Forward lines and defense pairings
Lehkonen – Drouin – Byron
Pacioretty – Danault – Shaw
Hudon – Plekanec – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – McCarron – Mitchell
Mete – Weber
Alzner – Benn
Davidson – Petry
Jacob De La Rose, Joe Morrow
David Schlemko – hand (mid-November), Ales Hemsky – concussion symptoms, Nikita Scherbak – lower body
These two teams now have very similar records. With three wins and seven losses each, this game wasn’t the clash of the titans.
The Rangers and the Canadiens have some talent but plenty of issues. For New York, goaltending is an issue. Defence is a major liability for the Habs. So, it’s not unexpected that there would inconsistent play on both sides.
To their credit, the Canadiens had a strong first period outshooting the Blue Shirts 19-2. Fully in control of the game, cruising along with a 3-0 lead, Montreal was handed a four-minute power-play courtesy of a Kevin Shattenkirk double minor for hi-sticking.
I announced to everyone in earshot that this was the turning point of the game. If the Habs scored on the power-play, it would have been a bridge too far for the visitors. Kill off the penalty and the momentum would carry the Rangers into the second period.
The Montreal power-play was not only unsuccessful, it was terrible. The disorganized group failed to register a shot during the four-minute man advantage. And the Rangers were given a boost which propelled them to an early second period goal.
Once the armour was pierced, the fragile Canadiens returned. The Rangers dominated board battles, moving the puck as they pleased in the Habs end. Montreal defencemen seemed powerless to clear the zone and clear New York forwards from the front of the net.
Fortunately the Rangers had a problem or two themselves. In particular, Ondrej Pavelec was a rebound machine. For the first time this season, the Canadiens went to the net, taking advantage of the loose pucks.
And they were rewarded. Paul Byron with a one-timer from the slot. Alex Galchenyuk from the edge of the blue paint. Phillip Danault driving to the net cashing a rebound. Max Pacioretty slapping home a rebound from the lip of the crease. And Danault again chipping in a rebound from directly in front of Pavelec.
They are the kind of goals that the Canadiens will need to continue to score to be successful. Now they need to put their full focus on major improvements to play in their own zone. After 11 games (and pre-season action) it’s clear that waiting for their defensive play to improve is not a strategy that will succeed.
Marc Bergevin will have to admit his failure and ditch his disastrous rebuild of the back end. A significant injection of talent is desperately needed. Or Claude Julien must abandon his zone scheme which has been flummoxing his players and exacerbating the issues on defence.
And Julien might want to reconsider his use of Alex Galchenyuk. The 23-year-old leads the team in power-play goals and is second in shooting percentage. Yet Galchenyuk’s ice-time has been limited while the coach and GM and taken turns stripping him of his confidence.
One more bit of advice: it’s never wise for Bell Centre patrons to start the Ole chant in the first period but especially given the way the Habs are playing this season.
The Canadiens now head out on the road for four games next week. They still occupy the 30th slot in the NHL standings.
▲ Carey Price, Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen, Alex Galchenyuk, Michael McCarron, Shea Weber, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw, Brendan Gallagher
▼ Torrey Mitchell, Tomas Plekanec, Charles Hudon, Jordie Benn, Karl Alzner, Victor Mete