Bring on the Habs!
Milan Lucic may have threatened future murder on Dale Weise, but it was the Canadiens who have earned the right to play the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. Although the Bruins are “big and bad”, it’s the Habs who were able to win game seven on the road.
Every Rangers fan was asked the question “who would you rather play?” yesterday. My answer was always the same, it’s a toss up. Both teams are very good and both pose different challenges for the Rangers.
The Habs are Stevie Weeks fast
There are few teams in the NHL that can skate with the Rangers. Unfortunately, the Canadiens are one of them. A team that consists of Thomas Vanek, Brandon Gallagher, Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, and PK Subban has wheels. The Rangers stretch passes will be tougher to utilize and their overall team speed won’t be an outright advantage. Though, the Rangers certainly won’t be at a disadvantage as the Bruins seemed to be.
All the pucks go in for Montreal
The Canadiens scored 2.86 goals per game in all situations against the Bruins, which was the best mark of all teams in the second round. That’s damn impressive against an opponent that features Tuukka Rask in goal and the ability to roll four lines. The Habs shot at a 10.2% rate against the Bruins, which allowed them to win even though they had a possession share (CF%) of only 42.5%. On paper, the Habs won because they had a high shooting percentage and Carey Price stood on his head.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 15, 2014
Subban leads the team with 12 points. He is the wild card in this series as the Rangers have nobody who can match his ability on the blue line.
The Rangers don’t have an advantage in goal
Henrik Lundqvist is The King. There’s no arguing with that. His best performance is better than Carey Price’s. But only marginally better. The real test in this series for the Rangers is: can they beat a team that has a goalie who is comparable to Lundqvist? I’m really not so sure. The Rangers have beaten Marc-Andre Fleury, Braden Holtby (twice), a combination of Ray Emery and Steve Mason, and Craig Anderson over the past three playoffs. They have yet to beat an elite goaltender and Price absolutely is one.
This series is probably going seven, again
The Rangers and the Habs had remarkably similar second rounds. Both teams had a less than 50% share of possession but were able to win because their goalies were significantly better. The Habs have a PDO of 103.1 through two rounds whereas the Rangers are at 100.1. So maybe the Canadiens 10.2% shooting percentage will come back to earth a bit; but then again maybe it won’t.
It’s not that the Rangers can’t beat the Habs, they surely can. I fully expect them to win a game in Montreal, despite the fact it’s a house of horrors for the boys in blue. But the series itself is a toss up and the Canadiens will pose a number of unique challenges for the Rangers.
The Habs are a dangerous team, mostly because they seem to be unpredictable. The Rangers know what they would have got with the Bruins, but the Habs? Can’t be too sure.