New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens Game 1: Keys for Each Team
For a diehard NHL fan, even if you're not a huge fan of the specific combatants, there is a certain allure to an Original Six playoff series.
The Eastern Conference Finals features a clash between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers. It's an unlikely matchup, as these upstarts knocked off regular-season division champs in Round 2.
Both victories were well deserved, and the two divisional finals went the distance. Superior netminding from two all-world goalies was decisive in both series.
Let's take a look at the keys for each team as we get ready for Game 1 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
King Henrik Has to Continue His Excellent Play
Swedish sensation Henrik Lundqvist has had an exceptional playoff run. The talented Lundqvist has a .931 save percentage through 14 playoff games.
He has the ability to steal hockey games, which he'll be looking to do early against the Canadiens.
If Lundqvist needs any extra motivation, all he'll need to do is look down to the opposite end of the rink and focus on Carey Price, whose Canadian national team beat Henrik's Sweden for the Olympic gold medal in Sochi this past winter.
He may not have much time to do that though, as the Canadiens are sure to come out flying in Game 1.
Lundqvist has to be exceptional for the Rangers to win Game 1.
The Bell Centre Will Be Rocking
Hockey is king in "la belle province." The Bell Centre doesn't have the history of the Montreal Forum, but the fans are doing their best to make it a formidable arena for visiting teams.
The Habs have turned to award-winning singer and actress Ginette Reno to inspire players and fans alike with the Canadian national anthem. It's been working so far, with the Habs losing just once in five home games in 2014.
Reno has worked the crowd into a frenzy for playoff home games, and the Canadiens will be counting on her for more of the same in Game 1.
Goals should be at a premium in this series, so if Montreal can get out to early leads, it will prove difficult for the Rangers to mount comebacks.
The Rangers Need Rick Nash
Rick Nash is a gifted scorer, but the 2014 playoffs have not gone well for the noted sniper.
Despite scoring 26 times in the 2013-14 regular season, he hasn't scored in the playoffs. The Rangers have had contributions from others, but Nash needs to get going in Game 1.
The longer the goalless streak continues, the worse it is going to get for the Brampton, Ontario star.
The Bell Centre atmosphere is going to increase adrenaline for players on both teams. New York fans will be happy if Nash gets caught up in this and lights the lamp in Montreal at least once in Game 1.
Carey Price Needs to Continue His Dominant Ways
The Montreal Canadiens have been greatly outplayed at five-on-five in the 2014 playoffs, per ExtraSkater.com.
The Rangers are not the Bruins, but Carey Price is going to have to continue his outstanding play in Game 1. Lundqvist is going to be great, and Price will need to at least match his play.
The Olympic gold-medal winner has a .926 save percentage in the playoffs. If he doesn't achieve a similar percentage in the Eastern Conference Finals, it will be very difficult for the Canadiens to make the Stanley Cup Final.
Price plays well in big games. Expect more of the same from him in Game 1.
The Martin St. Louis Factor
Martin St. Louis will be returning home to Montreal for Game 1. The Laval, Quebec native is sure to be filled with emotion as the series gets started.
The entire Rangers family has rallied around their superstar with the recent death of his mother. To his credit, St. Louis has played inspired hockey since her passing.
Media and fan focus will be on St. Louis as he continues to deal with a range of emotions.
Amid all of this, the Rangers will need the veteran winger to be near the top of his game in Game 1 if they hope to get off to a fast start in this series.
St. Louis is a gamer, so expect nothing less.
The Canadiens 4th Line Must Contribute
A key factor in Montreal's defeat of the Boston Bruins was the play of its fourth line. Dale Weise and Daniel Briere were particularly good.
Not many teams have the depth at centre to have someone like Briere centre the fourth line. However the Habs can do just that.
This particular fourth line features speed and skill instead of pure brawn. The line can cause some challenging matchups for third-pairing defenders.
If head coach Michel Therrien can get all four lines rolling early in Game 1, look for the line of Briere, Weise and either Travis Moen or Brandon Prust to cause problems for the Rangers' defence and Lundqvist.
Spending time in the Rangers' zone and creating at least one goal could be the difference between winning and losing for the Canadiens.
All stats can be found on Hockeydb.com unless otherwise noted.