Apr. 11, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) carries the puck while being defended by Buffalo Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek (26) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens Clinch A Playoff Spot, Beat Buffalo Sabres 5-1

Doesn’t that x next the Montreal Canadiens in the standings look nice? After finishing last in the Eastern Conference last year, your Montreal Canadiens have made the playoffs in their first season under new management, becoming the second team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a spot. That’s definitely not where most prognosticators thought they would be at this point in the season, but this team has been fantastic. Depth on all lines, solid goaltending and hard-working. There were very few clunkers over the shortened season, and tonight’s game was no exception.

Facing a particularly pathetic Buffalo Sabres team that has given them trouble this season, the Montreal Canadiens easily put away two points and cemented the formality of their participation in the playoffs. The Canadiens came out flying to start the game, something that we’ve seen often under Therrien, and went up at the 7 minute mark of the period on a pretty passing play. Rene Bourque caused a turnover at the Sabres blue line, made a nice pass to Plekanec, who backhanded the other way back to Gionta. Gionta‘s shot bounced off the heel of Bourque’s stake as it made its way into the empty net. Plekanec‘s play to get Miller to move towards him and then flip the puck in the other direction was brilliant. The Canadiens would double up on Alex Galchenyuk‘s 6th goal of the season, stuffing the puck past Ryan Miller off a nice pass from Ryder. They would finish the period up 15-7 in shots and were altogether dominant.

The second period was more of the same for the Canadiens, with goals from Gallagher and Markov putting the game out of reach for a particularly listless Sabres team. I enjoyed the fact that Bouillon put a beat-down on Steve Ott after he took out Gallagher along the boards. The third saw a series of powerplays handed to the Canadiens, largely a result of lazy, undisciplined play from the Sabres. Brian Flynn would score a short-handed goal to ruin Peter Budaj‘s shutout, but P.K Subban would get that one back at the end of the third with his 11th (!!!) of the season.

In a one-sided affair, the Canadiens would ice the game easily and outshoot the Sabres 42-15. The Sabres looked like a team that’s pulled the plug on their season, and honestly, looked eerily similar to Cunneyworth’s Canadiens of last year’s debacle.

My thoughts on the game:

– Okay fine, it’s not related but the Bruins lost to the Islanders and no longer have any games in hand. The division is still up for grabs, with the Canadiens currently hold 1 point over the Bruins. Can we do it?

Alex Galchenyuk is one hell of a talented kid. He won’t make the Calder nominations, but he’s been great in his role. He did hit the rookie wall, but he never stopped working. I’m happy to see him get on a little streak with points in his last 5 games and a game-winning goal tonight to send the Canadiens into the second season.

– How many great things can I say about Brendan Gallagher? There was one play on the power play where he took slash after slash and about 6 huge crosschecks and wouldn’t get out of Miller‘s face. His hard work was rewarded when he had all the time in the world to put one past the Sabres goalie who was left out to dry.

– Lastly, P.K. Subban put in an all-star worthy performance. He controlled the puck like it was on a strong and was dominant on both ends. Completely ridiculous, elite season. 34 points in 34 games and absolutely dominant in the D-zone. There’s not another d-man in the league that I would take on my team instead of him right now. And he’s only 23.

Peter Budaj deserved a good win tonight. Nice to have a good backup goalie heading into the playoffs.

– I watched Buffalo to see if there was anything there in terms of heart. For most players, not even a bit. Lazy on the backcheck almost to a man, except Steve Ott. He’s got a ton of grit.

All in all, good to enjoy the fact that we’re in the playoffs. And look what’s next – a potential playoff matchup preview on Saturday against the Leafs. If they put in another performance like tonight’s, it will be a fun one for the Canadiens.

Also, this gem of a quote from the Buffalo room says it all:

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