Rangers pumped for matchup against Canadiens

Coach Alain Vigneault, Brad Richards and the rest of the New York Rangers couldn’t hide their excitement about facing the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals. They already knew their next opponent would be a fellow Original Six team, but facing the storied Canadiens carries a little more cache than playing the Boston Bruins.

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Coach Alain Vigneault, Brad Richards and the rest of the New York Rangers couldn’t hide their excitement about facing the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals.

They already knew their next opponent would be a fellow Original Six team, but facing the storied Canadiens carries a little more cache than playing the Boston Bruins.

Montreal advanced to the final four with a 3-1 win at Boston in Game 7 on Wednesday night. The Rangers moved on one night earlier, knocking off the Penguins in Pittsburgh in another Game 7 — capping a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

The series begins Saturday in Montreal.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s the best place to play,” Richards said Thursday. “I’ve been fortunate enough to see Super Bowls, I was at Yankees-Red Sox at old Yankee Stadium Game 7, World Series, I’ve played in the Stanley Cup finals.

“I can’t imagine any other sporting event that is this amazing of an atmosphere. It’s very special.”

Vigneault was a bit more tempered, and looked relaxed in sandals while speaking to reporters in English and French following his team’s optional practice. Vigneault is in his first season as Rangers coach, following a long stint with Vancouver. The Canadiens hired him back in 1997 for his first NHL head coaching job.

“I’ve got nothing but positive memories from my time there,” said Vigneault, a day after his 53rd birthday. “I’ve worked with some great people. I’m here today because I started there.

“Original Six games are always exciting and there’s a lot of history associated with both teams. Playing against the Montreal Canadiens, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Our group is real excited about this opportunity, and I’m sure the Habs feel the same.”

Montreal won the last of its record 24 Stanley Cup titles in 1993, and the Rangers ended a 54-year championship drought the following season but haven’t captured the Cup since.

These teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 1996, when the Rangers won the first-round series in six games. Overall, they have faced off in the post-season 14 times with each team winning seven. This is the third matchup since Montreal knocked off the Rangers in five games in the 1979 Stanley Cup finals.

“For a Canadian kid, for the guys from Quebec it’s really special,” said Richards, a native of Prince Edward Island. “From where I’m from, there’s a lot of Montreal fans. It’s the closest NHL city in Canada to us. Our whole life was Montreal. That’s all you get to see on TV.

“It’s an amazing place. It’s going to be so fun. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

The Canadiens were the only team from north of the border to qualify for this year’s playoffs, and they have certainly proven they belong. They swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round and then outlasted Boston — the NHL’s best team during the regular season — after trailing that series 3-2.

They are 4-1 at home in these playoffs. The Rangers and Canadiens went 1-1-1 against each other during the regular season. New York earned a 1-0 victory in Montreal on Nov. 16 and lost 1-0 in a shootout there to complete the regular season.

No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist didn’t play in either game there, a building in which the Rangers have struggled to win in recent years — going 1-7-2 in their last 10 visits.

“It’s so long ago since I played there, so I don’t really remember,” said Lundqvist, with a laugh. “I look forward to going there. I am excited to play. It’s a conference final in Montreal. I will try to go out and play the same way. Don’t overthink it. Go out and enjoy it.

“As much as you focus on yourself, it’s a team game. Going up there, sticking together, and believe that we can do it.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Toronto Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez (37) hits a single to drive in two runs against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2019 inductee Jayna Hefford speaks in Toronto on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, centre, makes a shot as lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard sweep against Denmark at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

Most Read