Habs vs Sens, Game on!

blogs.montrealgazette.com

blogs.montrealgazette.com

Yes fans, the Montreal Canadiens are in the playoffs, even taking the division after Sunday night’s loss of the Boston Bruins at the hands of the Ottawa Senators.

The Sens are who the Habs will be playing come this Thursday in round one of the post-season.

Restaurants and bars will be full, friends will be having BBQ’s and drinking beer during the work week and partying with delight.

Fans will be honking their car horns, cars which will be adorned with Hab flags and memorabilia.

The city will be alive with a playoff atmosphere, while new rivalries will be made with the Sens.

Playoff hockey for the Habs is back, here’s what I’ll be looking at:

 

lapresse.ca

lapresse.ca

The kids, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. They both have been a spark for the Habs this season, Gallagher with his incessant drive and never say die attitude to put himself in harm’s way to score a goal. Glachenyuk with his magic hands and ability to pass to the open man as well as being the right place at the right time to score.

Both of these rookies will see the NHL playoffs for the first time and be able to experience what the playoffs as a Hab is, the excitement, the atmosphere and the pressure.

They will have fun I’m sure, and will undoubtedly intensify their game as it will be something new for them.

As long as Gally and Galch keep doing what they are doing, things in the post-season will be as they were for them, exciting and productive.

Kudos to Michel Therrien for reuniting them once again as they were together at the start of the season.

lapresse.ca

lapresse.ca

Lars Eller, my how he has improved. Most improved player for the Habs in my opinion this season.

If there is one thing ex-general manager Pierre Gauthier did right, it was acquiring Eller.

Eller had 30 points this season, all while not being on the power play much at all, that was taken by David Desharnais. While Eller has become a better faceoff man, plays well in his own zone, and has recently started taking the body, which DD does neither well, as well as dazzling fans, coaches and opposing players with his skill while handling the puck, has remained off the pp for the most part.

One wonders what Therrien is waiting for to place Eller between Pacioretty and either Ryder or Bourque. Eller has outplayed DD for pretty much the whole season yet didn’t get the pp time that DD did, imagine….

Eller’s size and playing style will be needed in the post season. Eller’s progression has been exquisite in the regular season, time to see what he can do in the playoffs this season.

www.sportsderuelle.ca

www.sportsderuelle.ca

Jarred Tinordi. While being part of the trio of defenseman who had a tryout with the Habs this season, the other three being Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu, Tinordi played well during his first stint, but was sent back to Hamilton to further his progress and develop his physical play.

Alexei Emelin went down with a knee injury, Nathan Beaulieu was called back up, but the Habs saw that their need was not for a puck mover, but a replacement for Emelin’s physical play. Tinordi was called up again after practicing his physicality back in Hamilton.

Since being called up for a second time, Tinordi has excelled. His constantly moving long reaching stick, not to mention throwing his body around and using his brain while doing it helped the Habs win their last two games, especially last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tinordi brings back what was lost with Emelin’s injury. TInordi still needs to learn when not to pinch, but he will learn that quickly. Tinordi also needs to develop his mean streak, which might come in the playoffs as he will be facing the same players for a minimum of four games in row. I look forward to seeing what he brings come playoff time when it’s a grind and a tough haul.

tvasports.ca

tvasports.ca

Brandon Prust. His will and determination to do anything to help the team hasn’t been seen since Steve Begin, Although Prust is a better version of Begin, can pass, shoot, fight, hit,  block shots (even while hurt from a previously blocked shot in the past minute), great on the penalty kill and skates well with some speed, enough to keep up to the Gally’s when the need arises. Begin was all heart, Prust is all heart as well as is a really good player that is not detrimental to his team and knows when to fight.

Prust was a great acquisition by general manager Marc Bergevin. Brings everything you need to win, including in the playoffs and he will be needed to counter the Chris Neil effect from the Ottawa Senators.

Prust is a true warrior, rumours are that he played slightly injured in the final three games this season, so no one has to fear that he is a playoff type player and knows what it takes to win, I wish he had a brother the Habs to sign.

lapresse.ca

lapresse.ca

P.K. Subban. Who can honestly not be incredibly happy with what he has done this season, what with matching his highest point total of 38 points but doing it in 35 fewer games better still, in 2010-11 when PK had 38 points, he also was a -8, this year having the same points in fewer games, PK is a +12. PK has matured, no more outbursts in practice or on the ice, he seems to be taking the lead from Andrei Markov quite well. PK’s skating has improved (as if it needed to), and he is a smarter player this season. PK still uses his insane hard shot from the point but has also fooled the opposing goalie by throwing in a wrist shot from time to time.

PK will be the replacement for Markov in the near future as the number one defenseman for the Habs. It will be exciting to see PK against the Sens Erik Karlsson, the two will undoubtedly want to outdo each other.

PK will be heavily counted on in this post-season, the grind will be tough and with Markov already appearing to be tired, PK will have to compensate.

sportsderuelle.ca

sportsderuelle.ca

Carey Price. Yes, he did have his share of slumps and squeaker goals this season, but he’s also the reason the Habs had such a great season.

Price lost his game for a while, but gained it back making spectacular saves as usual to finish off the season. Lots has been said about Price this year, more bad than good. I for one have stood by and protected him all season, however, this post-season is his chance to quiet all the nay sayers and critics from throughout the year.

Carey Price now has a chance to show everyone why he is the number one goalie, top five in the league during the coming playoffs.

Carey will have some work cut out for him with the likes of the Sens, good forwards and Karlsson, it will be tough, but that’s what Price loves, a challenge, well, he has one now, time to puck up.

Price found his game, got used to the way the Habs were playing without Emelin, and is now poised to proclaim his net and show the world why he is a candidate for Team Canada’s goalie in the next Olympics.

www.985sports.ca

www.985sports.ca

Andrei Markov. He has shown everyone that his knee could hold up this season, albeit a shortened one.

Markov’s defensive gap closing has suffered this year, not being able to pivot to his left to chase an opposing player has hampered him as well. Markov does have 30 points this season but is also a -9. His offensive attributes are still great, PP time has suited him as almost all of his points were gathered on the man advantage, first with Raphael Diaz, then with Subban as his partner.

Markov was looking tired for the last 9 games of the season, having only played 20 games total for the past two previous seasons, the shortened season with 4 games a week mostly and many back-to-back games caught up to him. Now, however, with 4 days to rest before the playoffs start, he may get a little breather.

Markov’s offensive skill is still there and Ottawa will have to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t sneak in off the slot for a goal (a play seldom used this season, but one at which he excels).

thehockeyhouse.net

thehockeyhouse.net

Tomas Plekanec.  His play was lights out at the start of the season, he hit a slump, but came out of it.

Pleky is always good defensively and strong in the faceoff circle. His offensive prowess will be needed against the Sens as well as his penalty killing minutes.

Underrated in the NHL as a smallish forward, Pleky has both speed and intelligence to make plays happen.

Pleky seemed ready to play the Leafs last Saturday, hopefully he is equally ready to play the Sens.

 

 

exruefrontenac.com

exruefrontenac.com

Brian Gionta. Returned after an injury last season to play well. 14 goals and a plus 3, more is expected of him, but he played well enough this season. Gionta is a well-seasoned veteran and is never afraid to plant his skates in front of the net.

He also had a slump at one point in the year, but has seemingly come out of it.

His leadership will be required in the playoffs, to help the rookies stay focused and concentrated.

Hopefully he can keep playing like he has for a majority of this year, and more so against the Sens where there will be more speed needed to beat their fast defencemen, like Erik Karlsson.

 

www.cbc.ca

www.cbc.ca

Rene Bourque. He has played good this season. After it was found out that last season he had an abdomen injury which explained his horrible play, Bourque came back to start fresh this year and on fire, driving the net, working hard in the corners and getting some points, unfortunately it ended abruptly due to a sucker punch by the Leafs Colton Orr which resulted in a concussion.

Bourque has been back for a few games now, enough to get his legs back and be in game shape, which is good, his size is needed, and during the Winnipeg Jets game as well as the Leafs game. Bourque made his presence known by driving to the net on a few occasions, and throwing his weight around, enough that opposing teams noticed.

Bourque coming back completes the forward position, as the Habs now have a full compliment of forwards at their disposition, he was a welcomed sight as the line shuffling Therrien was doing has now stopped. Hopefully Bourque will bring what he brought at the start of the season during the playoffs. Bourque is pretty well-rested due to his previous injury.

www.ledevoir.com

www.ledevoir.com

Michael Ryder. Was a great trade by Bergevin. Traded for Erik Cole, Ryder came in and immediately paid dividends.

Although his play dropped in the last 10 games, Ryder is a playoff performer, and will undoubtedly get his game back come Thursday.

Ryder has matured as a player, still not a defensive stalwart, but plays better with the puck and still has his fast release near the net.

Unfortunately for him, he has been swapped from line-to-line as injured players came back and old lines were reunited.

Playoffs are where he excels, he should be back in his game form and taking shots for the playoffs.

hockey.dobbersports.com

hockey.dobbersports.com

Max Pacioretty. His play at the start of the season was good, then he slumped when Cole was traded, then gained his game back, then slumped again albeit this time because of a centre (Desharnais specifically) which wasn’t getting this shooter the puck at the right spots.

Patches has found his game again, without DD, he is taking his line on his shoulders and he brought something else to his game, hits! Max for the past four games of the season was throwing his body around, especially against the Leafs, which is what we’ve been waiting for, not just to drive the net, but be the all around power forward and throw hits as well.

Hopefully Pacioretty’s drive lately can light a fire under DD’s pants and make him play better.

Pacioretty’s new hitting prowess will be greatly appreciated, especially the room he’ll create by doing so, allowing small forwards or another winger to use the space and be in position to score.

 

lapresse.ca

lapresse.ca

Josh Gorges. He hasn’t had that great a season this year, playing on the opposite side of the ice from last year and hasn’t found his game from the previous season.

Hasn’t played horribly, but not the Gorges we all know and love. Still blocking shots but seems to have trouble in corners this season, not to mention the fact that his clearing of the crease in front of Price has been a problem.

Gorges still has the heart to block shots, and get in front of the puck. His heart will be needed in the playoffs. I’m sure he will return to form in the post-season, it’s a different type of game, one in which you lose too many and your out. Gorges knows that and should be able to be back at his normal pace of things come Thursday.

Playing too many minutes due to Diaz being injured this season didn’t help, but Diaz is back now.

www.rds.ca

www.rds.ca

Francis Bouillon. Frankie has been good this season, not great, but good. He hasn’t been the rough hit throwing little d-man we are all used to, but has been solid enough in his own end.

He came to the defense of his teammates a couple of times, and has blocked shots, although I would prefer seeing Bouillon throw a few more hits (which he is able to do), his play has been good defensively.

Now looking like he will be the father figure to younger defenceman like Tinordi, he’s a good player to have around to take the bulk of the pressure of the kids. I look forward to seeing what he brings come Thursday.

www.lapresse.ca

www.lapresse.ca

Raphael Diaz. He came with his full potential at the start of the season before getting injured with a concussion. Played superbly with Markov on the PP.

Diaz has a good shot, great passer in the offensive zone and can also play well defensively. He is a smallish d-man but has a quick first pass, skates well and knows when to pinch.

Diaz has come back from his injury during the last couple of games the Habs had this season, but he should be ready and in game shape by Thursday.

I look forward to seeing Diaz on the second PP with Subban (who will hopefully play both units).

Diaz will be a welcome sight in the playoffs as Gorges will have less ice time and be able to concentrate on his game more.

bostonherald.com

bostonherald.com

Alexei Emelin. Boom, he is missed, even with the call-up of Tinordi who is playing well, there is still a void where Emelin was.

Injured on a hit in the last game of the season between the Habs and the Boston Bruins on a hit which his knee collided with Milan Lucic’s knee, Emelin is out for the season. Too bad, Emelin didn’t have as many bone crushing hits this year, choosing more to focus on his game, but did throw a few nice hits every odd game, which kept the opposition honest.

Emelin’s physicality has been replaced for the time being, although the more the merrier. I would have loved to see Emelin bring his game up to playoff level and play with Tinordi on some shifts when things got rough, I can’t wait until next season to possibly see those two matched together against heavier teams.

Emelin is missed and will be more so in the playoffs. I’m sure he’ll be cheering loud enough for the fans to hear come Thursday.

lapresse.ca

lapresse.ca

Peter Budaj. What a great season as a back up, never complains, happy to be in Montreal, had an 8-1-1 record this season.

Budaj did his job, better than most expected. I was glad to see him finish the season with a win against the Leafs, it seemed as a fitting end to the season he gave the Habs, to win against a division rival, the hated Leafs.

Budaj might get some work here and there in the playoffs, although one would think it’s Price’s job to be the goalie in the playoffs, all depends on if the Habs have a considerable lead on any team. If the Habs break out to a 3-0 lead in a series, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Budaj make an appearance.

Budaj will be here for two more years. If he keeps bringing what he did this year, it will be a great thing to again have two goalies on which to count on, albeit Budaj in a supporting role.

ac.rds.ca

ac.rds.ca

Ryan White. The problem child of the year. Not being used to having the right to fight and play hard, it seems he had a hard time this season managing his heart and his brain. Yes, a couple of times he got a raw deal as he was coming to the aid of a teammate, but he also lost his marbles a few times this season.

White is the type of player one wants on the team. Can win faceoffs, hit, block shots and has been known to chip in with a goal here and there, not many, but still.

White was extremely impressive last Saturday against the Leafs, in a game where it seemed everyone and their donkeys were after him to make him lose his marbles again. White simply played a hard-hitting, good defensive, non-moronic game. Even at the end when Colton Orr and Dion Phaneuf were chasing him, and Phaneuf gave him a cheap shot hit from behind, White shrugged it off and went to the dressing room. If White can manage his aggression and use it well during the playoffs, like he did on Saturday, perhaps there will still be hope for this kid which many have written off.

legrandclub.rds.ca

legrandclub.rds.ca

Colby Armstrong. Armdog has played, well, decent this season. I say this only because Armdog didn’t bring what we were all waiting for, big clean hits. Amstrong was supposed to revitalize his career and show us shades of his glory days, maybe not the scoring kind as the Habs have no Sidney Crosby (which he played with most of the time in Pittsburgh), but the pesky hitter that never missed a chance to lay someone out.

Perhaps because of his past couple of injury plagued seasons, he decided to take it easy, but he got hurt anyway for a few weeks.

Armstrong may have brought leadership in the room, perhaps one could say he was even good at times on the fourth line, perhaps. But Armdog didn’t bring what was expected of him this season.

His play may go up a notch in the post-season, which I hope it does. Again, Armstrong didn’t play poorly, he just didn’t play that great either. Not detrimental at all, but not the guy we all thought we got when he was signed either.

Perhaps in this post season, he will bring what he did, decent d-zone play, but I am hoping for a little grit and hitting prowess we all know he has, if the need arises.

Now for my two deceptions of the season, two players which in my opinion did not bring much of anything on most nights, depending on the player, nothing at all really.

nhlbeat.blogspot.com

nhlbeat.blogspot.com

Travis Moen. This was supposed to be his year. He needs back up people said last year, Moen and White need back up. Well they got Prust this year, Moen disappeared. What a disappointment Moen has been all season.

This was Moen’s chance with his new contract to show what he can do besides be a decent penalty kill guy. The hits Moen has thrown this year wouldn’t crack an eggshell. Almost no physicality from Moen this season. A couple of fights which were not even fights, “Bodyshots” was a nick-name I heard all season.

If Moen has been injured all season, then Therrien should have sat him and played someone else in his place instead of playing Moen. I think more it has to do with Moen’s concussion last year, he hasn’t been the same since.

Not a bad guy, but unfortunately he is not doing what he is paid to do, be rough, create energy, help protect your teammates, and finish your checks, as well as be a decent PK guy. Hopefully he can bring his game up during the playoffs. I am really disappointed with Moen this season, hopefully the playoffs will sway my opinion.

swisshabs.blogspot.com

swisshabs.blogspot.com

David Desharnias. This player, too many people believed the hype about him, even the Habs management, in fact I think that is Bergevin’s only mistake this shortened season, re-signing DD to a four-year deal, worth roughly 3.5 million per year.

DD has not been playing as well as he did last year. Cole and Pacioretty were on his line like last year to start the season, that didn’t work. Then Prust gave it a go, nothing either. The newly acquired Ryder tried, more of the same, nothing. Not until the work ethic man himself Gallagher was put on the line did DD do anything.

DD’s play was so bad at times, even his best buddy Pacioretty was playing poorly because he wasn’t being given the puck in the right areas.

DD lacks size to be a centre, nevermind a number one centre which has been suggested by some media. DD’s lack of defensive zone coverage and poor faceoff winning capability render him, well, useless sometimes. But to mention the fact that his re-signing will hamper the developement of Eller and Galchenyuk, all because DD is taking all the PP time away from those two and not producing with it. If the Habs are to be successful in the post-season, they need all their centres playing well, not just there because he’s Pacioretty’s friend. Therrien realized that putting the Gally’s back together was long over due, and since taking Gallagher off DD’s line, it’s Pacioretty who has elevated his play to carry the line, not DD. If things don’t turn out well for DD after two games in the playoffs, hopefully one of the young kids will take his place, both especially on the powerplay where Desharnais is a dud. DD needs less time, and more should be given to the kids, who actually produce.

The Ottawa Senators are not to be taken lightly. Their coach Paul MacLean (who will most likely win the Jack Adams trophy) has made them play as a team this season with the loss of Craig Anderson for most of the year, Erik Karlsson for three quarters of the season, Jason Spezza for the whole season and even Milan Michalek missed half the season.

The Canadiens are no doubt working on their powerplay and penalty kill, but will have to take note, all the players listed above are back for the Sens with the exception of Spezza.

We match up pretty well in all facets with the Sens, speed, skill, can be physical if required and good goaltending. Tinordi being with the big club helps occupy the physcality void which Emelin has left, the only part we don’t match up with the Sens is in the heavy weight class. Although I can’t see the Sens playing Kassian just to fight, if he can’t ”play the game” he won’t be used much. Prust should cancel out Neil for the most part, the rest will be up to the team to do.

Canadiens versus the Sens starting Thursday May 2nd, 2013. I say Habs in six. Game on!!

GOHABSGO!!!

 

Reach me on twitter @habberfied

 

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