Habs believe they can rally


BROSSARD, Quebec -- The locals are restless.

Their Montreal Canadiens are one loss away from having their underdog spring run strike midnight at the hands of the New York Rangers, which perhaps explains some of the lunacy from local radio callers Monday.

One caller to TSN690, the city's English all-sports radio station, first lamented that Canadiens assistant coach Gerard Gallant for some reason wasn't interested in acting on the suggestions emailed to him to improve the power play.

Imagine that.

The same radio caller also believed it would make sense to move veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon to center.

Generally, Habs fans are smart, educated students of the game; after all, they make up what is universally regarded as the heart of hockey, as passionate a marketplace as there is on this planet. But when your team is on the precipice, it invites irrational thought.

We bring you back now to the real world. The challenge is indeed daunting: Montreal has to beat  Henrik Lundqvist  three straight games.

Back in 2010, the challenge was just as imposing, perhaps: beat the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals three straight games, a club that had finished 33 points ahead of the Canadiens in the standings. They did just that.

"The key is to really focus your group on looking at the short-term picture," veteran coach Jacques Martin, who was behind the Montreal bench that spring, told ESPN.com Monday.

"That's all you're concerned about is Game 5. When you look at the Canadiens in this series, besides Game 1, they could have easily won Game 2 or Game 4," added Martin, now an assistant with the Penguins. "From a confidence standpoint, those guys should be pretty confident, if they play the same way. Probably the area they'd want to focus is to be more opportunistic.

"I know for our team in 2010, the key was whether we could get ahead; we were really good once we got ahead. We defended well and our power play was also key. Once we took a lead, we were very confident."

The Canadiens haven't erased a 3-1 series deficit since that 2010 comeback win.

Some of those elements Martin pointed to would certainly come in handy today. For starters, the Habs have led for only 2 minutes, 50 seconds in the entire Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers. That's the exact opposite of the two previous rounds, when the Canadiens played with a lead for long stretches against both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins.

The Canadiens aren't an offensive juggernaut; they can't spend all of their time chasing down the score to have a chance. Getting on the board first Tuesday night at Bell Centre would be Step 1 on the long road back. Playing with a lead would help instill more confidence in a team looking for signs that it can be done.

"[The] prior series against Tampa Bay and the Bruins, we were the team scoring the first goal and it gave us a lot of momentum and confidence," coach Michel Therrien said Monday after the Canadiens' optional practice. "Obviously, in this series, it doesn't happen. But we did not try to change our game plan. We want to score that first goal, and we know it's important. It gives confidence to teams, so we've got to be ready."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...