Rangers vs. Canadiens – Even then, even now

The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens appear as evenly matched for their upcoming Eastern Conference showdown as they have been throughout their long playoff history. As two of hockey’s Original Six franchises, the Rangers and Canadiens have split 14 previous matches in the NHL playoffs.

The lone Stanley Cup Final between the clubs occurred in 1979, when the Habs beat the Rangers in five games to earn their fourth straight Cup. New York won the opening game at the Montreal Forum, then the Canadiens countered with four straight wins. Montreal’s Gainey was hoisted by teammates, above, after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanely Cup Finals MVP.

That series marked the end of the Canadiens’ dynasty. Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer and goalie Ken Dryden all retired, and coach Scotty Bowman left to coach the Buffalo Sabres.

In their first playoff meeting in 1930, Montreal won 2-0 in the semifinals and went on to capture the Stanley Cup. New York returned the favor three years later, outscoring the Canadiens 8 goals to 5 in the quarterfinals (goals scored were a playoff decider in some of the early NHL playoffs), then beating Toronto in four games (3-1) for the Cup.

In 1956, 1957 and 1986 Les Habitants beat the Rangers in the semis – each time in five games — and went on to win the championship.

The last Montreal-New York matchup happened in 1996 in the quarterfinals. The Canadiens won the first two games at Madison Square Garden, but the Rangers rallied for four straight wins.

The first one, in Game 3, was the first playoff game ever at Montreal’s Molson Center, and New York’s Adam Graves scored both goals in a 2-1 win. Alex Kovalev and Pat Verbeek each had a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ Game 6 clincher.

None of the 14 playoff series between the Canadiens and Rangers have gone the full seven games. With this series a virtual toss-up (Montreal is a slight favorite with home ice advantage), that could change.

THE PICK: What else, Rangers in seven.


2 Comments on “Rangers vs. Canadiens – Even then, even now”

  1. Will R says:

    I was at the Montreal Forum in 1979 to watch the Habs raise the Cup. Most of the fans still wore suits and ties. That old world formality was lost after the game to the rioters on Rue Ste-Catherine. What I remember most was running into and talking with Rod Gilbert before the game. Rangers in six.

    • SportsLifer says:

      Hey Will, thanks for the comment. Amazing you were there in 1979, that was a great run fueled by John Davidson. The Rangers just ran out of gas against a very talented Montreal squad.

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