MONTREAL - The Canadiens and the Rangers both enjoyed successful seasons in 2016-17. There was very little wiggle room between the two clubs in the standings, with the Canadiens edging the Rangers 103 points to 102, meaning that fans should expect an exciting and tight series between two very well-matched teams. Here are some insights into what separates the two Original Sixers heading into the postseason.
In topping the Atlantic division, the Canadiens earned themselves home ice advantage, which is positive for Montreal given they were the better home team than the Rangers, earning three more wins on home ice than New York, with 24. The Rangers, on the other hand, can take comfort in the fact that they collected the most points in the League on the road with 56. But Carey Price was the much better goalie at home, winning 23 of 37 games played at the Bell Centre, while Henrik Lundqvist only managed to come out on top in 16 of his 31 games between the pipes at MSG.
Speaking of Price, the star goaltender led the Canadiens to a team goals-against average of 2.41 for the season, helping the Habs rank fourth in the NHL in that category. The Rangers, on the other hand, finished 12th with a 2.63 GAA. Price's personal numbers (37-20-0-5, .923 SV%, 2.23 GAA, 3 SO) eclipse those of Lundqvist (31-20-0-4, .910 SV%, 2.74 GAA, 2 SO).
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The Canadiens were more likely to come out on top in games in which they outshot their opponents, winning 25 such contests, although the Rangers banked 28 wins when they were outshot. The Habs enjoyed the higher average number of shots taken per game at 30, just ahead of the Blueshirts' 29.7.
When it comes to special teams, the Rangers hold the edge on the power play, finishing tied for 10th overall at 20.2%, but the Canadiens were the better penalty-kill team, succeeding 81.1% of the time. The Rangers should be wary of taking penalties if Shea Weber will be on the ice, as he has rifled 12 power play goals past opposing goaltenders this season.
Scoring first would go a long way towards helping the Canadiens take the series. Montreal finished with the fourth-most wins in games in which they scored first, taking 33 games that way in 2016-17. Even if they don't score first, the Habs can take comfort in the fact that they were the best team in the NHL when trailing after 2 periods, with a winning percentage of 31.4% (11 wins) when down after 40 minutes.
The Canadiens were the better team in the faceoff circle this season, winning 50.3% of their draws. The Rangers, on the other hand, finished 22nd overall with a rate of 48.4%. The Habs were also the more physical team, registering 1,864 hits, 149 more than their Manhattan counterparts.
Montreal captain Max Pacioretty was the only player on either side to break the 60-point plateau this season, equaling his jersey number in points with 67. The native of New Canaan, CT is also the only 30-plus goal scorer from either team, having lit the lamp 35 times in the regular season.
The Rangers' Dan Girardi is the most seasoned playoff veteran in the series, having suited up for 110 postseason contests, but it's the Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec who leads all players with 46 career playoff points. Andrew Shaw (35) and Andrei Markov (31) are just behind Plekanec on the Canadiens' side. Alex Radulov may have only played in 18 NHL playoff games, garnering 14 points, but he has also collected 83 points in 86 playoff games in the KHL.