In about 20 minutes, the Rangers get going against the Canadiens in Game 2 of the first round series at Bell Centre in Montreal. After shutting out the Canadiens 2-0 behind 31 saves from Henrik Lundqvist and a goal from unlikely hero Tanner Glass, the Rangers have a chance to go for the jugular.
It truly is a great opportunity. As Rick Carpiniello stated following the first game, these Rangers teams have rarely ever won Game 2 after taking Game 1. They’re 2-13 under such scenarios. If they want to make it easier on themselves, they’ll play with the same intensity and detail as Wednesday. One of their best overall performances.
Outside of Nick Holden and Marc Staal, the defense was stellar. Dan Girardi turned back the clock with a warrior like mentality finishing checks and blocking shots. Ryan McDonagh was strong throughout as he must be in this series. Brendan Smith delivered arguably his best performance as a Blueshirt while paired up with Brady Skjei. They’ll need to be similar and keep Montreal’s pests Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw away from Lundqvist. Box out and let him see the shots.
The desperation should be of utmost significance for the Canadiens. They don’t want to go down 2-0 with the next two games at MSG. Even with the Rangers having the worst home playoff record of the 16 participants, all they would need is a split to still be in the drivers seat.
Expect the urgency to be at a feverish pitch with rabid Habs fans showing overwhelming support. Montreal needs this game a lot more than the Rangers. You have to expect them to show it. Max Pacioretty can’t get blanketed again. They need more from Philip Danault and Gallagher, who took some ill advised minor penalties. Ditto for Alex Galchenyuk, whose face-off violation negated a Montreal power play at a crucial moment.
Carey Price made only one mistake. He was caught off guard by a nifty Glass backhand that beat him high glove on a Oscar Lindberg face-off win. Otherwise, he was brilliant. He might need to be perfect tonight. Especially if a laser focused Lundqvist can match his Game 1 performance.
The Rangers would like to get more from the top line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. Neither Kreider nor Stepan distinguished themselves. Zuccarello was a pest in Game 1 battling Gallagher and going at it with any Hab while earning plenty of boos from a crowd that hates Kreider. Zuccarello also got away with a knee on knee trip on Gallagher following taking a heavy hit from Shea Weber.
I don’t know if there will be as much hitting. The teams combined for 98 hits in Game 1 with the Habs holding a 53-45 edge. Claude Julien might want to have his team more dialed in on scoring goals and beating Lundqvist. The physicality helps. But they have to prove they can score to even the series.
Figure old hat Tomas Plekanec to be a factor. Ditto for dangerous play maker Alex Radulov. It was his pass to Weber across on a power play that looked like the game-tying goal. Instead, Lundqvist got quickly over and made the save of the game late in the second period.
It can’t just be the fourth line for the Blueshirts tonight. While it’s nice that Glass, Lindberg and Jesper Fast contributed, they need more from the Stepan line and Mika Zibanejad unit with Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey. They had a couple of near misses. They could use something out of Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. If not, then Alain Vigneault shouldn’t hesitate to slide Miller up with Zibanejad and Nash and try Vesey with Hayes and Grabner.
They would like to stay out of the penalty box. But play with the same edge. They pushed back significantly and didn’t put up with the Habs’ antics. That bodes well. Figure the refs to be on close watch during those scrums. So, they want to avoid retaliatory penalties which could prove costly.
It doesn’t look like there will be any changes on either side. Not sure much will be done about Andrei Markov’s spear to Nash. He took it in stride. It’s hard to believe Markov did it in front of a ref. If they want pay back, get it on the scoreboard.
I’m looking forward to this one. I am curious to see if the Rangers show the same urgency. Or will it be the same old, same old from a veteran group who knows what it takes? We shall see.
Enjoy the game.