NHL Stanley Cup Round 1 Eastern Conference Preview: New York Rangers vs Montreal Canadiens

It has been a weird year for the New York Rangers. They’re clearly good enough to be in the playoffs, and they reached 100 points, but I have seen nothing but grief on Twitter from their fans, complaining about line combinations, and good kids sitting for poorer veterans. Yet they’re still here.

As for the Habs, apparently swapping PK Subban for Shea Weber was all it took for them to get back into the playoffs after being part of the Great Canadian Failure of 2016. /sarcasm.

All in all, they’re two pretty close teams and I expect that to be reflected in how long this one goes.

Eastern Conference Round One
New York Rangers Vs Montreal Canadiens
Standings
9th League 7th
4th Conference 4th
4th Division 1st
1st Wildcard Seeding 1st Atlantic
Season Record
48-28-6 102pts Overall 103pts 47-26-9
256 Goals For 226
220 Goals Against 200

Fourth-best offence in meets third-best defence. The Habs don’t score a tonne, but they’re reasonably solid at the back, and will be tough to break down. Can a high-scoring offensive unit do just that?

Record versus opponent
223 371 96 All-time 371 223 96
29 36 2 Playoffs 36 29 2
0 2 1 2016/17 3 0 0

It would appear these teams have faced each other far too many times. The Habs swept the season series, although the last time these two sides met in the post-season, the Rangers won 4-2 in the Eastern Conference final, before losing to LA in 2014.

Scoring Leaders
Chris Kreider 28 Goals 35 Max Pacioretty
Mats Zuccarello 44 Assists 36 Alexander Radulov
Mats Zuccarello 59 Points 67 Max Pacioretty
Derek Stepan 209 Shots 268 Max Pacioretty
Matt Puempel 18.8 Shot % 22.9 Paul Byron

 

Both teams have pretty deep scoring. The Rangers have 25 goal scorers, the Habs 26. Both have ten players who have scored ten or more goals. But after that, the Habs struggle. Only two Habs have broken the 20 goal barrier – Pacioretty and Byron. The Rangers have 20 players who have double-digit points, of which 11 have broken 30. The Habs do have 13 25+ points scorers, but not to the heights of the Rangers.

Again, good offence against good defence.

Even Strength Team Possession (via corsica.hockey)
Unadjusted SZV Adjusted
CF% FF% CF% FF%
New York 47.95 48.78 48.13 48.95
Montreal 52.54 52.42 52.73 52.47
Unadjusted Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)
CF% FF%
D F D F
New York Adam Clendening (56.41) Chris Kreider (53.95) Adam Clendening (55.34) Chris Kreider (54.20)
Montreal Mark Barberio (55.12) Phillip Danault (55.75) Jeff Petry (53.82) Brendan Gallagher (55.84)

Well, I guess that’s where the Rangers fans’ ire comes from. #TheRangersAreActuallyBad? Montreal, on the other hand, are good at controlling games, and if this continues, it could be hard for that strong Rangers offence to get going.

Only three players who amassed over 200 minutes ended up as negative possession players for the Habs, as opposed to only five Rangers ending the year as positive possession players. That’s quite the mis-match.

Special Teams
Power Play Penalty Kill
% Rank % Rank
New York 20.2 11th 79.8 19th
Montreal 19.6 13th 81.1 14th
PPG For SHG Against PPG Against SHG For
New York 47 5 45 9
Montreal 45 6 47 5

Two slightly above-average power plays meet two around-average penalty kills. Special teams probably won’t make the difference here, unless one team takes a silly amount of penalties.

Goaltending
New York Montreal
Henrik Lundqvist Antti Raanta Carey Price Al Montoya
5v5 Sv% 91.83 93.31 93.59 92.05
5v5 HDSv% 82.91 84.09 86.60 85.71
All Sits Sv% 91.03 92.20 92.31 91.21
All Sits HDSv% 82.93 82.72 84.60 82.35

 

It’s not the monster Lundqvist of previous years, but he’s still Henrik Goddamn Lundqvist. And at the other end of the ice is the gold standard. Considered the best in the world, Carey Price is going to have to prove it if he wants to deliver the Habs’ first cup since 1993.

Prediction

 

It seems strange to say it, but I have no idea how the team with such a strong goal production rate is such a bad possession team. Voodoo, probably. I’m going with the Habs, because of their stronger defence, and Carey Price being, well, Carey Price.

The winner faces Ottawa or Boston, and so would be in with a pretty good chance of making the ECF.

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