Habs seek momentum vs. Bolts

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The Canadiens go for the second victory under Randy Cunnyworth Thursday in Tampa Bay, and they’ll skate against a Lightning team that is two points behind them, 13th in the East. They had gone 3-6-1 in their previous 10 games before an impressive 5-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday.

That game was a rematch of the infamous Nov. 9 game in which the Flyers did not attack at times during the game, but held on to the puck in their own zone while the Lightning set up their 1-3-1 neutral zone trap formation. On Tuesday, Tampa Bay again threw that look — and a few more — at the Flyers, who attacked it more vigorously this time. The final score against a powerful Flyers team shows how well the Lightning can play their system.

The Canadiens could see a lot of the Lightning trap on Thursday. Their defence, which has been problematic all season, is racked with injuries. They will likely be without their top young blueliner and penalty killer, 6-foot-6 Victor Hedman. Hedman was bodied into the boards by the Flyers Matt Read on a first period rush Tuesday and is out with what is called an upper body injury. Hedman is second on the team in average ice time (22:28) and his absence further depletes an already banged-up defence corps.

Mattias Ohlund (who had both knees ‘scoped in October) has not played yet this season. Matt Gilroy has been out for the past four games with a lower body injury; he’s expected back tonight, but won’t be able to assume all of Hedman’s minutes. Additionally, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Eric Brewer both got nicked up in the Flyers game although they returned to play and will be dressed for the Habs. Coach Guy Boucher joked to the media after ending his post-game press conference, “Anybody play defence here?”

Boucher could well ask his forwards to be even more defensively responsible than usual tonight. “Ohlund is not replaceable. Hedman is not replaceable,” Boucher said. “What you’ve got to do is see it a different way. As a younger coach, I used to think you’ll replace guys for a little while. That’s not it. You’ve got to go with the strengths of other guys. You can’t put the pressure on the other guys to do whatever those guys were doing.”

The Lightning still boast some very talented forwards, of course, led by Steven Stamkos, whose 22 goals are tied with Rangers Marian Gaborik for the NHL lead. Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis are here, too, although St. Louis claims he does not feel comfortable playing with a cage on his helmet, the result of an eye injury he suffered on Dec. 8 prior to a game against the Rangers. He missed five games. St. Louis has a goal and three assists since returning so the cage hasn’t bothered him too much.

Few are hotter than Stamkos, who has nine points in his last six games, including five goals. Lecavlaier has six points in the last seven games, but only two goals in his last 14. Teddy Purcell has four points in his last five games and Ryan Malone has five points in his last eight games.

In goal, last year’s hero Dwayne Roloson has struggled and Boucher has increasingly turned to former Hab Mathieu Garon, who has started four of the past five games and made 32 saves — 16 in the first period — in beating the Flyers. It’s quite possible he’ll be in goal again tonight.

Like Montreal, Tampa Bay’s power play is not what is was last year. A Stamkos power play goal against Philly ended a 0-for-13 run, but it hasn’t been a strong point this season. Ohlund’s absence has a good deal to do with that. Their PP is clicking only 14.6 percent of the time, 25th in the league, and they’ve only scored 18 goals with the extra man; that’s even less than the Habs’ 19. Their penalty kill ranks 18th, 81.2 pecent.

It’s unclear how the defence corps will line-up at the moment, but these are the guys most likely to dress for the game against the Canadiens.

Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, Steve Downie
Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt, Dominic Moore, Adam Hall
JT Wyman, Blair Jones, Dana Tyrell

Matt Gilroy, Eric Brewer
Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark
Bruno Gervais, Marc-Andre Bergeron

Mathieu Garon
Dwayne Roloson

13 Comments

  1. dgdsgd says:

    http://yep。it/qpmsmn Look !!!,how the nice film pictures !!!

  2. Vladdy Mondavi says:

    Stu,
    Another great read. Not to nit-pick on the more granular aspects of the article… but wouldn’t a 1-3-3 style defence cause WAY too many Too Many Men penalties?
    I think JM incorporated this tactic from time to time. It didn’t work too well.

    _______________________________
    Opinions are like kittens, I’m giving them away.

  3. Marc10 says:

    I thought we blew the season during the last losing streak.

    Our D is simply too weak. Give Stamkos the kind of shots from the slot we’ve seen in the past 5 games and we won’t have much of a chance.

    For the Habs to win, they’ll need to press the Lightning and force them out of the their trap game and into the penalty box. A couple of power play goals and who knows…

    I just hope Eller keeps it going. I’d love for Cunny to replace Max on that line with AK. I think Max and DD need each other to succeed.

    My line combos:

    Cole-Eller-AK
    Max-DD-Cams
    LL-Pleky-Darche*
    Moen*-Nokia-Weber

    *Darche and Moen to share the ice time depending on who is doing better on the night…

  4. I gave the Habs the last losing streak as a sign they should start looking for buyers now. However after looking at today’s conference standings, the Canadiens (like last year) can play all the way into the playoffs and then after that who knows?

    Ref TB
    I suppose if Mr. Gainey would have brought in Lecavalier like the entire French universe wanted it’d be Bob’s fault that a 10 million dollar man has 24 points.

    How many people here (raise your hands now) wanted that Big Strong Center? Not me.

    The Bolts Suck, and that system that Boucher played against the Flyers was a freaking Fan killer.

    TB/Montreal, almost like looking in a mirror right now. Odds are the Habs lose. However I’m going with the little guys tonight.

    Go Habs Go

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    • Boomer says:

      I dont know if i would want vinny in our line up but besides our inexperience D corps, a top centerman is this teams biggest weakness. I love dd and pleks but they would most likely be 2nd or 3rd liners on any other team. IMO

      Boom baby!

  5. LafleurFan says:

    Wouldn’t trade Weber. 2/5th of season done and one never knows about impending injuries. Despite shortcomings, Yannick is versatile and can be “plugged in” to various roles. He had some good games in last year’s playoffs.

    “May you live in interesting times.”

  6. habstrinifan says:

    WOW!

    I signed on at 2:30 AM to write a comment on the previous thread about this road trip being the last real chance…. and here the night owl Stu Hackel has opened this new thread.

    So here it is folks. No second chance after the next two games. Bottom line HABS MUST win those two games or consider their playoff chances gone.

    The game against Ottawa had much to delight in except for the slow start. So that must be the priority for Cunneyworth and the coaches.

    He must first adress the team on the absolute need to come out ‘flying’ and yet be defensively rsponsible. The scoresheet cannot show a similar imbalance of shots midway thru the first period.

    He must, after consultation with his assistants, deploy the right line combinations early in the game to achieve a strong offensive start but not at the expense of careless defensive zone awareness.

    This may seem like an obvious strategy but it should NOT be an unspoken one.. he MUST comunicate to every player on the starting lines for the first two shifts that he would brook no laying back but also no recklessness.

    The season is ON THE LINE in these next two games! We must win them both… not an impossible or even improbable task.

    And as the HABS leave the sunshine state, with two victories in hand, PG can then trade Weber to Tampa for some immediate upfront help for our team.

    I am off to bed.

    GO HABS GO!

  7. SlovakHab says:

    No worries, if he ever makes it to the big team, JM is gone so there won’t be another Czech forward playing the point on the PP.

    Btw, I wouldn’t put too much into the game regarding Pribyl’s development. A) he played against Canada which has incredible depth and was too strong for the Czechs and B) he probably played injured.


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