The Montreal Canadiens begin their uphill best-of-five series against the Pittsburgh Penguins live at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Dust off the rust and take a deep breath, because things have now gotten series. The Montreal Canadiens didn’t think they’d be in this position, instead likely thinking about gearing up for the 2020-21 season. But it’s not over yet, and this series against the Pittsburgh Penguins will determine how close they get to that preparation.
We’ve covered storyline, plot hole, expectation, and means of improvement for the Habs to make to have any means of success here. So we’ll just simplify it: win and your in, lose, and there’s the lottery.
Claude Julien has had his lineup set up for some time now, and it’s doubtful there will be changes ahead of Game One.
Montreal Canadiens Lineup
The Habs have focused on defence as a means to succeed in this series. That will put a lot of pressure on the blueline, especially the top-four of Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, Brett Kulak and Jeff Petry, who will be getting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That said, Kulak-Petry was Montreal’s most reliable pair this season and could be a difference-maker in Montreal’s end.
Upfront, all eyes are on Nick Suzuki and what he can do at 5v5. Julien could be creative and scramble the line assignments, and that may give the rookie some extra room. If not Suzuki, then perhaps it’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi who stands up and adds another gold star to his resurgence page after a strong training camp and showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And then there’s Carey Price. Many have said he could steal the series for the Habs, but that won’t matter unless the team tightens up in front of him. Body awareness and tight gaps can be the difference, and the Leafs game showed that the Montreal Canadiens will be in trouble if they allow the opposition to get second and third opportunities on Price in the crease.
As for their opponent…
The Penguins are spoken for as to what kind of team they are. Crosby and Malkin have been running the league for the last decade and love to show up in playoff situations. Additionally, there’s Jake Guentzel, who seems to have some kind of switch that goes off once the playoffs start.
Guentzel had 13 goals and 8 assists in 25 games in his first playoff with Pittsburgh going on to score 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 games the following year. He’s another player to watch and try to subdue.
The only question mark on Pittsburgh is who will start between Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry. There was a bit of a goalie controversy this season, and the Penguins started to go with Jarry over the two-time Stanley Cup champion when they couldn’t get the results.
Coach Mike Sullivan gave them both equal minutes in their exhibition game against Philadelphia. Murray allowed two goals on 12 shots while Jarry was perfect after getting in net.
There hasn’t been a decision yet, but all signs might point to Jarry.
Whatever happens, it’ll be good to see the Montreal Canadiens in a competitive environment again. And now, It’s time to see if Marc Bergevin‘s playoff philosophy plays out.
Time – 8:00 PM EST
Location – Scotiabank Arena (Toronto)
Watch – CBC, Sportsnet, TVAS, NBC