Before the NHL playoffs started, the people at EA Sports did a playoff simulation with the NHL 14 video game and had the Canadiens sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Eastern Conference quarter-final series.
That could now happen in reality as the Canadiens take a 3-0 series lead into Game 4 Tuesday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The video-game simulation had the Canadiens losing in five games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher offered a word of caution when he was asked whether the Canadiens were in control of the series after Sunday night’s 3-2 win in Game 3.
“Everyone knows the fourth game is the hardest to win,” he said.
The Canadiens practised at noon Monday in Brossard without defencemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, who both took therapy days. The forward lines remained the same at practice as they have been for the first three games.
“We understand that we haven’t done anything yet,” defenceman Josh Gorges told reporters in Brossard after practice. “You need to win four games to win a series and we all know the fourth win is always the hardest. We can’t get ahead of ourselves by any means because we still haven’t accomplished anything. Our focus has to be like it has been the first three games on playing the right way, playing a complete game and doing all the little things well. At the end of the day, we’ll look back on how the game went and move on from there.”
The Lightning held an optional practice at noon Monday at the Bell Centre.
“(If) we play with the passion and determination we played with last night, I truly believe there’s really not much more wrong that can go against us,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters after practice. “I think at some point karma is going to come around. You just need it for one night. All of a sudden now—you’ve just got to win one. And then you win that one and everybody is back on a plane. Who knows what happens after that.
“The one thing I really appreciate about our team is nobody is hanging their head,” he added. “Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves.”
On the status of No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop, who has missed the first three games with an elbow injury, Cooper said: “He won’t be ready for Game 4. I can’t sit here and say if he’d be ready for the rest of the series. Clearly we’d have to extend the series for any hope of that. Every day he is getting closer and closer, but no Game 4.”
Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos said he felt “pretty good” after practice Monday and expects to play in Game 4. Stamkos missed the last 3:51 of the second period of Game 3 after taking an inadvertent knee to the head from Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin. Stamkos went to the locker room, but returned for the third period.
“It was just a weird play,” Stamkos said after the game. “I didn’t feel quite right. Obviously, I was good enough to come back in. We’ll see how it goes (Monday).”
The Canadiens called up 10 players from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday: goaltenders Devan Dubnyk and Dustin Tokarski; forwards Sven Andrighetto, Mike Blunden, Gabriel Dumont, Louis Leblanc and Christian Thomas; and defencemen Nathan Beaulieu, Davis Drewiske and Greg Pateryn. They will practise this week, starting Tuesday, in Brossard with the Bulldogs’ coaching staff.
The Bulldogs failed to make the AHL playoffs, finishing last in the North Division with a 33-35-8 record.
Here’s how the Habs lines looked at practice:
(Photo by Dario Ayala/The Gazette)
(Video from Habs practice by Allen McInnis/The Gazette)
(Locker-room videos by The Gazette’s Brenda Branswell)