Over the next couple of days, I’m going to walk through all of the NHL opening round series and try to make some educated guesses about what might happen. Let’s start at the top of the Atlantic Division.
New York Rangers (48-28-6) at Montreal Canadiens (47-26-9)
If the NHL still operated under the old conference playoff format, the Habs would have finished third by virtue of winning their division and faced the Ottawa Senators – the only negative goal differential team in the playoffs this spring. Instead, thanks to the wacky wild card, they’ll get the New York Rangers, who finished just a point back despite playing in a much tougher division.
Lines: Canadiens -140, Rangers +120
5-on-5 FF%: 52.4
Carey Price save percentage: .923
Goal differential: +26
5-on-5 FF%: 48.8
Henrik Lundqvist save percentage: .910
Goal differential: +36
Given how poorly Lundqvist has played this season, it would make a lot of sense for the Rangers to go with .922 Antti Raanta. I don’t see them treating the King like that, so let’s assume New York has to continue to score its way out of trouble. Against a worse netminder, they’d probably be favoured to do so, but they have to try and beat the No. 1 goalie in the world in Carey Price and a better possession team in Montreal. With the first two games taking place at a raucous Bell Centre, I agree with the market on this one. Habs in 6.