Game six gets underway tonight at 8:00 PM EST. The New York Rangers lead the Montreal Canadiens three games to two in the best of seven series for the Eastern Conference Championship. Here are today’s storylines:
On Wednesday afternoon, Rangers defenseman John Moore was suspended for his hit on Canadiens forward Dale Weise. In game five, Weise was unsuspetedly hit by Moore in the third period. Though I do not believe it was in retaliation for Brandon Prust’s check on Derek Stepan, the two are similar. John Moore had no previous disciplinary history with the NHL. However, officials found evidence that he made an illegal hit to the head, which justified their punishment. For game six, expect to see Raphael Diaz or Justin Falk as possible replacements. Diaz will most likely get the call since he has played previously for the Rangers in these playoffs.
An encore performance will be in store for the Madison Square Garden crowd, as Brandon Prust makes his return from a two game suspension. The media has painted him public enemy number one, which I am sure he does not mind. Once embraced in New York, he is now loathed not just for the uniform he wears, but for his hit on Derek Stepan. There will be no love lost between the two players. He has already gotten into the minds of the Rangers faithful, as well as the team I’m sure.
Will we see “the return of the King”? Henrik Lundqvist had an uneventful game five in Montreal on Tuesday. He gave up four goals on nineteen shots. Midway through the second period, he was pulled in favor of Cam Talbot (who didn’t fair much better giving up three goals in the game). After the second intermission, he was not on the ice, even though the team was down by one goal. As I stated in a previous article, as Henrik Lundqvist goes, so do the Rangers. He is the team’s last line of defense. History has been kind to the King in these playoffs. On MSG.com, Henrik Lundqvist has a record of 5-2 with a .930 save percentage following a playoff loss this season. Tonight, the team will need him to live up to his nickname, if they are to have any chance of ending the series.
The Montreal Canadiens don’t appear to be afraid or intimidated by the big stage that is Madison Square Garden. After coming off an impressive 7-4 win in game five, the Canadiens are one win away from tying the series. They will be skating with confidence and will have a “nothing to lose” mentality. All the pressure will be on the Rangers. The young netminder, Dustin Tokarski, has played brilliantly since starting game 2. However, the question still lingers, may we see Carey Price? Previously stated, Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien declared him unavailable for the series after game one. However, Carey Price has been seen on the ice for three straight days, yesterday in full gear. So it begs the question: if the series goes back to Montreal for a game seven, will he be used? Or will it be the young gun Dustin Tokarski?
The Rangers are on the brink of their first Stanley Cup Final berth, in 20 years. This will be their second opportunity to end the series and claim the Prince of Wales Trophy for being the Eastern Conference Champions. If they win, their Cinderella story continues and await their opponent from the West. If they lose, then it’s back to Montreal’s House of Horrors that is the Bell Centre. They will face a crowd that is as passionate a fan base as you will ever see, short of a European futbol crowd.
It’s time, New York City. Time to rise and be heard. The Rangers will need to feel the home ice advantage and the reassurance of the Blueshirt faithful. Bring it home, boys!