Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Montreal (41-28-10) at Rangers (40-30-9)
Well here we are again, the same position it seems like the Rangers are in every single season, struggling in the last few games of the season just to clinch a playoff berth. Currently the Rangers are tied for 8th in the East with Florida and trail Montreal by 3 points going into tonight's game. The Rangers have the advantage over Florida of holding the tie breaker for wins with three games left, but that could easily change in the next few days. The Rangers play Montreal tonight and Philly Thursday night (both at MSG) and then travel to Philly on Easter Sunday to finish off their regular season. If the Rangers can grab all six points up for grabs this week, then they clinch a playoff spot, being the pessimistic Ranger fan that I am, I think it's going to be a lot more difficult than that.
I've been holding off down the stretch of claiming this as a "must win game!" But, tonight I think this game against Montreal is just that. Anything less than two points against Montreal tonight will be a severe blow to the Rangers' post-season hopes. The Flyers will really have a say in who gets the final playoff spot in the East, because not only are they playing the Rangers twice to end the regular season but they are playing the Panthers tonight. [Link] Of course tonight we'll be scoreboard watching, but if the Rangers don't handle their own business then you can forget about expecting other teams to help you out.
The Rangers head into tonight's game having lost four of their past five games. However, looking at it from a different perspective, the Rangers are 6-1-0 on home ice since losing to 2-1 to Florida Panthers on Feb. 26.
After being dealt bad news yesterday that they will be without Mathieur Schneider (out for playoffs) & Andrei Markov for the rest of the regular season, Montreal were beaten by their rivals from Ottawa. [Link] Losing your best defensemen is never a good thing when you're battling for a playoff spot, losing two of the top offensive defensemen on the team could be disasterous. Although the Habs may get into the playoffs, it'll take a lot for them to win a round.
Yesterday, Nik Antropov was listed as being possible for tonight's game. Today he's been upgraded (at least by the Rangers beat writers), as being likely. [Link]
It's a guarantee (bar some unforeseen circumstances) that Henrik Lundqvist will be in net for the Rangers. According to RDS (French), Carey Price will get the start for the Habs.
What the Montreal media is saying. [Link]
Tonight's expected NYR lines as per Ranger Rants:
Markus Naslund-Chris Drury-Ryan Callahan
Fredrik Sjostrom-Brandon Dubinsky-Nikolai Zherdev
Lauri Korpikoski-Blair Betts-Colton Orr
What to watch for:
Early on I would hope that the Rangers come out hard because the Garden should be rockin'. Knowing that a playoff position is at stake, there are no excuses for a slow start. If the power play doesn't convert on one of the first few chances, expect the boo-birds to make their appearance. Also, watching for the end of the game, if Montreal is winning I'll expect the "Fire Sather!" chants to really pick up steam.
I'll also have my eyes on Antropov, although he's likely to play, let's see how effective he is and if he's really playing at 100%.
Also, a continuation of the Komisarek/Avery battle should be fun.
What not to expect:
1) Don't expect Laraque to drop the gloves with Orr, it's obvious that Laraque hates fighting.
2) Don't expect Captain Invisible to do much - he's found a way to make it through 85% of the season without being effective or inspirational - don't expect that to change tonight in a "must win game!"
3) Don't expect Wade Redden to play as well as he did against Boston on Saturday. History tells us that Redden has about 1 good game out of every 20 or so he plays. So, maybe if NY makes it to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals (fingers crossed), Redden will have another decent game.
I've got to say that I hope that in a "must win game" that the Rangers will come out, battle hard and do what is necessary to get the two points - even if it takes the shootout.
Rangers 4 - Montreal 2 (hoping that NY can win in regulation).
If you want to go to any playoff games (hoping NYR clinch):
Start looking now for playoff tickets -- before it's sold out and prices get out of control. Stubhub and RazorGator are probably your best bets.
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