New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens Game 2: Keys for Each Team
The New York Rangers haven't played any better this season than they did in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. On the flip side, the Montreal Canadiens looked lethargic, slow and overmatched.
This combination led to a 7-2 drubbing of the hometown Habs by the Blueshirts.
With Game 2 set to go on Monday night back at the Bell Centre, let's take a look at the keys for each team.
The Rangers Have to Maintain Their Intensity
By winning Game 1, the Rangers have taken home-ice advantage away from the Canadiens. A split of the first two games is always the first priority for the road team in an NHL playoff series.
It's mission accomplished for New York. Somehow, the Rangers need to manufacture the same intensity and focus they exhibited in Game 1.
It's impossible to play all playoff games in the highest gear. With the parity in today's game, it will be surprising if the Rangers can dominate in a similar fashion in Game 2.
The Rangers should focus on one important stat. In 291 opportunities, only 12.7 percent of teams that lose the first two games come back to win a seven-game series.
Carey Price Has to Be the Starter
Carey Price was much less than sharp on Saturday afternoon. He didn't play well and may have suffered an injury following a collision with speedy Rangers winger Chris Kreider in the second period.
Price did not play in the third period. Coach Michel Therrien would not confirm if Price was injured following the game.
Peter Budaj came in to mop up for Price, but Budaj is not the long-term answer for the Habs.
Price has had an exceptional season. He helped lead Team Canada to a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics and is in the mix for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
From a Montreal standpoint, it is critical that Price is healthy and between the pipes on Monday night for Game 2.
Rangers Must Keep Up the Pace
The Rangers were better in all facets of the game on Saturday. New York absolutely dominated in the speed department.
In many ways, it was stunning to see Montreal beaten at its own game so decisively.
Montreal had outskated Boston for stretches in Round 2. The Habs couldn't do that in Game 1 against the Rangers. In particular, Martin St. Louis, Kreider and Mats Zuccarello were flying for the better part of the afternoon.
The Montreal defence could not keep pace as Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin looked particularly exposed.
If the Rangers can continue to play at a high pace, the Habs are going to continue to struggle to defend. Playing without the puck for long stretches is no recipe for success.
Montreal Has to Show Better Discipline
The Canadiens were extremely disciplined against the Big Bad Bruins. This was not the case against the Rangers.
Montreal seemed to be trying to manufacture emotion. Combined with the fact that they seemed to be skating with concrete boots rather than skates, the Canadiens spent far too much time in the penalty box.
The Canadiens took eight of the first nine penalties in the game. They gave up three power-play goals—a level of penalty killing that's tough to win playoff games with.
If it doesn't remedy this in Game 2, this series could be over before Montreal can find its collective footing.
The Rangers Need to Keep Getting Contributions from Everyone
The New York Game 1 victory was a complete team effort.
It wasn't only that all four lines contributed. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers defence were also very good.
The Rangers had seven different scorers, and head coach Alain Vigneault was able to roll all four lines. He never likes to lean on one line too heavily, and the former Montreal head coach was able to execute this to perfection on Saturday evening.
Ryan McDonagh had four points from the back end, and the entire defence was solid against the Canadiens.
If the Rangers can have everyone contributing in all three zones, they are going to give themselves a great chance to go home with two wins following Monday night's game.
P.K. Subban Needs to Lead His Team
P.K. Subban's overall body of work in the 2014 playoffs has been all-world.
In Game 1, not so much. Like his teammates, Subban looked slow and did not seem to be emotionally engaged.
Subban is at his best when he's banging bodies, moving the puck and contributing in all game situations. The Habs blueliner has 12 points in 12 playoff games.
He is a high-energy performer who inspires others with his passion.
The Canadian Olympian sets the tone for his club. He has to be much more engaged in Game 2 if the Habs want to head to the Big Apple with the Eastern Conference Final tied.