HabsWorld.net -- 

The third round of the 2014 NHL playoffs is about to begin with the Habs continuing their magical ride to face the New York Rangers. Here are the HabsWorld contributors predictions for what should be another classic post season match.

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs New York Rangers

Brian La Rose predicts: Montreal in 6
Alex Létourneau predicts: Montreal in 6
Kevin Meldrum predicts: Montreal in 7
Simon Aronson predicts: Montreal in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Montreal in 6

(Brian) After an emotional high against Boston, it’s hard not to expect there to be a letdown, much like there was four years ago after the Habs took out Washington and Pittsburgh. The Flyers were perceived to be the easiest opponent of the three and they took out Montreal handily. It’s not unrealistic to suggest this could happen again.

It must sound like a broken record by now but for the Habs to win this series, their top players need to lead the way. As nice as it is to have a fourth line that can score, any plan for success can’t be counting on them to be contributing regularly on the scoresheet. Yes, Henrik Lundqvist has struggled in Montreal historically but at this stage, it can’t be expected that his issues at the Bell Centre are going to continue; Lundqvist always steps it up in big games and this series will be full of them. As good as Carey Price has been, there isn’t much of an edge or difference goaltending-wise here.

Up front the Rangers are built a lot like the Canadiens with three lines that pose a legitimate threat offensively. They’re also like the Habs in that their top players haven’t produced like their top players for much of the postseason. For those who think Montreal will walk through this since they’ve won without their top forwards doing much, the same argument can be made for New York.

Defensively, though the Habs have the better top pairing, I like the Rangers’ overall depth better so on the whole, there isn’t much of a difference here either. If Montreal keeps rolling two predominant pairings and letting Beaulieu/Weaver sit for large stretches, they’re going to pay for it as the series progresses. Special teams will also be interesting as these two teams have both had a lot more PP time than time spent shorthanded through two rounds.

This is a very close matchup, much closer than I think many Montreal fans want to admit. The difference, I believe, will come down to home ice success. The Habs are an impressive 4-1 at home while New York is just 3-3. I think the Canadiens can get as many as 2 out of 3 on the road, meaning they just need to split at home to win the series. That’s something they should be capable of doing.

(Alex) Well, I didn’t see either of these teams in this position, and I couldn’t be happier. This is a great matchup for Montreal against a very tough and defensively disciplined Rangers team. Both teams are certainly on a high after their respective series wins, with New York getting a much needed extra day off. And that’s where the advantage for Montreal begins as they’ve played three games less than their opponent. While New York’s series against Pittsburgh certainly wasn’t the most physical, it was still a seven game set after a tough series against Philadelphia. Montreal has the edge in goal with Carey Price playing the best hockey he’s ever played. Henrik Lundqvist is no slouch, but he struggles in Montreal, where he’ll have to play four games if it were to go the distance. He also saw firsthand during the Olympics how Price can ice games. Defensively, I’d give it a push. Both teams play great defense in front of their respective all-star goalies. But Montreal has the ability to punish New York’s defense while the Rangers offense isn’t very strong. They have the players, even though Rick Nash has only scored twice in 30 playoff games, but the offense doesn’t instill any fear. New York was in this position last year, so I’m sure they learned a few lessons, but the home barn will be a big factor in this series. The dominoes start to fall from there.

(Kevin) I believe the Canadiens match up really well again the Rangers. They have to stick to their system using speed and a strong fore check with a cycle down low to punish the Rangers D. If they finish their checks with every chance they get they will get the same results as the Boston series as that was the key to their winning. Both team are pretty equal in all aspects of the game their is no clear cut advantage to either team. It will come down to the team that wants it more and sacrificing everything for total desperate styled hockey. I believe if the Habs have no let down and play like they did against the Bruins they will win and go on to the Stanley Cup finals. If the Habs play every game like Game 6 against Boston then nobody can beat them . That is how good you have play to win in the playoffs. With Pacioretty & Vanek starting to heat up and a returning Galchenyuk who I think can be a huge factor, plus the focus/poise/calmness of Price this team will be hard to beat. That being said the Rangers are a very good team and Montreal has to have the same mind set as they did when they played Boston to win.

(Simon) If the Canadiens didn’t already know, their series win over the Bruins will solidify the confidence to know that they can play with any team in the NHL. With PK and Price both playing the best hockey of their young careers, the Habs are going to be a tough team to beat.

(Norm) The Eastern conference final is upon us, and two “underdog” teams have emerged, the New York Rangers, and our beloved Montreal Canadiens. The teams they defeated, Pittsburgh and Boston, were higher rated and either team was expected to make it out of the East before the playoffs began. At first glance, the teams are pretty equally matched. Both have top notched goaltending in Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price. Both have a really solid top 4 on defence, and a solid bottom 6 pairing that combine good shotblocking abilities. At forward, both sides are well matched. While the Rangers penalty killing has been excellent in the post season, they have struggled hugely to score with the man advantage. The Habs have been good not great on the penalty killing, but have scored at a decent rate on the PP.
It will be interesting to see how and when Alex Galchenyuk will be inserted into the lineup, as Therrien isn’t likely to change a lineup that won its’ last two games in the elimination games against Boston, with a 7-1 total combined goal score.