For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Craig Ramsay to break down the action. Ramsay will be checking in throughout the series.
Ramsay played in more than 1,000 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres before going on to coach the Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers. In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the Flyers to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay most recently was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.
Craig Ramsay believes goalies should be protected. He's not a fan of any player who maliciously runs into a goalie.
But Ramsay doesn't think New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider fits the mold of a player whose intentions are to injure goaltenders.
In breaking down the Rangers' 7-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, Ramsay told NHL.com that he doesn't think Kreider had any ill intentions when he went barreling feet first into goalie Carey Price early in the second period Saturday.
Price did not practice Sunday and his status for Game 2 on Monday is in doubt (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"I think it was an awkward play, one of those ones that's a fine line the referees walk and players walk, but I don't think [Kreider] did that on purpose," Ramsay said. "I just don't think he's that guy. I guess at the end of the day, you always wonder, but I just don't see it. I really think that it was a play he was trying to make. I can't say that that guy was trying to hurt someone.
"I've seen plays that are way worse than that because in my mind the player was attempting to bang the goalie, but I don't think this kid was trying to do that. If Price can't play it's an awful thing, but I don't think there was any malice to it."
The Canadiens indicated otherwise Sunday.
Montreal forward Brandon Prust said he thought Kreider hit Price "accidentally on purpose."
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who called it an "accidental" play after the game Saturday, stuck with that word Sunday, but said he didn't think Kreider made any attempt to avoid the contact with Price.
"I'm sure the intention of the player is not to hit the goalie, but you have to try everything in your power to avoid contact," Therrien said. "It's tough to say if he tried everything to avoid that contact."
Ramsay said it wouldn't even be a talking point had the Canadiens showed up ready to play and to handle the Rangers' speed. Kreider was one of many New York players who victimized the Montreal defense corps with his speed.
"Now there is an incident that Montreal can rally behind, but they weren't ready to play," Ramsay said. "They beat the Boston Bruins, they beat the best team in hockey, and they were thinking it'd be fun to play in the [Stanley Cup] Final, but they forgot there is a team in the way."
Ramsay emphasized his point about the Rangers' speed by referencing Kreider's goal late in the second period, when he blew past Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin, took a pass from Rick Nash on the rush, and buried a shot past Price to give New York a 3-1 lead.
"The third goal was the game," Ramsay said. "That's when Kreider went right in and Emelin couldn't keep up with him. It almost looked like he kind of gave up. And his partner, [Andrei] Markov, he didn't even read that his buddy wasn't back there, so it was almost a 2-on-0."
Ramsay said he thinks the Canadiens are fast enough to handle the Rangers' speed going forward in the series, but only if they are mentally into the game. He didn't think they were even close to that Saturday.
"They were very proud of themselves for knocking off the Boston Bruins, and they didn't allow themselves to be ready to play the New York Rangers," Ramsay said.
He thinks that will change in Game 2. In fact, Ramsay said getting blown out in Game 1 might help the Canadiens refocus.
"Sometimes it's better to get your butt kicked badly instead of losing 2-1 and thinking, 'You know, we were really pretty good,'" Ramsay said. "You weren't pretty good. You were awful. You didn't come to play. You didn't compete. You were awful. Now they have no excuses. There's no saying, 'Oh, we were pretty good, and it was just bad luck or a bad break.'
"They didn't play well. They weren't ready to play. To me, you're often better to lose a game like that because you know what happened and you have to regroup and get back to work. I think they'll be refocused."
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