It may not have been the prettiest of victories but the Habs ended their season with a pair of wins to secure first place in their division for the second time in three years. Things aren’t so rosy for the Bulldogs who lost two of their three contests which is a big blow to their postseason hopes. A few forwards seem to be getting the attention in terms of who some of Montreal’s wildcards will be in the playoffs but my Final Thought argues why the biggest one is on their blueline.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Secondary contributions. In both games this past week, as well as the Florida one, the Habs had something resembling a balanced attack. Heading into the postseason, it’s nice to have a few players who have had some recent offensive success which should be good for confidence purposes.
2) Carey Price’s recent struggles. He was bound to have a few so-so games after being so sharp for so long. It’s better for him to get those moments out of the way when the games have a lot less meaning instead of the playoffs where the spotlight shines a whole lot brighter and the pressure is much higher.
3) No one else getting hurt. The decision to play the full lineup for both games was a strange one. At least it didn’t come back to bite them in the form of any more injuries.
1) Sitting Mike Weaver for both games. This is someone who played an important and regular role in the postseason last year and has demonstrated he can step it up when the games matter more. Despite that, Weaver heads into the postseason playing a grand total of 5:02 over the last two months. Michel Therrien found time to play Manny Malhotra and Sergei Gonchar recently, why not Weaver? Now, he’s going to be too rusty to even consider using him unless the Habs have a boatload of injuries. That’s not right.
2) Those openly wondering if an early playoff exit will see Therrien handed his walking papers. It’s not going to happen. Even if the Habs were to get swept, it’s almost certain that Therrien will get one more look with a re-jigged roster (albeit on much thinner ice than he is now). The only way Therrien gets let go is if the entire leadership core of the Canadiens asked to be dealt because of their coach and no one should expect that to happen. It’s safe to say he’s sticking around no matter what happens vs Ottawa.
3) Over playing the top players these last few games. I know a division title is nice but did Subban and Markov have to play over 28 minutes in each game to achieve that? Did Plekanec need to play almost 22 minutes per game in those two contests? It’s one thing to not rest the players, it’s another to play them more than their season average in games that didn’t mean a whole lot.
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Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Max Pacioretty (37) – T-5th in NHL
Assists: P.K. Subban (45)
Points: Max Pacioretty (67)
+/-: Max Pacioretty (+38) – T-1st in NHL
PIMS: Brandon Prust (134) – 6th in NHL
Shots: Max Pacioretty (302) – 3rd in NHL
The Dog Pound
The Bulldogs have seen their playoff hopes drop considerably after losing two of three. For them to have any chance at making it now, they’ll need to go 3-0 in their final week of the season.
News and Notes:
– Another defenceman is out now as Bryan Allen will miss the next 6-8 weeks with a foot injury. There are now four regular blueliners on the shelf.
– Tim Bozon has been re-assigned to the Bulldogs although he was a healthy scratch in both games against Texas.
– The Bulldogs are now three points out of the final playoff spot with just three games to go. Toronto, who sits eighth, also has a game in hand on Hamilton.
– Lines from the most recent game:
Carr – Hudon – Andrighetto
Tangradi – Dumont – Thomas
Bowman – Hensick – Sorkin
Fournier – Dowell – McNally
Bennett – Dietz
Ellis – Lernout
Shea – Didier
April 7: Utica 3, Hamilton 1
April 10: Hamilton 4, Texas 3
April 11: Texas 5, Hamilton 0
Goals: Daniel Carr (23)
Assists: Hensick/Hudon (38)
Points: T.J. Hensick (56)
+/-: Davis Drewiske (+15)
PIMS: Joe Finley (132)
Shots: Gabriel Dumont (173)
April 14: Hamilton vs Oklahoma City
April 17: Hamilton vs Lake Erie
April 18: Lake Erie vs Hamilton
With the postseason on the horizon, many are trying to guess who the wildcards will be for the postseason. Who will be this year’s Rene Bourque or Lars Eller? Not surprisingly, many are picking Eller to repeat his strong play while others are thinking Dale Weise and Devante Smith-Pelly will also find new levels to their games. Those are all good choices but I think the true wildcard is on Montreal’s blueline.
Since being acquired, we’ve seen two sides of Jeff Petry. One is the defensively responsible one that doesn’t do much with the puck while the other is defensively responsible and is capable of putting up points. The first version is still a quality top four blueliner but the second is a difference maker. The Habs have two defencemen who can make a big impact on the game at both ends of the rink. If they have a third who can do so even most nights, that will be a boon for Montreal’s playoff hopes.
All of the Canadiens’ impact players (goalies, top four defencemen, and top six forwards) have some NHL playoff experience except for one…Jeff Petry. The last time he saw postseason action was back in 2010-11 where he saw action in six AHL postseason games. His last playoff series before that was back in his days in the USHL just after being drafted by Edmonton. There’s always a question of how a player will fare in his first NHL playoff action; add that to Petry’s up-and-down offensive potential and you have yourself a true wildcard heading into the Ottawa series.