In a showing of good faith, SB Nation Canadien's blog Eyes on the Prize answered five questions for us about the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals series against the Rangers. We'll likely do the same for them before Game 1 on Saturday. Answering for EOTP is managing editor Andrew Berkshire.
Andrew Berkshire: Sorry to break it to you guys, but it's not going to be Murray. It's pretty obvious after the way the series went against the Bruins, that Nathan Beaulieu has solidified his spot in the lineup going forward, and would need to lose it before someone else came in. Beaulieu is a sickeningly talented young defenseman, not unlike a young P.K. Subban in 2010. He's the best skater on the Montreal Canadiens, and has no panic in his game, evidenced by the perfect games he played against Boston, his first two playoff games, both elimination games.
AB: I don't see why anyone would hate Ryan McDonagh for a GM making a dumb trade. To this day I still believe that Bob Gainey thought he was trading David Fisher, also a ~6'2" American collegiate defenseman, drafted one year earlier than McDonagh, and a fringe prospect at best. It's the only scenario that makes any sense, since McDonagh was considered the Habs' top prospect at the time, touted more highly than Subban and Pacioretty, and Gomez was considered a punchline. There will be people that boo McDonagh, but that's because fans are idiots. I think most people have great regret about that trade and respect for what McDonagh has accomplished in this league.
BSB: The Rangers have been rolling four lines all postseason, and haven't been getting many goals from their top guys. How well do you think Montreal can match up with New York's depth, and is that an area of concern?
AB: Depth isn't a problem for the Canadiens at all. Their best line so far in the playoffs has been the third line centered by Lars Eller, and their 4th line with Daniel Briere and Dale Weise was a major component in defeating the Bruins, who supposedly had the "best 4th line in the league". There may have been some concerns before Max Pacioretty got going, but now that he's scoring, the Canadiens have four lines contributing, with Alex Galchenyuk returning from injury. Not much to worry about.
BSB: Montreal's power play tore up the Bruins, and the Rangers penalty kill is one of the stronger units in the league. What's the key to stopping Montreal on the power play, and how big of a part of the Canadiens' success is it?
AB: Pffft why would I tell you guys that? Nice try, Vigneault. The power play was a big part of beating the Bruins because they were such a strong even strength team, but it really didn't work at all for them against Tampa Bay, they just tore them asunder at evens. I don't expect the Rangers to outplay the Canadiens at even strength by a wide margin, if at all, this is a different team than the regular season, so the power play won't need to be as big of a factor.
BSB: Who do you like in this series, and why?
AB: The Rangers are a good team, I thought going into the playoffs that they were the second best team in the conference after Boston, but let's be honest, they don't exactly have killer instinct in the playoffs. The Flyers were probably the worst team to make the playoffs this season, and the Rangers had trouble putting them down. Combine that with how great Montreal's record is against the Rangers over the last 5 years or so, and I think this one is the Habs' to lose.