Players and coaches always say nobody’s 100% at this time of year after a grueling regular season and the war of attrition that is postseason hockey.
Rick Nash seemed like a player who was hampered physically in this series, missing two practices after the Rangers advanced to the second round for maintenance days, and at times in the six-game, second-round tilt not looking quite like himself after a dominant first round.
“Everyone’s battling around injuries,” Nash said after registering six shots cheap jerseys authentic in the Rangers’ 4-2, Game 6 elimination loss to Ottawa on Tuesday. “I don’t want to use anything as a crutch or an excuse.”
Nash declined to say whether he would’ve been playing if this were the regular season.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to be one of those guys that are complaining, but it was a battle,” Nash said. “I had some things that were bothering me, but it’s playoffs and everyone plays through injuries.”
The 32-year-old winger finished with five points (three goals, two assists) in 12 games. He last scored in Game 3 but was held without a point for the final three games of the series.
The Rangers went 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 6, failing to convert on a four-minute man-advantage in the first period when Derick Brassard was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking friend Mats Zuccarello in the face.
The Blueshirts finished the series 2-for-24 on the power play and went 3-for-39 across 12 postseason matches.
“Our power play was well prepared,” Alain Vigneault said. “Our guys knew where the opportunities would come from and at the end of the day we didn’t execute quickly enough. Tonight we had a couple of looks but it obviously wasn’t good enough.”
There was no answer the Rangers could provide for Erik Karlsson on Tuesday, Henrik Lundqvist’s compatriot proving why he’s one of the best players in the NHL with his two-point, plus-4 performance to lead the Senators to the conference final, all while playing through fractures in his heel.
If it was clear that Kevin Shattenkirk wanted to come play for the Rangers, maybe it wasn’t clear just how confident he was about their chance to win a Stanley Cup.
The 28-year-old defenseman from New Rochelle signed his four-year, $26.6 million contract as a free agent on July 1, carrying an annual salary-cap hit of $6.65 million. He said there was one thing that took priority over being closer to his family and playing for his favorite childhood team.
“I think when it came down to it, it was a matter of having a chance to play at home, for sure, but really getting on a team that I think is going to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup in the timeframe that I’m signing for,” Shattenkirk said on Tuesday at the team’s Tarrytown practice facility before participating in a camp with the Junior Rangers. “I really didn’t find a better situation than here.”
When Shattenkirk made the decision, it seemed he was focused on a small period of Rangers’ history, most notably the previous seven straight appearances in the playoffs that included one run to the Stanley Cup final and three conference finals. To zoom out would show the picture that the Rangers have won just a single Stanley Cup in 77 years, going back to 1940.
But his childhood fandom peaked with that championship team of 1994, and the recent success has painted a picture of the organization that is rather rosy.
“When you’re with the New York Rangers, their business is to win every year,” Shattenkirk said. “They’re not a team that’s looking to go through a rebuilding period, and it seems like every year they’re making the moves necessary to make their team a championship team. In that respect, it’s kind of hard to see what the window is here, because every year I’ve been in the league they’ve been capable of winning a Stanley Cup.”
Speaking of windows, Shattenkirk also brought up the fact that when evaluating the Rangers’ chances, most people look to Henrik Lundqvist, the 35-year-old franchise netminder who may be cheap nhl jerseys just about to start slowing down. From here until the end of his career, the question will always arise about how much more Lundqvist has left, but Shattenkirk was at least confident enough to sign up for four years.
“It’s tough to say,” Shattenkirk said when asked about the Rangers’ chance to win it all. “I think everyone is probably going to judge that on Lundqvist. Everyone is talking about how long does he have left. I don’t know him extremely well. But from the times I’ve met him, I know he’s an extremely competitive person. We have a lot of young players on this team though to counterbalance that.”
One of the other big things that brought Shattenkirk to the Rangers was the chance to play alongside fellow American, Ryan McDonagh, whom he has known since they were teenagers playing in the USA Hockey program. The Rangers’ captain is a lefty and his skating ability could match very well with Shattenkirk’s natural offensive instincts. If winning a championship was a big priority to Shattenkirk, than so was playing next to someone who could help raise his own game.
And if not McDonagh as a partner, then Shattenkirk could possibly pair with 23-year-old lefty Brady Skjei, another American. After all, Shattenkirk did grow up idolizing Brian Leetch, the first American defenseman to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.
“Individualistically, who can I play with that’s going to make me the best player?” Shattenkirk said. “I think I have the opportunity here to play with Ryan McDonagh, who is an All-Star defenseman in my mind and I think a great fit for me. We’ve played together since we were 17 or 18 years old, we’ve had a few experiences. Then there’s Brady Skjei, who’s a phenomenal left-handed defenseman too.”
All of that will come with the opening of training camp in September, when the lights will be on Shattenkirk and his sights will be set on winning a Stanley Cup. That is why he decided to come here, after all.
“I think that all the pressure that you have to endure through those moments, if you can bring it home in New York, for me, it’s something that you can never replicate anywhere else,” he said. “Whatever city it is, New York is New York, and for as critical as the fanbase is, and the media, they’re just as happy to see you win and your legacy will live on forever.”
OTTAWA — The game was a mess, but what a glorious, unpredictable, entertaining playoff mess it was. Unless, of course, you are Henrik Lundqvist, one of his teammates or one of the citizens of Rangerstown.
Then it was a disaster.
Give Lundqvist and the Rangers a two-goal lead in the third period of a playoff game, and you are home free. At least you had been every time since Game 4 of the 2011 first round — when those Blueshirts could not handle a 3-0 lead against the Capitals and lost 4-3 in double-overtime.
Give Lundqvist five goals, and he is home free — well, except for Game 3 of the 2015 conference finals and the 6-5 overtime defeat to the Lightning.
But not in this Game 2 on Saturday, in which The King was not nearly good enough, and the Rangers could not protect a 5-3 lead they held until 3:19 remained in regulation. That is when a rather unheralded fellow named Jean-Gabriel Pageau morphed into Rocket Richard by scoring twice on deflections to complete a hat trick by the end of the third period, tying the score at 18:58 before recording his fourth goal on a two-on-one left wing screamer to give the Senators a 6-5 victory at 2:54 of the second overtime.
Somehow the Rangers could not win this one. Somehow they are down 2-0 and must win four of a remaining possible five games to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against an opponent they have given a boatload of confidence.
Somehow Lundqvist must elevate his game following an afternoon on which he seemed off balance throughout and was unable to carry the baton cheap nhl jerseys over the finish line after his teammates had battled through myriad errors to stake the goaltender to three different two-goal leads at 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3.
“I wasn’t moving as well as in other games,” Lundqvist said. “I wasn’t good enough.”
No, he wasn’t, and if he isn’t at the top of his game when the series resumes with Tuesday’s Game 3 at the Garden, the Rangers won’t have even a prayer of coming back in this Round 2.
Lundqvist still was wearing his pads when he talked to the media after sitting in his stall for up to 15 minutes with his head down and clasped between his hands. The goaltender never quite had a grip on this game. He seemed to acknowledge that when asked if he felt secure with the late lead in a game filled with ebbs and flows each way.
“You’re never 100 percent safe, sure or comfortable,” the goaltender said. “You sort of have it under control, but then there are quick plays.”
There were quick plays and there were plays off the rush and there was a late tying goal with the opposition goaltender pulled just as there was in the Game 2 overtime defeat in Montreal. There was Alain Vigneault cutting down to three lines in the third period and in overtime after juggling his line combinations to start the second period. There, for some unknown reason, was Brendan Smith playing just 2:34 in the third.
There were a pair of shorthanded goals and pair of goals from Brady the Skjei-Hey Kid. There were three kills within the game’s opening 12:18. There was Chris Kreider reemerging to score his first of the playoffs, but there was also Rick Nash somehow unable to put the puck into what appeared an empty net after coming out from behind the net with 9:00 remaining in the first OT, the puck perhaps poked off his stick by Cody Ceci or Kyle Turris. There was a much more assertive effort from Kevin Hayes, but there was also a poor pinch from Nick Holden on the right boards on what became Pageau’s game winner.
And there was Lundqvist, who started his afternoon by yielding a right wing short-sider to Pageau at 13:59 of the first period that negated Michael Grabner’s early shorthanded score. Or perhaps, there Lundqvist was not. Pucks just seemed to elude him, long ones and tips. He had trouble keeping his feet and was on the seat of his pants when Mark Stone scored from in front to make it 4-3 early in the third period.
“Even though those are tough saves, I have to find the way,” Lundqvist said. “That’s my job.”
In Game 2, he did not do it well enough. And as such, the heavy lifting begins for the Rangers after this mess they left behind in Ottawa.
Marc Bergevin is no dummy. The Canadiens general manager knows he was damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it came to signing franchise goaltender Carey Price to a mega contract extension this weekend.
Sign Price to an eight-year, $84 million extension a full year before he reaches unrestricted free agency and critics howl that the Canadiens are spending far too much of their salary cap space, roughly 14 percent to start, on a goalie, and everyone knows through recent history that the highest-paid goaltenders, or even the best netminders, do not win Stanley Cups, the best teams do.
However, if Bergevin failed to lock up Price, the face of the storied franchise and the team’s best player by far, then, in the words of NHL Network Radio host Rob Simpson on Monday’s Stellick and Simmer Show, “They’d be rioting in the streets of Montreal, burning cars on every corner.”
Such was Bergevin’s choice, though there was no debate in the GM’s mind which path he would choose.
“Nobody has a goaltender like Carey Price in the league,” Bergevin told reporters on Sunday. “Goalies are not important until you don’t have one. … It’s a position that’s really hard to find, and we have in my opinion, our opinion, one of the best in the business, so I’m going to keep him and make sure he’s here for the rest of his career.”
Price has a lifetime 2.40 goals-against average in 509 regular season appearances, though he’s been below that number each of the last four seasons as he entered his prime. Just three seasons ago he ran the table by winning the Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, leading the league with 44 wins while posting a 1.96 GAA and .933 save percentage. He was again a Vezina finalist this year, ranking fifth with 37 victories, sixth with a 2.23 GAA and tied for seventh with a .923 save percentage.
Along with his impressive resume in Montreal, Price led Canada to gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2007 World Junior Championships, as well as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey title. In those three pressure-filled tournaments, Price posted a 16-0 record, five shutouts and allowed only 17 goals in 16 appearances.
However, Price has yet to lead the Canadiens to even one Stanley Cup Final, much less a Cup championship. There was the run to the 2014 Eastern Conference finals, cut short for him when Rangers’ forward Chris cheap nhl jerseys Kreider barreled into Price in Game 1 and knocked him out of the playoffs. This past spring he fashioned a 1.86 GAA, but his Canadiens were not good enough to get out of the first round, ousted in six games by the Rangers.
Therein lies the rub of signing Price, a world-class goaltender, to such a large contract, eating up so much cap space. Despite his brilliance, Price has been unable to get good — not great — teams over the hump, so far. And he’s far from the only high-paid, upper-echelon goalie to fall into this category.
Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, who used to be the league’s highest-paid goalie until Price inked his extension, also has amazing NHL and international credits, including a Vezina Trophy and Olympic Gold Medal. Yet despite three trips to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, and an appearance in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Lundqvist and the Rangers have not won a Stanley Cup. Many argue that New York is anchored now by his long-term $8.5 million per year contract, especially with the 35-year-old Lundqvist showing a downturn in his game the past year.
In fact, the six highest-paid goalies in the NHL have only one Stanley Cup amongst them — and Tuukka Rask earned that in 2011 as a backup to Tim Thomas with the Bruins. That group, consisting of Price, Lundqvist, Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, Rask and Braden Holtby, won each of the last six Vezinas, however, with zero Cups in that same span.
Yet, Bergevin could not say no to Price, and it is hard to argue with his decision, even as he understands the challenges that lie ahead.
“Giving one player a big amount makes things a little more difficult,” Bergevin admitted Sunday after announcing the deal. “But that’s part of my job to manage that. In an ideal world, we would have given him less, but that’s just part of the negotiation process.”