Game Two Recap: The Price Is Right, But Nobody Else Is
The Montreal Canadiens left Carey Price out to dry last night, losing 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This makes the series tied at 1.
The Penguins found their legs in the middle of the first period, with Sidney Crosby scoring on an odd-man rush to make it 1-0. The score stayed that way until the third period, when Jason Zucker scored on a two-on-one to make it 2-0. Jesperi Kotkaniemi continued his impressive performance with a goal off a scramble late in the third, but Jake Guentzel put the game away with an empty-netter with ten seconds to go. Final score: 3-1.
Positives From Last Night:
People say that any chance of the Canadiens winning this series lies with Carey Price. I can’t think of a better player to depend on in a series. Price played amazingly, and was the best player on either team. When the Canadiens were taking dumb penalties and giving up a 5-on-3, he bailed them out. When the Canadiens gave up odd-man rushes, he bailed them out. When the Canadiens were tired and needed a line change he smothered the puck like it was magnetically attracted to his glove. Price was like a third defenceman out there. He was clearing the puck on the penalty kill and starting offensive rushes from behind the net. What else do the Canadiens need him to do? Quarterback the power play? Score the game-winner? The Canadiens need to help Price out. How? By chipping in offensively. None of their top forwards showed up last night, and they know that they owe Price a top performance on Wednesday.
Another positive last night was the penalty kill. This may have something to do with Price’s otherworldly play, but the penalty kill is suddenly impenetrable. After being mediocre-to-bad all year, something clicked. The Canadiens kept the Penguins scoreless on the power play, including another 5-on-3, this one lasting 28 seconds. The Canadiens are now a pristine 11-for-12 on the penalty kill in this series. Carey Price being a beast certainly helps, but the Canadiens have done a good job keeping the Penguins to the outside, and getting sticks in the passing lanes. They also are good at defending Price from any opposing players who aren’t social distancing from the goalie. Patric Hornqvist loved getting in Price’s way, until Xavier Ouellet tackled him. Clearing the net-front presence is important on the penalty kill. If the Canadiens can continue stifling the Penguins’ power play, they can take advantage of their skill at 5-on-5, which will lead to some more offense from the Canadiens lineup.
Negatives From Last Night:
Stop. Taking. Penalties. The Canadiens could be excused for their seven penalties in game one. The referees were not letting things slide as much as they normally would come playoff time. But once the players have recognized how much leeway they are being given, they must adjust their physicality to fit that leeway. That means no more shenanigans, got it? And not only did the Canadiens take five penalties in the game; they weren’t even good penalties to take! The Canadiens kept taking penalties in the neutral and offensive zones. These penalties are highly unnecessary and kill any momentum that they may have had. One of the reasons that the Canadiens couldn’t get anything going offensively is that they were constantly killing penalties! It’s all fine and dandy that the penalty kill is working, but all the time that you spend killing penalties is time that you aren’t scoring! The Canadiens are at their best at 5-on-5. Therefore, they need to cut the dumb penalties immediately, or the Penguins will make short work of them.
There were a lot of giveaways last night. The Canadiens had trouble connecting their passes in the neutral zone, which resulted in several odd-man rushes the other way. Jonathan Drouin in particular was prone to giving the puck away. Luckily, Carey Price was there to make a big save most times. However, in a short series with close games, these mistakes will prove costly. Knowing Claude Julien, I’m sure that he is losing his head over the sloppy neutral zone play, but he better calm down and find a solution quickly. Otherwise, the Penguins’ star power will be quick to capitalize.
The offense was nonexistent. Matt Murray only faced 27 shots, and not many high-danger scoring chances. The Canadiens only scored when they started shooting more later in the game. From this, one can surmise that had the Canadiens shot at a consistently high volume throughout the game, they would have scored more goals. Yes, the Canadiens did not spend much time in the offensive zone, but when they were there, they didn’t shoot the puck enough. The Canadiens need to play a defensive style against the Penguins. Therefore, they will not spend copious amounts of time in the offensive zone. Thus, when they are in the offensive zone, they need to capitalize quickly. That means shooting the puck. The Canadiens also need to utilize their speed through the neutral zone. Their sluggish offensive zone entries and disoriented transition game led to a lot of passes being picked off at the Penguins’ blue line. This prevented offensive zone time for the Canadiens. They need to fix this, and fast.
Game three will be the first “home” game for the Canadiens in this series, and will start at 8:00 tomorrow. This is a pivotal game; because whoever wins will put the other on the brink of elimination on Friday night, time TBD. Game 5, if necessary, will be on Saturday.
Stay safe, everyone.
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo