Habs vs. Lightning Series Preview

The playoff match-ups are finally set, with the Habs heading to Tampa to take on the Lightning. Tampa Bay finished the season at (46-27-9, 101 points) to ever so slightly rob the Habs (46-28-8, 100 points) of home ice advantage (thank you, Nick Backstrom). To get ready for what will hopefully be a great series, let’s take a look and see who has the advantage.

Forwards

Montreal: While the Habs have found a way to score recently (not including the last 3 games), they are having some serious problems on the powerplay. In fact, it’s been 8 games since Montreal recorded a powerplay goal. Putting that aside, other than the Vanek – DD – Pacioretty line, no other line merits any attention from the other teams’ shut down guys. The loss of Galchenyuk isn’t huge, but it doesn’t help either.

Wild card- Danny Briere: In order for the Habs to succeed, Danny Briere needs to be his usual playoff self. He has been a point per game player over his playoff career and if Briere can step up on a line with Plekanec and Gallagher, the Habs chances will skyrocket.

Tampa Bay: Even without Steven Stamkos for 40+ games, the Bolts were able to outscore the Habs by 25 goals this year. Other than Stamkos, Tampa has some good depth including Ryan Callahan, Val Filppula, Alex Killorn, Teddy Purcell and rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Wild card- Nikita Kucherov: Tampa has a tonne of depth up front but one guy who could really turn the table in favour of Tampa is Nikita Kucherov. The super skilled Russian hasn’t put up great numbers this season, but the kid is insanely skilled. If Kucherov breaks out, it would give the Bolts three lines that could score- something that the Habs defence may not be able to match up with.

Advantage: Tampa Bay

Defence

Montreal: This really comes down to who plays. With Murray or Bouillon in the lineup, the Habs are in trouble. Tampa has too much speed for those two veterans, and will give the Habs fits if they can get Stamkos’ line out against either of them. If Tinordi plays, its a different story. Although it’s unlikely, if the Habs lineup includes Markov, Emelin, Subban, Gorges, Weaver and Tinordi on the back-end, I like their chances. If it’s Bouillon or Murray over Tinordi, cross your fingers.

Wild card- PK Subban: If PK goes back to being PK, the Habs are golden. If he continues to struggle, it could spell to disaster for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

Tampa Bay: The Lightning have a good mix of youngsters and veterans on the back end. Sami Salo, Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer have been solid defencemen in this league for years. Along with Victor Hedman, who is having an outstanding year, the Lightning blue is very solid, and underrated.

Wild card- Matt Carle: While he hasn’t been bad by any means, Matt Carle is not the same player he was in Philadelphia. He didn’t put up great numbers offensively this season, although he did finish a +11. If Carle can chip in offensively, the Bolts with get a huge boost.

Advantage: Montreal

Goaltending

Montreal: There’s not much to be said here. Carey Price is the best goalie in the world. If the Canadiens can limit Tampa’s scoring chances, this series will be finished early.

Tampa Bay: Ben Bishop has had a stellar season, but right now, he’s out with an injury. Anders Lindback has played well in relief, but without Bishop, the Bolts are toast.

Advantage: Montreal

Coaching

Montreal: As much as you hate Therrien, his team surpassed 100 points, and is in the playoffs. Although a lot of his moves are questionable ones, he’s had many instances where they have payed off this year. As hard as it is to admit, Therrien has done a terrific job this season. As long as he plays his best players and allows them to be creative, the Habs should be good to go.

Tampa Bay: If it weren’t for Patrick Roy, Jon Cooper would be my Jack Adams winner. Plagued by injuries and drama non-stop throughout the entire season, Cooper still has his team, one that traded their captain mid-season, in the playoffs with home-ice advantage. Clearly this guy is doing something right.

Advantage: Tampa Bay

Prediction: Call me a Homer, but I’m taking the Habs in 6.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZigNasty2Point0

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