The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers will begin their series today at 1:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Whether it be the speed game of the Canadiens or the depth of the Rangers, both teams have been big surprises in the playoffs. They both took down heavyweights in Boston and Pittsburgh and the two Original Six combatants squaring off against one another should make for an exciting series and atmosphere in hockey-crazed cities like New York and Montreal.
Both squads have several reasons for being where they are. Montreal has the usual suspects of P.K. Subban and Carey Price playing top-notch hockey, but are getting big contributions from surprises such as Dale Weise and Mike Weaver.
The Rangers have seen the revival of Henrik Lundquist, who seems to have his swagger back in New York's net, and are getting contributions from all across the board, with 15 different players scoring at least one goal in the playoffs. Game one will set the tone for the entire series so here are five things to watch for in today's match-up.
1. Will Montreal have its speed game?
The speed game, the speed game, the speed game. That seems to be all you heard from announcers during the Canadiens series against the Bruins, but it's what Montreal is known for and why they were able to defeat Boston.
But will the speed game be rolling on all cylinders coming off a seven-game series with the pounding Bruins and just two days off to rest tired legs or will the Rangers be able to keep up and take the Habs out of their game?
2. Which Martin St-Louis and Brad Richards will New York get?
The Rangers need scoring from St-Louis and Richards and have seen the duo turn things around in the playoffs. The pair have combined for seven goals and 17 points in 14 playoff games thus far, but a lot of amnesty buyout fingers were being pointed at Richards throughout the regular season and St-Louis didn't put the puck in the net much for New York after coming over in a trade from Tampa Bay.
Which pair will the Rangers get in game one? Will the Canadiens target one of them using Subban as their ammunition, similar to the way they did with David Krejci in the Boston series? No matter what happens, we'll see right off the bat what Montreal has in store for the duo and we'll also see if the pair can handle what comes their way.
3. The goaltending battle
Not only will this be something to watch in game one, but for the entire series. Price and Lundqvist, two of the best goaltenders in the game, manning the nets of their respective teams, stone-faced and focused. Both netminders are at the top of their games coming into game one and both will be a huge part of their team's success.
The two squared off in the Olympics, with Price taking home a gold medal with Canada.
4. Will Rick Nash get it going?
Nash has been shooting the puck, leading the team in playoff shots with 52, but nothing has gone in the net. The left-winger is coming off his worst regular season since his rookie year and has not lived up to his $7.8 million salary. But, if he can come up big in game one and get his scoring touch back for the rest of the series, maybe, just maybe, the fans and management will look the other way and applaud him for what he does rather than criticize him for what he didn't do.
5. P.K. Subban
Subban has been the best player in the NHL playoffs. He is playing with energy and confidence and doesn't look ready to slow down one bit. But perhaps the Rangers have a game plan for the Norris Trophy winner, or maybe he'll continue his point per game playoff pace, while being an absolute menace to his opposition. No matter what kind of game one Subban has, everyone will have their eyes on his every move.