Those days in New York seem to have disappeared, some say with the renovation of the arena in 2014. That’s one of the reasons given. Others, who have much deeper knowledge than I have continue to work on excuses for the Rangers regular no-show effortrs in what are supposed to the cozy confines of their home arena.
Sunday night the Rangers, who had the fewest regular season wins at home among the sixteen teams in this years playoffs, dropped their sixth Madison Square Garden playoff game in a row, a streak that has them outscored 21-4.
Claude Julien set a game plan for this series and his team has not only bought into his wisdom, they haven’t varied from it for one minute from the drop of the puck in Game One on Wednesday to the end of game three. What we would call a perfect road game Sunday night was actually played the same way as their first two games at the Bell Centre. Nothing really revolutionary in the Canadiens game plan. It’s based on stout defense, being hard on the puck, speed, smart puck movement on breakouts and a hard work on the forecheck.
Of course all of that is easier said, than done. But, over the last six periods, execution has been next to perfect while, since the start of the second period of game two, the Ranger execution has been awful.
We’ve seen a high percentage of Russian players over the years who have no room in their repertoire to elevate their game another notch under playoff conditions. Hence the reputation, sometimes undeserved, that Russian trained players are good in the regular season and ordinary come playoff time.
Alexander Radulov breaks the mold. He grabbed this series by the throat late in third period Friday and carried it through game three Sunday in New York.. Radulov has four points in his last four-plus periods including the first assist on the game tying goal and then the Game two overtime winner, followed by a brilliant behind the back pass to start the game winning goal Sunday and that outstanding effort to one-hand the clincher. Radulov has played in 21 career playoff games. He has 19 points. That’s what we call a money player.
SPEED TRAP –
While Radulov has been the Canadiens best forward, the best line has been the one centred by Tomas Plekanec. The Rangers are considered by most as equal to the Canadiens in terms of team-speed. The Plekanec/Byron/Gallagher line has made New York look ponderous by comparison. They didn’t show up on the scoresheet but their possession figures were again the best on a team that was having a very good night.
Goaltenders are a function of the defense in front of them. Carey Price barely had to break a sweat in this one. If you were present a highlight real of his night you would be hard pressed to find anything beyond that late save on Mats Zuccarello when the game was basically out of reach. The Canadiens allowed six Rangers shots in each of the first two periods and only three in the third before the game became 3-0.
While Price had a holiday, the same can’t be said for Henrik Lundqvist who was again under fire the entire night. Without him this game could have been over by the fifteen minute mark of the first period.
….Off the scoresheet the ‘giveaway’ numbers tell the game story. In the first period the Canadiens forced the Rangers into 10 giveaways. The Canadiens gave away the puck once. The game total was 21-8 which says all you need to know about where the Rangers mental preparation was for this game.
….The game didn’t produce the 100-plus total hits we got in the first two games. The Rangers outhit the Canadiens 41-31. Leading the way for the Canadiens was Jeff Petry with six. Dwight King, much more comfortable on the fourth line, had five.
….Max Pacioretty is due. Another five shots on goal in this game, 17 total in the three games so far.
….I can’t say much about Alex Galchenyuk beyond the fact that he was back at centre on third line and he made a good play to Shea Weber for the winning power play goal. As we have seen before, he tries to do too much on his own. That said, he’s better than a fourth line player.
MOVING ON –
The Rangers were 17.3 seconds away from taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Now they’re behind two games to one with the Canadiens re-taking home-ice advantage. Teams adjust game-to-game in the playoffs and if there was ever a team in need of a major technical and attitude adjustment it’s the Rangers. We’ll see what kind of miracles head coach Alain Vigneault has in his bag of tricks over the next 48 hours. Game four Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.