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Game 76: Blackhawks/Habs

  • The return of Cristobal Huet and a rare visit from the Blackhawks at a crucial point in the season.

    The Habs are on a very slippery slope. It’s safe to say the Canadiens need to play above .500 to stay in 8th or better. A loss tonight wouldn’t give any team in the Eastern race the added points but with every other team in the race winning, the Habs need every point they can get.

  1. #1 Joseph says:
    March 31, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I think that anything short of a 5-2 record over the final stretch will fail to secure them a spot in the playoffs. Florida is going to keep coming. They played well earlier on before falling into a funk, and have seemingly rectified that funk in recent games.

    Take care of your own business, Habs, and everything else will take care of itself.

    Of course, Boston will likely destroy us in the first round before going on to lose to another team. They’ve got that trap crap down pretty well, and they’ll exploit the Habs’ defensive weaknesses every time.

  2. #2 Joseph says:
    March 31, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    I just wish that Gillett had been honest (ha!) when asked about his intentions to sell the team for some much needed profit. Is the drama really necessary? Was he protecting his players from the truth? How ridiculous. Enough of the smoke and mirrors.

  3. #3 Mats Naslund says:
    March 31, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    4-3 will get them in. We’re a point up on Florida and have an extra game. 4 wins would give us 94 points. Florida would have to win 5 of their final 6 games to beat that record. Given that they are 3-4-3 in their last ten I’m thinking Florida is in trouble. Not that Montreal’s 4-3-3 is much better..

  4. #4 Senet1 says:
    March 31, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    The only thing that worries me is that 5 of our last 7 are away and we do not exactly have a great road record.

  5. #5 Mats Naslund says:
    April 1, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I want to start this post by talking about a guy who I didn’t even have a roster space for when the season opened. Since that time he has done nothing but impress and I would say he is one of the FAs that Gainey should ABSOLUTELY go out and resign if even for one season next year. Mathieu Dandenault is so valuable to this team it amazes me sometimes. Because of the call-ups and his natural status as a 4th line forward, Dandenault has had a rough season. I don’t like the fact that he made it public that he wanted a trade at the deadline, but I DO love the fact that he is a competitor and just wanted the chance to go to war with some team.

    Dandenault’s versatility is his best strength. We all witnessed his potential earlier in the year when he moved from the healthy-scratch list back to defense. He was fantastic, and really helped the Habs get through some tough times while Komisarek and other D were banged up. Last night we got another taste of why Dandenault is such a valuable piece of this Canadiens team.

    After injuries to Sergei Kostitsyn (wow did MA and PA Kostitsyn ever pick a bad game to come watch the boys), and Roman Hamrlik, Dandenault was moved from his 4th line to defense immediately to defend a penalty for interference that Hamrlik had received as he got hurt. Dandenault didn’t miss a beat. The Habs killed the penalty thanks to hard forechecking by Higgins, Kostopoulos and solid defensive play by Dandy et al. The emergence of these types of players has really been something to behold, which brings me to my second point – it is all about roles.

    Under Carbo, the lines became so blurry between grinder and goal scorer etc. The most important task that Gainey has accomplished has been to set everyone straight in what he expects from them. Carey: make the saves you should make. Kovy, Koivu, Tanguay: create scoring chances and be the players you’re paid to be. Kostopoulos, Lapierre, Metro etc: Give the team hard work and sustained pressure.

    In the past four games Gainey has his players all playing to their strengths. He’s not trying to fit square pegs into round holes. The players are relaxed, they are making plays and finally the Canadiens are getting the results they need to be taken seriously as we near the playoffs. While the GM has taken more than his fair share of criticism for the team’s troubles, I’d also like to give him some credit. Just at the right time the Habs seem to be coming together.

    My final point comes with regard to the playoff race. The Habs finish this season with games against the Islanders, Leafs, Senators, Rangers, Bruins and Penguins. There are no guarantees or automatics in hockey, but the first three games of the final six are against teams well below them in the standings. The opportunity to control our own destiny is there. Not only this, but Montreal sits only 1 point behind the Rangers and 1 point ahead of the Panthers. While most are focused on the team behind, I think the Habs need to focus on the team in front. With a game in hand on the Rangers there is an opportunity to move into the 7th spot. The Rangers have been playing better of late, but are in tough with their schedule. They finish playing Carolina, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia X2. That is a tough stretch. All playoff teams and only Boston has little to play for at this point in the season.

    If Montreal can use their game in hand and seemingly ‘easier’ (no game is easy at this time of year), schedule to their advantage they could avoid a first round match-up with the Bruins and have the possibility of playing Washington. Even though every team is dangerous come playoff season, I think Montreal’s odds against Washington are better simply because they can match their speed and physicality. While the prospect of facing Ovechkin in the playoffs is daunting, I like our chances against Theodore, Backstrom etc once the games get tighter. We finally have a top line that can compete with others and Washington still has issues on defense as they’ve allowed 30 more goals than New Jersey and 40 more than Boston on the season.

  6. #6 Joseph says:
    April 1, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I would have to agree with all of your sentiments, MN. I’ve noticed the value of Dandenault but have failed to mention as much as I should have. Further, Gainey does know what he’s doing. And we’re finally beginning to see some of the bad habits being broken as not only has the team’s offensive players come back to life but it also played better defensively in last night’s game. Of course there are still some quirks that need to be worked out but no one is a miracle worker. Half a dozen more games and Gianey should have his players playing at least somewhere close to the way he wants them to be playing. We are seeing improvement on a game-by-game basis.

    And if they keep playing the way that they have been, then they certainly should be able to win the next three games, and in the process, provide us all with new hope.

    Also, I too have been focused on the teams above the Habs in the standings. And let us not forget that 6th place, although a bit of a long shot with the way that the Penguins and Carolina have been playing, is still possible as well. At any rate, all they can try to do is ensure that they don’t have a first round matchup with Boston as Washington and New Jersey are too close (a single point apart) to predict how 2nd and 3rd are going to sort out. So play for 7th, avoiding Boston in the first round, and let the chips fall as they may.

  7. #7 Joseph says:
    April 1, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    That was incredibly incoherent.

    – Dandenault valuable.
    – Gainey good.
    – Team showing improvement in all areas.
    – Optimism returning.
    – Play for 7th to avoid Boston in round 1.
    – Never mind trying to avoid New Jersey as it’s too close to predict where they’ll be seeded at season’s end.

  8. #8 Donnie says:
    April 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    What a game for my first live outting. All the way up to the Bell Centre from Nfld…sat 6 rows from the glass in the end we warmed up in, and we got a 4-1 win over the Hawks…I’m sure some of you already know…watching this game live is an entirely different beast than on TV…great experience and great outcome….woohoo !!!

  9. #9 Mats Naslund says:
    April 1, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Donnie its good to hear you had a great time. I wish I could have been there.. although I seem to jinx the team every time I watch them live..

  10. #10 Donnie says:
    April 2, 2009 at 10:28 am

    It was amazing Mats….it is the treat of treats for someone who is a huge hockey/Habs fan, and who doesn’t have easy access to live games. An always memorable experience, and hoping it’s gonna become an annual event.
    Toured the Bell Center before the game….came home with lots of pics and Habs memorabilia…should have gone years ago….so glad I finally did.

  11. #11 Joseph says:
    April 2, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I’m glad you were able to see a winner, Donnie. Definitely much better than sitting amongst a chorus of boos.

    It’s inexcusable that I’ve never been to a Habs home game in all my trips to Montreal.

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