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It’s Clinchin’ Season

  • The Canadiens beat Boston for the 7th time out of 8 games this season but failed to clinch a spot despite the two points. The Habs got off to a great start with a goal twenty seconds in and didn’t look back against a amateurish Boston team.

    Sheldon Souray got undressed for the second conseutive game. There could be a highlight reel composed solely of players beating Souray 1 on 1 this year. That let the Bruins get closer but the Habs held on and got the important win.

    The Leafs won’t die and neither will the Thrashers. 1 more point will do it for the Habs. The interesting story to watch is Tampa and Atlanta battling for that last spot.

    Tampa meets the Hurricanes tonight. A Lightning win and the Canadiens are in. A single Lightning point will be enough to eliminate the Leafs. A Lightning loss will really make it interesting.

    It’s pretty much guaranteed the Habs will face Ottawa or Carolina.

    Pick your poison.

  1. #1 Gumper says:
    April 14, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    I’m as excited about the playoffs comin’ up as I am curious which Canadiens team will show up for the first round. I’d have to think that, despite lapses in consistency, the Habs will be better prepared than some of the other teams. Factors like being the “underdog” and the mid to late season rush of wins, and of course, coaches who’ve been to the big dance more often than i have fingers and toes – can only translate into total positives for us.

    You mention Souray, which begs a question. Even with this statue impersonations with speedy forewards, do you think his other redeeming qualities like point shot, agressive style and leadership qualities – outweigh this particular defensive weakness? Just curious.
    I happen to think they do. Of course, if it was double overtime – game seven – 30 seconds left and it happens, forget I asked.

  2. #2 kazmojo says:
    April 14, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Gumper’s right about Souray. Maybe his defensive liabilities would be minimized if the Habs were to sign Larry Robinson as another asst coach for next season.

    For the past few games the rest of the defense looks like they could use the help too. Komisarek, Souray and Streit in particular. Streit was pulled in favour of Simpson last night, but Simpson didn’t fare much better. Markov has committed a few boneheaded turnovers as well.

  3. The Canadiens’ defense doesn’t concern me so much. In most of the games I’ve been able to watch this season they’ve made smart decisions with the puck in their own end a lot more often than not. But it’s also possible that I’m arriving at this conclusion by comparing the Habs’ defensive play to that of the team I’ve seen the most of this year (living in Toronto) – the Leafs… who are appalling in their own end.

    Anyway, my biggest concern is that Huet stays hot in goal. If he does, he’ll make it very difficult on ANY team they face in the playoffs. My second biggest concern is that the Habs keep scoring goals on a consistent basis. (Huet can play his heart out and still fall short of ‘good enough’ if the team stops finding the net.)

    Habs will clinch very soon.

  4. #4 Gumper says:
    April 14, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    JOE — “My second biggest concern is that the Habs keep scoring goals on a consistent basis. (Huet can play his heart out and still fall short of ‘good enough’ if the team stops finding the net.)”

    HEAR, HEAR ..

  5. Souray’s statue impersonations can be highlight reel, but his contributions to the team compensate for this: he’ll win far more games than he loses for us. That said, the Habs play in their own end has been a little scary of late. If they can improve the transition out of their own end and capitalise better on their chances… the tools are in place for a good run (is the real Alex Kovalev arriving in time for the playoffs? It seems he’s getting ready — put on your seatbelts!).

  6. Sigh…

    Can Boston do anything right? A 3-2 lead in the third, and of course, they blew it. Two more enormous points for Atlanta. (And I really thought Boston was going to pull out a victory today, too. (That’ll teach me.))

    Oh, well. I suppose the Habs will have to take care of business themselves by earning at least A SINGLE POINT in one of their last two games. They CAN do this, right? They can get a point from either Buffalo or New Jersey, yes? Well, they sure as hell better because it doesn’t look like Atlanta has any intention of losing another game. And I wouldn’t leave things until the last game against New Jersey to do so either!

    Let’s get it done, Habs!

  7. Un-f**king-believable!

    Beat New Jersey or golf.

    Perhaps that’s a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, but somehow I doubt it.

  8. #8 Gumper says:
    April 15, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    You’d think the Habs would learn something from the last Buffalo meeting but the same disorganised team showed up tonight. I retract my gloss-over of HabsBlog’s assesment that Buffalo was a better team. They are. Particularly in the area of puck possesion. They have more talent too. Kovalev’s a hog. He taught Ribeiro the same thing. Overall, the team is a black and white with no consistency whatsoever. Monday morning Quarter backing aside, Gainey SHOULD have went with Huet. WTF was Abeischer doing on that shorthanded goal? If you weren’t paying attention to it, check the highlight reel at 11. Once again, Buffalo’s speed and persistence on the puck kept Montreal a step behind the play. Unlike the Habs, this Buffalo team was a team doing some REAL playoff prep work!

    Who told them the fire was out?

  9. There were so many things wrong with tonight’s outcome, I hardly know where to begin.

    OK, first and foremost, I completely agree, what WAS Aebischer doing in net when the team had to earn at least a point to CLINCH a playoff spot? And what kind of message does this send to Huet, your MVP and saviour for the Habs? What does it do to his state of mind, his focus, his attitiude? He sure looked happy sitting on the bench, didn’t he? Gainey, IS there a method to your madness?

    Secondly, when you establish a 2-1 lead after two periods of play, you don’t come out and make high-risk passes out near the blue line DURING A POWERPLAY. No, you secure that 2-1 lead by playing sound hockey, keeping it simple, and making smart decisions with the puck… at BOTH ends of the ice.

    Thirdly, Kovalev. When is he going to realise that it takes a TEAM effort to win? Alexei, while very talented, is NOT Mario Lemieux, and thus cannot single-handedly win a game for the Habs. Well, at least not more than 1% of the time anyway. So where was the playmaking?

    I could go on but I’m already nauseous thinkig about the reality of the Habs situation. So instead I’ll leave this at one word: UNACCEPTABLE.

  10. “The Swiss goalie’s strong play of late leaves Gainey with a difficult choice between Aebischer and Frenchman Cristobal Huet, who has recorded each of his seven shutouts since Feb. 4 after he took over the starting job from Jose Theodore.

    “‘Both of us want to play so we’re going to see what happens,’ Aebischer said.”

    Perhaps Gainey can arrange for BOTH of you to play… together… at Club de Golf.

    Wouldn’t want to upset Davey. Eh, Bobby? Or how about considering this line of thinking instead: Huet earned the job, so it’s his. Aebischer is a back-up to Huet as it stands right now.

  11. #11 Gumper says:
    April 16, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Clinch This!

    season records:

    TB vs WAS
    – TB 4 wins / 3 losses

    ATL vs Was
    – ATL 5 wins / 2 losses

    ATL vs FLA
    – ATL 5 wins / 2 losses

    MTL vs NJ
    – NJ 3 wins / 0 losses

    Science or Mysticism?

  12. The records speak for themselves, but despite what’s been played out before, this is the time of year when you FIND a way to win, regardless of who your opponent is (i.e. ‘a good team’, ‘a better team’, and so on) on any given night. Ask the Thrashers, who have beaten ‘superior’ clubs repeatedly down the stretch to give themselves the opportunity they now have. Or ask the Leafs, who despite being ousted by a Tampa win last night, tore their opposition to shreds more often than not over the past ten games… and they had the most difficult schedule by far.

    The bottom line is that the Sabres had nothing to play for outside of a playoff ‘tune-up’, while the Habs had their playoff lives to play for last night. They didn’t make it happen. They let it slip away. (I think this says a lot about a team’s character.) So, they are now in an absolute ‘must-win’ or ‘must-lose-in-overtime’ situation to get into the playoffs. As Pat Quinn said yesterday, ‘We are the makers of our own destiny’. So what destiny will the Habs make for themselves Tuesday night?

    That being said, it would be a shame to see them miss the playoffs. This is the year not to miss, as far as I’m concerned. The ‘anything is possible’ cliche seems to apply this year more than most. After all, if anyone is limping into the playoffs, it’s Ottawa and Carolina, despite their respective seedings. The Flyers have been on quite a slide as well.

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