- The Canadiens skated at Amalie Arena on Tuesday morning in preparation for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Tampa. Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Tom Gilbert did not take part in the practice.
- Despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Monday night, Ryan Callahan has not been officially ruled out for Game 6 by head coach Jon Cooper. While it’s likely the Lightning forward – who is currently Tampa’s plus/minus and hits leader – will not be in uniform on Tuesday night, the Canadiens haven’t adapted the game plan in light of his probable absence.
“If we go in with the mindset that it’s going to be a little bit easier tonight because Callahan is out, we’re going to be making a big mistake,” said Lars Eller, who is first on the team and fifth in the league with a 58.6% efficiency in the faceoff circle this spring. “We can’t look at it that way. We’ve had injuries, too, and other guys step up.”
- Getting on the board first has been a recipe for success for both the Habs and the Lightning in the 2015 Playoffs. Currently owning a 3-1 record when opening the scoring – including a perfect 2-0 in two elimination games this series – the Canadiens have made no secret about the importance of getting into the driver’s seat as quickly as possible, especially given the team is 3-0 when leading after the first period and 5-0 when leading after the second this spring.
“You don’t want to get behind the Eight-Ball right away and spend the whole game fighting back. It’s good to establish a lead and try to contain it. When you have a lead, you control the pace,” explained Nathan Beaulieu. “You win games by very low numbers of goals. It’s important to get a quick one right away and contain the lead and push the pace. A good start is always in the back of our minds.”
Currently in the hunt for his eighth-straight win in an elimination game since arriving in Sochi for the 2014 Olympics, Carey Price has been a key factor in the Canadiens’ ability to hang on to leads once they’ve gotten them this year.
“We know that he’s going to be a wall back there like he’s been all year long. He very seldom lets in more than one or two,” said Beaulieu of the Vezina, Hart and Ted Lindsay-nominated netminder, who has a .923 save percentage and 2.16 goals-against average so far in the postseason. “It’s a special thing we have to work with so we know what we have to do. A lead is so big when you know he’s going to be back there to protect us.”
- The 2014-15 Habs can write a new page in the team’s record books with a win on Tuesday by becoming the first group in franchise history to force a Game 7 after trailing a series 3-0. Instead of feeling the heat of playing win-or-go-home hockey for a third-straight game, the Canadiens are entering Game 6 with confidence, looking to earn another game at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
“We don’t feel pressure; we like to apply pressure,” said head coach Michel Therrien. “The guys feel good about themselves and they love the challenge. This is a group that refuses to die. There’s a really good and special chemistry with this group. They love to be surrounded by each other. They feel confident and the confidence comes because of the way they play.”
- One year ago to the day, the Canadiens were sitting in a familiar setting, getting ready for Game 6 against the Bruins while trailing 3-2 in the series. With the memory of that Conference semifinal comeback still fresh, the Habs are looking to the recent past for inspiration heading into another Game 6, 365 days later.
“We were in this situation last year in Boston. We were down 3-2 and we won the game and then we won the series. We did it last year and we believe we can do it again this year,” stressed David Desharnais, who had an assist and finished with a plus-2 differential in the team’s 4-0 win in Game 6 against Boston last year. “We’ve learned from that experience and we’re confident.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been considered the favorites this season and we heard all the time that last year’s run was lucky,” he added. “We want to prove people wrong.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Amalie Arena.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words from the room
Game Preview: Canadiens @ Lightning - Round 2, Game 6
Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #6
Sunday was a travel day for the Canadiens. The team will practice at 12:45 p.m. on Monday at the Ice Sports Forum in Tampa.
All players made the trip with the team for Game 6.
- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday morning ahead of hosting Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.
- The entire team was present for the game day skate which lasted just under 30 minutes, including defenseman Nathan Beaulieu who practiced with his teammates for the first time since suffering an injury in Round 1.
- Michel Therrien confirmed following practice that Beaulieu has been cleared to play, but would not say whether the 22-year-old rearguard will be in uniform for Game 5.
“He had a really good second half of the season and played well in the series against Ottawa,” noted the Habs bench boss on what Beaulieu could possibly bring to the lineup. “We like the way he moves the puck.”
- Buoyed with confidence after a convincing 6-2 win on Thursday which followed a pair of one-goal decisions in Game 1 and Game 3, the Canadiens know that the current 3-1 series deficit doesn’t tell the entire story against Tampa.
“I really liked the way we played in Game 4 and Game 3, I liked the start we had during Game 2, and I obviously liked the way we played in Game 1,” admitted Therrien, who has seen his squad outshoot the Lightning through every game so far this round. “I’m expecting the same type of hockey game tonight. The players are focused, and ready to play hard.”
Despite lighting the lamp six times in Game 4, the Habs are nevertheless taking caution to prepare for a tighter affair on Saturday.
“It was nice to get some breaks [on Thursday]. The only difference between Game 3 and Game 4 is that we scored on all of our chances in Game 4. You can say it was the hockey gods, but we worked for all of our bounces,” underlined Dale Weise, who picked up an assist in the most recent winning effort. “That’s what we’ve got to do tonight. It’s going to be hard, and I don’t expect it to be another high scoring game. I think it’s going to be tight-checking, and those are the games we’re suited for.”
- Although the Habs have never comeback to win a best-of-seven series after initially trailing 3-0, Thursday’s win puts the team in more familiar 3-1 territory, where they’ve had success in the past, notably against Boston and Washington in 2004 and 2010, respectively.
“It hasn’t happened before, but that’s not how we’re looking at it. We’re not thinking about winning four in a row, we’re thinking about winning the next game. We’ve moved on from Thursday,” described Brendan Gallagher, who scored the Canadiens’ fifth goal in Game 4, to bring his postseason tally to three. “We’re focused on tonight and we want to send the series back to Tampa and give ourselves a chance. We have to use the crowd to our advantage tonight and play strong for 60 minutes. Taking any shifts off will cost us.”
Finding themselves in the opposite situation from a series ago, when they led the Ottawa Senators 3-0 before clinching a semifinal berth in Game 6, the Habs meanwhile are also putting their experiences from Round 1 to good use.
“We were kind of in the same situation against Ottawa. We saw how Ottawa won one game and the ball got rolling. Then they won a second one in our building and we’re not as confident as we should be,” continued Weise. “That’s what we’re trying to draw on. We put some doubt in their mind on Thursday, but it’s only one game, so we have to come out strong again tonight and make them doubt themselves even more.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST in Montreal. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports.
- Prior to boarding a charter flight back to Montreal on Friday, the Canadiens held a media opportunity at the team hotel in Tampa. Michel Therrien's troops will arrive back home early in the afternoon.
- Therrien, along with defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Tomas Plekanec, were made available for questions. All three reiterated that the team remains confident despite trailing their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series three games to one. They insisted that they will continue to stick to their current game plan, and will do everything possible to ensure a return trip to Tampa on Sunday.
- The Canadiens will be back on the ice on Saturday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard in preparation for Game 5, which will get underway at 7 p.m. EST at the Bell Centre.
- The Canadiens held an optional skate at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Wednesday morning ahead of contesting Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series against the Lightning. Jon Cooper’s contingent leads the best-of-seven series two games to none.
- Centerman David Desharnais was back at practice alongside his teammates on Wednesday. The veteran pivot did not accompany the team on their charter flight to Tampa earlier in the week. He stayed behind in Montreal for precautionary reasons after coming down with the flu and missing Game 2 last Sunday night at the Bell Centre.
“I’m feeling better. I was at the morning skate on Sunday and I felt fine. But, when I got home, I started to feel sick and I went to the hospital. I did everything I could to play on Sunday, but I couldn’t,” offered Desharnais, who has two assists through seven postseason games in 2015. “I spent Monday and Tuesday recovering, and I feel like I can get back out there tonight.”
In his post-practice press conference, head coach Michel Therrien indicated that Desharnais’ condition would be evaluated later in the day. His playing status would ultimately be confirmed prior to the start of Game 3.
“Whenever there’s a virus, you want to work with the team’s medical staff to make sure that the rest of the team doesn’t get sick. We took some precautions,” explained Therrien. “David looked pretty good this morning. I talked to him. He had some energy. We’ll see how he feels tonight.”
It’s safe to say Desharnais can’t wait to get the green light. The 28-year-old found it particularly tough to watch Game 2 from the sidelines.
“It was frustrating to see the guys play and not be able to help them. It’s always disappointing to miss a game,” admitted Desharnais. “That’s especially true in the playoffs because you’re battling all season long to get there. I’m happy to be here right now.”
- The Canadiens insist a couple of days off between games provided them with a good opportunity to take a step back and refocus heading into Game 3 on Wednesday night.
“It was good mentally and for physical rest. Playoffs has a really intense pace out there, but we’re prepared, we’re relaxed and we’ve got our heads in the right place. We’re excited about tonight and we can’t wait to get started,” explained Alex Galchenyuk, who is still looking for his first point in Round 2. “We’re all hungry. We know it’s a big game for us. It’s not always nice to be down 2-0, but we won a lot of games this year. You can’t think about coming here and tying the series. You’ve got to think about one game at a time. If we play the right way, we’re a tough team to beat.”
And, despite being down a pair of games, the Habs’ mentality entering Game 3 remains the same as before.
“I just think we came out with the right attitude in both games. We played at a very high pace where most of the time we were in Tampa’s zone. We made it difficult for them. That’s the game you want to play. That’s the game you’ve got to bring for 60 minutes,” stressed Lars Eller, who has one goal and two points in eight playoff games in 2015. “They played well on the road against us. This is just a change of scenery. The game is still the same. It’s just in a different place. We’ve just got to come out with the same attitude.”
- This playoff scenario marks the 26th time in team history that the Canadiens have found themselves down two games to none in a series. Unfortunately, the CH has only gone on to win those series on five occasions. The last time the Canadiens accomplished that feat was back in 2003-04 when they eliminated the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs.
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports.
Words From The Room - May 6
Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #3
Price named Ted Lindsay Award finalist
- The Canadiens practiced at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon ahead of contesting Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series on Wednesday night.
- Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu skated alongside his teammates during Tuesday’s on-ice session. The Strathroy, ON native is still recovering from an upper-body injury he sustained on April 19 against the Ottawa Senators. After missing Game 1 and Game 2 in Montreal, the rearguard is still slated to miss at the least the next two games of the series against the Lightning.
- Following practice, forward Brandon Prust met with members of the media to discuss his comments towards referee Brad Watson dating back to Game 2 in Montreal. Prust apologized to Watson and is simply looking ahead to the next installment of the series in the Sunshine State.
- Centerman David Desharnais left Montreal on Tuesday morning to make his way to Tampa. He is scheduled to join the team later in the day. The veteran pivot should be at the morning skate on Wednesday. Desharnais missed Game 2 with the flu.
Lines and D pairings at practice:
De La Rose-Mitchell-Smith-Pelly
- The Canadiens traveled to Tampa on Monday afternoon. Michel Therrien’s troops will practice at Amalie Arena on Tuesday afternoon before contesting Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series on Wednesday night. Game 4 is scheduled for Thursday night.
- Centerman David Desharnais did not accompany the team to the Sunshine State. He remains sidelined with the flu. Desharnais was unable to participate in Game 2 on Sunday night in Montreal due to illness.
- In a conference call on Monday afternoon, Therrien confirmed that Desharnais could join the team in Tampa at some point, and he may be able to contest one of the upcoming games this week.
- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Sunday morning ahead of hosting Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.
- Twenty-three players elected to hit the ice for the game day skate which lasted just under 45 minutes.
- Michel Therrien confirmed following practice that no changes will be made to the lineup for Game 2.
- Despite dropping Game 1 in double-OT, the was a lot to like about the Habs’ effort on Friday. Out-shooting, out-hitting, and even out-drawing the Lightning in the face-off circle, the Habs’ bench boss insists that staying the course will be the key to getting back on track on Sunday.
“It was a close game, but we still generated a lot of offense in Game 1. We had 29 scoring chances, which is excellent, but we’re facing goaltenders who are playing at the top of their games,” underlined Therrien, who saw just one of his team’s 44 shots beat Ben Bishop on Friday. “The players executed the game plan well, generating offense while limiting the number of chances against us.”
Backed by their own hot goaltender, Carey Price made 33 saves to start the Round 2 series, while his teammates in front of him blocked another 34 shots from ever reaching the net.
“I thought we did a lot of good things offensively and defensively. We’re playing against a high-powered offense and we did a good job of clogging up the middle of the ice, especially in the neutral zone,” agreed defenseman Tom Gilbert, who absorbed three shots over 25:35 of ice time. “If one or two of those shots [which hit the post] went in it would have been a different game for us, so we’re just going to stick with what we’re doing.”
- Although winning Game 1 has historically given teams an edge in going on to win a best-of-seven series, the Canadiens insist now’s not the time to panic.
“We’re taking things one game at a time, and I mean that,” confirmed Therrien. “We know it’s an important game – there’s no doubt about that – but that doesn’t change our philosophy in the room.”
In the 44 times the Habs have dropped the opening game of the series, they’ve come back to tie things up in Game 2 exactly 50% of the time, an encouraging sign heading into Sunday’s matchup.
“That’s playoffs. I think every game is huge no matter what the scenario is,” added Dale Weise, who nearly scored the Game-1-winner in double-OT. “We’re going into this one like it’s Game 1. We played well on Friday and we want to come out with the same start, get a win, and tie the series.”
- The Canadiens are facing a dangerous Lightning squad which lit the lamp 21 times against Montreal over five games during the regular season, but nevertheless limited Tampa to just two goals on Friday.
“If we’re going to keep them to just two goals every game, then I think we’re doing a good job and are going to have a chance to win,” acknowledged Weise. “We’re going to score some goals soon, […] so we’re feeling good about tonight.”
While the Canadiens were able to keep Steven Stamkos off the scoreboard in Game 1, Tyler Johnson has been the Bolts’ hot hand this postseason, leading the NHL with seven playoff goals, including one on Friday.
“He’s been a hot player for them. We just have to take his time and space away. He sees the ice well, he’s fast, and he’s skilled,” concluded Gilbert. “We’ve got to be aware when he’s on the ice.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. EST in Montreal. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports.
- The Canadiens held an optional practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Saturday afternoon.
- Thirteen players elected to hit the ice for the on-ice session, including forwards Tomas Plekanec, Jacob De La Rose, Alex Galchenyuk, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brian Flynn and Manny Malhotra. Defensemen Mike Weaver, Greg Pateryn, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban were also present, as were goaltenders Dustin Tokarski and Mike Condon.
- Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu skated with strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard prior to the start of practice. Beaulieu continues to recover from an upper-body injury sustained against the Ottawa Senators in Round 1.
- In his post-practice press conference, head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that defenseman Jeff Petry is doing just fine after blocking a shot and returning to the locker room for a period of time in Game 1 on Friday night. He’ll be good to go for Game 2 on Sunday evening at the Bell Centre.
- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday morning ahead of contesting Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.
- Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu hit the ice prior to the morning skate. He was accompanied by strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard and athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine. Beaulieu will miss at least the first four games against Tampa Bay as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury sustained in the series against Ottawa.
- After wrapping up their opening-round series against the Ottawa Senators in six games, Michel Therrien’s troops enjoyed some time off before getting back to work on the South Shore. It’s been four-plus days since the Canadiens went toe-to-toe with a playoff opponent, and it’s safe to say they’re chomping at the bit to resume their postseason run in front of the Bell Centre faithful.
“It took us a while to find out who we were going to play. Once we knew, we just wanted to drop the puck. On the other hand, I’m sure the Lightning are saying the same thing. It’s going to be an emotional series, a hard-fought series,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who scored the game-winning goal in the Canadiens’ series-clinching victory against Ottawa last Sunday night. “We’ll be doing the same things we’ve talked about all year long. If we don’t do it, we’ll probably end up on the losing side. If we do, I feel like we give ourselves a good chance to win.”
Committing to playing a sound game without the puck will be a top priority. The Canadiens paid close attention to the way in which the Detroit Red Wings went about their business in Round 1, making every effort to slow down a Lightning attack that is predicated on speed and hustle.
“I think Detroit showed how [to slow them down]. They did a good job. They were very, very tight on them. They didn’t give them a lot of space. Their defense gapped-up really ice,” explained Dale Weise, who sits tied for second on the team alongside Tomas Plekanec and Torrey Mitchell with a plus-3 differential through six playoff games. “The Lightning do have a lot of skill. They enter the zone with a lot of speed. I thought Detroit kind of took away their speed by gapping up, so we’ve got to find a way to do that.”
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau shared similar thoughts following the morning skate.
“Everyone will have to be good defensively. We know what kind of depth they’ve got up front. They’ve got three solid scoring lines and four lines that are capable of scoring goals. They’re a team that’s been dangerous all season,” mentioned Parenteau. “It will be up to us to play well defensively, just like we did all year. We’ll have to wait for our chances.”
- In addition to playing well defensively, the Canadiens are also going to have to find a way to get their power play going in Round 2. Therrien & Co. have spent the last couple of days tweaking the team’s power play units, making several personnel changes along the way. At Friday’s morning skate, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher formed one power play trio, while Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau formed another.
“For one thing, I’d like to see us read the play better [on the power play]. You’ve got to accept what the other team gives you. You can’t force things. When you force plays, you put yourself in a tough spot. It starts with reading the play better and when you’ve got a good opportunity, you need to make good decisions,” mentioned Therrien, who paired P.K. Subban with Jeff Petry and Andrei Markov with Tom Gilbert during Friday’s power play practice session. “That increases your chances for success. Right now, our guys are forcing things. You get the sense that they’re a little bit tight, which is normal. They just have to avoid forcing things out there.”
For his part, Eller didn’t see much power play time in Round 1, hitting the ice for just 91 seconds while the Canadiens were up a man. He’ll likely see more responsibility in that department on Friday night, which suits the Dane just fine.
“I think I can bring a little bit of everything. I can play different positions. Tonight, my role is mostly going to be in front of the net. It’s going to be about trying to get in front of Bishop,” offered Eller, who scored a goal and added an assist in Round 1. “But, you’ve got to ready for anything. You’ve got to be ready to win puck battles along the boards. You’ve got to be able to make plays. But, I think I can contribute in many areas.”
- Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on CBC and TVA Sports.
Forward lines and D pairings at the morning skate:
De La Rose–Mitchell–Smith–Pelly
Words From The Room - May 1
Game Preview: Lightning @ Canadiens – Game 1
Round 2 playoff superstitions
Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #1