Much has been said recently about the “King” in net for the New York Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist, after he shut down one of the best offensive teams in the league, the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, there is another net-minder coming into this Eastern Conference Finals that has played just as well as the “King”: Montreal Canadiens Carey Price.
In recent times, Carey Price has gone Aretha Franklin on fans, trying to get a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T with the type of play he has been displaying throughout the playoffs. Montreal fans would have assumed that after Price and the Canadiens upset the first seeded team in the East in Game Seven on the road, while outperforming the possible future Vezina Trophy winner Tukka Rask, that all the talk coming into this game would be about Price. However, coming into the Eastern Conference Finals, headlines everywhere have been screaming accolades about the Broadway Blueshirt in net for New York- and it is for good reason, too.
“King” Henrik has been a major catalyst for the Rangers’ success in the first two rounds. When the Rangers offense was struggling, the net-minder stood strong; when the team was tired after playing five games in seven days, the “King” remained unwavering; and when New York had to play in back-to-back Game Sevens, rather than folding under the pressure, Lundqvist set a record for winning his fifth straight Game Seven. The “King” is certainly on fire in recent times, averaging a 1.75 GAA (Goals-Against-Average) with a .947 save percentage over their final four games against the Penguins. Those remarkable numbers even include a four goal game given up by Lundqvist in Game Four. Henrik finished the total series against the Pens with a 1.88 GAA and a .940 save percentage.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the man in net on the other side of the ice, Carey Price, has posted almost the exact same numbers as the “King”. In the past four games against the Boston Bruins, Price had a 1.50 GAA, a .950 save percentage and a shutout. These numbers remain astounding even though they include a rough Game Five start from Price, in which he let in four goals on 30 shots. Price finished the total series against the Bruins with a 2.05 GAA and a .936 save percentage.
If the season series between the Rangers and Canadiens- paired with the way these two goalies and their defenses have been playing recently- is any indication of what is to come, do not expect a high scoring series. The season series saw just a measly four goals scored between the two teams in three games. The Habs took two-of-three from the Rangers this season, but Lundqvist only played in one game. In two games against New York, Price saved 74 of 75 shots thrown his way. In one game played, Lundqvist stopped 25 of 27 shots on goal.
In addition, the two sides faced off in the Sochi Olympics, with Price playing for Team Canada and Lundqvist for Team Sweden. In the gold medal game, Price emerged victorious as he posted a shutout in Canada’s 3-0 victory. While Price earned the victory and the shutout, Lundqvist faced much more work in net. The two teams in front of the goaltenders will be different in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Olympics may give an indication as to how this series will play out.
In recent memory, there has not been a more evenly matched goalie matchup of two early Conn Smythe-worthy candidates coming into an Eastern Conference Finals. The importance of goalie play is not lost on either the Rangers or Canadiens and the play from both Lundqvist and Price will surely be the vehicle to one of these teams making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Only time will tell which team and which goaltender will prevail.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
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