If you are just waking up this Friday morning and reading
this then no you did not have a dream as the New York Rangers are going to play
in the Stanley Cup Finals. A solid team effort led to a 1-0 victory over the
Montreal Canadiens in game 6 eliminating the Canadiens and sending the Rangers
and their fans into a happy joyous celebration not seen in Madison Square
Garden in 20 years.
What a game and if anything the way the Rangers played in
the 3rd period was as close to a picture perfect effort as you could
ask of a team. They didn’t sit back and go into a defensive shell that seems to
be the trademark of way too many NHL teams but instead they took the play to
The Rangers time after time forced the Canadiens to try to
move 200 feet up the ice only to find their offensive flow disrupted and the
Rangers pushing them back into their defensive zone. When the Rangers pushed
them back then they attacked and pressured the Montreal defense not giving them
any chance to breathe let alone get off the ice for changes.
No like a well-oiled machine there were the Rangers going up
ice and keeping their shifts short. Alain Vigneault’s plan of rolling 4 lines
was paying dividends not in goals but in territorial advantage as the bottled
up Canadiens blueliners just couldn’t get off the ice for changes.
If game 5 was a horror show then call game 6 a masterpiece
as in crunch time the Rangers could do no wrong on this night. The Ranger
skaters made Henrik Lindquist’s life almost too easy as it took the Canadiens
10 minutes to register their first shot of the game.
Holding the Canadiens to just 5 shots in the first, 8 shots
in the second and the once again just 5 shots in the 3rd period. Of
those 18 shots Henrik Lundqvist was seriously tested at most 6 times during the
game. The Ranger’s team defense simply confused and frustrated the Canadiens as
they had trouble being able to mount any kind of sustained attack on the
And you want to pick stars from this game? For me I start
with Mats Zuccarello as he was a force all night long at both ends of the ice.
The player who refused to let the NHL tell him that he was too short to play in
it has been one of the Ranger’s best players all season long but in game 6
there he was tied for the team lead in shots with 5, recording 2 hits as well
as 2 blocked shots and 2 takeaways.
Then there was his linemate Derek Brassard who also had 5
shots on net and a monster in front of the Canadiens goal as he wreaked havoc
all game long. It is ironic but while John Tortorella never gave using the 4th line much thought; here was Alain Vigneault doing the opposite sending them out
shift after shift. The coach was rewarded when Dom Moore found himself wide
open in front of the Canadien’s net firing the only shot that Canadien’s goalie
Dustin Tokarski could not stop.
Dom Moore the 4th liner who the Rangers would
have been totally lost without registering the game’s only goal and maybe it
was poetic justice that it was his goal. Dom Moore is a better man than I am as
I don’t know if I could pick up the pieces of my life if I lost my wife the way
Moore did to cancer.
And Marty St. Louis who many in the hockey media was
painting as immature and selfish for wanting a trade out of Tampa Bay proving
to the world that selfish is not who he is. St. Louis who has turned into a de
facto captain for the Rangers has been that “go to” guy that the Rangers have
St. Louis was the guy who wanted the puck in the biggest
situations was making clutch play after clutch play since the Pittsburgh
series. Thank you Ryan Callahan and Stevie Yzerman for creating the circumstances
that led to St. Louis becoming a Ranger.
And maybe the biggest hero of them all just might be the guy
behind the bench Alain Vigneault who overcame the team’s horror story of a
start and turned this team into one that is 4 victories away from the greatest
prize in hockey.
Vigneault showed us all the different sides he has from
cheerleader to teacher to defender of all things Ranger during this playoff
series. What a shame that his performance can’t count now towards coach of the
This will be my 4th trip to a Stanley Cup Final
as a Ranger fan and the difference this time from the other 3 times is I am not
waiting for the typical heartbreaking moment (yes even 1994 I had trouble
believing they could win it). Alain Vigneault the coach has me thinking that
yes this team can win it all.
And who am I to argue with the coach?