Habs' Final Week: The Statistics, the Odds, the Persistence
Expectations were high, disappointments were numerous, but through all that has been said and done, they are still standing.
The Montreal Canadiens are closing their regular-season schedule with four remaining battles and a blurry playoff spot. However, with the Penguins’ loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday night, the sixth spot is now up for grabs.
Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, and Alex Tanguay have scored nearly 52 percent of the team’s goals, totaling 34 points in the last six games.
Kovalev won the NHL first star of the week, with two goals and five assists in three games.
However, despite the explosion of this new first trio, a few questions remain unanswered when it comes to other lines, especially Tomas Plekanec’s.
The center player has seen more line-mates than he probably changed shoes during these last few days. Besides, Andrei Kostitsyn hasn't recovered his magic powers yet.
On the blue line, the remainder of the season as well as the playoffs will be trickier than predicted, with power play pillars Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider on the sideline. Markov will reportedly miss three weeks, while Schneider won't be back this year.
With Carey Price out with the flu, Jaroslav Halak did well holding the fort, allowing only three goals on 63 shots. He will face the Ottawa Senators.
The Sens had an amazing month of March with 10 wins in 15 games. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley have always been shining against the Habs, with 16 points in five games this season.
Alfredsson alone got 91 points in 69 career games against Montreal.
The Canadiens will then take on the New York Rangers at the Madison Square Garden for their second game in two nights, facing Sean Avery and Henrik Lundqvist, who is 8-4-0 against Montreal.
The Rangers are 21-11-4 at home (the Habs are 17-19-3 on the road), but have only one regulation-time win in their last five games.
Those are must-win games for the team, considering the Boston Bruins are a major spoiling factor to this tough playoffs race.
They have lost only once to the Habs this year. Since that OTL on October 15, they have been giving Montreal four straight cold showers.
Boston won their last six games and will meet the Ottawa Senators before coming to town.
Then, the final game of this roller-coaster season will be against the Penguins.
Last month became the “March of the Penguins,” with their one regulation-time loss in 12 games. Evgeni Malkin registered 11 points in his last seven games, while Sid the Kid got 27 points in 16 games before they faced Carolina.
Montreal has been playing so well lately that they look transformed and reloaded. However, one line-up alone will not be able to carry an entire team, while Carey Price’s performance at his return remains to be seen.
The young goaltender should logically start in net for the remaining three games. He is 1-0-1 against the Rangers, 1-3-0 against the Bruins, and finally 2-1-0 against the Penguins.
It would be wrong to guarantee another perfect week; things do change fast in hockey. But trust and expectations never hurt anybody.
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein
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