Tonight is game five of the Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers lead the series 3-1, and look to secure their first Stanley Cup Finals birth since the 1994 Cup run. Road wins have been much easier for the Rangers to come by this season.
Henrik Lundqvist has conquered his demons in Montreal this post season, and looks for his third win there of the series. His goals against average is now at 1.98 with an equally impressive .931 save percentage. After scoring his over time goal in game four, Martin St. Louis solved the Dustin Tokarski labyrinth and tied Derick Brassard for a team high two game winning goals in the post season. St. Louis also leads the team in post season points with six goals for 13 points in 18 games and has a +2 rating. Tonight e looks to keep his six game point streak going. Brad Richards is right on his heels with five goals for 11 points and a +4 rating. Mats Zuccarello also has 11 points from four goals and has a team high +7 rating. Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin have been huge for the Rangers thus far in the post season. Hagelin’s speed has proven difficult for other teams to match. Boyle has increased his intensity, as he does every year in the post season. He is moving the puck well, playing more physical, and getting himself into the passing lanes. The loss of Derek Stepan has pushed Boyle back into his more comfortable position of center. His face off percentage is above 75 percent. The Rangers are being led in defense by an unlikely pair. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are the top defensive pair for the team, though Kevin Klein and Anton Stralman are leaving their mark on the stat sheets in a big way. Klein has three assists for four points in this post season with a +7 rating. Stralman has five assists and a +6 rating. McDonagh has seven points in the last four games against Montreal. Derek Stepan skated with the team in morning skate going through drills wearing a full face mask. He has not yet be announced as medically cleared to play. After being helped to crash into the goal post, J.T. Miller was injured and did not travel with the team to Montreal.
Montreal goal tender Carey Price was ruled out for the series, though he skated in full gear this morning in practice. Perhaps Michel Therrien is trying to cause confusion for the Rangers. Tokarski is the most likely candidate for Montreal in net tonight. With a 2.62 goals against average and a .917 save percentage, Tokarski has been solid in net for the Canadiens. P.K. Subban remains the points leader for Montreal with five goals for 13 points, though his goal Sunday was his first in the series. Lars Eller is right behind him with five goals for 11 points. Renee Bourque has three points in the last four games for a total of five goals for eight points in the post season. Max Pacioretty and Dale Weiss have been key players for the Canadiens in this series and need them to continue tonight. Thomas Vanek continues to be the scapegoat for the Canadiens, His five goals for nine points are among the top stats for the team. Tonight is Brandon Prust’s second and final game of his suspension for the late hit on Derek Stepan. The Canadiens have no injuries, other then Price, reported.
Ordinarily, I would say staying out of the box is a key point in winning a game like this. The Rangers proved in game four that their penalty killing ability far outshines poor penalties. What the Rangers do need to do is try to use the Canadiens’ desperation to draw penalties and they have to get their power play warmed up. This game sets the tone for all games going forward, no matter who the opponent turns out to be the next time we see the Broadway Blueshirts take the ice.