New York Rangers

New York Rangers' Biggest Question Marks in NHL Playoff Series vs. Canadiens

Jeremy FuchsCorrespondent IIIMay 21, 2014

New York Rangers' Biggest Question Marks in NHL Playoff Series vs. Canadiens

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Everything is right in Rangerstown, with the New York Rangers taking a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens.

    But series leads can be futile—just ask the San Jose Sharks. Heck, just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The Rangers know that they cannot let up; they cannot give the Habs even a little window of hope. They know that they have to keep the pedal to the metal. 

    But it won't be easy. Despite how it might have looked in Game 1, the Canadiens are actually a good hockey team. They will be playing every game like it's their last.

    So what do the Rangers have to look out for? What are their biggest question marks in their NHL playoff series against the Canadiens?

    Read on to find out. 

Will Derick Brassard Play?

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    Dominic Moore is a fine player, but there's no denying that the Rangers are a better team when he is the fourth-line center and Derick Brassard is the No. 3 center.

    Brassard left Game 1 with an undisclosed injury and did not play in Game 2. Moore took his place and played well.

    But Brassard is an electric offensive player, and he has dynamite chemistry with linemates Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello.

    So will he play?

    Alain Vigneault played coy with the media, telling Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, "If I were a betting man..." and then stopped, according to Leonard's Twitter feed. Leonard followed that up with the hashtag of "he's in," but the fact remains that we don't know if Brassard will play, and if he does, how healthy he actually is.

    If Brassard does play, then the Rangers will improve their depth and offensive balance. If not, Moore is going to have to continue to step up.

    The Habs are hoping that Brassard's injury keeps him out a few games longer, because his presence does make the Rangers a better team.

What If Henrik Lundqvist Has a Stinker?

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    Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

    Yes, yes, I know, that headline is sacrilege, what with Henrik Lundqvist playing as if he's Spider-Man.

    And while Lundqvist has been absolutely phenomenal, allowing just six goals in his last five games on 168 shots, the Rangers do have to consider what will happen if Lundqvist becomes human.

    It certainly is possible. The Habs do know how to score: They've averaged three goals a game this postseason. They will find a way to hit the back of the net. 

    If and when that happens, will the Rangers be able to respond?

    They've relied on Lundqvist, perhaps too much. They would not have won Game 2 against Montreal if Lundqvist didn't stand on his head.

    With the Habs set to become increasingly desperate, what happens if Lundqvist allows a bad goal or two? Do the Rangers have enough to overcome that?

    So far, we don't really know the answer, because we haven't seen Lundqvist play poorly. How the Rangers respond will be fascinating. 

Can the Rangers Finish off the Habs?

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Kings came back from 3-0 deficit against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The Minnesota Wild came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Colorado Avalanche.

    No lead is safe.

    Even with Carey Price out, the Habs have enough talent to come back in this series. Yes, Dustin Tokarski will have to be fantastic, but the Canadiens are a very good team. They can pull off the impossible.

    The Rangers, quite simply, cannot let the Habs back in the series. A sweep may be impossible, but the Rangers have to shut down any hope the Habs might have. Should the Canadiens win Game 3, the Rangers have to win Game 4.

    Hope is important in hockey. The Penguins gave the Rangers hope in Game 5, and the Blueshirts never looked back.

    Yes, winning two games in Montreal was quite the feat, but it means nothing if they don't close the door on their opponents. The sooner they do that, the better. 

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