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 watched P.K. Subban's end-to-end rushes, his attempts to put the Montreal Canadiens on his back in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay's final assessment was that Subban was playing selfish hockey.
Asked about Subban's play in Game 4 on Sunday, a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, Ramsay offered more praise than criticism.
"He was playing more of a team-oriented game," Ramsay told NHL.com. "He just has to slow down and play with his teammates. He's a young man that's just trying to do too much. If he'd slow down a little bit and work more with his teammates, I think he can be so effective."
Ramsay's opinion of Subban is a microcosm of how he feels about the Canadiens as a whole going into the first of what Montreal hopes is three must-win games in the best-of-7 series.
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and will clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final with a win in Game 5 on Tuesday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"[The Canadiens] have to be emotionally involved, which isn't hard in Montreal, but they have to be involved in their team game," Ramsay said. "They have to listen to their coach and play the way their coach wants them to play. They have to play as a team, not like a bunch of individuals trying to make that one play and save the day. If they go out as a team, which they have done a lot in these playoffs, they have a great chance of being successful."
Ramsay said he thought the Canadiens did that in the second and third periods of Game 4. He said Subban was better on a night when he played a season-high 33:16, scored a power-play goal, had three shots on goal and blocked five shots.
Subban was caught too deep on a power play in the first period, leading to Carl Hagelin's shorthanded breakaway goal that gave New York a 1-0 lead.
"I think they need his emotion. They need him to be special," Ramsay said of Subban. "It's how he decides to be special. He can pass the puck up the ice quickly, move it up quick, and follow up, and be that fourth guy, who is the most dangerous guy in a rush, versus the puck-carrier, who the vast majority of the time is the least dangerous."
Ramsay said Subban was the most dangerous player on the ice when he scored his game-tying power-play goal 2:00 into the third period. He was put in a shooting position because the Canadiens changed the set-up of their power play by playing low to high and moving defenseman Andrei Markov and Subban.
"Montreal went down and out to the slot, made a play, which held the Rangers down, then they went back out the other side quickly to Markov, who one-timed the puck into the middle of the ice," Ramsay said. "Subban was coming in and just hammered it. Markov made a great play. It was a down-low, up-high play, and you can't cover that.
"What they were doing is having Markov on the left side throwing it to Subban, but he's a righty with the puck coming from the left and it doesn't work."
Ramsay said he doesn't know why the Canadiens didn't use that set-up more in Game 4. They were 1-for-8 on the power play, including a missed opportunity early in overtime.
"Maybe it just fell into place that way, but they changed it that one time and they got Subban the puck in just a shooting position," Ramsay said. "He keeps getting it where he has to handle it first. This one they just got him in the position to shoot."
The key is continuing to get Subban the puck in a shooting position, but Subban has to do his part. He has to use his teammates more, Ramsay said. He said Montreal is better when he does.
"At times it's great to see him go coast-to-coast because the crowd likes it, it's fun, and I like watching it," Ramsay said. "But in order to be the most successful, he could quick-up it, follow it, and let one of those players find him coming into the play. Now a forward has to pick him up, and if he's out against a sloppy forward, he's open, and now he's the most dangerous guy on the ice.
"They need him to be emotional. They need him to be involved. But he has to be involved from the concept of a team player versus a guy trying to win the game himself. Bobby Orr could dominate everything, but is there anybody in the game now that can dominate by himself? The answer is no."