Canadiens Playoff Primer: Habs Go for Stranglehold on Bruins in Montreal

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Canadiens Playoff Primer: Habs Go for Stranglehold on Bruins in Montreal
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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.



All Business

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:

 

 




I know what you're thinking: What was that? What happened to the exuberant, smiling, charismatic Subban? What happened is that he got the message and, for that matter, so did everyone else on the team.

With veterans like Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Brent Sopel, Hal Gill and Travis Moen all having won the Stanley Cup, their influence is visible throughout the rookie ranks.

The message here is stay focused, take it one game at a time and don't give the other team any bulletin board material. So as much as the Bruins have talked about hating the Canadiens, and players like David Krejci says he has no respect for Subban, Montreal has refused to play that game.

That is the effect of players who have been there and a sign of maturity.

Whatever the outcome of this series the Canadiens have shown they are a much more mature team than the Bruins. Boston acts young and inexperienced because, well, they are. Montreal, on the other hand, has everyone pulling in the same direction. Moreover, when you see players like Subban and Weber giving sound bites that sound like seasoned pros, you know that (to steal a line from Randy Jackson) they're in it to win it.

As Don Corleone said in the Godfather III, "Never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgment."

Game time is 7:30 PM.


New Sunday Shinny

In this episode of the Sunday Shinny, Gary Whittaker, Nick Murdocco and Kamal Panesar, welcome Rick Springhetti of Macleans pro scouting magazine.

Topics include:
-Jacques Martin
-The Canadiens so far in the playoffs
-Are the Bruins so bad or the Canadiens so good?
-Around the NHL and more!

Click here to play (listing time 38:59).

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Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8-9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

Follow Kamal on FacebookTwitter, HabsAddict.com and Hockeybuzz.com

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