Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #2

Posted on 17 April 2014 | Comments Off

1 - Good Friday : While many people will be off work on Friday, the Canadiens will contest Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the Lightning. It will mark the sixth time in NHL history that the bleu-blanc-rouge will kick off the Easter break by hitting the ice for a playoff tilt. The Habs boast a stellar 3-0-2 record on Good Friday, with both of the aforementioned losses coming in overtime. While you might not recall the events of Good Friday in 1931 or 1954, what took place on April 20, 1984 between the Canadiens and Nordiques will always remain an integral part of team history. The Canadiens bested their provincial rivals 5-3 in a game in which 198 penalty minutes were handed out. We might not yet know what Good Friday 2014 has in store for the Canadiens and Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but we suspect that the referees won’t be anywhere nearly as busy as they were when the Habs and Nordiques clashed back in April 1984. 2 - On a hot streak: Since the best-of-seven style playoff format was installed for the duration of the playoffs back in 1987, the Canadiens have won the first game of any given series 18 times. More importantly, the momentum they accrued from that first win carried over to Game 2 where they hold an impressive 13-5 record. That being said, if past results hold true, the chances that the Habs will return home with two games in hand over the Lightning are rather strong. Interestingly enough, the Canadiens’ overall playoff record when they win the first game of a series stands at 13 victories as well. 3 - Shoot, shoot, shoot: Though the score was as close as it gets, the Habs ran the show offensively in Game 1, directing the puck toward the Lightning net on 74 occasions compared to 52 attempts against. Excluding the pucks which were blocked or which missed the net, the Habs still finished the night with a dominating 44-25 lead in shots on goal. All in all, the Canadiens’ puck possession ratios in Game 1 were on par with the regular season figures of league powerhouses such as the Boston Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks 4 - Standing tall: Do the four goals the Lightning scored in Game 1 offer cause for concern? Looking back at Carey Price’s body of work throughout the regular season, the unequivocal answer is no. The netminder posted a save percentage of .840 on Wednesday, only the 19th time in 60 starts in 2013-14 when he has not stopped at least 90 percent of all shots faced. In the 18 previous under-90 occasions, Price has managed to bounce right back in his following outing. His expected save percentage in those games: .920. 5 - A little overtime never hurts : Even if the most fretful of hockey fans among you struggle to endure the stress that comes with overtime hockey during the playoffs, rest assured that it’s a good omen. When Dale Weise sent Canadiens fans worldwide into a frenzy on Wednesday night by scoring the winning goal that put Michel Therrien’s troops up 1-0 in their series with the Lightning, he lifted the bleu-blanc-rouge to an overtime win in a series-opener for the eighth time in team history. On seven previous occasions, the Canadiens went on to win their playoff series six times, including a victory over Washington in 2010.

Playoff notebook – April 17

Posted on 17 April 2014 | Comments Off

TAMPA – In a special playoff edition of the notebook, P.K. talks PP efficiency, Michael Bournival discusses his postseason debut and playoff veteran Daniel Briere knows you don’t win the Cup after Game 1. TAKING THE POWER BACK: Having now gone 0-for-25 on the power play over the past nine games, including an 0-for-2 mark so far in the playoffs, the Canadiens once again split up into two groups to spend some quality time on special teams during Thursday’s practice. Winning the special teams battle in Game 1 after going a perfect 2-for-2 on the penalty kill, in addition to scoring a shorthanded marker against Tampa, the Habs aren’t hitting the panic button but they’re ready to start seeing the red light come on a little more often with the man advantage. “I think we’re doing a lot of good things and we’re generating opportunities. We’re not scoring; it’s just not going in for us. If we score, it changes everything,” underlined P.K. Subban, who was second behind only Alex Ovechkin this season averaging 4:39 of power play ice time per game. “I think the most important thing for our team right now is working together as a five-man unit. It’s not just on the forwards; it’s on the defense as well to make sure we’re putting the pucks in good places so our forwards can retrieve them. The most important thing is just generating momentum and carrying that over into our 5-on-5 play. You’re not going to score on every power play – we’d like to, obviously – but the other teams are good and trying to shut us down so the important thing is to make sure we’re generating momentum and not giving them any.” BATTLE TESTED: While 12 Lightning players were enjoying their first taste of NHL Playoff hockey on Wednesday, Michael Bournival was one of just two Habs players making his postseason debut in Game 1. With a playoff pedigree that includes leading the Shawinigan Cataractes to a Memorial Cup championship in 2012 as captain, it was no surprise to see Bournival hit the ground running in his first playoff game with the Habs. Kick-starting the play that led to Dale Weise’s overtime winner against the Bolts in addition to going 2-for-3 in the faceoff circle during his 12:28 workload, the rookie forward had no trouble fitting in with his veteran linemates. “Playoff games are always exciting and full of emotions. It’s even more fun when they finish the way it did yesterday, and we played well,” mentioned Bournival, who played with Weise and Daniel Briere in the outing. “In every league, when you get to the playoffs, the game kicks up a notch. I was expecting that. I watched playoff games in Montreal last year and I saw how it went then so I think I was ready for the moment. Every game is important in the playoffs. It goes fast and you could be eliminated the next night. Every game, every period and every shift is important.” SAGE ADVICE: About to take part in his 110th career NHL playoff game, postseason veteran and much-heralded clutch playoff performer Daniel Briere has already turned the page on his team’s big overtime win in Game 1. Counting more games of NHL Playoff experience than eight of his fellow forwards in the lineup on Wednesday night combined, the 36-year-old center recognizes the importance of maintaining an even keel at playoff time. “If you look at teams that have success in the playoffs, they’re the teams that are able to control their emotions. You have highs and lows, whether it’s a goal against or a mistake or a bad penalty, but good teams are the ones that can bounce back and put that behind them,” described Briere, who helped the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 with 30 points in 23 playoff games that spring. “It’s not just one game to another; sometimes it’s one period to another or even one shift to another. Yesterday after they scored their first goal it would have been easy to hang our heads, but we responded right away with a goal 19 seconds later. You’re going to go through a rollercoaster of emotions in the playoffs and you can’t get caught up in it. Yes, we played a good game yesterday but that doesn’t mean anything tomorrow. We have to start again from square one with another one.” Shauna Denis is a writer for

Drama kings

Posted on 17 April 2014 | Comments Off

TAMPA – The Canadiens stole home ice advantage back from the Lightning in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night. Entering Game 1 as the “underdog” road team after finishing one point back of the Bolts with 100 points on the season, the Habs leaned heavily on their advantage in the experience department in their first win of the series. From responding to Tampa’s opening goal 19 seconds after it had happened on Tomas Plekanec’s first of the postseason to tying it up again off a Brian Gionta shorthanded marker in the second period, the Canadiens overcame plenty of adversity to win their first playoff game of 2014. “It’s not an easy thing, the rollercoaster of emotion you’re going to feel in playoff games,” admitted Daniel Briere, the most experienced playoff veteran on either roster with 109 career NHL postseason games under his belt. “That’s part of the experience factor, knowing to stay composed and stay focused, even when you miss chances or make bad mistakes that result in a goal or a bad chance against. I thought we did a really good job of staying composed and staying within our limits. We made them work for everything and that was a good sign.” As advertised, Briere took his game up a notch in the NHL’s second season, showcasing some of the clutch postseason play that’s been the hallmark of his career since his NHL Playoff debut 14 years ago. Finishing with a plus-1 differential in his 18:48 workload, the veteran winger was buzzing all night, before setting the table for Dale Weise’s overtime winner. “I had a feeling something good was going to happen. Our line had too many scoring chances – at some point we knew we were going to get a good result,” shared Briere, who is sixth among all active NHLers in playoff points per game with 110 in 109 games played. “One thing that was really impressive – and I don’t think he got the assist on the goal – was the work of Michael Bournival. He had two guys on his back and he stayed on the puck before getting it to me and that’s how the play started. When I got the puck behind the net, I noticed Dale wide open in the crease. When I saw him alone there I couldn’t believe it. It was a great feeling to see him score.” One of Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s three midseason acquisitions, Weise arrived in Montreal promising to provide an extra gear to the lineup, adding speed, grit and an underrated offensive touch down the stretch. He may be better known for his work in the corners than his overtime-winning snipes, but Briere wasn’t surprised to see Weise come up big when given an opportunity. “I’ve seen him shoot in practice and he’s got one of the hardest shots,” shared Briere of his linemate, who earned the nickname “Dutch Gretzky” during his time lighting it up overseas during the lockout. “I just saw the replay and it went through the goalie, so it had to be a hard shot.” Despite boasting a healthy playoff pedigree from his days in Junior, Weise had yet to crack the goose egg on his NHL postseason stat sheet prior to Wednesday’s game. For the 25-year-old forward, notching his first career NHL playoff point off an overtime-winning goal was worth the wait. “I can’t remember the last time I had an overtime goal, so that one feels pretty good,” admitted Weise with a laugh. “We had about two or three similar chances the shifts before that and on the last shift I had kind of backed off on the play because to didn’t want to get caught. I came to the bench and Turk [Gerard Gallant] told me to not be afraid to jump in. “Bourny and Danny made a great play, and I won’t miss too many from there,” he added. “It’s a good feeling. It’s nice to contribute. Maybe in the second and third, our line didn’t get as much going as we would’ve liked but to go out in overtime and have some good shifts and contribute feels great. We’re going to need some depth scoring here to continue to win games. I don’t know if we expected it to be 5-4, but that’s playoffs. Anything can happen.” Shauna Denis is a writer for

The Numbers Game – Game #1 – April 16, 2014

Posted on 17 April 2014 | Comments Off

TAMPA - Here's a numerical look at Game 1 between the Habs and the Lightning on Wednesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. 12 – Number of Lightning skaters suiting up for their first career NHL playoff games on Wednesday night, with only Michael Bournival and Alexei Emelin making their postseason debuts at the other end of the ice. 2 – Number of points registered by Emelin in his NHL playoff debut, registering two assists and two blocked shots. 3,643 – Number of days since the Canadiens were last in Tampa for a playoff game, dating back to April 25, 2004. 19 – Number of seconds needed by Tomas Plekanec to reply following Nikita Kucherov’s opening goal, pulling the Habs even on the following shift. 34 – Number of points racked up by Plekanec in 53 career playoff games to date, currently ranking 44th all-time on the team’s postseason points leaderboard. 3 – Number of shorthanded goals scored by Brian Gionta in his NHL postseason career, jamming home his own rebound with P.K. Subban in the box for slashing to tie the game in the second period. 32 – Number of playoff goals scored by Gionta in his career to date, now tied with Jarome Iginla at 15th among all active NHLers in that category. 1 – Number of NHL playoff goals scored by Lars Eller in his career, patiently outwaiting the Tampa coverage to give the Habs their first lead of the game in the third period. 12 – Number of mulit-point games enjoyed by Gionta in his postseason career, adding an assist on Eller’s goal to finish with two points against the Bolts. 7 – Number of shots fired by Vanek in the outing, redirecting his first Canadiens playoff goal past Anders Lindback in the third period off a perfect feed from David Desharnais. 3.25 – Average number of goals scored by the two teams combined in four regular season games in 2013-14, exploding for a total of nine goals in the first game of the series. -

Game 1 Preview: MTL @ TBL

Posted on 16 April 2014 | Comments Off

Eastern Conference First Round Series : Game 1 Canadiens (0-0) vs. Lightning (0-0) This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. On Wednesday night, the second and third-placed teams of the Atlantic Division will kick off their quest for the Stanley Cup in Tampa, Florida. Both teams have compiled fine regular season records. The Habs hit the 100 point plateau for the first time since 2007-08, finishing with exactly 100. Meanwhile, the Lightning closed out the season just above Montreal with 101 points and received home-ice advantage in the series in doing so. Several Tampa Bay Lightning players are battling injuries. Starter Ben Bishop will miss Game 1 with an upper-body injury suffered in the last week of the regular season. Second-line center Valtteri Filppula and young star Ondrej Palat are also hurt but could suit up for Tampa on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Habs will be without Alex Galchenyuk and Travis Moen. Galchenyuk will miss the entire series due to a lower-body injury, while Moen, who is skating with the team, is looking to make a return in the near future from a concussion. Lars Eller and Brandon Prust will probably suit up tonight for the visiting team. In the absence of Bishop, Anders Lindback will be between the pipes for Tampa Bay. The Swedish netminder is coming off three straight wins, making 77 saves on 79 shots faced. However, his career numbers of 2.90GAA and 0.897 SV% are also less-than-impressive. Across the ice, it will be Carey Price, who owns a 2.52 career goals-against average and 0.917 career save percentage. Since winning gold at the Sochi Olympics, he has stopped over 93% of all shots faced. Players to watch for Tampa include former 60-goal man Steven Stamkos, stud defenseman Victor Hedman, and former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, acquired in exchange for Martin St-Louis at the trade deadline. Look for Michel Therrien to counter with leading scorer Max Pacioretty, reigning Norris winner P.K. Subban and sharpshooter Thomas Vanek. Puck drop will be at 7:00PM E.S.T.

Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #1

Posted on 15 April 2014 | Comments Off

The Centennial Club : To be the best, you need to beat the best. If you have any hope of hoisting the Stanley Cup come June, the chances that you’ll have to battle teams that registered solid regular season records – that is, squads that have amassed 100 points or more in the standings – are quite good. Tampa Bay certainly fits that mold. That being said, the playoff series against the Lightning marks the 30th time the Canadiens will have battled an opponent of that calibre, a league record. It’s also worth noting, however, that the Habs hold the distinction of being the team that has eliminated clubs who’ve racked up at least 100 points during the regular season on 16 of 29 occasions. Is it an easy task, you ask? Check with the St. Louis Blues who’ve only managed to pull off the feat twice in 15 opportunities, or even the Vancouver Canucks, who’ve done it just three times in 18 opportunities. For their part, the Lightning are 3-for-8 in that department. Beginning anew : It’s safe to say the playoffs are a whole new ball game for those teams fortunate enough to qualify for springtime’s toughest tournament. The regular season is a thing of the past and win-loss records are meaningless. Since 1998, the Canadiens have played 14 playoff rounds. On two of five occasions, the bleu-blanc-rouge downed a playoff opponent against whom they’d won the annual season series. The Habs hold a similar record against a playoff opponent against whom they’d split the season series and/or lost out to during the regular season. Interestingly enough, the Lightning won three of four meetings with the Canadiens during the 2013-14 campaign… Home-ice advantage? : Since the Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup triumph, the Habs have started their postseason runs on opposition ice 10 times. Try as they might, road team crowds haven’t gotten the best of the bleu-blanc-rouge at the outset of a series away from the friendly confines of home. The Canadiens have downed their opponents six out of 10 times in the series-opener, taking home-ice advantage right back in short order. My kind of town: Montreal’s playoff atmosphere is unique, so much so that you’d be hard-pressed to find something similar anywhere else in the league. Among the Canadiens players who will go up against the Lightning, six have played 30 or more games in bleu-blanc-rouge during the playoffs, including Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges, Travis Moen, Francis Bouillon and Carey Price. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Tampa Bay’s roster. No player on head coach Jon Cooper’s squad has suited up for more than 30 playoff games in a Lightning uniform. The one and only : Let’s finish things off with some trivia. How many players in NHL history have played more than 100 playoff games and managed to average at least one point per game? And, among players in that particular group, who is the only active NHLer? If you came up with Habs forward, Daniel Briere, then you know full well that the Canadiens’ No. 48 has a reputation for lighting the lamp when the stakes are at their highest. In 108 career postseason appearances, Briere has registered 50 goals and 109 points.

Fire with fire

Posted on 15 April 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – Against the Lightning in Game One, the Canadiens appear well equipped to run-and-gun against Tampa’s high-flying offense. For the Montreal Canadiens, one of the focal points of the upcoming series against the Lightning will be how to best contain Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. The former Rocket Richard Trophy winner had an NHL-best 0.68 goal per game this season, only missing out on the goal-scoring title for the third time due to losing half the season to a severe leg injury. Now back in full flight for the Floridians, the Markham, Ontario native figures to be one of the main thorns on the Habs’ side in the next two weeks. To counter Stamkos’ presence, the Canadiens’ coaching staff is set to go with a multi-pronged approach: the insertion of a notoriously tough customer on one line, and two other line combinations which can attack from anywhere on the ice. A do-it-all player for the Habs since arriving in Montreal two off-seasons ago, Brandon Prust is getting set to make his return from the upper-body injury which sidelined him for the final month of the regular season. If he is indeed ready to go for Game One on Wednesday, he could play alongside two-way pivot Tomas Plekanec and feisty Brendan Gallagher to form a trio which would give little room to manoeuvre for even the best players in the world. “Getting Prust back into the lineup is going to be big for us. He’s a guy who shows up and plays for his teammates every night. We’ve played well together in the past and it’s a lot of fun playing with him. Hopefully we can have success together and help the team,” offered Gallagher, who meshed well with Prust en route to co-leading the Canadiens in goals in the shortened 2012-13 season, his first in the NHL. “As a team, we need to do a good job playing defensively. Stamkos is a really good player. He will get his chances and create things and it’s up to us to make it tough for him.” For his part, Michel Therrien is keeping his cards close to his chest. “We’re not sure yet whether [Prust] will play. We’ll see tomorrow,” said the Habs’ coach. Rest assured that both number eight and his coach will make every effort to be on the same bench in Tampa on Wednesday night. As for Carey Price, he, too, is ready for the challenge of shutting down one of the world’s best goal scorers. “The preparation is the same as for any other game. The key is to not get too worked up and just have the same attitude,” opined Price, who holds a 95.6% save percentage against Tampa this season and 93.1% overall since returning from a gold-medal performance in Sochi. “Stamkos is a great player, but it doesn’t matter off whose stick the puck is coming. You just have to stop it. It’s no different than with anyone else.” With home-ice advantage comes the benefit of having the last line change before a faceoff. If Lightning coach Jon Cooper manages to avoid the Plekanec matchup with his scoring line, then the visiting team will have two other alternatives to fall back on. For every goal that Steven Stamkos and company may notch, the Canadiens’ third and forth lines will have the ability to come right back and even the score. Having overcome an illness which had kept him out of the final two regular season games, Lars Eller appeared to be back at one hundred percent at practice Tuesday. Shooting the puck with power and accuracy while working with Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque, the Dane can be expected to use his size and reach advantage to cause problems for the Lightning. Playing behind them are Michael Bournival, Daniel Briere and Dale Weise. While there is a sizable disprepancy in physical stature between Briere and his linemates, all three players are able to use their above-average skating skills to create chances and exploit the opposing teams’ depth players. In helping his coach play a four-line game, Weise’s impact has been almost just as large as that of the Habs’ other two recent acquisitions. Though Thomas Vanek and Mike Weaver play more minutes than the Winnipeg-born winger, his presence gives his team some extra flexibility in how to deploy its players. “The three players we acquired this spring have very specific roles within our team. We all know what Vanek can do. Weaver has been a very reliable defenseman. He kills penalties, does good things defensively and he’s a leader, too. In the case of Weise, he is a guy with size and speed who can occasionally play a top-nine role. All three of these players are very important to the team,” acknowledged Michel Therrien. “We need contribution from everyone. Not just from one line. Every player in the lineup is going to have an important role. That’s how I see it.” Jack Han is a writer for

Number cruncher: Secret weapons

Posted on 14 April 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL – With a first-round playoff date against the Lightning right around the corner, we look into the contributions of three forwards who could come up huge in the clutch. There will be no shortage of high-profile matchups in the 2013-14 first round playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With both teams’ top two lines fairly even in terms of talent and production, the seven-game series will most likely hinge on the contributions of their oft-underestimated supporting cast. Here are three unsung heroes who can do some serious damage against the Lightning. Brian Gionta: establishing matchups Aside from frequent penalty kill partner Tomas Plekanec, no other Canadiens forward plays as many tough minutes against strong competition as captain Brian Gionta skilfully does. Formerly a 48-goal scorer with the Devils, the 35 year-old from Rochester has matured into one of the best in the league at neutralizing opposing scorers. Now skating with Lars Eller rather than Plekanec as his centerman, Gionta gives coach Michel Therrien a second potent two-way option at even strength. The additional flexibility means that, if necessary, the Habs coaching staff can assign the Czech to blanket Stamkos while delegating Gionta’s line to shut down the Filppula-Callahan unit. All this would set the stage for the high-octane trio of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek to do its thing against Tampa’s bottom-six forwards. Daniel Briere: pinch hitter As a free agent in the summer of 2013, Briere was brought into the team for his offensive prowess. Over the course of the regular season, the Gatineau, QC native has shown off his offensive instincts in spots, scoring at a rate comparable to that of Johan Franzen, Ales Hemsky and Chris Stewart at five-on-five. More importantly, the veteran playmaker is known for his playoff exploits, as he has amassed an impressive 109 points in 108 career postseason games. Having skated with nearly every regular forward on the Canadiens roster, Briere can be slotted into any forward line to give the unit an injection of speed and skill. When Briere cannot score himself, he helps his teammates do so by proxy. One underrated asset he brings to the table is a proven ability to draw penalties – Briere routinely goads opponents into fouling him with great puck control along the boards and has finished with a positive penalty differential (drawing more minor infractions than he commits) in the past three seasons. In his last trip to the playoffs in 2012 with the Flyers, he managed to draw seven minor penalties in 11 games while taking only two himself. Lars Eller: driving the play After scoring five goals in the first five games of the season, Eller has not been able to get his name on the scoreboard with the same regularity. The Dane’s offensive struggles have nothing to do with his skill level; he simply hasn’t been getting the right bounces. His -15 plus-minus rating, in particular, has less to do with poor play than poor luck. Indeed, his PDO rating (on-ice shooting percentage + on ice save percentage, an approximation of a player’s “puck luck” in a given year) is only 968, the lowest score on the Canadiens and the 14th lowest among all NHLers taking part in 70 games or more this season. Considering that all players’ PDO tends to regress heavily toward 1000 over time, there are reasons to believe that good things will soon be happening to the 24 year-old. Overlooking the statistical aberration, Eller has actually been one of the best of his team at winning possession and moving the puck down the ice. Among Habs forwards, only Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher have done better in that part of the game, as measured by their shot attempt differentials (nicknamed Corsi in advanced stats parlance). As it stands, the fourth-year Hab can be identified as a breakout candidate for this year’s playoffs. Jack Han is a writer for

Setting the mood

Posted on 14 April 2014 | Comments Off

BROSSARD – With 82 games in the books in 2013-14, the Canadiens are ready to kick off the real season on Wednesday. Despite cracking the 100-point plateau for just the second time since winning the Stanley Cup in 1993, the Habs will be forced to start the first round of the playoffs on the road in Tampa thanks to the NHL’s new playoff format. With five of the last six Stanley Cups having been clinched by the visiting team, the comforts of home aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be at the NHL level, and after watching the Lightning earn an extra point in a shootout against the Capitals on Sunday, Josh Gorges sees the potential advantage to starting the series on road ice. “It gives us an opportunity to just play a really simple, playoff-style road game,” explained the veteran blue-liner, who will be taking part in his 52nd career NHL postseason game on Wednesday. “We don’t have to impress anybody or go out there and make cute plays and impress a crowd that’s going to be amped up and ready to go. We just have to go out and get a win, whatever that takes. One of the good things about starting on the road is we can just grind it out and do anything we can to get a win.” Part of the recipe for a first round series win against the Bolts will be shutting down two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner Steven Stamkos, who will be heading into the playoffs well-rested after missing 45 games with a broken leg this season. In 20 games since making his return, the All-Star centerman has racked up 11 goals and 17 points, and will be a focal point every time he touches the ice in Round 1. “Our players know their responsibilities out there and they know where to be on the ice. We’ll try to get the right players out at the right time, but we don’t want to ruin our tempo to get our match-ups,” shared head coach Michel Therrien. “I think the Lightning have a similar mentality when it comes to the tempo of the game. You want to have the right guys out there, but when you don’t have last change, sometimes it’s out of your control.” If Therrien does get his way, it’s likely Tomas Plekanec could once again be called on to play a shutdown role for the Habs. Having earned his stripes as one of the best two-way forwards in the league over the past few years, the 31-year-old not only helped shut down Stamkos in his only game against Montreal this season, he also finished with a plus-1 differential at the Lightning captain’s expense. “He’s got one of the best shots in the league so when you give him that one-timer from the side there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to end up somewhere around the net. Don’t let him shoot,” offered Plekanec regarding the secret to stifling an offensive star like Stamkos. “We’ll see what our role will be, but whoever is against him on the ice, you don’t want to let him shoot.” If Stamkos does manage to muster a few shots towards the Canadiens’ net, he’ll also have to find a way to get pucks past three-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Carey Price. That hasn’t been an easy feat for the Lightning this year, with Price entering the series with a 1.42 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in four games against Tampa in 2013-14. “I expect Carey Price to be the same leader for us that he’s been all season long,” confirmed Therrien on his starting netminder. “He’s been dominant and solid. He’s matured and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I’m not worried about Carey Price. We all know that to have success in the playoffs, you need good goaltending, but we don’t want him to be a savoir. We just need him to be good. We ask all our players to be good. But coming into the playoffs, I’m very confident in Carey.” At the other end of the ice, it’s possible Tampa will be without the services of Ben Bishop for at least part of the first round. The Lightning netminder missed the last three games of the year after suffering an injury against the Maple Leafs, but having watched Anders Lindback cap off a week that saw him rack up a 3-0-0 record with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .975 save percentage, Gorges isn’t expecting any easy goals against the Bolts’ backup. “They’ve got good goaltending no matter who’s in the lineup. Our mindset and our game plan can’t change,” stressed Gorges. “No matter who’s in net for them, if you want to score in the playoffs you have to be willing to go to the dirty areas. You have to be willing to get to the net, get those second and third opportunities, look for tips, and look for screens. That’s the only way you’re going to score in the playoffs and it doesn’t matter what goalie they have in net.” Helping the Canadiens’ cause on offense, proven postseason stud Briere will have a chance to put some of his clutch scoring on display against Tampa. Entering Wednesday’s tilt with 109 points in 108 career postseason games, the Habs’ sharpshooter is ready to continue his torrid playoff scoring pace in his postseason debut with Montreal. “I want to be the player who will make the difference and that’s how I approach every game. There’s no pressure; this is where I want to be,” underlined Briere, who has 50 playoff goals on his resume to date, including 13 game winners. “When I signed in Montreal, I signed with a team that had a chance to win. We’re in the playoffs and our focus now is on the first round against Tampa Bay. “I like our chances,” he added. “It won’t be easy, but I’m excited about it like everyone else. When you get to the playoffs, it’s a different season. There’s no tomorrow. Every game is a big one and I can’t wait to get started.” Shauna Denis is a writer for

Canadiens sign forward Jacob de la Rose to a three-year contract

Posted on 14 April 2014 | Comments Off

MONTREAL (April 14, 2014) – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, announced today the signing of forward Jacob de la Rose to a three-year, entry level contract (2014-15 à 2016-17). In 49 games with the Leksand Idrottsförening in the Swedish Elitserien this season, de la Rose recorded 7 goals and 6 helpers for a total of 13 points. He was also assessed 18 penalty minutes and had a +5 plus/minus differential. The 6’3’’ and 187 lbs forward was also a member of the Swedish team at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship that was played in Malmö, Sweden, helping the host team earn a silver medal after falling 3-2 in sudden death overtime against Finland. In this tournament, de la Rose scored 3 goals and added 3 assists in 6 games, served 6 penalty minutes and had a +3 differential. A native of Arvika, Sweden, de la Rose was selected in the second round, 34th overall by the Canadiens at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

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