The Montreal Canadiens continue their quest for the post-season in New York tonight to face Jaromir Jagr and the Rangers. Jaroslav Halak will be in goal for the ninth straight game, and will likely play a tenth on Saturday against the Leafs. Tonight, however, Halak will have a new back up with Cristobal Huet officially set to return now that the paper work problems that caused him to miss the last game have been all cleared up.
Montreal has won seven of their last 10 games, helping them on their way to the eighth and final playoff position. With only two games remaining, including tonight’s tangle with the Rangers, Montreal can potentially seal the deal with a win tonight. However, they’ll need a little help from another New York team should they wish to clinch a spot tonight.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who sit a point back from the Habs but can’t afford to finish the season in a tie with the Canadiens because they have less wins, take on the Islanders tonight. There are a couple of scenarios concerning the Leafs’ game this evening that could impact the Habs’ playoff situation.
First, should the Leafs lose in regulation to the Islanders, Montreal would need only a single point to clinch a playoff spot. Another way the Habs can clinch is if the Leafs lose in overtime or shootout while the Canadiens win their match. In both cases, should the Leafs beat Montreal on Saturday for a tie in the standings, they would still finish behind the Habs due to the difference in wins.
The Rangers, on the other hand, need a single point to clinch a playoff position. What does this mean for Montreal? Well, that the Rangers aren’t going to sit back and let the Habs take this one from them. With a game against Pittsburgh coming up for New York on Saturday, the playoffs are not a sure bet just yet.
The best of all worlds (except that of Leaf Nation) would see the Habs beat the Rangers in overtime while Toronto loses to the Islanders one way or another. This would give Montreal an opportunity to rest some of their talented but aging veterans for Saturday’s game with the Leafs. It would also allow Montreal to test out Cristobal Huet in net should Carbonneau take a chance on keeping Halak out of action for five or more days.
The New York Rangers hold the edge on the season series thus far. In three games, the Rangers have a record of 2-1 against the Habs, which means Montreal has a chance to even things up at two apiece with a win tonight.
The last match the two teams played saw the Habs score five second period goals en route to a 6-4 win. Captain Saku Koivu had a strong outing and picked up four assists while had two goals of his own and got the ball rolling in the second period when he broke the Rangers’ lead in two. Montreal had chased goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from New York’s net as he allowed four of the five second period goals to slip by him.
Be sure to check in after the game or tomorrow morning for a complete recap.