The scene of the Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins first-round playoff matchup shifts tonight, to a backdrop that is decidedly more favourable for the Habs.
After taking a surprise 2-0 lead by winning the first two games in Boston, the Habs now come home to Montreal for Games 3 and 4. The friendly climes of the Bell Centre have been good to the Canadiens this season where Montreal has trotted out a 24-11-6 record. For a team who places a lot of importance on line matching, it makes sense that the Canadiens would have a solid home record.
What to expect
The tables have completely turned, with Montreal now playing the role of series favorites. Boston needs to win four of five possible games in order to advance, while the Canadiens only needs two. In addition, with three of five to be played in Montreal, the Habs look like they are in good position.
But they haven't won anything yet.
The challenge tonight will be for them to remain level headed and focused on the task at hand, despite the ravenous Bell Centre crowd. The players will be pumped and would do well to once again score the first goal and score it early. This will just keep the crowd in the game while putting the already tentative Bruins on their heels.
Both teams know that a Canadiens win tonight is likely a death sentence for Boston. As such, I would expect the Bruins to bring their best effort of the series. They cannot afford the costly turnovers at their own blue line that have hurt them so badly this series.
Also, players like Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have to show up on the scoreboard for Boston to have any chance. In the net, there is a whisper that Tuukka Rask could get the call in Tim Thomas' place but I wouldn't bank on that.
The curious case of Zdeno Chara
Prior to Game 2, it was announced that Zdeno Chara had spent the night in Boston hospital for dehydration. While he took the pregame skate, he was in no shape to play and ended up being scratched from the lineup.
Chara accompanied his teammates to Montreal but there are rumours circulating that he might not play tonight. Given his importance to the Bruins, that would be a massive blow to the team. As such, however, I fully expect him to play if he is even remotely able to. No Chara in the lineup would mean, to me, that this guy is gravely ill.
So while the challenge for Montreal will be to focus on winning Game 3 and avoid looking past tonight, so far, they seem ready for the challenge.
If you haven't seen it yet, here is video of P.K. Subban being interviewed after the Habs Game 2 victory: