Rabid Habs

Habs vs. Rangers: ECQF Game One

The moment is finally here. After 82 games, the Montreal Canadiens found themselves at the top of the Atlantic Division. That 103 point season now means nothing. The new season starts tonight, and the Habs’ will have their hands full with their opponent.

Tonight at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens will host the New York Rangers in the post-season for the first time since 2014. New York, coming off of an impressive 102 point season, draw the Canadiens in the first round after coming in fourth place in the dynamic Metropolitan Division.

While this meeting comes in the first round, the last series between the two decided who would go to the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers ultimately defeated the Canadiens in six games, in a series that saw two overtime decisions. While the series itself had several exciting moments, the pivotal moment of the series game in game one when Rangers’ power forward Chris Kreider collided with Carey Price and ended his post season.

For what it’s worth, the Canadiens swept the season series against the Rangers, outscoring New York by four goals in the process.

A Tale of Two Goalies

Make no mistake; this series will be marketed as a goaltending duel, and the product on the ice will prove that claim. While Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price didn’t have the most prolific seasons by their own standards, they come into this series feeling better about their game.

Finishing the season with a .923 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA, Price’s numbers are carried by his performance down the stretch. Since March 1st, Price has allowed just 22 even strength goals in 14 games. Lundqvist has been nearly as stingy, giving up just over two even strength goals per game since March 1st. Expect low scoring contests with these two in net.

Galchenyuk Demoted

Regardless of media or organizational spin, Alex Galchenyuk’s new deployment on the fourth line is a demotion. After being moved to the wing and playing alongside Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen, Galchenyuk struggled to be the impact player he was earlier on this season. Despite moving to the wing on the fourth line, Galchenyuk will still centre the team’s second power play unit.

It’s possible that Galchenyuk is still feeling the effects of the knee injury that sidelined him for about six weeks, but that remains to be known. Claude Julien said he wants to see more compete from the American winger, so maybe putting him on a grinding line isn’t the most ridiculous thing after all. We will have to wait and see.

Lineups

The Rangers practiced in New York Tuesday before flying in to Montreal. If their lines from practice are what we’ll see tonight, here’s what we’ll be looking at:

For those unfamiliar will the Rangers’ roster, here’s what this means:

Kreider – Stepan – Zuccarello

Vesey – Zibanejad – Nash

Grabner – Hayes – Miller

Glass – Lindberg – Fast

 

McDonagh – Girardi

Staal – Holden

Skjei – Smith

The Canadiens will have their full roster back with the exception of defenseman Alexei Emelin, who will miss game one due to injury. Both Shea Weber and Jordie Benn will play after missing the last few games, and Al Montoya will back up Price after being injured in practice over a week ago. With Galchenyuk moving to the fourth line, here’s what the Habs will look like for game one.

Pacioretty – Danault – Radulov

Byron – Plekanec – Gallagher

King – Shaw – Lehkonen

Galchenyuk – Ott – Martinsen

 

Markov – Weber

Benn – Petry

Beaulieu – Nesterov

Brandon Davidson skated as the extra defenseman on Tuesday, and will be a scratch in game one. Torrey Mitchell, Michael McCarron and Brian Flynn will join Davidson in the press box for tonight’s game.

Pacioretty Scare

The biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s practice was the sudden exit of captain Max Pacioretty. In a drill, Michael McCarron clipped Pacioretty in the face with his stick, and Pacioretty left the ice and did not return. This afternoon, it was confirmed that Pacioretty would play in game one, although the Canadiens brass didn’t express any serious concern when the accident happened. His removal from practice and his status as “probable” was most likely just precautionary.

Starting Goalies

As it it needs to be mentioned, Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist are expected to start in goal for game one tonight.

Game time is 7:00pm as opposed to the usual 7:30pm home weekday starts we see during the regular season. You can find the game on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada, while American viewers can catch the game on NBCSN.

Follow Rabidhabs for more updates over the course of the playoffs, and come back after the game for post-game analysis!