Saturday March 12, 2011
Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s a spotlight game! What should be considered a spotlight of talent between two of the leagues top teams, instead has become a showcase of two teams riddled with injuries, and up and comers showing what they’ve got well before their prime.
For the Penguins the hits have come at the forward position with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin both out for extended periods of time. They have managed to play fairly well without their two top guys, mostly due to the terrific play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and able backup Brent Johnson.
As for the Habs, well, they have been decimated on defense with news just coming out that replacement blueliner, Brent Sopel sustained a broken hand against Boston and will be out indefinitely. With 3 of their top 4 already out for the year in Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Jaroslav Spacek, this is a terrible blow. Luckily for them rookies PK Subban and Yannick Weber appear ready to take on major roles on this team.
Of course the injuries don’t stop in the back end with this team. Always suprising grinder Mathieu Darche has been out for several weeks and rumour has it he is also done for the year although no official word has come through from the organization.
In “the hit heard around the world” Habs rookie top six winger, Max Pacioretty, sustained a severe concussion and broken neck and is out for at least the rest of this season, and his career as a whole would seem in jeopardy.
Much like Pittsburgh, if not for the unbelievable netminding of Carey Price, the Habs would be well out of the playoff picture, and while a top 5 draft pick is always nice, this season is certainly one that has loftier goals than that.
Despite all these injuries, both teams find themselves comfortable seated in a playoff position, but there is still time for things to fall apart. If the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true the Habs are about to have a playoff run of epic proportions.
- Andrei Markov (Torn ACL-out indefinitely)
- Josh Jorges (out indefinitely)
- Brent Sopel (Broken Hand)
- Max Pacioretty (concussion, broken neck)
- Mathieu Darche
- Jaroslav Spacek
- Sidney Crosby
- Evgeny Malkin
- Aaron Asham
- Mike Comrie
- Brooks Orpik
- Eric Godard
- Nick Johnson
- Eric Tangradi
Keys to the Game
Come out hard, come out angry! Last game in St. Louis, the Habs were awful. (Carey Price excluded) They looked disorganized, slow, careless and above all else, they looked scared. A blow such as the loss of Pacioretty is a very hard pill for any team to swallow, but this team MUST get it down. They MUST use it as fuel. Get angry! Get tough! Get fast! And in doing so, remember the game that got you were you are today.
Who is going to fill Patches void on the wing? Jeff Halpern, a center, is already being forced to play on Plekanec’s wing. Is Pouliot the answer? He didn’t look it in St. Louis, but everyone was off their game so I think he deserves another chance.
If the Pouliot experiment fails, I strongly think it’s time to move Gomez to the third line, where he can try and remember how to play defensively, and Lars Eller should get a chance in a top 6 role. Maybe Pouliot’s problem is with Gomez as so many wingers have found this year?
It could look like this.
Montreal 4 – Pittsburgh 3
***This is merely speculation, but I have a feeling that this could be a “backups” night. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Auld and Johnson get the start tonight, resting the top netminders to get them ready to play straight through to the playoffs.