We have said it before and we will say it again: for the Montreal Canadiens to have success, they must get contribution from everyone in the line-up on any given night. And that’s what they have been getting so far in this series against the New York Rangers.
Alexander Radulov leads the team in points with five in three games, including an overtime winner in game two and a spectacular goal in game three to ice it for the Habs. But in order to get to that point, Claude Julien‘s team has benefited from three key contributors’ who have upped their game after a disappointing season.
Brendan Gallagher is dangerous and gets under the Rangers’ players’ skin big time, which is what makes him who he is. Not only is he in their mind, but he generates offensive opportunities for his team, something we haven’t seen much off this season.
His centreman, Tomas Plekanec, has managed three points in those three games, and he seems to have found his legs. He is getting some good looks at the net and at times, his line completed with Paul Byron, has been the Canadiens’ most dangerous one out there.
The Canadiens are also benefiting from the resurgence of another key player, Alex Galchenyuk, who was rewarded for his good play by earning his way back to pivot a line with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen. Julien starting him on the wing on the fourth line drew the ire of some fans, but the fact is that Galchenyuk used it as motivation to prove to his coach that he deserves to play up.
- Paul Byron (?) leads the team in hits so far with 16 hits in three games! Dwight King is tied for second on the team with 12 hits.
- Shea Weber has raised his game for the playoffs. While averaging 28:36 minutes per game of ice time, playing against the Rangers’ top line, he has three points in as many games, with a team leading 10 blocked shots. His fight in game two against J.T. Miller has sent the Rangers a clear message and it was obvious that they feared him in game three.
- In addition to his overall play, Plekanec has won 56.7% of his faceoffs so far in this series. Surprisingly, Steve Ott is only at 46.4% in that category, but he is playing a key role in this series regardless.
- Nathan Beaulieu had a better game in game three but he is not having a good start to those playoffs. He has a team leading differential of minus -3 and has made some costly mistakes, particularly in Montreal.
- A calming influence was the play of Brandon Davidson who replaced Nikita Nesterov on the Canadiens’ blue line for game three in New York. He was however limited to 9:06 of ice time compared to the 14:28 average for Nesterov. That’s where Alexei Emelin would come useful.
- The Canadiens are winning the special teams’ battle with the Rangers so far. They have scored two goals with the man-advantage in 10 occasions (20%) and they have yet to allow a goal while short-handed in 10 occasions in this series.
- The Rangers (160 hits) and the Canadiens (139 hits) are the two most physical teams so far in the first round of the playoffs.
- Henrik Lundqvist has been the busiest goalie in the playoffs so far as the Canadiens have directed 118 shots on him in three games. In addition, the Rangers have blocked 65 shots by Habs’ players to lead all teams, meaning that Julien’s team is firing on average 61 shots on net per game, either blocked or saved by Lundqvist.
- At the other end, Carey Price and the Canadiens’ defense have blocked on average just under 47 shots per game so far, 30 of which getting to the Habs’ goaltender.
This series is far from over folks, so don’t start celebrating too soon. But we must admit that things are looking much better than they did after game one, which saw Lundqvist blank the Canadiens to take a 1-0 series lead! Game four is to the Rangers what game two was to the Habs, almost a must win as they don’t want to head back to Montreal down three games to one in this series. Go Habs Go!