Here’s what we all knew for sure heading into Saturday’s opening game of the Eastern Conference final between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers:
- The series would feature two of the hottest goalies in the league, and arguably two of the very best in the world right now. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist had just shut down the Penguins to earn his fifth consecutive Game 7 win, while Montreal’s Carey Price had outdueled Tuukka Rask en route to an upset win against the heavily favored Bruins.
- The Rangers had found a way to survive despite a lack of production from their stars. Rick Nash had yet to score in the postseason, Martin St. Louis was stuck at three goals through 14 games, and Ryan McDonagh had just three points.
- New York was riding an almost comical streak of offensive futility against Montreal. It had managed just one goal against the Habs in three games this season. In the last two full seasons, it had scored twice in six games.
- Add it all up — the hot goalies, the slumping stars, and the recent history — and we could bet the house on one thing: The Rangers were going to have a real tough time scoring goals in this series.
And here’s an updated list of what we know after Game 1:
- We don’t know anything.
By the time the game was over, Nash, St. Louis, and McDonagh had broken their slumps, Price was on the bench, and the Rangers had racked up seven goals in a stunning Game 1 win.
Compare that result to yesterday’s Game 1 of the Western final, which went pretty much the way you’d expect. We got strong goaltending, tight defensive play, the now-traditional confusing goalie interference call, a key goal by Jonathan Toews, and, eventually, yet another Blackhawks win on home ice. All of it made sense. Was that so hard, Eastern Conference final?
Apparently so. And since it turns out we didn’t have any of the answers we thought we did, maybe it’s time to start asking some Rangers/Habs Game 1 questions instead.
What the hell was that?
That was a 7-2 Rangers win in Game 1 of the conference final. They now lead the series 1-0. Game 2 is Monday in Montreal.
Yeah, but … what the hell was that?
It was an old-fashioned butt-kicking is what it was, one of the worst in Montreal’s storied playoff history. The Rangers outshot and outskated the Canadiens, and their once slumbering power play racked up three goals.
And as bad as things were for the Canadiens, in some sense the score may even have flattered them — the Rangers backed off a little after they made it 7-1, spreading out power-play time to some of their third- and fourth-line guys. And of the Habs’ two goals, one was a flukish short-handed goal that came well after the game was decided and the other was on a play that should have been whistled dead on a too-many-men penalty.