Luck and hab-penstance

15Apr10

It’s hard to tell if the Montreal Canadiens were playing dead down the stretch in the NHL regular season, or if they truly are dead.

The current edition of my beloved franchise is, frankly, every bit as difficult to figure out as most have been over the past 15 years.

At times, such as a six-game winning streak shortly after the Olympic break, they’ve played very well. But other times, such as their crucial final three regular season games, they’ve looked downright awful.

The reward for stumbling down the stretch and losing the sixth playoff spot, was an eighth-place finish and a date with this season’s President’s Trophy champion Washington Capitals.

With a 33-point differential and a huge mountain staring them in the face, the Habs have a tall order at hand in taking on Alexander Ovechkin and Company.

So do they stand a chance?

The players, for their part, are saying the right things.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who will have a considerable weight on his shoulders in trying to stop the Caps high-flying offence, told Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette the team needs to take advantage of its underdog status.

The pressure, Halak told Hickey, is clearly on the Caps’ shoulders.

He’s right, of course. But how exactly are the Habs going to use this to their advantage?

Coach Jacques Martin has pointed out that the Habs had a 2-1-1 record against Washington this season and says his players are confident.

Fair enough. But be careful, Jacques. You have a small, defensively mediocre team that has a tendency to stay back on its heels and let the opposition dictate the flow of the game.

Doing so against the Caps will make for a short series.

So, do the Habs stand a chance?

Barely. But they need so many things to go right for them, from spectacular goaltending to a collapse by Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green, that it isn’t worth getting too upset if they get swept.

My expectations are set to “LOW” for this one.

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