NHL Playoffs: Rangers Shut Down Canadiens, Move to Stanley Cup Final

New York Rangers
May 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) smiles on the ice after beating the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers – NYR wins 1-0, NYR wins series 4-2

There would be lineup changes to both teams, all of which would have an impact for the depth of both teams.

Montreal would scratch both Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin due to injury with Brandon Prust and Nathan Beaulieu drawing in for their teammates. Weise was seemingly injured after taking a hit to the head by Rangers defenseman John Moore but it worked out that Prust was returning from a suspension for a late hit on Derek Stepan. Beaulieu, though in just six games, was by far the Montreal leader in CorsiFor during the postseason at 56 percent (no Canadiens player is at 51 percent or better for the postseason). His mobility and ability to play in all phases of the game would be valuable. For Montreal to win this game, Thomas Vanek would have to have his best game of the series. Relegated to the fourth line and goalless in six straight games, Vanek would have to find ways to get going on the power play or in easier minutes. Goalie Dustin Tokarski would probably have to have his best game of the series in this one, too.

The Rangers would need a bounce-back game from goalie Henrik Lundqvist after getting pulled in Game 5. More than that, the Rangers would need to tighten up defensively. While they didn’t give up a lot of shots in Game 5, they did allow Montreal to get open in good scoring areas and the defense was slow on pressuring rushes off the wing. The Canadiens live and die by quick counter-attack rushes and if the Rangers defensemen, particularly Raphael Diaz who would sub in for the suspended Moore, allowed them room to skate, it would be a tough night for Lundqvist again.

A lone goal from Dominic Moore in the second period stood as the series-clinching goal in a game the Rangers fully deserved to win. At three different points in this game, the Rangers had sustained enough pressure on one (or consecutive) shifts to put up four, six, and nine consecutive shot attempts at even strength. That last one was in the third period. To put it in to context, the Canadiens didn’t have a single moment in the game where they strung together more than three (and none in the last half of the game).

Lundqvist wasn’t overly busy with just 18 shots, but there was one huge save he made in the second period. A deflected Vanek pass tipped up in the air and even though he was already moving side to side, he flung his blocker at the puck and kept it out. To say he rebounded after being pulled in Game 5 would be an understatement. Tokarski played very well, stopping 31 of 32 shots. He finished the series with a .916 save percentage and certainly wasn’t the reason the Canadiens lost this series.

Hopes for a big game from Beaulieu were way off. He made a couple of early mistakes and was on the bench for 10 minute stretches at two separate points in the game.

The Rangers speed and commitment to good team defense – not collapsing to the middle of the ice, rather, keeping up the aggressive play – were stifling for most of the series for Montreal. This is a very good four line team with one of the top goalies on the planet and that depth was able to bury the Habs in this series.

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