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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Habs offseason, Gomez, Post-mortem, NHL playoffs and more...

Habs news
Hockey Inside/Out - The plan (for now)
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/the-plan-for-now

Post-mortems on Canadiens
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/post-mortems-on-canadiens

Gomez cops to bad season
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/gomez-cops-to-bad-season

RDS - CH : des joueurs ont l'équipe à coeur
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318913.html

Scott Gomez : « J'ai été horrible »
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318900.html

L'avenir du CH s'annonce prometteur
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318889.html

Eller et Darche sous le bistouri?
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318920.html

CH : brigade défensive à reconstruire
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318908.html


News
TSN - CULLEN: UNLIKELY HEROES FOR TAMPA BAY AND SAN JOSE
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=364142

OFF-SEASON GAME PLAN: COLORADO AVALANCHE
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=364061

NHL ON TSN QUIZ: FIRST-ROUND THOUGHTS AND HART TROPHY PICKS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=364092

Habsworld.net - Predictions: Conference Semifinals
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2475

NHL Playoff Recap: Penalties, power plays give Lightning win; Sharks victorious in OT
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40114-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Penalties-power-plays-give-Lightning-win-Sharks-victorious-in-OT.html

Kennedy: Predators coach Barry Trotz no longer overrated
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40102-Kennedy-Predators-coach-Barry-Trotz-no-longer-overrated.html

Tom Thompson: Comparing the 2011 Canucks to the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40066-Tom-Thompson-Comparing-the-2011-Canucks-to-the-1989-Stanley-Cup-champion-Flames.html

NHL names Hart Trophy finalists
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=6443093

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Canadiens-Bruins: Boston Outlasts Habs, Wins 2-1 in OT to Advance

by Kamal Panesar

The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime last night, ending another epic chapter between these original-six rivals.

And after all the fighting, all the trash talk, the ugly hits and incidents and 13 head-to-head games, the entire thing was decided by one measly goal.

It's all over now, but what an amazing ride it's been to watch these gutsy Canadiens do their thing over 89 games. Watching them achieving success despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Last night was, in a lot of ways, a microcosm of the Habs' season as Les Glorieux had the odds stacked against them early but didn't give up. Montreal spotted Boston an 2-0 lead less than six minutes in, before twice tying the game and forcing overtime before eventually succumbing to their foe.

The Habs looked like they would go down for the count early in the game, until Jacques Martin called a timeout to rally his troops. It worked, and Montreal battled back to tie it at two before Boston re-took the lead at 9:44 of the third.

Partrice Bergeron took a costly late-game penalty, leading the way for a P.K. Subban blast from the point to tie the game at three. Then at 5:43 of overtime and with the Habs dominating play, Boston got the only break they'd need. Nathan Horton took his lone shot of the game and it deflected off Jeff Halpern and past Carey Price for the win.

And with that, the Montreal Canadiens' 2011 season came to an end.


Things are not all bad

As Boston now moves on to face the Philadelphia Flyers, the Habs travel back to Montreal to clear out their locker room. There will be lots of time to deconstruct the season that was and muse over who will or won't be back in a Habs' uniform next year.

But for now, the players will surely be stuck thinking about what could have been.

With Montreal dropping three of their four losses to Boston in overtime, this really was a series that could have gone either way. And the players know it. That's the part that will sting them and their fans for a while yet.

So while the players and their fans were talking positively after the loss and this morning, they are all still feeling the sudden-death effects of yesterday's loss.

The city of Montreal is blanketed in a veil of sadness and meloncholy this morning. But through the disappointment, there is a bright ray of hope that is shining through.


Against all odds

The Habs are a team that suffered through seemingly devastating losses of their top two defenseman—Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges—while also losing their lone power-forward—Max Pacioretty—when he was just coming into his own.

That they were still able to battle all season, finish in sixth overall in the East and come a mere seven points shy of their division title, speaks to mental and testicular fortitude.

Moreover, it speaks to a depth of character not seen in these parts for some time.

Oh sure, the Habs have had character players, like Saku Koivu, over the last 15 years or so, but never so many at the same time.

Right now, this looks like a team who's defining characteristics, aside from speed, are character, heart, resilience and an irreproachable work-ethic.


So what went wrong?

Let's face it folks, as enjoyable as it was to watch the Habs this year we were not watching a contending team.

When your post-season strategy is just to get in, cross your fingers and hope for the best, you are not a contender. But perhaps, with a few tweaks, becoming a true contender, a la Detroit, will happen in the not so distant future.

If we take this brilliantly entertaining series against the Bruins at face value, Montreal pushed the heavily favoured Bs to a seventh game and came within a goal of winning. That looks nice on the surface but we have to put things in context here.

The Bruins won the series despite not scoring one single power play goal—they went 0-for-21 over seven games. In addition, their No.1 line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic were invisible while their tower of strength on the back end—Zdeno Chara—looked mortal at best.

The bottom line is that this was far from the best the Bruins could bring to the table and still the Canadiens lost.

However Montreal is a team in building mode and, as such, the experience gained by players like Subban, Yannick Weber, Lars Eller, David Desharnais and others, will go a long way to making the collective that much better next season.

Would having Markov, Gorges and Pacioretty in the lineup have made the Habs a better team and even won them the series? Quite possibly it would have but, in their absence, young players got a chance to play big roles and learn on the biggest stage available.

I'm not sure we'd be talking about Subban routinely playing 27-plus minutes a game in the playoffs if Markov and Gorges were in the lineup.

We also would not likely have seen the Habs acquire a player like James Wisniewski and watch him play a key role. Whether the Habs can re-sign him or not is another question entirely, but there is no doubting his importance to the team since being acquired.


The winds of change are blowing

With the Habs playoff run in the books, a new season of deconstruction and reconstruction will begin.

With six UFA and three RFA defenseman, two UFA and six RFA forwards and one UFA goaltender, the Canadiens lineup is bound to change over the course of the summer.

In addition, as was rumoured and leaked a few months ago, assistant coach Kirk Muller will no longer be with the team next season.

With Geoff Molson taking over as President of the team on April 1, 2011 he will now look to instill his philosophy on the team's management while giving them enough room to do their jobs. So while I don't expect either Pierre Gauthier or Jacques Martin to be fired, they will certainly be watched closely by their new boss.

If there has been one major flaw with the Canadiens this season—and for the past decade for that matter—it's that they are too small. Their small players have a ton of heart, however, and that makes up for a lot of what they are missing in pounds and inches. That being said, an added dose of size in their top-six would go a long way to making them a more balanced team.

In addition, Montreal lack's true offensive punch and struggle to score goals as a result. At the end of the day, it was their lack of 5-on-5 scoring ability that lost them the series against Boston.

So the priority for Montreal has to be to get bigger and more offensive.

With players like Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot failing to get it done in the top-six, I wouldn't be surprised if they are both given their walking papers in the off-season.

But the team has to effectively fill any holes left by their departures.

Scott Gomez too, who had the worst statistical season of his career and was mostly a ghost in the playoffs, continues to be an albatross for Montreal. GM Gauthier must and likely will look at all options for ridding himself of the underachieving center, but with a $7.35 million cap hit for three more years I wouldn't hold my breath.

The biggest changes, however, will come on the back end where Montreal has six free agent defenseman including Markov and Gorges. Whatever Gauthier decides to do with those two players will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of his roster.

At the end of the day if the Canadiens can get faster on the back end and bigger and more skilled up front, this could become a very dangerous team as soon as next season.

Right now, however, we don't know what will happen to the lineup and, in a lot of ways, it's irrelevant. What is important is that the 2010-2011 Montreal Canadiens gave their fans one hell of a season.

We laughed, we cried, we shared more than a few beers over them and they entertained and enthralled us for the better part of a year.

Ultimately, this year's Montreal Canadiens held the torch and the pride of a city high and for that, we thank them.

---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, Bruins advance, Halpern, Ference, NHL playoffs and more...

Round 1, Game 7 postgame: Bruins 4 - Habs 3 (OT) - Boston wins series 4-3
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens-Bruins: Boston Outlasts Habs, Wins 2-1 in OT to Advance
http://www.habsaddict.com/2011/04/canadiens-bruins-boston-outlasts-habs.html

Hockey Inside/Out - The final game of 2010-’11
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/the-final-game-of-2010-11

Video: First reaction from Habs to season-ending loss
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/video-first-reaction-from-habs-to-season-ending-loss

RDS - La bataille est perdue
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318822.html

Gionta : «Ça augure bien pour l’avenir»
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318872.html

Le Canadien quitte la tête haute
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318878.html

Toujours spécial d'éliminer le CH
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318879.html

Élimination du CH : aucun grabuge
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318834.html

TSN - HORTON'S OT GOAL LIFTS BRUINS PAST CANADIENS IN GAME 7
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363879

CANADIENS PROUD OF GAME 7 EFFORT DESPITE OT LOSS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363901

BRUINS' FERENCE FACES HEARING FOR HIT ON HALPERN
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363905

MCKENZIE: IT WAS GUT-CHECK TIME FOR THE BRUINS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363907

ESPN.com - Nathan Horton's OT winner lifts Bruins past Canadiens, into 2nd round
http://scores.espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=310427001

HW 3 Stars: Habs go down with pride and valour
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2473

Boston Globe - Video: Kevin Dupont on Game 7
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/extras/bruins_blog/2011/04/video_kevin_dup.html

Overjoyed
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/28/overjoyed/

Game 7 joy for Bruins
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/28/game_7_joy_for_bruins/


News
THN.com - NHL Playoff Recap: Bruins knock off rival Canadiens in overtime; Lightning shock Penguins
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40079-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Bruins-knock-off-rival-Canadiens-in-overtime-Lightning-shock-Penguins.html

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Round 2
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40080-NHL-Stanley-Cup-Playoff-Preview-Round-2.html

Spector's Hockey - What Next for the Canadiens and Kings?
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3922

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NHL Playoff Highlights: Bruins Eliminate Habs with 4-3 Overtime win

by Kamal Panesar

Well it's over folks. The Habs lost 4-3 in overtime to the Bruins and, in the process, lost the series four games to three.

It was a closely fought series and one of the best in recent memories! I'll post my post-game analysis tomorrow but in the meantime, here are the game highlights:

Habs win, Bruins Game 7, Canucks, Lucic, Rumours and more...

Round 1, Game 6 postgame: Habs 2 - Bruins 1 - Lead Tied 3-3
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens-Bruins: Habs Win 2-1 Forcing Decisive Game 7 In Boston
http://www.habsaddict.com/2011/04/canadiens-bruins-habs-win-2-1-forcing.html

Hockey Inside/Out - Not much time to reflect on Game 6
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/not-much-time-to-reflect-on-game-6

Video: Habs react to Game 6 win over Boston
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/video-habs-react-to-game-6-win-over-boston

Le Canadien force la tenue d'un 7e match
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318759.html

Le CH a gagné ses 4 derniers matchs 7
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318810.html

La perte de Lucic a fait mal à Boston
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318814.html

TSN - CULLEN: BURROWS TAKES CHARGE; HABS-BRUINS GOING SEVEN
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363783

CANADIENS FORCE GAME 7 WITH WIN OVER BRUINS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363738

ESPN.com - Canadiens answer Bruins with pair of PP goals to push series to 7
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=310426001

Habsworld.net - HW 3 Stars: Going the distance
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2471


News
THN.com - NHL Playoff Recap: Canucks edge Blackhawks on Burrows overtime goal; Canadiens force Game 7 with Bruins
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40051-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Canucks-edge-Blackhawks-on-Burrows-overtime-goal-Canadiens-force-Game-7-with-Bruins.html

Boylen: Too much whining and why Cory Schneider was still the right call
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40039-Boylen-Too-much-whining-and-why-Cory-Schneider-was-still-the-right-call.html

International Scouting Services: 2012 prospects have scouts excited to look ahead
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40043-International-Scouting-Services-2012-prospects-have-scouts-excited-to-look-ahead.html

Spector's Hockey - Latest Ducks News – April 27, 2011
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3907

(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

Canadiens-Bruins: Habs Win 2-1 Forcing Decisive Game 7 in Boston

by Kamal Panesar

Confidence is an integral part of winning in any sport. Sometimes it is fleeting, but for those who push through a wall to win, it tends to be unwavering. The Montreal Canadiens, who pulled out a 2-1 regulation decision over the Boston Bruins last night, seem to have this kind of confidence.

So with the win, this classic playoff battle between two bitter original-six rivals will now go to Game 7 tonight in Boston. The decisive game will be played at TD Garden with the winner moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

So I guess I was wrong with my original prediction; the Boston Bruins won't win this series in six after all. I can't say I'm disappointed with the outcome either, but the Bruins surely are.

Watching the postgame interviews, the Bruins seemed like a totally demoralized, utterly defeated team. And this despite there still being one game left to play in the series.

I found this strange, too, since they are still very much alive and it really is anyone's game tonight. Yet from the coach down to the captain, the body language and verbiage were those of a team that feels they lost the series last night.


Final score: Habs 2 - Bruins 1

Habs scorers: Mike Cammalleri (3), Brian Gionta (3
Bruins scorers: Dennis Seidenberg (1)

Three stars: 1. Michael Cammalleri, 2. Carey Price, 3. Brian Gionta


Game Notes

Two observations

Looking back to post-Game 5 interviews, the Canadiens were also disheartened but that was after double-overtime loss. And despite the loss, Montreal was still spouting positivity and talking about how the series wasn't over.

You didn't hear any of that from the Bruins last night.

What you did hear was a team that sounded like they had just been eliminated from the playoffs. Whereas the Bs have had a bounce in their step through Games 3, 4 and 5, they look like they had fallen back into self-doubt last night.

And, as was the case during Games 1 and 2, Coach Julien was agitated, uncomfortable and annoyed while doing his postgame press conference. His frustration was ironically most palpable while explaining how the Bruins are/were not frustrated by the Canadiens.

So with the quick turnaround—the puck drops on Game 7 tonight at 7 p.m.—the question now becomes which team is mentally tougher.


It's a matter of pride

Last night, Montreal played like a team who wanted the win. As I suggested they would before the game, this team's veteran core stood up and led the Habs to victory in what was a true team effort.

Michael Cammalleri was once again the Habs' best skater, scoring a power-play goal on a wicked one-knee blast. Paul Mara looked real good on the back end, filling in for injured James Wisniewski. Yannick Weber did an acceptable job on the fourth line. Brian Gionta scored the winner on the power play and, despite letting in a soft goal, Carey Price was the difference maker.

Overall, the Habs did exactly what they had to do to force a Game 7. As such, they will certainly be brimming with confidence but eternally aware of the task at hand.

But how will the Bruins respond?

This is a team that looked primed for a sweep after two games, that was happy with its play after five and which again looked completely defeated last night. Whereas the Habs have done a great job of not getting too high or low, Boston is having difficulty finding that mental middle-ground.

If Boston is not able to refocus quickly, their fragility could end up being their undoing tonight.

Teams play all year for home-ice advantage in the playoffs for exactly these kinds of situations. I am just wondering if the weight of expectation is going to crush the Bruins.

A quick goal by Montreal and this one could be over in a hurry.


Horrible officiating

Referee Chris Lee is an infamous NHL referee.

Like Carey Fraser before him, Lee is known more for blowing big calls than anything else. And watching him and his team do their thing last night, you can see why.

The number of marginal and missed calls by Lee and his team where through the roof and directly influenced the outcome of the game. Montreal even got two, yes two, 5-on-3 power plays converting on both to win the game.

As for botched calls, there was a phantom goaltender interference penalty on Patrice Bergeron early in the first period, where Bergeron made only incidental contact with Price. There was a two-minute minor to Chris Kelly for high sticking Travis Moen, even though Moen was bleeding—when a player is bleeding, it is an automatic four-minute penalty.

There was a blindside hit from Milan Lucic on Jaroslav Spacek, which only resulted in a game misconduct after they saw the blood streaming down Spacek's face. And, worst of all, there was an early whistle—this time by Kevin Pollack—in the first period where Tim Thomas failed to cover the puck and Gionta put the rebound into the empty net.

The goal was disallowed and the only good thing is that the Habs ended up winning the game. If not, the entire hockey world would be set ablaze this morning.

Needless to say, these two refs will not be in the Stanley Cup final, but why they are in the playoffs at all is a mystery to me.

Ugliness of the night

There was actually a lot of ugliness last night.

From the early whistle that nullified a Gionta goal to Lars Eller tangling with Adam McQuaid, falling to the ice and looking like either his shoulder or elbow was dislocated, there was plenty to go around.

But Milan Lucic took the ugliness cake at 4:37 of the second period when he hammered Spacek into the boards. Spacek had his back turned to Lucic and his head got crunched against the rigid Bell Centre glass.

Looking at the replay you can see that it was a classic blindside hit with Lucic nailing Spacek right in the numbers.

Spacek fell to the ice and took a few minutes before getting up, blood streaming from his forehead and being led to the dressing room. Fortunately, after a few stitches he seemed no worse for wear and was back in the game.

Lucic received a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.

Many are saying this morning that Lucic does not deserve any supplemental punishment, but I feel that given the blindside nature of the hit, Lucic should be suspended for at least one game. That being said, I am fully aware that he will not receive any further discipline. His hit was bad but not worse than Mike Richards on Tim Connolly or Bryan Bickell's hit on Kevin Bieksa.

And neither Richards nor Bickell were suspended for those hits, so Lucic isn't going anywhere.

...this is it

Tonight, this immensely entertaining first-round series between the Bruins and Canadiens comes to an end. And what an end it'll be!

This will mark the 13th time these teams have played each other since the start of the regular season, with Montreal holding a 7-5 win advantage. It's slight, to be sure, but so is the margin between wins and losses in this series.

I expect tonight to be no different with a tight, intense battle for the win.

The biggest X-factor, however, is the mental make-up of the Boston Bruins. Are they as fragile as they look and will that ultimately be their undoing? Or can they cowboy-up, to steal a Carey Price-ism and get the job done?

All of the pressure is once again on their shoulders and the crowd will be ravenous for a win. Still I have my doubts that Boston can get it done. To me, this is the Canadiens game and series to lose tonight, and I don't imagine they will.

However, with two games in 24 hours, you really have to throw convention out the window. With no time to rest, recuperate or recover from the win or loss and refocus for tonight's game, anything really can happen.

I originally called the Bruins winning this series in six games, but after they tied it at two, I felt it would go seven with Montreal winning. While I'm no Nostradamus, I still have a quiet confidence in the Habs' chances tonight, much like the team itself does.

---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NHL Playoff Highlights: Habs defeat Bruins 2-1 forcing Game 7

Game Highlights: Habs 2 - Bruins 1, Tuesday April 26, 2011

Big win for the Canadiens and an even bigger Game 7 looms large tomorrow night in Boston. Here are the highlights from tonight's game:

Canadiens Playoff Primer: Habs Face Elimination in Game 6 Against Bruins

by Kamal Panesar

Why do people lean on stats so much? On numbers? On wins and losses of preceding editions of current teams?

It never seems to amaze me how much focus is put on things that, if you think about it, have no bearing on the present. I mean who cares what last year's team did? What does that have to do with this year's team?

So this morning, with the Montreal Canadiens facing elimination at the hands of the Boston Bruins in Game 6, things are no different.

If you were to pick up a newspaper or reading a hockey website, you'd hear how the Canadiens were 5-1 in elimination games in last year's playoffs. You'd also hear how the Bruins have never won a playoff series after losing the first two games—they have failed to do so in 26 tries.

But what bearing does 26 previous iterations of the Bruins, with different players, coaches and playing in different eras, have to do with the success on the 2011 Bs?

What too does the Habs 5-1 record in last year's playoffs have to do with a team with Carey Price instead of Jaroslav Halak, and missing Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges?

The answer is, very little if anything at all.

The fact is that it's become a cliché to bring up stats from years gone by in an effort to predict how a team will fare in the present. The bottom line is that these numbers are, like my good Twitter friend @touteparpillee said, merely historical indicators.


So what does matter?

What is relevant then, if we can't look at back-stats to try and determine the fate of the Habs tonight? I would say, to start with, current stats from the current series.

As I said in my Game 5 postgame piece, if nothing else, these two teams have shown that they are very evenly matched. They both win based off strong defense and excellent goaltending—although neither have been consistent through five games this series.

So the first thing that stands out, to me, is the even-Steven 12 goals for and against for both teams. With the last two games being decided in overtime, this really has been and continues to be a series that can go either way.

Another interesting stat, and part of the reason for the Bruins three-game win streak, is that Boston has eight players with at least two points over the last three games.

Eight players and not one of them is named Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton or David Krejci.

The Bs No.1 line, that was supposed to body the Habs out of the rink, has not been a factor in any game in this series. Whether because of the defensive blanket Montreal has thrown over them or their own ineptitude, Lucic, Horton and Krejci have failed to be difference makers—save for Horton's Game 5 overtime game-winning goal.

So while their top guns have been silenced the rest of the Bruins' considerable depth has picked up the slack and they are winning as a result. The bulk of the Bruins scoring in the last two games has come from the bottom-nine and their defense. Players like Rich Peverely, Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder and Brad Marchand all having three points—Peverely's three were scored over his last three games—while Patrice Bergeron has five points over the last three.

In addition, Tomas Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg each have two points over the last two games, while Andrew Ference has two over the last three.

The bottom line is the only response Montreal has had, is P.K. Subban with two points in his last three and Michael Cammalleri with seven points in five games. Moreover, key forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta each have only one point in the last four games.

That's just not good enough.


A test of character

The Bruins have shown incredible resolve and character by battling back from a 2-0 series deficit. Boston's three-straight wins gives them a 3-2 series lead and has pushed the Habs to the brink of elimination.

So as much as the Bruins demonstrated tremendous character it's now the Canadiens turn to show what they're made of.

With players like Hal Gill, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Brent Sopel and Travis Moen all having Stanley Cup rings, the Habs have a veteran core who has been there before and will have their teammates ready tonight.

Add to that the calming play of Carey Price, the all-star contributions of P.K. Subban, the grittiness of Ryan White, the sheer determination of Mathieu Darche, the physical play of Andrei Kostitsyn and the renaissance of Michael Cammalleri, and the Canadiens have all the pieces they need.

If there is one thing Montreal has shown this season it's the ability to win when you least expect them to. Moreover, they have been able to overcome the seemingly disastrous losses of their top two defenseman; Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges.

As such, and reading all the press clippings, this is a team that is not nervous, worried or concerned in any way about tonight's game. They know what's at stake but actually seem to be brimming with confidence and a laser-point focus. It's that tunnel vision that will allow them to feed off, but not get consumed by, what will be a ravenous Bell Centre crowd tonight.

The Bruins might have a size advantage—an advantage they have failed to press—but Montreal's smaller forwards have big hearts. They are not about to bow out at home in a game and a series that is still very winnable for them.


What to expect

This has been a series of momentum where games have been decided by the slightest of margins and, often, errors. Each game has been a microcosm of the series, with momentum swinging back and forth and more than just momentary lapses of defensive reasoning on both sides.

As such, I expect tonight's game to be no different from the previous five. It will be a tight game with neither team yielding an inch to the other uncontested.

If there was a major fault to the Habs' play in Game 5, it was that they sat back for two periods before finally pressing the play in the third. Once they woke up, they got on the scoreboard and forced overtime.

That strategy won't work on a consistent basis and Montreal, who will be buoyed by the crowd, has to attack Boston right off the bat. The Bruins know the Canadiens will come at them hard and Montreal has to oblige them, score the first goal and use the momentum to put Boston down quickly.

Just as they did in Game 4, the Habs would do well to jump out to a multi-goal lead. They surely won't lose the game again if they get out front on the scoreboard.


Injuries

In Game 5, David Desharnais played his best game of the postseason. So much so that he earned a promotion onto the second line with Gomez and Gionta. Well, unfortunately for the Habs, DD tweaked his knee near the end of the game and will miss tonight's critical Game 6.

In addition, James Wisniewski seemed to have hurt his back last game. He will be a game time decision but is unlikely to play. As such, it's looking like Jacques Martin will insert Paul Mara and Yannick Weber into the lineup.

Mara will likely play next to Brent Sopel as the Habs' third defensive pairing, while Weber will be used as a forward on the fourth line with Tom Pyatt and White.


A date with destiny

I originally picked the Bruins to win this series in six games and, if they win tonight, I will have been right. That being said, I just can't see the Habs season ending at home tonight after such a hard fought season and series.

I think they'll take the play to the Bruins, winning the game and forcing a Game 7 which, insanely, would be tomorrow night in Boston.

The Canadiens know what they need to do, the veterans have been there before and now is time for them to execute.

Game time is at 7:00 PM.


New Sunday Shinny Podcast

In this episode of the Sunday Shinny Gary Whittaker, Nick Murdocco and Kamal Panesar take a look at the following:

-Jacques Martin and the Canadiens' system
-The Canadiens so far in the playoffs
-Is this the end of the line for the Habs or can they push the series to seven?
-A quick look at the other playoff series and much more!

Click play below to listen in (listing time 37:17):


---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Bruins Game 6 preview, Desharnais/Wisniewski out, Around the NHL and more...

Round 1, Game 6 pregame: Habs v Bruins - Boston Lead Series 3-2
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens Playoff Primer: Habs Face Elimination in Game 6 Against Bruins
http://www.habsaddict.com/2011/04/canadiens-playoff-primer-habs-face.html

Hockey Inside/Out - First elimination game
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/first-elimination-game

Guess who’s reffing Game 6?
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/guess-whos-reffing-game-6

David Desharnais raterait le 6e match
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318729.html

Price n'a plus de marge de manoeuvre
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318750.html

Les Bruins savent que rien n'est gagné
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318752.html

Boston Globe - They know stakes
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/26/canadiens_know_the_stakes_in_game_6_vs_bruins/

More power needed
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/26/bruins_have_been_electric_more_power_needed_vs_canadiens/

TSN - HABS' DESHARNAIS RULED OUT OF GAME 6 WITH SPRAINED KNEE
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363602

CANADIENS HOPE BOUNCES GO THEIR WAY AGAINST BRUINS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363608

Gameday
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/scores/gameday/?hubname=nhl-canadiens

ESPN.com - Bruins-Canadiens Preview
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview?gameId=310426001


News
RDS - Un style ennuyeux pratiqué par le CH
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318730.html

THN.com - Campbell: Silly non-suspensions, crazy comebacks, and a spectacular Selanne
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40017-Campbell-Silly-nonsuspensions-crazy-comebacks-and-a-spectacular-Selanne.html

NHL Playoff Recap: Lightning send series back to Pittsburgh for Game 7; Sharks eliminate Kings in overtime
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40028-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Lightning-send-series-back-to-Pittsburgh-for-Game-7-Sharks-eliminate-Kings-in-overtime.html

Bourne: Why Roberto Luongo should have started Game 6 for Canucks
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40022-Bourne-Why-Roberto-Luongo-should-have-started-Game-6-for-Canucks.html

Bulldogs Weekly: Dogs Advance to 2nd Round
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2470

Spector's Hockey - More Rangers & Ducks News – April 26, 2011
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3888

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Franchise Weekend Morning Show's Sunday Shinny - April 24, 2011

In this episode of the Sunday Shinny Gary Whittaker, Nick Murdocco and Kamal Panesar take a look at the following:

-Jacques Martin and the Canadiens' system
-The Canadiens so far in the playoffs
-Is this the end of the line for the Habs or can they push the series to seven?
-A quick look at the other playoff series and much more!

Click play below to listen in (listing time 37:17):

Desharnais injured, Pacioretty, Kristo, Habs' prospects, Playoff roundup and more...

Round 1, Canadiens-Bruins, Boston Lead Series 3-2
Hockey Inside/Out - Stayin’ alive
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/stayin-alive

Desharnais has knee injury
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/dd-has-a-knee-injury

RDS - Le réservoir du Canadien est-il vide?
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318689.html

Match stressant et mémorable à Boston
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318703.html

Boston Globe - Pressure brought out their best
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/25/pressure_of_game_5_brought_out_bruins_best/

Seidenberg worked around the clock
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/25/seidenberg_worked_around_the_clock/

TSN - BRUINS TEAMMATES STILL TALKING ABOUT RYDER'S GLOVE SAVE
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363535


News
HabsAddict.com - The Franchise Weekend Morning Show's Sunday Shinny - April 24, 2011
http://pc.habsaddict.com/2011/04/franchise-weekend-morning-shows-sunday_25.html

ESPN.com - Max Pacioretty: Twitter joke 'didn't work'
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs/2011/news/story?id=6419899

Hockey's Future - First round picks highlight CHL prospect pool for Montreal Canadiens
http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/13002/first_round_picks_highlight_chl_prospect_pool_for_montreal_canadiens/

Danny Kristo progressing into solid two-way presence
http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/12950/danny_kristo_progressing_into_solid_twoway_presence/

HW Recap: Here we go again!
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2469

THN.com - NHL Playoff Recap: Flyers' goalies can't kill them yet; Blackhawks beat Luongo, force Game 7
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/40006-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Flyers-goalies-cant-kill-them-yet-Blackhawks-beat-Luongo-force-Game-7.html

Spector's Hockey - What Next For the Rangers and Ducks?
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3874

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Canadiens-Bruins: Nathan Horton's Double OT winner Pushes Habs to the Brink

by Kamal Panesar

Heartbreaking.

That's how most Habs' fans are describing the Canadiens' Game 5, 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Boston Bruins last night.

When Nathan Horton potted an Andrew Ference rebound at 9:03 of the second overtime at the TD Garden, the hearts of Habs-nation were cleaved in two. But fret not Habs addicts, this one isn’t over yet.


Final score: Bruins 2 - Habs 1 (2OT)

Habs scorers: Jeff Halpern (1)
Bruins scorers: Brad Marchand (1), Nathan Horton (2)

Three stars: 1. Nathan Horton, 2. Tim Thomas, 3. Brad Marchand


Game Notes

Evenly matched competition

Before this first round series started, mos thought the Boston Bruins would run the table on Montreal, despite the Habs holding a 4-2-0 season-series edge.

The Bruins were supposed to physically dominate Montreal and their more extensive roster depth was supposed to drop the Habs in four straight.

Well, so far, that has not materialized.

Not only have the Habs not been run out of the rink, but they are showing that they're actually very well matched against Boston.
The makeup of the two teams' personnel is decidedly different, but with two world class goaltenders—Carey Price for Montreal and Tim Thomas for Boston—a defense-first mentality and opportunistic scoring, these teams are not all that different.

Neither team has completely dominated any one game, nor looked out-matched by their opponent. Looking at the scores, no victory has been by more than two goals; the last two games have been decided by one, both in overtime.

So with such a tight race, victory is often being decided by a razor thin margin; a missed assignment, a bad line change, a weak pass or some other mistake that gives the other team the opportunity to grab the win.


Luck is a factor

If you ask any pro athlete, they'll tell you that you have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. Well, last night, luck was on the Bruins' side on a number of occasions.

It all started early in the first period with Michael Cammalleri—once again the Habs' best forward on the night—making a pass out front to an open Tomas Plekanec. Cammalleri swooped behind the net, drawing Thomas with him and leaving Plekanec all alone with a wide open net.

However Michael Ryder, who is experiencing a serious revival, played the role of goaltender by whipping his right hand up and knocking the Plekanec shot over the net. It was a certain goal for Montreal and an incredible turn of fortune for the Bs.

In addition, as the game progressed, Mathieu Darche, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn all beat Thomas with shots, but rung the puck off the cross-bar or post.

Finally, moments before the Bruins overtime winning goal, it was Cammalleri's turn to have a shot at an open net. With Thomas on the ground and out of position, Cammalleri's shot first hit Patrice Bergeron then Zdeno Chara, staying out of the net and again snuffing out a sure-goal.

When you see things like that happening all night, you realize that it just wasn't meant to be for Montreal.


An epic goaltending battle

Both Price and Thomas have had their ups and downs in this series.

While they've had their moments of spectacular plays, they have both also let in some questionable goals. Last night, however, they both put in All-Star performances, making save after miraculous save to keep their respective teams in it.

I guess that was eventually to be expected from two of the top goaltenders in the league. It's just that, until last night, it hasn't yet happened in this series.

The biggest save of the night, however, goes to Tim Thomas who made a heart-stopping right to left save on Brian Gionta in overtime. It was a two-on-one with Travis Moen making the perfect pass and Gionta wiring a one-timer at the net.
Thomas got his left pad on the puck in a brilliant sliding save with none more surprised than Gionta.

Talk about a key save at a key time!

While that was a game-saving stop, Gionta's got to get that puck up on the play. His shot, while hard, was only about six inches off the ice. If Gio had been able to put it a foot or two off the ice that would have been the game.


What's with all the turnovers?

If there's one major change in the Canadiens' play over the last three games, it's the number of turnovers and unforced errors they're making.

If we look at the Habs' giveaways over the first two games of the series, they only had six—one in Game 1 and five in Game 2. However, over the last three games Montreal has turned the puck over 7, 15 and 14 times for a grand total of 36.

Boston, like Montreal, uses their opponents' mistakes to create scoring chances. As such, it's no real surprise the Habs have lost three in a row.

A perfect example of the type of unforced errors that are hurting the Canadiens, was by Roman Hamrlik with about two minutes to play in the first. The teams were playing 4-on-4 and, with no pressure on him and the Habs breaking out of their own zone, Hamrlik fired a pass two feet behind Andrei Kostitsyn's back skate.

The Bruins' forechecker jumped on the errant pass, allowing the Bs to setup in the Habs zone for a good minute or so. Boston had two quality scoring chances on the play.

This has been the problem far too often for Montreal in this series and throughout the year. But people tend to gloss over these unforced errors because Carey Price is usually there to bail his team out.

Last night, Price was in top form and bailed out Hamrlik on the play and the Canadiens for most of the night. But the Habs have got to get these terrible turnovers under control. This is the playoffs and you can't expect to advance while making foolish decisions and giveaways.

Last night further illustrated why Montreal wouldn't even be a playoff team without Price.


Don't lose hope

I originally picked the Bruins to win this series in six, but I thought that would happen with the teams splitting wins in Boston and Montreal. After watching these teams go at it over five games, I now see this series going seven.

As I said above, these teams are incredibly evenly matched through five games, and I don't see that changing much over the final two. While anything can happen in Game 6, I don't see the Canadiens laying down for the Bruins.

I also don't see Boston winning four straight against Montreal and I don't see the Habs' veteran core taking Game 6 lightly. Montreal will not lose what is potentially their "final" game of the season at home on Tuesday night.

So, with another bizarre two-day break in play, this team will file and forget last night and come out looking for blood on Tuesday.

Boston will surely not take the Habs lightly for Game 6, but they had better be ready for a battle. I fully expect the best game of the season from Montreal come Tuesday, and for the series to be decided the following night in Boston.

With Games 6 and 7 going back to back—why, oh why Gary Bettman?—if this series goes back to Boston it's anyone's game. But the pressure will be squarely on the Bruins' shoulders.

Either way, I'm calling Montreal to take it in front of the Beantown crowd Wednesday evening.

---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, Bruins postgame, Around the NHL, rumours and more...

Round 1, Game 5 postgame: Boston 2 - Habs 1 (2OT) - Bruins Lead Series 3-2
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens-Bruins: Nathan Horton's Double OT winner Pushes Habs to the Brink
http://www.habsaddict.com/2011/04/canadiens-bruins-nathan-hortons-double.html

Hockey Inside/Out - Round 1, Game 5: Horton lifts Bruins over Habs
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/boone/about-last-night-16

Video: Habs react to Game 5 loss to Bruins
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/video-habs-react-to-game-5-loss-to-bruins

RDS - Une marge d'erreur nulle
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318605.html

TSN - HORTON SCORES IN DOUBLE OT, BRUINS LEAD SERIES 3-2 ON HABS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363424

ESPN.com - Nathan Horton buries Habs in 2nd OT as Bruins streak to 3-2 lead
http://scores.espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=310423001

Habsworld.net - HW 3 Stars: Heartbreak in Beantown
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2468

Boston Globe - Twice as nice
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/24/bruins_win_in_2_ots/

Horton the happiest of all of the heroes
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/24/horton_the_happiest_of_all_of_the_heroes/


News
TSN - CULLEN: CAPS ADVANCE; KINGS, LIGHTNING STAVE OFF ELIMINATION
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363442

THN.com - Boylen: Canucks should start Schneider in Game 6
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39984-Boylen-Canucks-should-start-Schneider-in-Game-6.html

NHL Playoff Recap: Thomas tops Price in OT thriller; Capitals eliminate Rangers in five
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39987-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Thomas-tops-Price-in-OT-thriller-Capitals-eliminate-Rangers-in-five.html

Spector's Hockey - Easter Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – April 24, 2011
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3853

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images North America)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Habs/Bruins Game 5, Carey Price, Vezina nominees, rumours and more...

Round 1, Game 5 pregame: Habs @ Bruins - Series tied 2-2
Hockey Inside/Out - Who takes control?
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/who-takes-control

RDS - Pas de cri d'alarme chez le Canadien
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318591.html

ESPN.com - Canadiens-Bruins Preview
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview?gameId=310423001

TSN - Gameday
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/scores/gameday/?hubname=nhl-bruins

Boston Globe - Ice show hasn’t looked slick
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/23/bruins_canadiens_series_hasnt_looked_slick/


News
Hockey Inside/Out - Price not among Vezina finalists
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/price-not-among-vezina-finalists

NHL fines Ference $2500
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/nhl-fines-ference-2500

Video: Ference’s ‘unintentional bird’ and Bruins on eve of Game 5 vs. Habs
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/video-bruins-on-eve-of-game-5

TSN - MCKENZIE: FLYERS HAVE SHOWN THAT THEY CAN STILL COME BACK
http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/bob_mckenzie/?id=363312

RDS - Price ignoré pour le trophée Vezina
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318584.html

Le geste d'Andrew Ference fait rigoler
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318581.html

Claude Julien a renversé la vapeur
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318601.html

Habsworld.net - The Habs and Corsi Ratings
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2467

THN.com - Kennedy: Win or lose against Vancouver, Blackhawks will be big-time contenders again in 2012
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39966-Kennedy-Win-or-lose-against-Vancouver-Blackhawks-will-be-bigtime-contenders-again-in-2012.html

Spector's Hockey - More on the Coyotes – April 23, 2011
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3824

(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Canadiens-Bruins: Boston Caps Overtime Comeback, Ties Series at Two

by Kamal Panesar

Momentum is an interesting thing in the world of professional sports. When you don't have it you want it, and when you have it you guard it. But sometimes, and perhaps far too often, when a team has it they can take it for granted.

That is when momentum can become dangerous.

After the Montreal Canadiens skated out to a 2-0 lead in their first round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, they had all the momentum in the world. But that picture has changed significantly in the last four days.

Boston won Game 3 in Montreal and the teams faced off last night for their biggest match of the season. A pivotal Game 4 in Montreal where the Habs would jump out to 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 leads before ultimately losing 5-4 in overtime.

The win clearly swings momentum to the Bruins, with the series returning to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday night. But this game, in a lot of ways, was a microcosm of the series so far.

Final score: Bruins 5 - Habs 4 (OT)

Habs scorers: Brent Sopel (1), Mike Cammalleri (2), Andrei Kostitsyn (2), P.K. Subban (1)
Bruins scorers: Michael Ryder (1, 2), Andrew Ference (1), Patrice Bergeron (2), Chris Kelly (2)

Three stars: 1. Michael Ryder, 2. Michael Cammalleri, 3. P.K. Subban

Game Notes

60 minutes anyone?

Through four games, neither team has been able to put in a full 60-minute effort.

As such, the ball of momentum has been passed back and forth between the two teams as they trade chances, mistakes and wins.

Last night was no different with Montreal playing their best, most dominant 20-minutes of the season in the first period. The problem was that while Montreal outshot Boston 15-8, they went to the dressing room with a measly 1-0 lead.

That just isn't good enough.

By the time Andrei Kostitsyn scored the Canadiens third of the game—his second of the playoffs—Montreal was outshooting Boston 29-12. After that goal, however, the Canadiens managed only one more shot in the period with the shot count 30-22 after two and the score tied at three.

Where's the defense?

For two teams that pride themselves on a defense-first mentality they both left much to be desired.

Boston's defensive unit hasn't looked particularly good at any point during this series, while the Canadiens' have oscillated between being really good and really bad.

Last night was no different as Montreal used their speed to overwhelm Boston's defense for a good half of the game. After that, it was the Bruins turn to make the Canadiens' D look like house-leaguers.

With both teams abandoning their usual defensive schemes, the game became wide open and resembled the Bruins 8-6 defeat of the Habs a few months ago. Both goalies were left to their own devices as the teams in front of them showed horrible gap control, missed assignment and failed to clear players from in front of their nets.

The result was a back-and-forth goal-scoring bonanza of sorts, where no lead was safe and the goalies too often were made to look bad. Really exciting for the fans but the type of game the coaches hate!

Something tells me we won't soon be seeing a repeat of last night's game any time soon.

A word on goaltending

Let's be honest here, both teams seem to have the opposing goaltender figured out. During the third period intermission last night, CBC showed the shooting tendencies of both teams and it was clear they knew how to score.

Montreal continues to shoot low, hard shots from an angle that force Tim Thomas to kick out huge rebounds. The hope is for a Canadiens player to then pot these rebounds into the empty net. That worked well over the first two games but Montreal missed too many of those chances last night.

For Boston, they are going high glove side and they beat Carey Price a few times like that last night. Both Michael Ryder and Andrew Ference's goals went top shelf, glove side on Price.

Shades of the Flyers a few years ago?

As nervous and unstable as Thomas has looked for much of the series, he has outplayed Price over the last two games and that's been the difference. Last night, despite his flopping around on the ice, Thomas made several key saves that kept the Bruins in the game.

The best example was just before the overtime winning goal, where Thomas came way out of the blue paint to stop a point-blank scoring chance. Shortly after the save the puck went up the other way and the Bruins scored the winner.

As I said before the series started, if Montreal is going to win Price has to be the best goalie on the ice. He was in Games 1 and 2, but has not hit the mark in 3 and 4.

The Habs' forwards

Michael Cammalleri and David Desharnais were two of the best Habs skaters last night.

Cammalleri in particular, who did not have a great regular season, is showing once again that he is a true playoff performer. Quietly he has taken the scoring lead with seven points (2G, 5A) in four games, and is the clear offensive leader for Montreal.

As for Desharnais, he was quick, combative and causing problems for Boston all night. One shift, in particular, epitomized the kind of night he had when he went into the corner with Zdeno Chara, and came out with the puck. On another 1-on-1 battle, Desharnais actually pinned Chara along the boards until a teammate could pick up the puck.

Talk about David and Goliath!

This guy seems to be feeding off the energy of veteran players, like Brian Gionta, and flanked by Tom Pyatt and Ryan White formed an excellent trio for Montreal. All three are solid defensively, and with White hitting everything that moves and Desharnais and Pyatt using their speed, they caused a lot of havoc for the Bruins' defenders.

The Bergeron line

If players like Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic aren't leading the charge for Boston as expected, the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi has picked up the slack. Marchand, without a doubt, had been the Bruins best forward all series.

He is fast, gritty, a huge pain in the butt and a legitimate offensive threat. Last night, along with linemates Bergeron and Recchi, this line went to work in the second when all hope seemed lost for Boston.

After Andrei Kostitsyn made it 3-1 7:47 into the second, Bruins' coach Claude Julien called a timeout. The extra time seemed to calm the Bruins, allowing them to refocus and go after Montreal.

A strange shot from the point by Ference made it 3-2 at 9:59 in the second, handing the momentum over to Boston. Then, at 17:04, Marchand picked up a Dennis Seidenberg rebound and passed it under Price to Bergeron, who fired it into the gaping net.

3-3.

Montreal only managed one shot on goal after the Bruins timeout with Bergeron and Marchand leading the offensive charge. It's amazing to think the Bruins have been having success off of the backs of their second, and not their first line. So far, the Habs have no answer for the Bergeron line, proof positive by Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez both finishing the night at minus-3 while trying to shut them down.

The winning goal

If there is one thing we have seen through four games, it's that these two teams are very evenly matched. As such, the margin between winning and losing is minuscule. So it's no real surprise then that the game went to overtime last night.

As with the rest of this series, last night's game was decided by a mistake and opportunistic scoring.

Less than two minutes into overtime Travis Moen had the puck on the left boards and needed to dump it into the corner for a line change. But for some reason, he tried to pass it across to Gomez on the other side of the ice instead.

The problem is that he was the only one who knew he was going to do that.

As such, Brian Gionta and P.K. Subban were already headed to the bench for a change. So when the puck was turned over and the play headed back up the ice, Jaroslav Spacek was the only Canadien back to defend the subsequent 3-on-1.

With Montreal scrambling to get back, Michael Ryder—who scored two on the night—was left all alone in front to put the puck past a sprawling Price for the winner.

The winning goal was scored on a comedy of errors by Montreal in a game they could have, and probably should have won.

What's next?

Ladies and gentleman, we have a new series. A best-of-three shootout with Boston again holding home-ice advantage and the expectation of victory.

While the momentum has clearly shifted to the Bruins I don't expect them to win four straight against Montreal. Boston has yet to play well in their own building and the pressure, once again, is squarely on their shoulders.

I originally thought that Boston would win this series in six, but I now see this one going the distance instead. I can see the Bs winning Game 5, Montreal taking Game 6 and the whole thing being decided in a winner-takes-all Game 7 in Beantown.

While many are saying that the loss last night means the series is over for Montreal, I don't buy it. If the Habs have shown one thing this year it's a tremendous resilience. These guys can bounce back from anything, do not have a fragile mental makeup and have a veteran core who has been there before.

They'll shake off the back-to-back losses and bring a solid effort in Boston.

Despite this being a 2-2 series, I would say that Montreal has dominated larger stretches of play than the Bruins. The difference has been opportunistic scoring from Boston and key saves from Thomas.

Its now Montreal's turn to play that same card.

Game 5 is set for Saturday in Boston and what a game it should be!

---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, Post game, Ference, Ryder, Price, Thomas and more...

Post game: Bruins 5 - Habs 4 (OT) - Series Tied 2-2
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens-Bruins: Boston Caps Overtime Comeback, Ties Series at Two
http://www.habsaddict.com/2011/04/canadiens-bruins-boston-caps-overtime.html

Hockey Inside/Out - Quick Hits
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/boone/quick-hits-15

About last night...
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/boone/about-last-night-15

RDS - Retour à la case départ
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318512.html

Le vent a tourné en faveur des Bruins
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318574.html

Doigt d'honneur:Ference s'excuse, mais
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318567.html

TSN - RYDER'S OT GOAL PULLS BRUINS INTO SERIES TIE WITH CANADIENS
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363170

Boston Globe - Ference could pay a big price for gesture
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/22/ference_could_pay_a_big_price_for_gesture/

No lead was safe in this one
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/22/no_lead_was_safe_in_this_one/

Michael Ryder's OT score helps Bruins nip Canadiens
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/recap?gameId=310421010

HW 3 Stars: Habs unable to Bear-y their chances
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2466


News
THN.com - Proteau: Focused Capitals poised for deep playoff run
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39933-Proteau-Focused-Capitals-poised-for-deep-playoff-run.html

Prospect Watch: Max Domi shines at NCAA showcase
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39932-Prospect-Watch-Max-Domi-shines-at-NCAA-showcase.html

NHL Playoff Recap: Bruins pull even with Canadiens in overtime win; Canucks collapse on home ice
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39953-NHL-Playoff-Recap-Bruins-pull-even-with-Canadiens-in-overtime-win-Canucks-collapse-on-home-ice.html

Spector's Hockey - Latest Coyotes Rumors – April 22, 2011
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3810

Kaberle Days with Bruins Numbered?
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3812

(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Canadiens Playoff Primer: Series on the line in Habs, Bruins Game 4 Clash?

by Kamal Panesar

The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins get back to action tonight in Game 4 of their first round playoff series.

Through three games, both teams have shown that their score-first-then-shut-it-down-defensively scheme is the path to victory. Montreal employed this strategy in Games 1 and 2 in Boston while the Bruins returned the favour, Monday night, for Game 3 in Montreal.

So after a two-day break in play, the teams will jump back on the ice tonight at the Bell Centre in perhaps the most critical game for either team this season.


Carpe Diem

With the Canadiens holding a 2-1 series lead and having stolen home-ice advantage away from the Bruins, they do not, under any circumstances, want to go back to Boston tied at two games apiece.

Montreal worked hard to earn two road victories in Games 1 and 2, and they know they missed an opportunity to put the Bruins on the mat Monday night. That being said, the Habs are still in the driver's seat and have enough veteran leadership that a loss tonight would not necessarily spell the end.

Players like Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel and Travis Moen all have Stanley Cup rings and have seen enough playoff situations that win or lose, they'll keep the boat afloat.

That being said, going back to Boston tied at two when the Habs have the opportunity to take a stranglehold tonight would be playing with fire. The Bruins are already talking like a team with renewed confidence and a 2-2 series might just give them the edge to bury Montreal.

And the Habs know it.

As such, they need to play the way they did in the final 30 minutes of Game 3, using their speed and skill to bury the Bruins. Carey Price needs to continue with his excellent goaltending and Montreal has to get their power play rolling.


Not so special teams

Let's be honest here, penalty kill aside, neither team has been setting the world on fire in the special teams department. Montreal, who finished the season with the seventh overall PP, has scored only once on 11 opportunities.

Boston has also struggled with the extra man, being blanked in all 11 PP chances. As such, they have put a lot of work into fixing their power play over the last few days, shifting up their first and second units in the hopes of finding a spark.

Bad penalties by both teams have been a big part of this series and at some point it has to catch up to them. For some reason, I get a feeling that tonight will be the night that the PP decides the game.


Roster changes

Speaking of bad penalties, perennially-bad-penalty-taking Benoit Pouliot, will be a healthy scratch tonight for Montreal. Pouliot, who has been in and out of Jacques Martin's doghouse all season, took a foolish charging penalty in Game 3, after which he was benched for the entire third.

Martin, who has clearly lost patience with Pouliot, will be inserting Jeff Halpern back into the lineup in his place. Halpern has been on the sidelines since March and was practicing on a line with Lars Eller at center and Travis Moen on the wing.

Halpern was one of Montreal's best penalty killers this season and his experience is sure to make the bottom-six that much stronger.

For Boston, Chris Kelly was being evaluated for what appears to be a fractured cheek bone, suffered when he was pushed into the net by Scott Gomez in Game 3. Kelly is scheduled to play regardless, likely with a face shield.

The other change for Boston comes on the power play, where Nathan Horton will be pulled off the first power play unit and replaced by Patrice Bergeron.


Intangibles

In a lot of ways this game comes down to desperation and which team has more of it. While Montreal needs two more victories to win the series, the Bruins know that a loss tonight will be like a death sentence. As such, they are sure to play with the desperation of a team on the brink of elimination.

Boston needs this win and they know it. Moreover, they know that they have a huge opportunity to turn the series around tonight.

For the Habs, they similarly know how important a win tonight will be. There is a huge difference between going back to Boston for Game 5 tied 2-2 versus up 3-1. The knock after last game, was that Montreal was nonchalant during the morning skate prior to Game 3. The team wasn't focused enough and perhaps thought the rest of the road would be easy.

As I discussed yesterday, the hope is that Montreal learned their lesson and will come back even more focused on victory. It is because of that fact that I think we are in for one hell of a game tonight.

The table has been set, the pieces are in place and both teams know exactly what they have to do. Now it comes down to who wants it more.

Game time is 7:00 PM.

---
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Habs/Bruins Game 4, Price, Top-10 playoff performances, Halpern and more...

NHL Playoff pregame: Habs v Bruins - Montreal Leads Series 2-1
HabsAddict.com - Canadiens Playoff Primer: Series on the line for Habs, Bruins Game 4 Clash?
http://www.habsaddict.com/2011/04/canadiens-playoff-primer-series-on-line.html

Hockey Inside/Out - Teeing up Game Four
http://www.hockeyinsideout.com/news/teeing-up-game-four

RDS - Un match de quatre points selon Darche
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318488.html

Les joueurs des Bruins ont des ailes
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318499.html

Lucic doit en donner plus, selon Julien
http://www.rds.ca/canadien/chroniques/318475.html

TSN - Gameday
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/scores/gameday/?hubname=nhl-canadiens

CANADIENS COULD HAVE HALPERN BACK FOR GAME 4 WITH BOSTON
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=363019

ESPN.com - Bruins-Canadiens Preview
http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview?gameId=310421010

Cyberpresse - Le match le plus important... jusqu'au prochain

Halpern: «J'ai très hâte de pouvoir donner un coup de main»

Boston Globe - Bruins need to get power play moving
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/21/bruins_need_to_get_power_play_moving/

Kelly checked out for facial injury
http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2011/04/21/kelly_checked_out_for_facial_injury/


News
Habsworld.net - Around The Boards: Undersized?
http://www.habsworld.net/article.php?id=2465

Cowhide and Rubber - Scoring First
http://www.cowhideandrubber.com/scoring-first

THN.com - NHL Playoff Recap: Capitals, Penguins win double overtime thrillers; Sabres even series with Flyers

Mike Rosati: For a one-game showdown, Montreal goalie Carey Price is your man
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39910-Mike-Rosati-For-a-onegame-showdown-Montreal-goalie-Carey-Price-is-your-man.html

THN.com Top 10: Playoff game performances
http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/39908-THNcom-Top-10-Playoff-game-performances.html

Spector's Hockey - Updates on the Blackhawks & Rangers
http://spectorshockey.net/wordpress/?p=3798

(Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images North America)