Only four teams remain in contention for the coveted Stanley Cup. Two of those teams are slated to face off on Thursday, as the Montreal Canadiens will try to dig themselves out of a two-game hole against the New York Rangers.
Coming into the series, we expected to see a defensive battle, as two of the league's top goalies—Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price—figured to provide an epic showdown.
That all changed during Game 1.
In the second period, with New York leading 2-1, Chris Kreider slammed into Price, dislodging the net and shaking up the goalie. Here's a look at what happened:
Price finished the period but gave up two more goals before leaving the game.
Peter Budaj replaced Price in the third period and gave up three goals on eight shots, completing a 7-2 drubbing by the Rangers.
Dustin Tokarski put forth a valiant effort in Game 2, recording 27 saves; however, he allowed three goals in a 3-1 loss to New York, putting Montreal behind 2-0 in the series.
Here's a look at a very telling graphic of Montreal's goaltender situation, courtesy of a tweet from ESPN Stats & Info:
Things don't appear to be getting any easier for the Canadiens, as they must now play the next two games on the Rangers' home ice.
Let's break down the full viewing information for the rest of this series and predict how it may shake out in the end.
|Remaining Schedule for Rangers vs. Canadiens|
|3||Thu., May 22||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|4||Sun., May 25||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|5*||Tue., May 27||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|6*||Thu., May 29||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|7*||Sat., May 31||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
Complete schedule courtesy of NHL.com.
More bad news found the Canadiens on Monday, as it was revealed that Price would miss the remainder of the conference final, according to Arpon Basu of LNH.com, via NHL.com.
Whether it's Budaj or Tokarski in the net for Montreal, one thing is clear: Neither is nearly as talented as Price.
Against another opponent, the Canadiens might have been able to get through this situation. The team has a great offensive rotation and isn't shy about firing away on the offensive end of the ice. After all, Montreal outshot New York 41-30 in Game 2.
Here's the problem: Lundqvist remains in goal for the Rangers.
Despite a flurry of shots from Montreal on Monday, 40 of those 41 shots ended up in Lundqvist's saves category.
That's not a good sign going forward.
But P.K. Subban remained optimistic during an interview with Basu, via NHL.com:
As far as we're concerned, we're only going to get better. I still don't think we've played our best hockey game yet. So I don't think there's any panic here. I've been up 2-0 on teams before and I've seen them come back and beat us. There's no pressure on us going into there. There's a lot of pressure on them, so we'll be ready to play.
That's certainly a good point, as we've all see teams come back from 2-0 deficits; however, that is an almost insurmountable feat for any team that has lost its best player.
Expect Montreal to continue its offensive onslaught against Lundqvist in an attempt to get past his seemingly impenetrable defenses.
New York, on the other hand, will continue to pound away early to gain a significant lead and follow that up with a big focus on the defensive end of the ice late in the game—similar to its Game 2 strategy.
Could Montreal come back and make a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals without Price in the fold?
Rangers in five.