That should have been a shared shutout
Yes, Peter Budaj was excellent .. again … in a 2-0, home opener-spoiling conquest of the Rangers.
But his teammates made more saves than their goaltender.
The Rangers managed 27 shots on Budaj.
Canadiens skaters blocked 28.
Their 214 blocked shots lead the league.
Andrei Markov led the way with six blocked shots– while playing 25:47. That’s almost a minute of ToI more than the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh, who is 10 years younger than Markov.
Josh Gorges, who’s five years younger than Markov, blocked five shots. Eleven Canadiens put themselves in the way of Rangers shots.
This is to take nothing away from Budaj.
Carey Price’s understudy was terrific, especially on third-period shots by J.T. Miller, whom Budaj stoned twice, and Mats Zuccarello.
At this point in the young season, Ryan Smyth is the answer to a hockey trivia question: Who is the only NHL player who’s scored on Peter Budaj.
Smyth’s goal was on an Oilers’ power-play early in the second period of the Canadiens’ visit to Edmonton on Oct. 10. It was Edmonton’s 10th shot of the game, and Budaj stopped the next 18 as the Canadiens scored four unanswered goals.
Budaj has faced 55 shots this season. He’s stopped 54 of them. That’s a .982 save percentage, to go along with Budaj’s 0.50 GAA.
Of course, the Canadiens’ number 1 goaltender hasn’t been too shabby either. The team’s 1.83 GAA is fourth in the NHL, behind Colorado, san Jose and Boston. No other team has a GAA under 2.23.
The Canadiens average 2.92 goals scored per game, which is 13th in the NHL.
If you’re scoring almost 3 and allowing fewer than 2, you should win a lot of hockey games. And maybe the Canadiens will, but we’ll get a better fix on that likelihood when the Dallas Stars visit the Bell Centre Tuesday night.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Rangers suck. In 10 games this season, they’ve scored the grand total of 15 goals.
After nine games on the road – 16 if you count exhibitions – the Rangers finally played on home ice at the renovated Madison Square Garden Monday night. You would think they’d be stoked to put on a good show for Big Apple hockey fans.
You’d be wrong.
Lacking their two best forwards – Rick Nash and captain Ryan Callahan – the Rangers have very limited fire power. They fired blanks on five power plays, and Budaj was not severely tested until he made the aforementioned third-period saves.
Nor were the Canadiens an offensive juggernaut.
Tomas Plekanec got the Canadiens on the board with his sixth of the season during a second-period power play. The game had been scoreless – and excitement-free – for almost 40 minutes when rookie Michaël Bournival tied up two Rangers defenders, giving Plekanec a clear path to Henrik Lundqvist’s blue paint.
Alex Galchenyuk’s goal was a fluke – off his skate but ruled good because there was no discernible kicking motion – but it came off a nice odd-man rush with Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher.
That was about it for the highlight reel.
As has been the case in every game this season, the Canadiens were outhit. Chris Kreider’s five checks led the way to a 20-12 Rangers advantage.
Douglas Murray, the one allegedly big thumper on the Canadiens blueline, had one hit in 14:21 of ice time. Murray also took an interference penalty, one of six Canadiens minors – including three to that villainous goon Brian Gionta.
The Canadiens have taken 57 minor penalties this season, a total exceeded only by Ottawa and Edmonton (58 each) and Minnesota’s 62.
The penalty-kill is eighth in the league with an efficiency of 84.0 per cent. The Canadiens power play is sixth, cashing 24 per cent of its chances. The combined figure exceeds 100, and that’s the mark of a pretty good team.
The Canadiens dominated the faceoff circle, winning 32 of 59. David Desharnais, Pleks, Eller and Ryan White all won more draws than they lost.
Louis Leblanc played a shade over 10 minutes. After taking a penalty in a 0-0 game and riding the pines for a couple shifts, Leblanc gained a bit of confidence as the game progressed and did some nice O-zone puck possession things in the third period.
Leblanc also skated, for one shift, on a line with DD and Bournival. As la Presse’s Richard Labbé pointed out on Twitter, this was the Canadiens’ first French Connection line in a while.
The most recent? The immortal La-La-La line: Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse and Georges Laracque.
Flying Frenchmen, indeed!
• • •
Hey, is it too early to start whining about the playoff format?
The Canadiens’ 14 points would have them second in the woeful Metropolitan Division. But they’re fourth in the Atlantic and could be in a dog-fight for a wild-card playoff berth, 70 games from now.