After their 3-2 overtime win over Montreal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Rangers are one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.

NBC is probably okay with that.

“Well, there’e no rooting, but there’s no doubt about the ratings game,” NBC Sports Network NHL analyst Jeremy Roenick said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “The ratings are extremely important to the producers of NBC and, I think, to the National Hockey League. You cannot go wrong having one of the biggest-market teams – especially the Rangers, an Original Six – being in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nothing against Montreal, but for NBC ratings, there’s no question they would love to a see a Chicago/New York final.”

In 1994, the Rangers – led by Mark Messier – beat the Vancouver Canucks in a thrilling seven-game series, winning Game 7, 3-2, at Madison Square Garden. Twenty years later, the Rangers boast not only a great team, but also the most compelling player in recent NHL postseason memory.

That would be Martin St. Louis, who spent almost 13 years with the Tampa Bay Lightning before getting traded to the Rangers in January. St. Louis struggled from the start.


“I think a lot of things,” Roenick said. “One, when you first get traded like that to a huge market and it’s a big trade and the expectations (are heaped upon) you – especially going into New York City – I think that’s a tough thing to have to overcome. That’s a pretty tough transition.”

St. Louis, 38, has scored more than 600 goals in his career. He also has 370 assists and is closing in on 1,000 points.

“He’s a very proud player,” Roenick said. “He’s a very proud person. And I know that he wanted to do as much as he possibly could to show the New York fans that he was worth the trade. So when you do that, I think you put a lot of pressure on yourself. And I think Marty did put a lot of pressure on himself and it was only a matter of time until he started feeling a little more comfortable and (got) a little success. And with success comes a little bit more confidence.”

It also didn’t help that St. Louis was traded for Ryan Callahan – a player who was revered in New York and who, at 29, is almost a decade younger. Tampa Bay obviously got the better of the deal in the long term, but for the short term, it’s been all Rangers – especially in the playoffs.

St. Louis has played with inspired passion – and so have his teammates – ever since his mother passed away before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. New York has won six of seven and is one game away from giving the NHL a ratings bonanza.

As for Montreal, the Canadiens appeared all but dead after Carey Price sustained a series-ending injury in Game 1, but Dustin Tokarski has filled in admirably.

“I think he’s been their best player, without question, over the last two games,” Roenick said. “If there’s any demise right now with the Montreal Canadiens, it’s their power-play.”

Montreal went 1-for-8 on power plays in Game 4.

“When you can’t capitalize on the power play and you’re on the road, that’s going to hurt you,” Roenick said. “And right now, I think that’s what’s hurting the Montreal Canadiens.”


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