Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Outhustled, Outgoaltended by Les Habitants

Alright. By show of hands, who actually thinks the Canadiens are better than the Rangers? I sure don't and that's even after they came into our town and owned the rink earning a 2-1 win to crawl within two of sixth.

Perhaps we're a bit biased but I digress. Montreal is a well schooled team coached by defensive staple Jacques Martin. So, it was no surprise that the game was tight checking with goals at a premium. What irks me most a day later is that they got away with starting backup Alex Auld, who yes outdueled Henrik Lundqvist despite the King seeing more rubber. Two things that I can't stomach:

1.When we make a journeyman who had a coffee stint on our roster last year into Patrick Roy.
2.When Lundqvist makes as many great saves as he did and then lets in a traditional stinker he has no business giving up.

That along with the Canadiens' superior speed and hustle added up to a frustrating loss, halting the club's three-game win streak. Still no four-game win streak for a team clearly superior to last year. It doesn't get any easier with the Canucks visiting town and then a rematch up north with a quick turnaround against the Flyers in the Big Apple. A game we'll be there for.

Simply put, John Tortorella's crew has to solve the scoring issue which has crept in despite the team's good play that has it a few points behind the Pens and Caps for fourth and fifth. It's not that they aren't generating scoring chances but just aren't finishing. There were enough opportunities to increase the 1-0 lead off team leader Brandon Dubinsky's early rush off a brilliant Matt Gilroy bank pass. They controlled the first part of the game, forechecking the Habs to death but couldn't cash in despite power plays and plenty of buzzing.

That included newest Blueshirt Wojtek Wolski who was around the puck a lot with new linemates Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik with the invisible man showing a pulse. Problem is he again couldn't find twine and neither did Wolski who had a couple of great chances, including the tying goal clanging off the Auld's best friend, the left goalpost with over two minutes to spare. It was that kind of night for our heroes.

Sean Avery was moved down to the fourth line with an effective Chris Drury and improved Dale Weise. The trio were solid on the cycle generating chances. Their best opportunity came off a rush when Weise took a hit in his end to spring Drury and Avery on a two-on-one. With a chance to draw even, the captain's slapshot hit the post. If only it had gone in for a player whose role is way different than the hefty check he cashes. Dru puts in a good effort every night. It would've been nice to see him rewarded.

Truth be told, Montreal deserved the two points by lifting their game and outworking our team. Particularly Tomas Plekanec who's line finally created the tying goal on a dominant shift against the Brian Boyle line late in the second. Much credit goes out to goalscorer Jaroslav Spacek for some great keeps and then a wise move to get a sharp angle seeing through shot off with a traffic jam distracting Lundqvist enough for the puck to just cross the goal line. Even if there was a delayed signal, it was obvious by the way the Habs reacted that they scored with conclusive replays confirming it.

Usually, the Rangers respond with their backs to the wall. They've owned third periods this season. Not last night as their Original Six opponent came out with more jump, taking nine of the first 11 shots, including Benoit Pouliot's decider off a rush catching Lundqvist a little off the post. It was a great shot similar to one Ruslan Fedotenko scored last month. However, it also was one Lundqvist admitted he'd like to have back. For as good as the two-time All-Star's been, he still has the penchant for allowing weak goals at inopportune moments. Unfortunately, his teammates couldn't pick him up.

Oh. They tried but the stingy Canadien D controlled the neutral zone, making it tough for the Rangers to get a consistent attack going. Auld made a few sparklers including a tricky one with Lundqvist on the bench, just getting a blocker to push it wide. Ultimately, the Blueshirts ran out of time with Dubinsky looking to get one more set up in front as the buzzer sounded.

Maybe Auld's groovy glove on Mats Zuccarello off a great Derek Stepan set up in the second should've told us the story. Journeyman backup comes back to New York and makes good with Carey Price taking it in. Go figure. As Jay Z would say, "Onto the next one."

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Alex Auld, Mtl (25 saves)
2nd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (36 saves)
1st Star-Tomas Plekanec, Mtl (assist, 6 SOG, dominant)

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