Greetings Habs Addicts!
What a week for Les Habitants! The NHL playoffs began and the Habs went down to Tampa Bay to face the Lightning in the first round. Montreal struggled against Tampa this season, although they played four very close games. Tampa held the edge compiling a 3-0-1 record against the Habs. All but one of the games finished with 2-1 scores, the last game ended 3-1 as Tampa managed to add an empty-net goal. With home ice advantage, most hockey pundits were taking Tampa to move onto the second round.
Not. So. Fast.
Game One was absolutely dominated by the Habs. They out-worked, out chanced and drastically out-shot the Lightning. And after regulation, the score was tied 4-4. Carey Price allowed four goals on 16 shots, while Anders Lindback allowed four goals on 35 shots. In the case of Tampa's goals, it was quality over quantity as most of them came after bad turnovers by Habs defenders left him in a bad spot. Both teams fired nine shots on goal in the overtime, but the dominant team prevailed when Dale Weise fired home the game winner with just under two-minutes to go in the extra frame. Habs win 5-4 in overtime.
|Dale Weise celebrates his OT winner with P.K. Subban.|
Photo Credit: MontrealGazette.com
Everyone expected a stronger performance from Carey Price in Game Two. He was average at best in Game One before standing on his head in overtime. If Montreal came out with the same intensity, and Price was just slightly better, they should win easily. Game Two saw the Bolts come out strong early on, firing 11 shots on goal in the opening frame, five less than they managed all of Game One. Price stopped them all. The game remained scoreless after one period. In the second, David Desharnais got the Habs on the board before the much-maligned Rene Bourque tallied to give the Habs a comfortable 2-0 lead. In the third period, a terrible Tampa give-away landed on the stick of Brendan Gallagher and he made them pay. A few minutes later, Bourque tallied again to give Montreal a 4-0 lead. Tampa managed to get on the board with just under two minutes to go, with Teddy Purcell breaking the shutout bid. That was it for the Tampa offense. Price stopped 26 of 27 shots in a dominant 4-1 Habs victory. Montreal effectively took away home ice advantage by sweeping both games and headed home with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game Three saw the series shift to Montreal. After an incredible opening ceremony, Rene Bourque took a feed from P.K. Subban immediately after the opening faceoff and darted behind the defense and roofed one on Anders Lindback. 1-0 Habs after only 11 seconds of play. The rejuvenated Bourque played another strong game, going hard into the corners and the net and winning battles for the puck. The Bourque the Habs thought they traded for has finally arrived the past couple of games. Sure the sample size is small, but his play is reminiscent of how he played in Calgary when he had back-to-back 20+ goal seasons. The second period saw a weak penalty call on Daniel Briere lead to the tying goal, but an Bobby Orr-esque rush around the offensive zone by P.K. Subban ultimately resulted in Brendan Gallagher scoring his second goal of the series to give the Habs the lead. Subban lifted fans out of their seat and demonstrated why he is one of the best puck movers in the game. And demonstrated why you can accept the mistakes he makes. Overall, Subban has been on fire this series and this first game in Montreal was P.K. at his finest. Tomas Plekanec scored early in the third period, what proved to be the game winning goal in a 3-2 Montreal victory. The Habs now lead the series 3-0. En feu!
Coming up this Tuesday, Game Four of the series will be played at the Bell Centre with Montreal looking to complete the sweep. No one expected Tampa Bay to be in this situation. While the matchups during the regular season were close and ultimately dominated by Tampa Bay, both of these squads have a vastly different look to them during this series. Most notably:
- Montreal has an elite NHL playmaker and sniper in Thomas Vanek playing on a line with another elite sniper in 39-goal man Max Pacioretty. This top line has been on fire during the latter part of the season and makes Montreal a very dangerous - and balanced - offense. Vanek only played in only one previous matchup.
- Martin St. Louis is now a member of the New York Rangers, with Ryan Callahan playing for the Lightning. While Steven Stamkos is back in the line-up, his elite playmaking setup-man is no longer on the team.
- Ben Bishop led Tampa Bay all season long and is a dark-horse Vezina Trophy candidate this season. Bishop is out for this series and Anders Lindback has not been as strong in goal, nor was he at all this season. Lindback is a step down from what Bishop brings to the table for Tampa.
Nick Malofy is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.
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