With a win tonight, the Habs can clinch a playoff spot. A point might also clinch a spot, but only in the event of certain outcomes. Here are the scenarios in which the Habs can cement their spot in the playoffs tonight (care of NHL.COM):
The Canadiens would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Lightning in any fashion OR if they get one point against the Lightning AND the Capitals lose to the Stars in any fashion OR if the Capitals lose to the Stars in regulation AND the Devils lose to the Sabres in any fashion.
The good news is that the Habs have limited the Lightning to 4 (non-shootout) goals this season, the bads news is that they were facing a Tampa Bay Lightning line-up that wasn't able to dress Steven Stamkos. And while Stamkos hasn't been scoring at the same clip he was before injury (.82 GPG), he has come back strong with 9 goals in 13 games (.69 GPG). Additionally Ben Bishop has been strong vs the Canadiens this year, stopping 76 of 79 shots fired at him in three games against Montreal this season.
One of the questions hanging over the Habs as the playoffs loom, is how will Michel Therrien shut down Steven Stamkos? Tomas Plekanec is seen as the likeliest counter, but are Plekanec's linemates up to the task? Should Plekanec be reunited with winger Brian Gionta - giving the Habs a stronger defensive answer to Stamkos? Tonight will be a good chance to see how Therrien answers the Stamkos question.
Another (less pressing) question is Rene Bourque's problems with ice time. It's been no secret that Bourque's ice time has decreased as the season has worn on. Bourque hasn't played over 14 and a half minutes in almost two months, but his play also hasn't warranted in an increase in ice time. Since February 8th (when he played 17 plus minutes), Bourque has one goal and three assists in 12 games. Bourque feels he's better suited to duty alongside Gionta and Briere. We'll see how he's used tonight. He's projected to play alongside Bournival and White.
Tale of the tape
Puck drop is at 7:30 PM EST
|Max Pacioretty||David Desharnais||Thomas Vanek|
|Alex Galchenyuk||Tomas Plekanec||Brendan Gallagher|
|Lars Eller||Danny Briere||Brian Gionta|
|Rene Bourque||Ryan White||Michael Bournival|
|Andrei Markov||Alexei Emelin|
|Francis Bouillon||P.K. Subban|
|Douglas Murray||Mike Weaver|
Scratches: Jarred Tinordi, George Parros
Injuries: Josh Gorges (fractured hand, 1 week), Brandon Prust (upper body, out for the remainder of the season), Dale Weise (tendon), Travis Moen (concussion).
As for the Lightning
|J.T. Brown||Steven Stamkos||Teddy Purcell|
|Ondrej Palat||Valtteri Flippula||Ryan Callahan|
|Alex Killorn||Tyler Johnson||Nikita Kucherov|
|Ryan Malone||Nate Thompson||Richard Panik|
|Matt Carle||Radko Gudas|
|Victor Hedman||Sami Salo|
|Eric Brewer||Mike Kostka|
Scratches: Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Tom Pyatt, BJ Crombeen, Cody Kunyk
Injuries: Brian Lee (knee surgery - out indefinitely), Mattias Ohlund (knee surgery - out indefinitely)
Check out the opposing side at Raw Charge