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.