As we enter the Eastern Conference Final, the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens overcame adversity, in their previous series. Both teams appeared to rally behind those situations, but both teams came out different, emotionally. Now, the teams face each other for the right to play for the Stanley Cup; but who has the edge, emotionally, to come out on top? Let’s take a look.
The New York Rangers had to face an uphill battle with their second round defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins. After an overtime 3-2 win, the Rangers looked flat and unmotivated in games two and three. The team played slow, sloppy, confused, and uninspired hockey. They were shutout in back to back fashion and seemed to content on letting the Penguins take the series.
In game four, the team had a little pulse and brought a glimmer of hope.
Not only did the Rangers score more than zero goals (two, in fact), but the team seemed to be energized with the return of the young star, Chris Kreider. Though he did not score, he did bring a youthful energy to the team and it’s fans. It was like a breath of fresh air. As soon as Kreider touched the ice, the energy in Madison Square Garden came alive.
And with his return, a little glimmer of hope rose from the ashes. Unfortunately, it not would be that night. The team had another poor performance and they were looking down a barrel of a gun, down three games to one.
The day before game five in Pittsburgh, the unfortunate news of Martin St. Louis’ mother, France, had been brought to the hockey world’s attention. Understanding his family’s situation, the team did not know of his availability.
On gameday, he returned to the lineup. Now, what was said before the game, I don’t know.
But the team rallied around their team mate and showed no mercy to the Penguins. After that game, their urgency and willingness to win showed through their play. Not only did they come back from the brink of elimination; but, they came together as a team. And teams win championships. In a interview on Blueshirtsunited.com, Henrik Lundqvist said it best, “We came together as a group.”
For the Montreal Canadiens, it was a different adversity they encountered. After a four-game sweep of the Tampa Lightning in the first round, the Canadiens had the inevitable task of taking down the Boston Bruins. They had to face their bitter rivals again. The series ended with Montreal taking down the Bruins, 4-3, and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, the Canadiens had to overcome the ignorance of some Bruin fans early in the series. Some took to twitter to voice their immature opinions, directed primarily at PK Subban. Instead of acting out and retaliating, the Canadien’s rallied around their teammate and proved their point on the scoreboard. In NHL.com, they list the immaturity of the Bruins that caused their downfall.
So what is the point? In this matchup, there are teams that are riding a wave of emotion. The New York Rangers took the loss of St. Louis’ mother personally. They rallied to overcome doubts and fear. Their team is made up of veterans that can keep the team in control. They will fight for each other.
The Montreal Canadiens come into the series with their heads held high. The are youthful, energetic, and have a swagger to their game. They just dominated their first round opponent and beat the number one hockey team and rival. Why not?
However, I believe it is this over confidence that may be their undoing. If the veteran leadership doesn’t ground their young guns, then they will be in for a rude awakening.