Great Wall of Russia in Nets as Habs Left Bamboozled
Growing up in a Greek household, where honesty was always valued over everything else, my parents taught me from a young age to call a spade a spade. Upon watching and digesting Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night, I have to say they extremely impressed me, the “Les Habitants” and their play against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canadiens were an absolute mess in Game 1, playing like a group of guys who were strung out on speed and coffee. Essentially, they played like a bunch of nervous wrecks. Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tampa did not.
Game 2 offered us a much different glimpse into the play of the Montreal Canadiens; one that was more relaxed, calm, and puck dominating. Now, in my humble opinion, this game should have been won by the Canadiens because of three reasons. For starters, they had their best forecheck in these entire playoffs on display tonight.
It was so effective at swamping the Tampa Lighting in their own zone, especially in the second period, that the Habs were looking like a team that was completely dominating the home side. This caused massive discomfort to the Lighting players, and you can tell, as they didn’t have the same offensive effect on the game that they did in Game 1.
The second reason was the tremendous play in the defensive zone, specifically, at the top of the blue line. The Canadiens were extremely effective at intercepting plays, using their sticks for poke checks, and making the Lightning force passes they necessarily didn’t want to make to get into the offensive zone. This was all very evident and led to defensive domination by the Canadiens, leading Tampa Bay to only procure a mere 23 shots in the game; a severe decline from their normal shots on goal marks.
Lastly, it was the amount of shot on goal that the Canadiens got that should have sealed their fate as winners tonight. Due to their forecheck, the Habs were able to spend a substantial amount of time in the offensive zone, culminating in them taking 43 shots on goal.
With such a number of registered shots, you would expect that the Canadiens would put in more than one goal on the night. This wouldn’t be the case, however, as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s saving grace came to their aid and backstopped them to a series-gripping victory. His name is Andrei Vasilevskiy.
We’ve known for a long time that Vasilevskiy is one of, if not the, greatest goalie in the NHL at the moment. The things he does on a night-to-night basis are absolutely ridiculous and he fully deserved that lucrative $9.5 million AAV contract that the Lighting awarded him with a couple of years ago. Even with this common knowledge of just how good he is, I still find myself dumbfounded at the things the Lightning goaltender can accomplish in the net.
This game should have clearly gone Montreal’s way, as they heavily outplayed Tampa Bay, but Vasilevskiy was just on another level. Much like Carey Price, Vasilevskiy is blessed in his lateral movements and his tracking of the puck, making it virtually impossible to beat him on a clean shot. You can see even from the goal that was scored on him, that he was anticipating a deflection and that’s the only reason it got through.
The Habs did a great job of showing up tonight, playing like a united team, and showing a lot of energy and intensity. That might have worked in the first three rounds of the playoffs, but in the Stanley Cup Finals, they’re going to need to turn things up! What they need to do is get bodies to the front of the net. If they could get two players in front of, or around, the front of the net while they have the puck in the offensive zone, they will significantly improve their chances of beating the brick wall known as Vasilevskiy.
Overall, I loved what I saw from my hometown boys. It’s not a straightforward task getting to the Stanley Cup Finals, especially the route they had to take. Some marquee players I found that stood out tonight were Corey Perry, Ben Chiarot, and obviously, Carey Price. When I began writing hockey articles for the Vegas Golden Knights in November, I touched on the subject of them scooping up Perry in free agency to aid the team. Little did I know that G_d had listened to me, but instead, he had him come to my boyhood team.
I was ecstatic when the Habs got Perry, just off of what he brands to the lineup. Grit, finesse, intensity; all factors that are key in making deep playoff runs. Tonight, he proved just why he is built for this type of atmosphere. Even if he is on the fourth line, Perry’s play can be felt even when he is on the bench. His tenacity on the puck, finished checks, and lingering in front of the net, ruminates in the heads of opponents after the whistle has been blown. If it wasn’t for Perry and the fire he brings, this game could have turned out a lot more different.
Now I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t a big fan of Ben Chiarot before these playoffs. Due to his playing style, I thought he was clunky, slow, and just there to crosscheck people in front of the net. Well, I’m happy to say that I stand corrected, as Chiarot was the sparkplug that led the Habs blue-line tonight. Whether it was joining the jump into the offensive zone, controlling the play from the point, or laying the body in the defensive end, Chiarot shows just how valuable he is to this Habs team every single night. Tonight though, he did it more than ever.
Lastly, I would like to touch on the man who got us to these playoffs, Mr. Carey Price. The Anahim Lake, B.C native was one of, if not the, best goalie in the 2010’s. Towards the 2019 season, he lost his footing. After his showings in the 2020-21 regular season, I was all but done with him and wanted him shipped out of Montreal. He looked like a shell of the former goalie he once was.
Boy, thank god I’m not a GM because Price has proved every single one of his doubters wrong these playoffs. Tonight I thought he played great, and the game was close until that gaff from Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson. With a world-class goalie between the twine, I hope the Canadiens players find a way to beat Vasilevskiy. After 14 years manning the crease in Montreal, that would be the least Price deserves for all his time spent in a Habs uniform.
Game 3 is coming back to Montreal, and ticket prices are crazier than ever. I tried to snag a ticket, but the asking price ended up being too steep. Would you give up your kidney to watch the Habs? I would, but sadly, they don’t take organs as a payment. Oh well, I’ll just watch from a sports bar. ‘Til next time.
Go Habs Go!