The Montreal Canadiens have become experts at “stealing” victories thanks to conservative defense, great goaltending and timely offense. Tonight, however, the Pittsburgh Penguins practically dropped victory in their laps.
Montreal Canadiens 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
Canadiens win series 4-3
Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury set the tone for the game … the only problem was that they set the wrong tone. Crosby took a foolish boarding penalty 10 seconds into the game and Fleury allowed a goal on that powerplay only 32 seconds in. Crosby ended up with a -2 rating in Game 7 while Fleury didn’t even make it past the second period after allowing 4 back-breaking goals.
Let’s not to take anything away from the Habs’ spirited performance, though. Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta were amazing in the series, scoring an astounding 11 goals between them in those seven games. Jaroslav Halak had yet another great elimination game performance, making some huge third period saves to maintain what was then a two-goal lead. Halak is now an outstanding 5-0 in do-or-die games this playoffs. While I think that the Penguins shot themselves in the foot multiple times in this game, the Habs showed killer instinct time and time again to make them pay for almost every mistake.
Montreal awaits the winner of the Flyers-Bruins series, which heads to a Game 7 of its own after Philadelphia defeated Boston 2-1 in Game 6. Whether it is the Bruins or the Flyers, the Habs may actually find themselves in an unfamiliar position: as the prohibitive favorites.
The Penguins closed out the Mellon Arena with an up-and-down game (or is it a down-slightly up-then down again game?). Pens fans should have mixed feelings about this season. The negative view is that the team had a golden opportunity for a stunning third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals run but couldn’t get past the underdog Canadiens or their own errors. That being said, you’d have to be a pretty spoiled fan to expect them to make it there year after year. The team has issues to address – the unrestricted free agent status of Sergei Gonchar is the first thing that comes to mind – but they also still have their young nucleus in place. Despite highs and lows Crosby, Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal will live to fight another day.
Does that mean they ended their season without regrets? No, there’s certainly reason to ask “What if?” but the bottom line is that they couldn’t crack the Canadiens code. Give the Habs credit, though; they earned this win.
Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers
In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.
Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.
First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:
Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:
Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.
Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)
The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.
He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.
Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:
Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.
February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games
He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.
Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:
Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.
But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.
Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).
Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.
The problem for Laich is he has never been a regular 50+% FO guy in the NHL. Playing a 4th line role for Babcock essentially requires that.
So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.
Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.
And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.
Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season
Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.
He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.
At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.