The Habs made short work of Tampa Bay,
finishing off the sweep earlier in the week. Now, they get set to face off
against their long time rivals in Boston. Several prospects are still in
postseason action, which ones are still playing and how have they fared so far?
With the focus now shifting to Round 2 against the Bruins, my Final Thought
looks at three important keys that could make or break Montreal’s success.
1) The fact that no one is panicking over Andrei
Markov’s slow start offensively. It would be nice if he was putting up
some points but his role in Round 1 was first and foremost to be a shutdown
player. He did that quite well even though he was a step slower than
Tampa’s forwards. Against Boston, expect more of the same.
2) The fourth line, who has given the coaching
staff something to ponder with the impending return of Travis Moen to the lineup.
Their goals against the Lightning were important (an OT GWG and an early one to
give them momentum in Game 4) while they play well enough 5-on-5 to take a
regular shift and ease the pressure off the top lines. You can’t ask for
much more than that.
3) Resiliency, which is something that Montreal
had a lot of in Round 1. In Game 1, they didn’t get fazed when they were
down early or blew the late lead. In the final game, they again didn’t
falter when the third period lead was erased. That type of confidence will
go a long way in the next round as games against the Bruins will undoubtedly
have momentum changes in the wrong direction.
1) The old superstition of ‘don’t change a
winning lineup’ as justification to not make any moves before Game 1 vs Boston.
Management brought in players to fill different types of roles vs different
types of opponents, it would be stupid to not take advantage of the matchups
because the line or defence pairing played well a week and a half ago (the last
time they actually played). Your best lineup against one team isn’t
necessarily your best against another; the Habs shouldn’t short change
themselves because of a superstition.
2) Putting right wingers in to take the faceoff
on their strong side. I get that there’s ideally a bit of an advantage
with the winger being on their strong side but the numbers have shown that this
doesn’t work. In the regular season, Gallagher, Gionta, and Vanek combined
to go 38.2% at the dot; in the postseason they’re just 1/6 thus far.
Surely the regular centres can improve upon those numbers. Faceoffs will
be huge against Boston, one of the stronger teams on the draw. Winning
with the wingers isn’t going to happen enough to justify even trying it.
3) The people out there who are advocating that
Peter Budaj should be the #1 for this series because of his recent success
against Boston. Even though his results against the Bruins are impressive,
this idea is crazy. Carey Price is a franchise player, not a platoon guy
to be deployed in certain situations. Budaj’s stats are relevant in terms
of having the confidence to go to him should Price falter partway through a game
but nothing more than that.
Assists: P.K. Subban (5)
Points: Eller/Gallagher/Subban (5)
+/-: Bouillon/Weaver (+5)
PIMS: Brandon Prust (9)
Shots: Rene Bourque (22)
With the AHL season now over, there aren’t many
prospects still playing but a few are still making their mark.
Mike Condon – Wheeling: The Nailers
(Montreal’s ECHL affiliate) swept their first round matchup in large part due to
Condon’s goaltending. He allowed just four goals on 134 shots in the
series. Matt Grassi, who is playing under a contract with Hamilton, was
pointless in four games with four shots and an even rating.
Zach Fucale – Halifax: It has
been a rough third round for Fucale who has been pulled more times than he has
recorded a win. However, the Mooseheads find themselves a victory away
from another trip to the league finals.
Jeremy Gregoire/Charles Hudon – Baie-Comeau:
The Drakkar have forced a Game 7 in their 3rd round series. Both Gregoire
and Hudon have had off series offensively, collecting just one and two points
Robert Mayer – Switzerland: Mayer is
attempting to crack their World Championships squad, but he has played in just
one of five exhibition games thus far. He did play well in his lone
contest, however, allowing just two goals in a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic.
Magnus Nygren – Sweden: After his club
team was swept in the SHL finals, the offensive blueliner has been invited to
try out for Team Sweden’s World Championship entry and has survived the first
round of cuts.
Martin Reway – Slovakia: The diminutive
fourth rounder was assigned to Slovakia’s National team following Gatineau’s
elimination. He has suited up in four games thus far in exhibition play,
collecting an assist with six shots on goal playing primarily in a bottom six
Unlike the first round, we won’t be having a
Victory Keys article to preview the series against Boston. However, here
are my own three keys to victory against the Bruins.
1) Special Teams: I might be going out
on the world’s tiniest limb in suggesting that there will be more penalties this
series than there was against the Lightning. Boston’s powerplay has been
one of the best all year, the Habs will need to get out of their funk on the
penalty kill quickly. Making the Bruins pay for bad penalties will also be
2) Re-establish Line 1: If it weren’t
for the late powerplay goal in Game 4, the top line would have had as many goals
as the fourth line did in the first round. If that happens again here, the
Canadiens will be in deep trouble. Thomas Vanek averaged a point per game
against Boston this year and has more goals, assists, and points against them
than any other team. It’s time for him to make his mark.
3) Patience: Scoring chances won’t be as
prevalent in this round which will require an adjustment after what the Habs did
to Tampa Bay. They will also need to stay within their game and not get
caught trying to match Boston’s physicality; it would be futile to even try to
match or beat that. Sticking to their game plan (beat them with speed and
aggression) will be crucial, even if it things don’t go their way right off the