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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens at Lightning (Round 1, Game 1)

HabsBolts_Playoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens are in Tampa Bay Wednesday night to take on the Lightning in the first game of Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Game starts at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

The Habs and Bolts faced off 4 times during the regular season. The first 3 meetings went beyond regulation and the Lightning led the fourth game by just one goal until a late empty-netter put that match away for good. In the end, the Canadiens managed just a single win against the Lightning during the regular season, a 2-1 shootout victory in Tampa.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens will depend on Carey Price to keep up his stellar play in the post-season. Price, team MVP for a fourth consecutive year, finished the season with a career best .927 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average, boosted by a 41-save shutout to end the season.

The Habs will also look to leading scorer Max Pacioretty to keep up his production. The sniper fell short of the 40-goal mark this season, but with 39 goals, Pacioretty finished fourth in the league in that department.

The Lightning will start the playoffs without their starting goalie. Ben Bishop is out with an elbow injury, meaning the Bolts will need to rely on backup, Anders Lindback to get the job done. The good news for Tampa is that Lindback was named the NHL's First Star in the last week of the season, he posted a 3-0-0 record, a 0.67 goals against average and a .975 save percentage.

What's at Stake:

The Lightning edged out the Canadiens by just 1 point to earn home ice advantage in the first round, but the Canadiens can swing the advantage back with a win on the road. During last year's playoffs, the teams that won Game 1 in the opening round won just 5 of the 8 series', but beyond the first round, every team that won the series opener went on to take their series.

Who's Out:

The Habs will be without Alex Galchenyuk (knee) for the first round, Brandon Prust (upper body) is day-to-day, as is Travis Moen (concussion).

Ben Bishop (elbow) won't be playing Wednesday, there's no word yet when he may be ready to return. Ondrej Palat (upper body) and Valtteri Filppula (lower body) are day-to-day.

What Else:

This is just the second time the Habs and Lightning are meeting in the postseason, their first meeting came in the second round of the 2004 playoffs while the Lightning were en route to the franchise's first and only Stanley Cup win. The Canadiens have yet to beat the Lightning in a playoff game, they were swept the first time around and managed just 4 goals in four games.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you, what are the Habs' keys to victory in order to eliminate the Lightning?

Let us know what you think, leave us a comment or send us a tweet with the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

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