The Montreal Canadiens will be taking on the New York Rangers in the 1st round of the NHL Playoffs. The Habs finished the season with a solid 47-26-9 record. Their 103 points were good enough for 1st in the Atlantic Division. The Rangers also had a very good season, going 48-28-6 for 102 points. Despite having the 5th best record in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers had to settle for the 1st wildcard spot, as the Metropolitan Division was loaded with top talent this season. In this year’s regular season, the Habs took all three games in which the two teams faced off against each other.
This battle will contend for one of the best series throughout the whole playoffs. Not only are the two teams very evenly matched, but there is also a lot of history between the two sides. The Habs will be seeking revenge after being knocked out of the 2014 playoffs by the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. This series was very painful for Habs fans, as it looked like it could finally be their year until Carey Price suffered a knee injury in the first game of the series. Habs fans will never forget this year, thinking about what could have happened if Price had not been sidelined.
Everybody Hates Chris
In game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2014 Playoffs, Chris Kreider slid skates first into a sprawling Carey Price after getting through the Habs defense. Price was sent back into his net by the impact, where his right skate got caught up against the post, and his right knee bent backward. As a result, Price was sidelined for the rest of the playoffs, being forced to sit and watch as the Habs would go on to be eliminated in 6 games. Did Kreider do it on purpose? Was he really tripped? Nobody will ever know. What we do know is that regardless of the true answer, every single Habs fan, and player, hates Chris Kreider’s guts. Although Price exacted his revenge with a big hit on Kreider behind the net during the 2015-16, there is still a lot more to be settled between Price and Kreider, and their respected teams. Kreider name will be in the back of every Habs players mind during the series. Expect him to always be in the middle of scrums throughout the series. If Kreider even comes within a few inches of Price at any time during the series, do not be surprised if someone goes right after him and teaches him a lesson. Despite all the pain that Kreider will probably go through during the battle, nothing would hurt him more than if Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens eliminate his team from the playoffs.
Carey Price vs Henrik Lundqvist
Whenever two of the best goaltenders in the league come up against each other, you know you are going to be in for a hell of a series. Regardless of how good the forwards or defense play, whoever wins this series will most likely be the team with the better goalie. On one end you have the unanimous best goalie in the league, Carey Price. Despite going through a rough patch in the middle of the season, Price was able to find his game after the hiring of head coach Claude Julien. Price finished the year with 37 wins, a 2.23 GAA, a .923 Sv%, and 3 shutouts. Although these numbers are very good, his recent performances against the New York Rangers puts them to shame. In his last 12 games against the Rangers, Price is 11-1-0 with an unbelievable 0.93 GAA, .968 Sv%, and 5 shutouts. If Price continues this play against the Rangers, then Montreal should be able to cruise on to the 2nd round. Lundqvist, on the other hand, has not had his best season. Lundqvist finished the regular season with a disappointing 2.74 GAA and .910 Sv%, his career worsts in both categories. Along with these rough numbers, Lundqvist is also very poor whenever he plays at the Bell Centre. In his last 15 regular season games at the Bell Centre, Lundqvist is 4-9-2 with a brutal 3.87 GAA and .877 Sv%. Also, despite winning the series and going 2-1 at the Bell Centre in their 2014 playoff series, Lundqvist’s numbers were still below average, putting up a 2.82 GAA and a .915 Sv%. As mentioned earlier, the winner of this goaltending duel will likely see their team advance to the next round. By looking at these numbers, the current advantage goes to Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.
As Carey Price is the world’s best and has been absolutely unreal against New York as of late, the Rangers will need their 4th ranked offense to show up in order to stand a chance against the Habs. The Rangers do not have any standouts on forward, but they do have several players that have all pitched in a solid amount of goals this year. They have four different 20 goal scorers (Chris Kreider – 28, Michael Grabner – 27, Rick Nash – 23, and J.T. Miller – 22), and four others with at least 15 goals (Kevin Hayes – 17, Derek Stepan – 17, Jimmy Vesey – 16 and Mats Zuccarello – 15). In addition to these 8, the Rangers also had Mika Zibanejad who had 14 goals in 56 games played. If he had played a whole season, he would have finished with around 21 goals, which would have given the Rangers five different 20 goal scorers. The Rangers deep scoring lineup could cause problems for the Habs. Although the Habs have the advantage in net, the Rangers have the clear advantage on offense. Take your pick on which one will prevail.
I know I am biased, but I would have to give this series to the Montreal Canadiens. I have based this decision on 3 key factors: The Canadiens general success against the Rangers this year, Henrik Lundqvist’s poor season as well as his abysmal play at the Bell Centre, and most importantly because of Carey Price’s unbelievable numbers against the Rangers as of late. This series will be no cakewalk though, as the Rangers have shown great signs this year, especially with their goal scoring. Expect a few outbursts from their offense, but it will still not be enough to oust Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.
Final Prediction: Habs in 6
Feel free to leave a comment on who you think will win the series, in how many games, and why you believe this. The series will start Wednesday night at the Bell Centre. Go Habs Go!