weber missed tying the game by about half an inch, and there isn’t much to panic about. After a fairly listless first game, Claude Julien’s team came out like a house of fire for Game Two, and it’s likely we see the same on Thursday. The Rangers defensive core still contains massive liabilities in Nick Holden, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, and the speed of the Habs’ forwards can exploit them next game.
3. Dwight King: Press Box, Party of One
When the Canadiens acquired Dwight King at the deadline, he was heralded as an experienced bottom six forward with a playoff pedigree. What actually arrived is what looks like a zombie from Dawn of the Dead wearing a Habs jersey. Slow moving at all times and often shying away from battles on the boards, this player is nothing like the one that won two cups with the LA Kings.
The losses in this series aren’t due to King’s poor play, but if he were to show a bit of effort on the ice and create some chances, the fourth line could start to do some damage. If King isn’t up to snuff, it might be time for Michael McCarron to step into the lineup. While McCarron isn’t going to blow by defenders with speed, he’ll battle on the boards, throw hits, and make life miserable for his opponents.
It’s the fourth line, so miracles aren’t expected, but creating some scoring chances or turnovers would go a long way towards helping the Habs enjoy playoff success.
4. The Captain needs to take the lead
This is not a call out of Max Pacioretty. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from it. He and his linemates have played quite well, and Alex Radulov is just two points behind Evgeni Malkin for the playoff scoring lead.
Bad luck is a factor because Pacioretty is firing the puck on net a healthy amount (19 shots in 4 games), but despite being involved in the play, he has just one assist. Whether it’s his positioning in the offensive zone or on the powerplay, the Habs need him to get going in the worst way. Tapping into Pacioretty’s offensive prowess would be a series-changer for the Canadiens.
5. Back to Montreal
The confines of the Bell Centre should be a major boon for Julien and the Habs. As mentioned above, the Rangers defensive unit is ripe for the picking by Montreal’s forwards. By all logic, there’s too much speed and talent on this roster to be contained by a group containing one top tier defender, a bunch of mid-tier defensemen, and some traffic cones. The benefit of last change will allow Julien to get the line of Brendan Gallagher - Tomas Plekanec - Paul Byron out against lesser competition and let them continue their dominant form.
This series may be tied, but remove one bad bounce, or add in a better shot off the post, and this could be an entirely different series. In short, the Habs are still looking good, and Tuesday night’s poor effort is hopefully just an aberration.
Trust the Julien process. And if that ever falters, don’t worry: there’s still Carey Price in play.