NYR- MTL Game 6 Period By Period Analysis

Buch, Zucc, and Zib celebrate (Getty)

First Period

I was fortunate to have tickets to this game. Let me dispel this notion that Madison Square Garden does not get loud anymore, right away. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I walked in at 7:30, and it was loud. It was electric. And, it was even more so as puck drop got closer. Winning game 4 gave fans a reason to believe that they could win at home. Winning game 5 made the fans at MSG for game 6 believe they could see the clincher. And the fans were full of positive energy. Loads of it. And that positive energy would be put to the test.

The Rangers are tentative early on. It took them 5 minutes to register their first shot on goal. Montreal is playing with desperation, and nastiness. Alex Radulov, who had a great series, is dangerous every shift. He is also plays elbows first and sprays Henrik Lundqvist with ice when the Rangers goalie freezes the puck. This, is another in a long line of uncalled infractions, this series. A scrum involving Ryan Mcdonagh and Dan Girardi with Radulov ensues.

Meanwhile 60 feet away Max Pacioretty cross checks Jimmy Vesey in the face, and Vesey decides to defend himself. A fight/wrestling match follows. And again the referees come up incompetent. They ignore the Radulov incident, and hand out 7 minutes each to Pacioretty and Vesey. Momentum immediately swings the Canadians way. Just over a minute later, Radulov, laying face down behind the net, passes thru the slot to the on-rushing Alex Emelin. His shot thru loads of traffic find the top corner over Lundqvist’s shoulder.
The rest of the period is not good for New York. They are on their heels.

None of the 6 shots they muster, are of the dangerous variety. One good setup they had was a feed to Nick Holden walking in from the right point, but fired it over the crossbar. The Rangers withstand 12 Montreal shots, and a lot of pressure time in their defensive zone.

Second Period

Some real soul searching was needed after the first period. Ranger leadership needed to get the team focused on the task at hand. Pavel Buchnevich draws his second penalty, this time a 2 minute hold on Jordie Benn. The Rangers were on the power play (0 for 14 in the series), with a chance to tie. Thus far in the game the blueshirts passing was horrific. Their forwards were especially inaccurate. But on this man advantage that changed. They moved the puck crisply, and with a purpose.

McDonagh passed to Mika Zibanajad, in the circle to Price’s right. Zibanajad zipped it to Price’s left, to Mats Zuccarello, who somehow found an opening between the Montreal netminder’s left arm and body. Tie game. MSG is shaking. The Rangers kept the pressure on. With that, Montreal’s nasty game disappeared. The Rangers were now carrying the play, and dominating possession. Eleven minutes after tying the game, New York’s J.T. Miller found Kevin Hayes in the left circle. Hayes whipped a dead on accurate, no look pass to Zuccarello, who fired it home off Price’s left pad, to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

Pandemonium reigns at the Garden! The assists by Hayes and Miller were they first points of the series. Both players were more engaged in this game. Going forward, both need to do like Rick Nash. Take the puck to the inside and shoot more. They seem to fall into over-passing mode too often. A late Miller penalty leads to a Canadian. During that power play Lundqvist makes a 10 bell glove save on a Shea Weber blast from the left circle. The crowd rises as one screams “Henrik” as one.

Third Period

The crowd is chanting “Let’s Go Rangers!” before the team takes the ice to start the third. They will try and collectively will the home team to the finish line. The team is solid to start. They forecheck respocibly; always keeping a third forward high, and backchecking with purpose. Shifts are kept short, and with full energy on both sides of the ice. Their defensemen are taking no chances.

Fans are very pleased that they aren’t in a defensive shell, and keeping Montreal’s ventures into the offensive zone quick, and without dangerous shots. Tension mounts halfway through the period when Chris Kreider draws a high-sticking foul. The blueshirts are stout and kill the penalty with Lundqvist forced to make one big save. Minutes tick away, as the Rangers strong backcheck is disrupting every Montreal entry into New York’s zone. With 1:47 left Lundqvist makes a game-saving left pad save on Tomas Plekanec, as the crowd gasps. Price gets pulled as the Canadians mount their last stand. The Habs turn up the pressure. Dan Girardi (a fantastic series) blocks a shot, and the ricochet finds Derek Stepan. Stepan flips it down ice, and it finds the net to make it 3-1. The MSG crowd rocked with loud exhilaration.

In Summary

Kudos to Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Brady Skjei and Branden Smith. They were all physical, very good with the puck, and pillars on the back end. Marc Staal was better in game 6 after a brutal game 5. He wasn’t good in game 2 either. It seems like any time he lugs the puck, he loses it and creates a fire drill in the defensive zone. Nick Holden was beyond awful in the first 2 games which led to a game 3 benching. When he came back in game 4, he finished the series playing better, but not without mistakes.

HenriK Lundqvist was out of this world. The naive (ignorant?) folks that knocked him all season, somehow forgot how many times this player has carried this team, when given zero margin of error. His save percentage was just under .950. His goals against under 1.50. He successfully, and convincingly out dueled Vezina finalist Carey Price. The forwards, as a lot, did quite well backchecking. Offensively, they without question need more from Stepan, Kreider, Miller and Hayes. All four have to be more productive in the next round. Remember, whichever team they face, Ottawa or Boston, were inferior teams than Montreal. Without a top dog, go-to, signature offensive player, this team relies on their depth to score and win. Nash, Zuccarello, Fast, Zibanajad (especially the last few games) and Grabner were the best forwards scoring-wise, and created the most chances. Rookies Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich played well, and certainly did not look out of place. Lindberg and Glass were also very sound in both ends of the ice.
If Boston wins game 6, their series would conclude Wednesday in Ottawa. If Ottawa closes out the series in game 6, I would expect the Rangers would be back in action on Wednesday. If not their first game of round 2 would be on Friday.

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