1. The Captain takes a stand
Never a surprise to Montreal Canadiens followers, the captain has been the subject of much criticism in the post-season for his lack of production, but Max Pacioretty took a stand for himself and his team in the early minutes of the game when he dropped the gloves with Jimmy Vesey.
Pacioretty takes out his frustration on Vesey pic.twitter.com/AdHGTslQIm— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) April 23, 2017
Pacioretty showed his team and the fans that he was not about to go gentle into that good night without a fight — literally — a sign everyone has been waiting for from the captain, though perhaps through an unlikely outlet. Regardless of the outcome, Pacioretty’s move fueled the fire in the bellies of his teammates, sparking the momentum they needed to control the pace of the first period and eventually strike first.
2. A strong first period, a disappointing second — again
The Habs put up an impressive first 20 minutes of play by keeping the puck on their sticks for the most part, and keeping it away from Carey Price when it wasn’t. Outshooting the New York Rangers 11-6 through the first frame, they played hard and fast on the puck, kept the blueshirts boxed out when in their zone, and were relentless on the forecheck.
But as we often saw in this series, momentum took an ugly turn in the second period. When Jordie Benn was called for holding, the Rangers got the chance to successfully tie things up at one, and New York would not stop there. Allowing the Rangers to take complete control over the game, Mats Zuccarello scored for a second time last night from roughly the same spot.
In a game with their lives — figuratively — on the line, the Canadiens needed to bring their A game shift after shift, but they seemed to forget they were facing elimination in the middle frame, and spent much of the remainder of the period chasing the puck without much to show for it.
3. Dwight King in favor of Torrey Mitchell?
I personally don’t see it.
King hadn’t been terrible, but he’s far from shined in his time as a Canadien. When your team is facing elimination, go with the guy who gives you his all night after night, and if the final question comes down to King versus Mitchell, I’d go with #17 any day.
Mitchell is the guy that takes pucks to the mouth, gets upended into the benches and gets sticked in the face on a weekly basis, and then skates back out onto the ice saying, “Thank you ma’am, can I have another?”
Dwight King, on the other hand, left me scratching my head a number of times in this series alone. He’s been caught standing still in the neutral zone and seemingly giving up on puck battles along the boards. Mitchell won’t win the game for you, but he will do a lot of little things to help get you there in the long run. King, however, does not seem to be that guy for this team.
4. We needed a hero
Facing elimination, the Habs needed a hero to shoulder them to victory and out of defeat’s grasp, but failed to find one in Game Six.
Much of the Habs’ success in this series came off the sticks of Alexander Radulov, Artturi Lehkonen, Brendan Gallagher, and Paul Byron, but I was probably one of very many Canadiens fans keeping their fingers crossed for their captain to captain, as he had so many times this past season. It’s unfair to burden one man with the success or failure of his team, though, and the Montreal Canadiens have plenty of talented players not previously named that could have stepped up in his place.
Sure, there were some questionable calls, plenty of penalties that went overlooked, and a few bad bounces that cost the Habs a handful of games. In the end, the Rangers seemed like the hungrier team, and Henrik Lundqvist was a monster whose heroics took the one-game deficit and turned it into a three-game winning streak to take the series on home ice.
5. Now what?
Many expected the Canadiens to eliminate the Rangers without breaking much of a sweat, but failed to dig deep when it came to seizing games four, five, and eventually six, and now find themselves out of the running early on.
Honestly? I’m bummed as hell.
There were plenty of bright spots in this series, such as the dominance of the likes of Lehkonen and Gallagher, both who took things to a whole new level in the post-season, but there were plenty of disappointments, as well.
How does Marc Bergevin address his team’s needs in the off-season? Will he make another blockbuster trade to get the manpower that’s needed down the middle, or does he stick to his guns and continue to preach that top centres are won in the draft and not in a trade?
Only time will tell, but with their victory window getting smaller and smaller, time, perhaps, is no friend of the Montreal Canadiens.