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!!