The Montreal Canadiens face elimination against the New York Rangers heading into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. New York holds a commanding 3-1 lead as the series shifts back to Bell Centre in Montreal.
The Canadiens must defend their home ice and get back into this series. It goes without saying that Montreal needs everyone to play hard in an elimination game, but that’s not the only reason this is a must-win game. The Canadiens also have to win one for their home crowd.
If Montreal falls in Game 5, it would mean a heartbreaking end to a season that seemed like it could have been the one to win it all. It would mean losing all three home games in the biggest playoff series in recent memory for the Habs. Montreal would get a fourth home game if they extended the series to seven games, but they have a lot of work to do before they can think about that.
Entering the East Finals against New York, the Canadiens held a 4-1 home record in the playoffs. Their only loss was a 1-0 defeat in overtime against the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers have stifled their momentum playing at home, as they outscored Montreal 10-3 during the first two games. The Canadiens are confident in their chances of coming back in this series and need to make a statement at home.
Montreal’s young goalie Dustin Tokarski has proven himself strong in net, which is a big reason why the team knows they can still make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. In order to defend their home ice, they need to play well in front of Tokarski. Most importantly, they can’t give up odd-man rushes and breakaways. New York scored their first two goals on breakaways in Game 4, and Montreal can’t afford to be overly aggressive.
The other major problem to fix is obviously their power play. Montreal went 1-for-8 with a man advantage in Game 4. The Rangers weren’t playing smart, and Montreal didn’t make them pay for it. While they did convert on one power play, they also gave up a shorthanded goal on a different one.
The power play is usually a strength of Montreal, but they need to be better moving forward. They can’t expect to get another eight chances in one game; they may not get half as many.
They must make the most of whatever opportunities they get and give their home crowd something to cheer about. However they do it, the Canadiens must find a way to avoid elimination and get a win at home.