Canadiens vs Rangers 2014 playoffs Game 2 preview

Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto

After a Game 1 that quickly became an abomination, can the Habs forget about it in time for Game 2?

The Canadiens entered Game 1 coming off the ultimate high. It didn't take long for the Bruins to bring them down to earth.

Former Hab Dominic Moore was a catalyst on two quick and early New York goals, and when the Habs had finally built up some momentum, the Rangers scored twice more. By the time the puck dropped on the third period, the game was effectively over, and the rampant Carey Price speculation was already in full force.

The status of the Canadiens' goaltender is easily tonight's biggest question. The B.C. native's play through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has put him in Conn Smythe contention, and on many nights, he's stolen games as the Canadiens' clear MVP. Setting aside the debate on Chris Kreider's criminality, Price was obviously shaken up after a collision with the speedy Rangers forward, with rumoured after effects ranging from a precautionary third period rest, to  playoff-run ending knee damage, to impending early retirement. No matter what, the Habs need Price, and they need his form to at least approximate the phenomenal play he's offered so far.

Of course, regardless of Price's status for tonight's affair, the Habs need to be better on the other 195 feet of the ice, as well. The Canadiens were vastly outplayed in the game's opening minutes, and that New York pressure left Montreal at a deficit they couldn't rebound from. If the Canadiens' top players can't find their form against New York's best, especially supposed difference-makers like Thomas Vanek, it isn't going to matter whether Price is injured or '94 Mike Richter. The Rangers are a dangerous three-line team, and the Habs need to come prepared to counter that.

Thankfully, for a spell in the second period, the Canadiens that countering the Rangers is possible. From the drop of the second period puck to the time of Chris Kreider's back-breaking late-period goal, the Habs held almost 60% of shot attempts, and appeared to be truly controlling the flow of the game. P.K. Subban was absolutely robbed on a wrister from the slot after the Habs gained zone entry on a Subban rush, and Rene Bourque eventually pulled the Habs within one during the Habs' surge. Montreal looked like they did against Boston, using their speed and disciplined puck possession to make the Rangers look uncomfortable, and rolling four lines while they did it.

In addition to showing that it is possible for the Habs to keep pace with the Rangers as a team, Game 1 also showed us that the Rangers fourth line could be a weak point for the Canadiens to exploit, as was the case in rounds 1 and 2. While an early Derick Brassard injury opened the door for Moore's production to greater ice further up the in the lineup, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett still saw their usual ice with a carousel of linemates, and were absolutely shredded in the process. Alain Vigneault seemed content to allow Dorsett and Boyle to face the Canadiens more dangerous players, and Michel Therrien was more than happy to oblige, feeding Boyle, Dorsett, and whoever they happened to be skating with a steady diet of Pacioretty and Co. The result was the two worst possession performances for the Blueshirts in Game 1, as Dorsett (1 shot attempt for, 8 against) and Boyle (3-8) were constantly hemmed in their own zone.

The Canadiens lost Game 1, and as much as they needed to improve, they'll need to double that with Carey Price recently announced as out for the series with a knee injury.

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