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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Habs Are Shipping Up To Boston: Second Round Preview

Greetings Habs Addicts,

The second round of the NHL playoffs is upon us.

The Habs are shipping up to Boston to take on their fierce rival: The Boston Bruins on Thursday. Why did I include a link to the famous Dropkick Murphy's song? Well the Boston-based band filmed the video following around hooligans, getting into street fights and running from the authorities. Basically, it musically sums up what we should expect in this series: It's going to be violent, intense and likely keep the referees quite busy.
Carey Price vs Tim Thomas. Sums up the rivalry.
Photo Credit
: HabsAddict.com

It's going to be fantastic.

Montreal won the regular-season series 3-1 against Boston this year. All of them were intense battles. Three of those starts had Peter Budaj in goal (2-1) while Carey Price started the first match-up of the season (1-0). It goes to show it doesn't matter who is in net for Montreal against Boston. While there has been lot of talk in the past about Budaj's recent run of success against the Bruins, Carey Price owns a 17-8-3 record, with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage for his career against Boston. Don't think for a minute he's intimidated about facing the Bruins. Price was snubbed in the Vezina voting, arguably should have been named ahead of Ben Bishop or Semyon Varlamov. Carey does have one thing neither of those goaltenders have: An Olympic gold medal from Sochi. Price is ready for the pressure this series will produce. He needs to be. On the other side is Vezina nominee Tuukka Rask.

Is Rask confident about facing the Habs this round?

Rask has a career record of 3-10-3 with a pedestrian 2.63 goals-against average and .908 save percentage all-time against the Habs. He does own a shutout. He also owns this hilariously failed stick breaking attempt that lands him on his arse. For those who forget, this was the 2013 game where Peter Budaj relieved Carey Price in the third period and the Habs rallied back to take the game in a shootout.


Teams At A Glance

Boston won the President's Trophy this season, with an NHL-leading 117 points. Boston also finished 2nd in the league allowing a paltry 177 goals against. The Bruins had a strong offense, scoring 261 goals which was good enough for 3rd overall in the league. Tuukka Rask is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Zdeno Chara is a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Patrice Bergeron is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best two-way forward. This is his third straight nomination and he captured the award in 2012. Boston made quick work of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, taking the series 4-1. Detroit won game one, before the Bruins won the next four in a row.

Montreal finished 9th in the NHL with 100 points on the season, tied with the Los Angeles Kings. The Canadiens were stingy in their own right, allowing only 204 goals against; 6th best in the league. Montreal's even strength offense was not good this year. Overall, the Habs scored only 215 goals which was only good enough to rank them 21st in the league. Montreal made quick work of the favoured Tampa Bay Lightning, sweeping the first round series 4-0.

Recap of the 2013-14 regular season match-ups

Game One: MONTREAL 2, Boston 1. - 12/5/13
Max Pacioretty scored the game-winning goal but also sent Bruins' defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a Montreal hospital after a nasty check in the boards in the first period. Patches received a two-minute penalty for boarding on the play, but no suspension. Carey Price finished with 32 saves. The win extended Montreal's unbeaten streak to nine games at the time. Both Douglas Murray and George Parros were dressed for this match-up.

Game Two: Montreal 4, BOSTON 1. - 1/30/14
Montreal was in the midst of a slump while Boston was on fire. Peter Budaj received the start and made 34 saves. Max Pacioretty had the game-winning goal again, while Alexei Emelin, Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere also scored for Montreal. Both Douglas Murray and George Parros were dressed for this match-up.

Game Three: Boston 4, MONTREAL 1. - 3/12/14
Boston came into Montreal and outplayed the Canadiens on their way to winning their sixth straight game. Tuukka Rask had a rare stellar evening against Montreal, stopping 35 of 36 shots faced while Peter Budaj allowed three goals in the second period while making 28 saves. David Desharnais scored the lone Habs goal. Carey Price missed the game recovering from his Sochi Olympic injury. Douglas Murray was in the line-up while George Parros was scratched.

Game Four: Montreal 2, BOSTON 1 (SO) - 3/24/14
Montreal ended Boston's 12-game winning streak. Peter Budaj was the surprise starter in the first of back-to-back games. Most people thought Price would start against Boston, while Budaj would play the following night against the Buffalo Sabres. The tight checking, physical game ended with Budaj making 28 saves and stopping all four shots he faced in the shootout. Alex Galchenyuk scored the shootout winner. Douglas Murray was in the line-up, while George Parros was scratched.

Previewing Round Two

Boston and Montreal are two of the leagues oldest rivals. This rivalry is in my opinion the best in hockey. What should we expect this round?

- Douglas Murray played in all four regular season match-ups. While Murray is not fleet of foot nor can he handle the puck, he plays a strong and physical game which he matches up well against the Bruins. Murray did not play a single game against Tampa and it will be interesting to see if he inserts into the line-up over Francis Bouillon against Boston. Murray did not have a bad series against Boston this year. He played arguably his best game in a Habs uniform in the finale where the Habs snapped Boston`s league-best winning streak.

- Milan Lucic should have been suspended for a nasty spear against the Red Wings' Daniel DeKeyser. Lucic was not penalized on the play, but did received a $5,000 fine afterwards. This was not his first time taking a cheap shot, as he did the same thing to the Habs' Alexei Emelin last season. The Bruins' are a physical and dirty team. Coach Claude Julien has made it a habit to complain to the media after games. Expect a lot of cheap shots from Bruins players, especially on noted pest Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher thrives against Boston and the Bruins loathe the sparkplug. Expect Julien to complain about Montreal receiving penalty calls and diving at least once during a post-game interview.

- Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara have a history with each other. Chara memorably drove Pacioretty hard into the stanchion on the boards, fracturing his neck during the 2010-11 season. This year, Pacioretty inadvertently injured Johnny Boychuck with a hard check into the boards. Both players are pivotal to their teams and Patches will have to battle Chara all series long to in order to produce offensively.

- The Bruins possess one of the leagues best shut-down forwards in Patrice Bergeron. The Habs' top line of Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek had a quiet series against Tampa and will be matched up with the Bruins top shutdown line and defensive pairing. The Habs need this line to perform at its strongest, while continuing to get the balanced scoring they received against the Lightning. Thomas Vanek is a noted Bruin-killer for his career, having amassed 30 goals and 62 points in 55 career games against Boston. Rene Bourque, Lars Eller and Brian Gionta will have to continue to provide the secondary scoring they did against Tampa to draw some of the defensive attention away from the top line.

- Brendan Gallagher made a name for himself as a pest in the NHL. The always-grinning Gallagher has been a thorn in the side of the Bruins since he entered the league last season and has a goal and six points in eight career games against Boston. The Bruins tend to take liberties against Gallagher, often drawing penalties. Montreal needs to capitalize on these penalties with a power-play that struggled mightily against the Lightning.

- P.K Subban was a beast against Tampa. Subban had a down year in comparison to his Norris Trophy winning 2013 season. Subban was rather invisible on the score sheet against the Bruins, only garnering a single assist in the four games played, while finishing -1. Subban also only had eight shots on goal in the four games. Subban needs to come out and have a strong, disciplined series. Bruins players will try and get under his skin and get him off his game and he cannot allow that to happen. However it seems when teams challenge Subban emotionally, he responds positively. Bring on Brad Marchand.

Quite obvious who CBC likes in this one.
Photo credit:
AwfulAnnouncing.com
- Carey Price has solid career numbers against Boston and is coming off a very strong regular season. Goaltending coach Stephane Waite has calmed down excess movement and Price has a preternatural calmness about him in the crease. Winning a gold medal for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics, to go along with his Memorial Cup and Calder Cup winning past. Price needs to continue his strong season for Montreal to have a chance against a strong offensive team. Tuukka Rask has struggled against Montreal for his career, even this season when he had one of his best seasons overall.

- CBC sports and Don Cherry finally have something to be happy about. Expect Montreal to finally get on Hockey Night in Canada this round simply because of their opponent (see photo).

Summary

Offense: Boston had one of the NHL's top offenses, possess a balanced scoring attack. Boston had two 30 goal scorers (Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla) and five players total who scored 20+ goals. Montreal struggled at even strength all year long, but have since improved dramatically after acquiring Thomas Vanek. Montreal had only one 30+ goal scorer (Pacioretty) and two who scored 20+ (Vanek and Tomas Plekanec).
Edge: Boston

Defense: Zdeno Chara is one of the NHL's fiercest defenders. Chara had 17 goals and 40 points for the season. Torey Krug broke out this season for the Bruins with 14 goals and 40 points. Overall, Johnny Boychuk, Andrej Meszaros, Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Seidenberg (injured) provide a very tough match-up for the Montreal forwards. P.K Subban and Andrei Markov led Montreal defenders in scoring with 53 and 43 points respectively. Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray provide a strong physical presence in front of the net. Josh Gorges and Mike Weaver are shot-blocking nightmares for opposing teams.
Edge: Even

Goaltending: Both Carey Price and Tuukka Rask had all-world seasons. While Rask is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, Carey Price arguably should be right there with him. In terms of the head-to-head match-ups, Price won his only one. Peter Budaj is a capable backup, should he be needed and will be ready if Price struggles. Rask has horrible career numbers against Montreal and it's clear that he has a hard time maintaining his composure against the Habs. While Rask could be named the leagues best goaltender at season's end, for this match-up the edge has to go to Carey Price.
Edge: Montreal

Coaching: Claude Julien is one of the NHL's best coaches. His teams are always near the top and he will do what he needs to do in the media to take the attention away from his club and put it on him. Michel Therrien has been embattled in the eyes of the fans and media all season long for his questionable line juggling, line-up changes and in-game strategy. But regular season Therrien has been replaced by playoff Therrien. The same Therrien that guided his Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup final. He has his squad playing their best hockey at the right time, as Montreal entered the playoffs on a tear and have not eased up. His team does not give up on him at any time, often rallying in the third period to win games they did not deserve to win after 40-minutes.
Edge: Even

Prediction: Boston and Montreal physically beat each other up, score some fantastic goals and keep the fans on the edge of their seats all series long. A hot goaltender can win a series. Carey Price is that goaltender as Montreal wins the series 4-3 in another hard-fought, best of seven series. One for the ages is upon us. Enjoy it!

 ---
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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Which Habs Players Have Success Against The Bruins?

Now that we know that the Montreal Canadiens will square off against the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup finals, why don't we have a look at which players of the current Habs edition have had success against the Big Bad Bruins during their career.

The 30-year-old Austrian, who had played his entire career for the Buffalo Sabres (another fierce rival of the Bruins) prior to being moved to the Islanders earlier in the season, was GM Marc Bergevin's biggest acquisition at the trade deadline. Without any surprise, we see that Vanek leads all players with more than on point per game against Boston during his career. Quiet during the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning (1 g and 2 a for 3 pts), Vanek will need to continue his dominance of the Bruins if the Canadiens have any hope to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Player POS Games Goals Assists Points PPG Plus/Minus
Thomas Vanek LW/RW 55 30 32 62 1.13 22
Daniel Briere C 50 14 28 42 0.84 -6
Brendan Gallagher RW 8 1 5 6 0.75 4
David Desharnais C 19 5 9 14 0.74 6
Max Pacioretty LW  22 8 7 15 0.68 11
Tomas Plekanec C 56 11 26 37 0.66 -1
Andrei Markov D 59 9 27 36 0.61 -2
PK Subban  D 20 4 8 12 0.60 -1
Brian Gionta RW 46 13 12 25 0.54 0
Alex Galchenyuk LW/C 7 1 1 2 0.29 -2
Alexei Emelin D 11 2 1 3 0.27 -2
Lars Eller C 18 3 1 4 0.22 -7
Josh Gorges D 32 0 6 6 0.19 2
Travis Moen LW 28 0 5 5 0.18 -2
Brandon Prust LW/C/RW 16 0 2 2 0.13 1
Ryan White C/RW 8 0 1 1 0.13 -4
Francis Bouillon D 44 1 4 5 0.11 -3
Mike Weaver D 21 0 2 2 0.10 -6
Rene Bourque LW 8 0 0 0 0.00 -4
Michael Bournival C 3 0 0 0 0.00 0
Dale Weiss RW 3 0 0 0 0.00 -1
Douglas Murray D 11 0 0 0 0.00 1
Total 545 102 177 279 0.51 6

Another veteran who has had tremendous success against the Bruins during his career is playoff performer Daniel Briere. The veteran who struggled mightily during the regular season was pivotal during the first round's sweep of the Lightning, feeding Dale Weiss in overtime for the game-winning tally in Game 1 and scoring a big goal in Game 4 to give the Habs the lead. The 36-year-old centre, who now has 111 points in 112 career playoff game will be instrumental against Montreal's arch-enemy.

Other players such as Rene Bourque and Lars Eller are struggling against Boston and will need to raise their level of play to chip in offensively if the big guns are not producing.

Who do you think will be the Habs' offensive heroes against the mighty Bruins?

------------------------------
Fred is a professional freelance translator/writer;  Lead Editor at  & Lead Editor and Senior Columnist at 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Lightning (Round 1, Game 4)

HabsBolts_Playoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens take to Bell Centre ice on Tuesday, looking to close out the first round series against the Lightning in front of their faithful. The game starts at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

The Habs have gone 3-for-3 so far this series and have the first opportunity to eliminate a team from the 2014 playoffs. The Lightning can take solace in the fact 2 of the 3 games could have gone either way, they lost Game 1 in overtime and dropped Game 3 by a goal after a controversial disallowed marker.

What to Watch:

Rene Bourque is on a tear, opening the scoring Sunday with a goal 11 seconds into the game. He finished the night with 8 shots and leads the team with 15 through 3 games. Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller each have points in all 3 playoff games for the Habs. Eller's point streak stretches back to the regular season, he has 7 points in his last 5 games.

Steven Stamkos is up to 4 points in the playoffs after assisting on both Tampa Bay goals Sunday Night. Despite recording 3 straight losses, the play of Anders Lindback has improved during the playoffs. Lindback made 28 saves in Sunday's 3-2 loss and did what he could to keep his team in the game despite a handful of top-quality scoring chances for Montreal.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens have a chance to close out this series and move on to the second round for the first time since 2010. A win on Tuesday would see the Habs as the first team through to the second round in this year's playoffs, giving them plenty of all important rest and time to prepare for the winner of Boston-Detroit. A win for the Lightning would keep their playoff dreams alive and shift the series back to Tampa for Game 5.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are missing Travis Moen (concussion) for at least one more game, but he's received the green light for contact. Alex Galchenyuk (knee) is still out for the time being.

The Lightning are missing Ben Bishop (elbow). Steven Stamkos, who missed the end of the second period in Game 3 is expected to play game 4.

What Else:

The Canadiens are looking to sweep their first playoff Series since eliminating the Buffalo Sabres in 4 en route to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. The haven't been on the verge of a sweep since that series, but they have been swept 3 times since, once by the Lightning. The Habs have gone up 3 games to none 30 other times in their history, winning Game 4 in 22 of those cases.

The Question Mark:

Which teams look most to you like Cup threats so far? Are the Habs in that mix?

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.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Musings: Why The Habs Are Nearing A Sweep Of Tampa

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. 
There is no question that this Lightning squad is weaker than the one the Habs matched up with for most of the season. Injuries and personal issues have seen Bishop, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Malone, Sami Salo miss time. Trading Martin St. Louis - the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner - to the Rangers weakened the offense and has allowed teams to target Stamkos and let the rest of the roster try and beat them. While Ryan Callahan brings many leadership intangibles to the game along with grit, he's never scored 30 goals, nor posted more than 55 points in any regular season and he does not possess the on-ice vision and creativity that St. Louis brought to the lineup. The injury to Ben Bishop is far and away the deal-breaker for this playoff series. Montreal having to rely on Peter Budaj for this round would be competitive, but in worse shape than having All-World Carey Price in goal. You just simply don't replace someone of that talent level. 

This series is far from over but Montreal certainly has a stranglehold on it. Tampa made some lineup changes heading into Game Three to try and make themselves tougher, notably inserting tough-guy B.J. Crombeen along with the physical Tom Pyatt onto the fourth line while adding Mark Barberio on defense. While Tampa out-hit the Habs, they still had little answer for the skill that Montreal brought to the table. The rejuvenated Rene Bourque is making people forget about the lacklustre regular season he brought forward. P.K. Subban has been disciplined and setting up important goals and the Habs have received production from all four of their lines. Bourque (3), Plekanec (2), Gallagher (2), Desharnais (1), Vanek (1), Eller (1), Weise (1) and Gionta (1) have all scored during this series. Only Francis Bouillon, Andrei Markov and Michael Bournival have failed to record a point this round. Michel Therrien is confident in all four lines and this depth has allowed the Habs to remain fresh all game long. The way Montreal is distributing the puck and receiving production from all four lines, that should change next game.

Get the brooms out, Montreal. Let's sweep this!

 ---
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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Lightning (Round 1, Game 3)

HabsBolts_Playoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens return to Montreal with a 2-0 series lead over the Lightning after a pair convincing victories in Tampa Bay. Game 3 goes Sunday night at 7:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.

The Habs scored 4 straight goals before Teddy Purcell added a late power play marker to spoil Carey Price's shutout bid. Rene Bourque scored a pair for the Canadiens, including the game winner. The Canadiens also ended their power play drought going 1-for-4 on the man advantage.

What to Watch:

The line of Lars Eller, Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque have combined four 4 of Montreal's 9 goals in this series, including a shorthanded marker by the captain. Eller leads the Habs with 3 points in the playoffs. David Desharnais got his first career playoff goal and Max Pacioretty earned his first playoff point in Friday's game.

Tampa's coach, John Cooper, will have a tough decision to make as far as his starting goalie for Game 3 is concerned. Anders Lindback was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 23 shots in Game 2, while his replacement Kristers Gudlevskis gave up a goal on one of 3 shots faced in relief.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens can put a stranglehold on the Lightning Sunday night, with a chance to take a 3-0 series lead. The Lightning are essentially fighting for their playoff lives after losing both of their opening home games.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are still missing Alex Galchenyuk (knee) but Travis Moen (concussion) could be ready to play on Sunday if called upon.

Ondrej Palat (upper body) missed Game 2 for Tampa and is day-to-day. Ben Bishop (elbow) is still about a week away from a return.

What Else:

The Canadiens will try to erase the memory of their last 2-0 series lead, one they couldn't capitalize on against the eventual Cup-winning Bruins in 2011. After taking a 2-0 series lead in Boston, the Habs lost the next 3 games, including a back-and-forth Game 4 that saw the Canadiens blow 3-1 and 4-3 leads before eventually losing 5-4 in overtime.

The Question Mark:

Which other series are you enjoying most?

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.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens at Lightning (Round 1, Game 2)

HabsBolts_Playoffs 
Match Up:

After a back and forth Game 1 that finished with Overtime heroics by Dale Weise and Daniel Briere, the Canadiens and Lightning square off for Game 2 Friday night in Tampa Bay. The match starts at 7:00 and can be seen on RDS and CBC.

The Canadiens went up 1-0 in the best of seven series with a 5-4 OT win on Wednesday, but despite out-shooting the Bolts 44-25 and looking dominant for most of the match, the game stayed tight the whole way through. Neither team was able to build more that a 1-goal lead in the game, and the longest a team was able to hold onto their lead was a shade over 3 minutes.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens got contributions from all 4 lines in Wednesday's game, and defenseman Alexei Emelin chipped in with a pair of assists. Lars Eller and Brian Gionta found a bit of chemistry on Wednesday, collaborating on a pair of goals, including a shorthanded marker that erased Tampa's second and final lead of the game. Daniel Briere assisted on Dale Weise's OT winner keeping Briere over the point-per-game mark in the playoffs, he has 110 points in 109 career playoff games.

In Game 1, Steven Stamkos did what Steven Stamkos does best, score goals. The 24-year old potted a pair of goals for Tampa, including one of an a play that started with Stamkos collecting the puck behind his own net and charging down the ice to create the opportunity. Alex Killorn picked up a goal and an assist in his NHL Playoffs debut.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens looked dominant in Game 1 but still gave the Lightning ample opportunity to steal a victory. If the Habs can maintain their dominance through Game 2 and return to Montreal with a 2-0 series lead, the Bolts will be hard pressed to come back.

Who's Out:

Travis Moen (concussion) is close to a return but won't be back for Game 2. Alex Galchenyuk (knee) has been ruled out for the opening round.

The Lightning are still without Ben Bishop (elbow) who could return to action late in the series but will miss the next few starts. Ondrej Palat (upper body) left Wednesday's game in the third period and will be a game time decision on Friday. Ryan Malone has been de facto suspended after being charged with a DUI and cocaine possession. Any future discipline will be determined based on the terms of the NHL's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.

What Else:

The Canadiens' power play woes continued on Wednesday, they haven't scored with the man advantage since Daniel Briere potted a late power play marker against the Buffalo Sabres on March 25, 10 games ago. While Brian Gionta did score on a penalty shot in Montreal's last game of the season, the Habs have gone 0-for-26 on the power play in their last 9 games.

Thankfully, as bad as they've been with the man advantage, they've been just the opposite killing penalties. The Canadiens finished the season fourth overall on the penalty kill and opened up the Playoffs by holding the Bolts 0-for-2 on the power play and even scored a shorthanded goal in the process.

The Question Mark:

After some unlikely heroics from Dale Weise, who do you think scores the winner in Game 2?

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.

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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Round One: Western Picks

The Western Conference has been exceptionally good this season. California teams have dominated, and every team was nervous going into their California road trips. Chicago has shown no signs of having a Stanley Cup hangover. Colorado has had a huge turnaround season under Patrick Roy. St. Louis, Minnesota, and Dallas all had exceptional years. So there is no wonder why the West holds several favourites for the Cup this year. It could literally go anywhere.

WEST Match-ups

Anaheim VS. Dallas
Anaheim finished the season with 114 points, second in the race for the Presidents Trophy. They have had stellar goaltending, and their offense has been nothing short of excellent with 266 goals for on the season. They have proven to be a dominating force, and will continue this image through the playoffs.

Dallas squeaked into the playoffs with 91 points (one of two western teams under 100), the lowest of all teams in the playoffs. I don’t think they are a true competitor or threat for the cup this season, especially considering who they have to get through. 

I am taking Anaheim in five. They are just all-around a better team, and I don’t see Dallas being a threat to them this season. But, Dallas has potential in the upcoming years.

San Jose VS. Los Angeles
Both of teams are truly superb. It’s a shame they play in the first round as it would certainly be an entertaining conference final. They both have the talent and the ability to make a deep run, but in this scenario only one will prevail. Both have the depth, elite calibre goaltending, speed, scoring, and defense to be cup contenders. 

On gut feeling I am taking San Jose in seven, because I can’t logically pick one or the other based on statistics/line-up. This could go either way. Watch this series for probably some of the best hockey these playoffs have to offer.

Colorado VS. Minnesota
Colorado has had a huge year when looking at where they were last year. With Patrick Roy (my Jack Adams nominee, hands down) at the helm, this team is as determined as ever, and are confident this is their year. They have everything it takes to win a cup.

Minnesota is the second western team to make the playoffs under 100 points. They have a good line-up, and their goaltending has been playing well. With guys like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, it’s hard to argue that they don’t deserve to move on. They are a good team, but Colorado is simply better.

I am taking Colorado in six. They have a good team, and a great coach. They are convinced that they have what it takes, and this confidence will help carry them to the next level.

St. Louis VS. Chicago
St. Louis has a good team, and managed to bring in a great goaltender in Ryan Miller to prepare for the playoffs. They believe they have a team capable of winning a cup. Top-end talent such as TJ Oshie, and Alex Pietrangelo can carry a team very far. They are certainly going to give the defending champs a run for their money.

Chicago has not slowed down at all coming off of their Stanley Cup championship one year ago.  They have continued their winning ways this season and proved they are ready to take it again. They are looking to continue their trend by winning a third cup in a span of four years which is quite remarkable.

I am taking Chicago in seven. St. Louis will leave everything on the ice and this one will go right down to the wire. Chicago will ultimately take it as they have the experience and knowledge on what it takes to win a cup in today’s NHL.

Summary
The West is just as wide open as the East in the sense that there are so many elite hockey teams in this bunch. Any team that is determined enough, and showcases their talent can go all the way this year. There are some excellent match-ups on this side of the league, so get ready for some great hockey, and some surprises en route to a Stanley cup final.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to give your input below.

Follow me @darrinharmy

Round One: Eastern Picks

The playoffs are right around the corner, and there are sure to be some pretty great series to watch. The first round match-ups will see some pretty great teams take an early exit in a battle to the finish. The west has been arguably the better of the two conferences throughout the regular season, but at this point, that goes out the window. It’s all about who can win 16 high pressure games.

The Boston Bruins being the Presidents Trophy winner with 117 points is the odds on favourite to go all the way this year. The western conference however boasts six (yes, SIX) teams finishing the regular season with 100 points or more. That includes Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Colorado, St. Louis, and Chicago. The east only has four with Montreal and Tampa Bay just squeaking in with 100 and 101 respectively, Pittsburgh has a solid 108, and then Boston at 117. Looking at this and this alone, clearly the ice is tilted toward the Western teams in the amount of contenders they have.

After looking at a number stats and comparing them to the biggest factor, my gut feeling, I’m going to do my best to predict how these playoffs are going to go, and who will be drinking from Lord Stanley’s cup.

­EAST Matchups

Boston VS. Detroit
This match-up will be an interesting one. The Boston Bruins have been a dominating force all season with an ability to run through all four lines and get offense. They have a good combination of scoring talent and grit, and are backstopped by one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. They have a mix of young guys, and veterans with lots of playoff experience. They don’t necessarily have a glaring weakness that any team can truly exploit.

Detroit has been battling through injuries to key players all season long, and have still managed to put up wins. They had an astonishing man-games-lost ranking at 417. Not only did they lose players, but they lost key players in their line-up. They managed to get wins by leaning on young guys like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. Now that they have some players back, they could be a tough opponent against the rough Boston Bruins.

I am going to take the Bruins in six. They have the advantage in goaltending and I think they are going to overwhelm and smother Detroit.

Tampa Bay VS. Montreal
Tampa Bay is a team that made the playoffs when nobody expected they would. Normally, they are a solid team, with Stamkos leading the team to victories, but when the now team captain was injured, and injured badly everybody thought they were done for. The Lightning had some young players step up their game, and Ben Bishop continued to make the big saves and help win games.  Montreal and Tampa Bay have been neck and neck the whole way down the stretch battling for home ice advantage, with Tampa Bay edging out the Habs by one point in the final game of the season. Every game has been tight, having three of four go into extra time. Montreal has the advantage in net, but both teams are relatively even in scoring power, and defence with a slight edge to the Bolts. This series will be all about who wants it more, and which goalie steals games. 

I am taking Montreal in seven. They are coming into these playoffs with confidence and a solid line-up all around. Get ready for a great series of hockey.

Pittsburgh VS. Columbus
Pittsburgh has been badly beaten up over the course of the year leading the league by a crazy margin in man-games-lost at 527. They lost guys like Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. They finished second in the east despite the setbacks, and played as though they were a full roster.  Sidney Crosby is obviously a huge piece for Pittsburgh and could carry his team, but if Marc-Andre Fleury plays anything like he did last playoffs, don’t expect the Penguins to go very far.
Columbus has an excellent goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, and what I would consider an average line-up. What they lack in super star players they certainly make up for in depth. Almost everyone in the line-up has the ability to chip in offensively.

I am taking Pittsburgh in six. Pittsburgh can match Columbus in depth, but they have more high-end talent and game changers. If Fleury is on point, and can make some big saves like he can in the regular season, Pittsburgh shouldn’t have to many problems winning the series.

New York VS. Philadelphia
New York has solid talent in their top six, and some pretty good depth. They have extremely good goaltending in “King” Henrik Lundquist. He can make huge saves, and is good in high pressure situations. If Martin St.Louis can get his scoring touch going again, New York can definitely do well against Philadelphia.

Philly has a good mix in their line-up. Their goaltending has done well this year with Steve Mason on the back. My concern for Philly is that the Rangers will be able to exploit them, and Philly simply won’t be able to beat Lundquist. I don’t see Philadelphia being a real threat to the Rangers.

I am taking New York in five. New York has better scoring and goaltending. They will just take over Philly and swiftly kick them out.

Summary
These are my picks for the first round in the East. Some of these series' will certainly have some surprises and some upsets, but that is what is so great about the playoffs. You never know what player will step-up his game, and what team will completely collapse. Now, all that matters is winning four of seven.

Thank you for reading! I will have my Western playoff preview up later on today.

Be sure to follow @darrinharmy

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Musings:82 Games Later, Habs Are Tampa Bound

Greetings Habs Addicts,

The regular season wrapped up this weekend as Carey Price shut out the New York Rangers 1-0 on Saturday night. Price stopped 41 shots and Brian Gionta won the game on a penalty shot - thank you Raphael Diaz for being Raphael Diaz - in overtime to win it. The Habs seemingly have owned the Rangers the past couple of seasons, winning four of five games and all via shutout (three by Price). However, the Habs will be matching up with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, not the New York Rangers. The Lightning won three out of four games this year against Montreal, posting a 3-0-1 record. All four games were extremely close (2-1, 2-1,2-1, 3-1 with an empty net goal) but advantage has lied with Tampa. Ben Bishop is currently injured and his status for the first round of the playoffs is up in the air for Tampa. He has yet to be ruled out for the first round of the playoffs, however he has also not been confirmed to return. The NHL injury-report mind-games continue. 
Photo Credit: MontrealHockeyTalk.com

Earlier this week, the Habs went to Chicago. Carey Price, Andre Markov and Alexei Emelin did not make the trip, but the Habs played extremely well in front of Peter Budaj until Marian Hossa scored to tie the game with under a minute to go. Patrick Sharp won the game in the first minute of overtime as the Habs dropped a 3-2 game to the Blackhawks. The next day the New York Islanders came to town and the Habs took the evening off, dropping a lacklustre 2-0 decision to Evgeni Nabokov and a squad of AHL callups. The following quote from Thomas Vanek pretty much sums up the Habs performance in this one: 

"It's no fun losing at this time, but sometimes, you're just not good enough. You have to give them credit, and at the same time, we sucked. The coaches prepared us and, I don't know if it was tired legs or we were mentally not there or both, but overall they kept skating hard and putting pressure on us and we didn't have a push back." - Thomas Vanek
Montreal did not come out to play in this one. The fans leaving the Bell Centre were booing everyone by the end of it and deservedly so. The result could have been more acceptable if the effort was there, but when Nabokov is only facing 18-shots on goal, something is wrong. 

- The Habs redeemed themselves with the win on Saturday night, however with Tampa Bay leap-frogging the Habs in the standings with a victory on Sunday, leaving those three points on the board against Chicago and New York cost the team home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. As nice as home-ice advantage is, if Montreal can claim one victory in Tampa, it will more or less neutralize the said advantage. The Habs were equally as good on the road as they were at home, posting a 23-13-5 record at the Bell Centre and a 23-15-3 record elsewhere. Tampa Bay on the other hand is stronger at home having posted a 25-10-6 record while finishing with a 21-17-3 record elsewhere. The ability to play strong on the road is an asset come playoff time. Montreal will need this advantage in what should be a very tightly contested series. Losing Alex Galchenyuk to a lower-body injury will be costly to the Montreal offense. Galchenyuk will miss at least the first round. 

- Montreal re-signed goaltender Dustin Tokarski to a two-year contract extension this past week. The 24-year old Hamilton Bulldogs starter appeared in three games for the Habs this season, compiling a 2-0 record with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage with one shutout. Tokarski will most likely be given the opportunity to compete with Peter Budaj for the backup role next season and will most likely assume that role after Budaj's contract expires going into the 2015-16 season. Tokarski has been solid in Hamilton all season long and has shone since being acquired by Montreal for Cedrick Desjardins early last season. This move should serve as an exit from the organization for Devan Dubnyk at the conclusion of the season. Dubnyk, who was acquired at the trade deadline for future considerations, did not appear in any games for Montreal. It would be very surprising if the former first-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers remains in the organization, as he would likely have to sign a two-way deal and spend his time in Hamilton. Expect Dubnyk to sign on with an NHL team desperate for goaltending help such as the Islanders. The same Islanders who shut us out 2-0 this past week. Sigh. 

- Habs Addict's Darrin Harmsworth has posted a piece about the Canadiens Worries in the Playoffs. Harmsworth delves into advanced-stats world with this piece about Canadiens' Corsi rating in relation to other playoff-bound teams. In relation to their first round opponent the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens could be in trouble if they do not improve their puck possession play. On special teams, the Habs finished the regular season ranked 19th in the league on the power-play with a 17.2% conversion rate. Teams keyed up on P.K. Subban down the stretch knowing that the Habs relied on his point-shot to generate offense. Michel Therrien will need to change his approach in the playoffs. Montreal's penalty killing was 4th in the league with an 85.1% kill rate. Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta were a huge part of that and they will be tasked with shutting down Steven Stamkos this round. While the Habs even-strength play will be extremely important, special teams performance can also make or break a playoff series.

The playoffs are upon us. It is the most wonderful time of the year. The first round will be tough. Personally, I expect a closely fought battle with the Habs ultimately prevailing in six games. I expect Ben Bishop will miss a couple of games and that shall be the difference in the series as Anders Lindback is not nearly the difference maker that Bishop is. If Bishop plays from the start, I expect he can steal an extra game for Tampa but my overall prediction doesn't change, just make it Habs in seven instead.

Let the games begin!

Three Questions From My Musings

A) Will the Habs get past the Lightning in the first round?

B) Who should be the top-six defensemen in this series?

C) Will Carey Price continue his all-world play in the playoffs or will his playoff woes return?


 ---
Nick M. 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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Canadiens Worries in the Playoffs


While most Montreal Canadiens fans are ecstatic for the upcoming playoffs and are getting ready for a nice long run by their beloved Habs, there are some pretty glaring issues that should be addressed. I don't want to rain on anybody's parade here, but I'm trying to be as realistic as possible. Possession is bad, scoring chances are bad, system is consistently in question, and certain players are not being used appropriately.

Is it good that Montreal finished with 100 points? Absolutely. Is it good that Carey Price finished with a career best save percentage? No question about it. So why all the doubt? because there are certain things in the NHL that are unsustainable and Montreal's ability to win games the way they do, might be one of those.

Montreal is a bottom five possession team in the league with a mere Corsi for percentage of 47.2%. The only teams below the Canadiens are Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Buffalo. None of whom are playoff teams. Not even close. This is definitely not a good sign, and if it continues down this road, well, take a look at Toronto. A team who went from a comfortable playoff spot to kicked out in a matter of weeks. Montreal's possession numbers are about 5% better, which should be alarming. Can Montreal be a dominant possession team? yes. In fact, they recently had a 60% Corsi for against the Chicago Blackhawks, a western powerhouse and a serious Cup contender. Prior to that, they held an excellent 63.6% against Anaheim, who nearly won the President's Trophy. This should tell you that Montreal's real problem is consistency. They have far too many games where they simply don't try, or give up. That needs to end, and quickly.

A lot of people have been questioning Michel Therrien's system and placing a lot of blame on him in regards to Montreal's poor play, in particular their poor possession numbers. I can't say that it is all the coach. Therrien did not take a successful possession team and run them into the ground (like what Randy Carlyle is becoming notorious for). Montreal's possession numbers have stayed relatively consistent dating back to 2011-12 with Martin/Cunneyworth at the helm. So, Therrien haters can relax a little bit. What Therrien has tried to do is create a dump and chase team, who battles in the corners, and grinds out some not-always-pretty type of goals. This team is not built for that, and it is seriously hindering the players abilities on the ice.

Montreal has some very creative players, who can hold the zone, put pressure on, and create scoring chances when they use that talent. Subban has been on a tight leash all season and if Montreal wants to succeed, Therrien needs to let him loose and reign havoc from the blue line. Benching (arguably) your best defenseman, will not help this team win. Douglas Murray is not a top-six defenseman on this Canadiens team and it is hard to justify giving him so many important minutes against players who will blow his doors off. Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi are better options than Francis Boullion, and Douglas Murray and should be utilized to their strengths. All I'm saying is, Michel, sometimes you've got to risk it to get the biscuit.

On Twitter this morning, I saw a good friend of mine post a chart he made on scoring chance percentages for teams in the playoffs. What I saw was less than impressive.
Graph via @toddcordell
Clearly, Montreal is far behind in this category. Scoring chances are extremely important especially for a team who is currently having some serious struggles on the power play, and who has poor possession numbers. Having now gone eight games without a power play goal, Montreal is relying solely on their 5v5 scoring. Even if Montreal's power play starts to heat up again, their scoring chances at even strength still needs improving.

What is even more alarming in the previous graph is that Tampa Bay, Montreal's first round opponent, is sitting at 51%, and have defeated the Habs in three of four match ups this season. This will be one hell of a series however early on, advantage Tampa Bay.

Montreal is capable of winning games, and at times, can be a serious contender coming out of a wide open Eastern Conference. The frustrating part is that the Canadiens consistency will always be in question, no matter how well they are playing. This, above all, is their biggest problem contributing to all of the negative statistics looming over this club right now. If Montreal comes into these playoffs playing their highest level of hockey and proving they are a force to reckon with, I can certainly see them shocking a lot of opposing teams.

Thank you for the read, and feel free to leave a comment!
follow me on twitter @Darrinharmy


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Rangers (Game #82)

Habs-Rangers 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (45-28-8) play host to the Rangers (45-31-5) in their final regular season game of the 2013-2014 campaign. The game starts at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

This is the third and of course the final meeting between these two teams this season. So far, both games have ended in shutouts, Peter Budaj helped the Canadiens earn a 2-0 victory over the Blueshirts in late October, while Ranger back-up Cam Talbot picked up the shutout for New York in a 1-0 victory a couple of weeks later.

What to Watch:

Max Pacioretty is still looking for goal number 40 on the season, he's one goal away from being the first Canadien to reach the mark since Vincent Damphousse in 1994. The Canadiens are looking to get their power play back on track, the team hasn't scored with the man-advantage in 7 games, although Wednesday against the Blackhawks they didn't get a single power play opportunity.

With just 1 goal and 8 points in 19 games since joining the Rangers, Martin St. Louis hasn't made the smoothest transition, but the 38-year old does have 4 assists in his last 2 games. Despite leading the Rangers in goals, Rick Nash isn't haven't the best season of his career. Nash has 26 goals and 39 points in 64 games played, and could miss the 30 goal mark for the first time in a full season since 2006-07. Last year, Nash had 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games.

What's at Stake:

After a pair of defeats, the Canadiens have slipped back to third spot in the division, one point back on the Lightning. A win or an overtime loss against the Rangers will force the Lightning to earn points in their final game Sunday afternoon against the Capitals. Regardless of whether the Lightning win or lose on Sunday, a win will also give the Habs some positive momentum heading into the Playoffs and would give them just their second 100 point season since 1993.

Who's Out:

Lars Eller (illness) missed the last two games and is not expected to play on Saturday. Alex Galchenyuk (knee) won't be ready to play until at least the second round of the playoffs. Brandon Prust (upper body) and Travis Moen (concussion) are also out.

The Rangers are missing Chris Kreider (hand). Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) is day-to-day.

What Else:

The Canadiens announced the winners of their team awards on Friday and for a fourth straight season, Carey Price took home the Molson Cup honors as team MVP. Price has won the Canadiens Molson Cup 5 times in 7 seasons with the team. Brian Gionta was awarded the Jacques Beauchamps-Molson Trophy, awarded annually to the team's unsung hero. Brandon Prust won the award last year in his first season with the Canadiens. Brendan Gallagher finished just 2 points behind Gionta in this year's voting.

The Question Mark:

What was your favorite Habs moment or moments from this season?

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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

98 Points. Who cares!? Michel Therrien is not the right coach.

not with Michel Therrien as a coach!
image from @weber514 

The date is April 11th, 2014. The Montreal Canadiens are sitting in second place in the Atlantic division. The NHL playoffs are about to start. The Canadiens are red hot (yesterday doesn’t count); actually they’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now. However they’re not even close to being considered a contender for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Are the Montreal Canadiens this good? Or is this just an illusion? In the coming weeks and most certainly next season, we will get a better idea of where this organization really stands.

Most experts had the Canadiens missing the playoffs. Now that Habs have secured their spot in the post-season, most experts are not giving them a chance to get past the second round. Will the Montreal Canadiens suffer a rapid elimination in the same manner as they did approximately one year ago?

I am a fan; I have been a die-hard HABS fan for years. I am one of those guys that has mood swings when the Montreal Canadiens win or lose. Some will say that at this level all we should care about is wins. Although I love when my team wins and overall the 2013-2014 NHL season has been wonderful in that aspect. I will say that I truly think that this season was a complete waste, a disappointment. Let me explain.

-PK Subban won the Norris trophy last season and seemed to be gaining the coaches' trust but actually that is completely false. Some will say look at his ice time. I would say he is misused. He does not play on the penalty kill, his coach does not use him in crucial defensive situations and Michel Therrien benches him at will. It’s clear that Subban is not playing with the liberty to do his thing and because of that he can't be effective. PK Subban has regressed this season. His confidence is at all-time low and I hope I am wrong, but it does not look good for the playoffs.

-Alex Galchenyuk has had sparks of superstardom since he came into the NHL last season. Nobody expected the Montreal Canadiens to do as well as they did this season and for that reason Chucky should have started the season at center. Alex’s natural position is in the middle. He’s exactly what we have been looking for. His passing and play-making skills are comparable to some of the best. Alex Galchenyuk did not improve in any way shape or form this season.

-Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu. No reason whatsoever for these two guys to have spent as much time as they did in the minors this year. They have reached a level in their game that can only further develop with the players in the NHL. I can’t understand how the organization thought that it was better to use Douglas Murray or Francis Bouillon instead of them. They talk about depth and development. The team would have been better served if Beaulieu would have gained experience in the NHL. His offensive contribution would have been a major asset on the power play.

The bottom line is the Montreal Canadiens are not even close to being a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. Michel Therrien has to trust some of the young guys. He won’t! He is a veterans’ coach. He believes that Murray and Bouillon’s  experience is more useful than the size and mobility of Tinordi or than Beaulieu’s smooth skating abilities, first pass skills and sparks of offensive genius. Yes a little late to throw them in the mix with full confidence that they won’t make mistakes but WHO CARES? They can’t be worse than Murray and Bouillon.

THE MONTREAL CANADIENS WILL NOT WIN WITH MICHEL THERRIEN AS A COACH. I don’t care about the record right now. It does not matter how many games we won in regular season. We don’t stand a chance to win the cup “TODAY” so he should have given Alex Galchenyuk more ice time. PK SUBBAN should be used in every situation. HE IS NOT A LIABILITY, he is your best defenseman for God’s sake, and he is amongst the top-ten defensemen in the world! He overused the veterans. Gionta, Markov and others should have never played as much as they did all year. So many strange decisions.

In today’s game you have to trust your young guys. The game is so physical and fast that the older slower guys are lucky to still have jobs in NHL.

The future is Carey Price, PK Subban, Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi. PLAY THEM NOW! Use them, teach them! Bring this team to another level.

The amount of points we cumulated this year will mean absolutely nothing once we get eliminated. And then we will evaluate and realize that this season was simply false hope.

Will I be happy if we win? Of course. Do I think we stand a chance? No, I don’t. Do I think the future is bright? Absolutely! BUT NOT WITH MICHEL THERRIEN AS A COACH!

If Therrien got fired from the Penguins with the players that he had and after reaching the Cup Final, why would he be the man to do it here? He did not change. He calmed down, but he did not change. We need a coach that is not scared to trust the youth.


-Have PK Subban and Alex Galchenyuk regressed? (notice I'm not even mentioning Lars Eller)

-Should Tinordi and/or Beaulieu be used instead of Murray and Bouillon?

-Is Therrien the coach that can bring to the promised land?


Let me know what you think. @habsaddict

----------------------------------------------------

I've been involved in the game for 25+ years, as a player, a referee (over 15 years), and now as a minor league coach (I coach my 7-year-old son) I can say that I know and understand the game. I'm definitely not an expert, but who is?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Islanders (Game #81)

habs_islanders_dec132011 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (45-27-8) are home to host the Islanders (31-37-11) Thursday night at the Bell Centre. The game starts at 7:30 and airs on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the third and final game between the Habs and Islanders this season and the Canadiens are looking for a series sweep. The last time these teams met, in mid-December, Carey Price and Evgeni Nabokov took the game to overtime tied 0-0, until Max Pacioretty finally found the back of the net.

What to Watch:

Despite 6 shots on goal and a couple of golden opportunities in Chicago, Max Pacioretty is still stuck at 39 goals on the year. Dale Weise and Josh Gorges both returned to the lineup on Wednesday and the pair combined to open the scoring when Weise scored after the initial shot from Gorges was blocked in front.

The Islanders are playing for pride at this point in the season, with just 73 points they have long since been eliminated from playoff contention. With their star John Tavares out of the lineup, as well as current leading scorer Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen has picked up the slack for the Isles. Nielsen hit the 25-goal mark for the first time in his career with the lone Long Island goal in a 4-1 loss to the Senators on Tuesday.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are now 3 points up on the Lightning with 1 more game played, putting them in the driver's seat in the race for home ice advantage. If the Bolts fall to the Flyers tonight, the Habs can clinch by taking at least one point from tonight's game. If the Lightning win, the Canadiens will still need 101 points and another regulation or OT win to clinch.

Who's Out:

Alex Galchenyuk (lower body) made an early exit from Wednesday's game and was seen on crutches afterwards, it's unlikely he'll be able to play Thursday and could be out much longer. Brandon Prust (upper body) has yet to be reevaluated but won't return until at least the beginning of the Playoffs and Travis Moen (concussion) is out as well.

The Islanders are missing John Tavares (knee), Kyle Okposo (lower body), Lubimir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (hand). Michael Grabner (upper body), Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) and Calvin de Haan (lower body) are day-to-day and could also miss Thursday's tilt.

What Else:

The Canadiens played their final road game of the regular season against the Hawks on Wednesday, ending the year with a respectable 23-13-5 road record. The Habs managed 23 road wins and 51 road points despite being outscored in away games 112 to 108. At home, the Canadiens have been much stingier giving up just 87 goals in the 39 games they've played this year in the Bell Centre.

The Question Mark:

Who are your Habs 3 Stars since the trade deadline?

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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.