Apr
12

Rangers vs. Habs: who has the edge up front?

April 12, 2017, by

Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw will make life miserable for Henrik Lundqvist

New York’s group of forwards is surely better than 12th-best in the playoff field, but you can throw the team’s gaudy offensive stats out the window heading into this series.

The great equalizer, as the Blueshirts well know, is goaltending and Carey Price has been locked in for the last several weeks after an inauspicious start to the season.

So though this matchup is probably where New York should enjoy its biggest edge over Montreal, it would be foolish to expect the Blueshirts to simply outgun the Canadiens.

And in fact, that supposed advantage might not be quite as significant as it looks on paper. Though the Rangers racked up 30 more goals than the Canadiens this season, New York only scored five more goals than Montreal at even strength following the All-Star break. The Canadiens are also a far superior possession team and should have seen better results this season.

From a personnel standpoint, the Habs’ attackers are in a period of transition. Long-time top center Tomas Plekanec has hit the skids and is slowly being phased out, but this hasn’t become Alex Galchenyuk’s team as expected. In fact, it appears that Montreal will open with Galchenyuk on its fourth line.

The biggest change for the Habs has been through the addition of creative playmaker Alex Radulov, who, along with relatively anonymous newcomer Phillip Danault, has teamed up with the wildly underrated Max Pacioretty to form a solid top trio.

And while Chris Kreider will draw the media attention for past injustices in the Montreal crease, the tables might be turned this time around with super pests Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw buzzing around The King’s throne. No doubt those gnats will make life miserable for Henrik Lundqvist and the Blueshirts’ defense will have its hands full dealing with them and the jumbos Montreal imported at the trade deadline.

Gallagher or Shaw could definitely tilt the series, but the real X-factor might be the guy that’s had the hot hand all season – Paul Byron. The 27-year-old speedster was the only player in the league that managed to pot 20 goals on fewer than 100 shots. Under the radar rookie Artturi Lehkonen is another dark horse.

The Rangers should in theory be able to skate circles around Montreal and it’s pretty obvious they’re the more talented bunch, but the contrasting styles should make for an interesting battle.

Advantage: Rangers

"Rangers vs. Habs: who has the edge up front?", 4 out of 5 based on 6 ratings.
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29 comments

  1. amy says:

    i would say we have the edge but I feel the first ten minutes will tell the story if we can get shots on Mr. Price if we can take the first game we will be in good shape

  2. SalMerc says:

    Montreal are quick strike artists with speed and some booming shots from the points while we are more of a continuous flow of talent that uses heads up passes and the trailer who often joins the rush.

    Price vs. Hank will be fun. We need to let Hank see the shots. Betting Glass gets the nod as their defense is more physical. I look for Vesey to score tonight.

  3. Peter says:

    I expect this to be an extremely tough series for the Rangers. The Habs played very well in the latter part of the season and are pretty darn good. Cary Price is top notch. The Rangers will need to bring their “A” game to move on to the second round.

  4. Joe Cafaro says:

    If the rangers just shoot put pucks on net and don’t look for the last nice pass then the offensive skill will carry the day. If not then Carey will most assruredly

  5. Al Dugan says:

    Must stay out of the penalty box. I’m looking at you, #20!

  6. pas44 says:

    Nick Holden, Dan Girardi, Mark Staal are the key players to watch.

    They need to play like champions.

    • Peter says:

      Girardi and Staal are simply no longer capable physically to play at a sustained high level even though both have the heart to give it their all.

      The blue line corps, except for McD and the kid Skjei, has limited abilities. The forwards and Hank are going to have to carry the day. I think that they can do it, but it ain’t going to be easy. They have to shut down that top Montreal line and create traffic in front of Price for 60 minutes a game.

  7. Chris A says:

    Did ESPN really grade the Rangers’ forwards 12th in the playoff field? That’s a laughable assessment.

    Let’s look at the facts:

    Despite taking March and April off to, wisely, rest their players and lock in the much easier road to the Cup by sneaking off to the Atlantic Division, the Rangers still finished 9th in points, 4th in goals, 5th in Goal differential, 6th in ROW.

    This is a very good team. Not the class of the NHL, that’s Chicago and Washington, but the Rangers are securely in the second tier of contenders with Columbus and Pitt. All three are very good teams but have a glaring flaw.
    Rangers’ blue line is weak, Pitt’s D is terrible without Letang, and CBJ is lacking true high end FW talent and scoring depth.

    tl;dr: ESPN should stick to basketball and football.

    • Chris A says:

      As for this series, the Rangers are rested and healthy.

      They have way more talent up front, Montreal’s only possible real advantage, Price, is equaled by The King.

      Shaw and Gallagher will be a little frisky, but Hank isn’t a delicate flower like Marty Brodeur was. There will be no Sean Avery act from Montreal this series.

      If the Rangers stay out of the box, like they have for the better part of three seasons, Montreal will have a tough time scoring thanks to the lack of PP chances. Rangers also have a massive advantage at C. Lindberg would easily be a 3C on Montreal and wouldn’t look out of place as a 2C for the Habs. Stepan, Zib, Hayes, will be monsters this series.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Goals For NYR / MTL

      Full Season: 154 / 129
      2017 (Jan Fwd): 82 / 76
      Final 25 Games: 42 / 42
      Final 10 Games : 15 / 20

      The Rangers main advantage when looking at the season comes from outright counting stats, but we all know those are influenced from the very strong start the Rangers had. The above time shots show the trend of NYR slowing down and the MTL gaining steam. I’d argue that the first 10 games are as useless as the last 10 games when comparing what teams did this year.

      When we move from traditional counting stats (goals) to corsi type numbers….. MTL dominates us from start to finish. While I agree that corsi counts for quantity over quality, we can overlay some scoring chance numbers to see how the quality part of the equation plays out.

      Scoring Chances For% NYR / MTL

      Full Season: 48.46 / 52.51
      2017 (Jan Fwd): 48.17 / 50.84
      Final 25 Games: 47.83 / 51.31
      Final 10 Games : 46.87 / 52.21

      From start to finish, MTL generates more scoring chances than we do. Our saving grace has been that this has been a very opportunistic scoring team. That will be the only way we win this series. We will not have the puck more than they will and we will not control play against them. We will have to score on our chances in order to advance. I am not bullish we will be able to do this with consistency against Carey Price and Claude Julien.

      Anything happen once the games start, but unfortunately if I tell you the Rangers win this series it is the fan in me speaking, not the realist in me.

      With that said….Go Rangers!

      • Chris A says:

        Where did you get those scoring chance numbers? Not doubting them, I’m genuinely curious because that seems counter to everything I’ve watched and read about the Rangers this season.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Natural Stattrick -> Teams

          Let me know if you think there’s a flaw.

          • Chris A says:

            Thanks I’ll check it out. I didn’t think there was a flaw, I was curious what method was used to determine what’s a scoring chance. Scoring chances are extremely subjective, right?

          • Chris A says:

            Honestly, it looks like that site is being very liberal with what constitutes a scoring chance. I don’t like that there isn’t much differential between scoring chances and shots on goal.

            For instance, Pitt had 2162 SOG but 2067 Scoring Chances? That doesn’t sound suspect? Basically, that site is rewarding shot quantity over shot quality.

            That’s been my argument with the Rangers all year. They are eschewing shooting chances to try and obtain a higher quality scoring chance, usually by passing cross crease to get the goalie moving laterally.

            • Hatrick Swayze says:

              I’m under the impression that these guys don’t count their own stats, but source them from the same place that Puckalytics/Stats.HockeyAnalysis and others get their info from. I don’t know this stuff well enough to know what the actual source is (NHL, 3rd party, a collective grassroots network of data inputters, etc) but they seem to be the same numbers which are universally accepted by the stats community.

            • Hatrick Swayze says:

              To go a step further, let’s use HDCF (High Danger Chances For). Over the course of the season, the Rangers had 1895 shots 5v5, 772 of which were considered High Danger. MTL was 758 / 2040. So the Rangers held the advantage of having 40.74% of their shots as high danger as compared to Montreal’s 37.16% (over the course of the season). When counting outright the numeric advantage was only 772 to 758. So from an offensive stand point, they basically generated the same number of high danger chances, but Montreal had many more low danger chances thus our % looks better. When we look at the High Danger For/Against percentages (aka differentials), here is how the numbers shake out:
              NYR / MTL
              Full Season: 49.41 / 53.72
              2017 (Jan Fwd): 47.39 / 51.32
              Final 25 Games: 47.42 / 52.18
              Final 10 Games : 45.03 / 51.74

              Unfortunately these aren’t too flattering either. While the Rangers basically generate the same number of HD chances for as MTL
              NYR/ MTL
              Full Season: 772 / 758
              2017 (Jan Fwd): 382 / 390
              Final 25 Games: 221 / 227
              Final 10 Games : 86 /89

              our boys in blue BLEED High Danger Chances against
              NYR/MTL
              Full Season: 781 / 653
              2017 (Jan Fwd): 424 / 370
              Final 25 Games: 245 / 208
              Final 10 Games : 105 / 83

              thus we have our egregious discrepancy in differentials. It doesn’t look like the numbers get much prettier when we go from Scoring Chances to High Danger Scoring Chances, which hurts the quality argument…..which is what I am trying to vet as I also think there is something to the quality vs quantity dynamic.

              • Chris A says:

                That’s the analysis I was looking for. That still doesn’t paint as rosy a picture, but again, the issue is more with the backend not the Rangers forwards, which was my original point.

                The Rangers’ forward group is one of the best in the league not the 12th best group in the playoffs, as Custance at ESPN foolishly wrote.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Actually…1 Error. Sh1t…..

          Goals For NYR / MTL

          Full Season: 167 / 154

          Unfortunately I grabbed goals against from the next column. My apologies.

      • SalMerc says:

        Wow. Depressing data. There are some things that data and numbers can’t tell. Whether we are better prepared and play a more motivated game no one knows. I feel that our 4th line will play a significant role. I fear Julian is a better coach.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        All data is 5v5

      • sherrane says:

        One thing we need to keep in mind was that the Rangers coasted the final 15 or so games because they knew they were basically locked into 4th place. On the other hand, Montreal was battling to finish 1st in the Atlantic until the final 3 games when the coasted a bit (and went 1-2-0 while being outscored 8-6 by three teams who didn’t make the playoffs).

        I have been critical of AV in the past for playing for the President’s Trophy rather than preparing for the playoffs. As a typical (a$$ hat) fan, I wished he used the last 3 or 4 games to get the team up to playoff intensity after resting the squad over the final month of the season.

        • Chris A says:

          I wouldn’t worry about the Rangers showing up. Despite their youngish team, most of the roster has played in the conf. finals and SCF. Only, Holden, Skjei, Zib, Lindberg, Grabner, Buch, and Vesey, have yet to play in the final two rounds of the NHL playoffs. Also, the Rangers org. is still the league leader in playoff games played over the past five seasons.

          These Rangers know what is required of them and will show up. They didn’t need the last week of the year to ‘ramp up’ for the postseason.

  8. Leatherneck says:

    Nothing will matter if the Rangers don’t stay out of the sin bin. Giving up PP goals is a tougher mountain to climb with Price in net. Special teams is the vital key to winning this series.
    Lundqvist has to make that extra save or it will be a 5 game series. I still think Montreal wins in 6. We will also go to 6 games to win it.
    As often as the 1st game is not critical, in this series it is. The 1st game is going to set the tone for the entire series. Rangers can not afford to take 1 shift off in this game. After this game it will be much easier to predict how the series will pan out. Let’s Go Rangers!!!!

  9. pas44 says:

    This team plays bad at home, good on the road but horrible in Montreal.

    Yet, I am all in baby, DROP THE PUCK

    LGR!!!!!!

  10. John B says:

    Just a friendly reminder for everyone.

    Tonight we’ll see the slow footed Girardi, Staal and Holden for 40+ minutes matched against the speedy Pacioretty, Danault, Radulov, Byron and Plekanec.

    That is all.

    • Rich S says:

      Another excellent point by you John B……thats why I wouldn’t have minded seeing quicker defensemen in there [clendening] for girardi tonight…….

      I am picking rangers in 5 however because I am hoping/ predicting our offense will ramp it back up after 6 weeks of coasting…….

  11. Rangers_Underscore says:

    0 for 3 against MonTreeAll! Run for the Hills!

  12. Craig says:

    That Rangers didn’t show that much fantastic forward depth, like everybody is talking about, the last half of the season. They had a hard time finishing plays and a number of players disappeared. Not to mention a mediocre defense and terrible penalty killing.
    It’s going to boil down to who has the better goalie. That will give Montreal the potential edge in the series unless the Rangers play like they did the beginning of the year.

  13. Peter says:

    I glanced at the NHL.com site where their various reporters and others picked their brackets. They overwhelmingly favored Montreal. I think the Rangers are liable to ruin their brackets. Make them eat crow.