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Rangers/Canadiens 1st Round Preview

For the seventh straight season and the 11th time in 12 years, your New York Rangers are participating in the postseason.

In prior years, the Blueshirts have used late season pushes, final game miracles or President Trophy aspirations to qualify for the playoffs. But this year, this year was something much different, as they’ve basically been on cruise control since February without a meaningful game in sight.

So the question is, can they flip the switch or will they continue to play uninspired hockey. Let’s take a look at this Original Six matchup.

Killer Kreider

Since we’re probably going to see this clip 5,000 times during the series, let’s just get it out of the way now…

Kreider is going to be public enemy #1 in Montreal this series, but I fully expect him to thrive on the boos. His physical style of play is perfect for the postseason and is a big reason why he’s much more consistent than in the regular season.

Kreider will be integral in setting up shop in front of Price and taking away his vision of the puck. If Price can see it, he’s going to save it, so limiting his sightline will be a key factor in solving a goaltender who’s had the Rangers number over the years.

Disrespect the King at Your Own Peril

“Carey Price is so great.” “He’s the #1 goalie in the NHL.” “He owns the Rangers.”


I get it, he’s good. And he takes his game to another level when he plays the Blueshirts…

But I’m pretty sure there’s a decent goaltender suiting up for the Rangers, who might be playing with a chip on his shoulder as he’s become the forgotten netminder in this series. I’ve never seen an athlete more competitive than “The King” and now he’s got critics doubting his game? Challenge accepted. While Lundqvist has had his regular season struggles against the Canadiens…

…I think I recall him having an ok series vs. the Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final…

Having said that, it’s been a season where Lundqvist hasn’t been able to get into a real rhythm with lots of stops and starts due to injury and Raanta’s emergence. So you do have to wonder what AV’s mindset might be if Lundqvist struggles in the first two games of this series and the Rangers go down 0-2. Does he have the chutzpah to turn to his backup, who arguable had a more consistent season, to spark his team? While that would be a panic move of the highest order, I’m pretty sure that frightening of a scenario might just call for one.

Glass vs. The Rookies

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to get to Tanner, as despite being a borderline NHLer, he’s somehow dominated the Rangers fan base conversation since his recall in early March. And that won’t change in this series.

10 of the Rangers 12 forward positions are forever filled, however, there’s a battle for the final two spots between three players: Glass, Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey.

With the Canadiens acquiring grit and toughness at the trade deadline in the form of Steve Ott and Dwight King, conventional wisdom says that Glass would be the antidote. However that would be playing right into Montreal’s hands. Adding a singular physical player to a lineup will not change the character of this team. It’s just not in the Rangers DNA. This group was not built to bang, it was constructed to skate. The Rangers revamped their forwards this past offseason to play a speed game, so why, now that they’re in the postseason, would they go away from their strength?

Instead of futilely attempting to match the Canadiens physicality, it would behoove the Rangers to get Buchnevich and Vesey into the line-up to skate circles around Montreal’ s bottom six.

In a perfect world, now that Grabner’s scoring has dried up, the Rangers best and most balanced forward lines going into this series would look like this…

Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello
Nash-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
Miller-Hayes-Vesey
Fast-Lindberg-Grabner

Defensive Decisions

Similar to the forwards, the final few spots on defense are up in the air. If I know AV, the definites going into Game 1 are McD, Skjei, Smith, Girardi & Staal. Which leaves the final decision between Klein and Holden (sorry Clendening fans, he’s not getting in). Since AV is usually loyal to the guys he’s gone to battle with, I think Klein gets the Game 1 nod. To be honest, the two of them have been equally horrific recently, so I’m not sure it matters who AV ultimately goes with.

Once the games against Montreal actually begin, the question is what does Vigneault do when Girardi predictably can’t hang with the speed and skill of players such as Pacioretty and Radulov. Since the Canadiens are top heavy skill wise up front, it would make sense for AV to rely exclusively on McD, Skjei and Smith to shutdown the top six. Meanwhile, Girardi, Staal and Klein can be effectively matched-up against the more plodding bottom six.

One wild card on defense could be Kampfer. AV seemed to take a shine to the 28-year old defenseman after his recall with Glass, so if there’s full scale struggles on defense don’t be surprised to see Kampfer inserted at some point.

Nash’s Time Is Now

Nash’s playoff scoring woes have been well documented.

However, I have a feeling he’s going to be the X-factor in this series. Despite having better statistical seasons in New York, this might have been Nash’s best year on Broadway. Whether it was due to concussions or lack of aggression, Nash played most of his early tenure with the Rangers on the perimeter which is never a recipe for postseason success. Conversely, this season Nash has gone to the net with reckless abandon. And it’s paid off.

If he continues this mindset, he could finally carry this team to postseason success.

Stopping Weber

In case you haven’t heard, Shea Weber shoots the puck hard…

So stopping him on the power play will be of paramount importance for the Blueshirts as special teams are always a huge factor in the postseason.

The Rangers penalty kill is going to need to devise a plan to deny or limit him the puck with the man advantage.

The threat of offense from Grabner on the penalty kill could also be a deterrent for Weber. If the Austrian speedster creates a couple of early short-handed scoring attempts it could plant a seed in Weber’s mind that he needs to be a little more conservative with the puck.

Bad Blood

Not sure if everyone remembers, but this was a heated match-up in 2014. Not just because of the Kreider/Price incident, which Brandon Prust felt was “accidentally on purpose,” but also because of Prust’s other contribution to the series…

Which led to Gallagher implying that Stepan, who had a broken jaw, was embellishing the injury…

“I’ve seen broken jaws before.” Gallagher continued: “He got up and was yapping and yelling, so I don’t think the jaw was hurting too much.”

Former Montreal coach Michel Therrien added that it was a good hockey hit while Daniel Briere called the injury “fishy.”

And let’s not forget Practicegate in which Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson was chased out of the Madison Square Garden stands by Therrien for watching the Canadiens practice between Games 3 & 4. Shortly thereafter, Rangers GM Glen Sather took a seat high in the lower bowl for the rest of the skate.:

“There is always a gentlemen’s agreement between two teams and the general manager that coaches are not allowed to attend practices between games,” Therrien said. “ Game day is different. So when we saw those assistant coaches there, they were not supposed to be there, so we let them know.”

Hey Michel, how did that series end again? I can’t remember. Oh yeah…

Final Analysis & Prediction

All season long Rangers fans have begged for the 1st Wild Card in an effort to stay away from the likes of the Capitals, Penguins and Blue Jackets. Whelp, here they are, just where we wanted them: Starting the series in their House of Horrors, against a team they couldn’t beat this year (0-2-1) while facing a goaltender who owns them. Wait, why did we want to face these guys again?

Despite having all that stacked against them, the “road warrior” Rangers, behind their forward depth and a motivated Lundqvist, will get the job done. Rangers in 7, because they always have to go 7 games just to make their fans suffer.

I also previewed the series on two podcasts. Give them a listen below:

Real Talk Rangers:

NYR Zone Podcast:

Remember to follow me on TwitterFacebook & Instagram or e-mail me at nyrfan94@yahoo.com.

18 thoughts on “Rangers/Canadiens 1st Round Preview

  1. This is the first time I believe it all depends on who AV puts out there, which is scary. Glass will play, do what he does, couple hits, couple fights, and be praised for it. All the while neutralizing one of our lines. Vesey and Buch make the second line better if Buch is there, third line better if vesey is there, and now that grabner has dried up a dangerous and fast 4th line to skate circles around there’s. But if AV does what I think he will we go backwards, and it would be the first time I really lose trust in AV.

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    1. There is much less fighting in the playoffs. Hopefully AV will choose based upon the value of having 4 lines that can score

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  2. In his last five hours of ice time, Buch has 31 shots, 2 goals and 6 assists. Unless, there is a dramatic turnaround when he does play, you will be getting NOTHING from him. All the stats you here and see about Buch are based on the first two months of the season and his first two games back from injury. He was given every chance over the last 4-5 games to show he was ready and the answer as 2 shots on goal in 5 games! I desperately want him to come good. It, the chances of him doing that right now are not so great. He would need a dramatic 180, and he just doesn’t appear to have it in him.

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    1. Buch’s lack of scoring could be attributed to him playing a lot more on the 4th line as well as being scratched. He needs to be in a top 6 role to succeed.

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      1. I think it’s more due to lack of confidence and that he’s not too strong on the puck. Still he could be a valuable weapon and moving forward will hopefully bulk up some

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  3. Great commentary as always Kevin. Firstly these guys are professionals and know what’s at stake so I’m not too concerned about them coming out and playing desperate hockey from the first face off. They came into this season playing a north-south nose to the net style game augmented by speed with the philosophy of shoot first and only pass up a shot for a better opportunity if it is clearly there and became the best of the east. As well Kreider was a one man wrecking crew. As the season wore on they somehow got away from that style so hopefully AV is reminding them of what they were doing when they were actually winning games . I would agree that Nash has looked better this season than in the past but I would also add that the only time he looks like your perimeter player here was when he was nursing that concussion . His game has rounded out nicely here in New York but he will be the first player to tell you that he is here to score goals and as long as he does not put too much pressure on himself and just go with the flow he should have a good series . GirardI has for the most part look good against top lines this year so I’m not too worried about him for a change this post season . I really do not think Price is going to be invincible in the series but I’m not counting on Hank to be either so we will have to play some defense Rangers in six.

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  4. There’s a reason Av can’t win the big one. You might think it’s because half of our defense skate like slugs, and that is true, but Glass will never help to bring home the bacon.
    Also, the Rangers can’t score when we rarely have someone in front of the crease crashing the net. Tic tac toe passes will not win in the playoffs!

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  5. All the pundits seem to be taking the Habs. Let’s hope the Blueshirts prove them wrong. Had to laugh though at Dave Reid on NHL network tonight. Blamed the Rangers getting blown out last year by Pitt on “Hank’s slow start” in Game 1. Seems to me Hank’s “start” to that series was damn good. Stopped all 10 shots he faced in first before getting his eye poked out. Then in Games 2 and 3 he went .933 and .935 with 2 GAA. His “finish” on the other hand…

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  6. you can tell a lot of pent up energy spilling out onto the pages ….
    stats -conjecture -comparisons-tendency’s …all great & just fodder for the fire….
    IF NYR comes out & plays like opening nite & games right after we will not be denied …. That dynamic is not gonna get stopped …

    Healthy? best i’ve seen in yrs going into P O’s
    Depth? Ditto
    Blend of youth & vet ? best I’ve seen in years going into P O’s
    Style of play when on all cylinders ? Ditto
    D skill & depth? best I’ve seen in years going into P O’s Mac & Shey ( major )
    Goal Prep & depth/ Ditto
    Line up : dont see Buchny, gm 1 love 4th line,JT is w/ Zbad & nash 3rd line Hayes Vesey Glass
    D Klein is 7 man… Holden ? I M O i thought Smith ?
    Shey is the X factor w/ Smith….w e know the othr pairs

    SPecial teams ? This is the X factor ….
    i see some teams strategy is play 5 on 5 equal & win the special teams
    we have been able to kinda turn it on /off thru season
    Not worried about tonite ..just get 1 outta Mont coming home …..But
    dont pass up chance for 2 … get it goin tonite … let the monster out & play
    them straight up .. we got sum size & power fwd ‘s who can bang fair & square.
    L G R … playin 18 to pass the time till 7 pm …L G R

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  7. Playing Glass is effectively playing with 11 forwards.

    That turd in Tampa likes to do that but when he does, he has 7 D, which is an interesting proposition. Now when we had Mr McIlrath I thought this was a way to go against physical teams. Part of the issue with an enforcer playing D is when he spends his requisite time in the box for the 5min major, you’re down 17% of your D corp. However, Mr. McIlrath also possessed a cannon of a shot, had he been actually coached to work on that from the same position that kills us , ie Ovi’s “office” he would have had some use on the PP unit which has struggled since …. forever. Unfortunately that time has passed and Dylan is apparently moonlighting at United Airlines.

    If this team of highly talented forwards and a barely passable defense with inconsistent starting goal-tending needs a TG fight to get them pumped, then we’re fucked.

    If this coach actually thinks TG fits HIS system of speed and precision, then we’re fucked.

    If anyone thinks Hank can flip a switch and turn time back three years, then we’re fucked.

    We will need to outscore the opposition from the first game to the last. It used to be that three goals and Hank in net was a win, that is no longer the case. The blame is spread evenly from front to back, however trading skill for a ham-fisted, motherfucking Ivy league History major is reproachable.

    The front office however decided to extend the idiot making these decisions mid-season. So as I said, the blame is spread evenly from front to back, top to bottom.

    I’m glad they made the playoffs, but that’s not enough anymore.

    I’d write more but I need to restock the whiskey cabinet in time for tonight.

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