The Eastern Conference Finals resumes on Thursday night with game three, the series focus now turning to the bright lights of New York City. Madison Square Garden will be front and center as the Rangers return with a 2-0 series lead and opportunity to take a commanding lead over the Montreal Canadiens on home ice, and the return of Brandon Prust to Broadway.
The rugged forward played in blue for two and half seasons, leaving a lasting impression on fans with his tough, hard-nosed play.
In my opinion, he was part of former head coach John Tortarella’s vision for the Rangers: a hard-working, defensive minded team. He was part of the foundation that allowed the team to form an identity for the Blueshirts, one which had been missing for some time.
Originally, Brandon Prust came to Broadway as part of a trade with the Calgary Flames. During the 2009-2010 season, he along with Olli Jokinen were exchanged for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins. Before the trade, he played 43 games with the Flames, registering one goal and four assists to go along with 98 penalty minutes. After the trade, he registered four goals and five assists with 65 penalty minutes. As the season ended, the Rangers re-signed Prust to a two-year deal that saw him remain a Blueshirt through the 2011-2012 season.
In his first full year as a Ranger, he saw his most productive season as a professional. He played the full 82-game season, compiling 13 goals and 16 assists, while earning 160 penalty minutes. That year, he made his first post season appearance, playing in five games against the Washington Capitals in the first round. He registered one point and earned four penalty minutes.
The next season, he would be part of a Rangers team that made their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Though he was not as productive as the previous season, he did register five goals and 12 assists while earning 156 penalty minutes. In my opinion, it was he did in the Winter Classic that he is most remembered for. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA was the site of the annual NHL New Year’s game. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers were the matchup in the city of Brotherly Love. The Rangers, with the help of Brandon Prust’s two assists, won 3-2. The Rangers were able to remain the top team in the Eastern Conference and met the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately, the team’s hope of a Stanley Cup Final appearance was not to be, as they were beaten in six games.
Easily identifiable with fans, Brandon Prust became one of the players to embody the Rangers’ work ethic. He gave the team and it’s fans something to believe in. During his time in New York, he was primarily used as a fourth line enforcer who played with intensity and was tenacious towards opponents. For his efforts, he was awarded the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award for going “…above and beyond the call of duty,” during the 2010-2011.
Which brings us to present day. On Thursday evening, Brandon Prust will be on the other side of the ice. After the 2011-2012 season, he left via free agency to Montreal, where he signed a four-year contract. In his playoff career with the Canadiens, he has three points through 15 games. In round three against the Rangers, he has not registered a point, as of yet. However, he is making waves away from the puck. In game two of the Eastern Conference Finals, Brandon Prust was seen trying to nudge Henrik Lundqvist as both players skated past each other, during a television timeout in the second period. However, the Rangers goalie played matador and dodged Prust’s attempts by sidestepping to his left. The King did an “ole” with the bull. Here is the YouTube clip in French:
Perhaps what is gaining him the most attention are his comments, in response to Chris Kreider’s collision with Canadiens goalie Carey Price in game one. During an optional skate, Brandon Prust had this to say about the incident with the famous “accidentally on purpose” quote could be heard:
So what can Brandon Prust expect from the Ranger faithful Thursday night? He certainly will not receive keys to the city, a video montage, or new motorcycle. No, I expect some applause, some boos, and lots of “nice” things said his way. As fans, we should remember what he brought to the Rangers and the effort he gave us, day in and day out. Respect should be shown to him. However, once the whistle is blown and the puck drops, he is just another opponent standing in the way towards victory.