Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers Game 4: Keys for Each Team
The Montreal Canadiens have turned this Eastern Conference Final into a real series now with their Game 3 win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
The New York Rangers had an opportunity to effectively end the series with a win in Game 3, but Sunday night's Game 4 now sets up as a critical contest for both teams.
The Rangers would love to head to Montreal with a 3-1 lead in games. The Canadiens want to turn this into at least a six-game affair that sees them make a difficult comeback at completion.
Let's take a look at the keys for each team as they prepare the Game 4 battle in Gotham.
Rangers Have to Stick to Hockey
The New York Rangers played well in Game 3, but they reacted to the Brandon Prust hit that has resulted in a two-game suspension as reported by CBC with force, rather than on the scoreboard.
The Rangers have been at their best when they have been outskating and outhitting the Canadiens. There is honour in standing up for teammates, but it has to be measured and calculated.
The Rangers have all kinds of team speed and an abundance of skill. They're going to beat the Canadiens by utilizing that versus exacting retribution immediately.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold." Words to live by for the Rangers.
Habs Need to Counter with Skill
The return of Alex Galchenyuk has infused some additional speed and skill into the Canadiens lineup. When you can put a veteran, skilled player like Daniel Briere on the fourth line, you're in a good place as an organization.
The Canadiens felled the mighty Bruins by beating them to the puck, rather than to the punch. Hard-nosed and gritty hockey defines most playoff games, but no team wins without generating quality offensive chances.
Granted, there are no pictures on the scoresheet.
Goals don't have to be pretty, but with the quality of both goaltenders, creativity in the offensive zone is going to win games.
The Blueshirts Have to Keep Firing at the Net
Dustin Tokarski was the difference in Game 3. While it will only help in building his confidence, the bottom line is that he's still an unproven NHL netminder.
The Rangers cannot give him too much respect. They have to get bodies in front of him and they have to continue to put as much pressure on him as possible.
They outshot the Habs 37-25 in Game 3 and a similar differential should lead to success for the Rangers. Tokarski's pedigree is a strong one. He's been a winner in other leagues.
But that success is a far cry from the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Rangers have to pressure him constantly in Game 4.
Canadiens' Second Line Has to Stay Hot
Adding Alex Galchenyuk to the second line with centre Tomas Plekanec and captain Brian Gionta makes a potent unit.
The run to the Stanley Cup is a marathon that requires contributions from a club's entire roster if the team wants to be involved in a parade.
Galchenyuk continues to get up to speed as he returns from injury. This line gives the Canadiens another strong attacking unit.
It creates some match-up concerns for the Rangers, especially in light of Galchenyuk's overtime winner in Game 3.
If this line can continue to improve the Rangers' road to the Stanley Cup will not be as smooth as it would be otherwise.
Rangers Need to Lean on St. Louis
Martin St. Louis is the most gifted offensive player in the series. His 12 points leads the Rangers in scoring in the 2014 playoffs, and he's been an inspiration to the entire team on several levels.
He may be one of the shortest players in the game, but his big game allows him to be the difference in game after game.
The Rangers need to lean on his skill and savvy in Game 4 as this game is vitally important in winning or losing the series. It's taken some time for St. Louis to settle in under head coach Alain Vigneault, but all signs point to him being a difference-maker for the Rangers for the rest of the series.
St. Louis has been a winner throughout his career. The multiple NHL-award winner would love nothing more than to get his Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.
It's difficult to bet against him.
Dustin Tokarski Cannot Falter
Dustin Tokarski looked great in Game 3. He's not going to intimidate anyone with his size, yet he's steadily building a playoff resume.
Unlike huge goalies like Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop, Tokarski must use his athleticism and anticipation to make saves. It's not that those other goalies are not athletic, but their size means they are going to be able to block more shots with good positioning.
The Rangers are going to be coming hard to the net and expect the crease traffic to be as heavy as it has been in any game to date.
Tokarski is going to have to remain collected and focused. If he needs to model a composed goaltender, all he will need to do is take the opportunity to discuss this with injured starter Carey Price.
The "Chicoutimi Cucumber" Georges Vezina could serve as another role model for the young netminder.
He'll also need to maintain his .925 playoff save percentage, at least, to give the Canadiens a chance.
All stats can be found on nhl.com unless otherwise noted.