So far this morning—and according to Pat Hickey from the Montreal Gazette —the Habs are making several changes to their lineup as follows:
1. Carey Price will be in the net.
2. Ryan O'Byrne will be back on D.
3. Marc-Andre Bergeron will be on the fourth line and power play.
4. Mathieu Darche seems like he will be the one giving him place up to MAB.
Personally, I think all four of these things will be good for the Canadiens. Price is better between the pipes because he is bigger than Halak and better suited to the physical abuse that is being dolled out in the Habs crease.
Also, Price seems to have a much better, more mature, more humble attitude. I think Halak's rise to stardom served Price up a big slice on humble pie and maybe helped to get his head screwed on straight.
The Ryan O'Byrne decision is a no-brainer and I am not sure why it took Jacques Martin three games to figure out that he should be in the lineup.
O'Byrne is the ONLY Canadiens defenseman who brings a physical aspect to the game. He is big and strong and will be more effective than MAB in clearing the front of the net.
MAB should never have been playing as Markov's defense partner on the first pairing. This is another hair-brain scheme hatched by Jacques Martin. While there is no question that MAB, and his bullet of a slap shot, make an excellent addition to the Habs power play, he is a major liability five-on-five.
You just have to look at his minus-three rating last game. He was the only Habs defenseman who was worse than a minus-one.
MAB is a player that should simply play about five minutes per game on the fourth line plus whatever minutes he gets on the first power play unit.
Lastly, Mathieu Darche seems like he will be a healthy scratch. While I like Darche a lot, he really hasn't done anything in this series to keep himself in the lineup. The Habs bottom two lines need to bring more to the table and if Darche isn't doing it, then switching him out is a good call.
So the Habs are making changes. That much is clear. But will it bear fruit on the ice? Will it enable the Habs to play a full 60 minutes and to win another game in this series?
Only time will tell, but if the Habs cannot win tonight—in the friendly climes of the Bell Centre—I fear that this series will be over in five games.
If, however, they can shutdown the Caps, use their speed and skill, play an attacking style, get traffic to the net to disrupt Varlamov, keep scoring power play goals while stifling the Caps PP, and get outstanding goaltending from Price, they should be able to tie the series.
That sounds like a lot to ask for, and maybe it is, but I truly believe that they can do it. By around 10 p.m. tonight we should know if I am right or not.