The New York Rangers have overcome some serious hurdles through two rounds of playoff hockey. The fact that they’ve played a maximum of 14 postseason games in that span – including four games in which a loss would end their season – makes one wonder if they have enough left in the tank to beat the Montreal Canadiens.
Sure, the Habs went the distance against the Boston Bruins in the second round, yet they also swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first series of this postseason.
Some might believe that fatigue could be a big factor in the Eastern Conference finals, yet Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault seemed quite optimistic about his team’s energy level.
“… We were fortunate, I would say, that we finished our series against the Penguins on Tuesday,” Vigneault said. “It gave us almost two full days off, and we had a good practice today and just flew into Montreal. We’re as healthy as a team can be at this time of the year. We’re fresh, and we’re looking forward to the afternoon game in Montreal.”
While the Canadiens have only played 93 games (82 regular plus 11 postseason) versus 96 for the Rangers (82 plus 14), Montreal did finish its series on Wednesday. So, short-term, you could argue that the Rangers might be the fresher of the two.
That might just be nitpicking in the big picture, though.
By the end of their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, getting the typical night off between games must have felt almost like a luxury for the Rangers. They memorably played two sets of back-to-back games and six postseason contests in nine nights between the end of the Philadelphia Flyers series and beginning of the Penguins series.
Vigneault is saying all the right things about respecting his opponents (not to mention Rick Nash) and looking forward to the atmosphere in Montreal. If his quotes are any indication, they won’t head into that hostile environment running on fumes, either.
Ryan Johansen played 309 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets before a blockbuster trade to Nashville last January.
On Sunday, he finally made his return back to Columbus as a member of the Predators. However, he did not receive any sort of tribute whatsoever from the team that originally selected him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, and that is something that apparently bothered him.
“I am a little disappointed they didn’t put anything on the Jumbotron and say ‘thank you’ or anything like that,” Johansen told the Columbus Post-Dispatch. “I think we all know who made that call, but whatever.”
While Johansen enjoyed some productive seasons with the Blue Jackets, his time in Columbus, particularly his final months, were dogged with contentious headlines about his contract negotiations with the club and then his working relationship with coach John Tortorella.
Johansen, now 24 years old, has nine goals and 40 points in 58 games this season for Nashville. Currently in the final year of his three-year, $12 million contract, he’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
Brent Burns turned in a dominating performance. But Brad Marchand had the last laugh.
Marchand scored his 25th goal of the season and, more importantly, the overtime winner for the Boston Bruins as they defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Sunday.
That’s Boston’s fourth consecutive win since the controversial coaching change — which took another twist earlier in the week when the rival Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. Off a defensive zone faceoff, Marchand bolted up the ice for the breakaway pass, on what appeared to be a set play, beating Martin Jones through the legs.
The Bruins move back into third in the Atlantic Division, and are now only four points back of the faltering Habs for first.
Meanwhile, the Sharks were unable to fully capitalize on another freakish Brent Burns outing. He’s been dubbed ‘an unstoppable force’ in recent posts at PHT — a defenseman possessing great size at six-foot-five-inches tall and 230 pounds, but no shortage of mobility and offensive talent with 27 goals and 64 points in 60 games. Um, and did we mention he’s a defenseman. . . ?
Against the Bruins, he had 20 shot attempts — by far the most of any player in this game — in just over 26 minutes of ice time.
Given the final score, that probably doesn’t mean much to Brad Marchand.
It appears Jacob Trouba will face supplemental discipline from the NHL.
The league’s Department of Player Safety has said in a Twitter statement that Trouba, the Winnipeg Jets defenseman, will have a hearing tomorrow for his head shot on Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone during Sunday’s game.
Trouba was assessed only a minor penalty on the play. Stone, who dealt with a concussion prior to the beginning of the season, stayed down on the ice before he eventually made his way to the dressing room.
The incident occurred when Trouba stepped up to throw a hit on Stone, but instead caught him in the head as he followed through, sending Stone to the ice.
Stone was one of three Ottawa forwards to leave the game because of injuries, which are piling up for the Senators.
The Tampa Bay Lightning needed overtime to defeat the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, but it’s a critical win for the Bolts as they try to chase down a playoff spot.
The hero? Jonathan Drouin, and he did so with a thrilling individual effort — making moves, then losing the puck and then immediately getting it back before he finally scored on the backhander.
That’s his 17th goal of the season. Tampa Bay gets a 3-2 win, which keeps them five points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the East.