ECQF Gm 5: NYR-MTL, Series shifts back to Montreal for pivotal Game 5
April 20, 2017, 10:05 AM ET [429 Comments]
New York Rangers Blogger • RSS • Archive • CONTACT
The Rangers and Canadiens resume their playoff series for pivotal Game 5 at the Bell Centre on Thursday. Each team has won on the road, so the "home ice" advantage has been blunted a bit. That said, the Montreal faithful should be out in full force as there is a possibility that this will be last home game for their team this season.
Tuesday, AV shifted up the lines and restored the defensive pairings. The line shake up (Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich, Vesey-Stepan-Nash, Miller-Hayes-Zuccarello and Grabner-Lindberg-Fast) provided New York better overall speed and aided in the improved forecheck, which was a large component in the victory. While I know a good portion of you don't like advanced stats, the table below shows how the Game 4 lines played in the regular season 5v5 and is a good visual as to why the changes were wise.
Skjei-Smith weren't combined much this season, but that was a function of when Smith arrived and how he was moved around the different duos. I think we all agree Staal-Holden is the weak link but I don't know if that changes again anytime soon. Kevin Klein played Game 3, so he is likely next in lines, followed by Steven Kampfer and Adam Clendening. You know my view on Clendening, andI personally would like to see Skjei-Clendening, despite Clendening's occasional d-zone lapses, which don't come close to mirror what we have seen from Holden, and then Staal-Smith.
This quote from coach Alain Vigneault is a pretty good indication that the Skjei-Smith pairing, barring any sort of injury, likely will remain together and that's not necessarily a bad thing: “Brady’s skating ability permits them to not spend hopefully a lot of time in our end,” Vigneault said of the combo. “The quicker we’re out of there, the better off we are. Just like any team, you want to spend the least amount of time in your end and go and work your way to the other end. And I think that’s what Brady helps Smitty with.”
Keys to Game 5:
1) Control the puck in the offensive zone.
Larry Brooks wrote the following: "And, critically, the Rangers played with the puck in the Montreal zone, getting the puck in deep, off which the Blueshirts could cycle and ultimately force the Canadiens to come 200 feet through opposition. Thus, the Blueshirts owned an advantage in shot-attempt based possession stats for the first time, 54-39 in their favor after being on the short end of 48-45 in Game 3, 85-59 in nearly 78:34 of Game 2, and 48-45 in the opener."
The revamped lines and approach - carrying the puck when they able, and if not, dumping it softly in the offensive zone - enabled New York to forecheck and then cycle the puck. That led to the shot differential and better puck possession numbers. Both goals came as a result of the forecheck, maintaining that ability and repeating it consistently are the keys.
2) Maintain their cool and discipline
When asked about the Alexander Radulov slash and Paul Byron cross-check, Smith responded saying: “If you retaliate, normally they call the retaliation. They don’t call the first instance,” Smith said Wednesday. “I just witnessed that in the Ottawa-Boston series, where Bobby Ryan kind of got away with a high hit and then they called the retaliation. So you got to make sure you don’t retaliate because that’s kind of what the refs are looking for. I might disagree with some of the calls, but that’s just how the game goes.”
This doesn't mean always turn the other check but it also means New York will have to smart. That is especially true since they are on the road and need to be concern with calls possibly going against them in Montreal. Avoiding retaliatory penalties and staying out of the box will be a major key so that Montreal doesn't get a great shot on the power play. In addition, maintaining their defensive structure, as they did in Game 1 and most of Game 4 will be paramount to earning a win and 3-2 series lead.
3) Rev up the power play
New York is 0-for-12 so far this series while Montreal is 2-for-13. Other than Game 3, New York was perfect on the penalty kill. But, the PP has been invisible. The line tweaks AV made before Game 4 hopefully will pay dividends on the power play. Hopefully, AV uses Buchnevich on one of the two units. Then, take the shot when it's available, rather than waiting for the perfect one. Have Kreider and Nash create screens and traffic in front of Price to take away his sight lines or clean up a rebound off the initial shot.
4) Get Kreider going while continuing to keep Pacioretty down
Maybe it's due to the increased focus on him due to what happened in the 2014 ECF, but Kreider has yet to really show up this series. CK20 needs to take a page from what Nash did in the first period of Game 4 and go hard to the net. Don't try and interfere with Carey Price, but if a penalty is called when driving to the net, so be it. Maybe that wakes him up. Of course, we can say the same about Zibanejad, Stepan, Hayes, Miller and Vesey, each of whom hasn't scored and other than Vesey, has yet to really show up, but getting Kreider going would be a huge boost for the team.
Pacioretty has been held down so far this series with just one point in the four games, but he has had 19 shots. McDonagh and Girardi have done a good job bracketing him. The criticisms of Pacioretty have already started from North of the Border, though unlike Kreider, Pacioretty has been way more engaged. Keeping Pacioretty down goes a long way to helping New York win, because the Montreal Captain can change a series all by himself. One thing to watch in Game 5 is to see if Coach Claude Julien shakes up his lines to free Pacioretty from McD-G.
5) Reverse history:
The Rangers are 2-4 in their last six games in which they entered a Game 5 of a series tied 2-2, but they ended up 4-2 in those six series. That stretch begins with the first round in 2012 against Ottawa and ends with the 2015 conference final against Tampa Bay
Montreal (A1) vs. New York (WC1)
G1 Wed., April 12 NY Rangers 2 Montreal 0, Rangers lead series 1-0
G2 Fri., April 14 Montreal 2 NY Rangers 1, OT Series tied 1-1
G3 Sun., April 16 Montreal 3 NY Rangers 1 Montreal leads series 2-1
G4 Tue., April 18 NY Rangers 2 Montreal 1 Series tied 2-2
G5 Thu., April 20 NY Rangers @ Montreal, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, USA, CBC, TVA
G6 Sat., April 22 Montreal @ NY Rangers, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, NBCSN, CBC, TVA
G7* Mon., April 24 NY Rangers @ Montreal, TBD, TBD