NHL: Eastern Conference Finals Preview
After two hard-fought second-round series the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will meet up in the Eastern Conference final.
The Rangers went down 3-1 in games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but managed to turn it around and win 4-3 after a thrilling Game 7 where Brad Richards stepped up and had the series-winning goal in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots in Game 7 and was a major factor in the Rangers’ comeback in the series.
Montreal was the underdog in the series against the Boston Bruins. Many experts and hockey fans had the Bruins moving on, myself included, but the Canadiens speed and strong goaltending edged out the Bruins in Game 7. Max Pacioretty got the game-winning goal and Carey Price had 29 saves. This series was high-class entertainment and P.K. Subban was the brightest shining star on the ice. The 25-year old defenseman had 4 goals and 3 assists in the series.
The conference final will be a spectacle and a goaltending duel of epic proportions. Henrik Lundqvist vs. Carey Price makes goaltender enthusiasts drool with excitement as they are two of the world’s best netminders, and whoever comes out with the victory in this series will be well prepared for the Stanley Cup final.
Mats Zuccarello has been a joy to watch all season long in the Rangers uniform. The Norwegian winger has gotten his breakthrough in the league, and with 59 points (19 goals, 40 assists) during the regular season and 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) so far in the playoffs, he will be one of the most important pieces for the Rangers offense. Brad Richards, who is rumored to be bought out at the end of the season, has 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) and Martin St. Louis has 8 points. Henrik Lundqvist seems to get better with every game, and his numbers heading into the conference final are respectable with a 1.99 GAA and a .931 SV%
Carey Price was phenomenal in Games 6 and 7 for the Canadiens. His numbers are slightly behind Lundqvist’s with a 2.15 GAA and a .926 SV% but there is no doubt that Price can steal games when the Canadiens’ offense isn’t turning on all cylinders. P.K. Subban leads the team with 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 11 games. Lars Eller has seen a revival in the playoffs after having a hot start to the season the Dane dropped off significantly, but has posted 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) during the trip to the conference final. Leading goalscorer so far in the playoffs for Montreal is Thomas Vanek with 5 goals.
Not only are these two teams historical franchises, they also have two of the most intense fan bases and arenas in sports. The atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden on Manhattan and the Bell Centre in Montreal will be insane, so buckle up for a wild series of great hockey. Game 1 starts at 10 a.m. PST on Saturday.