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1) Ghosts, ghouls, goblins? Get outta here. Gone, gone, gone. That can no longer be a factor in this series. Now it’s just hockey. Now Henrik Lundqvist is Henrik Lundqvist. All that other garbage, all those questions about playing in this city, in that building, have been answered in the affirmative. Now it’s just playoff hockey. … and ya boys have won four in a row, three of those on the road. Onions.
2) That said, the big worry is about Derick Brassard and what appeared to be a left shoulder or upper back injury. He didn’t appear to be overly concerned in the post-game interview. Alain Vigneault said he’s day to day. If he misses a game or two, that would be tough. If he misses more, it could be really bad for the Rangers. That line is playing so well, and to replace Brassard, the fourth line, which is also playing so well, might have to be altered. Would be interesting to see if AV would go to J.T. Miller’s wheels or Dan Carcillo’s experience in that case. The hit that caused the injury. To me it looked, at the very least, to be very late. I think warranted a penalty as much as Brian Boyle’s little tug on P.K. Subban, who embellished it like a fish out of water.
3) This game was pretty darn solid, up and down, start to finish — OK, it got a little sloppy on both sides late in the game, and it really should/could have been just a terrific 4-1 or 5-1 win. But, as I said yesterday, whether it was 3-2 or 7-2 or 42-2 will not mean a thing when Game 2 begins on Monday. Not a thing. The Canadiens will be much, much better. The Rangers will have to be better too. And remember, they have that nasty little NHL-record 13-game losing streak when leading a series, and have lost 11 straight (over just three playoff seasons) immediately after taking a lead in a series. In five of their last seven series they have won Game 1 and lost Game 2, and in fact have lost eight straight Game 2s. So put away the party hats for a while. This might be a nice time to change that, though.
4) Me (and others): GOALTENDING, Edge: even. How silly. I guess the little issue of Lundqvist’s haunted house of horrors skewed my (our) thinking. Carey Price is the best goalie the Rangers have faced in these playoffs, and he won a gold medal over Lundqvist with brilliant play behind a Big Red Machine. But he is not Lundqvist’s equal. And now he’s banged up (looked like a knee or ankle), and if he isn’t, well the Rangers sure got some pucks past him. He’s not going to be Mr. Zero in this series. And on the play on which he was injured, some people are squawking that Chris Kreider intentionally ran him. Others think Kreider was tripped. Whatever, how is it not a penalty one way or the other? I mean, if Kreider was tripped, that’s a penalty on Montreal. If he wasn’t, that’s goalie interference. Fine, fine officiating once again, all day long, all playoffs, all season. New game, new rulebook. The P.K. Subban takeout of Kreider along the wall, without the puck, was textbook interference. They should show it at referee schools. No call.
5) On Kreider, what a beast. Yeah, he still makes his rookie mistakes. He had a couple hairballs early. But he took over stretches of that game. He is, as I said last week, the strongest guy in almost every game he plays. He is also the fastest. His shot is devastating, and his offensive instincts are 180 degrees from his defensive instincts. Just off the charts good. Huge difference in the Rangers lineup since he came back. Huge difference for his linemates, and for the power play. He will back off the Habs defensemen, who, as Dave Maloney said, probably woke up in cold sweats dreaming about Kreider blowing past them. (sorry, I meant THE Kreider).
6) The Rangers scored four goals, total, in last eight visits. They scored three PPGs in just over three minutes. They scored three goals on three consecutive shots.
7) Which brings us to the Daily Nash-O-Meter. Take away that matador swipe and miss on Subban, who had that glorious chance gloved away by Lundqvist. Played a very solid game, made the pass to Derek Stepan on the Kreider goal. Got the piano off his back with his second goal in 27 playoff games as a Ranger. I thought he looked really good on the two PPs in Brassard’s spot in the first. I know, you guys judge by bottom line and some are too blind to see when a player plays well if he doesn’t score … but if you’re honest, that’s four strong games in a row, engaged and involved, for Nash since he was booed in Game 4 (and four straight wins). And toss in Stepan, too. Been very, very good during this streak. I thought he was exceptional in Game 1.
8) Getting to this too late, but the Rangers wouldn’t be where they are, seven wins from, dare I say it … no, I won’t say it yet … but you know where, without a whole lot of guys. One of those is Dominic Moore, veteran of playoff games in Pittsburgh, now veteran of playoff games in Montreal. When Brassard went down, Moore became an even more crucial player, and he jumped right up and performed remarkably. He was on the ice to take the faceoff and made a great pass on the first goal, by Martin St. Louis. He was in Brassard’s spot and made another great pass on the second goal, by Mats Zuccarello. Did it all. Won 50 percent of his draws. And because he was filling for Brassard, Brian Boyle had to take more draws, with a variety of wingers. Went 9-2. This is important stuff.
9) Martin St. Louis, another one who was booed in Game 4 vs. the Penguins, played another impressive game. Huge first goal, after which he looked to the ceiling. We all know his story. The whole team will attend his mother, France’s funeral today outside of Montreal. The guy has to be going on adrenaline. Have to wonder what’s holding him up.
10) Ryan McMonster. He’s back. He just is. I still doubt he could possibly be 100 percent healthy, but wow, what a game he had on the rink on which he should have played his entire career. Imagine him and Subban? But another reminder of the best trade the Rangers ever made, by Glen Sather and Bob Gainey. Was supposed to be Gomez for No Gomez, and the Rangers ended up with their best player, besides the goalie. Had to be a big ouch for Habs fans.
11) By the way, in the third period, not even late, the Ghosts had turned into invisible fans. As somebody tweeted: “Oy Vey, Oy Vey, Oy Vey, Oy Vey …” The Rangers did seem to enjoy having that nice smooth sheet of ice with their speed and deeper skill that they never had in all those consecutive losses in Montreal. The speedy Habs had problems with the Rangers’ speed all day, and Rene Bourque took what, 11, 12 penalties?
12) That first Habs goal, you could see it coming for a while. But it still shouldn’t have happened. The Canadiens had too many men on the ice, and then Bourque’s shot, which was aimed high far (glove) side, hit McDonagh’s stick and floated in short side. Fluke all around.
13) NBC. Still with the nasty habit that MSG Network and lots of others have followed. Whistle, scrum, instant closeup of somebody not involved in the scrum. No idea why they do it, but it’s obviously not coincidence. Frustrating to fans, makes the network look as if it doesn’t understand the game. Terrible. NBC’s mics not only pick up all the profanities, but also the good stuff … like Brad Richards calling for the puck from Zuccarello, and Zuccarello spinning and making the pass for the 4-1 goal. Richards, also, had another good game. Missed the net on that odd-man rush that, eventually, led to the first Habs goal. But was good defensively. Carl Hagelin, his linemate, cleaned up a lot of messes, as he’s been doing for a while now.
14) Again, I expect the Habs to be much, much better Monday. Still suspect it will be 1-1 after two games. I imagine Thomas Vanek might even suit up.
Trivia: Dan Girardi tied Rod Gilbert for fifth on the all-time Rangers playoff games played list, and could go as high as second place before these playoffs are over. What player holds the Rangers’ record?
2. Don Maloney – 85
3. Ron Greschner – 84
4. Brian Leetch – 82
5. Rod Gilbert – 79
5. Dan Girardi – 79
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Dominic Moore.
2. Ryan McDonagh.
3. Chris Kreider.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan McDonagh.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Chris Kreider/Dominic Moore.
Josh Thomson, 26’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Dominic Moore.
2. Ryan McDonagh.
3. Chris Kreider.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Chris Kreider.
2. Ryan McDonagh.
3. Dominic Moore.
Photos by Getty Images.