The Rangers seem to be at their best when they have specific opponents to shut down. In the first round of this postseason, they were able to effectively contain Flyers captain and Hart Trophy candidate Claude Giroux.
Giroux did have two goals and four assists in the seven games, but his goals didn't have much of an impact -- a late Game 5 goal to cut the Rangers lead to one and an empty-netter in the already-decided Game 6. Mission accomplished.
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With a bigger stage and bigger names to defend in the second round, the Rangers held Sidney Crosby to a goal and two assists over seven games; Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen did some damage, but the Rangers kept another captain and Hart Trophy finalist in check.
Now, the Rangers are faced with a much different task. The Canadiens look an awful lot like the Rangers do right now -- a team that's made the Eastern Conference finals on the strength of balanced, four-line scoring and terrific goaltending.
There are some big names to contain, guys such as former Islander Thomas Vanek and Connecticut native Max Pacioretty. But aside from dynamic defenseman P.K. Subban, the Canadiens have gotten big contributions up and down their lineup.
"You look at a guy like Dale Weise, my old teammate [in Hartford]," Mats Zuccarello said. "People look at him like a fourth-line guy, but he's scored some big goals for them in the playoffs. Everyone is dangerous. If you focus too much on one guy, someone else is going to step up."
The Rangers and Canadiens both were effective through two rounds with speed, with a heavy forecheck and with a counter-attack that produced a very high number of odd-man rushes for the Canadiens in their seven-game upset of the Bruins and for the Rangers against the Penguins.
The goal may not be to specifically target a certain Canadiens line or forward. In fact, the one player who may be highlighted quite a bit in the Rangers video room is Subban, the electric defenseman with the high-powered slap shot. He's a big reason why the Montreal power play is 10-for-38 (26.3 percent), best among the remaining playoff teams.
"You've got to be smart," said Ryan McDonagh, who will see plenty of Subban at the other end of the ice. McDonagh and Subban were the first two Canadiens draft picks in the 2007 draft.
"He's a great skater," McDonagh said. "Don't let him wheel, use the net -- it starts all the way down in their zone. He's got a big shot so it's going to take a lot of courage for guys to stay in the [shooting] lanes and there's no question we have those guys. Power play is a big strength of their team and he's a big reason why. Collectively, it'll have to be different people blocking shots, different people making plays. For us, nothing's going to change."