May
16

Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Rangers vs. Canadiens

May 16, 2014, by

(Eric Bolte/Reuters)

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.

Offense:

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

Defense:

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

Goaltending:

Justin, our resident goalie expert, already broke down Carey Price. Be sure to read his scouting report here.

Goalie Advantage: Rangers by a hair

Special Teams:

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 

Categories : Analysis, Hockey Tactics

23 comments

  1. Leatherneckinlv says:

    If we win game 1 I say Rangers in 6…Montreal will be more apt to panic against the Rangers over the Bruins. Get into Subban’s head and we will win.

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Suit,

      Nice series preview. Just curious, do you think this matchup is an easier one than Pitt, or are you more convinced than you were prior to the last round that the team can make a run?

      • The Suit says:

        I think the matchup is pretty even on paper. I’m leaning NYR because I think we finally hit a groove.

        • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

          I’m leaning Rangers because the Habs are tiny. The Rangers overall aren’t big but we have some big guys on our top line and Nash is a 12.4% lifetime shooter with 51 SOG. He’s gonna be able to beat their double teams and either score or find the open guy. The Habs also send a lot of little guys to overload the boards. If we can win those battles. There’s gonna be guys wide open for a weak side pass. Kreider will play a big role in this series and he’s fresh once again in the playoffs and just hitting his stride. Do the Habs stay with a Man coverage once the puck comes off the wall? Or do they fall into a zone when puck is above the hash marks? Thanks Suit.

  2. Scully says:

    This is going to be a tight fun series. I can’t wait. Obviously I’m a homer and a Rangers fan, but these kinds of series’ are great for the sport of hockey, and the NHL, in general.

  3. Dave says:

    Rangers in 6

  4. SalMerc says:

    One item not discussed is coaching. I feel that AV was almost masterful in his choice of lineups and his ability to rotate 4 lines and get shorts shifts in the 3rd. It is unclear to me if the Habs coach is of the same caliber. I will guess no, and give the edge to NYR.

    • The Suit says:

      I don’t see how that makes a difference. Every coach wants short shifts in the third and an ability to roll 4 lines if they have a deep roster, which both have been able to do.

      • SalMerc says:

        Every coach wants that, but having disciplined players allows it to happen. Show me a good team and I will show you a good coach.

  5. mikeyyy says:

    See the x factor for game 1 is the NHL pissed off the ranger players.

    Having to move your moms funeral because the NHL wouldn’t move the time is fuel to our fire.

  6. Chuck A says:

    Does Montreal have any known injured players of note?

    • Chris F says:

      Alex Galchenyuk has been injured for awhile, though he participated in his first contact practice today. He should be back this series.

      Prust is also recently back from injury. He’s playing, but rumor has it he’s still nursing an injury.

      Other than that, Montreal is healthy and they have a rotation of bottom 6 forwards and bottom pairing defenseman that Therrien has called on from game to game. They are deep, and relatively healthy.

      I’m sure a lot of guys are a but banged up from Boston though.

  7. Chris F says:

    Man, Gaborik is having a brilliant postseason. Good for him, I always loved the way he plays. He was never not good, just hurt too frequently. Would really like seeing him play under AV.

    • Leatherneckinlv says:

      Yeah….Gabby was never a Trots type of a player. He did not fit in his system

      • Chris F says:

        And yet still managed to put up 2 40+ goal seasons in NY. Look, he may not not have been the “ideal” player to fit into Torts system, but he still found ways to successful. I think the problem was less his relation to the system and more a matter of health.

        He seems to be doing well in LA under Sutter, who’s not altogether unlike Torts.

        • Chris F says:

          But he’s certainly more suited for AV’s philosophy.

          • The Suit says:

            Gabby can play in any system. He proved that succeeding in Lemaire’s deep trap system and Sutter’s hard forechecking system, which is very similar to Torts’ style.

            The question about Gabby will always be about his physical and mental health, not about his coaches and systems.

  8. flatbush says:

    Montreal tendencies… D’s like to go D-D and hinge back trying to give Subban skating room. Forecheck inside out and make them force a pass up the wall or middle. Tight gaps. Pacioretty most dangerous on his off wing when allowed time and space. When Boston managed those areas their outcome was good. They just couldn’t get it past Price. Goalies will be the factor if both teams play like they did in the last round. Nice if Nash breaks out!

  9. rangermom says:

    My biggest concern is the officials. Habs are small and adept at selling their penalties. Kreider can make or break us here.