Bombs over Broadway. That's what must certainly be going on in New York this morning. If not this morning, then for sure after last night's 3-1 win by the Habs over the Rangers in New York.
The bombs that were likely going off were of the "F" variety, coming out of Coach John Tortorella's mouth as he could not have enjoyed the way his team played.
While full marks should be given to the Habs, who continue to roll and get contributions for all four lines, the Rangers were simply a hollow, emotionless team last night. This is a bit surprising considering how important last night’s game was. However, from the opening faceoff to the closing buzzer, the Rangers seemed disinterested; like many of them were already thinking about their offseason golf game.
Glen Metropolit opened the scoring for the Habs in the first by deflecting an Andrei Markov shot from the point, on the powerplay. Sean Avery got that one back in the second for the Rangers but that was all they would bring to the table.
The Canadiens got the winning goal from Sergei Kostitsyn in the third and Tomas Plekanec sealed the deal with an empty net goal with time running out.
The story of the night, however, was Henrik Lundqvist—the only reason the score was as close as it was—who stopped 18 Canadiens shots in the second period and faced 35 overall on the night.
The Habs continued to look solid last night, by rolling four contributing lines and three firm defensive pairings.
I like Marc-Andre Bergeron a lot but I am not sure how coach Jacques Martin will reinsert him in the lineup once he’s back from injury.
Final Score: Habs 3 - Rangers 1
1. Halak was solid but didn't have to be outstanding. As we have surprisingly become used to over the course of the Habs six-game winning streak, Halak did not need to be the first star for the Habs to win.
Sure, he made some solid saves at key times—as we have come to expect—but he really wasn't tested all that much, facing a total of 20 shots on the night. It’s nice to see the Habs playing to their strengths, which are speed and skill, and winning as a result.
2. There's something about Sergei. The younger of the Kostitsyn brothers continues to be on fire and act as the spark plug for the Habs third line. In scoring the Habs second goal last night—the game winning goal—Sergei now has six points (4G, 2A) and a plus-four rating over the last six games.
More importantly, SK74 has combined with Travis Moen and Dominic Moore to create a hard working, grinding, skill-based third line for the Habs. Every time the Habs’ third line was on the ice last night, the play was in the Rangers zone. The effective cycle and down-low play of Moen and Moore works to create extra room for Sergei to quarterback the play.
The result, last night, was sustained pressure by the Habs third line for the entire game. In addition, the Habs fourth line of Metropolit, Maxim Lapierre, and Mathieu Darche seems to be producing the same style of grinding hockey and the combination is helping the Habs tire out opposing defensemen.
3. Speaking of Maxim Lapierre, while his line is contributing on the ice there is no question that he is the weakest link in that chain.
When Lapierre was suspended for four games a week or so ago, and the team was winning the entire time he was out of the lineup, you would have expected him to come back with fire in his eyes.
Instead, he is the same old Lapierre as before the suspension; playing with or displaying no heart, pulling up on rather than finishing checks, and overall looking a step behind everyone else on the team. If Lapierre can't find his game from last year he might get passed over for Darche or Metropolit during the offseason.
Anyone else see Lapierre being moved draft day this summer?
4. Andrei Kostitsyn continues to spin his wheels. While Lapierre is a concern on the fourth line, AK46 is a problem on the first. Andrei has only two assists over the Habs last ten games and last night he looked lost.
AK46 has had stretches where he looked like he was on the cusp of breaking out of his scoring slump but last night he regressed, taking two bonehead penalties that could have been costly to the team. Those are the kind of penalties that can sink a team in the playoffs and Coach Martin nailed Andrei to the bench for parts of the third to remind him of that fact.
Michael Cammalleri can't come back soon enough as, aside from Plekanec, the Habs first line isn't really producing anything.
Standings and Next Game
The Canadiens have now won six straight games and seven of their last ten overall. Last night's win gives them 78 points in the standings with 71 games played.
The Habs can, perhaps for the first time all season, start looking ahead of them in the standings rather than behind them. Just ahead of the Canadiens are the Senators with 79 point and one game in hand, while behind them are Philly (77 points, two games in hand), Boston (74 points, two games in hand), and the Rangers (71 points, one game in hand).
The Habs have finally started to put some separation between themselves and the middling teams behind them and they now have three days off before taking on the Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night.
The three days off will give the Habs some time to rest and give their competitors some time to make up their games in hand. Come Saturday night, I believe that the Habs will still be in a playoff position. Whatever happens from there to the end of the season, they have done everything in their power to put themselves in the driver’s seat.
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