Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #2
Good Friday: While many people will be off work on Friday, the Canadiens will contest Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the Lightning. It will mark the sixth time in NHL history that the bleu-blanc-rouge will kick off the Easter break by hitting the ice for a playoff tilt. The Habs boast a stellar 3-0-2 record on Good Friday, with both of the aforementioned losses coming in overtime. While you might not recall the events of Good Friday in 1931 or 1954, what took place on April 20, 1984 between the Canadiens and Nordiques will always remain an integral part of team history. The Canadiens bested their provincial rivals 5-3 in a game in which 198 penalty minutes were handed out. We might not yet know what Good Friday 2014 has in store for the Canadiens and Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but we suspect that the referees won’t be anywhere nearly as busy as they were when the Habs and Nordiques clashed back in April 1984.
On a hot streak: Since the best-of-seven style playoff format was installed for the duration of the playoffs back in 1987, the Canadiens have won the first game of any given series 18 times. More importantly, the momentum they accrued from that first win carried over to Game 2 where they hold an impressive 13-5 record. That being said, if past results hold true, the chances that the Habs will return home with two games in hand over the Lightning are rather strong. Interestingly enough, the Canadiens’ overall playoff record when they win the first game of a series stands at 13 victories as well.
Shoot, shoot, shoot: Though the score was as close as it gets, the Habs ran the show offensively in Game 1, directing the puck toward the Lightning net on 74 occasions compared to 52 attempts against. Excluding the pucks which were blocked or which missed the net, the Habs still finished the night with a dominating 44-25 lead in shots on goal. All in all, the Canadiens’ puck possession ratios in Game 1 were on par with the regular season figures of league powerhouses such as the Boston Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Standing tall: Do the four goals the Lightning scored in Game 1 offer cause for concern? Looking back at Carey Price’s body of work throughout the regular season, the unequivocal answer is no. The netminder posted a save percentage of .840 on Wednesday, only the 19th time in 60 starts in 2013-14 when he has not stopped at least 90 percent of all shots faced. In the 18 previous under-90 occasions, Price has managed to bounce right back in his following outing. His expected save percentage in those games: .920.
A little overtime never hurts: Even if the most fretful of hockey fans among you struggle to endure the stress that comes with overtime hockey during the playoffs, rest assured that it’s a good omen. When Dale Weise sent Canadiens fans worldwide into a frenzy on Wednesday night by scoring the winning goal that put Michel Therrien’s troops up 1-0 in their series with the Lightning, he lifted the bleu-blanc-rouge to an overtime win in a series-opener for the eighth time in team history. On seven previous occasions, the Canadiens went on to win their playoff series six times, including a victory over Washington in 2010.