Three Possible First Round Playoff Matchups-media-1

Three Possible First Round Playoff Matchups

In Featured by kamal

With eight games remaining on their schedule and the playoffs just around the corner, it’s time to look ahead to the possible 1st round match-ups. Currently Montreal leads the NHL with 100 points following last night’s overtime loss in Nashville. Very likely, Montreal will be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the Eastern conference. I will look at the three most likely match-ups for Montreal (in no particular order).

Washington Capitals (currently 7th in the Eastern Conference)

So far Montreal has swept the season series with one game left to be played in Montreal on April 2nd.

Why Montreal would win this series

The Habs have more depth in their line-up thanks to the genius moves made by GM Marc Bergevin. Also, Montreal can rely on the experience of shutting down Steven Stamkos, comparable to the monumental task of shutting down Ovechkin. This season, Montreal has seemed hungry to excel in the NHL after going deep in last year’s playoffs. I just don’t think Washington has the depth to beat Montreal four times.

Why Washington could win this series

One big reason Montreal could fall is the presence of superstar Alex Ovechkin. Ovie has the skill to single-handedly take over a game. There aren’t too many players with the kind of impact on a game as Ovechkin. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and TB’s Stamkos are two other players that are game changers. Montreal cannot give Ovechkin any time or space or he will burn them. Another major factor to consider is the man behind the Capitals bench in Barry Trotz. Trotz has a reputation for coaxing a lot out of a little. He’s so good with fringe players that he could squeeze water from a stone.

Predicted result: Montreal in 6 games

Boston Bruins (currently in 9th place in the Eastern Conference; one point back of the 2nd WC spot)

This is the second likeliest first round opponent for the Habs. Montreal swept the season series vs. the Bruins. I don’t expect this one will end in a sweep. The Bruins are good enough to steal a game or two.

Why Montreal would win this series

Simply put, Montreal matches up very well against the physical Bruins. Also, Boston has an aging stale core. They virtually have the same cast of players that won the 2011 Stanley Cup. Montreal, on the other hand, has a young vibrant roster that should contend for several years. Most of their core players (PK Subban, Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec) are just entering their prime years, I just don’t see Boston lasting through a seven game series against Montreal. Oh and Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has historically struggled against the Habs.

Why Boston could win this series

As mentioned above this will be a very physical series and the physicality will take its toll on the Habs. Maybe Subban might be playing through an injury and that is impacting his effectiveness. Boston might be an older team, but this means they have more experience. Also, one has to be concerned with Montreal’s struggles to score. There have been more than a few games this season where the Habs have struggled to score and in the playoffs it’s very hard to nurse a one goal lead.

Predicted result: Montreal in 7 games

Ottawa Senators (currently 8th in the Eastern conference)

If the playoffs started today, this is the team Montreal would face. Ottawa won 2 of 3 games vs. Montreal this year. In my opinion, this is the toughest of the potential first round opponents. See below to know the reason why.

Why Montreal would win this series

The biggest advantage Montreal has over Ottawa is playoff experience. Ottawa has not been a playoff team since the 2012-2013 season. They are also a very young team, likely prone to mistakes. Yes, Ottawa is on a hot streak, but eventually they will lose again. To win this series, Montreal must stay out of the box and win the first two games of the series. This will create doubt in the heads of the Senators players.

Why Ottawa could win this series

Ottawa is on a ridiculous hot streak. At one point, they were 14 points out of a playoff position. A lot has to do with the stellar play of rookie goalie Andrew Hammond, aka the “Hamburglar”. Hammond has not lost a game in regulation, going 14-0-1 during the streak. There have been countless goalies in history (Ken Dryden, Tim Thomas, and Jonathan Quick) who have gotten hot and carried their teams to the holy grail.

Predicted result: Montreal in 7 games

Two teams I’m glad Montreal won’t face in the first round

The two teams are the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres thankfully are in full tank mode and have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. The Sabres and Habs met four times this season with Buffalo taking three of four. Buffalo has the potential to be a dangerous team in the next five years depending on how well they draft and develop their players. Tampa Bay, if you will recall, Montreal swept in the first round last season. However, the Lightning were missing two key pieces. Starting goalie Ben Bishop was out with a major elbow injury and forward Steven Stamkos had only recently returned from a fractured leg. Stamkos was not 100% and wasn’t in game shape. This season, both players are back and that has made a massive difference to the Lightning. Should Montreal get past the first round, they will almost certainly face TB at some point in the playoffs, Likely in the EC finals.

Bottom Line

I think Montreal will win the first round, but they can be their own worst enemy. Should the Habs take any one of the Bruins, Senators or Capitals lightly, they will be in tough. The teams that make the NHL playoffs are all capable of doing damage. Montreal must capitalize on their scoring chances, stay out of the penalty box and hope the bounces go their way.

The Habs could also face the Detroit Red Wings in the first round if Tampa Bay wins the division.

Go Habs Go

A Habs fan blogging from BC