Sunday, 25 May 2014

'14 Playoffs Round 3, Game 4: Canadiens 2, Rangers 3 (OT)

A tough loss tonight for les Glorieux, 3-2 in overtime, in a game that they could have won to tie the series up at 2-2 and head back to MontrĂ©al with home ice advantage.  Instead, they're down 3-1, and need to win three straight to advance.  Nothing less will do.

The game started with an ugly undertone.  I had hoped that the series would feature skating and wide-open, gentlemanly play, a pleasant change from the idiots we had to play previously, but Chris Kreider barreling into Carey Price and injuring him took care of that.  It sent the average Habs' fan's persecution/martyr complex into overdrive, and that's understandable, especially given that it went unpenalized.  My personal narrative would include, offhand, Kyle McLaren on Richard Zednik, Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty, Milan Lucic on Mike Komisarek and on Alexei Emelin.  Dale Hunter.

Social media reflected this with conspiracy theories that held that Brandon Prust's hit didn't fracture Derek Stepan's jaw.  There's no way, he was yelling after the play, he wasn't bleeding, he finished the game, he was throwing bodychecks.  If anything, it must have been Mr. Stepan hitting the ice after the hit, not the hit itself, that broke his jaw.  The surgery he underwent must be bogus.  My brother-in-law broke his jaw and he couldn't talk, he had black eyes, how come Mr. Stepan didn't?  Paranoid fans wanted to see the initial X-ray so they could break it down like the Zapruder film.

We also saw Michel Therrien get drawn into a war of words over the course of the series against Alain Vigneault, fed by the numerous media sources present.  This reminds me of the playoffs last season against Ottawa, how things spun out of control in that aspect, how Paul McLean seemed more in control of himself, of his team, of the situation.  I much prefer the Michel Therrien from the first two rounds, who refused to comment on his lineup prior to a game, or on anything having to do with the opposition.  Against, the Bruins, he'd refer controversial questions to the other coach, to the League.

With this backdrop, the game started off in the Rangers' favour.  They seemed bigger, faster, stronger.  Our small players seemed easy to neutralize.  Our defencemen appeared vulnerable.  Again though, Dustin Tokarski kept our boys in the game, making save after save, until his teammates found their legs and their rhythm.

One way the Canadiens could have slowed down the Rangers forecheckers, dulled their temper, kept their elbows low and crosschecks few and far between, would have been for them to cash in some of their powerplay opportunities.  If the Rangers feared the Canadiens' man-advantage, they'd be more circumspect.  Rick Nash would put the brakes on when approaching the Canadiens' net, instead of going full-bore and crashing into our tender, and then feebly insisting to the refs and the net-cam that "...he pushed me!  He pushed me!", referring to Mike Weaver.

Unfortunately, the Canadiens scored only once in eight attempts on the powerplay, missing out on an opportunity to make the Rangers pay for their lack of discipline, and to make Benoit Pouliot the goat of this series, bring him back to his old self, his former role he used to inhabit so well.

Another area the Rangers dominated was the faceoff circle.  David Desharnais, notably, was much improved in the last few games in this area, but really struggled tonight.  Time and again, the Canadiens would have a faceoff in the offensive zone and a chance to generate some offence, but would lose the draw and see the puck cleared out promptly.

Still, the game turned into a tossup, and could have gone our way.  We can rue the crossbar hit by Alex Galchenyuk, but so can the Rangers look back to a few missed golden chances to score themselves.  Martin St. Louis had his pocket picked a couple of times by Dustin Tokarski.  Until it mattered, when left all alone on Mr. Tokarski's left, he had lots of time to pick the absolute top corner on the near side, and put an end to the game.

Les boys have two days to lick their wounds and win the next game, at home, in the New Forum.  We're there now.  We have to take it one game at a time.

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