Eastern Conference final: Rangers-Canadiens matchups & prediction

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By Rick Carpiniello

FORWARDS:

This is impossible to imagine. The Rangers have won three seven-game series in which Rick Nash has not scored a single goal (his only goal in 26 playoff games in Game 2 vs. Boston last spring). This is also impossible to imagine: The Rangers continuing to get by without goals from Nash.

Pretty much every forward on both teams have contributed, even the non-offensive guys, offensively in these playoffs. In fact, they are quite similar. Speed, not a lot of size, depth. Montreal’s fourth line of ex-Rangers Brandon Prust and Dale Weise, on either side of Daniel Briere (who was scratched for Game 5 vs. Boston) is similar to the Rangers’ fourth of Dominic Moore between Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett (or Dan Carcillo).

The Rangers’ best line – all year, really — was Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot, and their top line of Nash and Derek Stepan was bolstered greatly with the return from injury of size, speed, strength, shot and net presence of Chris Kreider. He’s a big player for the Rangers now. That return bumped Martin St. Louis down to an effective line with Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards.

The Habs got offense from up and down, too. Ex-Islander Thomas Vanek is explosive, Max Pacioretty can score and play a physical game, and Lars Eller was probably the best Habs skater other than defenseman P.K. Subban vs. Boston, though Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Rene Bourque were a handful, too. Alex Galchenyuk (knee) could also return in this series.

EDGE: Even.

DEFENSEMEN:

The Rangers, 1-through-6, are better defensively. The Habs are better offensively. Subban is the most dangerous player on either defense, and can be a distraction as well. He is paired with defense-minded Josh Gorges. Andrei Markov can also fire it, and he and Alex Emelin are kind of a shutdown pair. Nathan Beaulieu and Mike Weaver will probably be the third pair, though slow-footed, hard-hitting Douglas Murray and/or veteran Francis Bouillon could play.

But the Rangers’ big three of ex-Habs prospect Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are just so good defensively and in this system, and Anton Stralman has had a terrific postseason. Kevin Klein and John Moore have become as reliable a third-pair as there is in the league.

EDGE: Rangers.

GOALTENDERS:

We all know that Henrik Lundqvist has struggled mightily in his career, or at least the last several years, in Montreal, and that Carey Price has just eaten the Rangers alive in home games.

This Lundqvist has to be the Lundqvist from the last three games of the Pittsburgh series and not the guy his last two coaches wouldn’t let play when the Rangers visited the Habs.

Price, coming off a gold medal (in which he beat Lundqvist and Sweden) for Canada in Sochi, had a stellar second half and could get as hot as Lundqvist.

EDGE: Even.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

We all know that the Rangers had that remarkably bad 0-for-36 power-play drought vs. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But the Rangers’ power play won Game 1 against the Flyers and Game 5 against the Penguins, and Richards’ PPG won Game 7 in Pittsburgh Tuesday. So you never know.

The Rangers’ penalty killers shut down Pittsburgh’s power play, and a collection of some of the best talent in the league, which was 1 for 20. The Habs will give up a power-play goal once in a while, but they will score some, too, with Subban and Markov firing away, and Pacioretty and Vanek sniping in close. Montreal is 10 for 38 on the power play in these playoffs.

EDGE: Canadiens.

COACHING:

Quebec native Alain Vigneault got his first NHL head-coaching job in Montreal. While there, he recommended the team hire Michel Therrien, a junior-hockey rival, as the Canadiens’ minor-league coach.

They are similar coaches with similar personalities and styles, both well respected by their players. Really, like most of the other categories in these matchups, it’s almost a mirror image on the benches, too. Something to watch: Rumors that Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson will leave to become head coach of Carolina, with his buddy Ron Francis the new GM there.

EDGE: Even.

PREDICTION: Rangers in six.

Twitter: @RangersReport

Photo by Getty Images.

 

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102 Comments

  1. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “I will kill you every day forever. You will feel more pain that is possible. I will chew on your dead body and spit it out. I will saw you in half and half again. I will drink every drop of your blood”

  2. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Manny – I agree. Price is very good. A 9/10. But Hank is 9.5/10.

  3. I will say this with certainty: Whether the goaltending is even or not, Price is the best goalie they will have faced in these playoffs.

  4. well, I did pick the Rangers to beat the Flyers and picked them to finish second in the Metro. … so once in a while I get one right. Also, my explanation column is coming.

  5. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “I will hunt you down and shoot you. I will chop your legs off. I will chop your arms off. I will take an axe and chop your head off. I will cook you on a grill. I will throw you off a bridge. You will scream until you’re dead, and then you’ll be quiet. I will gouge your eyes out and puncture your ear drums”

  6. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Carp – you cannot be serious. Price the best they’ve faced????? Dude, Marc Andre Fleury is the greatest goalie in the history of goalie-ing

  7. Very true, that second in the Metro was the most impressive. I think you called it in October.

  8. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “I will destroy everything you value and that which you don’t value. I will stab you until you are nothing but holes. I will feed you to a river full of crocs. I will shove a black mamba down your throat”

  9. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “I will soak you in acid. I will incinerate you. I will roast you on a spit. I will drive over your family. I will tie you to a railroad track. I will rip every cell if your being in half. I will slit your throat. I will break your knees. You name it, I’ll do it”

  10. Retire Ratty's #19 on

    7 Games – Flip a Coin

    They’ve played virtually even at 5-5 in the playoffs so far.

    It will come down to:

    – The King vs Price
    – Habs vs Rs offense (Habs edge in G/game)
    – Rs vs Habs PP (Habs have been HOT on PP)
    – Rs slight edge in defensive D vs. Habs edge in offensive D

    Bottom line: we go as you go Hank!

  11. Weise…”it’s raining really hard right now and I don’t have my raincoat”

  12. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “after I kill you, I’ll keep killing you. I will kill you every day of your dead life. I will break every bone in your body. I will crush your skull into dust”

  13. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    It only took Torts 4 years to win one playoff round. AV in ECF, his first year.

    Who’s better?

    You decide.

  14. Weise in 2nd Grade – “Milan shot a spitball while you were writing on the board, Mrs. Bettman”

  15. Carp, dont remember. But we’ve been on the same page a lot lately. Except for that Pens in 5…

  16. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – I will take drill and bore 1,000,000,000 holes in to your body. I’ll devour your soul. I will terminate your existence. I will make you beg for mercy after I’ve already killed you. I’ll murder you. I’ll do everything I can to make wish you were never born. I’ll melt your family”

  17. iManny-O-War on

    No, Carp. With all due respect of course. You’re not the only journalist to make the “even” claim.

    But Price has had some horrendous stretches in his career. Beating the Bruins was a HUGE deal for Price and the Canadien fans. The fans still think Price has to prove himself.

    I just don’t think that Price is at all as good as Hank.

    That said I know Hank’s numbers in Montreal are horrendous but he is still the MUCH better goaltender. Much better.

    Hope that makes sense

  18. Weise. 3rd Grade…..”Milan farted in the lunch room after he finished his frank and beans, Mrs. Bettman”

  19. iManny-O-War on

    Maybe this makes more sense:

    Hank is the better goaltender. He should he held that standard. If he collapses it’s a collapse. Not him just being “Hank”. He has to be judged on what he IS. The best goaltender in the world

  20. Carp, you’re such a tease. If I was reading a newspaper I would have been turning pages looking for the rest of the article. How long you gonna make us wait for the meat on these bones?

  21. iManny-O-War on

    I do agree that Price is the best goaltender they will face. He’s very good. Top 10.

  22. If Hank and Price both play at the top of their game, who wins the series?

    Rangers in 6.

  23. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Lucic – “I will carve you into tiny pieces. I’ll pour paint down your throat. I’ll feed you to a grizzly bear. I’ll put you in a cage of starving tigers. I’ll tie cement shoes to your feet and drop you into the ocean”

  24. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© on

    Papa Bear

    Maybe we can load Nash off on the Penguins for Vitale.
    ————————————————-

    Talk about dumb …sorry Papa Bear , I don’t wanna argue but your trying to trade a player on our team right now!!???

  25. I was just asking you that question to bust your stones, Manny. … you said “everybody” and obviously you don’t. So it’s not everybody :)

  26. Weise in 4th grade……

    “Milan bought a Playboy Magazine to school and was showing it to all the boys in the schoolyard, Mrs. Bettman.”

  27. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    The difference in this series will be due to the Ranger offense. Brassard’s line will shine. Nash will score. MSL will have an amazing series. Hank will not have to steal a game.

    Rangers in 6 over the Hawks.

  28. Carp, id also like to point out that Ive said since trade deadline day that this is a Cup potential team. Im sure you remember that.

    I think Price has proven himself to be in Hank’s league. If it’s advantage Rangers it’s not much of one.

    Win the first one in Montreal tomorrow and all this Hank sucks in Montreal talk is gone.

  29. ZzZz NYR ZzZz© on

    Eddie3 , I like your style and your prediction is SUPER COOL!!! Only thing is Hank will steal games really sneeky like.

  30. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Game 1

    Rangers 5
    Habs 0

    GWG Brassard.

    Rangers goals: Brassard, Nash 2, Pouliot.

  31. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    I think we are all going to be very happy come game 3 at the garden.

  32. I think most of those contestants are former Flyer players… can’t help but feel bad for them. NOT.

  33. Greggy, talk about Dumb???? Perhaps a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

    I got news for you, other than a hockey card, I can’t trade anyone…..not now….not never….

    :)

  34. CARP the GREY/GRAY is back by/from the dead!

    I see he has taken some pointers from yours truly with his nitpicking of Manny.

  35. When the Kings go down, no doubt the Rangers have the best Goalie left standing in the playoffs.

  36. Justin Williams is arguably the most clutch player in the NHL So underrated.

  37. vibin oleo. i didnt even see your post. i came to the site to say that. and after I posted it and the page reloaded I scroll up and boom.

  38. The hawks have been off for so long, they took a cruise through the Panama Canal to get out to SoCal

    The West teams playing at a higher level than the East. A different game altogether

  39. Eddie Eddie Eddie on

    Ilb – I was just saying the same thing. Watching this game 7 is incredibly relaxing.

  40. Williams made a good play, but there were 2 LA players in front of Gibson, none covered. Defensive brain cramp by Anaheim.

  41. Until this year, Price has been below average in the playoffs. That said, let’s talk about the offseason.

  42. So, if the Rangers make it past Montreal, they one of the two most recent champs. If they somehow win the Cup, they will really earned it.

  43. iManny-O-War on

    Why are you guys actually rooting for a team in this game!?

    You’re like Olga and therefore I will have to puke on you.

  44. who’s rooting for the kings? i want the kings out

    what a horrible feeling that has to be for anaheim

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