While Carey Price dazzled in goal for the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre, leading his team to its seventh win of the season, the loss for the Rangers really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Putting the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals aside, where the Rangers defeated the Canadiens in six games and won two in a row on the road in Montreal, the Rangers’ regular season play at the Bell Centre over the past six seasons has been something akin to a nightmare.
Henrik Lundqvist’s House of Horrors
Henrik Lundqvist’s career to this point has been tremendous, with the one blemish on his record being his lack of a Stanley Cup. Aside from that, he’s won an Olympic gold medal, the Vezina trophy, owns a career .920 save percentage, and a 2.27 goals against average. Not too shabby at all. However, when you place him between the pipes at the Bell Centre in Montreal, all of those stats suddenly become irrelevant.
In his career during regular season games, Lundqvist is 4-6-2 all time, with a 3.80 GAA, and an .878 save percentage at the Bell Centre. To make matters even worse, since “The King’s” last regular season win in Montreal, he is 0-4-1 with a 4.30 GAA and an .881 save percentage. It’s mind boggling, really.
But it isn’t fair just to blame Lundqvist for New York’s recent lack of success just north of the border. The Rangers as a team also seem to struggle in Montreal.
Lack of Success All-Around
Throughout the past six seasons, the Rangers have been a pretty good team when visiting other cities, amounting a road record of 106-75-16. The Rangers have been able to earn a point in 62 percent of road games over that six season span. The Bell Centre, though, has had its way with the Rangers.
In the Blueshirts’ last 11 regular season visits to Montreal, they’ve have only been able to muster up a grand total of nine goals. It doesn’t matter how good or bad Lundqvist – or whomever was in net – was or wasn’t. When a team averages .82 goals per game in a certain arena, they don’t stand much of a chance to earn two points.
Going a bit further back than the discussed period, but still within New York’s struggling time frame in Montreal, we find the biggest comeback in Montreal Canadiens’ history. And who was it against? You got it: the New York Rangers.
February 19, 2008, the Rangers were leading the Habs 5-0 at the Bell Centre midway through the 2nd period. Brendan Shanahan had two goals and an assist, Jaromir Jagr had four helpers, and the Rangers were 3-for-4 on the power play. It seemed nothing could go wrong.
Until they suffered a complete meltdown and allowed five unanswered goals to the Canadiens, eventually losing in a shootout.
While that was probably the worst regular season loss in Montreal for the Rangers in recent years, it is only the poster-game for a greater underlying trend of a serious lack of regular season success in Canada’s second largest city.
Better Off In The Playoffs
For a New York team that has become synonymous with road success in recent years, the Bell Centre in Montreal remains the outlier. Saturday night was no different, and the Rangers were handed yet another loss, 3-1, at the hands of the Canadiens. Perhaps the Blueshirts would just be better off visiting 1909 Canadiens-de-Montréal Ave during the post-season, and not in October.
The Rangers won’t be back on the road until Saturday, November 8th when they will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for a matchup on “Hockey Night in Canada.” I think it’s safe to say, though, that the Rangers will have a better shot at a win in Toronto than they would in Montreal.