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Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Lightning #2

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

SETTING THE TONE:  We won't hide the obvious importance of winning the first game of a seven-game series, but we also won't cry doom and gloom after dropping Game 1. Just ask the Lightning, who only two weeks ago lost their Conference quarterfinal series opener to Detroit, before advancing to the second round. The Habs have been in this situation 44 times before, and have gone on to tie the series up in Game 2 in exactly half -- or 22 -- of those instances. Moreover, the Canadiens have also come back to win the series 16 times after a slow start out of the gate, good for a 36.3% success rate -- five points more than the 31% NHL average.

OVER THE HILL: For the 10th time since October, and the fourth time in just seven playoff games, Michel Therrien's troops fired 40-plus shots at an opposing goaltender on Friday. Despite the heavy workload -- this time for Ben Bishop -- stacking the shots column hasn't necessarily guaranteed wins for the Habs, who have posted a 4-6 record under those circumstances. The sweet spot? The 30s, where the Canadiens have registered a 21-6 record when taking between 30-39 shots. That's also in contrast to a 26-22 record when unloading between 20-29 shots, and a 3-5 record when hitting the net under 20 times.

SUNDAY FUNDAY: It's not often that the Habs suit up on a Sunday during the regular season, but they'll be hitting the ice to finish off the week for the third time since the start of the playoffs for Game 2 against Tampa. And while Sunday games may be out of their Saturday night comfort zone, you wouldn't know it from the Canadiens' record, which is already a perfect 2-0 this spring, and 19-11 in Montreal all-time.

MADE FOR TV: The playoffs bring out the big bodies, with NHLers throwing themselves at each other with reckless abandon as often as possible. Huge hits may get fans out of their seats and make for great highlight fodder, but they have little to do with helping teams with their ultimate objective: winning hockey games. In the opening round of the postseason, the team that outhit their opponents won less than half of the games, including two of the six games in the series between the Habs and Sens. The trend has continued in the second round. Of the five first games played, only the Ducks have managed to win a game after dominating the hits column. 

BREAKING THE GOOSE EGG: Of the eight teams still alive in the playoffs, two have perfect records when scoring the first goal of the game: the Canadiens and the Lightning. The only issue is the Habs have only opened the scoring once so far this postseason, when Brendan Gallagher got Montreal on the board in the 2-0 series-clinching game against Ottawa. Tampa has scored first four times in eight playoff games this spring, and they've won every time they've done so.


Work in progress
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