What We Learned: 12th Seeded Habs Take Game 1

The NHL has to love this as two No. 12 seeds took Game 1 in the NHL’s qualifying round with the Chicago Blackhawks defeating the No. 5 Edmonton Oilers 6-4 on Saturday Night and the Montreal Canadiens taking the night cap against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as Jeff Petry’s overtime winner at 13:57 of OT has propelled the Montreal Canadiens to a 1-0 series lead.

Scoring Summary

1st: MTL J. Kotkaniemi (1)
2nd: MTL N. Suzuki (1) 6:53
2nd: PIT S. Crosby (1) 9:55
2nd: PIT B. Rust (1, PPG) 12:34
OT: MTL J. Petry (1), 13:57

Still, there’s two different dynamics between the 5-12 series in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Edmonton and Chicago are much closer talent wise than Pittsburgh and Montreal is.

Let’s not underplay some of the alarming trends in the Penguins game over the final four-six weeks before the NHL’s shutdown in March that so many coming into this have seemed to forgotten about, but this is a series that the Canadiens shouldn’t even be a threat to win. Even with the goaltending edge and the situation of playing in a bubble, Montreal taking this series will be inexcusable.

Yet, here the Penguins are now in a 0-1 hole of a best-of-5 series.

Game 1 showed some of the obvious characteristics we expected coming in.

The talent disparity between the two clubs was bright and clear.

Pittsburgh had some runs and spurts where the Crosby and Malkin lines came in waves and Pittsburgh had Montreal on their heels in survival mode. Pittsburgh is also the much faster team.

But, you saw a lack of finish ability hinder Pittsburgh and not enough muck to their game in getting into Carey Price’s sightlines, whether it was 5-on-5 on the man-advantage.

Montreal has to work extremely hard to generate offense. There’s a reason they’re truly a lottery team that had 19 regulation wins.

In Game 1 they survived Pittsburgh all-out attack mode early in the first period to respond by playing a pretty even game against Pittsburgh.

The Penguins outshot Montreal 18-6 in the first period, but the Canadiens had a 29-23 edge in shots over the final two periods + overtime (53:37 of play). Every other number went that way too.

5-vs-5 Pittsburgh had a 16-5 edge in shots during period one, Montreal was +10 the rest of the game. Those were concerning areas for the Penguins in how this game flipped to being very even after the first period.

Goaltending, Crosby & a Dud Night for the third line

With all of the focus on Matt Murray, what Carey Price shows up was also a question mark coming into this series. It’s been a few years since all-world Carey Price has been around.

The Penguins, though, may be seeing top form Carey Price after all. From the get-go, Price’s positioning was in elite form in Game 1. It just felt like for the Penguins to get one by him, it was going to have to be a lucky bounce or a hard working net-front presence goal, hence the Crosby goal and the Bryan Rust power play goal.

With Price on his game, it was a night where the Penguins were going to have get in his sightlines and they just didn’t, especially on the man-advantage where they went 1-7. The top unit just kept trying to blow a a perfect shot past Price.

Still, the Penguins didn’t lose Game 1 because Price stood on his head and Matt Murray faltered. Price didn’t see enough Grade-A chances to go with that viewpoint.

As for Matt Murray’s night, you’d give it a B-, C+ type of performance. He got better as the game went on. Made a couple key point-blank saves off the rush and started to get in the zone.

”I thought he was solid,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.

The concerning part with Murray’s performance was him fighting the puck on low percentage shots, which Penguin sources say was a problem all camp. He was struggling to corral the puck on shots where there was little traffic in front and Pittsburgh dodged a bullet on Tomas Tatar flanking a wide open chance early on off a juicy rebound by Murray.

— The Montreal Canadiens were extremely physical with Sidney Crosby in the early part of the game. Dealing with a reaggravation of an abdominal injury, Montreal seemed to make it a top priority to take subtle shots at Crosby behind the play, ect.

What it did was light a fire under Crosby during the second half of the game. Crosby had moments where he was taking over the game, but he had no finish ability on his wings. Jake Guentzel did not look himself and Conor Sheary couldn’t score into a soccer net last night.

— Dud line of the night goes to the Penguins third line of Patrick Marleau – Jared McCann – Patric Hornqvist who were around 30% in possession. They were the clear wink among Pittsburgh’s four lines.

Just one game, but Marleau despite a very strong camp, looked everything of a 40 year old trying to hang on for one final run, while Patric Hornqvist looked old and slow during 5-on-5 play.

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