Well, that was a rather convincing win. Coming in against a desperate opponent and holding off a steady rush in the game's second game - very impressive showing by the New York Rangers. Vital win in that it puts Washington at the ultimate brink; lose one more and go home.
I don't have to tell you how much I really didn't see this happening, this team coming together, but I must readily admit, they are surprising me and I am enjoying watching it.
Tonight was one of the most intense games I've seen in a long while. Like the heart pumping games I used to watch when I was younger and the Rangers were in the playoffs steadily from 95 through 97. Games that meant something. The Devils series last year was fun, but it didn't have the same threat value that this one has. And last year's Penguins series, unfortunately, never really got to that point. Game four in that series, last year gave chills for a different reason. So, no, I really must say that this series versus Washington feels more like the series against Buffalo from two years ago, where the pressure is on, but people and the team are starting to believe.
And Chris Drury is scoring clutch goals. This time for the good guys.
I'm sure they hesitated whether or not to play him, and I shared such hesitation. He seemed unable to get off a clean shot. However, it didn't seem to matter when he scored the game winner. They all count guys, and that was as beautiful as he could have scored in my opinion.
As for Avery, he was called for less penalties than last game, which was a plus, but he was giving me heart palpitations in the 3rd. I mean I said it last night, a high stick is a high stick, there is not much to debate. And I'm not debating the rough behind the net that drew blood on the Caps player. I'm only saying that if Sean did that on purpose, swung his hand around - what was he trying to accomplish? He knows all eyes are on him. He knows even if, hypothetically speaking, he didn't mean to do that, that no one will believe him anyway. So, why? I'm admittedly a little baffled. He must know that he can't do anything even remotely suspicious at all right now, no?
That aside, credit all around to the Rangers. When the Caps poured it on, they stayed steady. A total team effort and a vital, vital win.
Can't wait for Friday...
Around the League:
I left an intense 4-4 tie game in Chicago/Calgary when I turned off the car radio to come inside. I'll look in when I get upstairs. So much for Calgary's 4-1 lead. Damn. Playoff hockey is the greatest, no?
I will probably not get a chance to write more on Montreal til the weekend and by then there will be hundreds of thousands of accounts of what went wrong in the 100th season of the most fabled franchise in the "cradle of organized sports" to borrow Ron McLean's words. I listen to enough Montreal radio to know it will be talked about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, probably for every day until the next season starts, and even then, it will continue.
So just a few of my immediate reactions.
I wished better for Montreal. I did. As a fan of hockey and a fan of tradition, I did. But I wished for them to be better in general, not for them to win the series with Boston, mind you. The best team won in Boston and they are no doubt a team that can beat you with any combination of threats, offensive and defensive, and they are still, to me, the ultimate powerhouse to be challenged in the East. Credit all around to Boston. They are a great story.
While I wished better for Montreal, I knew it wasn't going to happen. That became clear pretty early. Much of the season north of the border found similarities to the season in New York with our own Rangers. True, there was no off ice concerns, at least none that I knew of, but the on ice turmoils were very parallel. Fast start bread big expectations. A falloff in production. Questioning team character. Missing leadership. General lack of team cohesiveness. One or two brilliant games followed by a run of non-efforts. Superstars drifting in and out of relevancy. A crop of very young kids who came and tried hard, but didn't have anyone to really show them the way. The ultimate firing of a coach when the team stopped listening.
Now New York turned a corner and looked better post-Renney and especially leading into the playoffs. Montreal had a short resurgence and then limped into the second season. They also had a serious goaltending controversy, one that I think was ultimately their demise. I feel for Jaroslav Halak. I don't know why but I always seem to think he's older than he is, perhaps because of his quiet nature and his poise. Young though he is, at this moment, he is a better goaltender and would have been a better option to Montreal than Carey Price. Hard to hear, but true.
Unfortunately, many fans in Montreal and many in management saw Price as their entire future, and held him up with such reverence it was at times scary to listen to. I sincerely hope wherever Halak goes he finds success. And I hope, for the sake of Montreal, that the kid they kept throwing out there, who looked like a deer caught in headlights for too many games, can be salvaged and live up to all they think he can be. I am not the coach in Montreal, but I would not have hung this series on Carey Price. I would have gone with Halak. It might not have made any real difference in the end, but by doing this, it appears the Canadiens may have confused and mistreated both of their goalies at the same time.
Heart is questioned daily in Montreal. I alluded to it before and I'm sure I will again. There are a lot of questions in Montreal, about how things are done and how they need to be done going forward, who wears the jersey and what it means to them. Tomorrow begins the long period of finding those anwers. I don't know where they start, but they have to start somewhere. Their entire team may possibly be dismantled come July 1st, and perhaps that is a good thing. Things will not come easy in Montreal, but they simply have to get the right guys with the right mindset, attitude, and commitment to play there. The only thing is, that's never quite so simple a thing to do.