I’m not sure anybody can honestly say they saw the Montreal Canadiens going into game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals with a 3-0 series lead.
Most would even tell you they saw this series going 7 games, but that just isn’t the case. The Habs play host to the Lightning tonight in what could be the final game of the series at the Bell Centre.
The Habs could be the first team to book their ticket in to Round 2, buying them what could be a lengthy wait time for their next opponent. A major factor for the Canadiens has been offence, and it’s not coming from the usual sources. The team has managed to get production from all four lines thus far, proving just how much depth this team does in fact have.
Surprising everybody Rene Bourque has been dominant for the Habs to this point, leading the team with 3 goals. Some are calling him Rene Bourque 2.0 as his play this post season is a drastic change from the player who wore #17 all season long. He’s been strong on the puck, putting his large 6″2 213Lbs frame to use. His 15 shots leads the team 5 more than both Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek.
Lars Eller too, has been showing flashes of brilliance this post season he currently boasts 4 points (1G,3A) as he completes the line with Gionta and Bourque. The line which struggled down the stretch has certainly shown us a different side of themselves in these 3 games.
The Lightning won’t back down, and will use their frustrations from game 3 undoubtedly in tonight’s tilt. A bit of a controversy erupted during the game 3 as the Bolts had a goal waived off in the 2nd period. The referee’s using rule 69.3 waived it off due to incidental contact with Habs netminder Carey Price. Lightning coach Jon Cooper was clearly upset as he said “”I was (angry) then and I’m (angry) now, That’s just my opinion. I’ll let the court of public opinion take care of the rest.
Game 3 saw a scary moment as Lightning power forward Steven Stamkos took an accidental knee to the head courtesey of Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin. The contact took place as Stamkos had already fallen to the ice, in an attempt to avoid him Emelin’s knee made contact with Stamkos’s head.
Stamkos left the game and everybody believed he wouldn’t return. However, he was back on the bench to start the 3rd period. The incident brought forth many questions about concussions and the league’s protocol for concussions and their treatment. Many believe he should not have returned to the game as it did appear as tho he may have been concussed on the play. He has declared himself fit to play in Game 4. Leaving people to wonder, is it the right choice? We all know hockey players play through the pain, the aches and injuries since it’s the playoffs, but should a player who took a hit to the head not be forced to sit out at least one game?
Ben Bishop seemed to be on the ice this morning, practicing harder. However, Jon Cooper made it clear Lindback will be the starting goalie tonight in this potential final show down. Should they force a game 5 Bishop might be ready to drop back in between the pipes.
Both coaches confirmed this morning neither team will make any line up changes ahead of tonight’s battle.
On a positive note, Travis Moen has received the green light from Canadiens medical staff to take part in full contact practices and believes he’s about 2-3 practices away from being ready to jump in. The question is, Does Michel Therrien change his winning line up?
Of note, the Habs called up 10 players from Hamilton to fill in what’s known as the “Taxi Squad” reinforcements should anything happen. Those 10 players include goaltenders: Devan Dubnyk & Dustin Tokarski. Defencemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Davis Drewiske and Greg Pateryn. Forwards joining them are : Sven Andrighetto, Michael Blunden, Gabriel Dumont, Louis Leblanc and Christian Thomas. The Bulldogs completed their season with a record of 33-35-8 finishing well out of a playoff spot in 13th place of the AHL Western Conference.
Puck drops just after 7pm at the Bell Centre. Be sure to join us on twitter @BleedBBRfor all your game action. You can also catch the action live on CBC, RDS, NHL Network(USA Only) and TSN Radio 690