For many Montreal Canadiens fans the first two games against the New York Rangers were worrisome. After the debilitating hit on Carey Price and the loss of a goalie who would make Patrick Roy jealous, it seemed as if the entire team has given up all hope. Game three was very different. From the outstanding performance by rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski to a win from the Canadiens themselves, it seemed as if the Montreal hockey team had finally awakened from a deep slumber.
The win could not have come at a better time. Early in the third game, it became obvious that the players on both teams were frustrated. The Montreal Canadiens were playing a much more physical game which was an unusual sight for many fans. This drove the New York Rangers to retaliate. The chaotic night was costly for both teams.
One of these moments of frustration has ended up costing Brandon Prust two games, as the Canadiens forward was suspended for a jaw-breaking hit on New York Rangers forward and star player, Derek Stepan. While it is still unknown whether Stepan will be in the line up for game 4, the hit made by Prust was borderline illegal and the suspension was well-deserved.
The biggest challenge for the New York Rangers will be the loss of their left-winger Daniel Carcillo, who is facing a ten-game suspensiono for his attack on an official. Carcillo seemed to have elbowed linesman Scott Driscoll as he was being escorted to the penalty box. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault commented on the incident and expressed disappointment in Carcillo’s actions.
While both teams acted unprofessionally during game three, it seems as if the Montreal Canadiens were awakened from a deep slumber. The bear has been poked and life came back to the struggling Montreal team. Game four is full of promise, and if the game remains as fast-paced and physical as it can be, the winner of this series will be truly deserving of the Stanley Cup.
For now it is important to focus on winning games, one at a time. As the defensemen for the Canadiens become accustomed to helping their goalie, and as Tokarski finds his groove in these playoffs, it becomes apparent that perhaps not all is lost for the cup-thirsty team. With the right amount of pressure, a stunning playoff performance by the junior goalie, and a healthy return by Alexander Galchenyuk, the Canadiens can capitalize on the momentum they seized with the big win on Thursday. Galchenyuk can be the difference-maker for the Habs. He is hungry for goals and could be the talent that the beaten and battered Canadiens have been missing.
Meanwhile, a lot of the credit for the win against the Rangers should go to the most silent of all players. Peter Budaj is a back-up goalie who provides the perfect example of sportsmanship and class. Budaj has been a shadow for Carey Price. He never gets the spotlight and when he does step on ice, he is generally booed by the harsh fans. Now the young goalie has replaced Price in the playoffs and Budaj has not complained. He always seems to be genuinely happy for the goalies on his team, even if he does not get a chance to play. Although he is only 31-years-old, he shows the maturity and wisdom of an older veteran. His support for Carey Price has been phenomenal, and the way he congratulated Tokarski after his first playoff win was heartwarming. Peter Budaj is not the best goalie in the world, but seems to be an decent person. He has supported his team through the rough patches, and the win in game three was just as much his because of the loyalty he shows toward his teammates.
In order to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Montreal fans will have to cheer and support their hometown team as they increase the tempo and bring out their skills. The entire city of Montreal and fans across the world can thank the Canadiens for awakening from their deep slumber, and hope they are re-energized and ready to tackle a team that many agree should be easier to handle than the Boston Bruins.
Commentary by Ivelina Kunina