Well, folks we’re down to our final week of the NHL regular reason. As of April 16th your Montreal Canadiens will be playing for hockey’s most coveted prize, the Stanley Cup.
How they got here is nothing short of wondrous. Despite mediocre 5 on 5 possession numbers, a sputtering powerplay and the worst goal differential among current playoff teams (+13), the Habs are on the verge of solidifying home ice and are the hottest team in the NHL. Since the record-breaking-come-from-behind-victory against the Ottawa Senators, with just 3:22 to play, the Habs are 9-2-0 and have limited the opposition to 25 goals while scoring 40 – mostly thanks to Max Pacioretty who his having a career year.
All the team needs now is to figure out how to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, their likely first round foes.
Here’s a look at who’s hot and who’s not as the final week unfolds:
Who’s Hot: With three games remaining in the regular season, and with 7 goals in his last 5 games, Max Pacioretty is one shy of hitting the 40 goal mark. Not since Vincent Damphousse in 1993-1994 have the Habs had a 40 goal scorer on their roster. Pacioretty didn’t do it alone – with the help of Desharnais’s positioning and seeing eye passes and Vanek’s strength on the puck, the trio has formed one of the most potent lines in hockey.
To say Price is “hot” would be a gross understatement. He’s currently unshakable.
Who’s not: Oh Therrien. No question, the Canadiens’ head coach can take credit for the strong position in which his team now finds itself. At the same time, some of his decisions continue to disappoint. Despite Subban’s mind blowing limited ice time, forcing the defenseman into the role of teacher, alongside rookie Jared Tinordi, simply emphasizes how little Therrien understands Subban’s game. Markov is the teacher. Subban is the type of creative player that cannot be held back or punished by an inexperienced partner. Here’s hoping this pairing changes and fast.
On the injury front: While Mike Weaver has come in as a reliable replacement for injured defenseman Josh Gorges (broken hand), having both in the lineup would be better. Expect to see the Alternative Captain back in the lineup on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Dale Weise (hand/wrist) is also ready to return and should be back in the lineup this week.
Josh Gorges is also at #Habs skate. He's reportedly targeting Wednesday's game for his return from a broken hand.
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) April 7, 2014
A note on Murray: After a dangerous hit to the head on Mike Kostka of the Tampa Bay Lightning, defenseman Douglas Murray was served a 3 game suspension. The three games were warranted certainly but his clean record and visible distress when interviewed about the hit after the game are fair indications that no further disciplinary action was necessary. Murray has served 2 of 3 games.
Congratulations: to David Desharnais who is the Montreal Canadiens 2014 nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy awarded to the player that best represents perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship. The honour is well deserved.
The Week Ahead: There are only three games remaining before the playoffs get underway on April 16th. The Habs visit the Blackhawks on Wednesday before returning home for their final two games against the New York Islanders on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday. Then bring on the playoffs!
Montreal Canadiens Playoff Tickets are on sale now HERE!