NHL East Final: Hot Habs Face Surging Blueshirts
The Cup is truly up for grabs this spring.
The two top seeds in the NHL Eastern Conference have already been eliminated, as the Montréal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins, both in seven games.
They'll now meet in the conference finals with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals on the line.
The Canadiens last won the Cup in 1993, while the Rangers won it the year after that. The Habs, by virtue of having 100 points in the regular season compared to New York's 96, will have home ice advantage in the series, which starts tomorrow.
Both goalies in this matchup have been spectaclar so far. Carey Price has already won a gold medal for Canada in the Olympics and will try to add a Stanley Cup championship in Montréal. Price has a 2.15 goals against average in the post-season, while the Rangers' Henrik Lundquist is at 2.00. Neither team is known known for its scoring, so Price and Lundquist will have to be stellar in net for their team to advance.
PK Subban may be the best skater on either team, based on his current form. The reigning Norris Trophy winner is showing why as he leads the Montréal defense in minutes. The Rangers have depth on the bluelne with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal, but Subban is the prevalent two-way player, being a rock on the defensive end as well as a scoring threat with a blistering slapshot.
Up front, the Rangers' grinding line of Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Benoit Pouliot has been fantastic in the playoffs. Rick Nash has not scored so far, and the Rangers will surely need both him and Marty St Louis to pick up the pace in order to make the finals. Max Pacioretty was the Canadiens' leader in goals this season and, along with newcomer Thomas Vanek, each can put pressure on the Blueshirt backline.
The Rangers have bonded after falling behind the Penguins three games to one and learning of the death of St.Louis' mother last week. The emotion picked up last Friday in Pittsburgh and carried over through the weekend and then back to the Steel City in Game 7. Now, after Saturday's game, the team will go together to the funeral in Montréal on Sunday and come back to play another emotional game after that.
Can it keep them going to the Cup final? Raw emotions can only take a team so far.