It may not have been thought of as a rivalry
before but through three games of the quarterfinals, Montreal and Ottawa are
engaged in quite the series with Senators having the upper hand having won two of
three. There is lots to discuss about the series so far including how the
third period melee in Game 3 could work in the Habs’ favour which is the focus
of my Final Thought.
1) The rookies who so far have looked like
seasoned veterans in the postseason. Brendan Gallagher is quickly becoming
a key part of Ottawa’s game plan, Jarred Tinordi is logging quality sixth
defenceman minutes, and Alex Galchenyuk continues to make smart decisions with
the puck. This is very important experience for all three of them and they
all have passed the first test with flying colours.
2) Rene Bourque (aside from some questionable
hits in Game 3). With Max Pacioretty not 100%, he becomes the lone winger
capable of being a power forward and so far in this series, he has stepped up.
His speed has proven to be a problem for some of the Ottawa defencemen and his
scoring touch appears to be back for now as well.
3) The centres for their early success at the
faceoff dot. Aside from Galchenyuk who is really scuffling at the moment,
the other four centres have a combined success rate of just over 60%. For
a team that was among the worst in the league early on in the year, to have that
high of a success rate when it really counts is very impressive.
1) The neutralization of the defence. The
Habs during the regular season were known for having a lot of offence from their
blueliners but so far, Ottawa has shut them down. The six d-men have
combined for just two assists while Markov and Subban have been slowed
significantly on the powerplay.
2) David Desharnais, who has gone from rarely
shooting the puck to never shooting it; he is the only skater to play every game
and not record a shot. Where’s the aggression and the intensity he played
with last year? We saw it on one shift in Game 2 and it led to a goal.
One shift alone isn’t going to cut it though.
3) The ease by which some of the Habs are
getting thrown off their games. I think there was more than enough
evidence in Game 3 without needing to get in more detail. Mental toughness
is always important but it is even more in the playoffs and right now, it’s
lacking for quite a few players.
Assists: Galchenyuk/Plekanec/Subban (2)
Points: Rene Bourque (3)
+/-: David Desharnais (+2)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (27) (League leader)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (17) (League leader)
– The Alexander Avtsin era has mercifully come
to an end. The enigmatic Russian winger cleared termination waivers this
past week and was quietly released from his contract. There will be no cap
hit charged for the buyout just like there wasn’t with former prospect Alain
Berger. Avtsin saw his production and ice time dwindle year-by-year and
the final straw appears to have come when he refused to report when he was
re-assigned to Montreal’s ECHL affiliate to get some playing time. His
Hamilton career finishes up with 13 goals and 26 assists with a hideous -28
rating in 136 games.
– On a positive note with prospects, 2012 5th
rounder Charles Hudon signed a three year contract that commences next season
(so no, he can’t come up and play for the Habs in the playoffs). He is
ineligible to play full-time with the Bulldogs next year and is likely to return
to junior. Should he be sent back full time or play less than nine games
with Montreal (the games played threshold goes back to the old number in a full
season), the contract will slide and begin in 2014-15.
– Brendan Gallagher, to the surprise of very
few, was named one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s
top rookie. The other finalists were Jonathan Huberdeau from Florida and
Brandon Saad from Chicago. It is unknown at this time when the winners
will be announced due to the uncertainty of when the playoffs will end.
– Danny Kristo and Tim Bozon are off
representing their countries at the 2013 World Championships. Both have
played on the fourth lines of their respective countries early on. You can
follow their game-by-game progress with our
As hard as it may be to believe, I
think the humiliating massacre on Sunday night will do wonders to help the Habs
moving forward. They learned something that quite frankly they should have
learned the last time they tried to play extra physical (a blowout at the hands
of Toronto), that they can’t win playing that way. The message from the
coaching staff needs to be "stick to your strengths," using team speed and an
aggressive forecheck to control the play. I’m not saying forget hitting
altogether, just that it should be a secondary focus and not the sole one we saw
in the latter stages of Game 3.
I think most felt that there was a
build up of emotions and hostilities that was going to come to a head sooner
than later. I don’t think anyone expected the melee that ensued but
something was going to happen at some point. Now that it’s out of the way,
there should be fewer ‘antics’ and more hockey plays, something that I think
favours Montreal. Eric Gryba’s expected return to the lineup provides the
potential for a couple of fireworks but certainly not to the level of Sunday
night. The team has done well bouncing back from particularly tough games
so far this year and there’s no reason to think they’re not capable of doing so
again. This series is far from over.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel
free to drop me a line at [email protected].