One can only wonder ‘what if’ as the Montreal Canadiens get set to host the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre Saturday night.
The Rangers and Canadiens of course met in last spring’s Eastern Conference final, which saw Carey Price go down with a knee injury during Game 1 after Rangers forward Chris Kreider ran into the Habs’ starter.
New York defeated Montreal in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup final where they lost to the L.A. Kings.
“The fact we lost Carey Price was a huge loss for us, but we’re never going to know if it would have been different,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told NHL.com. “It’s easy to speculate about the result, but we’re never going to know. One thing we do know is [the Rangers are] a good hockey team, they work hard, they have a good structure and they’re tough to play against.
Price, who went 8-3 with a 2.15 GAA through the first two rounds of last spring’s playoffs prior to the meeting with the Rangers, is naturally downplaying the significance of tonight’s game.
“It’s not about focusing on individuals on a team, it’s about trying to win the game,” Price said. “That’s the only thing we have to focus on.
“They’re a good hockey club. There’s a reason they were in the Stanley Cup finals last year. They got great goaltending, and they play as a unit. It’s definitely going to be a good challenge for us.”
Forward Brendan Gallagher added tonight’s game won’t change what happened.
“We’re not going to be able to be back in that situation by winning this game,” he said. “I think it’s something that’s over with, we have to learn from it, be better for it this year, but we can’t be playing with vengeance in our minds.”
The Canadiens are off to a hot start at 6-1-0 and Price is in fine form at 5-1-0 with a 2.96 GAA.
The Rangers meanwhile have won three of four since an embarrassing 6-3 loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs Oct. 14.
Kreider, who will likely be booed relentlessly tonight by the Bell Centre crowd, had eight points in last spring’s eastern final and has started this season with two goals and six points through seven games.
“I would think now that the series has gone by, everyone is calmer and cooler,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of the incident between Kreider and Price. “Everybody on both teams, and anybody watching, knows that was just a pure accident. It’s unfortunate it happened. I’m sure everyone knows it was a pure accident.”
Henrik Lundqvist (4-2-0) will get the start for New York.
Saturday concludes a two-game road trip for the Rangers while the Habs will head out on the road for a three-game western road trip beginning Monday.