Recent Posts




Be Our Fan Follow HA Watch RSS

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens at Rangers (Round 3, Game 6)

HabsRangersPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens will still have their backs against the wall when the puck drops for Game 6 against the Rangers Thursday night in New York. The Habs still trail in the series 3 games to 2 after a big win in Montreal on Tuesday.

The Canadiens chased Henrik Lundqvist from the Ranger goal after he allowed 4 goals on 19 shots. New York did manage to draw the game even at 4 after that, but the Habs scored the next 3 to cruise to a 7-4 victory. Rene Bourque scored his first playoff  hat trick in Game 5 and Andrei Markov pitched in with 3 assists. Chris Kreider had a goal and 3 assists in the losing effort.

Game 6 starts at 8:00 on Thursday and can be seen on RDS and CBC.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens were able to assert their will offensively in Game 5 for the first time this series. Bourque's hat trick gave him 4 goals and 6 points against the Rangers, despite playing under 13 minutes per game on average. Max Pacioretty picked up a goal and an assist in Game 5, giving him 5 points and goals in each of Montreal's 3 elimination games these playoff.

Derek Stepan returned to the Ranger lineup on Tuesday after missing Game 4 with a broken jaw. Stepan picked up 2 goals in Game 5, extending his point streak to 6 games with 3 goals and 9 points in that span. With 13 points in the postseason, Stepan is tied with Martin St. Louis for most points on the Rangers. St. Louis was held pointless in Game 5 for the first time in this series.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens survived their third elimination match of these playoffs on Tuesday but they must still win two more games against the Rangers starting Thursday night.

Also at stake is the potential return of Carey Price. Price has been ruled out for Game 6 but it looks like he might be ready for a return before the Stanley Cup is raised. For now, it's up to the rest of the team to stay alive until then.

Who's Out:

Price (knee) was joined on the sidelines by Alexei Emelin (undisclosed) in Game 5. Emelin was leading the team in blocked shots (44) and hits (52) before the puck dropped on Tuesday. Dale Weise was shaken up by John Moore and spent time in the dark room during Tuesday's game but returned in time to finish with his teammates.

The Rangers are missing J.T. Miller (upper body), while Derek Stepan (jaw) and Derick Brassard are playing through injuries. John Moore and Daniel Carcillo are both serving suspensions and won't return this series.

What Else:

With their win on Tuesday, the Canadiens are now having their most successful playoffs since their last Cup win in 1993. The Canadiens are up to 10 playoff wins so far this season, the only other time they've made the Conference Finals in the past 20 years they were beaten in 5 games by the Flyers. Aside from their run in 2010, the Canadiens have won 31 playoff games and just 4 other playoff series in the past 20 years.

The Question Mark:

Tell us what you think:

How do the Habs recreate Game 5's results on the road in Game 6?

Let us know by sending us your answers on Twitter using the #MTLHockey hashtag, or leave a comment below.

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Rangers (Round 3, Game 5)

HabsRangersPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens are home to host the Rangers Tuesday night at the Bell Centre in a critical Game 5 with the Habs trailing 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Martin St. Louis pushed the Habs to the brink of elimination with his overtime winner a little over 6 minutes into the extra frame. The Rangers also got goals from Carl Hagelin and Derrick Brassard, who missed the previous two games, in the 3-2 win. Montreal went 1-for-8 on the power play and gave up a short handed goal.

The game starts at 8:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens haven't got much scoring in this series from their big threats up front. The team has only 5 goals in 4 games from their forwards and none have scored more than once. Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta have no goals on a combined 18 shots, Thomas Vanek has 4 shots and 1 assist in the series.

Carl Hagelin opened the scoring Sunday night with his sixth goal of the playoffs. St. Louis' game winner also gave him 6 goals, tops among the Rangers in the playoffs. New York's success however continues to hinge on the stellar play of Henrik Lundqvist, the playoff leader in GAA (1.98), Save Percentage (.931) and wins (11, tied with Jonathan Quick).

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are once again in must-win territory after surviving two elimination games against the Bruins last series. The Rangers know what the Habs are going through, they came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Penguins in the second round, which could make things even harder for Montreal.

Who's Out:

Carey Price (knee) is still out of action for Montreal, although he did find himself back on the ice in practice on Monday, albeit without his goalie equipment. Brandon Prust will serve the second game of his two-game suspension for his late hit to Derek Stepan.

Stepan (jaw) joined the Rangers in Montreal and could be ready to play on Tuesday. Daniel Carcillo remains out with a suspension.

What Else:

The Canadiens power play finally managed to solve the Rangers penalty kill on Sunday, but only once and on 8 chances. The good news for the Habs is that after a disastrous Game 1, they've only allowed 1 goal on 8 power play attempts to the Rangers in the next 3 games.

The Question Mark:

Tell us what you think, what's been the biggest positive for the Habs in these playoffs, where do they need the most improvement?

Let us know by sending us your answers on Twitter using the #MTLHockey hashtag, or leave a comment below.

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Musings: Habs Need To Dig Deep

Greetings Habs Addicts,

Monday Musings is back after a two week hiatus where it was replaced by a recap of the Boston series as well as a preview of the New York Rangers series.

It looks like the Eastern Conference Final will have to go seven games this year for the Montreal Canadiens to win it. The New York Rangers currently have a stranglehold on the series 3-1. But as we have already seen in the playoffs this year, leading a series 3-1 is no sure sign of victory. Last round, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 3-1 series lead against these very same Rangers, only to drop the final three games and lose. In the West, the Kings were down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks in the opening round before rallying back to win the final four games.

The Habs are going to have to dig deep if they want to come back and win this series. After all their regular season dominance over the Rangers the past two years, this Rangers squad is challenging Montreal with tremendous speed through the zones and puck possession down low. For as well as Dustin Tokarski has played, losing Carey Price early in the series has been a difference maker in both the confidence level of the Canadiens as well as their style of play. The Canadiens are playing a tighter defensive system to shelter the youngster at the expense of the offense. The powerplay has been rendered irrelevant by the Rangers penalty-killing scheme and the ignorance of Michel Therrien to adapt has rendered the man-advantage useless. The Rangers are the best shot-blocking team in the NHL and the Canadiens continue to run the power-play through the point. Subban and Markov have not been able to get open for clean shots and most of their attempts have been blocked. The Canadiens should be trying to set up down low and have one of their defenders pinch into the slot for a similar shot, or continually cycle players around. Keep P.K. Subban stationary at the point to hammer pucks at the Rangers shin guards is the hockey equivalent of trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. Adapt, Therrien.
Dustin Tokarski makes a pad save.
Photo Credit: NationalPost.com

Some musings from the series so far:

- Thomas Vanek has been largely invisible for long stretches so far in the playoffs. The soon-to-be free agent sniper has not been playing a very inspired game this post-season. Through 14 games, he has 5 goals and 9 points with 3 of those goals coming on the power-play. In this round, Vanek has been held to only 1 assist through four games and has relegated to the fourth line. Michel Therrien and the team still have faith in Vanek to produce, but for a guy who is expected to command an eight-year/$60 million contract this off-season (Minnesota has been the rumoured destination all season long), his lack of production and effort on this big stage could be costing him money. Minnesota will free up cap room with the underperforming Dany Heatley coming off the books at season's end, do they want to risk taking on a potential Heatley 2.0 by giving a max deal to Vanek? Considering the money they owe Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and cash-flow being an issue already for the Wild, do they even want Vanek or would they try to sign a similarly skilled Matt Moulson who they traded for at the deadline. Only time will tell on that front. Meanwhile, Vanek is losing the fanbase and the media in Montreal. The Canadiens need him to put forth an effort. Max Pacioretty has struggled this post-season as well, but has been contributing hits, killing penalties and when he has scored, it has won games. Big difference in the effort level for a player with a similar stat line to Vanek. David Desharnais has struggled offensively as well, but has been putting forth tremendous effort and often times has been the best player on the ice. Its easy to forgive these two players because they are competing hard and contributing. Vanek is floating around and often looks lost without the puck. He is talented enough to take over a game (two two-goal games in the Boston series) but has yet to truly do so.

- With the news that Carey Price was lost for the series with a lower-body injury, the Canadiens turned to youngster Dustin Tokarski over veteran back-up Peter Budaj. The youngster has a big-game pedigree, having backstopped teams to a Memorial Cup championship and World Junior Hockey Championships as well as a Calder Cup win in the AHL. While none of this equates to the NHL level, pressure games are pressure games. Peter Budaj has been solid, but unspectacular as a backup to Price and has struggled when forced to shoulder the load for multiple games in a row. Michel Therrien felt there was more potential upside to starting the NHL-inexperienced kid over the veteran who has 8 career playoff wins in his 13 year career. The Anaheim Ducks turned to rookie John Gibson against the Los Angeles Kings over starter Jonas Hiller and nearly stole the series.

Tokarski had a solid debut in a 3-1 loss in Game 2, stopping 27 of 30 shots. Two of the goals went in off defenders. Game 3 was a different story as Tokarski stood on his head, stopping 35 of 37 shots in a 3-2 overtime win. The gamble was starting to pay off for Therrien. Last night was different, however. Tokarski stopped 26 of 29 shots in the 3-2 overtime loss. This loss cemented a 3-1 series lead for the Rangers. Most notably, the Rangers began to exploit the 5'11'' netminders tendency to go down early and give away the top part of the net. Both Derrick Brassard and Martin St. Louis in overtime had clear breakaways and both times opted to wire the puck top shelf. Tokarski had no chance to make the save on either attempt. This is the same weakness the Bruins thought they could exploit on Carey Price. If the Bruins thought they could capitalize by shooting high on a 6'4" goalie, no doubt the Rangers will be taking liberties on a 5'11" goaltender playing a similar style of game. And if the Canadiens keep allowing them clear breaks at Tokarski, Game 5 could be ugly.

Truth be told, the Price injury forced the Canadiens' hand with Tokarski. By adding him to the active roster for the playoffs instead of being one of the so-called "Black Aces" he would be on the 23-man roster at season's end. As such, heading into next season they would be unable to send him back down to Hamilton without him first clearing waivers based on his age/experience level at the professional level. He will never clear waivers, especially after performing as well as he has. As such, the future is now for the Canadiens and Tokarski is going to be the back-up goalie next season. Ever the consummate professional, Peter Budaj has continued to support the youngster and has not displayed any outward disappointment he may have over not being given the nod. Budaj will be dealt this summer and continue to thrive in a back-up role for another team.

- The veteran scorers have not been contributing any offense this round. On defence, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin have been exposed by the Rangers. Markov has been disappointing thus far in the playoffs, failing to contribute much in the way of offense after another typically sound regular season. Markov and Emelin have a combined 1 goal, 9 points in 15 games and each have a -4 rating. The Rangers have been beating the two in one-on-one races for pucks. Up front, Thomas Plekanec is a team-worst -7 while contributing only 3 goals, 8 points in 15 games. Our best shut-down centre has not shut down anyone very effectively. Secondary scoring has been an issue after being the strength of the Tampa series.

  • Thomas Plekanec: 1 goal in last 10 games (vs Bruins, Game 3).
  • Rene Bourque: 1 goal in last 10 games (vs Rangers, Game 1)
  • Brian Gionta: 1 goal in 15 games (vs Tampa, Game 1)
  • David Desharnais: 1 goal in 15 games (vs Tampa, Game 2)
  • Brendan Gallagher: 1 goal in last 10 games (vs Boston, Game 5)
The Canadiens have had a hard to time putting pucks past Henrik Lundqvist and the lack of offensive contribution from experienced veterans has contributed to this. Brian Gionta was expected to be a contributor in this series based on his experience playing the Rangers from his days with the New Jersey Devils. This has not occurred. Rene Bourque was a force for the entire Tampa series after a disappointing regular season but while the effort level has been there, the production has ceased. 

Brandon Prust's hit on Derek Stepan
Photo Credit: Modelsportsfan.com
- Michel Therrien needs to make some changes to his game plan. As touched on earlier in the article, the Habs have been forced to play a slightly tighter defensive scheme to shelter the young goalie in a way they do not need to do with Carey Price. Overall, Therrien has been outcoached by Alain Vigneault throughout the series and while he has made some big, risky decisions - inserting Nathan Beaulieu into the line-up against Boston; starting Tokarski in goal over Budaj - his in-game management has regressed as the rounds move on. His insistence of relying on dumping the puck off the boards as well as funnelling the offense through the point has allowed the patient Rangers to continually block shots and dump-ins along the boards while generating turnovers. This has in turn lead to fast breaks and scoring chances against. With Brandon Prust out of the lineup after being suspended two games for a late, violent hit that broke the jaw of the Rangers' Derek Stepan, the physical game that the Canadiens displayed against the Bruins has been largely invisible against the speedier Rangers. In Game 4, the Canadiens had only 18 hits which was essentially one period's worth against the Bruins. Therrien needs to change his game plan because after four games, he has not found any sustained offense, even when there has been sustained pressure.  

The pivotal Game 5 will be played on Tuesday in Montreal. Therrien needs to adapt and the Canadiens need to playing a strong 60-minutes or else next week's Monday Musings will be a season recap. 

---
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.

Past Monday Musings 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Rangers (Round 3, Game 4)

HabsRangersPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens and Rangers hook up for Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday night in New York. The Habs are down 2-1 in the series with a chance to go home on even terms after dropping the first two games.

Dustin Tokarski outshone Henrik Lundqvist in Game 3, making 35 saves to help the Canadiens pick up a 3-2 overtime win. Alex Galchenyuk head-butted home the winning goal off a Tomas Plekanec rebound just 1:12 into overtime.

Sunday's game starts at 8:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

What to Watch:

Daniel Briere scored his third goal of the postseason Thursday night, bring him up to 7 points in 13 games. Briere was skating on a line with Tomas Vanek and Rene Bourque and both wingers picked up assists on the goal. Andrei Markov found the back of the net for the first time in these playoffs, just his fourth career postseason goal in 68 games.

Laval-native Martin St. Louis picked up his fourth point of the series on Thursday with an assist on Carl Hagelin's goal. St. Louis has 2 goals and 2 assists against the Habs in these playoffs, but Dustin Tokarski was able to keep him goalless on Thursday despite 5 shots on goal and some prime scoring chances.

What's at Stake:

The Rangers out-shot and out-worked the Canadiens in Game 3, but the Habs still managed to get their first win of the series to give the team some life. They'll look to draw even with a win on Sunday and maybe even take a chunk out of the Rangers' confidence after they went up 2-0 in Montreal.

Who's Out:

The Habs are still without Carey Price (knee) who is expected to miss the rest of this series. Brandon Prust has been suspended for two games following a late hit on Derek Stepan in Game 3.

Stepan (jaw) is out for the Rangers but Derick Brassard (upper body) could return to the lineup after missing Games 2 and 3. Daniel Carcillo was served a 10-game suspension for abuse of the officials in Game 3.

What Else:

The Habs power play remained ice cold Thursday night, going 0-for-2 on the night and 0-for-9 on the series. Montreal converted 8 of their 25 man advantage opportunities against the Bruins last round over a goal a game. PK Subban and Thomas Vanek have 3 each of Montreal's 10 power play goals but neither has lit the lamp in this series.

The Question Mark:

Should the Canadiens continue to focus on the physical game with Prust out of the lineup?

Let us know what you think, send us your answers on Twitter by using the #MTLHockey hashtag, or leave a comment below.

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens at Rangers (Round 3, Game 3)

HabsRangersPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens will look to reverse their fortunes in New York Thursday night when they face-off against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The Habs are down 2-0 in the series to the Rangers after being outscored 10-3 on home ice through 2 games. Dustin Tokarski took over goaltending duties for an injured Carey Price in Game 2. Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 30 shots and didn't look terrible in nets, but he couldn't compare to Henrik Lundqvist who gave up just 1 goal on 41 shots.

The game starts at 8:00 and can be seen on RDS and CBC.

What to Watch:

PK Subban has yet to find the scoresheet in the third round, but he did have 9 shots on goal on Monday. Max Pacioretty scored his fourth goal of the playoffs in Game 2, he has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games.

Rick Nash was held goalless in 14 playoff games before this series started, he has a pair of goals, including a game winner, and an assist in this series. Ryan McDonagh has 6 of his 9 playoff points in this series, following up a 4-point game on Saturday with a goal and an assist in Monday's contest.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are fighting for survival. A victory in Game 3 will help bring them back into this series while a loss will almost surely spell a playoff exit.

Who's Out:

The Habs are missing Carey Price (knee) who will likely miss the rest of the series.

Derick Brassard missed Game 2 for the Rangers but could return to the lineup on Thursday.

What Else:

Trade deadline acquisitions are making a big splash in these playoffs, with 3 of the 4 remaining teams getting big boosts from their new additions. With 9 goals, Kings forward Marian Gaborik leads all playoff scorers in that department, fitting in nicely with LA in just 35 total games with the team. The Rangers have rallied behind new teammate Martin St. Louis after his mother passed away unexpectedly, and with 11 points in 16 games, St. Louis is the team's top playoff scorer.

There has been criticism leveled at Habs addition Thomas Vanek, but the Austrian sniper has 5 goals and is tied for the team lead. Mike Weaver, also brought in at the deadline, has a +8 rating in the playoffs, second in the league behind LA's Justin Williams.

The Question Mark:

Tell us what you think:

If you were coaching the Canadiens, what would be your message to the team prior to Game 3?

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Rangers (Round 3, Game 2)

HabsRangers 
Match Up:

The Canadiens are seeking redemption in Monday night when they host the Rangers at the Bell Centre for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Game 1 of the series was disastrous in more ways than one for the Habs. They were beaten 7-2 and Carey Price did not play in the third period after allowing 4 goals on 20 and potentially suffering a leg injury when Chris Kreider went sliding into the Canadiens' netminder late in the second period.

Monday's game starts at 8:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.

What to Watch:

Lars Eller continued to shine in the playoffs with a goal and an assist in Saturday's contest, bringing him up to 11 points in 12 games in these playoffs. The Canadiens as a team had their weakest start of the playoffs on Saturday, going down 2-0 by the end of the first period after being out-shot 12-6. Up to Saturday's game the Habs had allowed just 3 goals in the first period in 11 playoff games combined.

The Rangers looked a lot different in Game 1 of the third round than they had leading up to it. They scored 34 goals in the previous 14 games but put up a converted touchdown on Saturday. The Rangers got goals from 7 different players on Saturday, including Rick Nash who scored his first of this year's playoffs. On top of that, the New York power play converted 3 times in the third period, going 3-for-7 on the afternoon after going 6-for-55 in the first two rounds.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens didn't simply lose Game 1, they were humiliated. Aside from a brief glimmer of hope in the second period when Rene Bourque cut the Rangers lead to 2-1, the Habs never looked competitive on Saturday. With Price's status uncertain for Game 2 the Canadiens may need to rally around Peter Budaj in order to draw the series even. Another poor showing by the Habs and this series could be over before it started.

Who's Out:

The big question mark heading into Game 2 is whether or not Carey Price will play, not just Monday night, but whether he'll play again this series. Alex Galchenyuk (knee) could be ready for action Monday night for the first time since April 9.

Derrick Brassard suffered either an undisclosed injury in the first period in Game 1 and is uncertain for Monday.

What Else:

This isn't Chris Kreider's first run-in with a goalie, it's not even his first run-in with a goalie in these playoffs. In February 2013, Craig Anderson was in Vezina Trophy form until Kreider was sent sprawling into him by Senators defenseman Marc Methot. Anderson's left ankle was pinned against his goalpost and the resulting injury kept him out of action for 6 weeks. Just over a week ago, in Game 6 against the Penguins, Kreider went barreling into Marc-Andre Fleury after Kris Letang bumped him en route to the Pens net.

Brandon Prust had this to say on Kreider's contact with Price, "He went skates-first right into [Price's] leg. We know how to slide, we know how to fall. We're in the NHL. We're taught how to fall when you're 5 years old...I don't think [Kreider] is a dirty player but he did nothing to slow-up or avoid him."

The Question Mark:

What type of response are you expecting from the Habs in Game 2 with or without Price?

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

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

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

HabsRangers 
Match Up:

The Canadiens are on to the third round and set to host Game 1 against the Rangers Saturday afternoon. For the Canadiens it's their second trip to the Conference Finals since their last Cup win in 1993. The Rangers have made the third round for a third time since they last hoisted the Cup in 1994, but neither team has been to a Stanley Cup Finals in the last 20 years.

The Habs and Rangers met three times during the regular season with each game ending in a shutout. The Habs won 2-0 and 1-0 in overtime while the Rangers earned a 1-0 victory at the Bell Centre. Three different goalies, Peter Budaj, Cam Talbot and Carey Price, each earned shutouts during the season series, and Cam Talbot played over 120 minutes of shutout hockey against the Habs before finally conceding a goal in overtime.

The game starts early at 1:00 pm and airs on RDS, CBC and NBC.

What to Watch:

PK Subban has led the Canadiens throughout the playoffs with 4 goals and 12 points in 11 games, but the real trouble for the Rangers could come in the form of a hot Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty has been held to 3 goals in these playoffs, but 2 have been series winners. He's also picked up 4 of his 7 playoff points in the last 3 games, including goals in his last 2.

The Rangers' big threat, Rick Nash, has yet to light the lamp in 14 playoff games this year after leading New York with 26 goals during the regular season. Nash does lead his team in shots during the postseason with 52.

But the real battle to watch this series is shaping up to be the duel in nets.Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist last met in Sochi with a Gold Medal on the line and Price emerged victorious. Now the prize is a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and both teams will look to their tenders to pave the way.

Carey Price has spent much of this season silencing his critics, and he's not stopping in the postseason. Last round, Price held the top-scoring team in the Eastern Conference to just one goal in the last two games to help the Habs advance.

Henrik Lundqvist squared of against two of the league's biggest threats in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and managed to give up just one goal per game in each of the final three matches against the Pens with the Rangers facing elimination. Lundqvist has an impressive 1.99 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in the playoffs.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are hosting Game 1 for the first time in these playoffs. They won both of their other first games in Tampa Bay and Boston, and will look to get off to the same start against the Rangers. New York will play their 15th game of the playoffs so fatigue could play a factor in the series, especially if the Canadiens find ways press the action.

Who's Out:

Alex Galchenyuk (knee) is the only injured player for either team, and his return is imminent now that he has begun taking part again in full practices with a contact jersey.

What Else:

The Canadiens and Rangers have not met in the playoffs since 1996, an opening round series the Rangers won 4 games to 2. Game 3 of that series marked the first playoff game played in the Molson Centre, but the Canadiens lost all three games in their new home after winning the first two on the road.

In 14 previous playoff meetings dating back to 1930 the Canadiens and Rangers have a perfect split, with each team moving on 7 times.

The Question Mark:

Tell us what you think, what are your predictions for Habs-Rangers, who is the series MVP and who is the Little Bear unsung hero?

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

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Keep Calm & Carey On To Face The Rangers: Third Round Preview

Greetings Habs Addicts!

It feels like just yesterday we were sitting back and saying "Bye Bye, Bruins!" We were spending the day basking in the glory of knocking out the big, bad Bostonians. Most likely we were sporting some sort of Habs paraphernalia to school or work; just absolutely loving life.

Today we look forward to the next challenge that awaits us this coming Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre: The New York Rangers and the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Habs have been in the Eastern Conference Finals in recent memory: Jaroslav Halak and the magical 2010 playoff run. That year the 8th seeded Habs stunned the President's Trophy winning Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round. In the second round, they proceeded to knock off Sidney Crosby and the 4th seeded - and defending Stanley Cup Champion - Pittsburgh Penguins in another hard-fought seven game series. The Eastern finals was where the magic ended. The Philadelphia Flyers made short work of the Habs, winning the series in five games before being knocked down in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final.
Carey Price & Henrik Lundqvist
Photo Credit: sportsinteraction.com

This year is different. This year the Canadiens are not the 8th seeded underdog. The Canadiens had the third best record in the Eastern Conference (tied in points with Tampa). They just finished defeating the President's Trophy winning Boston Bruins; the league's best regular season team and a perennial playoff favorite. During the regular season, the Rangers and Habs played 3 extremely close games. All three games were ended in shutouts, two in favor of Montreal (1-0, 2-0); one for the Rangers (1-0). Statistically, a total of four goals were scored in the three games combined. During the shortened 2013 season, the Habs and Rangers met three times. The results: Montreal 3, Rangers 1; Montreal 3, Rangers 0; and Montreal 3, Rangers 0. The New York Rangers have scored two goals against the Montreal Canadiens in 6 match-ups over the past two seasons. They have been shutout two times. They have one win to show for it, a 1-0 shutout of their own by backup goaltender Cam Talbot this year.

Carey Price has simply owned the New York Rangers over the past two years with a 4-1 with three shutouts against the New York Rangers. He has allowed only two goals on 151 shots for a 0.40 goals-against average (GAA) and a .987 save percentage (Save %). For his career, Price sports an 8-5-1 record with a 2.04 GAA and a .934 Save % with 5 shutouts in 15 career games.

Henrik Lundqvist has not had quite that same success against the Montreal Canadiens. In 28 career games, King Henrik has a 13-1-2 record with a 2.85 GAA and a .897 Save % and one shutout. In Montreal, Lundqvist has a 4-5-2 record along with a 3.87 GAA and .876 Save % and has not played in a game at the Bell Centre since January of the 2011/12 NHL season.

Going into the Boston series, Carey Price had better career numbers against the Bruins than Tuukka Rask did against Montreal. The way the series played out, it was evident that sometimes a goaltender does not match up well against certain teams. Goalies are interesting psychological specimen. Whether or not their past performances against the respective team played on their minds, the series resulted with Price looking stellar and confident while Rask was often shaky. Needless to say, the numbers heading into this series certainly favor Carey Price over Henrik Lundqvist in the rematch of Sochi Olympic Gold Medal Goaltenders. That was also a game won by Carey Price.

Teams At A Glance

Montreal finished 9th overall (4th in the East) 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. The Boston Bruins were a far more formidable challenge but the Habs prevailed winning the second-round series in seven games. 

The New York Rangers finished the year with a record of 45-31-6, good enough for 96 points and placing them 12th overall in the NHL (5th in the East). The Rangers defensively were stingier than the Canadiens, allowing only 193 goals against which was 4th best in the league. Offensively, the Rangers were slightly better than the Canadiens with 218 goals scored which places them 18th overall in the NHL. The Rangers faced the Philadelphia Flyers at home for the first round of the playoffs, alternating wins and losses before finally ending the series in seven games. In the second round, the Rangers rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit to stun the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. The Rangers enter this round of the playoffs having played three more games than Montreal. 

Previewing Round Three

- Martin St. Louis lost his mother last week suddenly. He flew home to Montreal to be with his family and promptly returned to the lineup in time for Game 5, which the Rangers rallied to win 5-1. They carried this momentum over through Game 6 and 7 to stun the Penguins. Whether or not this emotion carries over to this series is hard to assess. It will certainly be emotional for the Laval native playing in his hometown to open the series. St. Louis had only 1 goal and 8 points in 19 games after being acquired by the Rangers from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline for Ryan Callahan. In the playoffs, St. Louis has reunited with former Tampa teammate Brad Richards to put up eight and nine points respectively in 14 games.

- P.K Subban is coming off a series to remember against the Boston Bruins. Subban has come into his own these playoffs and is back playing at the level that won him the Norris Trophy last season. He has been extremely responsible in his own end and has played a physical game as well. Subban leads the Canadiens in scoring this post-season with four goals and 12 points in 11 games played. Subban had four goals and seven points in the Boston series.

- This series marks the return of former first-round draft choice Ryan McDonagh to Montreal. Habs fans will remember that McDonagh was involved in the ill-fated Scott Gomez trade and has since blossomed into one of the NHL's top defenders. McDonagh is the Rangers answer to P.K. Subban as he finished the year with 14 goals and 44 points in 77 games. While Subban is one of the leagues best power-play quarterbacks, McDonagh scored more short-handed goals (3) than power-play goals (2) and is arguably the better all-around player when you factor in his penalty-killing abilities. 

- The Rangers top line of Benoit Pouliot - Derek Brassard - Mats Zuccarello had a dominant series against the Penguins. The trio has combined for ten goals and 23 points in the playoffs with three game winning goals between them. The Canadiens top line of Thomas Vanek - David Desharnais - Max Pacioretty has been quiet so far in the post-season, but stepped up in the pivotal games against Boston. For the playoffs, they have combined for nine goals and 20 points with only two game winning goals. Both of them were scored by Pacioretty and both ended up being the series winning goals. Montreal needs this line to outplay their Rangers counterparts at even strength as the Habs trio have five power-play goals between them while the Rangers trio does their damage at even strength with only one power-play goal between them. 

Summary

Offense: The Rangers and Canadiens were two of the weaker offensive teams during the regular season. Both made significant upgrades at the trade deadline with the Rangers acquiring reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis while the Habs added Thomas Vanek. Vanek performed as expected and teamed up with Max Pacioretty to form a dangerous duo down the stretch while St. Louis found it more difficult to fit in to the Rangers lineup. Both have been average during this playoff run. Montreal has had balanced scoring with Dale Weise, Brendan Gallagher, Rene Bourque and Lars Eller all contributing offensively. The Rangers scoring has come primarily from their top line of Derek Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello with support from St. Louis and Brad Richards. Sniper Rick Nash has been a bust this post season with zero goals and five assists in 14 games but can break out at any time. He is still dangerous even if he has declined over the past couple of seasons in New York.

Edge: Montreal; slightly due to balanced scoring.

Defense: Outside of Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers do not have any other true offensive options. Dan Girardi was the second-highest scoring defender for the Rangers with only five goals and 24 points in 81 games played. While they do not receive much offensive support from the blueline, the Rangers are one of the leagues best shot-blocking teams and players such as Girardi, Mark Staal and Anton Stralman can move the puck. The Canadiens are led by P.K Subban who unlike McDonagh (one goal, three points in 14 games) has increased his scoring output in the post-season. Andrei Markov has been quiet, but is still one of the more dangerous power-play specialists while Mike Weaver has contributed unexpected offense to balance out this shot-blocking and penalty killing. Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin have been blocking shots and Emelin has been playing extremely physical with seven hits in the Boston Game 7 alone. Nathan Beaulieu entered the lineup and added a puck moving dimension to the third pairing that was lacking with Douglas Murray or Francis Bouillon in the line-up. Michel Therrien has limited the rookie to under ten minutes per game so far, but he has responded with two assists.

Edge: Montreal

Goaltending: Carey Price against Henrik Lundqvist is a battle of the leagues top goaltenders and an extended rematch of this past years Sochi Olympic gold-medal game. Team Canada and Price defeated Team Sweden and Lundvist and so far this season, Price has allowed only two goals in five elimination-game scenarios (three at the Olympics, two against Boston). Price has a better career record against the Rangers where King Henrik has struggled against the Canadiens, especially in Montreal. A hot goaltender can steal a series and both goalies got hot at the right time. Price stole one from Boston and Lundqvist stole the series from Pittsburgh.

Edge: Even

Coaching: Alain Vigneault has the Rangers playing solid hockey right now. Vigneault is no stranger to the post-season or the atmosphere of the Bell Centre and he will have his team prepared. The Rangers are a very defensive minded team, not as physical as the Bruins but will battle for pucks in the corner. He has some big bodies in Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kreider to win puck battles in the corners and get to the front of the net, much like the Bruins did with Lucic and Iginla. Michel Therrien has coached incredibly well this post-season and has made some question decisions and taken some gambles that paid off. Inserting Murray to the line-up probably will not happen again as Nathan Beaulieu should remain on the blue line. Both coaches have made it to the Stanley Cup finals; neither has won.

Edge: Even

Prediction: Both of these teams match up pretty evenly. They were pretty average offensively all season long. Defensively, both are extremely adept at killing penalties. The Rangers will need to find an answer for P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty seems to be finding his scoring touch. When Pacioretty gets hot, it will be bad news for the Rangers as him and Thomas Vanek can take over a game. Defensively, the Canadiens are receiving far more offensive production from their blue line and that will be a difference. Ultimately, this series will come down to the battle of the goaltenders again. Carey Price shines against the Rangers and will continue to prove he's the best goaltender in the world and the Habs win the series in six games.

 ---
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.

Canadiens shed their underdog image in battle with Bruins


When the Canadiens stood eye to eye with the Bruins through seven games of high intensity, top quality playoff hockey, they competed in a battle of equals. This was no story of David versus Goliath, despite the fact that David Desharnais, Daniel Briere or Brendan Gallagher could all have been easily cast as Davids to Zdeno Chara’s Goliath.

As expected, the Boston Bruins pitted their size, depth and grit against the finesse game of the Montreal Canadiens. But this time around, something kind of strange happened.

Any attempts the Bruins made to intimidate the Canadiens, tactics that may have paid off in the past, became almost comical instead in this series. Milan Lucic and Torey Krug beat their chests in an alpha-male goal celebration, Dale Weise responded mockingly in kind. Lucic flexes a muscle on the Bruins bench, Weise responds again.

In Game 5 Shawn Thornton squirted water at PK Subban, an act you’d expect more from a clown at a carnival than a profession hockey player in the midst of a hard-fought series.

Even Lucic’s reaction and comments during the final handshake seem petty and childish in hindsight, an image that wasn’t helped by him referring to Weise as a baby after the incident.

Claude Julien complained to reporters about biased referees, Michel Therrien bypassed the issue in his own press conferences, firing off jokes instead. Julien commented that the Habs were perceived as the good guys while the Bruins were depicted as villains. In a sense he was right, although it didn’t help that a handful of idiots clad as Bruins fans decided to spew racist hatred at PK Subban after the first game.

Credit goes out to the Bruins organization for taking exception to the comments and for stating in no uncertain terms that they were unacceptable from any that wanted to call themselves fans of the organization.

Even with all the antics on and off the ice, the series never turned violent or ugly. Things simply got heated, the way playoff hockey should.

Emotions were exposed, sure, but there was no ugly kneeing incident that cost a budding young defenseman his playoffs and another player seven games worth of suspensions. There were no heads squeezed into the glass from the force of a blindside hit. There was simply incredible hockey, played on the line of order and chaos.

The showdown that resulted was worthy of any battle of titans the Western Conference could muster. It should go down as an equal to many from the golden years of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry, seven hard fought games featuring some of the most talented players in the world.

This series went the distance not because one team failed to finish the other off, but because there was just that little to separate the two. The first four games each needed either in overtime to settle or saw a goalie pulled and a one goal lead on the line in the final moments. Through those first four games, the teams each won once at home and once on the road, and they split the two OT affairs.

In the end the better team won. But the Canadiens only emerged the better team because they won this series. You could say the Bruins were the favorites at the start of the series, but it would have been wrong to call them superior; that still needed to be proven.  

So if the Bruins could be could be considered Stanley Cup contenders, the Habs have shown they deserve the same deference.

It’s an unusual position for the Canadiens and their younger generation of fans. This was a team after all that’s reached the conference finals just once in the past 20 years, and even then it took a miracle run that was cut quickly short in the third round. The newest generation of fans have come to know a team that seemed to relish the role of the dangerous underdog, a team capable of knocking down, or at least competing with, the giants of their conference.

Now this team demands respect. They demand to be viewed as equals with the league’s elite.

The Capitals and Penguins fell before the Habs in 2010, and with them, three of the game’s greatest scorers. In 2011, the Bruins were pushed to overtime in the seventh game of the opening round after the Canadiens had stolen a 2-0 series lead on the road. And even though the Bruins would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season, the Habs of that era still could not be considered championship material.

This postseason the Habs have clung to the underdog reputation more by default than merit.

When this year’s Canadiens vanquished the Bruins, they did it by holding leads through the majority of the series. They led for over 115 minutes of the final two games and kept their opponent to just a single goal, scored on the power play.

The Canadiens go into the third round having earned the respect that PK Subban knew the team deserved all along. The Canadiens qualified for the playoffs with the same seeding as the Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings, another pair of contenders. Some of these teams will necessarily be eliminated in the coming weeks, the Kings possibly even sooner, but that doesn’t mean they are not among the elite few that have the Stanley Cup within their grasp.

Even though this team has started to earn respect, they also know they haven’t really won anything tangible just yet. That was made clear by Carey Price, a goalie who looked by no means finished in his post-series interviews. Price conducted himself like a player just reaching the halfway point of his toughest journey.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Series Recap: Bye Bye Bruins; Habs Advance

Greetings Habs Addicts!!

Wow, it has been a long time since the city had a buzz like this going on during the NHL playoffs!

Montreal beat the Bruins 3-1 last night in Boston to secure a berth in the Eastern Conference final against another Original Six team, the New York Rangers.

In my Habs Addict series preview - The Habs Are Shipping Up To Boston - I broke down the season series, looked at each team by position and indicated who I felt would be the winner. Yes, I admit I have a biased opinion on the result, but here is the my final paragraph and prediction from that article:
Photo Credit: Nationalpost.com
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!
That statement could not have described the series more accurately.

This was a very physical series. The Bruins were targeting the Montreal defenders with body checks each and every time they could. Overall, the Bruins landed 269 hits on Canadiens players while the Habs returned the physical action with 247 of their own. On average the big, bad Bruins had 38.4 hits per game while the smaller, speedier Habs nearly matched them with a 35.2 average over the seven game series. The Bruins were bigger, but they were slower. Zdeno Chara was challenged often by David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher, both of whom showed tremendous grit and character this series. Gallagher was his true antagonizing self all series long. Dale Weise and Brandon Prust laid the body on Bruins every shift they played. On the Boston side, Milan Lucic was flexing his muscles - literally at times - battling with PK Subban all series long. Both players attacked each other physically, but Subban did more damage on the scoreboard. Brad Marchand was a non-factor offensively, but was often seen taking cheap shots at Habs players both during the action and after the whistle had blown.

The difference came down to a hot goaltender stealing the series. For all the talk about Peter Budaj having Boston's number, Carey Price has been extremely successful in his career against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask has not had any sustained success against Montreal. This carried over into the playoffs. Carey Price set the tone for the series in Game 1 when he made 48 saves during the Habs double-overtime win. Price was absolutely outstanding, making difficult save after difficult save. For the series, Price sported a 2.04 goals against average and a dazzling .936 save percentage. Boston rarely beat Price unless the puck was deflected or shot from the point through heavy traffic. Going into game seven, the Bruins had also hit ten goal posts. But the posts are a goalie's best friend, after all. Tuukka Rask was far from terrible, but when you watch game seven, Price was calm and composed as he always is while Rask was noticeably shaky at times, often battling himself to control the puck. Price also addressed the team in the locker room between the second and third period, telling them to 'remain in the moment, forget the past and focus on the now'. They responded.

After the game during the hand shake line - hockey's ceremonial show of sportsmanship - Milan Lucic exemplified the class we expect out of the Boston Bruins: He visibly stopped Dale Weise and said something to the effect of "I'm going to f**king kill you next year". Apparently he also said sometime similar to Alexei Emelin. Lucic and Emelin have a history between each other. Weise mentioned the incident to reporters after the game but declined to go into specifics. Lucic responded to Weise talking to reporters as Weise being a baby; "What's said on the ice, stays on the ice."

Clearly, Milan Lucic is an idiot. If you are going to stop someone on a televised broadcast and threaten them, you should expect someone in the media will be able find someone who can read lips and translate what you said. On TSN during the intermission of the Los Angeles Kings vs Anaheim Ducks game, Aaron Ward had harsh words for Lucic about his post-game behaviour. When a former team-mate calls you out, you should know what you did was stupid and immature. Way to stay classy, Milan.
Photo credit: Sportsnet.ca

(Note: If you want a good laugh, #WhatLucicToldWeise was trending on Twitter shortly after the game ended. There were some great tweets out there)

For those who only loosely followed this series, here is a brief recap of all seven games played.

Game 1: Montreal 4, BOSTON 3 (2OT) 
Boston had home ice advantage to start the series. Carey Price makes 48 saves and single-handedly kept an out-played Montreal team in the game. P.K Subban had two powerplay goals - carbon copies of each other as both occurred with Matt Bartkowski in the penalty box and both were set up by Andrei Markov - including the double-overtime winner. Habs blew both a 2-0 and a 3-2 lead in the third period. Rene Bourque and Francis Bouillon also scored for Montreal.

Game 2: BOSTON 5, Montreal 3 
Montreal blew a 3-1 lead with ten minutes to go in the third period, allowing 4 Boston goals including an empty-net capper as Boston drew even in the series 1-1. Thomas Vanek deflected in two Subban point shots for his first two goals of the series, both on the power play. Mike Weaver also scored for Montreal. Francis Bouillon had two Boston goals deflect off him and into the net. Boston out-hit Montreal for a second game in a row.

Game 3: MONTREAL 4, Boston 2
The series moved to Montreal. Douglas Murray was inserted into the line-up over Francis Bouillon to provide physical presence. Travis Moen replaced a banged up Brandon Prust for this one. Thomas Plekanec opened the scoring while Subban had a goal and assist as Montreal jumped to 3-0 lead. Dale Weise and Lars Eller (empty net) also scored for Montreal. Carey Price was sensational again making 26 saves.

Game 4: Boston 1, MONTREAL 0 (OT)
Call up Matt Fraser scored a fluke goal in overtime as Tuukka Rask was finally flawless against the Canadiens. Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver started the overtime and Murray was horribly out of position on the winning goal. Rask and Price duelled throughout the game, making 33 and 35 saves, respectively. Brandon Prust returned to the line-up in place of Travis Moen. Boston ties the series 2-2.

Game 5: BOSTON 4, Montreal 2
The Bruins finally displayed the game that earned them the President's Trophy as the top team in the NHL this year. Physically dominated the Habs by out-hitting them 39-29. Douglas Murray was exposed as too slow and could not clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Bruins jumped ahead to a 4-1 lead until P.K. Subban wired one home with 2 minutes left in the game. Again on the power play and again with Matt Bartkowski in the penalty box. Third time this series. Subban was squirted in the face with water by the Bruins Shawn Thornton late in the game. While no penalty was assessed, Thornton was fined by the NHL. Brendan Gallagher had the other Montreal goal. Daniel Briere was a healthy scratch for Montreal, replaced by Travis Moen. Boston leads the series 3-2.

Game 6: MONTREAL 4, Boston 0
The Canadiens returned to Montreal with their playoff lives on the line and responded with the best game they played this entire season. Complete and utter dominance of the Bruins. Nathan Beaulieu was a surprise addition to the line-up in place of Douglas Murray and made his professional hockey playoff debut paired with Mike Weaver. Beaulieu picked up an assist on Max Pacioretty's first goal of the series in the second period. Lars Eller opened the scoring in the first period and Thomas Vanek scored a pair of goals to ice the game. Daniel Briere returned to the line-up for Montreal. Carey Price stopped 26 shots - including many difficult ones - for the shutout. Series is now tied 3-3.

Game 7: Montreal 3, BOSTON 1
The deciding game in the series was played in Boston. Dale Weise opened the scoring just 2:18 into the game. Montreal dominated the action in the first period, relying on speed to go along with a punishing physical game. Max Pacioretty scored the series-winning goal for the second time in these playoffs midway through the second period. Daniel Briere iced the game late in the third period with a power play goal and Nathan Beaulieu had another assist, giving him 2 assists in just under 18 minutes of ice time in the playoffs. Total. Carey Price was sensational, making 29 saves while Tuukka Rask was visibly shaky and stopped only 15 of 18 shots faced. Alexei Emelin was a physical force with 7 hits on the blue line for Montreal.

There is no better feeling than defeating the Boston Bruins in a playoff series. The Bruins are bruising physical team. Players like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic play the game with an often dirty edge. Shawn Thornton is a goon, plain and simple. Zdeno Chara is nasty. Claude Julien is easily the most unlikeable coach in the NHL. The Bruins are the Habs biggest rivals, with all due respect to the losers in blue and white up there in Toronto. Winning this series playing the Habs style of speed game gives them great confidence heading into the next round against the surprising New York Rangers (Series Preview will be available on Friday). Montreal is playing a complete game right now, with a hot goalie, solid defense and production from all four forward lines. Getting fourth line production is what helps win Stanley Cups. Ask Los Angeles. Ask Boston. Ask Chicago. Dale Weise, Daniel Briere, Michael Bournival and Brandon Prust are providing both the intangibles and the points.

Enjoy this victory, Montreal fans. Savour every moment of it. Because we just witnessed one for the ages.

 ---
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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens at Bruins (Round 2, Game 7)

HabsBruinsPlayoffs 
Match Up:

Wednesday night, the Canadiens and Bruins square off one final time this season, for the 12th time this season and the 903rd time overall. Boston will host Game 7 for the third time in the last four meetings, dating back to 2004 when only Andrei Markov and Patrice Bergeron were in the lineups for Montreal's 2-0 win.

Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller and Thomas Vanek pitched in with the offense in Montreal's 4-0 win on Monday to force Game 7, while Price posted 26 saves for the shutout, with a little help from David Desharnais.

The game starts at 7 and airs on CBC and RDS.

What to Watch:

The Habs have found some serious production from their defensemen in this series. PK Subban has 4 goals and 3 assists, Weaver and Bouillon have both chipped in with goals, Markov has all of his 5 assists in the in these playoffs against the Bruins and even Nathan Beaulieu chipped in with an assist in his first ever NHL playoff game. The better news for the Habs was that in Game 6 the offensive stars kicked in, as Vanek, Eller and Pacioretty took care of the scoring. Vanek had his second two-goal game of the series on Monday.

The Bruins stayed true-to-form in this series, they haven't relied on one hero for success and spread the scoring around. Reilly Smith has led the way with 3 goals, as many as the top-line of Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and David Krejci have scored combined. Krejci led the Bruins in points this year with 69, but he has just 3 assists in 11 playoff games so far.

What's at Stake:

Game 7. Win and move on, lose and go home.

Who's Out:

Alex Galchenyuk (knee) might be just a few days from being game ready, but he'll miss his second straight playoff series for the Habs.

The Bruins won't get any of their wounded back for Game 7 either, Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Chris Kelly (back) and Adam McQuaid (ankle) remain out.

What Else:

As they've done for several big games in the past, the Habs are opening the doors to the Bell Center to watch Game 7. Tickets went on sale at 10 dollars apiece with proceeds going to the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation.

The Habs and Bruins meet in Game 7 for a 9th time in their histories, the most in professional sports. Patrice Bergeron and Andrei Markov have both played in 3 of the 8 prior meetings, Carey Price and Tomas Plekanec have played a pair, as have Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Shawn Thornton and Zdeno Chara.

The Question Mark:

Who are your series MVPs picks and who will be the star on Wednesday?

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

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Nathan Beaulieu The X-Factor

Carey Price made 26 saves and Thomas Vanek scored a pair of insurance goals, the last one into an empty net after goals by Lars Eller early in the first period and Max Pacioretty in the second frame as the Canadiens took advantage of the Bruins’ missed opportunities to win 4-1 on home ice and force a Game 7. This will be the ninth time in 34 playoff meetings that the two fierce rivals have gone the distance. 

Still, the biggest story of last night's win might have been the decision that head coach Michel Therrien made prior to the do-or-die game. Therrien pulled a bold move and inserted rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu in the line-up to take Douglas Murray's spot on the third pairing alongside veteran Mike Weaver. Beaulieu made his coach look very good by chipping in an assistalong with a shot and a +2 rating in 9:36 of action. Beaulieu was on for 58.3% of 5-on-5 shot attempts when he was on the ice in his playoff debut for the Canadiens in the win. 

Nathan Beaulieu, a 21-year-old rearguard, appeared in his first playoff game and also saw two minutes of power-play time. Beaulieu has played in 23 regular-season games during cups of coffee over the previous two seasons and had four points, all assists, with the big team. This season, he mostly played with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, notching 7 goals and 20 assists for 27 points in 57 games to go along with a 33 penalty minutes and a miserable -19 rating.

Beaulieu, who used to play for assistant coach Gerard Gallant with the Saint John Sea Dogs, played less than six minutes in the first two periods, yet his impact on the game was enormous in that time. He was fortunate to be on the ice for the game's first goal potted by Lars Eller, following a mistake by rookie defenseman Kevan Miller, but the second goal was a direct product of the poise he played with all evening when he spotted Max Pacioretty all alone in the neutral zone and sent him on a breakaway.

A very adept skater, the left-handed blue liner has the uncanny ability to make a good first pass and position himself well in the defensive zone to help his defensive partner. In his own zone, Beaulieu gets to the puck first, and coupled with no fumbling around, it allowed the third pairing to avoid getting hemmed into our own zone and icing the puck desperately. Beaulieu brings good puck movement and transition, or the opposite of what Douglas Murray offers.

I personally don't think we can understate how important Beaulieu's presence was on that third pair last night. Instead of being a brutally exploitable match-up for the Bruins' third and fourth lines in on our own zone, as it was with Francis Bouillon, and especially with Douglas Murray, the Bruins really couldn't control the puck down low to exploit the cycle and get good scoring chances from the point. We had three reliable defensive pairings for the first time in the series last night and it paid off aplenty. 

While Beaulieu is still raw in his positioning, he has terrific speed that allows him to join the offensive rush coupled with a good hockey vision, an excellent puck awareness and a great passing ability. A resilient skater, Beaulieu never gives up and helped us outskate the Bruins and beat them with our biggest asset: speed.

Beaulieu will definitely be in the line-up for Game 7 in Boston tomorrow and we can be confident that Michel Therrien will not be afraid to play the rookie for about ten minutes, including time on the second power play unit.

What do you think of Nathan Beaulieu's play on Monday?

No Foolin' Fred Poulin

Monday, May 12, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Bruins (Round 2, Game 6)

HabsBruinsPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens play host to the Bruins on Monday, down 3-2 in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The game is set to start at 7:30 and can be seen on CBC and RDS.

The Habs are coming off a 4-2 loss on Saturday in what might have been their worst performance so far in the playoffs. Tomas Plekanec took 3 minors in the game, including a pair of consecutive penalties that led to two Boston goals, putting the Habs behind 3-0 less than 2 minutes into the second period.

What to Watch:

With the Habs down 4-1, PK Subban scored a power play goal to give his team some life in Saturday's game, his fourth goal in 5 playoff games against the Bruins. Subban now has 12 points in 9 games during these playoffs and a total of 28 points in 35 career playoff games. At the other end of the spectrum, Max Pacioretty earned an assist Saturday, giving him 1 goal and 4 points in 9 playoff games this year, a total of 4 points in 13 career playoff matches.

Tuukka Rask had a shaky start to the series but he's played a big role in Boston's last 2 wins. Rask had a 33 save shutout in Montreal Game 4 and made 29 stops on Saturday, giving up 2 power play goals. Rask and the Bruins haven't given up an even strength goal since around the 14 minute mark of the second period in Game 3.

What's at Stake:

For the first time in these playoffs, the Canadiens are fighting for survival. This will be game 10 for the Habs in this postseason, and not only is it the first time that they're playing to stay alive, it's also the first time that they trail in a series this year.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are still missing Alex Galchenyuk (knee), although he has been skating. Daniel Briere was a healthy scratch in Game 5 to make room for Brandon Prust.
The Bruins are still missing Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Chris Kelly (back)and Adam McQuaid (ankle).

What Else:

Some good news for the Habs is that Boston has had trouble closing out playoff series in the past. The Bruins have not closed out a series in 6 games since they beat the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. After that they lost Game 6 to the Flyers in the next round on their way to blowing a 3-0 series lead. They also lost Games 6 in the 2011 Playoffs to the Habs in Round 1 and the Lightning in Round 3 with chances to close out the series. Last year, the Bruins dropped Game 6 in the first round to the Maple Leafs and then needed 3 goals in the third period to force overtime and stay alive in Game 7.

The Question Mark:

If the Canadiens season ended Monday night, would you be satisfied with team's performance this year?

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

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens at Bruins (Round 2, Game 5)

HabsBruinsPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens return to Boston for Game 5 against the Bruins Saturday night with the series tied 2-2. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.

Carey Price and Tuukka Rask both played 60 minutes of shutout hockey Thursday night in Game 4, sending the match to overtime tied 0-0. Rookie Matt Fraser, playing in his first NHL playoff game, broke the deadlock less than 2 minutes into the first overtime to even up the series.

What to Watch:

Max Pacioretty has been held to just 1 goal and 3 points in these playoffs, with 1 assist in 4 games so far versus the Bruins. Linemate David Desharnais has the same stats heading after 8 playoff games, numbers the top line forwards can't be happy with. Rene Bourque has also struggled recently, he's minus 5 with no points in his last 3 games after starting these playoffs with 4 goals and an assist in his first 5 games.

As effective as the Bruins have been in shutting down Montreal's big threats, the Canadiens have been equally solid against Boston's top line. Milan Lucic has an empty net goal and a pair of assists against the Habs so far, Jarome Iginla has been held to just 1 goal and David Krejci has 1 assist so far in this series.

What's at Stake:

With the series tied 2 games apiece, the winner of Game 5 will push their opponent to the brink of elimination with a chance to close out the series Monday night in Montreal. The Canadiens have not yet trailed a series in these playoffs, winning 4 straight against the Lightning and taking the first and third games in Round 2.

Who's Out:

For the Habs, Alex Galchenyuk (knee) is still not ready to return, although he has started skating again.

The Bruins are still without Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Chris Kelly (back) and Adam McQuaid (ankle).

What Else:

Thursday's game was the 18th of these playoffs that needed overtime to find a winner out of the 64 played as of Friday's action. The Habs and Bruins have gone to overtime 3 times each, twice in Round 2. The Blackhawks and Blues went to overtime 4 times in Round 1, as did the Wild and Avalanche. The Rangers have seen the least OTs of the remaining teams, going to the extra frame just once in 12 games so far.

The Question Mark:

What can Michel Therrien do to help spark Pacioretty an Desharnais in Game 5?

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

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don’t miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Bruins (Round 2, Game 4)

HabsBruinsPlayoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens - Bruins series stays in Montreal for Game 4 Thursday night. The Habs took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-2 win at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. Game 4 is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and CBC.

The Canadiens went up by as many as 3 goals in Game 3, and for the first time this series, they didn't give up their third period lead to the Bruins, hanging on for a 4-2 win. Dale Weise picked up his second game winning goal in these playoffs while Daniel Briere picked up his third assist on a game winning goal.

What to Watch:

PK Subban has racked up 6 points in 3 games versus the Bruins and 10 points career playoff points against the Bruins in 10 games. Lars Eller's strong playoffs continued with an assist and an empty net goal in Game 3 after being held pointless the game before for the first time this postseason. Eller is up to 3 goals and 5 assists in 7 games.

Milan Lucic comes into Thursday's match on a 5-game point streak, he has 3 goals and 3 assists in that span. Patrice Bergeron extended his point streak to 7 games with a goal on Tuesday, his 9 points put him 8th in playoff scoring.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are 3-and-0 in home playoff games so far. They'll need another win on Bell Centre ice Thursday to hold onto home ice advantage. While a win for the Bruins would tie the series at 2, it would shift the advantage back to them as the series returns to Boston on Saturday.

Who's Out:

Alex Galchenyuk (knee) is still out for the Canadiens. Brandon Prust missed Game 3 although if he is injured, he's played through the injury for 6 games already in these playoffs.

The Bruins are still missing Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Adam McQuaid (ankle) and Chris Kelly (back).

What Else:

Goal celebrations have been a hot storyline in this series. It started in Game 1 with Milan Lucic and Torey Krug celebrating a third period goal by beating their chest and the Bruins logo on it. Dale Weise answered the celebration back on Bell Centre ice after his breakaway goal put the Canadiens ahead 3-0 in Game 3. Meanwhile PK Subban's celebration for his out-of-the-box breakaway goal has been replayed almost as often as the goal itself.

The Question Mark:

How do expect the Bruins to react in Game 4 and how will that affect the Habs' game-plan?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. Tune in to the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show to hear the answers.

The Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show starts an hour before puck drop, join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter. And don't miss the Post Game Show starting 5 minutes after the final siren.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Playoff Preview: Canadiens vs Bruins (Round 2, Game 3)

HabsBruinsPlayoffs
Match Up:

The Canadiens welcome the Bruins to the Bell Centre Tuesday night when they host just their third home game of the playoffs, the fewest of any team still fighting for the Cup. The game starts at 7:00 and will air on RDS and CBC.

The series is tied 1-1 after the Bruins once again overcame a 2-goal deficit in the third period Saturday afternoon. This time around the Bruins were able to complete their comeback when Riley Smith beat Carey Price with a wrist shot after receiving a cross-ice pass from Torey Krug. An empty-net goal from Milan Lucic pushed the final score to 5-3.Zdeno Chara had 1 assist in Game 2 and finished the match with a plus-5 rating.

What to Watch:

For the second straight game, the Canadiens tallied a pair of power play goals on Saturday, both were Thomas Vanek deflections of PK Subban shots. The Habs are 4-for-9 with the man advantage in 2 games against the Bruins after going 2-for-13 against the Lightning in Round 1. On the penalty kill side of special teams the Habs have not only shut down the Bruins through 2 games (thanks largely to some stellar play from Carey Price), they've also been well-disciplined. The Canadiens have allowed just 12 power plays against in 6 games, less than any other team so far this postseason.

The Bruins were shut out in their first playoff game this year, a 1-0 loss to the Wings, but Patrice Bergeron has found the scoresheet in every game since. Bergeron has 2 goals and 6 assists in his last 6 games, picking up a helper in each. Brad Marchand was held pointless in the opening round but has 4 assists already in 2 games against the Canadiens.

What's at Stake:

By splitting the first two games in Boston, the Canadiens return to Montreal with home ice advantage but they'll need to win the next 2 games to keep it. Both teams will be looking to improve after the opening two games, the Bruins found themselves trailing by a pair in the third period of each game while the Habs were unable to hold onto those 2-goal leads despite stellar goaltending.

Who's Out:

Alex Galchenyuk (knee) has started skating on his own but does not seem close to a return. Rene Bourque (flu) missed Monday's practice, there's been no word yet on whether he's expected to miss Tuesday's game.

Michel Therrien will have some choices to make in terms of healthy scratches for Game 3. On defense, Douglas Murray skated in Francis Bouillon's spot during Monday's practice. Meanwhile Travis Moen was scratched in Game 2 after playing his first game since returning from injury in Game 1, and Ryan White has yet to play in the playoffs, both were on the fourth line in practice. Brandon Prust was skating as an extra forward in the latest practice, there's speculation that he's been playing injured throughout the playoffs.

The Bruins are still missing Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Chris Kelly (back) and Adam McQuaid (ankle).

What Else:

After getting called for icing a stunning 12 times in Game 1, the Canadiens improved dramatically in Game 2 icing the puck just 3 times. For their part, the Bruins have hardly had trouble in that department, they've iced the puck just 5 times in two games against the Habs. The Canadiens will  want to avoid defensive zone faceoffs as much as possible, they've been out-dueled at the dot 88 to 68 so far in the series. That's a mere 43.6% success rate for Montreal.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you: Has this Habs-Bruins series lived up to your expectations so far or has there been something missing?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet using 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.