The Montreal Canadiens made big news when they announced the firing of GM Pierre Gauthier yesterday and it’s a move that’s going to have long-term implications. But it likely will have little effect on tonight’s game against the Rangers. The Habs are still the same team that has fallen all the way to 15th in the Eastern Conference.
Still, the Habs have won two out of three against the Rangers this season and have gotten points in 8 of their last 10 games, and a lot of players in Montreal are fighting for their jobs (paging Scott Gomez). Though the Habs are not celebrating their season they are hardly moping around like their rival Maple Leafs are; the Rangers will need to battle to earn the win tonight. Let’s look at some pre-game thoughts.
Henrik Lundqvist- Whether it’s coincidence or not, Henrik has had his statistically worst games against the Canadiens. This season Henrik has let in seven goals in his two starts against Montreal. Though he started March rough, Henrik has rebounded with 5 wins in his last 6 starts and has let in 2 goals or fewer in 5 of his last 7 starts. Lundqvist will be starting his 8th straight which is atypical given how Tortorella has handled to goaltenders this season. Will he show signs of fatigue tonight or is he building momentum?
Michael Del Zotto- Playing his 200th game tonight, Del Zotto was all over the place against the Winnipeg Jets. As awful as his defensive play was, he excelled offensively. Thus, I think tonight could be a game of some importance for Del Zotto. Anton Stralman is back on Tortorella’s good side and can be used in all situations and I don’t think Tortorella would hesitate too much about cutting into Michael’s minutes to give Stralman more time. Will Del Zotto re-establish himself as reliable defensively like he’s been most of the season?
PK Subban- The guy has a ton of skill but also is a clown. The Rangers need to make sure that they don’t let him become a distraction. No penalty kills because of stuff after the whistle. Subban is probably Montreal’s biggest weapon on the power play so, should the Rangers take any penalties, Subban can not be left unmarked at the point. If there is any way I envision the Habs scoring tonight its with a screen in front and Subban taking a slap shot from the point.
Forechecking- Montreal is fifth in the NHL in giveaways and third in the NHL in times shorthanded. Get the puck deep and actively chase the puck. Montreal will either turn the puck over or will take penalties on the incoming forwards. A complacent game-plan is the worst possible game-plan for the Rangers tonight.
Complacency in general just won’t make sense for the Rangers. They’re competing for the Presidents’ Trophy and the Habs are fighting to not finish in the basement of the Eastern Conference. If the Rangers come out like they did against the Jets then they can expect similar problems. Or, if they play like they know they’re the better team and play an active game in Montreal’s end then the Rangers should not have much of a problem getting the win.