New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens Game 5: Keys for Each Team
The New York Rangers are one win away from the Stanley Cup Final following their overtime win, as reported by CBC Sports, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Final series with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens are heading home to lick their wounds and will try to extend this best-of-seven series beyond five games.
The Rangers will want to end the series as quickly as possible. They came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the previous round and saw the Habs come back to defeat the Boston Bruins in seven games after being down 3-2.
Let's take a look at the keys for each team as they prepare for Game 5 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
More of the Same from the Rangers' Penalty-Killing Units
The Rangers have not had much difficulty in defending against the Canadiens power play. Montreal finally scored a power-play goal in Game 4, but until that time, the club had been held scoreless with the man advantage.
The Rangers have used speed and puck pressure to thwart the Canadiens. Penalty-killing units, similar to the power play, can be streaky.
Players like Brian Boyle have been great on the penalty kill.
The Rangers are playing unselfishly while down a man. If they can can continue with this excellent special teams play, the series may not return to New York City.
Brian Gionta Has to Lead from the Front
Brian Gionta has to find a way to lead this team. He's the Montreal captain, which is one of the most prestigious captaincies in sports, not just the NHL.
Gionta has just two assists in the series and one goal in 15 playoff games. He scored 18 goals in the regular season and is nowhere near matching that same pace in the playoffs.
It's not an easy ask, but at this stage of the season, the Canadiens skaters cannot afford to leave anything in the dressing room if they want to play past Game 5.
Ryan McDonagh's Beastly Play Is Critical
Ryan McDonagh can dominate a game from the back end. He may not get the same press as Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber or Duncan Keith, but he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those outstanding defenders.
The tough pill to swallow for Habs fans is that he was once property of the Canadiens.
The former Montreal draft pick was dealt to the Rangers in 2009.
McDonagh's play has been exemplary from Game 1. He's the series' leading scorer with seven points and is a plus-four through the first four games.
He logged over 30 minutes in Game 4, and it will be unsurprising if Alain Vigneault leans any less on him in Game 5.
He plays in all game situations for the Rangers and deserves to be part of the preliminary Conn Smythe Trophy discussion as the NHL's playoff MVP should the Rangers reach the finals.
3 Is the Habs' Magic Number
The Habs have to to win three games in a row to win the series. For the purposes of Game 5, though, scoring at least three goals should be the focus while also continuing to play solid defensively.
Outside of Game 1, which has proven to be an outlier in the series, three seems to be the key goal total for each team. The winning team has scored three goals in the other three games.
This is much easier said than done, of course, against Henrik Lundqvist and his New York Rangers. The Rangers have played disciplined defensive hockey in the series.
While neither team really favours an open style of game, the Canadiens are going to have to use the last change to get some favourable matchups and try and take it to the Rangers.
Marty Needs to Be Marvelous
Martin St. Louis and his amazing play is becoming one of the top storylines in the 2014 NHL playoffs.
St. Louis is 38 years old now, but he's playing with the vigour and energy of a teenager.
It has been a roller-coaster season for the veteran, who was initially left off the Canadian Olympic hockey team, eventually did go to Sochi, left the Tampa Bay Lightning amidst a cloud of controversy and then didn't get off to a great start in the Big Apple.
He scored the Game 4 overtime-winner, as reported by ESPN.com, and was all over the ice.
The Laval, Quebec, native is playing great hockey, and his continued strong play could prove to be decisive if the Rangers win Game 5.
The Bell Centre Crowd Will Be Loud
The Canadiens have played some of their best playoff hockey at home this spring. Curiously, they were not great at home in the first two games of this series.
In fact, it could be argued that the Habs have yet to match their high level of play from the Boston Bruins series.
It will be stunning for all interested observers if Montreal doesn't play one of its best games of the playoffs. One more loss means the end of the line.
The Habs have to harness the home crowd and its energy. They need to outhit, outplay and, most importantly, outscore the Rangers in Game 5.
It will start with anthem singer Ginette Reno and her charmed voice. The crowd could play a pivotal role in a potential Montreal win.
It should be a great game to watch for all hockey fans.
All stats can be found on nhl.com unless otherwise noted.