SCORE SCORE ZIBAANEJAD! MIKA ZIBANEJAD WITH THE OVERTIME WINNER
Hell of a game out of the Rangers last night. Henrik was great once again, keeping them in the game till the forwards and defenseman got in a groove. It could have been 3-1 easily going into the second period but Hank made the saves that proves he is a top netminder in the league.
The Refs were terrible once again. Ott, Gallagher, and Shaw are dirty players and will continue to play that way unless the refs start calling some penalties or the Rangers put those guys on their asses. Shout-out to Brendan Smith for chucking nucks with Shaw, which to me seemed to have an affect.
A tale of two halves: The Habs really controlled play throughout the first period and even into the first half of the second. The Rangers couldn’t get sustained pressure in the offensive zone and could not clear the puck from behind the back red line in the defensive zone. It seemed like they were fighting themselves in the defensive zone, instead of playing skillful hockey things looked out of sorts. They also couldn’t get pressure in the offensive zone nor establish a forecheck.
Something clicked mid-way through the second period , whether it was a coaching decision or just better play, I don’t know. The Rangers started getting pucks in deep, not letting Price play the puck, and establishing a forecheck. When they had the chance to skate the puck in and get deep they did, when they couldn’t they would be smart with the puck, much like game 4.
The Skjei goal was a direct biproduct of the pressure that they were putting on the Habs defense. Vesey getting the puck to Nash who had room to go to the net was all a byproduct of the previous 5-7 minutes of action.
For the entire third period I was nervous. Even though the Rangers controlled play throughout the Habs still had their chances, that is the nature of playoff hockey though. Hank answered the bell again and again, not only in the third period but also in OT. I kept thinking “okay we are controlling play but if they get a breakaway that won’t matter”. Luckily Hank stopped Pacioretty and that was the last chance the Habs really had to score.
Some guys I want to make note of:
The Vesey/Nash pairing has been great the last two games. Nash himself has been phenomenal and Vesey has really upped his game. I am extremely impressed with both guys, Nash has fought off that reputation that he sucks in the playoffs and Vesey is making leaps and bounds in the development department. Vesey was one of our best players last night.
The Centers: STep/Zib/Lindberg/Hayes all played well in my opinion. They were all pretty good in the faceoff circle and the stats I am look at show that Lindberg led the way at 5 wins to 3 losses but total wins was Hayes who went 10 and 8. Step was a big improvement splitting his faceoffs and Zib was down to 9W and 11L. I thought they did well, especially Zib, though his stats don’t say that. Zib was out best center last night, not only because he plotted the game winner, but how he played defensively.
I am a big believer that winning faceoffs is an important part of a Stanley Cup winning team. Faceoffs drive play and can either get you on your heels in the defensive zone or can be given a scoring opportunity in the offensive zone. I think there is a balance, if you win around 50% of the faceoffs you’ll be fine, if you win 27%, like Stepan did the other night, you are in trouble. It would be really interesting to see a regression analysis based on faceoff %.
Buch was all over the ice, especially in the neutral and offensive zones. I think he needs to actually pull the trigger on that one timer instead of pass, but it’s a learning experience. Next time he is going to absolutely rip on top ched. I’m glad AV has put him in instead of Glass, though Glass did play well.
Fast again was great. He is a perfect 4th line player. He plays smart, aggressive, skillful and it paid off with a short-handed goal. I really hope Vegas doesn’t take him in the draft, but that’s a blog for a different day.
Girardi/McD/Smith/Skjei need to be getting 22 minutes a night. Girardi played extremely well last night, he has showed up this series and I am extremely impressed. McD was the fucking man, once again. Smith was awesome and I think quickly becoming a fan favorite. Skjei just keeps on keeping on.
Kreider: you can’t miss that shot in OT but besides that, where is the physicality? where is the speed? We saw a bit of it last night but not nearly what we are used to. I did not like him trying to pick a corner on price on his semi-breakaway, what he should do there is put his ass into the defenseman, drive to the net, and see if we can get a dirty goal. What has Nash done to up his play? He is getting near the net, Kreider needs to do the same
Miller: He was decent but that penalty late in the third period could have been the game. He needs to play smarter than that.
Grabner: Maybe because things have been slower and there haven’t been as many breakaways, but I just haven’t heard his name that much. Maybe that is a good thing as he isn’t making defensive mistakes, but it could also be that he isn’t getting any scoring chances. He had a great regular season but the way the Habs play limits his skill set. If the Rangers advance look for him to have more of an impact on the offensive side of the puck.
Zucc: Another penalty, not sure why he’s taken so many. Even if you ignore the dumb penalties in game 3 that is still 10PIM in 4 games, not acceptable. He has been all over the ice and made some really great defensive plays, but he’s got to get the puck in the net when he has the chance. Hopefully things regress to the mean and he starts getting on the stat sheet.