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Banter Preview: Rangers Travel to Montreal to Take on Canadiens

Can the Rangers win their third in a row?

New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Following a strong comeback victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, the New York Rangers are back in action tonight as they head to Canada to take on the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 PM Eastern time.

Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak will get the start tonight for the Rangers, to give Igor Shesterkin some rest. It’s also possible that the Blueshirts will have some other lineup tweaks in light of Gustav Rydahl being recalled from AHL Hartford, as Jonny Brodzinski’s wife went into labor.

As for the opponent, the rebuilding Habs might not have a great record, but they have some young talent and a head coach — old friend Martin St. Louis — who isn’t afraid to ride with them. Plus, we all know about the Rangers’ past difficulties at the Bell Centre.

Montreal is in the midst of a rebuild, and as such, was never expected to seriously contend this season. Even so, they got off to a competitive start before a recent 1-8-1 slide — including six straight losses — that has caused them to tumble down the standings. They sit in last place in the Atlantic Division.

  • Canadiens’ record: 15-20-3 (33 points)
  • Canadiens’ PP: 15.0% (32nd)
  • Canadiens’ PK: 73.9% (23rd)
  • Canadiens GF/GP: 2.61 (30th)
  • Canadiens’ GA/GP: 3.79 (29th)

As was alluded to, the Canadiens are led by some young talent upfront. Namely, captain Nick Suzuki, 23, leads the club with 32 points (15 goals) in 38 games. The diminutive but very dangerous Cole Caufield is the team’s sniper, leading the way with 22 goals — tied for the ninth-most in the entire league. Caufield is also just 22 years old, so between him and Suzuki, Montreal appears to have a couple of franchise cornerstones for the long haul.

Other than those two, however, Montreal does not have too much offensive potency, and that is reflected in their low goals-per-game rate. The Habs also have trouble keeping the puck out of their net, and they struggle on special teams. Looking a bit further into their underlying the Habs have a poor expected-goals-for rate (xGF%) of just 43.67 percent at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. That puts them all the way down at 29th in the league. Feeding into that are a 26th-ranked expected goals rate (xGF/60 minutes) and a 31st-ranked expected-goals-against rate (xGA/60), meaning they have issues on both ends of the ice.

Basically, the Canadiens struggle across the board, so the Rangers should be able to win this game if they play with the requisite intensity and focus. Of course, the Blueshirts have not been the most consistent team, and the Habs could give them some trouble for the aforementioned reasons. Plus, this contest screams “trap game;” with the New Jersey Devils coming to the Garden on Saturday, the Rangers cannot afford to look ahead to that divisional showdown and have a letdown tonight.

Enjoy tonight’s game.