Rangers Seek Series Stranglehold Tonight
The New York Rangers have won one Stanley Cup in 74 years and have only advanced to the finals three other times in that same period of time, losing all three series.
After making the Conference finals two years ago as a favorite and then losing to New Jersey, the Rangers this season have moved within two games of playing for Lord Stanley's Cup with a huge clash at Madison Square Garden tonight against Montréal.
After fighting back from a three-games-to-one deficit to upset Pittsburgh in the last series, the Blueshirts went into La Métropole du Québec and took the first two games of this series. But as New York fans always know, anything can happen to a Ranger team, and this time it was the Canadiens coming back to win Game 3 in the Garden, 3-2 in overtime.
It didn't take long for this series to become a nasty one when Montréal goalie Carey Price was injured in Game 1. Chris Kreider was pushed into him; the Habs said it was dirty when it was not, and it was game on. Former Ranger Brandon Prust nailed Derek Stepan on a late hit in Game 3 and Stepan now has a broken jaw. Prust was suspended for two games, and Stepan will most likely not dress tonight.
This series may now come down to a rookie, third-string goalie. The Canadiens inserted Dustin Tokarski into the lineup after Price's injury, a rising star who has proven to be a winner at every level. He justified Coach Michel Therrien's confidence in the move, playing well in Game 2 and stealing Game 3 when he made 35 saves in the overtime win.
The Rangers need to find a way to get some pucks past Tokarski if they want to advance to their first finals since winning the Cup in 1994. Henrik Lundquist has been his usual great self for New York, and he'll need to continue as the Rangers' best player if they're to win tonight.
These two teams came into this series with respect for each other. The coaches had been behind the bench together years ago, and there was no hatred like in a Montréal-Boston series or a Ranger-Flyer series. Well, that's over.
Expect tonights' game to be the most physical so far. Between injuries and suspensions, it's now a war of attrition, and the team with the most depth may just come out on top to be playing for a championship in early June.