Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Game One - EC Semi-Final: Lightning vs. Habs


Above is Tampa's zone entry seconds before the OT winner was scored. Do you see a problem??


- Dale Weise - just about anyone else, would score via that golden setup right in front of Bishop. Oy.

- Bolts win. Pateryn with a bad turnover, and Kucherov buries it. Devastating loss with Tampa ripe for the picking tonight. Habs failure to capitalize early in the game cost them later in the game. Habs now faces with a must-win Sunday night.


- We've got an interesting narrative paradox shaping up. If the Habs win this, it'll be because of Bishop letting in the softy late in the 3rd. If Tampa wins this, it'll be because Bishop stood on his head most of the first and second period to give his team a chance.

- Habs possession through 60 minutes, 55%. Montreal getting Bishop'd and Price'd tonight.

- Tampa nearly wins it off the bat because of a terrible shift by the Desharnais line. 

- Momentous flub by Petry springing Kucherov home free, great leg save by Price who is pushed into the net along with the puck. A big break. Habs still alive. 

- Easily DSP's best game of the post season. Definately more comfortable not playing in a top 6 situation.

- 10 minutes in, game settling in a but. First five minutes were Tampa's, last five were Montreal's.


- Through 40 minutes, Habs have 60% possession. That's pretty impressive. The question is, will they get Carey Priced tonight via Ben Bishop?  

- Well, there you go. Tyler Johnson redeflects a point shot to open the scoring. Good news for the Habs - they have 17 minutes left to solve Bishop.

- Looking at goal replay, Tom Giobert was horribly outmuscled as Johnson drove to the crease. That's what defensemen are paid to do.

- I think it's time to demote Markov off first powerplay unit. He's a mile away from the player he was during the regular season. Wonder what his injury might be?

- Therrien frittering away another strong game by Eller, offloading offensively challenged wingers. Time (9 minutes) running out.
- Bishop firmly in Habs forward's heads. Too much focus on making perfect passing play, not enough on just looking for a dirty, greasy goal. 

- Tampa is hold on mode now, which is all good and fine since most of the Canadiens' forwards have done a poor job pushing Tampa's crease.

- Habs poor performance in the faceoff circle has really hurt them in the 3rd. 

- Montreal needs to start pinching their blue line ... like ... right now. 5 minutes left.

- Bishop whiffs. Whiffs. Totally whiffs off a Paciorerty wrister. Who would have believed? Tie game.

- Bishop being taunted by 21,000 rabid Habs fans.

- Habs finally now pushing Bishop hard. Looking for the winner.

- Well, we wrote about it after the end of the second, and as noted, we had two goals, one via deflection, and one via a mistake. Habs most certainly have the momentum heading into extra time - with Price and Bishop (even considering his huge gaffe) as they are, it could take a while to sort out a winner.


- Jeff Petry taking a shot off his instep at the end of the first, needed assistance to simply get back to the dressing room. No Petry would have a massive imapct to the Habs defense, not to mention their series hopes.

Petry is back, but true test is his first and second shift feels with his foot. First shift is done, he appeared to look okay.

- Prust doing great work winning battles, but no hands. Meanwhile, the struggling Galchenyuk has been demoted to the 4th line, De la Rose promoted.

- Pretty quiet night for Stamkos (again). Still wondering about his health status. He's so far been a shadow of his regular season former self.

- Pacioretty with a dazzling PK shift. Petry looks 100%. Tampa's powerplay still a hot mess. 

- Bad, bad habits die hard. Markov gains the zone on the powerplay, then dumps it into the corner to no one. Maddening.

- Monster players so far: Prust and Eller. Recognition to Paciorerty and Petry. Price solid, but so far hasn't been sternly tested. Tampa in this because of Bishop, who's been excellent. This is why it was so important for Habs to score early in the first period.


- I heart Sara Diamond. There. I said it.

- Lolz. Therrien first line has Emelin. Took Tampa 12 SECONDS to generate a good scoring threat.

- Ref blows whistle too fast in loose puck possibly costing Habs a goal. Funny how hockey always seems to even out.

- DESHARNAIS SHOOTS. Hits the crossbar. See?? SEE?!?!

- Bishop looking a little ... nervous? Mishandled a couple of pucks, having trouble smothering loose rebounds.

No way you'll convince me Pacioretty is playing 100%. Continues to fight handling the puck, winning battles along the boards. It'll be up to Gallagher to pick up some of his slack.

- Eller's great work often for not because of the stone hands of Weise and especially Prust. He's being wasted on that 3rd line, coach.

- Habs massively all over Tampa. Completely dominating them in their zone, Bishop getting pelted by shots, saved by two posts. Montreal's forecheck has been exceptionally strong, speed much faster. Clearly the three extra days rest is having a significant impact. Question is, how long can this be sustained? Montreal needs to score, here.

- Here comes the Habs powerplay!! (Hide).

- Bishop doing all he can to hold Habs off. Just stacking the crease and hoping for the best.

Habs powerplay, if their first is any indication, appears to be more focused on carrying the zone, rather than the usual dump and chase. Also, Eller 2nd unit was brought on far too late to generate any sufficient zone pressure.

- An eventful period - Habs dominate much of it, certainly out-checking and out-hitting Tampa. Bishop looked nervous at the start, but still made some key saves to keep the Habs off the board. Kind of mirrors the Senators series in how, in game 4 and 5, Habs were unable to take advantage of early chances and pressure, which invariably led to deflating goals by Ottawa, and inevitably, two straight losses. Habs must find a way of keeping the pressure on Tampa, who are notably tired from their seven game series against Detroit. Winning both games at home will be essential to Montreal's hopes of advancing to the 3rd round.

- Another entertaining period - much more than anything we saw against Ottawa. Ben Bishop the story so far tonight, keeping the dominating Habs off the scoreboard. Montreal's zone entries this game have been remarkably good - which is something we haven't observed in a very long time. It bodes well for the Habs likelihood of scoring the game's first goal, although with Bishop playing his mind out, it's reasonable to believe this game will require an extra period. Habs have done a pretty good job containing the speed advantage held by Tampa, resulting in more shots coming from the line and perimeter.  The further this game drags on scoreless, the more likely the winning goal(s) will be as a result of error, or a puck deflection.


Well, we can't say "our legs were tired" tonight. Five days off, yeah - that's more than enough time to rest and prepare for an opponent who themselves, only finished off a tough grinding series less than 48 hours ago.

So, advantage Habs.

Beyond that? Wellll ....

You know the storyline. You've heard the big stat - five times these two met during the regular season, and five times the victor was the Tampa Bay Lightning, including a 7-1 mauling in October down in Florida.

Things have changed since then, of course. The Habs did go on to win 50 games - the first time since 1989, and their division, in spite of losing every single game to the Lightning. Carey Price did go on to a Vezina and possibly Hart trophy season. P.K. Subban a Norris nominee. Another near 40 goal season for Max Pacioretty. The establishment of Nathan Beaulieu as a regular, 2nd line defenseman. The continuing improvement and evolution of Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.

Still, Tampa's had the Habs number. It really begins and ends with their top three lines, which tonight will be:


There's a lot of speed and skill there. A lot. It goes without saying that the Canadiens' defense is going to be tested very sternly, which begs the question, can Montreal's blue line handle the Lightning attack?

In retrospect, the acquisition of Jeff Petry from Edmonton by Marc Bergevin was a coup, since that time, Petry has been the Habs best defender second to P.K. Subban. The issue with the Habs is beyond their top three D, (Subban, Markov and Petry), the loss of Beaulieu means added responsibility for those who struggle with forward speed, most notably Alexei Emelin. With Tampa possessing three scoring capable lines, it will be impossible for Michel Therrien to shield his defense from the likes of Tyer Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and of course, Steven Stamkos.

Which means, of course, that Habs hopes and expectations are going to land squarely on the shoulders of the man who largely got them here - Carey Price. We know the season he's had, we know he was solid against Ottawa in the first round, and we know he'll probably have to be at the very top of his MVP game if the Canadiens want to live to see either the Rangers or Caps in the 3rd round.

It wouldn't hurt, of course, if the Canadiens could get their offensive house in order. The powerplay, as it has been all regular season, and the first round, is a hot mess. One of the few forwards that had a very strong showing against the Senators, Lars Eller, appears to have been promoted to 2nd line duty, at the expense of the disastrously underperforming Devante Smith-Pelly, who's now been demoted to 4th line duties. Rotating Eller into the powerplay is a very good move, assuming that Alex Galchenyuk isn't rotated out. There is speculation that coach Therrien wasn't pleased with Galchenyuk's efforts in the first round, and as such, will be removed from specialty units. Hopefully that's not the case.

So on the whole, it's Tampa's offense against the Habs defense and goaltending. It's a formula for either a quick, resounding series win for Tampa, or a slow, grinding, close, exceptionally hard fought series win for the Habs.

The former is a far higher probability. Therefore, I'm predicating Tampa in six games, but wouldn't be entirely shocked if it only took them five.


Hey, we got Habs notes this morning.

- Habs are practicing in Brossard this morning, and the picture you see above is the team working on the powerplay. Because we all know how well that oiled machine was working in the first round. 

Devante Smith-Pelly on the man advantage? Yeah. No more of that. THANK YOU JEBUZ.

- Sergei Gonchar is practicing today.

- Nathan Beaulieu isn't, because as you might have heard yesterday, he won't be available until at least the 2nd week of May.

- CONGRATS TO CAREY. In an announcement that surprised absolutely nobody, Carey Price has  been nominated for the Hart Trophy, as the League's most valuable player.


Is it Friday? It's a long wait between one series and another. Whomever the Habs take on in round two, won't be fresh in the legs department. That we know.

Habs practiced this morning. Here were the lines:

- Galchenyuk-Desharnais-Weise
- Pacioretty-Plekanec-Gallagher
- Prust-Eller-Parenteau
- De La Rose-Mitchell-Smith-Pelly

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean we'll see these combinations come Friday night, but if we do, then Michel, you're a difficult man to teach.

If you're reading this coach, and I just know you are, then here's how it really oughtta be done:

- Pacioretty-Plekanec-Parenteau
- Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher
- De la Rose-Desharnais-DSP
- Prust-Mitchell-Weise


That's all we got. Because it's Wednesday.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Game Six - EC Quarter Final: Habs vs. Sens



- An ominous stat: The Sens have never been shutout this season. Nary a single time. So ... if that's the Habs plan to finish off the series, good luck, Chuck.

- Wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Sens finish the third just shy of 50 shots on Price. 

- Habs powerplay. Lots of passing. No shots on goal. Continue as you were.

- Maybe I'm too demanding, but if you've got a 2-on-0 breakaway, you should at the very, very, very least, register a shot on goal. Habs pass up a totally glorious scoring opportunity. 11 long minutes lay ahead.

- Sens really pushing their D forward looking for that tying goal. Habs have already seen two odd man chances, no shots registered. Of course.

- Five agonizing minutes left, Habs have had numerous chances finishing this thing off, but the players with those chances are incapable (Prust, Mitchell). Quite a few scoring opportunities have been generate by Eller, who's saddled with non-scoring wingers. Mystifying.

- Chris Lee with a terrible tripping call on De la Rose. Three minutes left.

- 1:20 left. Well, come this far, might as well try for the 1-0 win.

- Eller hits the empty net goalpost.

- Sens with crazy insane great chances the final minute, but Carey Price, of course, holds everything together. Seems only fitting that the Habs win the series the way they've won all year - being outplayed except for one position - goaltending.

And it's on to the second round.


 - Habs holding slight possession edge in the first, even though Ottawa had four minutes of powerplay. Even with the lead, it certainly appears that Price will have to be at the very, very top of his game if he and his team wants to close this series out. The Sens best scoring chances are surely, still to come.

- That said, Habs scoring the next goal will be huge ... monstrously huge, if Price is indeed, "on" today.

- It's an overstatement, but it seems like each Desharnais is worse than his last. 

- Sens pretty much steamrolling first half of the period, a couple of good, but not great scoring chances on Price. Habs really circling the troops around their slot.

- Here's a thought. Let's try putting out our best playing centre (Eller) with someone who's capable of scoring 40 goals a season (Pacioretty). Yeah?? 

- Habs in lock-down mode. Not even bothering to construct a decent zone exit, and when somebody does have the puck at centre, they're dumping it in. Habs are just asking for big-time trouble.

 Is it weird that the Habs are a more dangerous team offensively on the PK than 5v5 or on the powerplay? Yes. Yes, it is.

- Prototypical Habs period. Chipping pucks, with or without pressure, from their zone, dumping from centre ice. It's a sure-fire formula for losing, but this season, the Habs have somehow managed to win more than half their games following this perplexing system. Tonight is no different. It's as though the team has collectively decided that it's up to Carey Price to carry them through to the next round because, why not? He'd carried them throughout the regular season.

I'm not convinced, however, that this isn't going to end very badly for Montreal. They must find a way of scoring a second goal, or this Sens team, which rose from the dead during the regular season, will find a way of tying this game. I'm pretty sure of this.


- Well, why we're even playing a game six is kind of abysmal, but at least P.A. Paranteau is playing today, which ends the appeal we've been making over the past five games.

- Habs need to make Anderson's evening a living nightmare. Get on top of him, frusrtrate him. Do something to knock him off of his game. Oh yeah. And a damn powerplay goal wouldn't hurt either.

- That's the way Galley, give Anderson a little dig after the save. 

- Markov with poor stick control, highsticks MacArthur. Sens powerplay goes nowhere, though. Let's see if this generates any mo'.

- Habs with first six shots of the game, nine of them particularly dangerous. Anderson being let off the hook early, again.

- Gilbert/Pateryn continue to have communication issues, really struggle to clear the puck out. This has been an issue all series.

- Really dumb hold by Mitchell. Habs left with little choice but to play paranoid defensive hockey. It stifles the team's ability to create any sort of offensive momentum. This for a team that doesn't have much going offensively already.

- Habs offensive strategy hasn't changed. Harmless wrist shots from long range, hoping that somehow, Anderson will surrender a rebound. It's not going to happen. Anderson or any other NHL goaltender, won't kick out the puck from such routine shots.

- Lucky bounce for the Habs, they've been due for one. Point shot hits Gallagher as he skates towards the net, and the puck manages to land by his blade. Pacioretty with a nice play to keep the puck in the zone. Habs actually scored first. Pinch me. 1-0.

- Grade A beef save by Price on Turris. Another bad neutral zone turnover by Markov. Mystified by how many boner plays he's made in this series. Exhaustion? 

- Once again, Lars Eller is the Habs best forward. Too bad he can't get minutes which reflect that.

- Boner play by Anderson, and Prust can't finish on the open net. Another key moment where Prust fails to bury that could later haunt the Habs?

- Who would have guess that Andrei Markov (Emelin aside) would have been the Habs weakest defensive link in the series? In addition to this own goal in game one, he's been responsible for something approaching a dozen very clumsy defensive and neutral zone turnovers, two of which led directly to Ottawa goals. He sits on the bench and shakes his head. What exactly is the problem, here?

- Decent opening period for the Habs, a little luck helping to give the team their first, first period lead of the series. Lots of hard work, but still some concerns. First, the Desharnais line has been terrible in their own zone, so look for Ottawa to try to exploit the glaring defensive weakness. Secondly, the Habs continue to struggle with putting together anything resembling clean zone exits, which is really hampering their ability to formulate dangerous rushes, and thirdly, the penchant of taking long-range shots isn't working. The Habs scored not because of a long range shot, but because somebody was driving the net. Com'on, guys. Learn the lessons that are being painted right in front of you.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Game Five - EC Quarter Final: Sens vs. Habs


- Hope? Gilbert a wrister, superbly screened by Weise. Habs need to feed off of this and score again quickly. One more, and we've got an interesting finish in store.

Terrible, no, horrible pass by Gallagher creates Sens break. Game saved by Eller via an incredible backcheck. How Lars continues to be mired on the 3rd line baffles me.

- Habs 0-3 on the man advantage. We wrung our hands during the regular season about how this team was totally unable to get the pp unit on track, and lo and behold, it's now killing them in the post season. Just desserts - but we can't say this team wasn't warned.

- Markov with mind-numbing turnover, lights out. That's another one by Andrei in this series. So game six, it is.


- Changes? I'd move DSP (bury him, actually) on the third line, promote Eller to centre Pacioretty, bump Desharnais to the wing, slide Emelin down to 3rd line D, limiting his playing time, and make Plekanec/Gallagher/Galchenyuk the default 1st powerplay unit always. Because Therrien is insisting on putting out Desharnais as the first unit (and producing nothing), it means the better playing line - the Plekanec line, isn't receiving the benefit of having Subban and Markov on the point. This team can't afford to mess around anymore. Get the best playing forwards out there to produce goals before this game is totally forgone.

- So Therrein has Pacioretty with Plekanec, which is mild progress, I guess. DSP has now become Eller's ordeal. Poor Lars.

- Halfway through the period, Habs are generating some serious zone pressure, but still can't quite drive one through Anderson. The goal needs to be dirty, greasy, garbage - something. Anything.

- I don't like to promote rough play, but Habs need to do something to get under Ottawa's skin. They did it via Stone, need to distract Anderson - somehow.

- That said, Habs have totally dominated the Sens this period since the seven minute mark. So you know what's going to happen next ...

- ... and there it is. Karlsson. 3-0.

- Well, what to say? Habs have generated more scoring chances, more shot attempts, but none of them really potent - a good deal from short range, but right at Anderson. Meanwhile, feeds to the slot are eluding Habs forwards, in part because the Sens are playing well circling the wagons around Anderson, in part because certain Habs forwards simply aren't following through. At this point, we'd might as well start thinking about Sunday, which means lineup changes. I cannot fathom how Therrien can go yet another game with Parenteau out of the lineup, and Smith-Pelly in. I'm also frustrated by his continued willingness to overlook Desharnais' poor play, while short-shifting Eller. Hopefully Michel will see the light, hopefully Beaulieu will return soon, hopefully Emelin gets benched, hopefully those who are obviously underperforming will be sent a message that their efforts are not acceptable. No excuses. Surely this team knows what that's about - right?


- Good omen? Mitchell with scoring chance right off the game bat.

- Here comes the Habs powerplay!!

- Sigh. Starting powerplay line continues to be Desharnais. Lessons still not being learned. The only modification I see is Habs are getting defense more involved pinching in from the line. Didn't pan out.

- Takes nearly half a period for Ottawa to register a shot. Habs need to convert soon, before the inevitable letdown that occurs when you dominate zone play but fail to crack the sheet.

- Habs dominate, Sens scores off a 55 foot wrister by Ryan that somehow gets past Ryan. That's the danger of dominating early but not scoring first. Air totally leaves the building, and possibly the Habs mo'.

- Yup. Air removed from Habs early period effort. Sens have found another gear and are now generating organized zone entries and quality shots on Price. This game could get ugly, fast.

- Attention Habs offence. Point perimeter shots with no driving traffic will never, ever, ever, ever beat Anderson. Ever.

- Mitchell's very early backhander remains best scoring chance on Anderson. Habs have been very tame, with simple long distance and unscreened shots.

- And the Sens do it again. Traffic in front totally screening Price. Gilbert and Pateryn can't clear the crease, Weircioch a simple shot top corner and its 2-0. It's a funeral in the Bell Centre.

- Well, that was bad. Habs came firing out of the gate, but were burned by the same things which hampered them in game 4 - inability to convert the powerplay, or at all, period. The Habs seemed to be on track the first 8 minutes pushing the Sens crease, but after Ottawa opened the scoring, Montreal went into full revert mode. Meanwhile, the weakest link on the Canadiens' defense hurts them again - Emelin with an unnecessary screen on Price for the first Ottawa goal, and Pateryn and Gilbert, who have struggled playing together, were pushovers for Ottawa's second goal, leaving Price totally screened. It's bad hockey all around, and unless something dramatic happens, we're headed back down the highway for a 6th game. Oy.


So let's put down a few observations heading into tonight's game:

- Alexei Emelin. Has anyone else been taking note just how awful he's been in this series? If it wasn't for his partners constantly covering up for Emelin's poor position, slow play anticipation, and terrible crease clearing efforts, the Sens might just as easily be up 3-1. Yeah, I know I know - Beaulieu's injury has impacted on defensive options, but you still can't convince me that a Subban/Markov, Gilbert/Petry, Gonchar/Pateryn six isn't an improvement than the hot mess Emelin brings to the ice each and every game. Enough, please. No more Alexei.

- DSP. We've been beefing about him forever, well, at least since his acquisition, but were willing to let it all slide during the regular season because, as it was explained to us when the trade as made, Smith-Pelly was obtained for what he'd bring to the playoffs. Well, we're now four games in, and aside from a couple of decent bodychecks, I think it's safe to say that DSP has and is bringin' nothing to the table. He was supposed going to bolster the powerplay (it's as awful now as ever), he was supposed to crash the opposition crease (has anyone seen him make a b-line toward anything resembling a hockey net yet?), and he was supposed to score a few goals (one so far in the regular season. ONE. That's it).

Michel Therrien had been using DSP on the first line powerplay the first three games, resulting in NOTHING. He tried to shuffle in Dale Weise on Wednesday night, which of course, produced nothing, and then gave DSP ONE MORE CHANCE early in the second, which resulted in ... you guessed it. Nothing. From that point on, Smith-Pelly got four shifts. REJOICE! He's in the doghouse! Welcome back P.A. Parenteau! YAY!

Guess what? Same lineup tonight. DSP in. Parenteau ... out.

- Forth line. I know Michel likes to play his gut, but putting Lars Eller out there with Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn, late in the freeeeking 3rd period, was a genuinely baffling shakeup. Eller, who's been working his butt off this series, but seems to only be rewarded by carrying wingers who aren't putting in their full effort, continues to be totally misused. Here's a thought. Why not take David Desharnais, who like DSP, has had a nothing series, stick him on the third line, and give Eller a chance to get guys like Max Pacioretty to start producing.

Is it too much to ask?

- Goaltending. Lots of praise went out to Craig Anderson for getting the shutout on Wednesday, but seriously folks, that was one of the easiest blanks any goaltender is going to receive. On the other end of the ice, Carey Price was, as usual, excellent, going above the call of duty to bail out some pretty incompetent slot coverage, particularly by Emelin. The face of the matter is, if the Habs can simply put three pucks behind Anderson over 60 regular minutes, this series will be over.

Puck drops at 7:10 EST.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Game Four - EC Quarter Final: Habs vs. Sens


- Whomever wins, it's been a great to watch Price and Anderson demonstrate goaltending excellence tonight. I'd rate Price has had the tougher saves, but Anderson has come up big to give his team hope to live one more game.

- DSP was traded to make noise in the opposing team's crease. So far tonight, he's done very little. I sense Therrien is growing impatient with him.

- Weise on the 4th line now. Which means Therrien is going to give DSP a shot for redemption. We'll watch to see if he takes advantage.

- Sens definately more agressive this period - Habs playing very cautious, trying to slow the game down. It's not working.

- Plekanec line has been excellent tonight, generating numerous quality scoring chances on Anderson. Desharnais line - not so much.

- Borowiecki moves so slowly, he's an easy target for hits. He's taken a real beating tonight.

- Yikes. There's the icebreaker. Hoffman converts after Gilbert makes a poor clearance from the corner, and Emelin abandons his position in front of the net. 80% Gilbert's fault, though. 1-0.

- Habs can't mess around, a greasy goal is in order. So far in the third however, they've mustered little. 9 minutes left.

- Gallagher. A monster game tonight. A monster, never give up effort, even more so than his usual.  If only we could bottle that for others who have played a less than inspired game.

 - Yeah. Three minutes left, now is not the time to out out Flynn and Mitchell.

- One area Habs have been dreadful tonight is passing out of their own zone. Lots of missed targets generarting failed transitions and more often than not,  neutral zone turnovers.

- Habs with a whimpering finish to send this to a 5th game. In retrospect, as we feared, the inability to convert on early game powerplays hurt this team dearly. One things for certain, no more DSP on the speciality units. That experiment is futile. 


- More powerplay snakeyes. If the Habs go on to lose this game, we may look back on their continuing inabilty to take advantage of these man advantages as the biggest factor.

- Weise on Desharnais line now, for some reason.

- Drop the damn puck, already.

- Hah. Ryan is called for knocking the puck out of the linesman's hand on the faceoff. He gets called for a technical. 

- Good puck movement on the powerplay, but Habs still can't convert. Not nearly enough crashing of the Sens crease - the Canadiens would be served to do something to get Anderson off his game.

- 5v5, Sens haven't had much to show this period, the Canadiens defense has done well keeping Ottawa's forwards outside, and Price is sucking up every puck tossed his way. Routine period for him so far.

- Emelin with a useless body clearance in the crease after the Sens have already had their scoring chance on Price. Another dumb penalty.

- Oh, man. Anderson with desperation save off a Prust shorthanded break. That's a key play. Remember it.

- Price with tremendous saves on Ottawa powerplay, which is looking increasingly dangerous.

- Wow. Habs just barely survived killing the Emelin penalty. Ottawa with serious jump in their legs right now. Watch out.

- Second period a mirror of the first, with the Habs holding a slight edge in controlling the tempo the first 15 minutes, before the Sens found their legs the final five minutes. Habs in a decent position because the Sens can't afford to make a single glaring error from here on out. 


- Stone will start. So the Sens were indeed running slightly different lines this morning as they are this evening.

- Will Karlsson do us another favour tonight and waste his time trying to hit instead of helping his team to actually score? Here's hoping.

- Habs come out flying first five minutes if the period. You'd think they're the team down 0-3. 

- Stupid, stupid board on Petry by Borowiecki. Sens still struggling with common sense, attempting to bury the Habs into the ice instead of outplaying them above the ice. Habs to the powerplay.

- One of the real difference makers in this series is how well the Habs 4th line has played, and how poorly the Sens 3rd defensive pairing has performed, Borowiecki and Gryba. This in light of the dumb boarding of Petry.

Still mystifies me how a guy as big as Smith-Pelly is so bad at finishing plays and losing battles for pucks in the slot.

- Sens finally finding some mojo five minutes left in the period. Habs on their heels. Price solid.

- That Sens third defensive pairing strikes again. Out of position, and Borowiecki takes another dumb penalty.

- Habs 2nd powerplay better than the first. Not by coincidence, DSP was removed from the first powerplay line. Thank you lord.

- Ottawa surprisingly really slow out of the gate, almost looking dispirited before the game had begun. Habs probably should have taken advantage, but Anderson was solid. Really don't see DSP doing what he needs to help salt this thing away - he's six inches and 40 pounds heavier than Gallagher, but is losing battles to defenders that Gallagher is handling easily.


Okay, am I monster for posting a picture of the little kid crying after Dutch Gretzky scored the overtime winner to put the Habs up a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 in the series?

Why, yes. Yes, I am.

Okay, moving on. Gameday stuff. Point form!

- Craig Anderson will start tonight! I still think the Senators coaching staff might have flipped a coin on this, but the decision, I suppose, makes sense. Andrew Hammond, who played nearly 1/3rd of a nearly perfect season, appeared to have finally hit the wall, giving up borderline goals in Montreal. Anderson, even though the Weise OT winner was a softy, did make a ton of saves that got his outplayed team into overtime, at the very least. So ... Anderson, by logic, gets the nod.

- Nathan Beaulieu. Not gonna play. Not a total surprise. Here's a surprise, though. Michel Therrien is going with youth for his replacement, with Greg Pateryn slotting in to take Beaulieu's place. He could have gone with Sergei Gonchar, but nope - Michel makes the decent choice. This coach mystifies me. Just when you think he can do no right, he can't seem to do any wrong.

- Okay, lineups tonight!! First off, the home team:

Line 1: MacArthur/Turris/Stone
Line 2: Michalek/Zibanejad/Ryan
Line 3: Condra/Pageau/Lazar
Line 4: Hoffman/Smith/Neil


Craig Anderson.

No Mark Stone, at least during practice, shall it be noted. Now the visitors:

Line 1: Pacioretty/Desharnais/Smith-Pelly
Line 2: Galchenyuk/Plekanec/Gallagher
Line 3: De la Rose/Eller/Weise
Line 4: Prust/Mitchell/Flynn


Carey Price.

More in a bit.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Game Three - EC Semi Final: Habs vs. Sens


- Beaulieu didn't play the third, now wondering if that hit he took to the head from Karlsson's shoulder was worse than we thought.

- Oh Max, you don't clear the puck tossing it up the middle. They teach you that in novice.

- Habs defense dangerously soft in the slot this overtime. Sens have failed to convert two or three very good chances.

- Well, well. First powerplay to the Habs. I'd probably decline it.

- Oh-fer-half-a-dozen. If the Habs lose this game, even with 55% game possession, you can point your finger right there.

- Dale Weise. Who would have thought? Dale Weise. A legend in this series. Anderson has to stop that. Habs with stranglehold. How about that?

- Looking more and more this game will be decided by whomever has the better goaltending. You know who that favours.


- Habs with 75% possession in the second. That's dominance.

- Karlsson has definately shifted his mindset for this period. From physical to being far more offensively involved.

- Tough going so far this period. 12 minutes left. Sens are playing very tonight, giving Habs fits simply setting up in the Ottawa zone. Anderson hasn't been tested much. Need to drive more traffic to the net whenever possible.

- Habs defenders cheating in a little now. Perhaps sensing the first goal will require a mighty effort against Anderson.

- DSP's stick hacked in two off the draw, and inexplicably, Paciorerty called for a non-hold. I'm bewildered.

- Emelin makes the defensive play of the game, sliding perfectly to break up a clean Sens 2-on-1. Credit where credit's due.

- Dale Weise. Puck bouncing Habs way finally, as full court press on Anderson pays off. We have quite a finish ahead.

- Therrien's gut move pays off? Flynn was taken off the 4th for Weise. First shift, Dale scores. Crazy how often Michel's strange moves lead to goals.


- Habs first period possession was less than 30%. That's. Bad.

- Sens do a decent enough job setting up on the powerplay. It's what they do afterwards that seems disorganized and confused.

- Craig Anderson hasn't been very busy, but he's made a few decent saves, looking very calm. Not much showing, rust-wise.

- Nice effort by Gallagher off the faceoff draws an interference penalty. Habs back to a (good?) powerplay.

- Smith-Pelly on the powerplay. It's all nice he's delivering bone-crushing hits, but that's a 5v5 thing.

- Karlsson hitting everything in sight, seemingly. Which, if you're the Habs, is just fine, thank you. Karlsson more focused on hits than making good offensive plays helps Montreal.

- More than four straight minutes of action, most of it in the Sens zone. I'm sensing Ottawa fatigue, possibly?

- More signs of possible fatigue, Sens doing more hooks and holds, and it's giving Habs powerplays. Their third, however, was pretty meek. Far too much permiter passing, nothing directed towards Anderson. 

- Emelin goes AWOL, giving Sens breakaway. Another la-la land play by the esteemed man from Siberia.

- Pretty good rebound period by Montreal, their powerplay let them down, while Anderson was solid. Outshooting their opponent by a margin of 3-to-1 is a good thing, and if they can sustain this through the 3rd, they have a good chance of solving Anderson, and maybe coming out of this with a 3-0 series lead. We'll see.


- Still view starting Neil reeking of desperation. If the Sens, who've been playing for their lives since January, figure they should out hit their way to victory, that's a formula for failure. It's no coincidence the Sens have played progressively worse with each period, symbiotic of a team that's quite possibly physically and emotionally exhausted from playing nearly three months of do or die hockey. 

- That said, Craig Anderson is one of those extreme gambles. It's either going to go well, or be a total catastrophe, meaning Ottawa were wiser to keep with Hammond. We'll see.

- Petry with a zone pass out right on the tape. 20 seconds later, Emelin, same situation. Pass goes for an icing. That's (one of) the bug differences between the two.

- Firecely physical to start, Chris Neil as expected, headhunting. Habs are holding their own. Gallagher with a huge hit on Michalek, and Karlsson, who lined up Beaulieu at the blue line, is sent flying on his butt. Great stuff.

- Habs transition attempting too many low percentage long bomb passes so far, for my liking. It's generating way too many giveaways. Sens are converting them into very fast entries into the Montreal zone. No golden chances yet, but they'll arrive soon enough.

- Weircioch with a flagrant crosscheck to Subban's head that's shockingly not called, a furious Subban tries for a revenge body, and leaves his position. Clarke MacArthur converts and its 1-0. Poor officiating, but poore reaction by P.K. which costs his team a goal.

- Carey Price not quite looking his usual self. A little too scrambly for my liking. 

- Habs first powerplay looking solid, Subban with a bomb off the post, Sens catch some luck keeping Montreal off the board. Nonetheless, Habs powerplay setup miles more efficient this series than it was during the regular season.

- Sens came out with huge physical determination and hit the Habs hard - very hard. The question is, will it be enough to give them a better chance as the game progresses? That will tell the story of who wins tonight. 


So, the Sens are apparently playing Chris Neil tonight. Yup. It's come to this. Also, no more Hammer-time. Craig Anderson will start tonight.

Ottawa is now hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Do or die tonight.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Game Two - EC Quarter Final: Sens vs. Habs


- Eller another excellent game - he hasn't scored points but he's working exceptionally hard and has drawn two powerplays.

- Like last night, Habs aren't sitting on their laurels in the third while holding the lead. This is very much in contrast to their regular season pattern of playing.

- Habs 4th line not making nearly as much noise tonight in the 3rd as they did game one. Their ice time is also far less. 

- 10 minutes left, Habs trying to slow this down to a crawl, three straight icings. And counting.

- Oh, Emelin, with a terrible interference far away from the play, giving the Sens a powerplay. Awful, awful, pointless foul.

- Plekanec has been a monster taking faceoffs this period.

- And Emelin's stupidity leads to the powerplay goal. Wiercioch, of all players. Stone with another assist. Emelin. Emelin. Emelin.

- Less, as in, none Alexei Emelin. More Greg Pateryn, please.

- DSP on powerplay last minute. Pointless exercise. Meanwhile, Alexei Emelin. Hurt his team during the regular season, and does it one more time when games really matter. Oy.


- Max Pac 67, powerplay, softish wrister, Hammond looks skyward. Tie game

- Habs totally ravaging Sens now. Coming in swarms. Sens clinging for dear life. Game changing moments here.

- Half way through the second, Habs have taken the foot off the agressive pedal. Montreal has defensive mobility, they have the opportunity to become more involved offensively, but they're holding back.

- And there you have it. Subban pinches in and rifles one over Hammind to give the Habs a 2-1 lead. That's the series key for Montreal - getting their blue line involved.

- A good a period as the Habs have played in a very long time. Dominating just about every measure that matters. Sens looked totally outclassed and overwhelmed in the period - Ottawa will need to muster up something from the reserves for the 3rd period. Otherwise, it's not a contest. Habs are heads above shoulders the better team through the first five periods of this series.


- Patches gets the start! How much he'll actually play is another question.

- Spirited start for the Habs. Usually it's the opposite, if the regular season is any measure.

- 9 minutes in, good possession shift for the 4th line.

- First half of first period, slight edge to the Habs, Sens more concerned with physical play over possession, which plays into their concerns about having endurance edge over three periods. Keep in mind the Sens have been playing for their playoff lives for nearly three months, so their margin for energy error is thin. Very thin.

- Sens have had two powerplays, neither particularly impressive or threatening. They need to get their specialty units firing or beating Price in a seven game set, will be difficult, if not impossible.

- Why great transitions matter. Clark MacArthur. 1-0.

- P.K. Subban clearly playing without primary focus being on the game, but on who's circling around him. Sens have apparently found a way inside his head.

- First half favoured Habs, second half the Sens. A minor defensive breakdown costing the Habs the first goal, as is their usual pattern. Pacioretty participated, but looked very tentative. Habs will need to be much more involved oil they hope to take a 2-0 lead before heading south.


In point form, because we know you profs like to read it that way.

- P.A. Parenteau is out for tonight's game. Max Pacioretty is a gametime decision. If both can't play? Therrien wouldn't indicate who'd be filling their shoes.

- Dave Cameron. What is this guy doing? After directly threatening to headhunt P.K. Subban in retaliation for Mark Stone's non-fractured wrist fracture, Cameron said to the media this morning that his desires to see Subban injured were "blown out of proportion." Really? You tell the whole world you'd like to see your guys rub out the star player from the other guys, and those who question your judgement, not to mention your sanity, got it all wrong?

But wait. Cameron wasn't done. About game 2 officiating? "It's going to be like breaking into a police station and trying to steal something. You aren't getting away with it."

The whole world is against the Ottawa Senators. Won't anyone think of the children??!?

And then there's this, from Stone's old roommate:

Well then, that settles it!! SORRY MARK for questioning your integrity! Can I sign the cast attached to your non-fractured hand?

More in a bit.

“I think it’s quite simple. It’s a vicious slash on an unprotected part of his body and you either do one of two things. I think it’s an easy solution: You either suspend him or one of their best players gets slashed and you just give us five. It’s not that complicated.”

Monday, 13 April 2015

Game One - EC Quarter Final: Sens vs. Habs


- If the Sens do lose tonight (or maybe even if they win) will Hammond get shelved for game two? 

- Emelin with panicked positioning, forcing Price to do some acrobatics to keep Lazar from tying the game. Therrien has Emelin paired with Markov, with Subban gone, he's left with little room to manoeuvre.

- So far Habs aren't sitting on this lead, which is a very good thing. Liking their agressive drive towards Hammond which is creating significant traffic around the Sens slot.

- Habs playoff performers really showing up tonight. Lars Eller, Brandon Prust, and yes, Brian Floyd, have individually been excellent.

- Officials steadfastly refusing to penalize Ottawa for anything. Even actual penalties. It's bizarre.

- Seems like every Emelin shift, his partner is bailing him out at least one time. Real defensive black hole there.

- Habs powerplay? It's actually happening.

- Habs incredibly unlucky not to score on the powerplay. The gods seem intent on having this game go to overtime? If the Habs had scored, it's lights out.

- Habs powerplay looked excellent, I must say. Possession was very calm and contained, setups were well executed, Hammond bailed out by two large horseshoes. We're on the homestretch. 4 minutes left.

- What a finish. Crazy.

- The Habs hang on. What a game. What a gutsy, gutsy win for a team missing its two best position players. The Canadiens' 4th line, which I admittedly maligned in my preview, were the big stars tonight. Torry Mitchel, Brandon Prust, and most of all, Brian Flynn, who scored three points, something he's never done in his NHL career, were outstanding.

The blood is bad, very bad between these two teams. Game two - we can't hardly wait. In the meantime - advantage Habs.


- Setting aside the own goal, Markov looks like he's in lala land. Lots of misplays and poor positioning. Very weird.

- DSP is hurting his line. He can't stick handle, in addition to skating like he's got 10 pound weights on each foot. Habs really should consider demoting him, and quick.

- Torrey Mitchell. Who woulda thought? Hammond looked weak. Tie game.

- Woah. Plekanec 15 seconds later. Through Hammonds legs. Karlsson with the misplay. 2-1. What a turn of events.

- Eller now takes a stupid high stick on Zibanejad to kill the momentum.

- Oh wow. Subban gets tossed for a slash on Stone. Game may have been lost right here.

- Looked at the replay. Stone went down like he was shot. It was a bad slash but not at a game misconduct level. Officials making their mark.  

- Turris converts. A real shame given how dreadful the Subban ejection was. If this Sens win this, they'll be talking about this for months.

- Eller to the rescue shorthanded!! Hammond again not looking good. 3-2.

- And Stone returns to the bench looking pretty sprite for a guy rolling around as though he was shot. What a shocker. The fakery. What a disgrace. 

- Sens tie. Zibanejad off a sizeable Price rebound. Off a powerplay the Sens should not have. Tie game.

- Gotta admit it, Habs 4th line having a whale of a game. Doing an excellent job with aggressive checking, creating more than a few scoring opportunities. If the Desharnais line could demonstrate similar spirit, Habs might have a fighting chance.

- And there we have it. Another 4th line goal, and Flynn, having the game of his life, muscles one past Hammond. Habs take the lead for he third time in the period. Hammond looking very, very vulnerable.

- What a bonkers period. The Sens Mark Stone suckers the officials into booting Subban from the game, the Habs score shorthanded, the Sens abysmal powerplay somehow scores two on the man advantage, 36 shots registered on goal, Karlsson looks abysmal, and Andrew Hammond came crashing back to earth, surrendering four goals in less than 20 minutes. Even with a one goal lead, the Habs face a mighty hill to climb in the third period, missing their best player. Can the Canadiens fight a way of gutting this out to a victory? It's going to be awfully close.


- As expected physical start to the game, DSP really throwing his weight around first shift.

- Therrien matching Plekanec line against the Turris line. As expected.

- Therrien favouring Mitchell 4th line matched against Pageau 3rd line.

- Great first shifts by Eller and Prust. Price looking focused (as expected).

- Referee Dave Jackson makes an uber-soft hook call on De la Rose for a phantom hook on Karlsson. Bad call.

- Looks like Prust has brought his playoff form to the game tonight.

- Sens first powerplay strongly resembling a tire fire. When they said it was struggling, they weren't kidding.

- Mitchell is a defensive mess. Habs 4th line in general really struggling trying to handle the Sens speed and skill. 

- First half of 1st period complete, pretty typical Habs game so far. Slow start, not much in the way of offensive chances, getting badly outpossesed.

- Sens really dominating centre ice. That bodes well for them if the rest of this series continues this way.

- DSP may be resigned to not scoring, so he's bringing the body big time so far. Not sure if that's going to benefit the first line very much, however.

- Andre Markov. Brain collapse. Scores into his own net. Bizarre first goal of the series. Bell Centre is stunned. Not the first time this year Markov has done something perplexing that's cost his team a goal. 1-0.

- Kind of sad the Habs have only tested Hammond twice in this period, and it was by the 4th line both times.

Borowiecki/Gryba pairing is a mess, specifically defensive zone coverage. Habs really, really need to exploit this.

- Not a banner period for Montreal. Possession was awful, DSP, while hitting some bodies, doesn't seem capable of making actual offensive contributions, and the Sens benefit from an own goal. Habs fans should be concerned. Very concerned.


As we neared the end of the regular season, there were more than a few Habs fans checking the out of town scoreboards to gauge how the Eastern Conference standings were going to play out. That's the luxury of cheering for a first place team. Your evenings are more spent watching others than actually cheering for your team.

Towards the end, there were three candidates left to choose from, the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. It's no secret that most Habs fans would have gladly chosen to face either of the first two in the first round, and reluctantly taken the later Senators, if only because Ottawa had given the Canadiens fits during the regular season, not to mention they'd also been the hottest second-half team in the League.

Oh well. The Senators it is, then. You can't have it all. In advance of what should be a closely fought semi-finals, here's the Habs Game Blog series breakdown:


The Canadiens, right off the mark, find themselves at a distinct disadvantage because they won't be starting game one with their leading scorer, Max Pacioretty, in the lineup due to concussion (unconfirmed, but .. yeah .. it's concussion). With Pacioretty unable to play, the Senators will pose a far greater danger of dominating this series offensively not only because of their top line scoring advantage, but the bottom six, at least on paper, appears to favour the nation's captial.

The Habs will have their work cut out containing Ottawa's top two lines, starting with the Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and and Clarke Macarthur trio, with particular deference to Stone, who's been sniping it up this season posting a near 17% shoot percentage, one of the best in the League. The Sens second scoring unit, Mika Zibanejad, Bobby Ryan and Milan Michalek doesn't have the same punch as the Turris line, but it does offer decent forechecking which could give the Habs defense some fits as the series progresses.

While I do think the first two lines are essentially a washout (with Pacioretty in the lineup), the real difference maker could be the Sens 3rd and 4th lines, both of which bring significant checking assets to the table that could help Ottawa dominate the neutral zone, which is often key to playoff victories. In particular, Ottawa's 4th line of David Legwand, Mike Hoffman and Alex Chiasson, who are collectively eons ahead of the Habs current 4th line comprised of Torry Mitchell, Brandon Prust and Brian Flynn. Mitchell and Flynn were deadline pickups by Marc Bergevin, designed, we assumed, to give the Habs more "grit". It is now as it was then, a regrettable decision in this writer's opinion, in large part because both Mitchell and Flynn are at best, marginal NHL 4th liners, are are by no means, an upgrade of players the Habs already have in their system, such as Christian Thomas, Sven Andrighetto or for that matter, Michael Bournival.

Keys for the Habs will be, of course, getting Max Pacioretty back into the lineup as quickly as possible, and hoping that Lars Eller will post his usual strong playoff performances, while getting some kind of actual scoring production out of the underwhelming deadline acquisition Devante Smith-Pelly. Failing that, this Habs team will likely struggle to put pucks on the net, which means they'll need to rely heavily on team defense and goaltending.

Keys for the Sens; dominating the neutral zone, applying constant pressure on vulnerable defensemen like Alexei Emelin and Tom Gilbert, making fast transitions from the defensive zone, and finding a way of beating Carey Price more than twice a game.

Series Advantage: Senators


Here's where things get a bit more interesting. Both teams feature stud star defensemen, Ottawa with former Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson, and the Habs with former Norris trophy winner P.K. Subban. Each bring to the table the capacity to single-handedly affect the final outcome of games, each with outstanding puck control and game presence, and each with significant offensive punch. Karlsson led the Senators in point scoring, which is an impressive accomplishment for any defenseman (although reflective that Ottawa didn't have any superstar offensive production this year), while Subban racked up career totals, putting up 60 points, 8 fewer than Karlsson's total.

Beyond the star defenders, the Sens have two strong sets with Karlsson playing next to Marc Methot, while Patrick Wiercioch and Cody Ceci comprise the 2nd unit. It's when you move down to the third unit of Mark Borowiecki and Eric Gryba that the Sens really start to look thin, which means Habs coach Michel Therrien would be very wise to use his last change advantage to full effect. The Canadiens should be sending out their top line of Thomas Plekanec, Alek Galchenyuk and Brenden Gallagher against the Borowiecki/Gryba pair at every opportunity.

The Habs defense is unquestionably stronger and more versatile, especially with the trade deadline acquisition of Jeff Petry, who's been everything and more that the Habs could have hoped for. Even though Petry is being saddled on the 2nd unit with Alexei Emelin, the Canadiens will still ice three defensive units that on their own, easily trump Ottawa's, both in skill, defensive prowess, and mobility (yes, even with Emelin).

Keys for the Habs defensively: containment of the Sens top two scoring lines, the ability to adjust to Ottawa's strong forechecking system, the willingness to become more involved in offensive transitions, making accurate zone transition passes from tape to tape (not from tape to boards), and nullifying the Karlsson effect, which means being able to be responsible in anticipating the play, especially when Karlsson carries the puck from his zone.

Keys for the Sens defensively; simply hanging in there - finding a way of protecting their net (putting bodies in front of shots), and being able to keep up to the Habs perceived speed advantage.

Series Advantage: Canadiens


This could be interesting, bordering on fascinating. The series will feature this years Vezina trophy winner (and possibly Hart as well) in Carey Price, against one of the great out-of-nowhere stories of the season in Andrew Hammond. In case you've been busy orbiting the moon the past few months, Hammond, who was toiling in minor league oblivion, was called up for emergency services to the big team, and has managed to string together a remarkable, and some would say, improbable record of excellence. The numbers are pretty incredible. 20 wins in 24 starts. A 1.79 GAA. A .941 SV%. Over the course of an actual full season, Hammond would be in the running, if not outright lead, for goaltender and player of the year.

Of course, there's one small dent in the armor to consider. Hammond has played just 24 games, which, while a decent sample size, is most certainly not enough to draw firm conclusions that he's the real deal, but instead, is just a minor leaguer riding an incredible hot streak.

Like all hot streaks, there comes the inevitable cool down period - the question is, will it happen to Hammond, and if so, when?

If Hammond hits reality this week, then don't be surprised if a quick hook is used to switch in Craig Anderson, who up until the middle of this season, was without question the Sens number one netminder. If Anderson is brought in, how he plays will be a huge question mark, since he hasn't been getting regular starts since his mid-season injury.

Carey Price? We all know about Price and the remarkable season he's had. The formula for Price is simple - continue his outstanding play into the post-season, and maybe, just maybe, he could help push the Habs not only past the Senators, but deep into the 2015 playoffs.

Series Advantage: Canadiens

So there you have it. But what about the series itself? I have to admit, I've struggled with determining a winner. The Senators, with a clear advantage at offense, might just have enough in their tank to outpace the Habs in a seven game series. But NHL playoff series aren't only won with scoring, they're mainly won by defense and goaltending. So with bias acknowledged, I'm going to pick the Habs to win over the Sens in six games.

But, and it's a biggie but ... I wouldn't be overtly surprised if Ottawa wins, with surprising ease, if the Canadiens can't get their offensive house in order, and if, for whatever reason, Carey Price isn't able to muster up more than an average performance.


Happy Playoffs Eve! Have you peeked under the tree yet? If you have, you should stop being so damn lazy and get that thing out of the house. December was FOUR MONTHS AGO. Sheesh.

So we've got a series preview coming your way soon, analyzing the Habs and Sens, of course. Plus we'll toss in some take-it-to-the-bank predictions for all the other series. It's going to be an interesting first round.

Meanwhile ...

- Max Pacioretty's status still seems cloudy, which likely matches his though processes at the moment. The Habs approach to this injury has been nothing short of pathetic - everyone in the world knows Max has concussion, but they still refuse to acknowledge the obvious, tinted visor and all. Anyway, coach Therrien said he'd be surprised if Pacioretty started game one, while the team still hasn't given medical clearance.

Bottom line. Max won't play tomorrow because the Habs are counting on holding their own at the Bell Centre. If the Sens win game one, I'd be surprised if Max doesn't start Friday.

- Habs sold single seat tickets this morning for the series, and priced their blues (400 level, end zone) at a grotesque $160. After a bit of an outcry, the club knocked the tab down to $110. Still, that's an outrageous price level. This team already rakes in bajillions selling sweaters marked up 800%. Shame on you, Molson family.

More in a bit.


Hey, hey. Finally. Games that matter. We knew we'd reach this eventuality around December, given how well the Habs started out of the regular season gate, and now we've arrived! The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs!

Check out that awesome Bell Centre collage above that was put up over the weekend. It's about 200 kajillion times better than this abomination:

Remember that? That was the actual painting presented by the Canadiens to Saku Koivu this season. Good lord. Hopefully that's the last time the Habs hire someone from Grade six art class to do anything artistic.

But we digress. It's the playoffs! For the first round, the Habs have drawn our old nemisis, the Ottawa Senators, who, in their 22 years of NHL existence have accomplished almost nothing. But don't tell that to their fans. Nope. Don't even go there. Because those Sens fans are totally convinced that THIS IS THE YEAR. Which is why so many of them are predicting an easy series win over the Canadiens.

Oh, Ottawa. You're just so adorable! You've got yourself the cutest little NHL team there! Aren't you special? Yes you are. Yes you ARE! 

Anyway, some Monday morning news:

-  Practice. Max Pacioretty! He's there in regular uniform. But ... wearing a tinted visor. Hmmm ... that's probably not a good thing. Here's a picture courtesy TSN's expert photographer, John Lu:

Yeah. That's definitely not good. UPDATE: Post-practice, Pacioretty denied the tinted visor had anything to do related to his injury, but that he wore it to "look cool". Yeah, right Max. We ain't buying it.

- Habs lines. Well, they didn't run any. Just skating drills and work on the powerplay. Looks like Therrien is trying to rotate Smith-Pelly into the first line powerplay which is ... uh ... interesting.

- Just to be fair, the Sens also held practice this morning, and they actually ran lines:

Line 1: MacArthur/Turris/Stone
Line 2: Michalek/Zibanejad/Ryan
Line 3: Condra/Pageau/Lazar
Line 4: Hoffman/Legwand/Chiasson


- Finally, the NHL announced who will (and conversely, won't) be officiating the playoffs. Tim Peel? OUT. Yeah, for reals. He didn't make the cut.

Yes, Habs fans. I know you're wondering. Chris Lee? In, I'm afraid. The world continues to work in mysterious ways.

More in a bit.