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» 2006 » April

  • Playoffs come home to Montreal

    The Bell Centre will be a rockin’ tonight as the Canadiens holding a seemingly impossible 2-0 lead against Carolina come home to the hockey mad city of Montreal looking to put the Canes in a stranglehold.

    Montreal is a buzz with playoff fever and tonight will be the most raucous environment the Habs or Canes have played in all season.

    Needless to say, a win tonight will all but guarantee the series and make a strong case for a 4-0 sweep. Only 2 teams have returned from a 3-0 deficit to win in the NHL Playoffs in over 60 years.

    What are the keys to winning?

    • Take advantage of the crowd. The atmosphere will be chaotic and taking advantage of that will be crucial. The first goal could be too much for the Canes to take. Contrarily if the Canes score and take the home fans out of it early they’ll get that much of an extra boost. The Canadiens have not trailed by more than a goal in the series and playing catchup against a Canes lead is not the style they want to play.
    • Getting to Ward/Gerber early. It’s still unknown who will start for the Canes in nets. In effort to shake things up you’d imagine that Ward will get the start. How will he react to the wildest playoff atmosphere in his first official playoff start? It’s got to be a pressure cooker for anyone much less a rookie – hammer him early and hammer him hard.
    • Defence – Sheldon Souray’s status is unknown and probably won’t play. If the Canadiens were tied or trailing he’d probably suit up but why force something while leading and expecting a long playoff run? The other D have to step up – Komisarek and Dandenault will be seeing more important ice and all have to be at their best.
    • Special Teams – Staying out of that box. Everything is being called and giving up unnecessary powerplays to the Canes is dangerous. It could just be a matter of time before they explode.
    • Goaltending – Like always Huet will have to be strong against the Canes offence. How he rebounds after a 5 goal game in Carolina will be key to the Habs winning. Nothing suggests that he won’t be his normal calm self and give a strong performance but limiting those shots and man advantages will definitely help him out.

    The Habs can really make a statement to the NHL tonight with another win and put themselves in a great position.

  • Habs Ride Rollecoaster to Victory

    What can you say about a game like that? Probably the best game all season long and the definition of playoff hockey. Extremely nerve racking for Canadiens fans who watched them squander a 3-0 first period lead and another lead late in the game.

    The Gerber factor definitely did matter as he did not shine on at least 2 goals and the Canadiens got that big lead they needed again early. You can almost guarantee that Gerber won’t start another game in this series. Trailing 2 games and heading out on the road somethings got to change for the Canes and the first thing will be the starting
    goalie.

    The Canadiens were unlucky on some of the penalties called on them late in the game. Particularly Craig Rivet’s and Perezhogin’s. The Canes were embarrassing the referees all game long by throwing up their arms and skating around whining and demanding penalties. Very unprofessional. You could sense the desperation and frustration in them.

    The Habs starting the 3rd period two men short allowed the tying goal and the Canes to take the lead only seconds later. It felt like the familiar story starting all over again. The Canadiens breaking down and about to fall to a better team. This might have been the most important time in the series because had the Canes erased the 3 goal lead and came back to win they would recapture all the momentum and confidence and be heading into Montreal tied 1-1.

    Montreal got the crucial goal from the playoff performer Kovalev burying a skill shot up under the bar. Moments later Zednik exposed the rookie goaltender with a rather weak shot that scored and gave the Canadiens the lead again. It didn’t end there however and in Peter Laviolette’s only smart coaching move to date he pulled the goalie early and with the extra attacker the Canes tied yet again.

    The Habs couldn’t seal it. In overtime the Canadiens were awarded 2 powerplays and again couldn’t find a way to bury it. With the next goal winning the game and the Canes on the powerplay this time it was almost too hard to watch. Both goalies made saves and kept their teams in it sending it to the second extra frame when Michael Ryder took a quick pass from Higgins in the slot and buried his typical quick release wrister into the back of the net.

    CANADIENS WIN! 2-0 SERIES LEAD!

    The bandwagon screeched to a halt as another few thousand Montrealers jumped on. New registrations on this site since the playoffs began have been up considerably.

    Sheldon Souray’s status is unknown as he left the game with a ‘lower body injury’. Which would be better described as what it really was – a puck in the nuts.
    Souray was bent over on the bench and almost looked like he was throwing up. Souray’s a tough player so it had to be fairly painful for him to stop. Hopefully it’ll just be that game he missed and not longer. The Canadiens defence picked up the slack for the most part but looked a little tired with everyone picking up more ice time.

    Bouillon looked like the warrior he is dishing out and receiving hits without blinking. He seems fully recovered from his injury and you can tell thrives on these type of games.

    So what happens now? The Canadiens are returning to Montreal with 2 games in their pocket and no doubt a wild reception at the Bell Center. If the Canes were any other team in this situation you’d almost guarantee a Canadiens series victory. The Canes showed their resilience and skill battling back against the Habs and at times looked too much for the Canadiens to handle. Although badly bruised they can still put up a fight. Remember the Canadiens last playoff victory against Boston when they started 0-2 before winning in 7. The key difference, they lost 2 on the road not at home.

    Cam Ward will most likely get the start and give the Canes a level playing field to start the game. The Canadiens will have to do more of the same and take advantage of a young inexperienced goalie while getting strong play from Huet. It’s tough not to pick the Canadiens right now and if they manage the 3rd win the sweep is almost a lock. That would be the story of the year in the NHL and propel the Habs into the next round as the biggest gun in the league.