For the first time this postseason, the Habs
are on the brink of elimination as they trail their second round series against
the Bruins 3-2. The cheers of this past week are highlighted by some of
Montreal’s surprising contributors while their 5-on-5 woes lead the way on the
jeers side. There are many potential storylines to ponder for Game 6, my
Final Thought looks at one that could also have an impact for next year.
1) Lars Eller, who in this postseason has
turned into the player that many were expecting him to be throughout the year.
He’s contributing much more of the defensive side of the play as well instead of
letting his offensive performance dictate his defensive effort.
2) Clutch fourth line production led by Dale
Weise. I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the acquisition (I thought
Raphael Diaz had better trade value than he inevitably did) but Weise already
has had a knack for timely production and decent defensive play. Given how
important Boston’s fourth line is for them, it’s crucial that the Habs have one
that can keep up with them. With Weise and company, they’ve done just
3) Michael Bournival. After sitting the
first game to allow Travis Moen to return, Bournival has made it hard to Michel
Therrien to take him out again. His speed is proving to be difficult for
the Bruins while his play away from the puck – a very underrated attribute in my
opinion – has also been sharp. That will bode well for him for the rest of
the playoffs and into next season.
1) 5-on-5 struggles. The Habs have not
scored an even strength goal in 147:27 or the equivalent of about 2.5 games.
The powerplay (which has been a big plus this series) can only take them so far.
Multiple 5-on-5 goals will be required in both Games 6 and 7 for Montreal to
have a good shot at moving on to the next round.
2) The front line disappearance which has
largely contributed to the 5-on-5 woes. The duo of Max Pacioretty and
David Desharnais was fantastic in the second half of the year but they have yet
to find their mojo in this series. The old adage says that your best
players need to play like your best players. The time has come for that
top line to do just that.
3) The decision to put a clearly-injured
Brandon Prust back in the lineup. The decision to sit Daniel Briere was
puzzling but understandable given that Therrien seems to have no desire
whatsoever to play him off the fourth line and theoretically, a player more
suited to play that style could help the team. But putting Prust back in
makes little sense. He wasn’t contributing much before, why would they
think he could now? This is one change that needs to be changed again.
Assists: P.K. Subban (8)
Points: P.K. Subban (12)
+/-: Mike Weaver (+5)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (12)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (33)
With the AHL season now over, there aren’t many
prospects still playing but a few are still seeing action.
Mike Condon – Wheeling: The Nailers are
now on the verge of elimination as they trail Greenville three games to two.
On the plus side, the final two games are in Wheeling but Condon will need his
best efforts to make it to the third round.
Jeremy Gregoire/Charles Hudon – Baie-Comeau:
The Drakkar are one game away from moving on to the Memorial Cup and securing
the QMJHL title. On the flip side, they’re one game away from elimination
as their series is tied at three apiece. Both Gregoire and Hudon are
averaging a point per game (21 points in 21 games each).
Robert Mayer – Switzerland: Mayer is
with Team Switzerland at the World Championships. However, he hasn’t been
officially added to the roster yet. I suspect they’re holding out hope
that Jonas Hiller can suit up as the tournament progresses. If so, Mayer
will be sent home but if not, he should be added in the next week or so.
Magnus Nygren – Sweden: Nygren has begun
the tournament in the #7 role while taking a regular shift on the powerplay.
He has an assist in two games so far and is averaging around 9:30 per game.
Martin Reway – Slovakia: Reway saw a
regular shift in Slovakia’s first game, playing primarily on the second line.
Unfortunately, he was banged up a bit in practice and saw limited action as the
13th forward in their second contest.
There are all sorts of potential storylines to
follow as the Habs head into Game 6 on Monday. Can the front line get
going? Will Carey Price steal another game? Will somewhat recent
history (five straight wins over Boston in Game 6 situations) repeat itself?
While those are all ones to follow, none of those have the potential to carry
forward into next season. The most intriguing element to watch for in my
In 2013, the Canadiens lost Game 4 in OT to
Ottawa. Facing elimination the next game, they got crushed 6-1 and ended
their run on quite a sour note. Now, Montreal finds themselves in that
situation again for the first time. How do they respond? If they
struggle out of the gate and get beaten handily, it’s going to send a message to
management. Not the type of message that gets a coach fired but one that
suggests that the current leadership group can’t win when the spotlight is at
Last season, the defeat at the hands of the
Senators could at least in part be attributed to injuries. That crutch
doesn’t exist this time around. If Montreal loses big time in Game 6,
there will be changes coming. Of course, the flip side is that they go out
there, play well, and win the game. That will send the right message to
management…and force a Game 7 in the process. Either way, we’re going to
learn something about this group on Monday night. What that will be makes
for the most interesting storyline of all.