Thursday, February 26, 2009

2008/2009: what's remaining

So it has been ultra slow on Habs news lately -- everyone seems to be catching their breath. Fair enough; calm after (and before?) the storm. I'm gonna take this shot at looking at what is left of the season, and seeing where Our Hockey Club might see some light, and some troubles.

End of February: back to back games, Philly and San Jose. I see the Philly game as big, as they are about equal to the Habs in the standings. Its also the last game between these 2 teams before the post-season, so the Habs could use a big win. San Jose, on the other hand, has been crushing the empty beer cans that is the Eastern Conference, so if the good guys are gonna win, they'll have to steal one. At gun point. With a hostage. And a rocket-powered getaway car.

Early March: March starts with a 3-game road trip. Although the habs have been 'Valari Zelepukin' on the road this year, its their last set of consecutive away games -- if they are going to figure out how to win on the road, bond as a team, play without their fans, etc... then this is it. Buffalo - Atlanta - Dallas: all good enough teams to beat a sub-par performance. If the Canadiens want to go anywhere in the playoffs, they will have to win on the road.

Next they get a chance for vengence on Edmonton, Sourray returns to Montreal, and this is a game they should win. Follow that with the Islanders and then Big Bad New Jersey (at home, though), and the Habs have a tough-but fair schedule; perfect for getting ready for the post season, and also a proving ground to see if they deserve to be there.

Mid-End March: Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto -- Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Chicago. Only 1 away game. This is easy: the home team has to win. They'll need to assert their dominance over these 'lesser' teams, earn the points, and bury the hangers on. If they go .500 in this stretch, expect to either miss the playoffs, or end up in a lucky 7/8 spot. Chicago will be their toughest match, by far, but all these teams have proven that they love playing against Montreal, and step up their game (especially Tampa Bay, with StLoo and The Cavelry).

This is when we'll see if the Canadiens are gonna be a contender, or an after thought.

April and Beyoooond: Ok, not much for beyond -- I am not going to even pretend to have playoff expectations or predicitons until its on.

Islanders, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Pittsburg. 4 away, 2 at home. Well, if March goes badly, there is still hope in an 'easy' schedule. 3 big rivalry games to test the mettle of our team, and to once again show (or no-show) their playoff grit. With TO and OTT out of the playoffs, they might dial it in, but I wouldn't count on TOR being a pushover. Boston will be an exciting away game (especially since they've owned us this year) and Pittsburg; Sidney loves playing here. And if they are still in the race, MTL could have their hands full.

If March goes well, then there is a potential for a letdown here: and I certainly hope that doesn't happen. Any kind of meltdown, collapse, frustration will really rust the foundation of the team when it needs to be at tis strongest. And the fans hate to lose to these rivals -- so if these games do not go well, I fear for the club in the post season.

The last game of the season is not against Toronto, thank goodness. Those games are always too intense.

Any thoughts on the last 500m to the season's finish line?

1 comment:

  1. Nice Zelepukin reference :)
    I will throw my prediction in. Think the Habs will end exactly where they are right now, the 5th seed in the East. I'm going to throw in a silly prediction that the Flyers will pass the Devils and take 3rd spot, leaving the Habs to face the Devils in the first round...sorry about your luck with Marty rested :)
    I think the Pens will get into the playoffs as the 7th seed, Gonchar has got their PP going again, providing Crosby is not out very long. I could really care less as to who drops out, but I will say Buffalo, due to Miller going down.