Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
Sport | By Stephen Hansen

Rangers opening playoffs with road test in Montreal

Rangers opening playoffs with road test in Montreal

Captain Max Pacioretty, when asked about "the incident", thought it referred to the blind side hit by then Canadien Brandon Prust to Derek Stepan's jaw in Game 3 of that series, won in six games by NY with backup Dustin Tokarski in the Montreal net. Montreal defensemen Shea Weber and Jordie Benn are expected to be back in time for Game 1. Montreal is the series betting favourite this time on Sports Interaction NHL odds. How this situation came about is certainly due to the strength of the Metropolitan Division this year and the format for the NHL's playoffs.

The two teams cumulatively registered 98 hits in Game 1 - 53 by the Canadiens, 45 by the Rangers. Plus the playoffs are a whole new season and the New Yorkers have a lineup that should beat the Habs. If King Henrik and his Rangers play like they did Wednesday throughout the series, this is going take a superhuman effort on the part of the Habs to win four of the next six games. He also had some injury concerns. "Hopefully we'll have good Games 1 and 2 and that'll carry over to our barn for 3 and 4". Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for all three losses to the Canadiens this season and his career numbers against the Canadiens are downright ugly - a 14-17-3 record, a 2.87 goals-against average and an.898 save percentage. At 27-12-2 when visiting, NY will finish the regular season with more road wins than Montreal have home wins. Not encouraging for a playoff series that would start at Bell Centre, which had been a House of Horrors for the Blueshirts. His road to appearing in 572 combined regular season and playoff games (and counting) has been paved through a sheer desire to exceed expectations.

And if you had to pick out what could lead to Montreal's undoing, you wouldn't have looked further than their popgun offence, which averaged less than 2.5 goals per game since Claude Julien took over as coach on February 14.

Heading into Sunday, Montreal (final total) and NY have 103 and 100 points in the standings respectively.

Lundqvist also knows that his Stanley Cup window is closing with the team, which will only make his play in the playoffs this season that much stronger. The Bruins thought that firing Claude Julien would be a good idea (it wasn't). Montreal was 16-7-1 under him.

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Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night at Bell Centre. Max Pacioretty leads Montreal with 35 goals, Paul Byron has 21 assists and Alexander Radulov has 147 shots on goal. Pacioretty led Montreal with five points against NY (one goal, four assists).

Clearly, these are not the same Rangers who lost in five games to the Pittsburgh Penguins last spring. To find success, the Rangers will need to capitalize on power play chances that will likely come few and far between. Montreal was also the least-penalized team in the National Hockey League under Julien.

But neither could the Canadiens, who had some clean chances but were up against a NY defense that did a good job of limiting rebounds.

With the Canadiens losing game one of the series they have surrendered home ice advantage to the Rangers, however the series is still very young. Weber did miss the final four regular-season games with a lower-body injury but was at practice on Monday.

The two teams last postseason meeting was in 2014, when the Rangers defeated Montreal in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dustin Tokarski took over. However, the Canadiens won all three regular season matchups this year and will be looking for revenge three years removed from being denied a shot at the Cup, this time, with their top goaltender in net.

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