GAME OVER – RANGERS IN SIX – New York-3 Canadiens-1 (April 22, 2017)

Apr 23rd, 2017 | By | Category: Canadiens, Canadiens Game Story, Latest News

And so it ends.

After winning two in a row to take a 2-1 series lead, the Canadiens dropped the next three and they’re gone from the playoffs yet again.  That’s 24 years since that 1993 Stanley Cup win.

Like every game in the series, this one was decided by a break here or there or a single defensive breakdown.  Excluding empty net goals this series was made up of five one-goal games, two decided in overtime.

FLIP A COIN

The goaltenders were everything we could expect. Going into the deciding game Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist had identical 1.82 goals against averages. The Canadiens finished the series outshooting the Rangers by a margin of 25 in the series (206-181). And thereby hangs the tale.

FATAL FLAW

On most pre-series scouting reports goaltending was listed as close to equal. The Canadiens, on paper were better on defense. But up front from the first to the fourth line, the Rangers were superior and not by just a little bit.

HELD IN CHECK

Much is going to be written and said over the next month or two about Max Pacioretty and his playoff fail. After team leading 35 goals and 67 points on the season, he registered only one assist in six playoff games despite a cumulative 28 shots on goal. He wasn’t alone.  Chris Kreider, who led the Rangers with 27 goals also came under special checking attention and he too finished with just one assist through the six games.

Others picked up for Kreider and Pacioretty. In the Canadiens case it was Alexander Radulov and rookie Artturi Lehkonen. For the Rangers it was Rick Nash and in the deciding game Mats Zuccarello.  The difference in the series was further down the lineup.

SECONDARY SCORING

As we have seen so often under playoff conditions, secondary scoring is more often than not the deal breaker. The Rangers got goals from their third and fourth lines, the Canadiens did not. Of the fourteen goals the Rangers scored in the series, four came from their fourth line.   The Canadiens got one, from Torrey Mitchell in that controvrsial  Game Four too-many-men-on the-ice play set up by Radulov.  Mitchell was a healthy scratch in Game Six.

LOOKING AHEAD TO A LONG HOT SUMMER

I consider Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin to be a pretty smart fellow.  Facing issues that would confound Sam Pollock, his hockey intelligence  is going to be sorely tested during the off season.  Bergevin and his Rick Dudley/Scott Mellanby brain trust will be addressing issues that plagued the team through the season and were emphasized during the playoffs.

It starts at centre ice.  Much as I like what Phillip Danault brings to the team, he is not a first-line centre.  There will be no help emerging from the Canadiens AHL affiliate.  Top offensive centres seldom hit the free agent market which  means Bergevin is going have to make some kind of blockbuster trade.  Question is, what does he have to offer in return?

THE CLOSING WINDOW

The future for the Canadiens is now.   The Canadiens are on the verge of being an aging hockey club.  Led by Andrei Markov, eleven of the players who took part in the Canadiens final game are either entering or are well into their thirties.

Markov will be 39 in December. Tomas Plekanec will turn 35 in October.  Shea Weber turns 32 in August and Alexander Radulov turns 31 this summer as well..  Carey Price turns 30 during next season.

Markov and Radulov, who took up over eleven million of the Canadiens available cap-space dollars this season, can be unrestricted free agents on July first.  Radulov especially is going to command big money in a new contract.  Those are the issues in the shorter term.   Also muddying the waters, Carey Price will be unrestricted at the end of next season and one can only imagine how much he’s going to command.

With the farm system cupboard practically bare, especially among forwards, if the Canadiens can’t win with their current group, dismal times loom down the road.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL

Besides the issue of an aging team, Bergevin has to make decisions on how patient to remain on both upcoming restricted free agents Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu, each of whom can become restricted free agents by July first.

And before that there’s the thorny issue of the expansion draft which will be held June 18 to 20.   Who knows what kind of dent that’s going to make on the Canadiens roster.

We are used to multiple changes from one season to the next in the free agency-salary cap dictated world of today’s NHL.   Considering the long list of issues facing the Canadiens front office,  we may be looking at a radically changed roster  at September training camp.

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