Playing on home ice on Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens are looking to rebound from one of their more demoralizing losses of the season.
Their opponent this evening is the New York Rangers, one of the Habs’ closest competitors in the Eastern Conference. The Blueshirts enter tonight’s game in the top-seven league-wide, but because the Metropolitan division is ridiculous this year, the Rangers do not currently hold a divisional playoff spot.
The Rangers are also the only Eastern Conference opponent that the Habs have yet to play this season, but these two teams are about to get very familiar with one another. Including tonight, they play four times in the next seven weeks, and if the playoffs started today, the Rangers would be lining up to start their run on the same ice they’ll line up on tonight.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), TVAS (French)
In the Rangers region: MSG
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.86||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||48.55|
|1.33||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.03|
For years, if there’s been one constant in Manhattan, it’s been the quality of the goaltending. This year, incumbent Henrik Lundqvist and his backup, Antti Raanta, are both firmly south of average, but the Rangers have kept on ticking anyhow. The Habs’ opponents tonight also have the distinction of being the only team with any legitimate championship aspirations among those in league’s bottom-ten squads by possession.
The Rangers penalty kill efficiency is right on the mean league-wide, but their powerplay efficiency ranks just behind Montreal’s in the league’s top-ten. That offensive ability is also present at 5v5, and it’s very likely New York’s greatest weapon at the moment.
While they’ve played more games than their nearest competitors, no team has scored more goals overall than the Rangers so far this season. Their lineup is packed with skill, with recent Blueshirt standbys like Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider joined by rookies Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey, and highly-productive free agent signee Michael Grabner.
All of this makes the Rangers exactly the type of team that could cause some serious problems for Montreal tonight. If the Habs’ leaky defensive play continues, or if Carey Price isn’t able to flip the script on his seven-goal Thursday night, or if the penalty kill keeps sagging, this game could be just as ugly as the one against Minnesota. On the other hand, the Maple Leafs may have laid out a decent blueprint to follow when they beat the Rangers last night.
Perhaps most importantly, the Leafs kept their crease clean, making sure the most dangerous chances that Frederik Andersen was left to deal with were outside of the slot. Carey Price may be slumping of late, but the Habs did him no favours by leaving opposing forwards tons of time and space during their recent Central division foray. That needs to change this evening.
The Leafs also managed a pair of powerplay markers, using a right-to-left cross-seam pass in each case. That play may not be the hallmark of the Montreal powerplay, but it would behoove the Habs to take note that the option is there.
The Canadiens are getting very close to the end of a grueling stretch of schedule, and are coming off a game in which, for the first time, they seemed to be feeling the effects. If the Habs can erase that effort and get the upper hand on a team they’re going to see a lot of in the near future, it would bode well for the even more strenuous grind set that will come in mid-April.