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PHT Morning Skate: Habs face their biggest challenge yet

May 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

PK Subban AP

When Chicago has gained a lead in the 2014 playoffs, they’ve done a great job of closing the deal. That was not the case last night.

The Blackhawks were up 2-0 when Justin Williams got Los Angeles on the board with less than two minutes remaining in the second period. It gave the Kings a morale boost going into the third and they capitalized on that shift in momentum. By the time the night was done, Los Angeles had scored six unanswered goals.

“It turned into a disaster,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said in summary.

While Chicago regroups from that collapse, the Eastern Conference battle will resume.

Game 3: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers [Rangers lead series 2-0] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is playing at the top of his game and he’s left the Canadiens scrambling to find anything they can grasp onto.

Montreal doesn’t have goaltender Carey Price, forward Thomas Vanek is struggling, and their former draft pick, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, has already recorded six points in this series.

Without much else to fall back on, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien made his pitch that the Canadiens are this year’s Cinderella Story.

“When we started the season, there were a lot of people not even putting us in the playoffs. Or, if they wanted to be polite, they’d give us the eighth spot,” Therrien said.

“We caused a surprise to make the playoffs. We caused a surprise against the Tampa Bay Lightning to win in four, and we caused a bigger surprise to beat the Boston Bruins.”

They were never down by two games against Tampa Bay or Boston though and everything they’ve accomplished thus far has been thanks in large part to Price. With him gone, the team will turn to rookie Dustin Tokarski for the second straight game.

He wasn’t the problem in Game 2, but Tokarski isn’t likely to be the solution either. If Montreal wants to win this series, they have to take Lundqvist and the Rangers’ defense down a peg. And after losing two games at home, it has to happen at Madison Square Garden.

  1. pl4tinum514 - May 22, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Traffic in front, baby. It’s the only way.

  2. jessejames182 - May 22, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    I’m don’t like the Rangers (I’m a Devils fan) so obviously I have my bias. They’re not terrible, nothings been handed to them these playoffs, but Vigneault, I think, hasn’t done anything terribly stunning yet. There’s been a huge disparity between the east and the west all season just from the points standings alone. He’s a good coach, but they’ve only beaten the Flyers (who at one point thought there goalie situation was solved with Ilya Bryzgalov, and his replacement had a rule made after he assaulted another goalie on the ice), the Pens, and now a Price-less Habs team. I don’t think Montreal’s out of it, and New York is playing very tight hockey, but the biggest challenge will be if they make it to the finals and have to play Chicago/LA.

    • stakex - May 22, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      I always love when fans of one team talk down the accomplishments of another. While the Rangers might have “only” beaten the Flyers, and then “only” beat the Penguins (an annual Cup favorite), and now sit two games from the Cup finals…. that’s a lot more than the Devils managed this year.

      As for AV, not sure what you mean by he hasn’t done anything terribly stunning. Good coaches generally don’t do anything stunning…. they just win, which is what he’s doing for the Rangers. Again, sounds like you’re just bitter and trying to nit pick things.

      • jessejames182 - May 22, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        I’m not hiding from the fact that the only reason I don’t like the Rangers to win the cup is that they are the Rangers. They’ve got a legitimate chance to win, I just think the East isn’t a great measuring stick right now. The Pens got swept by the Bruins last year, they’re just regular season heroes. I’m not “trying” to crap on AV but I’m just trying to figure out how the Canucks fire him, and he makes it right back to the Conference Finals. I “think” that it’s because, short of the pens, and Bruins, there’s not as much of a challenge in the east (other factors like roster withstanding). I think a pretty good West coach can be really good in the east because of the division disparity.

    • nebbah306 - May 22, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      How about the fact that the Rangers are rolling 4 lines, getting scoring and production from all 4 and 3 sets of d-men consistently? I can’t remember the last time they had that kind of consistency throughout the lineup. They are a match-up nightmare. They appear to have more depth than any other team left. Also, when you have arguably the best goaltender in the world right now, anything is possible. And you shrug off the fact that they beat the Flyers (one of the hotter teams after their slow start) and the Penguins (Crosby, Malkin and co).

      • jessejames182 - May 22, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        They could win it all, I don’t like that Pens argument that Crosby and Malkin automatically make them favorites. They’re not a bad team, but that top heavy offense and shaky goalie has only gotten them so far. The Rangers getting this far isn’t a fluke, they’re playing well but I just think the east, as a whole, is less than the west, and yes I dislike the Rangers for reasons not at all based on their skill.

    • gmen4trophies - May 22, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      I think it has been pretty stunning that at the beginning of the year sports writers in NY papers were saying that the current NY Rangers roster of forecheckers and grinders wouldn’t suit Vigneault’s up-tempo style of play and players would have to be brought in, and by the end of the year most everybody has forgotten about that because now this looks like an up-tempo roster. He also turned around players like Brad Richards who recently admitted that his confidence had been destroyed the previous year. The Rangers as a team have much to prove, but the coach has proven a lot already.

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