The 6th place Montreal Canadiens visit Madison Square Garden tonight with 2 very critical points hanging in the balance for the New York Rangers. Although, judging from past experiences, I bet the Rangers would rather face anyone else at the moment rather than the Canadiens.
Montreal is coming off a 3-2 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. And yes, Montreal is 7-3-0 in their last 10. But the Canadiens have the Rangers’ number this season and in seasons past. Do we need to mention the Feb 19th, 2008 Super Bowl Day disaster?
The Canadiens have defeated the Rangers in 3 previous match ups this season, including 2-1 tightly contested game and a 6-0 blowout. Henrik Lundqvist holds an average career 10-8-2 record with a 2.94 GAA and .897 Sv % against Les Habs (those numbers are skewed because of Hank’s dreadful numbers at the Bell Centre, so dreadful it will incite horror post them.)
Coaches and players have pointed to Montreal’s quickness as a factor they seem to have trouble handling. Players like Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalieri, and former Ranger Scott Gomez could form a modern day Lollipop Guild with their lack of size if they wanted to. But, what they lack in size they make up for in skill and always seem to play their best against your Broadway Blueshirts. Containment and playing heads up will be key tonight.
Also just as paramount is to gain some leverage in the standings. The idle Buffalo Sabres sit 2 points behind the Rangers at 76 points but also will have 2 games in hand after tonight meaning a loss would be devastating for the Rangers. Plus, playoff hopefuls Toronto and New Jersey lost last night, losing a bit of steam in their respective playoff pushes. Getting a regulation win could not be more important for the Rangers tonight.
The outcome of tonight’s contest will undoubtedly make a statement. That statement could be yes, the Rangers do belong in the playoff conversation. Or no, the Rangers are just simply not good enough.