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PHT Morning Skate: Let the Eastern Conference Final begin

May 17, 2014, 9:50 AM EST

Mats Zuccarello, Carey Price, Brian Gionta, Benoit Pouliot, AP

After a restful couple of days, it’s time to get the Eastern Conference Final started.

The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens each came away with seven-game victories in the second round and for the Rangers that made two consecutive series that went seven. Do the Rangers hit a wall any time soon or do they find a way to put a team away early? It’s only one of 1,000 questions that can be asked in this series.

With the Habs having home ice, they’re hoping things turn more like they did against Tampa Bay than they did with Boston. Hey, at least they’ve already earned the Rangers respect, right?

Game 1: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers (1:00 p.m. ET — NBC)

There are legitimate curiosities for both teams going into this series, but perhaps the biggest one is how Henrik Lundqvist will fare.

Lundqvist’s history playing in Montreal is legitimately terrible. He hasn’t won at Bell Centre since 2009 and in four appearances there since that last victory, he’s 0-3-1 with an abysmal .862 save percentage. If those numbers don’t change in a hurry, the Rangers are in it deep or need Cam Talbot to play the part of the road game savior. If ever there was a time for King Henrik to figure it out it’s now.

Add in the fact Rick Nash is still looking for his first goal of the playoffs and you’d think the Rangers are doomed, yet here are the Canadiens in their first Eastern Final since 2010 when Jaroslav Halak led them deep into the postseason. Now it’s on Carey Price to be the man and, like Lundqvist, he’s been outstanding in the playoffs.

Unlike the Rangers, however, Montreal doesn’t have a big time player in a big time offensive funk. Their attack has been spread out well through the postseason and P.K. Subban has led the charge with four goals and 12 points. Subban is one of four players with four goals while Thomas Vanek has five.

These teams are separated by just over 350 miles and are Original Six squads that haven’t met in the playoffs since 1996. It’ll be fun to add another chapter to their history.

  1. dannyboy1313 - May 17, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    The Rangers beat Pittsburgh with zero offensive contribution from Nash.
    Vanek has never done anything v Rangers, even going back to his Icelander days.

  2. 16thearlofderby - May 17, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Habs in 7 games

    Goalie – Smallest of margins to Price – won 5 elimination games this year giving up 2 goals

    Coach – AV/Therrien are even – both have done a tremendous job regular season & playoffs

    Def – slightest of margins to Habs. The differentiator is PK

    Off – slightest of margins to Habs
    Rangers
    GP 252 G 34 A 69 Pts 93

    Habs
    GP 198 G 36 A 60 Pts 96

    The only variable that can send the Rangers to the SCF is Nash.

  3. nybadger - May 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    Ranger fan here… Objectively speaking I’d also give a slight edge to Montreal (my second favorite team) because we simply haven’t played that well against MTL over the last 4-5 years particularly up there. What gives me hope is that it looks like the NYR are finally a mentally tough team that plays four lines. Also, Nash is simply due. PK is scary good and Price seems to own us. Should be really good series that will likely go the distance. Let’s go Rangers!

  4. billiam55 - May 17, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    u gotta respect both these teams. they took out the two top NHL teams in the east.

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