2017 NHL Playoff Preview: Atlantic Division
The Original Six dominates this four-team set.
The Atlantic Division playoff might not be as brutal as the Metro Division battle royale, but every playoff series matters.
This division features three of the Original Six teams, plus an Ottawa Senators team that has “arrived” ahead of schedule. There’s a lot to like in the two best-of-seven series that will follow.
It’s Canada vs. the American Northeast in both sets. Goaltending will be the order of the day from top to bottom, Game 1 to any possible Game 7.
|1 Montreal Canadiens vs. WC1 New York Rangers|
There is a lot of hockey history and tradition locked into this series. The Canadiens and Rangers have been playing each other for a long, long time. During the 2016-17 season, Montreal took all three contests, averaging four goals per game.
Yet, you just know this isn’t going to be a four-game sweep. This ain’t the first rodeo between these teams in high-pressure situations. While the Habs are arguably the favorite in the series, the Rangers have the ability to make this a difficult battle.
New York has one of the best offenses in the NHL. A few years ago, when Mats Zuccarello was injured mid-postseason, it took away a major component of their offense from a spark perspective. Zuccarello is ready to roll now, and with help from guys like Chris Kreider and the resurgent Michael Grabner, they’ll put pressure on Carey Price.
Furthermore, though he’s had some ups and downs since returning from injury, the Rangers always have a chance when Henrik Lundqvist is between the pipes. Defensively, the Rangers need to be better overall, but this isn’t the worst matchup in hockey for them. This is due to the fact that the Habs are a relatively average offensive team.
Here’s the difference between this series in 2017 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014: Carey Price. Unless he gets injured again, he’ll be in the net for the Habs every game. Price is a difference-maker for Montreal, and they need him in top form against the Rangers offense.
Max Pacioretty is going to be the guy to watch for the Habs, and he’s been by far their best forward this season. Expect the Blueshirts to pay close attention to him when his shift comes up.