vendredi 16 mai 2014

Rangers matchup will feature good goaltending, young studs and some familiar faces #hockey #playoff #rangers #habs #mtlvsnyr

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 With the Canadiens and the New York Rangers set to battle in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final — Game 1 goes Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre (1 p.m., CBC, TSN, NBC, TSN-690 Radio) — here are some storylines to follow in the first playoff matchup between these teams since 1996:

THE GOALTENDERS: Carey Price and the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist were key performers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Price had an easier time in the first round as the Canadiens swept Tampa Bay while the Rangers needed seven games to oust the Philadelphia Flyers. Both goalies had to come from behind as their teams needed seven games to get through Round 2. Price allowed only one goal in two games as Montreal rallied from a 3-2 series deficit while Lundqvist and the Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Pittsburgh. Lundqvist allowed only one goal in each of the final three games. There’s little difference between the two statistically but Lundqvist has struggled against Montreal, particularly at the Bell Centre, which is why Cam Talbot made both starts in Montreal this season. Lundqvist is 13-11-2 against the Canadiens with a 2.87 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage.

THE YOUNG STUDS: We can only fantasize how good the Canadiens defence would be with P.K. Subban and Ryan McDonagh. Montreal drafted both defencemen in 2007 — McDonagh went 12th overall and Subban went 43rd — but Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey gave up on McDonagh after watching him play at the University of Wisconsin and McDonagh was a throw-in on the deal that brought Scott Gomez to Montreal for Christopher Higgins. There will be the inevitable comparisons between the two, but Subban has taken his game to a new level in these playoffs.

CHARACTER ADD-ONS: Both teams made key acquisitions before the trading deadline. The Canadiens made headlines by acquiring Thomas Vanek and he has supplied an offensive spark. But the most important additions may have been forward Dale Weise and defenceman Mike Weaver. Weise has two game-winning goals in the playoffs while Weaver shrugs off his 28 blocked shots in the playoffs by saying: “I’m just covering up for my mistakes.” The key pickup for the Rangers was Martin St. Louis, whose feud with Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman reached the point of no return. The undisputed leader of the Lightning for more than a decade had to deal with tragedy last week when his mother, France, died of a heart attack. The Rangers rallied around St. Louis as they won the final three games against Pittsburgh and the team will attend France St. Louis’s funeral

DEFENCE REIGNS: These teams played three times in the regular season and they combined for only four goals. Price and Cam Talbot split a couple of 1-0 decisions at the Bell Centre while Peter Budaj made 27 saves for a 2-0 win in New York. The Canadiens were the lowest-scoring playoff team in the East this but they have picked it up in the playoffs, averaging 3.27 goals a game.

FAMILIAR FACES: There are six players who will be facing their former team and some of them will have an opportunity to prove that someone made a mistake by letting them go. Weise falls in that category. He arrived in Montreal after he had problems with John Tortorella in New York and Vancouver. The Canadiens also have Brandon Prust who signed as a free agent two years ago. The list of former Canadiens in the Big Apple is topped by McDonagh but close behind is Benoit Pouliot, a former first-round draft pick who has found a home after disappointing stops in Minnesota, Montreal, Boston and Tampa Bay. Other former Canadiens are Dominic Moore, who has rebounded following the tragic death of his wife to cancer, and defenceman Raphael Diaz, who started the season in Montreal before he was traded to Vancouver for Weise. He was later sent to New York for a fifth-round draft choice.