Bad Blood Brewing: Rangers-Habs Game 4 Preview


Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Who: New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens

What: Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final

When: May 25th 2014,  8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, RDS

Why you should watch:

This series just got interesting. After two dominant wins by the New York Rangers in Games 1 and 2, the Habs pulled out an OT winner in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden  Thursday to make it a 2-1 series, but not without a little drama.

Neither of the two original six teams are known for their hot heads or theatrics, but in the playoffs all cards are off the table. Game 3 and its off-ice aftermath has set up quite a dramatic Game 4 with tempers flaring on both sides.

It all started just about 3 minutes into Game 3 when former Ranger Brandon Prust took down Ranger’s first line center-man Derek Stepan with a blind sided hit, perhaps to spark some sort of energy for a sluggish Canadiens offense.

New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) is checked on by a trainer after being knocked to the ice by the Montreal Canadiens during the first period in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Prust was suspended by the NHL for 2 games, and despite reaching out to Stepan via text and explaining to the media that the two are good friends, don’t expect the Rangers to forgive him or his team anytime soon.

Following that hit, Ranger forward Daniel Carcillo was part of a heated altercation with an official after he was called for charging. He was given a 10-game suspension per Rule 40.3, which he is now appealing, for abusing an official.

Then while addressing the media, Canadiens star forward Daniel Briere called out Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “They got away with a lot of stuff,” he said. “Ryan McDonagh is a great defenseman, but I haven’t seen someone slash as much as he does since probably Chris Pronger played.”

Things got even more heated at one of the Canadiens off-day practices. “There is always a gentlemen’s agreement between the general managers that [the opponent’s] coaches are not allowed to attend practices between games,” said Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. “It’s respect for coaches that want to make adjustments between games, and it’s always been like that and that’s the way it is.”

Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, video coach Jerry Dineen and another Rangers staffer near the rink, were spotted at practice and promptly asked to leave by Therrien.

Therrien incited even more anger from the Rangers and their while discussing the return of Rangers’ center-man Derick Brassard who declared himself fit to return for Game 4 after recovering from an undisclosed injury.

“We expect Derick Brassard to play and we know exactly where he’s injured. Hockey is a small world,” Therrien reportedly said in French, according to a tweet by a French-speaking TV reporter.

But Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault lashed back with some words of his own. First he dismissed the assertion of Therrien about off-day practices, and discussing Brassard said, “Let me put it this way. I just hope nothing happens to [Brassard] or Michel could be in trouble.”

A once civil and rather one-sided series has just gotten some bad blood injected into it and it should make for an exciting Game 4. Even with the theatrics aside, this is a pivotal game for both teams. Either the Rangers will be flying to back to Montreal with a chance to close out the series or Montreal will have regained home ice advantage.

Line-Up Notes: For the Rangers, Stepan and Carcillo are out; Brassard and JT Miller are in. Miller will most likely play with Derek Dorsett and be centered by Brian Boyle.

For the Canadiens, Prust expected to be replaced by Michael Bournival, Tokarski to start.

Prediction: Rangers win 3-2. Although the Prust hit may have given the Habs the spark they needed in Game 3, expect the Rangers to come out even more energized in Game 4. Dumb penalties will be taken, tempers will be at their boiling points, and both teams will have incredible wills to win, but the optimist in me sees the Rangers narrowly pulling this one out at the Garden.

***Note: Today marks the 20 year anniversary of Mark Messier’s natural hat trick in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference final after he guaranteed his team would win.