Imagine if the New York Rangers lost Henrik Lundqvist for the season. Season over, right?
Unfortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, they are experiencing a similar situation. Their best player and franchise goaltender, Carey Price, is out for the rest of the postseason due to injury.
Major advantage Rangers right? Not so fast.
The Rangers cruised to a 7-2 victory over Montreal in Game 1. It was a surprisingly flat performance from a team that just beat the best team, record-wise, in the NHL, the Boston Bruins, in a seven-game Conference Semifinal.
With or without Price, the Canadiens will come out angry and more determined in Game 2, and the Rangers must be prepared for it. Whether or not Brandon Prust, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien, or the rest of the team believe Chris Kreider rammed Price intentionally, Montreal has all the motivation they need to get back into this series.
The Rangers cannot go into this game thinking they have this series won. Even more importantly, they must approach Game 2 knowing they have a huge target on their back. If the Canadiens come out as chippy as anticipated to be, the Rangers must be prepared to deal with dirty play. Furthermore, who’s to say Prust won’t ram into Lundqvist?
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is saying all the right things about the potential chippy play of the Canadiens going forward, but he has to remind his team not to take stupid penalties and to simply continue to play their game.
Bottom line: if the Rangers maintain their composure, they will be just fine.
The Rangers are now heavy favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. But if they allow Montreal to get into their heads or simply assume the series is over, the road there will not be anywhere near as easy.