Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Peepin' Foes: Montreal Canadiens

The Habs will be back at the Garden to face the Rangers for the second of four games between the Original Six rivals this season. The game will at 7:30 rather than at 7. Don't as me why, I donno. Neither TSN, nor RDS (the Canadian broadcasters) have anything special leading into the match ...

Historically: These two teams with the best jerseys in the NHL have faced each other 593 times. Despite having won five straight against the Habs at the Garden, there is still some ground to make up as the Blueshirts are 185-312-94-2 in the all-time series. The first meeting between them came on November 27th, 1926 and the Rangers won 2-0 in what was the fourth game in franchise history. Amazingly, despite 86 years of history, the teams played each other with a Cup on the line just once - the John Davidson-led Studio 54ers who lost in five games in 1979.

Where We Are Now: The last time these teams met, the Rangers lost 6-2 on the heels of of a good win against the Penguins. That was a month ago but back then Scott Gomez was terrible, Aaron Voros was useless and Petr Prucha was the hardest working Ranger on the ice. The more things change, the more they stay the same ...

Where They Are Now: The Canadiens are 6-1-1 in their last eight games but the last two weren't so great. First they had troubles solving Scott Clemmensen and the Devils, then they were taken to a shootout by the Florida Putty Tats after blowing a 4-2 lead heading into the third period. The Habs are one banged up team right now, missing Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, Carey Price and Georges Laraque. And yet they are just one point behind us in the East with three games in hand; if they get healthy? Watch out.

Who To Watch For: Even though Higgins is hurt, fellow Long Island native Mike Komisarek is finally back in game shape. It is a pleasure to watch the big defenseman work, even if he physically dominates the Blueshirts every time (and he has fallen for Sean Avery's sloppy seconds in the past). The Kostitsyn brothers are starting to fire on all cylinders and can play some pretty hockey while Scotty Hockey favourite Steve Begin (right, looking like a hockey player) is always dangerous against the Rangers.

What To Watch For: Begin has the tendency to set the tempo and temperature of a game with his physical play. If he comes out of the gate hard and plays more than 11 or 12 minutes, it will cost the Rangers. Also watch the Ranger power play - did they learn that shooting on the power play can actually lead to success or were the two goals against the Pens flukes?

What We'll (Hopefully) See: The Ranger youth continue to go wild. Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha and Ryan Callahan have been the best skaters on the Rangers and sooner or later, Brandon Dubinsky is going to break through and join them. Hopefully it is sooner rather than later. Also it would be nice to see the Ranger defense play a second straight game without making major mistakes. Sure there were still gaffes against Pittsburgh, but there weren't many that coulda cost the Blueshirts the game.

Also Check Out: Top Shelf Habs, Habs Blog and a thorough MSM blog in Habs Inside/Out.

And, as always, head over to Weinman's Ranger Report. He seems to have as little faith in Tom Renney's genius as the rest of us Ranger fans of late ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I along with everyone else these days are an admitted Renney hater. However, I must give him credit against PITT. That was his best game all season in terms of in-game player management (i.e.: putting players in the right spots based on their strengths e.g.: Prucha and Dawes on the PP).
Try and find out who is really controlling the PP now? Is it still Pearn? Did Renney take over? Was it always Renney?