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Rangers Vs. Canadiens: Adjustments Paying Off

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Four Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • This has been a very strange series. Let’s get something out of the way right now: Game 4 was the best the Rangers have played in this series. Shocking that it came when they ran a lineup of full skill, but we’ll get to that later. There’s still things that should scare the hell out of you (mainly Nick Holden’s stranglehold on a top four position), but there’s so much here to like.
  • Reasons to be positive: The Rangers are tied 2-2 in a series where Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad, Derek Stepan, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey all have not scored a goal. Outside of Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast and Rick Nash who all have two points, no other player has more than a single point and Kreider, Miller and Hayes don’t have any points at all. Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith continue to be fantastic, and Henrik Lundqvist has been in God mode. To be this far along in a series with the offense not clicking and those top players not putting up points isn’t ideal, but it also shows you what this team is capable of. Game 4 should be terrifying for Montreal. The Rangers finally took it to them. If those guys start clicking it’s going to be serious problems for the Habs.
  • Reasons to be negative: Alain Vigneault adjusted the forwards/style in Game 4 and it paid off. But he also brought Holden back and it was instant-disaster. For all the players above who aren’t preforming well, Dan Girardi hasn’t imploded yet on the top pair. Hopefully that continues, but if that pairing start to falter the Rangers have no fail safe with the Staal-Holden ship sinking like a stone. Lundqvist has had to be downright perfect in the two wins, and that’s an unreasonable expectation to keep throwing on him. The power play still has scored as many goals as you or I have, and the Rangers penalty kill is a roller coaster (sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s Hank).
  • Overall, I like the Rangers’ odds if they keep that forward group and adjust the defense. The pressure game I keep talking about now shifts back to Montreal. They have to win Game 5, otherwise they face an elimination game in Madison Square Garden. Foot on the throat time. Press down.
  • Sometimes I think this core needs their backs against the wall to succeed. This series was 17 seconds away from being 3-1 New York. Think about that for a minute. Instead, at 1-1, the Rangers came out like they were sleeping in Game 3 and forced themselves into a “must win” Game 4. That was their best game of the playoffs by a country mile.
  • Nash has been a monster in this series. An absolute monster. He scores the game-winning goal after being the Rangers’ best forward yet again.
  • Fitting that in a game where Vigneault runs an all-skill lineup the fourth line opens the scoring. That line was consistent most of the night, and when Claude Julien matched fourth lines the Rangers did work. That’s the point of doing it that way.
  • Pavel Buchnevich didn’t hit the scoresheet, but every time he had the puck he did something with it. For a guy who has been sitting on his butt for two weeks, he played a hell of a game and created chaos for the Habs defense. He needs to stay in this lineup. How anyone could watch that game and think he deserves to come out is beyond me.
  • The Rangers played well, but Lundqvist bailed them out a lot, especially in the first and late in the third. Not sure how anyone can question any aspect of the work he’s done in the playoffs. He’s stood tall in this series and will continue to have to.
  • I didn’t see much of a shell until late in the third (like, five minutes left). The Rangers did a much better job both getting the puck deep in the third and cycling. It probably helps that Montreal needed to concern themselves with a full-skill lineup, so they didn’t want to leave themselves open to a counterattack, but the Rangers did a good job of clogging the lanes AND gunning the other way.
  • I thought Carey Price played a great game, and he continues to be a tough nut to crack. Yes, the disallowed goal was the right call. Yes, it sucks that Hayes, who needs a goal as bad as anyone, scored the one that didn’t count.
  • Sort of strange how I don’t see a billion complaints about how quiet MSG was last night. Wonder if it had anything to do with the product on the ice. Hmmmmm.