Rangers in the Proverbial Driver's Seat
The Rangers host the Canadiens on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York City with the opening face-off at 8:05 PM ET. This will be Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Series in which the Rangers hold a 2-0 lead. According to NHL betting odds the Rangers are a -180 money line home favorite and the posted total is 5.0. These teams have seen just 1 of their previous 11 meetings go over the total.
The Unfriendly Confines of Home
The Rangers showed why they've been one of the best road teams in the NHL this season by winning the first 2-games of the series at the Bell Centre in Montreal. "The Blue Shirts" have now gone 29-13 in their last 42 road games. Unfortunately they've been nowhere near as effective at home going 23-24 this season, including 3-3 during the 2014 playoffs.
Lundquist has been Superb
During this recent 5-game winning streak by the Rangers, the goaltending of Henrik Lundquist has been nothing short of sensational. Lundquist has posted an excellent 1.20 GAA and a remarkable .970 save percentage during that 5-game span. Lundquist has now gone 25-17 in 42 playoff starts over the last 3 years.
A Humbling Turn of Events for the Habs
The past 10-days has certainly ran the gamut of emotions for the Montreal Canadiens and their fans. The ecstasy and jubilation of knocking off the top team (Boston Bruins) during the regular season in the Eastern Conference Semifinals now seems like a distant memory. They entered the Conference Finals with unexpected home ice advantage, had an extremely hot goaltender in Cary Price, and were set to face a Rangers team that they had dominated in recent years. Then their worst nightmares were realized after losing the first 2-games of this series at home by cumulative scores of 10-3. The 7-2 loss in the series opener was disheartening enough. Then they found out shortly after the game that their star goaltender Cary Price would be sidelined for the rest of the playoffs. Price sustained a leg injury as a result of a goal mouth collision with one of the Rangers, and with that out a severe damper on the Canadiens postseason aspirations. As a result the Canadiens went with 24-year old Dustin Tokarski in Game 2, and resulted in a 3-1 loss. Tokarski is listed as the probable starter for tonight's Game 3. The youngster will be making just his 11th career NHL appearance and just his 8th start.
I believe you will see a very inspired effort by Montreal tonight despite the bitter disappointments they have endured in the 1st 2-games of this series. Montreal has gone a solid 4-2 on the road during this postseason, and the Rangers mediocre play at home has already been documented. The desperation and urgency displayed by Montreal will be the deciding difference this evening.