The Montreal Canadiens might have a had a bit of a Game 7 hangover in their first game against the Penguins, but in Game 2 they went right back to the formula that so successful for them against the Washington Capitals. Jaroslav Halak was back to being the confident goaltender that was so reliable in round one, but more importantly the Canadiens were able to frustrate the Penguins’ best player — much along the same lines that Alex Ovechkin was frustrated.
While it’s tough to say that Crosby played poorly, there’s no doubt that the Canadiens did a much better job of shutting him down this game than they did in Game 1. The Penguins were able to get 39 shots on net against the Habs, yet Crosby and Evgeni Malkin managed just four shots between them and were a combined minus-3 on the game.
The Canadiens have been able to perfect a method for frustrating two of the top offensive teams in the NHL, and it’s an approach that is dangerous in concept yet can be very successful if it works. While in the first game the Habs allowed the Penguins to win the puck battles and have the space to make patient, clean plays across the ice the Habs were able to keep the Penguins to the perimeter and use their physicality and hard work to create their chances.
They were especially physical with Crosby, who took obvious exception to his treatment at times. The Canadiens were not going to allow him space to work his magic, and at one point Crosby snapped his stick against the goal post in frustration. Crosby wasn’t playing poorly, but the Habs were able to do just enough to get him off his game.
As is always the case in game like these, special teams became a key to the win for the Canadiens. The Habs killed off three straight penalties between the end of the second period and the start of the third, allowing a couple of shots but able to minimize the scoring chances. It’s similar to what we saw against the Capitals as well; the Habs allowed a high number of shots yet Jaroslav Halak didn’t have to be miracle worker he was in round one.
So now we head back to Montreal in the exact position that the Canadiens wanted. After a split in Pittsburgh, the Habs now have home ice advantage in a series that goes back to square one. You have to wonder if the approach that worked so well in Game 2 — scoring two goals on nine shots in the last two periods — is far from the plan the Canadiens will be successful with in a seven game series.
It’s impossible for a team to be grossly outshot game after game and still win a series…right?
Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes
If you’re reaction the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.
It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.
Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:
Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49
Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.
Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.
Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.
Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.
Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.
Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win
Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.
The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”
Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.
The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.
So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus
Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.
Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.
The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.
Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.
Ignoring his one game with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity (it was bad), just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.
This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.
More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.
Greiss blanks Stars as Isles win in first game of post-Capuano era
The New York Islanders began the Doug Weight era in the same way Jack Capuano’s ended: with a shutout.
Yeah, it’s easy to forget that the Islanders actually won their last game under Capuano, consider all that’s happened since.
They blanked the Boston Bruins 4-0 on Monday and generated a 3-0 shutout against thd Dallas Stars on Thursday. It’s quite a feather in the cap of goalie Thomas Greiss, who owns these back-to-back shutouts.
(It’s worth mentioning that, for all the Bruins’ and Stars’ flaws, they can be very explosive on offense …)
That Monday shutout wasn’t enough for Capuano to save his job, and the Isles still have a long way to go after this encouraging outcome. The East’s second wild card spot still seems like a long shot for Weight & Co.
Even so, the Islanders will take it. They play their next five games at home and seven of eight in Brooklyn, so if there’s ever a time for movement, it would logically come now.