NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes is a former teammate of Martin St. Louis and considers the Rangers’ right winger a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
In other words, Weekes respects him.
That respect, however, ratcheted up a notch this past week, as St. Louis overcame the death of his mother to lead the Rangers to victory – three victories, in fact – against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
St. Louis learned of his mother’s death before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and decided to play – a decision that inspired his teammates to a 5-1 win. St. Louis then scored the first goal of a 3-1 win in Game 6 – on Mother’s Day.
His teammates took it from there. The Rangers won Game 7 in Pittsburgh, 2-1.
“His teammates have just done an amazing job of being that extended support system, that extended family in addition to his family itself,” Weekes said on The MoJo Show. “His teammates have been great. Right from the beginning, right after his mom passed, they said to me, ‘We can’t let him down. We can’t let him down.’ And right then and there, I knew they were going to win the series.
“It just brought a different emotional level, a different emotional connection with the players, with the coaching staff, with the Rangers’ fan base and the Rangers’ organization – for Marty. Their emotional connection just was off-the-charts after that. Those guys were dialed in.”
The Rangers outscored the Penguins 10-3 in the final three games of the series.
“That was a hard-fought series,” Weekes said. “I’m happy for Marty.”
The Rangers advanced to face Montreal in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Canadiens, led by P.K. Subban, bested the Boston Bruins in seven games.
“He’s been one of the best players in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Weekes said of Subban. “When you look at how well P.K.’s playing and Carey Price, their goalie, Montreal looks great. They came through the beast of the East. They slayed that dragon that is the Boston Bruins, who are an amazing team. I think it’s going to make for an outstanding series.”
Well, maybe. The Rangers destroyed the Canadiens on Saturday, taking Game 1 in Montreal, 7-2. New York jumped out to a 2-0 lead and eventually led 3-1 and 7-1, as St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Brad Richards, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash all found the back of the net.
In fact, McDonagh, Stepan and Nash all scored power-play goals within the first five minutes of the third period.
Rene Bourque and Lars Eller scored for Montreal. Subban came up empty on three shots on goal.
“For the Montreal Canadiens, they have to continue playing their speed game, their up-tempo game, push the pace, force the pace against the Rangers,” Weekes said. “And the Rangers, they just need to continue playing the way they’re playing – getting production from all four lines. But they can’t afford to take penalties – because Montreal’s power play is absolutely lethal.”
Game 2 is monday at 8 p.m. ET.