There is no difference of opinion on this–the Rangers’ performance on the ice on Sunday evening was terrible. Except for Henrik Lundqvist, the team looked anemic in their 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. So, tonight they will insert Pavel Buchnevich, who has some offensive pop, into their lineup, instead of Tanner Glass, who will sit. Frankly, I think this is the opposite of what the team should do. The Rangers need more of their lunchpail game than they have shown in this series so far. Not more run and gun, not more attempted breakaways, only to be stonewalled by perhaps the only goalie in the Nhl that is better than Lundqvist.
Montreal does a great job keeping the Rangers on the outside. The way to beat that is crisp passes and more forecheck. It is not finesse, which is what Buchnevich brings to the lineup. It is more of what New York’s fourth line has brought to the game, which is why they have created the most in the first three games of the series.
Yes, the power play has not be successful (for a long time), but I would be less worried about the PP than I would about facing the Habs five on five. And I worry more about Alexander Radulov. Who is arguably one of the best players in the league. And who appears to finally have found his footng. Radulov was always a big game player–the guy who wanted center stage and when he got it, he could be incredible. It wasn’t going to happen in Nashville, but here, in New York, while playing with Montreal, perhaps the most storied NHL franchise, he is incredibly dangerous. The key to stopping the Canadiens is actually stopping Radulov from showing his extreme talent–don’t give him the stage.
The only way to stop Radulov is to play him very physically. So, you may ask who can do that on this Rangers’ team? The answer may be only the aforementioned Glass, who tonight will be with the Black Aces, up in the press box. It does not bode well for the Blueshirts, who will once again count on Lundqvist to bail them out.
It’s not that New York is an untalented bunch. They are actually good enough to get past the Habs of just over two months ago–before the second Claude Julien era in Montreal. Julien has his team playing a very strategic game–one that keeps New York mostly to the outside, and neutralizes most of the Rangers’ speed. We shall see what Alain Vigneault has his team doing tonight, but there is warning here–it may not be pretty.