CFN – It’s show time! I’ll be reviewing all of the play off series. Round One has only one Canadian team playing; the Montreal Canadiens who face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning who hold home advantage.
Montreal has been a positive enigma this year. Drama, injuries, slumps, PK Subban and his upcoming contract or trade. Carey Price being injured after the Olympics who we still don’t know if he’s 100% or not?
Tampa Bay finished 1 slim point ahead of Montreal which gave them that home ice advantage for the series with 101 points to Montreal’s 100 points.
For Tampa franchise player Steve Stamkos is back and playing although not with Martin St. Louis on his wing. Tampa finished the season going 7-3 in their last 10 games winning 4 in a row. With goalie Ben Bishop injured Habs fans have a bit more hope; but this is a very deep team. Their young forward corps will get its first baptism by fire in the play offs this year.
Free agent centre Valtteri Filppula had to fill Vinny Lecavlier’s skates this year and so far so good for the Lightning as he put up more points and played more games. He shouldered the load while Stamkos was injured too. Victor Hedman had a breakthrough season finishing up with 55 points over 75 games.
Radko Gudas gives them some grit and while the Habs own Emelin plays a crash and boom game Gudas put up 22 points to go with his 152 pims and 273 hits. He can be a series changer if the Habs don’t skate with their heads up.
Former Ranger Ryan Callahan will probably be one of the most motivated this series as he’s UFA. A good run in the play offs literally will be money in his bank. His gritty play also can play a huge factor in a short series.
Veteran Ryan Malone’s numbers won’t be missed much this series, but his arrest for Cocaine possession and DUI surely will be a team distraction.
Winning Keys : Stamkos, Callahan and Gudas have good series.
Losing Keys: Gudas takes bad penalties that TB gets burned on. Bishop is out for the series.
No pressure on Montreal this series being Canada’s only team! Playing in Montreal is pressure enough for les boys so that should be a factor.
The Thomas Vanek trade has been a winner so far as he’s clicked with Patches and Desharnais. He put up 6 goals in 18 games with a low scoring %. He and Pacioretty are the keys to Montreal in breaking out of round one. If they hit the back of the net more than Stamkos Montreal gets another round at the dance. Vanek is of course also a UFA so a good play off run is critical to his next contract as well.
Tomas Plekanec is not known as a big scorer, but if he can pull in more points than Stamkos who he will most likely be shadowing the Habs win.
Brendan Gallagher let Ottawa get under his skin last year. He needs to make his feet move fast and get dirty. He needs to draw penalties almost as he needs to score. Montreal needs a lot of PP time this series.
Montreal has a lot of potential big stories. Daniel Briere and captain Brian Gionta both have good play off pedigrees. If either clicks it bodes well for Montreal.
PK Subban is the wild card. All he needs to do is have an average series for the Habs to be happy. If he lives up to the racial slur that many fans are using, calling him the “Chocolate Rocket” , this team can go deep in the play offs. If he unravels it might get ugly and most likely would mean he’s traded in the off season. He will have the most pressure of any Hab and frankly I think he can hit a home run in this series. If he plays PK hockey it should open things up and take pressure off of Andrei Markov who never has had a memorable play off.
Can Carey Price not give up that one bad goal per game? It’s show time. Hopefully there’s some of that Olympic buzz still in him and he can have an average or above average series. That’s all he really needs to do; just not stink!
Winning Keys: Pacioretty & Vanek Magic; Subban success; one of either Briere or Gionta clicking.
Losing Keys: PK Subban explodes; Carey Price drops the puck.
Fearless Prediction: Habs in six!