Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Rangers vs. CanadiensMay 16, 2014, by
Rangers fans are certainly getting a taste of different hockey clubs this postseason. After playing the Capitals four out of the last five postseasons and the Devils three times in the past eight years, the Rangers squared off against Philly for the first time since 1997 and now get the Montreal Canadiens for the first time since 1996.
Unlike 1996, when both teams’ windows to win were closing, this time around both clubs square off with their respective windows wide open. This series will go deep and will be one for the books for sure.
For the first time this post season, the Rangers will square off against an offense as balanced as they are. So far, the Canadiens lead all teams in offense with 3.27 goals per game.
Michel Therrien rolls four balanced lines, all of which can beat you in so many different ways. They have guys like Vanek, Briere, Pacioretty who can score off the rush. Gallagher, Bourque, and Eller, and Weiss can forecheck and jam the crease. As always, Subban is a threat all over the ice.
The Canadiens roster is built similarly to the Rangers in that they are small, but quick. So it’s no surprise they play a similar style systems-wise. Therrien has the Habs running an aggressive overload 1-2-2 forecheck early and then once they get a late lead they tend to sit back and clog up the neutral zone, relying on quick counters to penetrate the zone.
The only major difference is Michel isn’t afraid to juggle his line combos if something isn’t working, or if he’s looking to exploit a matchup. AV on the other hand pretty much keeps things consistent.
5 on 5 Offense Advantage: Neutral
The Habs defense has been pretty solid this postseason giving up just 2.36 goals per game. They’re not particularly deep, but they have a good balance of puck movers with Subban, Markov and Weaver, and they have guys who block shots and hit everything with Emelin and Gorges.
AV will have to zero in on their third pairing, where Therrien has been rotating different guys to play with Weaver. This combo could have a hard time with our third line.
Systems-wise, again, it’s like looking in the mirror. Montreal executes a hard overload when defending the wall aiming to outnumber the opposition. Once the puck moves up to the point everyone collapses in front of the net to block shots.
5 on 5 Defense Advantage: Rangers
Goalie Advantage: Rangers by a hair
Make no mistake, Les Habitants power play est magnifique. So far this post season they’ve been clicking at 26.3%. They run the same 1-3-1 formation the Rangers feature, but their execution is far better. Though, they have an elite right-handed PP QB in PK Subban, which makes a world of difference on the advantage.
Their kill isn’t as good with an 80 PK%, but getting power plays against Montreal won’t be easy. They’re the least penalized team per game (excluding majors) in the post season. Shocker.
Special Teams Advantage: Montreal
Series Prediction: Rangers in 7