Montreal 3 NY Rangers 2 (Bell Centre)
MONTREAL, QC.– When former Canadiens General Manager went shopping for a head coach, there were four characteristics on his wish list that were woefully lacking from the repertoire of fired bench boss Guy Carbonneau. They were experience, communication skills, discipline and structure.
Jacques Martin, simply due to his longevity in the league, had experience (leaving aside for the moment whether it is good and relevant experience.) Martin also brought a structured approach to practices and game preparation. He is definitely and X’s and O’s guy who can draw up drills and game plans according to his vision (a dated approach to the game according to some.)
We know that coach Martin will never get a mark in the communication check box. That leaves discipline.
So far the Canadiens have taken 199 minutes in minor penalties — only four teams have more. Penalties can be a measure of coaching discipline particularly bench minors. In that category, only three teams have more minutes than Martin and the Habs.
Given that the coach employs a system that generates few power play opportunities, and the high number of minors taken, Montreal is often on the wrong side of power-play opportunities. Fortunately, penalty-killing has been excellent this season.
Which brings us to Saturday night’s game.
It’s not surprising that there was carry-over with two games in five days between the original six rivals. P.K.Subban was not a popular figure among the Blueshirts particularly Brandon Dubinsky. It was clear that discipline would play a key role in deciding the outcome of the game.
It didn’t look good early on as Subban was being goaded by Dubinsky into a retaliation minor for slashing. A dumb penalty in the offensive zone, with the Rangers scoring on the resulting power-play could have set the tone for the game. But fortunately for the home team, it didn’t play out that way.
A nod to Subban and coach Martin for maintaining discipline. By contrast, it was Dubinsky who would end the game with three minor penalties and the Rangers with a bench minor for too-many-men.
Assistant coach Kirk Muller deserves credit for the new-look Habs power-play. Passes were crisp spending no more than a few seconds on player’s sticks. Montreal was rewarded with two goals with the man-advantage in the first period.
The Canadiens are built on speed and quick puck movement to exploit opponents. For two periods, the Habs played to their strengths, and dictated terms in a manner that has rarely been seen consistently for two seasons. Were its not for the 26 saves of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist over the first 40 minutes, Habs fans could have been dining on free chicken wings at La Cage aux Sports celebrating an easy win.
For whatever reason in the third period, the Canadiens abandoned the attacking style of the first two periods, returning to the well-drilled passive system preferred by their head coach. The offensive-minded Rangers pounced and peppered Carey Price with 21 shots. Price earned his pay cheque all in one period turning back all but one, making several game-saving stops in the process.
▲ Andre Kostitsyn scored the game-winning goal with a rocket past Lundqvist. Kostitsyn played an excellent two-way game despite being saddled with fourth-line mates.
▲ James Wisniewski logged over 25 minutes of ice-time and tallied two assists on the power-play.
▲ Lars Eller played a physical role leading the Canadiens with three hits. He also had two blocked shots.
▲ P.K. Subban didn’t have a good start, but righted the ship and played a solid game. His defensive played a key role in the final two minutes.
► Jeff Halpern was victimized on the second Rangers goal but picked up an assist and won nine of thirteen faceoffs.
▼ It was not a banner night for Jaroslav Spacek. At a shade under 12 minutes, he had the least ice-time of any Canadiens defenseman. Spacek took a delay-of-game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass and finished the game at minus-one.
▼ After a couple of decent starts after being called up David Desharnais has become invisible on the ice. As result, he played just over nine minutes.
▼ Referees Wes McCauley and Don VanMassenhoven who completely blew the call when Henrik Lundqvist attacked Max Pacioretty after the Canadiens forward was shoved into the Rangers netminder by Brandon Dubinsky.
All Habs game stars
1. James Wisniewski
2. Andre Kostitsyn
3. Carey Price
Tom Pyatt and Alexandre Picard were healthy scratches. Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges are out for the season with a knee injuries.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)
Category: Game review