The coaching staff decided to go with Dustin Tokarski to replace their star goalie Carey Price, and he didn't play badly. The first goal deflected off Josh Gorges right in front of him. The second came on a three-on-two off the stick of Rick Nash, so kind of hard to fault him on that. The third was from Martin St. Louis, on a powerplay that shouldn't have been awarded to the Rangers, it came on a completely unintentional trip from Alex Galchenyuk, if not a dive from Carl Hagelin.
Still, this is where Carey Price makes a difference. While Mr. Tokarski didn't look bad on any goal, he finished with a .900 save percentage. Carey might have made one or two of his miraculous saves. He might have inspired his teammates to play with a little more confidence, more hope, more determination. The Rangers might have had a little more doubt, might have rushed their plays, like the Bruins did.
The Canadiens started the game like lions, applying pressure, generating chances, and Henrik Lundquist looked very beatable, kicking out juicy rebounds. Brendan Gallagher and David Desharnais were giants despite their size, skating and buzzing around the Ranger zone, dishing out hits. They manufactured the first goal by Max Pacioretty with their forecheck and passing.
Trouble is, less than a minute later, Ryan McDonagh's wrist shot from the side boards banked in off Josh, and you could feel the air being let out of the balloon a little bit.
The rest of the game, the Canadiens may have felt like the Bruins did the last series. They directed a lot of rubber on the opposition net, but the other team was more opportunistic, cashing in more of their chances. The goalie they were facing kept stopping pucks.
Overall, the game was more entertaining than some of the slugging that happened in the previous series. I didn't cringe constantly when a Canadien headed into a corner. The game was more end-to-end, more of a skating affair. Daniel Carcillo is much more digestible than Brad Marchand, and the same goes for Brian Boyle and Sean Thornton.
I don't want to point fingers too much, but I think tonight's game seals the question of whether we should sign Thomas Vanek long-term. Even when he was firing on all cylinders with David and Max, I feared the numbers being thrown around, six, seven, maybe eight years, at six, seven, eight million per. For a 30 year old, that seemed very unwise. I wanted to wait for the playoffs and evaluate then.
My evaluation is fairly complete now. Nice guy, but not worth what he will cost. A team like the Penguins or the Bruins, maybe the 'Hawks might be able to carry him on their roster, their depth and talent might allow them to hide him in their lineup when he's not producing. Our team isn't there yet. And I don't want that cap hit on our books when he hits his mid-thirties.
One other thing I'd have liked to have seen is for the Canadiens to crash the crease a little more. René Bourque, Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher on at least a couple of occasions, they could have taken the puck to the net with authority, with speed, and if the defencemen hooked or somehow contacted them, and it caused them to crash into Henrik Lundqvist, so be it. My caveman side was coming out. They started this feud. They drew first blood.
Instead, all the Canadiens forwards seemed to be able to steer away from contact, to hit the brakes. No one was caused to tilt backward and go in skates first, like Dave Parker trying to break up a double-play at second base. Strange.
So a semi-solid effort, the Canadiens didn't get the bounces, the goals, the saves, the powerplay opportunities, in the right amounts to add up to a win.
And now we head to New York, and we'll have to see what the coaching staff have in their bag of tricks, and what our team have in their heart and their guts. We get to see if they can turn this series around, dig themselves out of this big hole.
Or else Gary Bettman's dream final of New York versus either Chicago or Los Angeles will be confirmed but quick.