HABS NEED TO FIND OF­FENCE TO SAVE THEIR POST-SEA­SON

Lack of of­fen­sive depth show­ing up as team’s big­gest prob­lem in playoffs

Montreal Gazette - - SPORTS - STU COWAN scowan@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/ StuCowan1

Af­ter Thurs­day’s morn­ing skate in Brossard, the Cana­di­ens’ Max Pa­cioretty was asked how much the fact he hadn’t scored a goal dur­ing the first four play­off games against the New York Rangers was on his mind.

“Not as much as your mind,” the cap­tain re­sponded with a smile.

It should re­ally be on Pa­cioretty’s mind now and the smile should also be gone.

Pa­cioretty failed to score a goal for the fifth straight game and the Cana­di­ens lost 3-2 in over­time Thurs­day night at the Bell Cen­tre on a goal by the Rangers’ Mika Zibane­jad.

The Rangers, who now lead the best-of-seven Eastern Con­fer­ence quar­ter-fi­nal se­ries 3-2, can elim­i­nate the Cana­di­ens with a Game 6 vic­tory Sat­ur­day night on home ice at Madi­son Square Gar­den (8 p.m., CBC, NBC, TVA Sports, TSN Ra­dio 690). Ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bureau, when an NHL best-of-seven se­ries is tied 2-2, the win­ner of Game 5 has gone on to win the se­ries 78.1 per cent of the time.

Things are not look­ing good now for the Cana­di­ens — or Pa­cioretty — af­ter the team won the At­lantic Divi­sion ti­tle dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son and the cap­tain scored 35 goals.

But Pa­cioretty isn’t the only player re­spon­si­ble for the Cana­di­ens be­ing within one loss of elim­i­na­tion. Pa­cioretty was the only big gun the Cana­di­ens had all sea­son, scor­ing 13 goals more than Paul By­ron, who was sec­ond with 22. By­ron and Alexan­der Radulov, who was third with 18, scored only five more goals com­bined than Pa­cioretty.

With the score tied 2-2 af­ter 40 min­utes Thurs­day night, the Cana­di­ens went al­most 11 min­utes into the third pe­riod with­out get­ting a shot and were out­shot 10-3 in OT.

As I’ve writ­ten more than once, of­fen­sive depth is the team’s big­gest prob­lem and GM Marc Bergevin did noth­ing to fix that at the NHL trade dead­line when he added fourth-lin­ers Steve Ott, Dwight King — who some­how stays in the lineup — and An­dreas Martin­sen, who was a healthy scratch Thurs­day. When you’re ba­si­cally a one-gun team of­fen­sively, the op­po­si­tion has a bet­ter chance of fig­ur­ing out how to shut you down when you play each other ev­ery sec­ond night.

The Rangers have shut down Pa­cioretty, who has only one as­sist in the se­ries. But he’s not the only for­ward who has yet to score a goal. Also in that club are Alex Galchenyuk, who has three as­sists, Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw, who was ac­quired by Bergevin last sum­mer from Chicago with the playoffs in mind. Shaw has yet to reg­is­ter a point in the se­ries and is mi­nus-2. The trio of Ott, King and Martin­sen has zero points.

Head­ing into the se­ries, I picked the Cana­di­ens to win in six games, which is now im­pos­si­ble. I knew the Cana­di­ens didn’t have a lot of of­fen­sive depth, but fig­ured Carey Price would be the dif­fer­ence in goal against Hen­rik Lundqvist.

Price has played very well, but Lundqvist has played much bet­ter than ex­pected af­ter los­ing all three reg­u­lar-sea­son games against the Cana­di­ens while post­ing a 4.04 goals-against av­er­age and .871 save per­cent­age. The stats for Price (1.82 GAA, .936 save per­cent­age) and Lundqvist (1.83 GAA, .944 save per­cent­age) in this se­ries are al­most iden­ti­cal, but the most im­por­tant stat has Lundqvist with one more win.

With the Price fac­tor elim­i­nated, the Cana­di­ens haven’t been able to count on their goalie to win games while they have only scored 10 goals in the se­ries. Former Cana­di­ens coach Michel Ther­rien liked to say you need three goals to win a game — so do the math.

“It’s tough, but you got to win four to win a se­ries,” Pa­cioretty said. “I think we’ve done an OK job of, I guess, tun­ing out the neg­a­tiv­ity this far. It’s im­por­tant, es­pe­cially in Mon­treal. This should be no dif­fer­ent.”

Af­ter Thurs­day’s morn­ing skate, the Cana­di­ens’ Bren­dan Gal­lagher talked about how dif­fi­cult it is to score in the playoffs.

“It’s ob­vi­ously tough to score at this time of the year,” he said. “But you want to be do­ing that, you want to be con­tribut­ing. It’s not the time of year to be get­ting frus­trated, ei­ther, or feel like it’s not go­ing to hap­pen. Like I’ve been say­ing to you guys all year, I have this be­lief that if you do the same things, the right things, over and over again, even­tu­ally you’re go­ing to get the re­sults you want. You got to be­lieve in that and go out there ev­ery shift and con­tinue to work, con­tinue to bat­tle and not feel sorry for your­self. It’s not go­ing to get any eas­ier and, ob­vi­ously, the chances are there. Find ways to put one in and hope­fully it makes a dif­fer­ence in a game here com­ing up.”

Gal­lagher scored his first goal of the se­ries Thurs­day night, but it didn’t make a dif­fer­ence. Art­turi Lehko­nen was the only other Cana­dien to score.

A lot of play­ers need to take a long look in the mir­ror be­fore Game 6.

So should the GM.

You want to be con­tribut­ing. It’s not the time of year to be get­ting frus­trated, ei­ther, or feel like it’s not go­ing to hap­pen.

DAVE SIDAWAY

Rangers goalie Hen­rik Lundqvist stops the puck with Habs for­ward Andrew Shaw on the doorstep Thurs­day. Shaw is one of sev­eral Cana­di­ens for­wards who have yet to score in the se­ries. Mon­treal now faces elim­i­na­tion in Game 6, which takes place Sat­ur­day night in New York.

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