Canadiens vs. Rangers 5 Takeaways: More positive than negative in 2-0 loss
The Habs outplay the Rangers but can’t beat Henrik Lundqvist - legally
1. The Montreal Canadiens lost to the New York Rangers 2-2.
The headline above is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I think by the letter of the law both calls were correct (especially the first one). However, the NHL is so inconsistent with goaltender interference calls that you know there will be a worse offence against Carey Price that will be allowed to stand, so I get that it is frustrating and it’s just one more frustrating aspect in a game that had a whole lot of them.
But the Canadiens did “score” twice, and put pucks on Henrik Lundqvist. This is all encouraging, and eventually the bounces will go the other way. I get that this all sounds familiar but the advantage is that the Canadiens have 79 games to have things turn around as opposed to a seven game series.
2. Henrik Lundqvist is still really good - and that’s OK
Sometimes you just run into a great goaltender having a great night. The Canadiens had that happen in last year’s playoffs, and it was again Lundqvist having a great night.
The Canadiens had 27 scoring chances, and just weren’t able to beat the Rangers goaltender. When you’re dealing with small sample sizes early in the season, or in a playoff series it’s infinitely more frustrating. If this was a random game in January, we’d tap our stick and call it a night. When it’s a second loss in three regular season games to start the season, molehills tend to look a lot like mountains.
The Canadiens did a lot of good things last night. If they do that, they will win more often then they will lose, but it’s very frustrating to have three goals in three games (not counting the shootout). And if it’s frustrating for fans, imagine how frustrating it is for the players being paid to score. There’s a lot of pride and talent in that locker room, and no one wants this dry spell to end more than them.
3. The Hudon-Plekanec-Lehkonen line will score eventually, and may not stop
There were high hopes for the line of Charles Hudon, Tomas Plekanec, and Artturi Lehkonen to start the season, especially given their immediate success in the team’s first scrimmage. Despite not having a goal, they have exceeded all expectations.
In the team’s opening game in Buffalo, they dominated the Jack Eichel line. They played well against most of their competition in the Capitals game, and then yesterday they dominated the line of J.T. Miller, Rick Nash and Michael Grabner to the tune of 90% of shot attempts at even strength.
They also dominated the second pairing of Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk. On the road.
If this line can eat up minutes where the other team is choosing the matchup, that is huge for the Habs. Eventually those shots will start going in, and when they do, they may not stop. If this line is dominating other team’s second pair, and their first pair plays against Jonathan Drouin and Max Pacioretty, that leaves the Phillip Danault and Alex Galchenyuk line to play the third pairing.
It opens up a whole lot of opportunities going forward. You can’t cover everybody.
The Rangers expected the Miller line to generate offence, and instead they were forced to play a whole lot of defence. And unlike previous versions of the team’s shutdown line with Plekanec at the helm, this one could score.
4. The power play has potential, but they need to take advantage of their opportunities
Jonathan Drouin. Alex Galchenyuk. Max Pacioretty. Brendan Gallagher. Shea Weber. All on the ice at the same time. Oh, and the other team only has four players.
That sounds like a dream matchup, and so far the puck movement that unit has shown has been incredible. But at some point, they are going to have to put the puck in - and at - the net.
They only had one power play opportunity against the Rangers on Sunday (yes there should have been more - insert officiating comment here), but they did not muster one shot on goal. In fact, only one shot was attempted with the man advantage.
They are still trying to develop chemistry and figure out the best way to get their shooters in shooting position, but for right now there’s a whole lot of promise with very little production and it is definitely one reason Montreal has had trouble scoring.
They look good while failing, which is better than what the Canadiens put forward in previous years, but style points don’t matter if the goals don’t come.
I’m not pressing the panic button yet, but any time the Canadiens power play could turn things around, that would be great.
5. This team will get better as the year goes on
This is a team that is learning a new system, with a whole lot of new faces, and we’re only three games into the season.
It’s definitely a frustrating start, but we are at a point of the season where this team is still learning and adjusting. The starts of the last two years spoiled Canadiens fans. But those starts got the Habs exactly one first-round exit.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have one win in three games, the Nashville Predators are 0-2, the Vegas Golden Knights are 2-0. Come playoff time, only two of those teams will be playing and it’s not the one with Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Canadiens weren’t going to go 81-1-0 this season, and they (probably) won’t even go 80-2-0. It’s not time to press the panic button yet. Claude Julien is a great coach. Carey Price is a great goaltender. There are a bunch of people on this team who will eventually score a goal.
There’s something to be said for peaking at the right time, and this is a good time for the Canadiens to face some adversity. The fact that it’s coming against some of the teams expecting to be in the playoffs is a good thing.
It gives a great coach an opportunity to make the adjustments needed.