The Canadiens' topic du jour for the past week or more has been "Who will the Habs face in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?" We're, of course, very confidently assuming that they will make the playoffs. Barring a major collapse, they will.
But whereas last week some were eyeing a fifth place finish, recent losses have tempered those lofty expectations. Such is the Habs' roller-coaster season. At time of writing, the Canadiens sit in seventh place, with four points separating sixth through tenth positions.
Let's hope that readers make it a habit to check back to view comments on each of the articles on a regular basis. If so, you will have noticed a very interesting discussion on potential first round matchups that began following the recap of the Devils-Canadiens game. Thanks to those who have contributed so far.
In case you haven't been following, I've taken the liberty of re-posting the excellent comments on the issue. It's been a fascinating discussion. Please read and then feel free to add your opinions in the comment section following this article. Also, don't forget to vote in the All Habs Poll of the Week.
Comments on Potential Playoff Opponents for the Montreal Canadiens
I would much rather see the Habs in a series against Buffalo or Washington. It would be entertaining, at least... (Pens are just annoying).
The only reason why I would like to see the Penguins or Capitals (or even Sabres) as a first round opponent is that *if* the Canadiens are going to lose in the first round, I'd like to be at least entertained. Nothing would be worse than watching our team get bounced and be bored at the same time.
I don't disagree with you that Caps could provide an exciting series, but I do think that the Habs have a decent chance to knock off either Buffalo or New Jersey.
The Sabres are a good matchup, as they are the least physical team in the conference. I do worry about Lindy Ruff out-coaching Jacques Martin throughout a series, and Ryan Miller's impact.
New Jersey has trouble scoring, and Martin Brodeur has not looked the same this season (he was pulled tonight against the Flyers), but allowing the Devils to score first is deadly.
And while we're talking about the playoffs... I really do not want to play the Caps. The Caps fan in me wouldn't like that at all. I'd rather the Sabres, or maybe the Devils (at least with the Devils you can always hope that they have their yearly meltdown in the playoffs).
How do we break down potential first round opponents? I don't think we want any part of Pittsburgh. Washington would be a monumental upset, but Theo is weak in goal, and their defense is suspect as well (and let's not forget the Habs reputation of being first round giant killers...i.e. the Bruins).
The Habs have played the Capitals pretty well this year, so there's *some* hope there. Buffalo, while not very physical, seems to have the Canadiens number. I have no doubt that Miller would win the series by himself. And, of course, Ruff would do a tap dance all over Martin.
The Canadiens are also 1-3-1 against the Sabres this year, and if not for Price in game 2, that record would be 0-4-1. They've beaten the Habs by scoring goals, by winning goaltending duels, and by winning in shootouts. Pending the result of their last matchup next week, I don't really want to see them.
The Devils would be an interesting opponent. While they are masters of putting the sleeper hold on the Canadiens (among other teams), you get the sense that if the Canadiens can just score first things would be different. The problem is we've been hoping for exactly this for years now when it comes to playing the Devils.
Brodeur is not quite the guy he used to be...except when playing the Canadiens. He has melted down from over-use in the past couple playoff years, but the cynic in me thinks that he would hold up just long enough to defeat the Canadiens.
My order of preference for first round opponents is:
1- Washington (entertainment & hope)
2- New Jersey (pray Brodeur falters)
3- Buffalo (they own us right now)
4- Pittsburgh (you'd have to be dumb to WANT to play the reigning champs)
I don't think Jose has been as awful as people think he has been. He's had some really solid games where he has been a major difference in games. If he can find that zone again....it's not going to be pretty for whoever they play.
Their D is definitely not their strong point, but I think their motto must be "who needs defense with offense like we have?" I really think the only way the Habs can beat the Caps is if the Caps sit half their offense and put Neuvirth in nets...
I think my preferred order would be:
1. Devils (I'm convinced that, while Brodeur does seem to elevate his play when he comes to Montreal, the Habs roll over and go to sleep anyway. Maybe if they learned to stay awake, there'd be hope)
2. Sabres (Honestly, I don't care about the Sabres, so losing to them would maybe at least make me remember that they're in our division)
3. Penguins (I hate them, and I don't want to play them, but I'd rather lose to the Penguins and have everyone hate them than play the Caps and have everyone hate them :D)
4. Caps (see above)
Well...one way to look at it with the Sabres is a) Price has their number as well b) There are no shootouts in the playoffs.
Price's stats are amazing vs Buffalo this season:
Save %: 0,952
Halak stats are absolutely horrible so far:
Save %: 0,844
Here are the stats vs the other teams we night meet in the playoffs:
Price vs New Jersey:
Halak vs New Jersey:
Price vs Pittsburgh:
Halak vs Pittsburgh:
Price vs Washington:
Halak wasn't in nets for any games vs the Caps this season.
Although goaltending will be important in the playoffs, it depends witch Habs team shows up. Let's hope it's the one that isn't afraid to control the puck or forecheck, and there might be a little bit of hope that we make it past the first round.
Nice breakdown, anonymous.
Isn't it interesting that the team that we've had the most success against (Washington) is the top scoring team in the conference, and as such, has made our goaltending look fairly mediocre?
In fact, we've taken five of a possible eight points from the Capitals this year, as opposed to two points vs the Penguins (of a possible eight points), three vs the Devils (of a possible eight points), and three vs the Sabres (of a possible 10 points, with two left up for grabs).
What does this all mean? On the surface, it appears as though my order of preference of first round opponents is logical. And it also shows that goaltending is likely not to be the deciding factor.
Price has been brilliant against Buffalo, with little to show for it. Both have been fantastic vs New Jersey, but success is still sparse. Price has been decent vs Pittsburgh, while Halak has been downright frightening...yet Halak has the win.
Anyway, I shuffled your stats off to the team 990 in hopes that they make some constructive and rational debate with it. I think these numbers clearly display that the Canadiens can't go wrong with whoever they go with.