NHL Eastern Conference Finals on Tap This Evening

Henrik Lunqvist rescued the Rangers against Pittsburgh and is leading his team once again against the Canadiens.

I have not been a very good friend to a sport I really do love quite a bit and played as a child but my focus is solely on it today.

With the National Basketball Association taking a couple of days off, I’m turning my attention to pucks. The National Hockey League is already in the Conference Finals’ phase with Los Angeles and Chicago dueling out West.

In the Eastern Conference, we have the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. Montreal is trying to break a dubious mark that haunts Mother Canada on a yearly basis.

An NHL team from Canada has not hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the Canadiens last did it in 1993. In fact, only four Canadian-based clubs have even reached the NHL Finals since that time with Vancouver being the most recent in 2011. With the way things are currently going, this drought is likely to continue. Read on and find out if I think they can come back or not.

Montreal (+1.5/-190) at NY Rangers (-1.5/+165), Rangers Lead 2-0 – The New York Rangers (and LA Kings) find themselves in very interesting positions. According to ESPN, since the best of seven format went to all playoff rounds in the NHL, teams that won their first two series in seven games went on to lose their next series.

PK Subban has to be more involved if the Canadiens are going to get back into the series.

At this point it would take a colossal failure on the part of the Rangers. They have a 2-0 lead and they are back at home for the next two games. Oh, and the Canadiens are without their goalie Carey Price for the rest of the series. While there is no such thing as a sure thing this is pretty darn close.

With all that said, the only thing that really kept Motreal from winning in game two was Rangers’ Goalie Henrik Lundqvist who stopped 40 of the 41 shots the Canadiens shot at him. Montreal also had more power play chances (4-3) and won in the face-off department by a count of 32-21.

In other words, this isn’t the most dominant 2-0 lead we’ve ever seen in the NHL Playoffs.

At the other end of the ice, 24-year old Dustin Tokarski was the surprise selection to replace Price. Usual back-up Peter Budaj was thought to get the nod but the coaching staff chose Tokarski because of the titles he had won at younger levels.

Despite giving up three goals, Tokarski played very well. Two of three goals scored by the Rangers were in no way on Tokarski. I expect him to get the game three start between the pipes this evening and Montreal should feel good about his play. They just have to solve Lundqvist and take advantage of a Rangers’ defense that gives up too many shots.

Speaking of the Rangers, the power play that was three for seven in game one went one for three in game two. That was a good part of the reason why the Rangers were able to overcome the discrepancy in shots and lost face-offs. Rick Nash finally put the biscuit in the basket in game one to end a long drought. He then added another goal in game two and fans are expecting that he continue this trend.

Momentum in sports is a strange animal. They say in baseball it’s as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher and in hockey it can simply fall on the shoulders of a hot goaltender. I expect Lundqvist to continue to play well but the Canadiens are desperate and have the backs to the wall. I like Montreal tonight to win a close game in the Garden.