Rangers v Canadiens - Game Two, Canadien Forwards Respond
Photo: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire
More offense was the battle cry from the Montreal faithful after game one, and the Canadien forwards answered decisively in game two.
Although it took extra time to score the game winner, the Canadien forwards increased their play-by-play offense by 64.4% over game one, out contributed the Ranger forwards by 66%, and exceeded their regular season average offense by 19.2%.
It was true group effort with nine Montreal forwards contributing offensively at, or above a level only six Ranger forwards reached. In addition, all nine Canadien forwards exceeded their regular season average offense, which is exceptionally rare.
Paul Byron, Brendan Gallager, Alex Radulov, and Alex Galchenyuk all had higher overall contributions than the two leaders for the Rangers, Matt Zuccarello and Rick Nash.
Byron led both forward groups in defensive contributions.
Note, Ranger forward totals will be reduced due to the third period shell they went into, opting for chip-outs and dump-ins as opposed to making plays. Post game comments from a few Ranger forwards suggested their lack of offense, after they went up 3-2, allowed a significant momentum shift that ultimately was their undoing.
How did the Rangers defensemen handle the push from the Canadien forwards in game two?
The Rangers d-core had a 32% drop in overall contributions and a 67.9% drop in defense, but Ryan McDonagh was the exception.
McDonagh led all defensemen in overall contributions and only a very strong Shea Weber beat him by a small amount defensively. It was a classic game to watch two exceptional defensemen head to head, make great offensive and defensive plays. It will be interesting to see if Weber's second period thrashing on JT Miller will discourage Canadien forwards from taking additional runs at him, or just stoke the fire.
After McDonagh and Weber, both d-cores distributions were similar, with Jeff Petry and Brady Skjei filling in behind the leaders, and the three through six spots a ways back for both teams.
The big surprise for Montreal's d-core was how low they scored defensively, with the exception of Weber noted above. They allowed several significant blunders, including allowing several breakaways, getting beat in a few basic 1v1's, and a very sloppy line change resulting in a goal against.
Montreal would prefer both forwards and defensemen be at the top of their game, but with Carey Price in net, the Canadien's winning formula would seem to favor high performance from the forwards.
From a strategy standpoint in game three, watch for the Canadien forwards to change lanes more often on zone entries, to counter the Ranger's F3 lock on the middle drive lane. Also look for continued high shots directed towards Henrik Lundqvist's chest, which seem to be creating generous rebounds.
For the Rangers, on the offensive blue line, watch for their strong side defensemen to continue to get open in the middle of the blue line, or just slash through the middle, trapping Montreal wingers on the wall. Montreal wingers will need better shoulder checks (looks) to locate the position of the strong side defensemen.
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