Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers Game 6: Keys for Each Team
If Game 6 of this Eastern Conference Final pitting the Montreal Canadiens versus the New York Rangers matches Game 5 for pace, action and excitement, hockey fans are in for a treat.
However, defensive purists may still be shuddering by the time Game 6 gets underway.
This Original Six battle has been riveting on several levels, and the Bell Centre crowd—although quieted for a short time in Game 5—was boisterous and jovial by the third period.
The Canadiens extended the series with a 7-4 rout of the Rangers on Tuesday night.
With these teams heading back to New York City and Madison Square Garden for Game 6, let's take a look at the keys for each team.
Henrik Lundqvist Must Return to Form
Henrik Lundqvist was very ordinary in Game 5. In fact, he played so poorly that he was pulled from the game.
Up until Game 5, Lundqvist had been exceptional. In Game 5, Lundqvist stopped just 15 of 19 shots. This translates to a terrible .789 save percentage.
Lundqvist was off his game, but the Rangers as a team were not good defensively. The entire squad was on its heels as the game began. The Habs seemed much hungrier for most of the night.
While it's not quite a must-win game for New York, Game 6 is awfully close. The Rangers do not want to tempt fate and return to Montreal for Game 7.
The Rangers need Lundqvist to return to his earlier playoff form for Game 6. Their Stanley Cup hopes may just depend on it.
Montreal Power Play Has to Produce
The Montreal Canadiens' power play has begun to show signs of life. The team has scored a power-play goal in each of the last two games.
In Game 5, the team buried one of its four chances with the man advantage. While 25 percent is a great clip, the percentage matters less than the team tallying one or more power-play goals in the next game.
The Canadiens need to continue to crowd the front of the net, and having the uber-talented P.K. Subban unleash his one-timer seems like a good recipe for success.
This could be pivotal in Game 6, which should be a much closer-checking affair than Game 5 was.
Rangers Must Be Disciplined
Emotions will be running high for Game 6. This missed opportunity for the Rangers to end the series will not sit well with the team.
Unquestionably, the MSG crowd will be fired up in anticipation of a Rangers win and the chance to battle for Lord Stanley's mug.
Montreal has been relatively disciplined throughout the series. With the Habs' power play gearing up, the Rangers must stay out of the box.
Playing physically is important for the Rangers, but it must be controlled aggression. The John Moore hit, which may end up in a suspension, is a glaring example of what they do not need in Game 6.
Undisciplined play could lead to a Game 7 contest—something that no New York fan wants to see.
Canadiens Need Another Fast Start
The New York crowd is going to be loud and hostile in Game 6. The Rangers are going to want to dominate the game from the outset.
The Habs have some hope now and New York will want to dash that as quickly as possible. It's not that the Canadiens can't come back in a game, but when Lundqvist is playing well, it is normally challenging to find chinks in his armour.
The Canadiens came out firing in Game 5 and scored their first goal, on the power play, less than two minutes after puck drop. They dominated on the shot clock early and this momentum carried through to the end of the second period.
Shots on goal were 24-16 after two periods.
If Montreal has a similar start, there's every reason to believe that we'll be watching a seventh game in this series.
Rangers Must Have No Short-Term Memory
It may seem like a simple task, but all athletes know that it is difficult to leave the past behind.
This is precisely what the Rangers need to do in preparation for Game 6. It was easily the Rangers' worst effort of the series, and maybe even the entire playoffs.
The club was discombobulated from the opening minutes. While it did manage to make it a game thanks to some sloppy play from the Habs and some questionable goaltending by Dustin Tokarski, it was a forgettable effort.
Lundqvist will surely be better and the club needs to feed off of his experience, calmness and confidence. Veteran winners like Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Rick Nash will also play critical roles in leading the Rangers.
Everything is fresh for Game 6 and the Rangers have the Habs right where they want them—at home in one of the best rinks in the entire league in terms of noise and atmosphere.
Dustin Tokarski Needs to Remain Focused
Dustin Tokarski outplayed Henrik Lundqvist in Game 5, but that didn't take much. Lundqvist was not good and Tokarski also had his weakest game of the series.
Fortunately, the Canadiens offence was outstanding. Rene Bourque had a hat trick and Max Pacioretty had a very good offensive game with two points.
The spotlight will be squarely on Tokarski, as the small-town Saskatchewan goalie's story is intriguing to hockey fans not only in Canada but across the hockey-watching globe.
Tokarski's counterpart in the New York goal will be anxious to redeem himself after his dismal Game 5 performance.
Tokarski can't control Lundqvist's play, but giving his club every chance to win is essential to the Habs getting an opportunity to play Game 7 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
All stats can be found on NHL.com unless noted otherwise.