We look at the Rangers/Canadiens first-round matchup
This matchup will feature a lot of star power in between the pipes, and the battle of elite goaltenders will be on display every night in this Eastern Conference Matchup.
The first of eight matchups in the NHL has been determined as of this Wednesday. The Montreal Canadiens know that they will be facing off against the New York Rangers next week. Montreal clinched the Atlantic Division, and by doing so drew the number one wild card team in the process.
Here’s how these teams match-up against each other. Montreal swept the season series winning two of the three in regulation and stealing two from the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Montreal controls home ice in this series, even though the Rangers might finish with a higher point total.
New York looks like the more dominant team when it comes to offensive firepower in this series. Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, and Michael Grabner will be providing a lot of the offense for the blue shirts in this series.
The Rangers are ranked fourth in goals for, and goals for per game over the course of the season. Their power play is in the top half of the NHL, and despite a low number of shots per game New York has the third best shooting percentage in the league.
Montreal is squarely in the middle of the pack in almost every offensive category. The Habs rank seventeenth in goals for, sixteenth in goals for per game, and fifteenth in shooting percentage. The Canadiens fare slightly better with the extra man ranking thirteenth in Power Play percentage.
The Habs are outmatched offensively and will be relying on Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and Alexander Radulov to keep their team in these games. Montreal edges New York in both face-off percentage and hits generated. Both teams will struggle with turnovers in this series. The Habs and Rangers are ranked third and fourth respectively in giveaways on the year.
Montreal looks like the much stronger team defensively in this series, whereas the Rangers find themselves struggling in their own end.
The Canadiens are one of the top teams in the league defensively in both goals allowed and goals allowed per game. The Habs rank near the top ten in blocked shots and penalty kill percentage. Shea Weber has been a big reason for the strength of Montreal’s defense. The 31-year-old has the highest plus-minus percentage on the team amongst defenseman and leads the team in blocked shots.
New York has not fared as well in front of their goaltender. The Rangers are near the bottom third of the league in goals allowed and penalty kill percentage. New York does manage to block a bunch of shots and causes a lot of turnovers. The Blue Shirts rank in the top ten in both of those categories.
New York’s offense will pose a lot of threats to Carey Price and the Montreal blue liners, but if the Habs defense can hold strong they might make this a tough series to call.
The battle of elite goaltenders will be the marquee matchup, and will probably determine the outcome of this series.
Carey Price has been outstanding in between the pipes for the Canadiens and deserves a lot of the credit for leading his team to the division title this year. The 29-year-old netminder ranks in the top ten in wins, save percentage, and goals allowed average. Price has won thirty-seven games this season and has pushed himself squarely into the race for the Vezina trophy.
Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, has been having an average year, ranking near the middle of the NHL in those same categories. King Henrik has still managed thirty-one wins on the year, but he hasn’t needed to be outstanding in the crease with the offense firing on all cylinders. However, despite his numbers on the year, Hank can easily steal a series, and should still be referred to as one of the elite goalies in the league.
Back-ups might also play a huge role in this series if injuries should occur. New York will have the definitive edge on that front with Antti Raanta if anything keeps Lundqvist out of a game. Al Montoya won’t come even close to stacking up with any of these other goalies in this series, and Montreal will hope they won’t need to use him at all throughout their playoff campaign.
Price and the Habs have a slight edge in net in the series but don’t sleep on either of the Rangers goalies.
Montreal Wins If: Scores remain low throughout the series
New York Wins If: Their offense finds a way to consistently beat Carey Price
This series is going to be a close one, expect several close games in this series, and for the Canadiens defense to match up well against the high-powered Rangers offense. Montreal wins in 6 games