Eastern Conference Finals: Game 3 Recap
James is my former roommate and a good friend of mine from Marist, where I go to school. He’s an interesting guy, to say the least, with a twisted sense of humor. Mostly, he likes to mock me and my love for hockey, a sport he admittedly never watches.
“There’s no skill involved whatsoever,” he’ll say. “The only time anyone scores is when the goalie messes up or there’s a lucky bounce. No one ever actually scores when they mean to.”
Of course, we all know that this is a ludicrously ignorant statement. And I love pointing out the instances in which he is very, very wrong when I can.
At no point on Thursday was he wrong.
Let’s not kid ourselves, not a single goal was born out of a particularly skillful shot. Hagelin’s goal was generated by a turnover by P.K. Subban, and after Martin St. Louis was stopped on a one-timer from the faceoff circle (the first of three times this would happen, including once in the last minute before the tying goal, but more on that later), the puck took a freakish bounce straight up in the air, where Hagelin essentially played flip-and-rip like a Little Leaguer and tipped it in.
Markov’s goal somehow slipped by Henrik Lundqvist on a three-on-two. A nice job of getting it on net, but a weak goal nonetheless, as Lundqvist did not exactly have the best angle on it.
The next two goals, credited to Danny Briere and Chris Kreider, went off of the skates of defensemen in the crease and trickled in. In overtime, a save off Lundqvist’s leg pad deflected off the chest of Alex Galchenyuk and in. Again, total luck.
But, even though this game was not highlighted by dominant skillful play, it was still loaded with action and storylines to follow going forward.
For instance, I guess New Yorkers have lost their infatuation with Brandon Prust. I noticed a lot of Rangers fans heading into the series joking on social media about how they were going to have to hate Prust, a fan favorite during his tenure in New York, going forward. Well, it didn’t take long for them to fall out of love with him. Prust took a major penalty in game one for going at Chris Kreider, then, in game three, delivered a late high hit on Derek Stepan in the first period that fractured his jaw. The hit sparked a fight between Prust and Dorsett, and caused Dan Carcillo to get into an altercation with an official.
The result: Stepan is out indefinately as he receives surgery on his jaw. Carcillo was given a game misconduct and, per NHL rules, was suspended 10 games for elbowing the linesman (they were harmless shoves, but, rules are rules). Prust was suspended for two games. His hit on Stepan went uncalled in the game.
Carcillo’s suspension likely does not mean much in the long run, as Derick Brassard’s return appears to be imminent for game four. The real question becomes when Stepan will return to the lineup, as J.T. Miller will likely be filling in for him while he is out. And if that is the case, how badly will the efficiency of the Nash-Stepan-Kreider line, which has been highly effective this series?
On another note, Marc Staal and P.K. Subban both need to step up for their respective teams. I’ve noticed the same trend with both of these guys. They have panicked under the pressure of quick, aggressive forechecking in their own zone, committed several turnovers, and have missed out on some key scoring chances. Staal has struggled with puck play along the boards, while Subban’s mistakes have mostly come in open ice. Luckily, for the Rangers, Staal is a only second-pair defenseman. Subban is not only the best defenseman on the team, he is the lifeblood of their energy. Eventually, he will have to put his money where his ever-active mouth is, as the saying goes, and put points on the board. He has 0 points this series, is -3, and has taken 4 penalty minutes.
And speaking of missed opportunities, how many did the Rangers miss in game three alone? Staal and Girardi shot wide on several shots from the slot, Martin St. Louis was stopped on at least three one-timers from down low, and of course, their offensive attack was stymied for the most part by Dustin Tokarski. The Tick stopped 35 of 37 shots, and while his rebound control has left a little to be desired, enough can’t be said of his athleticism and his confidence in the crease. For someone who has been a minor leaguer his entire career, he’s held his own, and proven that Price’s injury does not mean the death of the Habs.
From Montreal’s standpoint, game three is more a breath of fresh air than anything else. They have life in the series, even without ace goaltender Carey Price. If they can manage to win one more at Madison Square Garden, an entirely plausible concept given how little home-ice advantage has meant to New York this year, they will hold the advantage in a best-of-three showdown. First two games aside, the Bell Center is still the Bell Center, a difficult place to score in, and a more difficult place to win in.
You know what this game reminded me of, from the Rangers’ point of view? Game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils. In that game, the Rangers came back from an early 3-0 deficit at home to tie the game in the third after a puck bounced off the back of Martin Brodeur’s leg and in for the game-tying goal. The Garden is going wild. The Rangers would lose the game by one. They would lose the series in game six.
Now, does this mean the Rangers should be in crisis mode? No. But Canadiens are hot on their heels.
And that means game four Sunday night (8 pm EST) is a must-win for both sides.
So please score. Like, for real. So James can shut up. Please.