After six games of a potential seven-game series, the New York Rangers beat the Montréal Canadiens 4-2 on May 29, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994.
As the winners of the Eastern Conference, they will now face the winner of the final game of the Western Conference. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings are currently tied 3-3 in the 7-game series; the winner of the final game of the series on June 1 will determine the Rangers’ opponent.
The Rangers and Canadiens played an emotional series throughout the Eastern Conference finals, with the Rangers leading 2-0 after Game 2. The Canadiens thought to tie the series at 2-2 with Game 4, but the Rangers managed a win in overtime. Game 5 saw Montréal blank the Rangers 7-4 in a very high scoring game. In Game 6 and what turned out to be the final game of the series, the Canadiens couldn’t manage a goal, despite 18 shots allowed passed the Ranger defense. Without another win in Game 6, the Canadiens caved to the aggressive Rangers. New York’s Dominic Moore scored at 18:07 in the second period, and the game ended 1-0 to the Rangers.
Despite the win, the Rangers and Canadiens were well-matched, and the results of the series were hardly predictable with both teams fighting desperately for a lead. After the first two Ranger wins, the Canadiens pulled their their team together in order to match the Ranger efforts. With steady scoring and shots on goal, all the Canadiens had to do was pass the Ranger defense and overwhelm the goal. They needed a quick rebound and good passes in order to get around the impenetrable Ranger goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. Their own defense line was strong, and though they had several penalties, their coordinated aggression often caught the Ranger lines off guard.
However, New York had its own strong defense lines and steady scoring. For the Rangers, communication and strength were key. They needed to keep the defense in line with the offense, the goalie in line with the defense; they needed to keep their lines of communication open and continue working like a team. As a team famous for its aggression and penalties, all the Rangers had to do was match Montréal and work together. With a few penalties under their belt – they had nine in Game 4- the Rangers had to harness their aggression. Not only did they manage to transfer that aggression into offensive plays, they also kept the lines of communication open and played like a team. Ryan McDonagh was the star of defense, and offensive players like Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, and Martin St. Louis overcame disaster and adversity throughout the playoffs to make it to the finals.
Back at the beginning of the regular season, New York struggled to get it together. Henrik Lundqvist had a .890 save percentage in his first few games with the team. Ryan Callahan, a long-time Ranger and the team’s captain, suffered a perpetual shoulder injury and was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Martin St Louis. And finally, Alain Vigneault replaced John Tortorella as head coach. With so many changes, it took the team more than 10 games to find their center, and many fans despaired of their season’s success. After a rocky opening to the regular season, the Rangers managed to pull together with strength and play as a team. Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals was a clear demonstration of effort New York has put into its season. The Canadiens were resilient, bringing the series back after two losses and managing a 7-4 win in Game 5. The Rangers were beaten, with serious injuries to Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan. But their strength, communication, and sense of aggression has driven them straight to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’ve won the Eastern Conference, with a the Prince of Wales trophy sitting in their locker room. Now it’s time to see if they can bring home the Stanley Cup.
The Kings play the Blackhawks in Chicago on June 1. The first game of the Stanley Cup Finals will be on June 4.
Sarah Elizabeth, Pundit Arena.