Thursday Takeaway: Rangers-Habs Rematch Would be Fun

Pierre McGuire isn’t often praised for his choice of words, but near the end of Thursday’s contest between the Rangers and the Canadiens, the NBCSN analyst hit the nail on the head when he said that a playoff rematch between the Rangers and the Canadiens would be great.

Wednesday Night Rivalry…On Thursday?

Let’s face it people, a pretty good rivalry has developed between the Rangers and the Canadiens. Following last year’s six game Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) series in which the Rangers emerged victorious, the Habs and Blueshirts have a renewed disdain of one another, and it couldn’t be better for the fans and the league.

Now, everyone remembers what transpired in game one in that ECF series last spring; you know, Chris Kreider…Carey Price…

Yeah, that whole thing.

Well on Wednesday, the bad blood was on full display right from the get go, as both Kreider and Subban spent four of the first periods final 10 minutes sitting in the sin-bin for two separate incidences involving one another.

The chippy and emotional opening frame was also capped off when Tanner Glass dropped the gloves with former Ranger Brandon Prust, whose hit was responsible for Derek Stepan’s broken jaw last spring, which only added to the dramatic nature of the contest.

While the tension was ever-present in the remaining 40 minutes of the game, so was the energy at Madison Square Garden. In fact, 55 minutes of Thursday’s tilt felt eerily similar to game six of last spring’s ECF; scoring chances were plentiful, goaltending was taken to another level, and the environment in the building was electric. It felt as close to the playoffs as a regular season game in January could’ve felt, and it was wonderful.

The only difference? Henrik Lundqvist allowed a softie with 4:17 to play in the third, and the Rangers ultimately fell 1-0, instead of the exact opposite which occurred last May.

The bottom line is this though. Aside from the newly developed dislike towards each other which in turn has made the extra-curricular activities more entertaining, these are two pretty evenly matched hockey clubs, as shots (26-24 Montreal), blocked shots (12 apiece), scoring chances (14-14 in the waning minutes of regulation), and faceoff wins (30-29 Montreal) were all so very balanced.

Of course the Rangers would need to cut down on the giveaways (they had 15 compared to Montreal’s 5) if they were to stand a chance at long-term success against the Habs, but that is something that’s on the radar of Alain Vigneault, and you can bet that will be a pinnacle of the team’s focus in the coming days.

At the end of the day though, with similar teams and tremendous goaltenders on both sides, the possibility of these squads meeting again in the post-season should have fans of both teams giddy.

I know I’d enjoy it.

Head-Scratcher of a Call Late in Third

It’s impossible to speak definitively about hypothetical scenarios, because, well, they’re hypothetical. So without whining about how Kevin Klein was called for icing in the final seconds of the third period with his team trailing by one, and speculating how that could’ve impacted the final result, I am simply going to question why the play was in fact called icing in the first place.

Below is the NHL’s exact wording of the current hybrid icing rule, courtesy of the official 2014-15 rulebook:

Once the Linesman determines that the puck will cross the goal line, icing is completed upon the determination as to which player (attacking or defending) would first touch the puck. This decision by the Linesman will be made by no later than the instant the first player reaches the end zone faceoff dots with the player’s skate being the determining factor. (Pg. 116)

The rule book even goes on to clarify:

For clarification, the determining factor is which player would first touch the puck, not which player would first reach the end zone faceoff dots. (Pg. 116)

Now sure, if the play were really that close, I could see just missing the call. Hockey is a fast game, and I generally tend to give the officials the benefit of the doubt. But after watching the play live, and then seeing the replays from a couple different angles, it seemed pretty clear that Klein wasn’t only ahead of both Montreal defenders when he reached the end zone faceoff dots, but he was also moving faster than the blue liners, suggesting that he would have in fact touched the puck before any Canadiens player.

To the naked eye and confirmed by replays, the play appeared to be black and white. Klein was ahead of the defense, and on pace to touch the puck first which in turn would have more than likely resulted in maintaining possession in the offensive zone for the Rangers.

Instead, icing was called, and the puck went all the way back to the Rangers defensive zone, all but deflating the Rangers chances at a last second miracle.

To me, it appeared to be a flat-out wrong call. But who am I to say the officials got the call wrong? I’m just some guy watching from the comfort of my home.

Again, it’s impossible to say how that may have impacted the game’s final result. In all honesty, wouldn’t have changed anything at all. Thursday was one of those nights where it didn’t matter what the Rangers, they weren’t going to beat Carey Price whether icing was called or not. The issue lies in the consistency of the call, and Thursday’s decision certainly didn’t make the officials look too sharp.