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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Two games left for Montreal....whatchu gat?

Ok, so I realize that this is late in the season - two more games left....it doesn't get much later than that! That being said, what better time to start a bolg about the Habs (and other stuff) than one hour before their penultimate game of the season.

Tonight, 7:30 pm, Montreal vs. Buffalo. On the surface this might not seem like much, but Buffalo is fighting for their playoff life. The have 88 points and are still mathematically alive in the hunt for a playoff spot. Win tonight, and they live another day.....lose, and they can start shining their golf clubs.

Montreal has it's share of challenges, with all of the injuries and illnesses that they are enduring; Komisarek - injured, Koivu - injured (but word is that he will be ready for the playoffs), Bouillon - injured, Grabovski - sick, Kovalev - sick (but playing tonight), etc.

As a result of all of this insanity (most of these illnesses and injuries have occured within the last two weeks), Matt D'Agostini gets his first shot at the big leagues.

Matt had a pretty good training camp this year but was a victim of the numbers game. Montreal simply has/had too many skilled young forwards, that are ahead of D'Agostini in the depth chart. What I like about this move is that it continues to show how much depth the Canadiens have. Sure, the depth is largely young, but it is also skilled. This gives the club a lot of options.

Despite what PJ Stock from the Team 990 says, Montreal has a ton of character. they have shown that all year. As a Habs fan, I am used to 10+ years of the Canadiens disappointing me. Just when things start to look good, the team craps out. This year, is the complete opposite. Every time I start thinking, "oh boy, here they go again..." they prove me wrong. They lose one, two games, and then turn it around and win. This is witnessed by their longest losing streak being 3 games.

You want more character? Losing to 3-0 (I think) to the NJ Devils (our nemesis for the last 10 years), and coming back to win the game 4-3. Losing 5-0 to Ny Rangers, and coming back to win it 6-5. Losing 3-0 to Buffalo with about 3:30 left in the game, tying it in regulation and winning it in Overtime (sweet goal by Higgins).

This team has shown, all season, that they can win. They never quit, and they always believe in themselves and as a result, the fans do to.

Whether they win tonight or not...whether they beat Toronto on Saturday or not, this team has exceeded ALL expectations and is now a legitimate contender in the wide-open East. Now, positioning is key but a little goofy too. Whether Montreal finishes 1st in the conference or 2nd, their 1st round match-up will be key, imo.

While there are NO easy rounds in the playoffs, I, personally, feel that Philadephia is our best is the path of least resistance. Why noy Boston? You might ask. Well, while we did Boston in all eight meetings we have had this year, the playoffs is a totally different ball game. Boston will be extra motivated to beat Montreal in the playoffs exactly because they were embarassed all year. The last thing you need in the playoffs is added motivation to beat another team.

This does not mean that I think that Boston will beat Montreal....quite the opposite. However, I do feel that it will not be a walk in the park and may take a lot out of Montreal. Philly, on the other hand, is slower than Montreal, especially on the back end. Montreal's speed will expose Philly's slow d-men and allow Montreal to dictate the play all 5 games that that series would last...again, imo.

Boston and Philly aside, there are two teams that concern me and they are Washington and Ottawa. Yes, Ottawa is a beat-up, disheartened team, however they are still Ottawa. They have elite level scoring and defence, and can turn it on at any time. Their problem is their goaltending, which has been suspect all season long. I think that Montreal can beat them, but I wouldn't choose Ottawa as a 1st round match up.

Washington is the other concern, for me. Again, I feel that Montreal should win that series, however there are a few concerns there. 1st of all, there is Huet. One of the worst things in the hockey world is trading a player to a team only to meet them in the playoffs and lose. While I feel that Price and Montreal are better than Huet, Ovechkin and Washington, they will still be a deadly threat.

Ovechkin can win a game - and maybe a series - all by himself. Not to mention that Washington has been playing playoff hockey for the last month or so. They are ripped, ready and primed for the playoffs. The results COULD be scary. The next three days will tell, I suppose.

That is it for now, I have to go watch the game. Let's see what the final days of the season bring...

Thoughts, insights, drinks?

K.

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