Montreal Canadiens' Guide to Climbing Back into Eastern Conference Final

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Montreal Canadiens' Guide to Climbing Back into Eastern Conference Final
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Things are looking understandably bleak for the Montreal Canadiens.

They lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final at home to the New York Rangers, leaving them in the unenviable position of having to win four of the next five games with three of them on the road. The Habs will have to accomplish that task without Carey Price, who is out for the series with a knee injury, leaving the team with Dustin Tokarski as its primary goaltender.

Only 19 teams in the history of the NHL have come back to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games on home ice.

That's pretty bleak.

It doesn't mean it's impossible for the Canadiens to come back and take this series. That's why I've taken it upon myself to create this handy FAQ model for fans who are looking for hope. Ideally, this question-and-answer session will be helpful for everyone with Game 3 set for Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

I am a Canadiens fan and I'd like to give up. Should I watch the NBA playoffs instead?

No. I am here to offer you hope, as stated above. You should still root for the Canadiens.

OK, fine. But why should I have any feelings of hope after that loss in Game 2?

I understand that it was very disheartening, but the Canadiens poured 41 shots on net. If they can do that again and again in this series, they can get back into it. They had a great start and strong finish but simply ran into Henrik Lundqvist at the top of his game.

So is Lundqvist not going to play Game 3?

No, he is.

So, again, why should I have any feelings of hope?

Because Lundqvist is human and can be beaten. And this game is being played at Madison Square Garden, where he and the Rangers have been far more vulnerable in the playoffs. Lundqvist is just 4-3 at home, and of the three games this postseason in which he has allowed three or more goals, it's happened twice at MSG.

That's all well and good, but how do the Canadiens get to Lundqvist?

It's a tired cliche, but getting more traffic in front of him is the only way to beat an elite goaltender who stops everything he sees. Brendan Gallagher needs to become more of a pest in front of the net. He made an effort to drive there in the first minute of Game 2 and knocked over Lundqvist, but he was mostly a perimeter player throughout the game.

Another idea is to shoot high. It's easier said than done, but Lundqvist sits so deep in his net that he's practically under the crossbar at times. It's almost impossible to beat him with a shot along the ice, so getting the puck under the bar is the key to scoring. See: Lars Eller's goal late in Game 1.

I'm not saying Rene Bourque should crash the crease with an intent to injure Lundqvist, but he's looked far too comfortable through two games.

How about kidnapping? What if I and my friends kidnap Lundqvist before Game 3 like they did in that Dan Aykroyd, Daniel Stern, Damon Wayans movie?

No. I am not advocating kidnapping. Do not do that. It is illegal. You should not go to jail over your irrational love for your favorite sports team.

But we promise not to hurt him. We'll return him after the series. Is that OK?

No. It is not OK. That is the plot of every kidnapping movie, then something goes wrong. Do not kidnap Henrik Lundqvist.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

What was the name of that movie again?

It was called Celtic Pride. Damon Wayans was a Utah Jazz player. It was a bad movie. Can we get back to the hockey series?

Right. Sorry. Besides traffic in front and shooting high, what else can the Canadiens do offensively?

They need to make the most of their power-play opportunities. They are 0-of-7 in two games against the Rangers, and that has a lot to do with Lundqvist. The Habs had 14 power-play shots in the series and 10 in Game 2, so it's not as though they're not creating zone time and chances, although five of those occurred at the end of Game 2 with Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker.

Still, the power play has been the lifeblood for the Canadiens in the postseason.

It went 8-of-25 against the Boston Bruins in the second round and scored once in Game 6 and Game 7, both Canadiens wins. They are 3-3 when they fail to score on the power play and 5-2 when they do.

Just about every team is better when scoring power-play goals, but with the way this series is going, the power play takes on added meaning for the Canadiens.

Are we sure we can't kidnap Lundqvist? I think it's the best idea.

Stop with that.

Maybe the Canadiens should go with Peter Budaj?

They might, but that seems ill-advised. Chances are, if the Canadiens want to win this series, they'll need to do it in seven games. That would require Budaj to start five consecutive games, something he hasn't done in three years as a backup in Montreal.

The last time Budaj made five straight starts was during the 2010-11 season with the Colorado Avalanche. He made six straight starts for the Avs in February 2011, allowing 21 goals on 201 shots (.895) and went 1-4-1.

Plus, when your coach says he went with the other guy because he's a winner, that doesn't bode well for Budaj in the comparison.

But, man, Tokarski in net? How in the world can the Canadiens win with him?

Of all the problems the Canadiens had in Game 2, he really wasn't one of them. The first and third goals wouldn't have been stopped by anyone, Price and Lundqvist included. The second goal seemed to be stoppable, but Tokarski was slow in moving across. Still, if that's the nitpicking goal, that's not a bad NHL playoff debut.

Perhaps getting away from the pressure of Montreal will do Tokarski good. As stated above, Madison Square Garden has been quite favorable for road teams this season.

What? Isn't Madison Square Garden a tough place to play?

No, it is not.

But what about all of that building's history and ghosts and all that?

This version of MSG has been around since 1964. Since then, the Rangers have won one Stanley Cup in 50 years. There's an above-average chance your living room has more history in it. Well, at least more hockey success, assuming you play Xbox in your living room and are good at NHL games.

Also, ghosts aren't real. They don't exist. Scooby-Doo should have taught you that.

The Rangers actually lost more games than they won at home (20-17-4) in the regular season. They are extremely vulnerable on home ice, be it because the fans swing between being so quiet you'd think they were in a library and booing their own players when they touch the puck.

This was helpful, but I still like my idea of...

...DO NOT KIDNAP HENRIK LUNDQVIST!

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com.

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