We have an Original Six showdown and playoff rematch on tap Sunday night. Let’s take a look at our NHL daily predictions.
|Canadiens vs Rangers
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Here are tonight’s starting goaltenders, courtesy of LeftWingLock.
Both Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist are predicted to be in action Saturday on the front end of their back-to-backs, meaning that it could be a battle of the backups should Montreal and New York be hesitant to thrust their star goaltenders into the grunt work right out of the gate.
If it does end up being Carey Price vs Henrik Lundqvist, it will be an early test of stamina. Price is used to playing both ends of back-to-backs. Lundqvist is now 35, and Alain Vigneault may be more cautious not to run the odometer too high.
That being said, back-to-backs are a lot more tricky this year in the Rangers’ camp.
Replacing Antti Raanta as backup goaltender is Ondrej Pavelec, who has been a hot mess for pretty much his entire career. In an offseason where there were backup goaltenders abound, the Rangers took a perplexing flyer on one of the worst goaltenders in the league. The hope is that Goalie Guru Benoit Allaire can work his magic on the Czech Pavelec.
It seems odd that Jeff Gorton elected to bring in Pavelec when more successful goaltenders like Antti Niemi were on the market for half the price.
Then again, Niemi’s Penguins debut didn’t quite go according to plan.
shortly before giving up 4 goals pic.twitter.com/Rg52zHouSO
— steph (@myregularface) October 6, 2017
Al Montoya got off to a hot start last season and regressed back to the mean as time wore on. He allowed more than three goals only three times last season- one of which was a 10-goal outburst at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That one game burned his goals-against average to the ground (2.67 on the season).
Last season, Price started all three games against the Rangers. Antti Raanta started the first matchup but was removed due to injury. Lundqvist started the succeeding two.
Outside the goaltending battle, the Rangers will need to generate more high-danger chances at 5-on-5. They outshot the Colorado Avalanche 20-18 at even strength, but did not sustain pressure for very long.
Their powerplay was highly effective, with Mika Zibanejad netting a pair of goals on the man advantage. Kevin Shattenkirk looked right at home, grabbing a primary assist on Zibanejad’s first goal. Though he didn’t get credited with a point on the second, he was instrumental in setting the play up.
New York’s defensive coverage was not on the same page. Shattenkirk was left alone in front tasked with guarding two Avalanche forwards, and did not do a particularly good job clearing either one of them. Tony DeAngelo looked jittery all night.
Confusingly, 18-year-old phenom Filip Chytil played only 7:40 the entire game. Ranger fans have seen this movie before where a highly touted teenage prospect plays fewer than 10 minutes a night. It ends with him getting traded for Keith Yandle.
Chytil’s most notable shift came early in the game when he led a 2-on-1 rush. With an open shooting lane but a defensemen cutting off his fellow attacker, he still tried to force a pass which was easily broken up.
Perhaps he was gun-shy in his first NHL game, but that’s a scenario where you’ve got to pull the trigger.
Montreal took their opening game against the Buffalo Sabres. Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault scored in regulation- Danault’s shorthanded, no less- with Jonathan Drouin potting the game-winner in the shootout.
— Jared Book (@jaredbook) October 6, 2017
This is simply unclean. The Canadiens got away with highway robbery bringing in Drouin. Despite the fact that he’s made headlines before for alleged character issues and trade requests, Drouin is a remarkable talent. Get him on the right path and he will do special things for the Habs.
Drouin is already getting something he never got a whole lot of in Tampa Bay- playing time. Yes, he spent time in the top six for the Bolts, but he bounced in and out of the lineup and in and out of Jon Cooper’s doghouse.
In the season opener, he played over 20 minutes centering the top line with Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.
Montreal needed a replacement for Alexander Radulov with the same kind of playmaking ability and creativity. They got one.
The Canadiens won both of their games in Madison Square Garden last regular season (they lost two of three in New York in the playoffs).
Getting the Rangers in a three-in-four situation may work to their advantage, in that the Blueshirts have lost seven of their last eight such games. That being said, the Canadiens are in the same boat and have been on the road for all three. That much travel can wear one down, regardless of how early in the season it is.
Playing this game at night will help both teams with their travel. The Rangers are coming from Toronto, while the Canadiens are shipping up from D.C.
What makes this tricky is that the Garden will probably not be terribly raucous. It’s a Sunday Night game when the city will be turning its attention to the Yankees, who are hosting Game 3 of the American League Division Series that night.
Playoffs take precedent always, especially when it’s the Yankees. So the more raucous of cheerers will either be in the Bronx, at a sports bar, or in the upper-level sections watching the television sets installed at the Madison Square Garden.
The New York Giants will be in action in the afternoon at the Meadowlands, too. Granted they don’t have a win and they’re going up against a Los Angeles Chargers team that is equally horrible, but it’s a busy day in New York sports.
There probably won’t be that much of a home ice advantage.
The outcome of this game largely depends on the goaltending battle and the compete level emanating from the Rangers at even strength. Their powerplay has looked lethal and their penalty kill looks decent. But in order to win games against playoff level teams, they have to open up royal road at 5-on-5.
And they had difficulty doing that against the Colorado Avalanche.
Prediction: If Lundqvist is in net, my money is on the Rangers. If it’s Pavelec, take the Canadiens. It’s that simple. Get used to that scenario, New York betters.
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