Jan 11, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) makes a save against Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) as defenseman P.K. Subban (76) looks on during the second period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t worry, the playoffs are almost here.
With only 3 games remaining, it would seem that the Chicago Blackhawks are fated to finish 3rd, in the Central Division, but with the 2nd place Colorado Avalanche are still within reasonable reach. All in all, it’s a battle for home-ice advantage, which is important, but not as important as staying healthy, and consistent, going into the playoffs. Tonight’s opponent, the Montreal Canadiens, are in a similar battle, in the Atlantic Division.
Let’s take a look at how these teams matchup.
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The Blackhawks have the clear advantage, in this game, but with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out until the playoffs start, the advantage isn’t quite as strong. Offensively, the Hawks are far and away the superior team, as they control the puck more, and ultimately score goals more often. Defensively, the Canadiens are the superior team, but not by a very large margin. It’s safe to expect a low-scoring game, tonight.
The Canadiens are currently in 2nd place, in the Atlantic Division, and comfortably guaranteed a spot, in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Which spot, is the only remaining question, as the Habs are only 2 points ahead of the 3rd place, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Much like the Hawks, Montreal isn’t exactly putting their best foot forward, in tonight’s game. Defenseman Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin as well as all-world goaltender, Carey Price, will not be playing tonight, in favor of resting before the playoffs. However, star defenseman, P.K Subban, will be playing tonight. As will Max Pacioretty, who has been on fire, as of late. The recently acquired, Tomas Vanek, will be playing tonight, and he has been excellent, since being acquired by Montreal.
With Price not playing, tonight, that means Peter Budaj, will likely be in net, tonight, for the Habs. This season, Budaj has been solid, as Price’s backup. Budaj has put up an okay Save Percentage, of .910, in 23 games played, this season.
The Blackhawks are currently on a bit of a roll, after a spell of bad play, before the Kane and Toews injuries. With the emergence of Jeremy Morin, as a legitimate difference maker, it will be hard to keep him off the playoff roster. Joakim Nordstom has looked like a completely different player, after being recalled, from Rockford, but will still likely be a longshot, to make the playoff roster. It hasn’t all been new(ish) faces producing, for the Hawks. Patrick Sharp has put up 5 points, in his last 5 games.
In net, for the Hawks, tonight, will most likely be Corey Crawford. With only 3 games left, in the regular season, if Crawford starts, this could end up being his final start, until the playoffs. We’ll wait and see what happens, but Crawford has had a great season, putting up a .918 Save Percentage, in 57 games played.
The Blackhawks will look to get one more win, to make their final home record, for the 2013-2014 season, 27-7-7. Both the Hawks and the Canadiens are coasting to the playoffs, at this point, but both have advantages to gain, in standings as well as playoff positioning, so expect to still see some good hockey, from these old Original Six foes.