Well folks, here we sit at the crossroads of the season. The Rangers welcome (or at least host) the suddenly decent Montreal Canadiens in a game that could decide the fate of any playoff aspirations our Boys In Blue might have. It's a gut-wrenching matchup for the Rags, as they have not been particularly successful against the “Les Habs” this season, and also because this is as close to being a “must win” game as any. What's the prognosis?
If I had to make a bet on this one, and I already have, I'd say the Rangers come out on top. Not because of any statistical data, or matchup specifics, but simply because the Rags have played some good hockey over the past week or so, and haven't achieved any positive results. In other words: They're due!
Set aside Sean Avery's over-blown love tap on Tim Thomas' head in the last game, and what we're seeing is a team that is in transition, but rapidly learning the new system. John Tortorella has adjusted his gameplan for the defence, moving them back a little bit in the schematic of X's and O's, which has yielded immediate results. However, against Thomas and the Bruins, it simply wasn't enough, as the newly-re-signed goaltender turned away everything the Blueshirts could throw his way.
That game, if none other, put the Rangers on the precipice of missing the playoffs, which is utterly unacceptable.
Tonight, we're going to see a team that is burning with the desire to qualify for the best tournament in all of professional sports. However, the Habs will also be looking to gut out a win, as this would seal their ticket to the post-season.
Here's how I think it will go down:
1 – The Rangers will again come out with all guns blazing. This happened against Boston, but an unlucky break ended up costing them, and the B's walked away with a tight 1-0 win.
2 – Henrik Lundqvist will stymie the Montreal offence, which has suddenly found life. I'm thinking it's too early to put a hex on anything, so I'm calling for Henke to shut the Habs out.
3 – Sean Avery will be all over the crease area, and will get into the head of Carey Price. A young guy like that isn't prepared to deal with Avery's antics, and tonight I expect Torts to loosen the leash a little bit.
4 – Markus Naslund will score the game winning goal. Just a hunch, but he, like the team, is due.
5 – Colton Orr will beat the snot out of Montreal tough-guy Georges Laraque. Again, just a hunch, but I think the strongest part of Laraque these days is his mouth. Orr is a bona fide heavy weight, and on home ice, he'll be impactful. This, of course, assumes he draws into the lineup…
Beyond that, I expect a fairly boring game, at least offensively. The Rags haven't scored more than 3 goals in any of their past 5 games, and since Montreal is playing decent defence (although likely missing Markov and EDIT:Hamrlik Schneider tonight) I expect that trend to continue.
What we're looking at here is a 3-2 game, although obviously I have called a shutout. So, let's make my bold prediction a 3-0 Rangers win…
Sorry for the short post, but I've got some Chinese food arriving any second, and I can't wait! 20 minutes til game time, and I'll likely post some vitriolic stuff as the game unfolds. Hopefully not too much, as clearly that would be an indication that things aren't going well for the Broadway Bunch. In the meantime, here's the stats pack, courtesy of TSN.ca:
- A MTL win and they clinch a playoff spot, or if they pick 1PT and FLA picks up 0PTS tonight
– MTL is 2-0-1 vs the NYR this season
– NYR are 1-3-1 in their last 5 games, scoring 3 or fewer goals in each game
– NYR have gone 3 for 37 on the PP over their past 7 games
– MTL lost last night ending a 3 game winning streak
– MTL has allowed 3 or fewer goals in each of their last 7 games (5-1-1)
– NYR are 9-7-2 with Tortorella, MTL is 6-4-3 with Gainey
– Lundqvist is 4-2-0 with a 2.17 GAA in six career home starts against Montreal
– Kovalev 8G, 8A, Koivu 3G, 7A during 7 game point streaks
– Price is 1-0-1 vs NYR this season, 2.14GAA and .919sv%
About the Author
Written by Dan Rakusan
A huge Rangers (NHL), Falcons (NFL), PGA Tour and soccer fan, I have been writing semi-professionally for about 7 years now. I try to impart information with some degree of humour, and always have an opinion. PSB is another feather in my cap, and am really proud of the team assembled here, and look forward to the long-term journey PSB is embarking on in terms of establishing itself as the best sports blogging collective on the net! Look for articles such as 4-Play, Rangers blogs and PGA Tour updates, along with my NFL handicapping service!