With one game remaining in the regular season, the New York Rangers are gearing up for the playoffs in an effort to make it back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2014. The Rangers have locked up the first wild card seed and will face the Atlantic division leading Montreal Canadiens in round one. The Rangers have a record of 47-28-6, with an impressive 27 wins on the road.
The Montreal Canadiens underwent a mid-season change when head coach Michel Therrien was fired, with Claude Julien taking his place. Under Julien, the Canadiens are 16-7-1, only allowing 2.08 goals per game over that stretch. Carey Price looks to be back at the top of his game, while Max Pacioretty continues to lead the way offensively, scoring 35 goals this season.
Head to head matchup
The Rangers and Canadiens met three times this season with Montreal winning all three games. The Rangers, who are fourth in the league in goals per game, only managed to score seven goals against Carey Price and the Canadiens this season. The Rangers will want to try and capitalize as much as they can 5-on-5 because of the strength of the Canadiens’ penalty kill, which has improved significantly under coach Claude Julien. The advantage for the Rangers is their offensive talent, which includes speed and skill from impact players Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.
Two of the worlds’ best goaltenders in Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist will face off for the second time in four years. In 2014, Price and Lundqvist met in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Price got injured, missing most of the series. The Rangers went on to win that series in six games.
This season, Price has a save percentage of .923, while Lundqvist’s save percentage is .910. Lundqvist has had great success in the playoffs, posting a save percentage of .921 with a goals-against average of 2.28. The king has done it all in the playoffs, except win the Stanley Cup.
Henrik Lundqvist has struggled at the Bell Centre in his career, with a record of 4-9-2. He has a horrid goals-against average of 3.87 and a save percentage of .877. The blue shirts will need Lundqvist to play at an elite level if they want any chance of getting out of this series. Carey Price will be ready to go come April 12, as he has been waiting for playoff hockey for two long seasons.
Before the season began, many wrote off the New York Rangers, saying that they were too old and slow. Off season additions rejuvenated the Rangers, giving them great speed going into the season. The Rangers earned 100 points this season, but do not match up particularly well against Montreal. The blue shirts could struggle putting the puck in the net in this series, giving the Canadiens the advantage. With Lundqvist’s struggles at the Bell Centre combined with New York’s recent subpar play at Madison Square Garden, I expect the Montreal Canadiens to prevail in six games.