The New York Rangers. That is all.
What a rebound. What a close series. What a response from possibly the worst game we’ve seen all year. After seeing the Rangers roll over and play dead in Game Three, the Blueshirts took it to the Habs, dominating Game Four, then dominating the latter half of Game Five, then dominating the latter 2/3 of Game Six. They won three in a row. They took the series. They move on to face the Senators or the Bruins.
Mats Zuccarello came up strong, with two clutch goals to tie the game and then give the Rangers the lead. Henrik Lundqvist once again outdueled Carey Price, solidifying the series win (and, in my opinion, the discussion on who is better). The defense clamped down. The depth prevailed, and the Rangers’ speed proved to be too much for the Habs. On to the next round. And….
On to the goals:
The Rangers and Habs square off tonight in Game 6, with the Rangers attempting to close out the series. After an abysmal Game 3, the Rangers turned it on in Games 4 and 5, coming away with two wins. For the Blueshirts, it’s about consistently using their superior speed to get in on the Habs and wear them down. It worked in Game 5, as the Habs were unable to keep up after the Rangers poured it on. The same strategy will put the Rangers in the best position to win.
As for the Habs, they need to find a way to stifle the rush in the neutral zone. They were successful in Game 3 and half of Game 5, but the Rangers have been able to adjust with their two straight wins. The series has been a nail biter every single game, and this one likely won’t be any different. As long as Henrik Lundqvist continues to outplay Carey Price, the Rangers will always have a shot. Add in the team speed, and they have a real chance of closing it out tonight.
The New York Rangers are one weird team. In one day, they make us think they can’t do anything right. Then they rebound and look like the best team in the East. Then they follow that up by giving everyone heart attacks, playing simultaneously the best and the worst hockey we’ve seen. But in the end, it was a deflected Chris Kreider shot that went right to Mika Zibanejad that made us all get noise complaints in our neighborhoods. With one deflection, the Rangers are one win away from the Atlantic Division Final.
This was an odd game. The Rangers were downright bad in the first two periods. They were dominated at both ends of the ice and simply couldn’t get the puck out of their zone. Then they tied it late in the second. They killed two huge penalties before that. And then it was all Rangers. They poured it on while the Habs struggled to deal with their speed. The pressure paid off, as it always does. Proper process breeds success, especially with this level of skill.
On to the goals:
The Rangers are back in Montreal tonight for a pivotal Game 5 after showing some life with a big win in Game 4. The biggest need for the Rangers is to consistently play like they did on Tuesday night. If they do –meaning their process is solid– then they certainly have more skill than the Habs up and down the lineup.
As for the game, this is probably the one that decides the series, at least in my opinion. I think the winner tonight takes the series, so this is a huge one for both teams. The Rangers have had the edge in net all series, with Henrik Lundqvist outplaying Carey Price, but it’s been the process of the 18 skaters that has made the difference.
The Rangers played their best game of the 2017 calendar year on Tuesday night, evening the series in the process. But now the series turns back to Montreal for a critical Game Five for both clubs. The Rangers are going to try to play the same way they did in Game Four. The Canadiens are probably going to adjust to prevent just that. Naturally, I have some thoughts.
1. Game Five is going to come down to coaching. Claude Julien is going to adjust. He’s going to ensure the Rangers don’t have as much time in the offensive zone. My guess is he’s going to have his defensemen attend to stand up at the blue line, stopping the zone entry and forcing a soft dump to Carey Price to handle. Alain Vigneault’s ability to adjust to Julien’s adjustments will have a huge impact. The most important thing for the Rangers is to continue to gain the zone with speed through the neutral zone.
After a Game 3 that was embarrassing at every level, the Rangers pulled a complete 180 and played the best game we’ve seen them play in quite some time in Game 4. The score showed a close 2-1 game, but the Rangers controlled play in the final two periods. From an execution standpoint, they did everything right.
Aside from everything mentioned in the goal breakdown, the Rangers had a strong showing on the stat sheet too. Only three players sat below a 50% CF% last night: Jimmy Vesey, Dan Girardi, and Ryan McDonagh. That’s not to say that trio had bad games, it’s more that the whole team was able to keep the puck in the Montreal zone.
After Sunday night’s debacle, there was no where to go but up for the Rangers. And boy did they ever go up. The Rangers played their most complete game of the series thus far, and probably their best hockey game of 2017, beating the Habs 2-1 to even the series.
From puck drop, you had the feeling that this was going to be a different game. The Rangers were the first to pucks, they were in on the forecheck, they were driving to the net, and they were getting good chances. When you do that, you create your own luck, as is what happened on Jesper Fast’s opening goal.
But where would the Rangers be without Henrik Lundqvist? Hank again stood tall, and in my opinion has been better than Carey Price all series. He made big saves when they needed them. The defense did a good job clogging the middle and preventing quality chances. The penalty kill was excellent and disciplined as well. Just a good all around win.
On to the goals:
The Rangers embarrassed themselves on Sunday night, putting forth an abysmal effort in a 3-1 loss. After what seemed like a promising start to the series in Montreal, the Rangers have now turned a potential 2-0 series lead into a 2-1 deficit. A more focused effort on offense, getting chances, and actually sustaining a forecheck are a must for the Rangers tonight.
It’s fairly simple for the Blueshirts. They aren’t going to beat Carey Price with clean shots. They are going to need to actually try, actually get to the net, and actually control the puck in order to win. It can’t be the Henrik Lundqvist show every game. They need to support their All-World goaltender. He deserves better.
Per Dan Rosen, Pavel Buchnevich is skating on the top-six with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. That line is also skating on the top powerplay with Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello. This is a good indication that Buchnevich will be skating in Game 4, likely at the expense of Tanner Glass. Buch gives the Rangers a must needed skill and goal scoring boost. The full lines:
Per our very own Josh Khalfin, citing Igor Eronko, the Rangers are likely to sign Russian defenseman Alexei Bereglazov once his KHL deal expires. Bereglazov is a big dude at 6’4″ and 220 lbs, but is a very mobile skater. Josh did a full breakdown of him earlier this month, and you should definitely check it out.
Should he sign with the Rangers, he will likely need a little time in the AHL to get accustomed to the North American rink and game. However he is a solid player and could slide into the lineup almost right away. The added benefit –aside from just landing a solid prospect, even at 22 years old– is that Bereglazov played in the KHL, and is someone that Pavel Buchnevich is familiar with. Buchnevich passed on all bonuses to have a KHL-out clause in his deal. This could be a move to keep Buchnevich comfortable as well.
These are just rumors for now, but very strong rumors. Nothing can be official until his contract in the KHL officially expires.