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  • Round One: Game Five

    The Montreal Canadiens were fairly healthy for most of the strike-shortened 48 game season. Despite lengthy absences from concussed players Raphael Diaz, Rene Bourque, and finally Alexei Emelin, the Habs managed for the most part to avoid any detrimental injuries that would cost them in the standings. Like every team, they took their knocks and got back into the lineup as quickly as possible.

    The playoffs unfortunately have been an altogether different experience. The list of casualties is becoming rather long and dispiriting. Even if the miraculous happened, and Montreal were able to win the next 3 games of their first round series, they would need to do so without some incredibly critical players.

    Lars Eller is done for the year. The injuries that he sustained during the violent open-ice check will require a significant amount of time to heal. He is reported to have skated with the team yesterday, which is fantastic news, but anyone who has suffered facial fractures knows that he will not be playing full-contact any time in the near-future.

    Brian Gionta is also gone for the duration of play. Gionta re-injured his left bicept in Game 1 of the series which required surgery yesterday to fix. This definitely explains the quiet series for the captain who certainly did not look comfortable at any point this post season.

    It was also revealed yesterday that Alexei Emelin has not yet had surgery on his knee following the devastating fall he took on a check that he put on Milan Lucic in April. This is definite grounds for concern as the recovery time for that type of injury necessitates a long rehabilitation meaning the Montreal will likely be without the services of Emelin for much of the first half of next season as well.

    Ryan White and Brandon Prust are both unavailable for Game 5 due to upper body injuries. The latter never really looked healed from his separated shoulder injury sustained late in the regular season.I would be shocked if Prust were to return for Game 6 even if Montreal is able to grit out a win tonight, given that he has added an injury to his abdomen to his already ailing shoulder.

    The final nail in the coffin is the injury to Carey Price. Price has been insanely durable through his career, but suffered a lower body injury on the final shot of regulation time in Game 4 of this series. Price hobbled from the ice following the awkward stretch and did not return in Montreal’s heart-breaking loss. He will not return to this series however much longer it lasts -suffering from what is almost certainly a strained or pulled muscle in his leg(s) or groin.

    Michael Blunden has been inserted into the lineup in place of Brandon Prust and will at least give the Habs a player who has experience playing NHL hockey. The other player who will step in to the lineup has not been announced as of yet, but HIO has reported that Michael Bournival participated in the morning skate. Bournival has played big games in the past as a part of Team Canada at the World Juniors, but he is going to be in tough to make much of a contribution tonight in his first ever NHL playoff game.

    I hate to be a pessimist (not really) but it doesn’t look good for your Canadiens tonight. Those injuries are going to be extremely difficult to overcome, and while it isn’t over until you lose 4 games, you can be forgiven if you don’t like the Habs odds in this one.

    Let’s hope for the miraculous!

    Go Habs Go!!

    ~Mats

  • Round One: Game Four

    One of the traps that people often fall into when predicting an outcome of a game, series or season is that they assume that what has happened in the recent past must continue. Before the start of this year’s season, there wasn’t a pundit around who expected that the Habs would make the playoffs, let alone win the North East Division. There were very few people who expected that PK Subban would be a finalist for the Norris Trophy. We see it every year – and its something that I tend to bring up before the start of the season when all of the silly predictions are being made about who will be good and who will be bad – only to be proven entirely wrong a month or two into the year.

    I bring this up again because I think this also occurs over the course of a playoff series (especially early). Montreal lost the first game of this series and then suited up for game 2 without Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller or Brian Gionta. The sentiment out there in the ether was that the Habs were done. Stick a fork in ‘em.

    Then they won. Not only did they win, they won convincingly. It wasn’t a rout, but the Habs were the better team, and having pumped 50 shots on net in the game prior – the pundits and commentariat declared that this was Montreal’s series to win.

    And then they lost. This time it was a rout. It got ugly. It got violent. The optics are bad. The team lost the puck battles, they lost the goalie battles and they lost the fights. They were forced to play a game that they aren’t comfortable with and now, it seems as though their number is up. Ottawa surely seems like the stronger of the two clubs, given how thoroughly they won game 3.

    Still, I can’t shake the feeling that in the playoffs you really need to forget what happened in the prior game. Game 4 has nothing to do with Game 3. What took place over the course of 3 periods has no bearing on what will happen tonight, and if you expect to see more of the same – then more times than not you will be wrong. This is no guarantee. I’m not saying that there won’t be a fight, or that there is no chance that we see a soft goal, or a defensive lapse. We’ve seen too much playoff hockey over the past few years (excluding last year of course) to expect that a series could be over simply because one team has a 2-1 lead. Montreal has overcome greater challenges than this in recent history.

    Thoughts on the Norris

    I did want to mention that PK Subban has been named a finalist for the Norris Trophy along with Kris Letang and Ryan Suter. In the end I think that PK’s goals (11) will probably give him the edge over Letang (5) – who ended up tied with Subban for regular season points.  Letang averaged more ice-time per game than Subban, though in fewer shifts per game. All of this will more than likely be moot however, as I suspect that Subban will probably lose the Norris to a more established player in Ryan Suter, who played more than 27 minutes per game and amassed 32 points. This is in no way a slam dunk, but the perception out there is that Suter’s overall game was more consistent than Subban’s over the course of the season.

    I’m torn on this issue. I love PK Subban’s game and I’m admittedly biased in how I view these two players. I honestly also think that we’re just starting to see the true talent level that PK has. The fact that he’s a candidate for Norris at 23 years old is phenomenal. Even as a huge fan, I see room to grow in his game and ultimately I think this is why many will vote for Suter. PK probably made too many headlines this season for reasons other than his play on the ice, which always has an effect with the writers who vote for these awards. Ryan Suter is a fantastic defenseman though so my point is definitely not to suggest that the award was PK’s to lose. I’d love for the Habs to be able to sign Subban long term for something less than ALL of the money.. so maybe I’m biased in that direction too.

    Go Habs Go!!

    ~Mats