Early on in the year if you had told me that the Habs would have the chance, with the playoffs on the line, to finish off the year against the Islanders, Hurricanes, and Maple Leafs I would have told you it was money in the bank. However, as is the case often when a team has been eliminated from playoff contention, and players are playing for jobs next season, bad teams become very tough teams to play against. The Islanders are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and are not to be taken lightly. They feature a host of young, talented players – almost all of whom are playing for their NHL lives. While everyone knew that Tavares would be an NHLer, names like Moulson, Neilsen, and Okposo have emerged as a core group that the Islanders can build around.
The Habs meanwhile have everything to play for tonight. It is possible that they could clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win and a combination of Ranger, and Flyer losses. More importantly in my eyes is the potential to enter the playoffs playing well, and feeling good as a team with the opportunity before them. Against the Sabres you had to like the play of our 3rd and 4th lines. Any time you can have your depth players win one for you, you have to be pleased. It is concerning however, that some of our top 6 are entering the dreaded “drought” territory. Both top lines have had their struggles finding the back of the net in recent games. As nice as it is to have our bottom 6 contributing, you don’t win on most nights if your best players aren’t your best players.
Speaking of our best players. Jaro Halak is on absolute fire right now, and will be in net once again tonight. I would suspect that we see Carey only in the event that we lock up a playoff spot before Saturday, or Jaro has a melt-down. It appears as if Halak will get the playoff opportunity that he has earned over the course of the past few seasons as the backup. I couldn’t be happier for him, and the club. With so many of the top teams entering the post season with question marks in net, Montreal can at least rest easy knowing that goaltending is not a problem going forward.
Big one tonight as always. Go Habs Go!!