First it was an “accident.” Then it was “accidentally on purpose.” And now it’s “reckless.”
For the Rangers look out, because Montreal is motivating itself with the news that Carey Price will miss the rest of the Conference Finals.
“You know what, Carey Price won’t be able to play tonight, not only for tonight, but for the rest of that series,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “He’s our best player. Looking at the incident, you know, it’s a reckless play. That’s the truth. And (Chris) Kreider, this is not the first time he’s going at goalies, so end up losing your best player.
“But our group faced a lot of adversity through the course of the season, and we respond and we’ve got the attitude to respond really well, and this is what I’m expecting starting tonight.”
Looking at the play, you can tell Kreider was interfered with by Alexi Emelin, who swiped his stick across the Ranger forward’s legs.
But you have to forgive Montreal if they are overlooking that small detail.
The Canadiens are using any kind of motivation possible. And with them losing Price, it will be an uphill batter the rest of the way. Put it to you this way, if the situation was reversed and Henrik Lundqvist was taken out and Cam Talbot had to play the rest of the series the Rangers would be ticked off as well.
But now this series changes and the Rangers have to be considered the favorites to win. In that case, the Blueshirts better look out since Montreal is using this as a rally cry for their team.
“I don’t think Kreider ran him, but he didn’t do anything to avoid him,” former Ranger Brandon Prust said Sunday to reporters. “He went skates up first and he didn’t do anything to turn his body or minimize (the contact). Whether it’s on purpose or accidental, he ran him pretty hard. Everybody thinks it was accidental, but we call it accidentally on purpose.”
Don’t be surprised if Montreal changes its style of play tonight to compensate for the loss of Price. Backup goalie Peter Budaj or rookie netminder Dustin Tokarski will need some help out there and the Canadiens will probably try to slow down the pace and force the Rangers to take every shot through traffic.
Also look for the Canadiens to attack early to get on the board. They will crash Lundqvist trying to keep their crowd in the game the best way possible. If they go down 2-0, with the series switching to Madison Square Garden, the Habs chances will diminish considerably. Besides Price, Montreal relies upon its home crowd to rev up the team.
The Rangers need to stay in form and play the way, which got them to the Conference Finals. They need to use their speed advantage with Kreider and Carl Hagelin to create breakaways and build upon their success from Game 1.
“It doesn’t really change anything for us,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “We’re trying to get ready for our game. Prior to the series, we had prepared for three possible goaltenders, obviously, spending more time on Price. It’s very unfortunate what happened to him. But for us, it’s business as usual.
And if they do have early success, Montreal may try to make a statement late in the game, which Prust did against Kreider in Game 1.
So even though the Rangers have a distinct advantage, they have to look out and not take this goaltending change lightly.
They still have a lot of work to do to win Game 2.