Eastern Conference Finals: Game 4 Recap
We all calm? Alrighty. Good.
It was an adrenaline-pumping game to say the least Sunday night, as the Rangers took game four against the Canadiens in overtime, 3-2. They now have a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Montreal.
I honestly don’t know how to go about attacking this game recap because again, there’s just so much to talk about and it’s all sporadic thoughts. So, I’ll just do bullets. Makes it easier on all of us.
-The Rangers won this game because of role players in their bottom six. As Eddie Olczyk pointed out, Brian Boyle is one of the best pure penalty killers in the league, with a hulking frame that is unafraid of diving in front of any shot. There was one point in game two where he dove headlong in front of a P.K. Subban slapshot that just narrowly missed his face. That takes guts. Boyle is making it as hard as possible on Glen Sather to choose whether or not he comes back next year, and at what price. Derick Brassard, who missed game three to injury, was 18-6 on faceoffs, and scored New York’s second goal. Dominic Moore did a serviceable job filling in for Derek Stepan on the first line, who missed the game due to a fractured jaw that required surgery.
-Montreal’s forecheck is very good in the Rangers’ end of the neutral zone. There was one play in particular where the aggression forced Ryan McDonagh to blindly backhand a pass to open ice where he expected Dan Girardi to be, only to have it picked off, which led to a one-on-one breakaway. Their forecheck can create problems for guys like McDonagh and Staal, and the opportunities are there. They will need to start converting on these chances if they want to get back in this series.
-The collective city of New York owes Martin St. Louis an apology. Remember when he was terrible, washed up, and would never score as a Ranger? Yeah. Fun times. The overtime winner (his sixth of the postseason) was the culmination of veteran know-how to hide along the far boards to get his man to drift off, Brad Richards preventing not one, but three clearing attempts from Desharnais and Markov, a brilliant feed from Hagelin right onto St. Louis’ stick, and incredible hands to roof the puck over Dustin Tokarski, who was in about as good a position as he could have been in. Hockey is often a game of redemption. St. Louis finally got his revenge after being stoned by Tokarski time and time again the past two games.
-Speaking of Tokarski, the Tick is putting on a remarkable performance for someone who, heading into this series, had seven NHL games worth of experience. Seven. And none of them are from this year. Rangers fans will certainly recall the struggles their team has had against rookies and backups all season long. But, in a series as opposed to a single game, a lot more can be credited with skill, rather than luck. And Tokarski has shown quite a bit of skill. His style of play reminds me a lot of Ben Scrivens. He’ll venture out of the net a lot more to challenge shooters in an attempt to take away room left by the fact he’s a tad on the short side, at 5’11”. The modern era’s goaltenders are 6’0″ and above (and then there’s Ben Bishop, but I digress).
-I’m genuinely curious about something: is there a Ranger defenseman that opposing fans are genuinely intimidated by offensively? Every time P.K. Subban goes into his enormous windup for one of his patented bombs from the point, one can’t help but feel that something is going to happen. It’s a lethal weapon. The closest thing the Rangers have to an offensive defenseman is Ryan McDonagh, but even he doesn’t exactly seem like a constant threat to me. I don’t know, feel free to comment below if I’m wrong. Point is, Subban is quite an offensive talent.
-Where has Thomas Vanek been all series? For someone who has as much offensive ability as him, he has been virtually invisible the past four games. He has but one assist, and is only averaging one shot on goal per game. Now is not the time for Montreal’s big deadline acquisition to lose his edge.
-The Rangers in no way shape or form deserved this win. No team that takes eighteen penalty minutes can ever really “deserve” a win. Even Montreal’s eight penalty minutes would be considered a bit much for an average game. Even if Montreal sold their calls quite a bit (Mike Milbury of NBCSN called their performance “Oscar, not Emmy, but Oscar worthy,” so, take from that what you will), New York will need to stay out of the box. Take Benoit Pouliot’s penalty in overtime for grabbing a stick. That was perhaps the most idiotic penalty taken all game, maybe all series. It only takes one powerplay goal or one inneficient kill effort to make a difference in a game’s momentum. And reclaiming home dominance with a big win at the Bell Center could get the comeback train a-rollin’.
So, those are my thoughts. Did I miss something? Can Montreal do what New York did last series? Comment below with your thoughts.
Game five is Tuesday at 8 PM EST.
Let’s go playoffs.