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All good things must come to an end, and the Canadiens winning streak did just that, after falling to New Jersey on the weekend.  Meanwhile, the Bulldogs, despite being out of the playoffs, discovered something they were lacking most of the season, a winning touch, taking 2 of 3.  Also, the latest standings and number crunching in the East, plus my thoughts on the Sean Avery-Brian Hayward incident.

Canadiens Recap:

Despite losing their first game in 3 weeks, it was another strong showing for the Canadiens.  Tuesday vs Boston saw Cristobal Huet’s shutout streak against the Bruins snapped, but the offence came alive in a 5-3 victory.  Thursday night saw another divisional opponent in Ottawa, with similar results, a 5-3 victory, this time, with David Aebischer playing his best game as a Hab.  Then came Saturday, where the Habs were the better team, but took too long to get one by Marty Brodeur, dropping a 3-2 count.

The Good:  Chris Higgins, where’d he come from?  15 goals in 21 games since the Olympic break, moving him up to 2nd on the team in goals.

The Bad:  The loss of Francis Bouillon and now Steve Begin could very well leave a hole in the team’s physical play, not exactly a good thing heading down the stretch.

The Ugly:  What’s gone wrong with Alexander Perezhogin?  The highly touted Russian was pegged as at least an adequate sniper, but has just 3 goals in his last 35 games, not including a stint in Hamilton where he failed to score as well.

The Curious:  He’s 6’0, 191 lbs, and hails from Sweden.  Can anyone guess who this is?  That’s right, Nik Sundstrom, who’s played just 6 games since February.  Just thought I’d remind everyone that he’s alive and well, and presumed bored to death from being a healthy scratch all too often.

Bulldogs Recap:

The Bulldogs are showing life!  The only problem, it’s about 8 weeks too late.  The week started off with a 5-2 loss Wednesday to Syracuse, before taking care of Cleveland and Manitoba by 4-3 scores on Friday and Saturday.  3 games remain in the ‘Dogs season now.

The Good:
  So far this season, the Habs have signed 3 players originally under AHL contract, D’s Andre Benoit and James Sanford, plus C Francis Lemieux.  All are top-10 in points on a low-scoring Bulldogs squad.

The Bad:  It seems as if Yann Danis has lost the starting job in Hamilton, at least for the last little while.  Danis has started just 6 games since February 18, winning just 1 of those.

The Ugly:  Someone needs to teach Corey Locke and Andrei Kostitsyn some defence, or at least, a little more than what they know.  The 2 biggest offensive threats on the ‘Dogs are a whopping -33.

The Curious:  Here’s a stat to make you think: No player on the Bulldogs has a higher PPG ratio than PIMS per game.

Playoff Picture:

With the battle for the final playoff spots already underway, we’ll be taking a look at how the schedule shapes up for the teams that the Habs are trying to catch, as well as those they’re trying to stay ahead of.

Weekly Schedule:

Before we look at the standings, let’s see who’s playing who this week. 

Team Matchups (number is the date)
New Jersey 11 @ Carolina, 13/16 vs Philadelphia, 18 @ Montreal
Tampa Bay 11 vs Atlanta, 14 @ Carolina, 15 vs Carolina, 18 vs Washington
Montreal 10 vs Ottawa, 12 @ Buffalo, 13 @ Boston, 15 vs Buffalo, 18 vs New Jersey
Atlanta 11 @ Tampa, 13 vs Washington, 15 vs Boston, 17 @ Washington, 18 @ Florida
Toronto 11 vs Florida, 13 @ Islanders, 15 vs Ottawa, 16 @ Buffalo, 18 vs Pittsburgh

These are the remaining matchups for the season, not just for this week.


Now, let’s look at the standings.  For clarity sake, we only have total points and games remaining listed in the table.

6. New Jersey 4 93
7. Tampa Bay 4 89
8. Montreal 5 89
9. Atlanta 5 83
10. Toronto 5 82

Standings as of games played through Sunday, April 9th.

Magic Numbers:

Right now, the magic number to clinch the playoffs is 2.5 (wins), or 5 (points). 

IF Montreal wins 3 games, or Atlanta loses 3, or any combination thereof, Montreal clinches a playoff spot.
IF Montreal wins 2 games, or Toronto loses 2, or any combination thereof, Montreal ensures that they will finish ahead of the Leafs. 
IF New Jersey wins 2 games, or Montreal loses 2, or any combination thereof, the Habs will not be able to catch the Devils.
IF Montreal wins 4 games, or Tampa Bay loses 4, or any combination thereof, Montreal will finish ahead of the Lightning.

Around the rinks:

He’s back:

Former Canadiens G Jose Theodore made his debut Sunday vs Minnesota, coming in after Peter Budaj was yanked after allowing a pair of goals in 6 minutes.  Theodore stopped 16 of 19 shots and was saddled with the loss in a 5-3 contest.

Sharks prospect takes home NCAA’s best:

San Jose D Matt Carle was awarded the 2006 Hobey Baker award earlier this week as the NCAA’s top player.  Canadiens prospect Yann Danis was nominated for the award back in 2004.

Jagr gets the final piece:

Last week, we showed all the recent records Ranger W Jaromir Jagr had broken.  This past week, he set the final one, surpassing Adam Graves for the club record with his 53rd goal of the season. 

Many more out of contention:

This past week saw many more teams drop out of playoff contention.  In the East, the Islanders and Florida were eliminated, while out West, both Phoenix and Minnesota said good-bye to their playoff aspirations.

Final Thought:

In case you missed it, on Saturday, NBC broadcaster (and former Canadiens G) Brian Hayward and Kings C Sean Avery had a war of words over something Hayward said during a Kings-Ducks game on Tuesday night.  At one point, Kings assistant coach Ray Bennett had to restrain Avery from going after Hayward physically.  What a disgrace!  I’m not sure what came over Avery, or why he thought he had the right to verbally assault a broadcaster for something he said during the course of a hockey game.  This is just another of the series of which Avery has taken a good thing, and gone too far with it.  The good thing here: He has the guts to speak his mind and not give the old fashioned cliché, as too many athletes in sports do nowadays.  But, all too often, he’s gone completely over the top, as he did here yet again.  I will admit that I respect Avery for willing to speak out like he does, but I find myself losing that respect with each passing ridiculous remark. 

However, what bothers me the most is that the NHL did absolutely nothing to Avery for this incident, he walks away scot-free again.  If the NHL really wanted to send a message to Avery, they would’ve shut him down for the rest of the season, the Kings aren’t making the playoffs anyways.  It would’ve sent the right message to the other players, broadcasters, and most importantly, the fans, that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.  By not doing anything about it, the NHL is condoning this type of abuse, and, when I sit down and think about it, I may have lost more respect for the disciplinary committee here then I did for Avery.  What a shame…