Round 3: Habs vs. Rangers Series Preview

For the second time since 1993, your Montreal Canadiens are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals. Awaiting them is a matchup with Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. Let’s take an in depth look at this matchup, and see who has the edge.

Forwards:

Montreal: There’s only one word to sum up the Canadiens scoring during these playoffs; committee. Only two Montreal forwards have yet to score a goal- Michael Bournival and Brandon Prust. Whether it’s the unsung hero, Dale Weise, with 3 goals (2 gwg) or Thomas Vanek’s team leading 5, the Habs have received scoring help from just about every player, this spring. Let’s not forget the that Alex Galchenyuk is getting closer to a return, as well.

New York: The Rangers have a lot of top-end talent, including the likes of Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Brad Richards. Richards and St. Louis have been great this post-season, and are one and two on the team in points. Nash, on the other hand, has yet to find the back of the net, and has amassed just 5 assists since the playoffs started. Despite Nash’s struggles, Mats Zuccarello, Derrick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot have arguably been the Rangers’ best line, and have more than filled in for the offence that Nash has failed to create.

Advantage: Montreal

Defence:

Montreal: Insert Nathan Beaulieu, and everything is better. The addition of Beaulieu has added a smooth skating puck mover to every one of the Canadiens defensive pairings; PK Subban, Andrei Markov and Beaulieu. Subban was brilliant against Boston, and leads all defencemen with 12 points in 11 games during the playoffs. Markov and Alexei Emelin were the go-to shut down pair and ultimately held David Krejci and Brad Marchand goal-less during their second round matchup. Mike Weaver and Josh Gorges are essentially second goalies when on the ice, they block anything within 10 feet of their bodies, and are a combined +10 during the post-season.

New York: Surprisingly enough, the Rangers’ backend has been pretty quiet when in comes to offence during the postseason. In fact, the Ranger blue-line has combined for just 4 goals and 19 points during the playoffs. On the other hand, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are a hell of a shutdown pair, and Marc Staal is a very solid 3rd d-man.

Advantage: Montreal. But it’s very, very close.

Goaltending:

Montreal: Once again, Carey Price is the best in world. He’s also been quite good against the Rangers over his career with an 8-5-1 record, including a 2.06 GAA, a .934 save % and 5 shutouts.

New York: If it isn’t Carey Price, it’s Henrik Lundqvist. I mean, he isn’t nicknamed ‘King Henrik’ for no reason. Despite his stellar career, Lundqvist hasn’t been great against the Habs, especially at the Bell Centre. In 27 games vs. Montreal, Lundqvist is 13-11-2 with a 2.84 GAA, an .897 save % and just 1 shutout.

Advantage: Montreal. By a hair.

Special Teams:

Montreal: The Habs have the best powerplay left in the playoffs at 26.3%. Their PK, on the other hand, has regressed since the regular season. However, they still managed to shutdown the Bruins PP, which was spectacular vs. Detroit.

New York: The Rangers PP has been abysmal this spring. In fact, their man-advantage is running at an awful 10.9% going into the 3rd round- the worst left in the playoffs. Their penalty kill, however, has been solid, running at 82.9%.

Advantage: Montreal.

X-Factors:

Montreal- Alex Galchenyuk: It’s hard to consider a player to be an x-factor when he hasn’t played a game in over a month, but Galchenyuk’s return could tip the scale in Montreal’s favour. The bottom line is that Chucky is a difference maker. While he wasn’t great this season, he’s incredibly skilled and belongs in the lineup. The hardest part will be deciding who comes out of the lineup to open a spot up for #27.

New York- Henrik Lundqvist: Seems crazy that New York’s best player is also their x-factor, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. The only way the Rangers win this series is if Lundqvist outperforms Price. Won’t be the easiest task for the King.

Bottom line:

While Montreal has the advantage in every category, this will be an extremely close series. Both teams play a high- tempo, fast skating game, and neither of their games revolve around the physical stuff. One thing we know for sure, is that this one will be a low- scoring series; the teams have combined for 4 goals in 3 games this season. Ultimately, special teams will be the deciding factor.

Prediction: Habs in 6

In honour of this momentous occasion, we remember ‘The Comeback

Follow me on Twitter: @ZieglerMikey

 

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